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Data Sheet—Thursday, May 19, 2016

May 19, 2016, 12:39 PM UTC

Michal Lev-Ram is a senior writer at Fortune.

I just left Carlsbad, Calif., where I’ve spent the last two days participating in Fortune Brainstorm E, our annual conference on energy, technology, and sustainability.

The two-day event delved into the carbon challenge in the developing world, the future of the auto industry, and new investment models for cleantech ventures. On the latter point, investors speaking at a breakfast session at the conference discussed the merits of “cleantech” as a category. Is it a misnomer? Is the word tainted by the previous generation of startups in the sector, many of which are no longer around?

“I don’t like ‘cleantech’ as a term,” said Peter Davidson, CEO of Aligned Intermediary, an investment advisory group. “When people think of clean energy investing they all think, ‘oh, we did cleantech 10 years ago and we all lost money.’”

Indeed, lots of investors lost their shirt several years ago, after pouring billions of dollars into companies that primarily focused on renewable energy. (Remember Solyndra?) So the association with cleantech investing isn’t a particularly good one. What’s more, today’s slew of companies that potentially fall under the category are much broader and more diverse than their predecessors. Some of the “cleantech” startups featured at Brainstorm E, for example, are focused on air quality sensors (Aclima) and urban gardening (Grove).

“The mix of companies we’re looking at in the last few years has shifted substantially,” Brook Porter, a partner in Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers’ Green Growth Fund, said during the same session, led by my colleague Dan Primack.

I’m not sure if calling “cleantech” by another name would improve the returns in the sector. And many of the investors at the session mentioned the need for an exit window for this category of companies. But there’s something to be said for rebranding.

Our own conference, Brainstorm E, got its start years ago as Brainstorm GREEN. This was my first time participating, so I can’t make a comparison with previous years. But I can tell you that the energy (no pun intended) and passion during the sessions I attended was palpable.

Now as for the kale salad I ate at the conference’s lunch buffet—which, as you can imagine, served a range of health-conscious concoctions—well, let’s just say that kale by any other name would still make me cringe.

Michal Lev-Ram

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Salesforce and Amazon get awfully chummy. As Salesforce rushes to achieve its “dream” of reaching $10 billion in annual revenue, it will work a lot more with Amazon Web Services. “Jeff Bezos and I have a great meeting of the minds on the future of cloud and we want to grow that and expand that strategically,” Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff told analysts on the company's earnings conference call Wednesday. Salesforce's revenue rose 27% for its latest quarter, beating expectations, and the company is projecting a range of $8.16 billion to $8.2 billion for the current fiscal year. (Fortune, Reuters)

Google appeals French right-to-be-forgotten ruling. The search giant is officially protesting the country's insistence that link removal requests be honored worldwide and not just for a specific local domain. Under French law, citizens concerned about privacy can apply to have information removed. France wants the remedy to apply everywhere, which is a position Google vehemently opposes. It's worried about the snowball effect in more repressive countries, such as China and Russia. (New York Times)

Cisco talks up software. The networking giant's growth is benefiting from investments in security, conferencing, and management services for the Internet of things, according to remarks by Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins on its Wednesday analyst call. Sales dipped for its third quarter, but the decline was less than anticipated. For the current one, Cisco is raising its forecast, unlike many other tech giants. (Bloomberg, Reuters)

Fitbit will add mobile payments to wearables, slowly. The technology it recently acquired from startup Coin won't show up in its activity trackers, smart watches, or other gadgets until at least next year, said CEO James Park. He sees the feature as useful for on-the-go, touchless purchases. (Fortune, Wall Street Journal)

LinkedIn moves to protect account holders. Hackers are trying to sell close to 120 million passwords and email addresses believed to be stolen during a 2012 data breach—far more than originally thought. The social network is resetting login credentials for potentially compromised accounts. (Fortune, New York Times)

Snapchat could be the next social app run by algorithm. Both Twitter and Facebook have set aside chronological rankings in favor of algorithms that filter and display information according to formulas like popularity or the frequency of interactions between two connections. Snapchat is discussing a similar approach with advertisers and publishers, reports Digiday. The upshot is that it will be more difficult to predict who sees a particular article or advertisement. (Fortune)


Google is attacking the enterprise from every angle. Google's plan to be a big business technology giant involves everything from spreadsheets and laptops to data centers and computer chips. On Wednesday, the search giant revealed several new business-oriented technologies that it hopes will give it credibility with potential customers.

For example, Google said it had developed its own custom microchip tailored for software services powered by machine-learning algorithms—ones that absorb and learn from large quantities of data to make decisions and operate more efficiently. The company also unfurled new messaging apps, an operating system for virtual reality platforms, and new software for building connections between its cloud apps and mission-critical ones, such as the Salesforce sales management system. And, oh yes, that rumored rival to Amazon's Echo home automation assistant. Here's a snapshot of Fortune's coverage.


Analyst: Here's one way Apple could become a trillion-dollar company
by Lucinda Shen

Surprisingly few people use Uber and Airbnb by Kia Kokalitcheva

YouTube launches dedicated app for virtual reality videos by Leena Rao

Tech and auto firms join Google-led patent purchase program
by Jeff John Roberts

Microsoft aims for bot domination by Barb Darrow

Former Disney manager is trying to reinvent performance reviews
by Heather Clancy

No more products from digital wallet startup Coin by Aaron Pressman

Apple patents some crazy updates to Touch ID by Don Reisinger

Google Photos adds millions of new users by Kia Kokalitcheva


Mark Zuckerberg makes nice with top conservatives. Facebook's CEO met Wednesday with more than a dozen "leading conservatives" to discuss allegations that the social network is biased against right-wing news outlets and trending stories. The meeting was described as productive, and Zuckerberg reiterated his pledge to restore trust with the community. (Fortune, Wall Street Journal)

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Heather Clancy.