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Have you been following much of the coverage of the absolutely bonkers securities registration statement that WeWork filed for its initial public offering? I've included a few links during the week, but in case you missed it, some of the highlights are that the company leases and pays rent on buildings owned by CEO Adam Neumann, while at the same time the company was occasionally lending him large sums via low interest loans, sometimes related to large stock grants from the company to the CEO (though he is not paid a salary). The real topper is that when the company earlier this year decided to change its legal name to just the We Company, it had to pay $6 million to license the name from another trademark holder. Who was that? An entity called We Holdings owned by Neumann and other WeWork founders.
And while the articles about the filing have been fabulous, the tweets have been insane. A couple that caught my eye were Tom Goodwin on the name licensing trick ("Somewhere Madoff and Elizabeth Holmes are angry they missed a trick.") and Bloomberg's Shira Ovide on the renting bit ("I have only read the related party section in the WeWork IPO filing so far, and I am not kidding that it is THE MOST BANANAS THING I HAVE EVER READ.") Our own Rey Mashayekhi summed it up nicely:
"It’s not hard to see where Neumann gets his confidence and self-belief from. In a little over a decade, the WeWork co-founder and CEO has transformed himself from a 20-something failed baby clothes entrepreneur into the 40-year-old head of a company that—despite continuing to post prolific losses (nearly $690 million in the first six months of 2019 alone)—has shaken the commercial real estate industry to its core."
"Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it," is something Mark Twain actually did say (though the quip was coined by his friend and fellow novelist Charles Dudley Warner). Nowadays, everybody complains about their work phone and maybe Apple is going to do something about it.
I'm talking about the two phone dance. I have two phones. My wife has two phones. Many friends have two phones. Many of you have two phones, I would wager. The reason is the modern corporate security tool known as Mobile Device Management, or MDM. Companies can limit what apps you can install, see what you do, and, of course, remotely wipe your phone. Plus there is the whole complicated mess of using one Apple ID for your personal and work stuff (please, please don't add the photos from that long, boring presentation I covered for work to my home slide shows, iPhone).
Now help is on the way. Though it didn't get any airtime at Apple's WWDC keynote address back in June, the iPhone maker has some new features coming in iOS 13 that could change things. The big one is offering a modified MDM system called user enrollment that will let us and our employers segment a single phone into separate sections for work and personal use. If you bring your own device and your company decides to support the new way of doing things, you'll be able to do what you want on your side and your company will only be able to mess with (and erase) the corporate side. Apple is also extending its managed Apple ID feature from schools to companies, so you won't have use your personal sign in for all your work stuff. Apps will belong to one side or the other (though you'll have dual usage for notes and files). Sounds pretty good to me.
On Twitter: @ampressman
Red alert. All users of Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system should update with the latest security patch immediately, as the software giant warned this week of “wormable vulnerabilities.” And while we’re on the subject, Google disclosed some stats from its new password checkup extension for the Chrome browser. In just the first month of usage, people checked 21 million user names and passwords and the system flagged about 316,000, or 1.5%, as previously compromised. Of course, that’s only the problem rate for people who were security conscious enough to install the extension.
A simple thing to make the world better. The Federal Communications Commission said it is going to implement a system so dialing 988 from any phone will connect to suicide prevention centers. Currently, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline uses a 10-digit number, 800-273-TALK (8255). Calls are distributed to one of 163 crisis centers, which received a total of 2.2 million calls last year. Meanwhile, a coalition of privacy and civil rights groups wrote to Congress this week asking lawmakers not to extend the National Security Agency’s authorization to track phone call metadata, which could include, say, a call to the suicide prevention network.
Wrist rocket. Booming smartwatch sales helped the wearable market grow 38% to 7.7 million units shipped in the second quarter, research firm Canalys reported on Thursday. The total value of devices exceeded $2 billion, led by Apple, which saw its shipments rise 32%, and Samsung, which gained 121% on the strength of its new Galaxy Watch Active line.
Fish and chips. On Wall Street, Nvidia’s revenue plunged 17% to $2.6 billion—thank you very much, decline in crypto mining activity—but that was better than analysts expected. So Nvidia’s shares, up a mere 12% this year, jumped 6% in pre-market trading on Friday. At Walmart, we’re really only interested in the e-commerce business, which is doing really, really well. While comparable store sales increased just 3%, online sales shot up 37%.
Hostile work enviro. The latest challenge from Google employees to management emerged in a story on Motherboard on Thursday that focused on a leaked memo written by a black former Googler. “I never stopped feeling the burden of being black at Google,” the unnamed former employee wrote. “And the more insensitive comments weighed on me, the less safe I felt here.”
FOR YOUR WEEKEND READING PLEASURE
A few longer reads that I came across this week that may be appealing for your weekend reading pleasure:
How to Defend the Planet (OneZero)
A six-mile-wide asteroid ended the dinosaurs, and the same could happen to us one day. But NASA is at work on ways to keep us safe.
The Fate of the World’s Largest ETF Is Tied to 11 Random Millennials (Bloomberg Businessweek)
Thanks to a quirk in the legal structure used to set up the SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust, known as SPY, more than $250 billion rests on the longevity of 11 ordinary kids born between May 1990 and January 1993.
The GOAT continues to revolutionize the sport on and off the mat.
Dean & DeLuca, Barneys and the Fate of Bohemian Consumerism (New York Times)
Both the gourmet grocer and the rarefied department store made shopping feel like art. Now they are in financial free-fall. Does it matter?
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Amid the hype over artificial intelligence, researchers are finding that it’s sometimes harder to find useful, practical, and profitable tasks for their cutting-edge programs, even ones that can beat chess grandmasters. Google’s DeepMind famously beat top Go players and conquered the video game Starcraft. But as Gary Marcus explores in an article for Wired, the project is still burning up cash without much to show in the way of business prospects.
The direct financial return, not counting publicity, has been modest by comparison, about $125 million of revenue last year, some of which came from applying deep reinforcement learning within Alphabet to reduce power costs for cooling Google’s servers. What works for Go may not work for the challenging problems that DeepMind aspires to solve with AI, like cancer and clean energy. IBM learned this the hard way when it tried to take the Watson program that won Jeopardy! and apply it to medical diagnosis, with little success. Watson worked fine on some cases and failed on others, sometimes missing diagnoses like heart attacks that would be obvious to first-year medical students.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Exclusive: Coinbase Buys Xapo Custody for $55 Million, Eyes Lending Business By Jeff John Roberts
Cloudflare Files for IPO Citing Publicity Over 8chan as Risk By Verne Kopytoff
Why Toptal Believes the ‘Talent Economy’ Is the Future of Work By Damanick Dantes
Regulate Fintechs for What They Do, Not What They Don’t By Kathryn Petralia
Home-Buying Startup Flyhomes Lands $141M in New Financing By Rey Mashayekhi
Genpact CEO: Companies Have a Responsibility to Reduce A.I. Bias By Damanick Dantes
BEFORE YOU GO
We started out on a bonkers news note, so let’s end on one, too. President Trump has reportedly been considering buying Greenland. The country. Greenland. Okay then. Have a great weekend.