Adam Lashinsky is on assignment. Andrew Nusca is a senior editor at Fortune.
The next time you find yourself at a bustling bar in Manhattan, strain your ears. Unlike in Memphis, where you might hear locals marvel at a new piece of state legislation, or Minneapolis, where denizens may discuss last night’s box score, the default topic of conversation for New Yorkers amounts to one thing: rent.
The block, the neighborhood, the space, the price—in New York, as in San Francisco, small talk is measured in square footage. It’s a byproduct of being one of the most expensive rental markets in the world. And it’s a trend that perpetually threatens to extinguish the creative flame that attracts people to major metropolitan areas in the first place.
That’s a scary thought for some. But for Adam Neumann, chief executive of well-funded coworking startup WeWork, it’s a business opportunity. On Tuesday, the New York company, which has raised hundreds of millions of dollars at a multibillion-dollar valuation, announced a new product: WeLive. WeWork made its name selling shared office space; WeLive aims to do the same for shared living space. The first apartments will be on Wall Street, mere steps away from Fortune’s New York HQ.
What fascinates me isn’t the product (with its yoga and free beer) or even the model (which, based on the company’s marketing materials, seems to be targeting Yeezy-loving A&R reps). It’s the fact that we continue to talk about WeWork as a tech startup, even though it’s in the business of real estate.
On yesterday’s edition of Fortune Live, which you can watch on Fortune.com each Thursday at 11 a.m. Eastern, I spoke with Philip Krim, CEO of Casper, a New York startup known for its mattresses and whimsical marketing. I asked him why we continue to call Casper (which has raised tens of millions of dollars in funding and is valued north of a half-billion dollars) a tech company. “We’re a sleep company” that uses technology, he replied. Fair enough.
WeWork is in the same boat. Both companies have been brilliant at marketing to digital-native millennials, even though they won’t explicitly say that’s their aim. And both companies are happy to operate with the reputational lift—that certain je ne sais quoi—of being a tech company.
“We happen to need buildings just like Uber happens to need cars, just like Airbnb happens to need apartments,” Neumann told The Wall Street Journal two years ago. WeWork’s multiples “are more like a tech company than what a real estate company would get,” a former real estate attorney told Fast Company last month.
I don’t know what to make of this. Perhaps it’s just a matter of semantics—our inclination to use “tech” whenever an entrepreneur has a great idea. But the more I think about it, the more I believe that the real money isn’t in starting a technology company, but starting a lifestyle company that serves technologists.
So here’s a Friday toast to my new tech startup, coming in 2020: FreeBeer. I think it’s going to be a real hit.
One more thing: Brainstorm E, the invite-only, energy-focused sister conference to our beloved Fortune Brainstorm Tech, will take place May 16-17 in Carlsbad, Calif. Participants include former U.S. energy secretary Steven Chu, SunRun’s Lynn Jurich, Ford Motor’s Bill Ford, Monsanto’s Hugh Grand, and Virgin Galactic’s George Whitesides. For an invite, drop me a line and I’ll do my best. Have a great weekend.
BITS AND BYTES
Yahoo grants bidders a week extension. The Internet search and media company pushed the deadline for interested buyers to submit bids to April 18, according to Re/code. Among those still interested are Verizon, Google, and Fortune's parent company, Time, reports Bloomberg. It appears AT&T, Comcast, and Microsoft are opting out. Yahoo is exploring a number of strategic alternatives to turn around declining revenue. (Bloomberg, Re/code)
Amazon gives CEO titles to two division heads. Jeff Wilke, who runs the consumer business, and Andy Jassy, who manages the cloud services division, now share the CEO title with founder Jeff Bezos. When it comes to overall strategy, though, the buck stops with Bezos. (Fortune)
Requests for H1-B visas outstrip supply, yet again. The entire year's supply of U.S. visas for skilled foreign workers, which is capped at 85,000, was requested in just five days. That means they'll be awarded to companies based on a lottery system for the fourth year in a row. (Wall Street Journal)
Why Salesforce is buying another artificial intelligence company. The business software giant wants to help companies wring more value out of the data they're already collecting using predictive analytics. MetaMind, the software startup it acquired earlier this week, will be at the center of that push. (Fortune)
Uber settles suit over driver background checks. The ride-sharing company will pay $25 million to end a civil lawsuit in California that took issue with its claims about the strength of the process used to screen drivers. Uber used to claim it was the "safest ride on the road" but has stopped using that marketing slogan. (Reuters, New York Times)
Beware this sneaky email scam. Since October 2013, more than 17,600 companies have been duped into transferring approximately $2.3 billion to fraudsters impersonating their senior executives or trusted partners via email. The FBI just issued an alert, warning businesses to be on guard for this low-risk, high-reward cyber crime. (Reuters)
Toyota expands robotics research to third facility. The automaker will fund more research in artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, and materials science at an Ann Arbor site near the University of Michigan. (Fortune)
Facebook Messenger reaches 900 million users. Facebook’s popular chat app hit a major milestone ahead of the social network’s developer conference next week. Messenger now counts 900 million monthly active users, up from 800 million users announced in January 2016.
