China Strategy, Russian Attacks, Tesla Suppliers: CEO Daily for August 21, 2018

August 21, 2018, 10:40 AM UTC

Good morning.

Fortune’s 100 Fastest Growing Companies list is out this morning, highlighting the large, publicly-traded companies with the fastest growth in revenues, profits and stock returns. The top-ten contain some tech darlings—Facebook, (No. 6), Nvidia (No. 7) and Amazon (No. 9)—tech-driven platforms like Health Insurance Innovations (No. 1), (No. 2), Paycom Software (No. 5)—and tech providers Applied Optoelectronics (No. 4) and Arista Networks (No. 8). You can find the full list here.

Fortune data-meister Scott DeCarlo says one-third of the companies on the list are “tech companies” by S&P classifications. But I think that’s an undercount. Amazon, for instance, is classified as “retail.” Health Insurance Innovations, a technology platform for purchasing health insurance, is in “financials.” That misses the broader point: These days, most companies are driven by technology…particularly the fastest growing ones. Technology allows them to scale rapidly, at minimal marginal cost, and with relatively small investment.

It also allows them to grow without hiring as many employees as their pre-tech-age precursors. And that is changing the way the economy works. Last week, the Financial Times had an interesting story highlighting a growing body of academic evidence suggesting a link between fast-growing tech juggernauts, slowing pay growth, and deepening inequality. The story quotes a paper by David Autor at MIT and David Dorn at the University of Zurich showing that as the “economic weight of a small number of…’superstar’ companies has increased, workers’ slice of the pie has fallen in their industries.”

The more difficult question, of course, is what if anything to do about it. Some see stronger antitrust laws as part of the answer; others argue traditional antitrust is ill-suited for the “winner-take-most” dynamics of today’s business. It’s an important problem—but still far from a solution.

We’ll be exploring how tech dynamics are transforming non-tech industries at our Brainstorm Reinvent event, in Chicago on September 24-25, held in partnership with McKinsey & Company. Among the participants: United Technologies CEO Greg Hayes; New York Times CEO Mark Thompson; Weight Watchers CEO Mindy Grossman; Mondelez CEO Dirk Van de Put; Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield; and retired General Stanley McChrystal. More details here.

News below.

Top News

China Strategy

The White House appears to be approaching its Chinese trade negotiations with a two-pronged strategy based on dueling agencies: talks, through the Treasury Department, and new tariffs on almost half of Chinese imports, through the office of the U.S. trade representative. Meanwhile, employers in the U.S. are warning of layoffs if the Chinese products they sell are made subject to tariffs. Wall Street Journal

Russian Attacks

Microsoft has announced the takedown of parts of a Russian operation targeting the Senate and conservative thinktanks. The company executed a court order to seize six websites created by Russian intelligence's "Fancy Bear" hacker group—the sites, which were crafted to look like they belonged to congressional staff and prominent thinktanks, could have been used to launch targeted cyberattacks ahead of the November midterms. CNN

Tesla Suppliers

A survey of Tesla's suppliers showed that most see the customer as a financial risk, due to the cash consumed by its Model 3 production push. Several suppliers reportedly also said Tesla had asked for cash back or stretched out payments. Elon Musk: "We're not behind because we can't pay them. It is just because we’re arguing whether the parts are right." Meanwhile, people are talking about the possibility of Apple buying Tesla again. Wall Street Journal

Apple Plans

Bloomberg reports that Apple is preparing to launch a new, "low-cost" (it's Apple) MacBook this year, along with a pro-focused Mac mini desktop that will be a little more expensive than those currently on the market. Apple's MacBook Air is looking very long-in-the-tooth these days, with its low-resolution screen. Bloomberg

Around the Water Cooler

Arctic Route

Maersk, the world's biggest container shipping company, will send its first freight vessel on an Arctic route this week, travelling over the top of Russia from Vladivostok to St. Petersburg. It’s a trial run, designed to see how viable the so-called Northern Sea Route really is. Asia-Europe shipping routes typically go through the Suez Canal. Maersk told the Financial Times: "Currently, we do not see the Northern Sea Route as a commercial alternative to our existing network, which is defined by our customers’ demand, trading patterns and population centres." FT

BitConnect Arrest

Divyesh Darji, who is alleged to be one of the people behind the sketchy BitConnect cryptocurrency exchange, was arrested at Delhi airport, where he was arriving from Dubai. BitConnect suddenly shut down seven months ago following regulatory pressure in the U.S., causing its proprietary tokens to crash. Investors have sued the operation, claiming it was a Ponzi scheme. Fortune

Goldman Sachs Breastfeeding

Goldman Sachs staffers in the U.S. and the U.K. who are breastfeeding and travelling for work will be able to get the company to pay for couriering their milk to their kids. "Parenting and work can sometimes feel at odds. Goldman Sachs aim(s) to make the balancing act a little easier," the investment bank said in a staff memo. CNBC

Office Layouts

Want to be less stressed and more active? Work in an open-plan office, say researchers at the University of Arizona. The researchers conducted a study using chest sensors that tracked hundreds of workers' movements and heart rates over three days, as they moved around their various offices. Those in open-plan offices achieved almost a third more physical activity than their counterparts in private offices, and 20% more than those sitting in cubicles. BBC

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer. Find previous editions here, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters here.

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