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Greeting from sea level (San Francisco), where my resting heart rate is declining, per Fitbit, but the rest of me remains on a Rocky Mountain high following the conclusion of Brainstorm Tech. My colleagues and I experienced three exhilarating days of robust athletic activity, nonstop schmoozing, fascinating speakers, and rich dialogues.
Big tech conferences, including ours, can feel like a bunch of buses rolled into Silicon Valley and transported its residents someplace else. This year was different. Important voices from around the world showed the home of Google, Facebook, and Apple hasn’t cornered the market on innovation.
The largest online travel company by far, for example, is Booking.com, whose top execute Gillian Tans, explained why it took an internationally-minded Dutch firm to conquer the world. Roundtables on China and Europe showed there are world-beating companies in those regions that are equal to or better than their Silicon Valley brethren.
The change is profound. Lydia Jett, an investor with SoftBank, drove home the point by illustrating where investors are finding big opportunities. “It’s a big world,” she said, using as an example the giant fundraising effort Alibaba-affiliate Ant Financial in China recently completed. Anton Levy of General Atlantic said the conventional wisdom has been that dominant Silicon Valley leaders (see above) would be dominant abroad, too. China has upended that thinking, with Uber’s failure against Didi being a prime example. (General Atlantic is an investor in Uber.)
Finally, lest you think tech topics are never fun, I highly encourage you to watch this 10-minute-ish video of research analyst Mark Mahaney’s lessons on investing from a career on Wall Street. It’ll make you laugh—a language understood around the world.
Self-conflagration. As if Facebook didn’t have enough on its plate, CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday in an interview with Recode said about Holocaust deniers: “I don’t think that they’re intentionally getting it wrong.” The Internet blew up with criticism. Then Zuck followed up with an email saying he had not been trying to defend the intent of the deniers.
Serious crunch time. New York’s City Council passed a bill on Wednesday to force Airbnb and similar services to disclose to regulators on a monthly basis the addresses and hosts for every property listing. The aim is to help enforce a state law banning the rental of apartments for less than 30 days unless the permanent tenant is on site.
The bill comes due. Sounds like Qualcomm will not be able to complete its acquisition of NXP Semiconductors ahead of a July 25 due date. CEO Steve Mollenkopf says China is holding up approval, part of the tit-for-tat trade war initiated by President Trump. Qualcomm will owe NXP a $2 billion termination fee if the deal, first proposed in October 2016, fails.
Getting protective. Uber has hired Ruby Zefo, previously the head of Intel’s privacy and security legal team, as its first chief privacy officer. Zefo should have her hands full helping new-ish CEO Dara Khosrowshahi get a handle on the fallout from the company’s various privacy scandals.
To infinity and beyond. As a follow up to yesterday’s mention of Blue Origin‘s test flight, have no fear, Mannequin Skywalker is fine. The rocket startup of Jeff Bezos successfully tested its escape pod and completed other tests on the New Shepard craft that will eventually carry humans into space.
Influence buying. A study of political spending on Facebook found that President Donald Trump’s campaign and political action committee combined to spend $274,000 since early May, the most of any political advertiser on the platform. Planned Parenthood was second, spending $188,000.
Mezza mezza. We got a decent quarterly earnings report from IBM but not so much from eBay relative to what Wall Street expected. IBM reported on Wednesday that second quarter revenue rose 4% to $20 billion and adjusted earnings per share hit $3.08, up 5%. Both were slightly better than the average analyst estimate. IBM shares, which had slipped 4% so far this year, were up 2% in premarket trading. At e-commerce platform eBay, sales were up 9% to $2.6 billion and adjusted EPS hit 53 cents. But a disappointing outlook pushed its shares, about unchanged in 2018, down 7%. The company also disclosed in a filing that it is laying off 300 workers in the San Francisco and San Jose areas.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
For all the fear it engenders, Amazon may not be quite the retailing monster that many seem to think. The Bigfoot reputation was on full display this week when The Information web site published an anonymously sourced story that Amazon might start selling its own brand of network switching gear. Before Amazon issued an official denial, shares in companies like Cisco Systems took a plunge. It was much the same for pharmacy stocks after Amazon bought PillPack last month. But Felix Salmon writing for Wired makes the point that, beyond books, Amazon’s reputation as a conqueror may be far overstated. The entire piece is worth reading, but Salmon starts off provocatively:
In fact, I can’t think of a single industry, other than bookselling, that Amazon has entered with significant negative repercussions for the incumbents in that industry. Amazon makes fantastic TV shows, for instance, but it has hardly damaged Disney or Netflix in doing so; for the producers of TV shows, its entry into the business has been an unalloyed boon. Its music-streaming service hasn’t hurt Spotify, even as Apple has proved that there was more than enough room for a new competitor. Its Fire phone, of course, was an unmitigated disaster. And while the so-called retailpocalypse has decimated the ranks of American shopping malls, it’s hard to blame Amazon for that when in-store retail sales continue to rise. (The real reason for shopping malls closing down is, simply, that developers built far too many of them, and that no country on earth has ever been able to support America’s per-capita number of shopping malls.)
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Prime Day Once Again Sets Records for Amazon By Chris Morris
Why Smaller Satellites and Cheaper Tech Are Fueling the Space Boom By Jonathan Vanian
Instagram Might Let Public Accounts Remove Followers Soon By Lisa Marie Segarra
These Are the Airports Where You’re Most Likely to Be Hacked By Chris Morris
BEFORE YOU GO
Lin-Manuel Miranda, the author of the hit musical Hamilton and many other great things, now has a book collecting the positive affirmations he posts to Twitter regularly (like “Apply kindness, like a cool washcloth on the back of the neck” and “Gmorning from the younger version of you who couldn’t wait to be you at this age right now”). It’s called Gmorning, Gnight!: Little Pep Talks for Me & You. Arriving in October.