Facebook also shared new stats around the frequency of messaging between businesses and consumers, and introduced a new way to find connections using special bar codes. The social networking giant's ambition is to turn the app into a one-stop shop for commerce, transportation, customer service, and more. Businesses such as KLM Airlines, Uber, and Hyatt Hotels use the app to connect with their respective customers. (Fortune)
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Facebook users are sharing less and it's a big problem by Erin Griffith
This is why Morgan Stanley says sell Twitter by Lucinda Shen
How Samsung built a winner with the Galaxy S7 by Aaron Pressman
Microsoft beefs up Outlook app by Jonathan Vanian
Founders of Slack, Stripe back customer communications startup
by Heather Clancy
IBM tees up digital birdie's-eye view of the Masters by Robert Gray
Reddit lets users block hecklers and trolls by Hilary Brueck
IBM and Box team on corporate software for Apple devices
by Jonathan Vanian
ONE MORE THING
Self-driving trucks complete trek across Europe. The pilot project by Volvo, Daimler, and a Volkswagen subsidiary involved coordination between Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, and the Netherlands. One truck traveled 2,000 miles. (Computerworld)
MARK YOUR CALENDAR
Zuora Subscribed: Turn customers into subscribers. (April 12-13; San Francisco)
Apttus Accelerate: Innovation in the sales process. (April 12-14; San Francisco)
Adaptive Live: Journey to insight for financial executives. (April 25-28; San Jose, Calif.)
Modern Marketing Experience: The Oracle Marketing Cloud ecosystem. (April 26-28; Las Vegas)
Qlik Qonnections: Business intelligence trends. (May 1-4; Orlando)
EMC World: What's next for digital business. (May 2-5; Las Vegas)
The Marketing Nation Summit: Marketo's annual conference. (May 9-12; Las Vegas)
Digital Transformation: Forrester's new forum for digital business leaders. (May 10-11; Orlando, Fla.)
Salesforce Connections: Cloud marketing trends. (May 10-12; Atlanta)
Coupa Inspire: Rethink the possible. (May 10-12; San Francisco)
Relate Live by Zendesk: Customer engagement strategies. (May 11-12; San Francisco)
Knowledge16: ServiceNow's service management conference. (May 15-20; Las Vegas)
SuiteWorld: NetSuite annual customer gathering. (May 16-20; San Jose, Calif.)
Fortune Brainstorm E: The intersection of technology, energy, and sustainable business. (May 16-17; Carlsbad, Calif.)
SAPPHIRE Now: SAP's annual conference. (May 17-19; Orlando)
Gartner Digital Marketing: How to move from vision to execution. (May 17-19; San Diego)
Gartner Supply Chain Executive: Creating a value chain. (May 17-19; Phoenix)
Google I/O: For creative software coders. (May 18-20; Mountain View, Calif.)
MuleSoft Connect: Enable your digital transformation. (May 21-25; San Francisco)
Twilio Signal: The developer conference for communications. (May 24-25; San Francisco)
MongoDB World: For giant ideas. (June 28-29; New York)
Inforum: Infor’s annual user conference. (July 10-13; New York)
Fortune Brainstorm Tech: The world's top tech and media thinkers, operators, entrepreneurs, innovators, and influencers. (July 11-13; Aspen, Colo.)
Sage Summit: For fast-growth businesses. (July 25-28; Chicago)
Workday Rising: Talent management in the cloud. (Sept. 26-29; Chicago)
Microsoft Ignite: Product roadmaps and innovation. (Sept. 26-30; Atlanta)
Oracle OpenWorld: The future of the cloud is now. (Sept. 18-22; San Francisco)
Dreamforce: The Salesforce ecosystem gathers. (Oct. 4-7; San Francisco)
Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing: The world's largest gathering of women technologists. (Oct. 19-21; Houston)
Drone World Expo: Commercial apps for unmanned aircraft. (Nov. 15-16; San Jose, Calif.)
|This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Heather Clancy.|