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Data Sheet—Why Airbnb’s China Business Is Thriving

December 5, 2017, 1:49 PM UTC

Greetings from Guangzhou, China, where Fortune is hosting Brainstorm Tech International, a gathering of Chinese and other technology executives focused on innovation in the world’s fastest-growing tech market.

It was a packed day, beginning with a breakfast with the mayor of Guangzhou, an important commercial center in China when Shanghai and Hong Kong were still fishing villages, and entrepreneurs from the region. Over the course of the day I hosted a competition of Chinese entrepreneurs, whose companies ranged from an innovative provider of insurance to a maker of advanced scooters for getting around town.

Guangzhou is stunning, by the way. Just before lunch I snuck in a walk around the central square near the glorious Canton Tower. A museum, a sports stadium, the public library, and a baker’s dozen of magnificent skyscrapers each was far more interesting and architecturally noteworthy than Salesforce Tower, San Francisco’s only current brag-worthy project.

Back at the conference, I realized I’d traveled halfway around the world to hear a compelling commercial yarn about a company next door. Airbnb is making a go of things in China, largely on the strength of a robust market for helping Chinese tourists find places to stay on trips outside China. Nathan Blecharczyk, the company’s co-founder and chief strategy officer, recently has taken on the role of chairman of Airbnb’s China business. He said the company is thriving because it is treating China as the singular market it is. It provides Mandarin customer service around the clock to Chinese tourists. Business took off when Airbnb started accepting Chinese payments systems.

At the Fortune Global Forum, which begins Wednesday, I’ll be interviewing a trio of tech heavyweights: Tim Cook of Apple, Pony Ma of Tencent, and Terry Guo of Foxconn. Cook spoke earlier in the week at a Chinese Internet conference, where he said “technology itself doesn’t want to be good. It doesn’t want to be anything. It’s up to us—all of us—to insure that technology is infused with humanity.” I plan to ask him what he meant by that.

Adam Lashinsky


Snowball's chance in hell. Less than two weeks before the Federal Communications Commission's expected vote to gut its 2015 net neutrality rules, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman asked for a delay. New York's top prosecutor says he is not finished investigating irregularities in the FCC's commenting process that produced millions of phony submissions on the issue. Meanwhile, FCC chairman and former Verizon lawyer Ajit Pai is reportedly giving a speech at Verizon's Washington, D.C. office this week.

No stone unturned. As any parent can tell you, Facebook doesn't allow kids to sign up for an account until they are 13 years old. But the world's largest social network apparently now sees an untapped market opportunity. On Monday, Facebook announced a new app called Messenger Kids that can be used by children as young as six.

Addressing a problem. After uncovering thousands of horrific and disturbing videos involving children on its system, YouTube says it will increase its workforce of human moderators to more than 10,000 next year to help screen out the such content.

C-Commerce. General Motors thinks customers may want to be doing more commerce while in their cars. The carmaker introduced a new in-car app called Marketplace that allows customers to pre-purchase snacks and gas from Shell or coffee and pastries from Dunkin Donuts.

Who's laughing now. The Winklevoss twins, who were made famous in the movie The Social Network for losing out on Facebook's riches, are now billionaires thanks to their investment in bitcoin. Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss invested $11 million in bitcoin four years ago and the stash is now worth over $1 billion.

Crypto-scammy. The Securities and Exchange Commission's new cyber crimes unit filed its first charges against a so-called initial coin offering, the controversial practice of raising capital selling digital tokens instead of stock or debt. In a criminal complaint filed in Brooklyn federal court, the SEC said Dominic Lacroix's $15 million “PlexCoins” token sale "hits all of the characteristics of a full-fledged cyber scam."

Turn it off. Last month, Intel admitted that most of the CPU chips it sold in recent years were riddled with security holes because of old software it installed in its "management engine" feature, which enforces digital rights management, or DRM, restrictions. Now some PC makers, including Dell, are offering to sell PCs with the management engine disabled.


Wall Street's quants, the analysts who look for the math behind stock movements instead of the company stories, have a new asset to assess: bitcoin. They're trying to figure out whether some of the classic mathematical factors that help predict the movements of securities like stocks and bonds can be applied to cryptocurrency markets, as Dani Burger reports for Bloomberg. It's an interesting read (if topped with an awful metaphorical lead). In theory, the same factors should apply, the quants believe.

One reason bitcoin and its peers are a tempting laboratory for academic quants is how different they are from traditional assets. Stocks may bounce around, but they’ve got nothing on cryptocurrencies, where jarring price swings, flash crashes and cataclysmic exchange malfunctions happen regularly. If concepts like value and momentum stand in that jungle, researchers reasoned, it would help confirm that behavioral biases operate everywhere.

It’s been something of a cause for Cliff Asness, the founder of AQR Capital Management, to prove that factors aren’t just for the stock market. In 2013, long before the bitcoin craze, he published a paper that found tilts like value, momentum and carry work across asset classes, geographies and time periods. Asness said in November that while still early, it’s not unreasonable to apply the same logic to cryptocurrencies.


Bitcoin Is a 'Toxic Concept for Investors,' Yale Economist Warns By David Meyer

Are Alibaba and Tencent Fueling a Tech Bubble? Investors Weigh the Worrisome Question By Polina Marinova

A Chinese Bike-Sharing Giant Is Considering a Move into Car-Sharing By Brian O'Keefe

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Just Donated to This Tech Non-Profit By Jonathan Vanian

Netflix's Ted Sarandos Confirms 'House of Cards' Is Returning Without Kevin Spacey By Tom Huddleston Jr.

Apple to Pay Ireland Billions in Back Taxes In Escrow While Appeal Continues By Emily Price


There are cool videos and then there are COOL videos. This one of astronauts making pizza in zero gravity on the International Space Station definitely falls in the later category for space fans.

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman. Find past issues, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters.