Last year Salesforce announced with much hoopla—which is how Salesforce announces things—a new artificial intelligence product called Einstein. For a feature story in the current issue of Fortune, Marc Benioff, the company’s CEO, told me how his intuition helped name the product. As I relate in my article, the name was serendipitous. It came to Benioff, he says, because the owner of the domain name einstein.com approached him out of the blue to sell it. With his signature mix of technical vision and P.T. Barnum-worthy showmanship, Benioff recognized that “Einstein” would convey AI in a way that would have broad appeal.
But what he did next is the difference between people who peddle products and gifted marketers. Let’s let Benioff tell the story:
“When I told my product marketers [about the Einstein name], they said, ‘No, no, we want it to be a functional name. Salesforce Intelligence. Salesforce AI.’ At that point, I said to them, ‘No, no, I appreciate your feedback but in this case it’s not going to be called Salesforce Intelligence. It will be called Salesforce Einstein.’ And their first designs for Einstein were a graphic of a cloud with a little neutron going around in a circle, and I’m like, ‘No, no, that’s not Einstein to me. I want to have a funny, approachable Einstein, an Einstein that I can love.’ And today that’s what we have. We have a lovable Einstein who is about AI in Salesforce in a declarative way. [Salesforce’s marketing version of Einstein is a 3-D cartoon-character figure based on the famous physicist.] Their version kept going back to something more functional. I wanted something more human, more approachable, more affable. I wanted something that makes it clear that we’re more about humanity, not just about bits and bytes.”
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Benioff waxes romantic about enterprise software in the same way Steve Jobs talked about a telephone like a work of art. It is just one way Salesforce, through clever marketing as well as innovative product strategy, has been successful. It’s also an example of why the company ranks No. 1 on Fortune’s first ever “Future 50” list of innovative large companies, based on a data-driven analysis by consultants BCG.
Have an innovative day.
Slimmer meals. After an initial public offering that went wrong, Blue Apron continues to struggle. The meal delivery service said Wednesday it would lay off 6% of its staff. CEO Matt Salzberg said the cuts followed a “roadmapping and reprioritization exercise.” The announcement didn’t help Blue Apron’s beaten down share price, which dropped another 1% and remains at about half the $10 IPO price from June.
Unicorn confirmed. In an IPO that has gone right, at least initially, MongoDB priced its shares at $24, above the planned range of $20 to $22 and valuing the open-source database software company at over $1 billion. Trading starts on Thursday under the symbol MDB.
Quarterly rituals. Among companies that have been public for a considerably longer time, eBay disappointed investors with a weak holiday shopping forecast and its stock fell 6% in premarket trading on Thursday. Verizon narrowly beat sales expectations for its third quarter results and its stock gained almost 2%.
Counting crocodiles. The king of TV ratings, Nielsen, claimed on Wednesday that it could tell how many people are watching Netflix shows by analyzing the sound in 44,000 homes and using audio recognition software. Netflix said the data was way off: “not accurate, not even close.” One obvious problem is that Nielsen isn’t catching non-traditional Netflix viewing on phones, tablets, and laptops. (Required tag line video reference.)
Starting over. iPod shaper and former Nest CEO Tony Fadell, who left the Google unit just over a year ago, is back with a newly-created seed stage investment and advisory firm called Future Shape, Axios reported.
Double trouble. Shares of Apple slumped about 2% in premarket trading on Thursday amid the latest rumors out of Asia that the company had asked suppliers to curb production of its iPhone 8 models. Also, cellular service for the Apple Watch Series 3 was suspended for new buyers without explanation in China, the Wall Street Journal reported.
What fresh intellectual property hell is this? A native American tribe was assigned patents related to supercomputers so it could sue Amazon and Microsoft without subjecting the rights to a typical administrative law review. The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe, which has sovereign immunity from the administrative system, has also been assigned patents by Allergan to avoid possible invalidation by the U.S. Patent Office’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Deaths from car accidents had been trending downwards for decades thanks to new safety features, the crackdown on drunk driving and the decline in teen driving, among other factors. But, over the past two years death on the road have shot up 14%, already erasing about the prior 10 years of the decline. A new feature from several Bloomberg reporters looks at the most obvious possible culprit: rising smartphone distractions. And they warn that the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration doesn’t seem to be tracking distraction-related accidents fully.
There are many reasons to believe mobile phones are far deadlier than NHTSA spreadsheets suggest. Some of the biggest indicators are within the data itself. In more than half of 2015 fatal crashes, motorists were simply going straight down the road—no crossing traffic, rainstorms, or blowouts. Meanwhile, drivers involved in accidents increasingly mowed down things smaller than a Honda Accord, such as pedestrians or cyclists, many of whom occupy the side of the road or the sidewalk next to it. Fatalities increased inordinately among motorcyclists (up 6.2% in 2016) and pedestrians (up 9%).
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BEFORE YOU GO
Four famous women scientists at NASA are getting a small-scale tribute. This week, Lego debuted a new set honoring Nancy Grace Roman, who helped get the Hubble space telescope in orbit, first American woman astronaut Sally Ride, first African-American woman astronaut Mae Jemison, and Margaret Hamilton, lead software designer on the Apollo 11 moon landing. Order your mini-role models starting November 1.