Zoom makes a small bet on hardware that could have a big payoff

This is the web version of Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily newsletter on the top tech news. To get it delivered daily to your in-box, sign up here.

One of the most interesting aspects of the ongoing narrative around the pandemic-friendly success of Zoom Video is its David-versus-Goliath vanquishing of the WebEx unit of Cisco Systems. Zoom CEO Eric Yuan and much of his management team hail from WebEx. At Zoom, they created an easy-to-use business product that has become a consumer cultural sensation.

Zoom flexed its muscles last week with a boffo earnings report. Revenues more than doubled, and the company reported impressive gains (to 769) in its big-ticket customers, those who pay $100,000 or more per year, and, importantly, companies with at least 10 employees, the types of companies that pay to use Zoom, to more than 765,000.

Critical to Zoom’s success is that it’s a software company. Whereas WebEx is part of a network-equipment-making giant and sells devices of its own, Zoom put all its energy into the visual experience of video conferencing.

Little noticed is that Zoom might not be content to refer its customers to other hardware vendors. Last year it invested in a Norwegian company called Neat, which says it “was created with Zoom to provide the ultimate Zoom Room experience.” Though Zoom didn’t comment on it in its earnings call with investors, the company disclosed a few days later that it has increased its investment, though it doesn’t name Neat in its filing. “In the third quarter of fiscal year 2020, we made a $3.0 million strategic investment in a private company in the business of designing and developing video communications hardware,” Zoom said. “In the first quarter of fiscal year 2021, we made an additional $8.0 million strategic investment in this company.” (Zoom’s fiscal 2020 ended Jan. 31, 2020.)

It’s a small investment in a small company. Then again, that’s how Zoom started—when Yuan left Cisco-owned WebEx.

Adam Lashinsky



This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman.


Be the change. Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian stepped down from the company’s board of directors on Friday and said he should be replaced with a black candidate. The company said it agreed. “I believe resignation can actually be an act of leadership from people in power right now,” Ohanian wrote on Twitter. “To everyone fighting to fix our broken nation: do not stop.” After Facebook was deluged with criticism for its handling of recent posts by President Trump, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on Friday that the company would review its policies governing "discussion or threats of state use of force when a country is in this state.”

The truth is out there. Counter to the White House narrative on the Black Lives Matter protests, Facebook says it has seen no evidence of foreign actors trying to influence the situation. Rather, Facebook said it removed numerous posts from two banned white supremacy groups which were planning to interfere with the protests.

I'll take one of your finest PCs please. You've long been able to buy iPhones on a monthly installment plan. Now the same type of deferred payment scheme is coming to most other Apple products. Macs, iPads, and some more expensive peripherals will be available on 12-month no-interest loan plans and cheaper items like AirPods, Apple TV, and the HomePod will be sold on 6-month plans, Bloomberg reports.

Watch out for that tree! Amazon's Prime Air drone delivery program is struggling amid leadership turnover and regulatory and technical hurdles, according to an investigation by Business Insider. Still, the company want to formally launch the service on August 31. Meanwhile, several warehouse workers are suing in federal court in New York, charging that the company did not follow CDC and local guidelines in handling the pandemic. The plaintiffs are not seeking monetary damages but rather a court order for Amazon to follow government standards.

Not-quite-staycation. Some data on the new normal from Airbnb, which says bookings for the past two weeks in the U.S. and a few European countries are higher than for the same period last year. But a much higher proportion are for stays within 200 miles of the customer's home address.


Technology sometimes interacts with politics and social movements in surprising ways. The current protests against racism and police brutality are relying on an unexpected online collaboration tool, MIT Technology Review reporter Tanya Basu discovered: Google Docs.

Another viral Google Doc that emerged in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, listing resources for protestors and organizations accepting donations, was created by an activist known as Indigo, who identifies as nonbinary and uses a pseudonym so as not to be outed to family members. Indigo said accessibility and live editing were the primary advantages of a Google Doc over social media: “It’s important to me that the people on the ground can access these materials, especially those seeking legal counsel, jail support, and bail support. This is a medium that everyone I’ve organized with uses and many others use.”

Like Johnson, Indigo had been collecting resources after Floyd’s murder—“bookmarking and emailing myself tons of links” —and found that “I just couldn’t keep up with it. It seemed like no one else could either.” Indigo was frustrated with Twitter, though: “On the off-chance you find something phenomenal, you have to retweet, like, or share it in that moment or else it’s gone forever.” Google Docs was the answer.


Escaping ‘Zoom fatigue’ is surprisingly complicated By Lydia Belanger

How do you move a technology conference with 30,000 attendees online? By Jeremy Kahn

Lego pauses all digital ads after reports it stopped marketing police-themed products By Rey Mashayekhi

From beekeepers to giant pension funds, activist shareholders are being silenced by the coronavirus By Bernhard Warner and Katherine Dunn

What shape will the recovery take? U-shape, check mark, square root symbol, and swoosh are all on the table, say economists By Anne Sraders

(Some of these stories require a subscription to access. There is a 50% discount for our loyal readers if you use this link to sign up. Thank you for supporting our journalism.)


We did not use a Google Doc, but Fortune staff have also been gathering and circulating resources to help people undo and unlearn racism. To quote Angela Davis: “It is not enough to be non-racist, we must be antiracist.” Our list includes books, articles, movies, social media accounts to follow, and much more.

Aaron Pressman



Subscribe to Well Adjusted, our newsletter full of simple strategies to work smarter and live better, from the Fortune Well team. Sign up today.

Read More

CEO DailyCFO DailyBroadsheetData SheetTerm Sheet