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With humility and a tad of dark humor about how the world was falling apart around us, several Fortune writers and I hosted a dinner Thursday night in an unseasonably warm San Francisco to talk about fintech. We gathered a who’s who of the technologically savvy companies that are trying to reinvent financial services: Andreessen Horowitz, Ant Financial, Brex, Calibra, Coinbase, Honey, Plaid, Ripple, Ribbit Capital, Robinhood, SoFi, Square, Stripe, and more.
Our mission was to gather ideas from industry luminaries about what we should discuss at our Fortune Brainstorm Finance conference in Montauk, N.Y., this summer. A few of the ideas:
- Central banks have talked a lot and done little around digital currencies. We want to hear from central bankers about their plans.
- What would the ramifications of negative interest rates be in the U.S.?
- M&A is heating up in fintech. Discuss.
- What are ways fintech companies can contribute to financial literacy? (My two cents: The bar is low given how poorly, for all the talk, the current crop of financial-services leaders have done on this count.)
- Micropayments: Has their time come?
- Is there any reason to assume data privacy will improve with all the new non-banking players entering the field?
If you have ideas, feel free to write in. One thing is clear: We’ll have plenty to talk about in June—provided there is still an economy.
This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman.
Grim prognosis. As the stock market recorded its fastest correction ever, thanks to the Covid-19 outbreak, tech stocks led the way down. Chip stocks were particularly hard hit. Intel has lost 17% in the past week, Nvidia is down 20%, and AMD is off 25%. Other big losers include Dell, down 18%, Microsoft, down 16%, and Apple, with a 15% loss. Among the very hardest hit: Tesla, which had been counting on China to charge up electric car sales. Its shares dropped 13% on Thursday alone and are down 26% on the week. For comparison, the S&P 500 Index has dropped almost 12% over the past week.
Stay-at-home attendees. In other virus-related news, Facebook decided to cancel its annual F8 developer conference, which was scheduled to take place May 5 and 6 in San Jose. Longtime tech columnist Walt Mossberg noted that the move puts pressure on Apple and Google to cancel their usual developer meetings, as well. "Seems to me it’d be hard for them to just carry on as usual," he wrote.
Closing the barn door. Federal regulators want the four major wireless carriers to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in fines for improperly selling location data about their customers, the Wall Street Journal reports. AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint have not agreed to the terms being sought by the Federal Communications Commission and could seek to challenge the assessments.
Bring it to me. Despite this week's stock market gyrations, some companies still want to join the fray. Food delivery service DoorDash said it filed a confidential statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission to go public. It was valued at $13 billion in a private fundraising round last year.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
The federal government is finding all sorts of uses for artificial intelligence, according to a new study from Stanford's Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence. They range from speeding up the processing of Social Security disability applications to helping the Securities and Exchange Commission uncover insider trading. Dan Ho, associate director of the institute, says the study also picked up some flaws in those uses.
First and foremost, government agencies often lack the human capital to take advantage of rapid advances in technology. One agency couldn’t explain its errors because it didn’t have access to proprietary source code. Makeshift solutions and insecure AI can put people at risk.
Second, there are unique legal constraints when the government makes decisions. Government agencies have to explain decisions, but such explanations become increasingly difficult as algorithmic decision making systems displace human judgment. As AI tools proliferate in federal agencies, they must ensure accountability and fidelity to legal norms of transparency, explanation, and non-discrimination, and building out such systems that function effectively within the complex human and institutional environment becomes increasingly important.
FOR YOUR WEEKEND READING PLEASURE
A few long reads that I came across this week:
Inside the Seething Boardroom Drama That Poisoned HQ Trivia (Bloomberg Businessweek)
The app was America’s favorite gameshow until a toxic culture and co-founder feuding drove it off the air. Now, the CEO wants to bring it back.
Millennial Women Made LuLaRoe Billions. Then They Paid The Price. (BuzzFeed)
Lawsuits, mountains of unsold leggings, and families drowning in debt: the tumultuous story behind a multilevel marketing brand that promised millennial women a pathway to financial freedom.
The Weirdest Subway Restaurant in America (Wall Street Journal)
The franchise is based inside an FBI training center called Hogan’s Alley where the bank gets robbed at least twice a week
Why You Should Buy Your First Mechanical Keyboard In 2020 (The Startup)
So, you’ve heard about all the hype and you want a reason to get into mechanical keyboards, but have no clue where to start? Look no further!
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Four takeaways from the annual RSA security conference By Jonathan Vanian
The most essential travel apps you need to know about By Naomi Tomky
Amidst coronavirus panic, the stock of this hazmat suit-maker is up 88% By Lucinda Shen
Here’s what’s next for a self-driving car startup that’s poised to make history By Eric C. Evarts
College backlash against facial-recognition technology grows By David Z. Morris
Investors are betting on the growth of gaming startups By Polina Marinova
Mansplaining in meetings: How can we get him to stop? By Jennifer Mizgata
BEFORE YOU GO
While most stock prices have fallen over the past week, some have risen as investors find companies that could prosper despite, or perhaps because of, the outbreak. One obvious play is Zoom Video Communications, maker of the popular video conferencing app. Its shares, which trade under the symbol ZM, are up 9% over the past week. Then there is defunct tech company Zoom Technologies, which for some reason still trades with the more recognizable symbol ZOOM. In a sign of apparent investor confusion, its shares also rose 80%. So much for the efficient market theory! Have a great weekend.