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Data Sheet—Thursday, March 16, 2017

Good morning from frigid New York City, where I survived the blizzard that wasn’t earlier this week and am eager to return to sunny California.

I’m currently working on a story involving online retail, which is why I was eager to read the article in the new issue of Fortune about a company called Shopify, written by Canadian journalist Stephen Baldwin. Worth nearly $6 billion but so under the radar our article is titled “The Invisible Selling Machine,” Shopify is an e-commerce software success story in Ottawa, Canada’s capital. (Yesterday, I featured a tech/insurance company from Columbus, Ohio. I guess this is what happens when I leave Silicon Valley for a few days.)

This is a gem of an article. It explains how an entrepreneur who used his knowledge of tech to create a product to help his business—in this case the online selling program Shopify CEO Tobi Lutke built to sell snowboards—turned that creation into a much bigger company. Shopify is so successful it likely caused Amazon to shut down a similar product. The company became, Baldwin writes, “the rare example of a company not just taking business away from the conquer-everything-at-all-costs Amazon, but likely playing a role in its decision to pack up and go home.”

There are other nuggets that caught my eye:

* Lutke began his career as a programming apprentice at Siemens, an unusual path to entrepreneurship.

* He helped build the programming framework Ruby on Rails.

* He also visited Silicon Valley and pitched the likes of Benchmark, Sequoia, and Accel. Because the first two wanted Lutke to move Shopify to Silicon Valley, he left town without their money. (He later raised money from Bessemer Ventures.)

* Lutke is a principled man. He lost employees because he wouldn’t ban Breitbart News, which uses Shopify to sell merchandise. “To kick off a merchant is to censor ideas and interfere with the free exchange of products at the core of commerce,” he wrote in a Medium post.

It’s never a bad time to celebrate good ideas—especially when they come from unexpected places.

Adam Lashinsky


Tesla is raising $1 billion to fund launch of mass-market car. The company is selling $250 million in common stock and $750 million in debt to help scale its business for the launch of the Model 3, due to start shipping in July. It will cost billions to ramp production for what is expected to be a wildly successful introduction—preorders for the electric sedan last spring topped more than 250,000 in the first 36 hours. (Fortune)

U.S. accuses Russian agents of perpetrating notorious Yahoo hack. The FBI has indicted four people in connection with masterminding a massive data breach in which personal information for more than 500 million accounts was stolen in 2014. (Fortune, Fortune)

Apple, Google. and Microsoft are mum on the latest travel ban. Fewer than half of the 127 companies that signed an amicus brief criticizing President Trump’s executive order banning immigrants from certain Muslim-majority nations have lent their name to a new brief protesting the administration’s updated policy. (Reuters)

McDonald’s finally starts taking mobile orders in the U.S. The restaurant chain is years behind leaders Domino’s Pizza and Starbucks in rolling out this capability and could use something to kickstart growth. But its decision to redesign its kitchens first for handling mobile orders might be a good thing, given the service glitches those two pioneers have encountered. (Reuters)


Larry Ellison belittles Amazon and Microsoft. Oracle’s executive chairman—not one for mincing words—on Wednesday said that Oracle now has “a huge technology lead” over Amazon Web Services and Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing service.

During his company’s quarterly update with financial analysts, Ellison bragged that Oracle’s revamped cloud computing service is both cheaper and faster than the competition, and that it will eventually become Oracle’s crown jewel.

Here’s the reality: Oracle reported that total cloud sales were $1.2 billion for its latest quarter, up 62% but still a fraction of the size of its top two competitors. Fortune‘s Jonathan Vanian reports on Ellison’s’ latest sales pitch.


Why Audi Created a New Division Devoted to Self-Driving Tech, by Kirsten Korosec

Coca-Cola Looks to Google to Boost Retail Sales, by Barb Darrow

Apple Found Guilty of Illegal iPhone Price-Fixing in Russia, by Don Reisinger


GoPro slashes even more jobs with a view to regaining profitability. It’s eliminating 270 positions on top of the 200 it cut late last year, roughly 17% of its workforce as of Dec. 31. So far, the digital camera company’s attempts to diversify its product line, including its new drones, have fallen flat. (Reuters)

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Heather Clancy
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