The top tech stock during the pandemic isn’t the one you think it is
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Some of the most interesting new products arise when a popular solution hits a wall. When early search engines stumbled trying to order millions of results, Google’s PageRank leapfrogged ahead. When the web got too big and too complicated to curate by hand, algorithm-driven search engines took over.
Now the same type of pattern may be playing out in how web sites distribute content, especially when that content is lively and changing.
About 10 years ago, Artur Bergman was a typical web developer with a problem. He worked at Wikia, a company that helped customers set up Wikipedia-like pages that could be edited from anywhere. But when lots of people tried to edit a page at the same time, the site could bog down, or worse, serve people different versions of the same page. He asked existing services for a solution, but they all told him that distributing the kind of interactive pages he had was “impossible.”
Bergman likes a challenge (he once said that the limits of the speed of light pissed him off). He crafted his own solution and started a company called Fastly, where he currently serves as the chief architect after stepping down as CEO earlier this year.
Fastly offers a new type of content distribution system that is more dynamic and programable. It’s attracted the likes of the New York Times, Spotify, and Ticketmaster as customers. It’s also working for huge e-commerce sites like Wayfair and Shopify and a certain messaging app we all use called Slack. (And the company gives away its services to open-source software projects and other nonprofits.)
Which bring us to today’s headline. Fastly’s next-generation Internet plumbing system is just what the Internet needed during the COVID-19 pandemic. And with a 15% gain in its stock price on Monday, Fastly surpassed Zoom to become the best performing tech stock during the pandemic, with a cumulative gain of 222%. Lowly old Zoom is up a mere 159%. Valued at almost $8 billion with expected sales this year of under $300 million, Fastly is no bargain, but it’s also at the forefront of a gigantic opportunity as the web grows.
Also on Monday, Apple pulled off a jam-packed WWDC keynote filled with new features coming to all its popular devices. Much of the headline news, like the shift off of Intel chips, had been leaked in advance, but there were a few surprises:
- The operating software for Macs got a design overhaul to make it look more like iOS,
- updates to the software that runs AirPods got its own segment (not kidding),
- the Apple Pencil got a form of writing-to-text capability.
- new privacy “nutrition labels” for apps also look interesting.
Frankly, I’m just glad that, after five years, we’re finally getting a choice of alarm sounds on the Apple Watch. Finally, it was noteworthy that some prior priorities didn’t get much or any airtime, like augmented reality, Apple Pay, and SwiftUI. Maybe next year?
Fintech prison blues. The next twist in the saga of German payments company Wirecard's missing $2 billion: former CEO Markus Braun was arrested in Munich. As one lawyer told Bloomberg about Braun, who resigned last week, "You should know what happened to 1.9 billion euros of assets you have listed in your books.”
Reverse brain drain. Tech companies including Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft protested President Trump's move on Monday to suspend granting work visas for the rest of the year. The freeze includes the H1-B program that tech companies rely on for filling high-skilled positions. Apple CEO Tim Cook tweeted his opposition today. In other political developments, Google workers have started a petition asking the company to stop working with law enforcement agencies.
Cancel culture. It's easy to say you're going to take on Amazon but it's not so easy to do so. Microsoft threw in the towel on Monday, closing its video game streaming service Mixer that competed against Amazon's popular Twitch service. "We weren’t achieving the scale goals that we had on our own,” Xbox boss Phil Spencer said.
Some cabbage to save the planet. Speaking of Jeff Bezos' world, the CEO says his company is starting a new $2 billion effort dubbed The Climate Pledge Fund to back innovative technologies that can help the environment. The goal is to help Amazon and others reach a "net zero" carbon footprint by 2040.
Gordon's alive. There's a new king of the supercomputer standings, though the crown may not rest on it for too long. The Fugaku computer at Japan's RIKEN Center for Computational Science can calculate almost 416 petaflops, or quadrillion floating point operations per second, knocking the IBM-built Summit computer at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory to second place. Fugaku was built with ARM chips from Fujitsu. But several exaflop computers, which will exceed one quintillion operations per second, are already under construction that rely on chips from AMD and Intel.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Tracy Young co-founded PlanGrid, a construction software startup, in 2011 and was CEO until selling to Autodesk in 2018. She's written a must-read post this week about her experience of being a female founder and startup CEO, including what it was like being pregnant at the helm.
I went into labor the same night of our first user conference. The weeks leading up to the conference, watching our whole company burn late night candles in preparation for our new product unveiling, I wondered how many male CEOs would skip their conference for the birth of their child? I assume most would. I kept reasoning with myself that if I wasn’t pregnant, there would be no question whether I’d be there or not, so I must be there. Forcing myself to parade my 9-month pregnancy, deliver the keynote, support our team, and work the halls as the host, was my way of feeling like a superwoman, which was mostly about rubbing my own ego. I arrived home around 8pm that evening, and my water broke immediately. I would hear my son’s first cry 32-hours later.
ON THE MOVE
With T-Mobile's longtime CFO Braxton Carter retiring, the wireless carrier named Peter Osvaldik as his replacement. Osvaldik joined T-Mobile in 2016 after a decade at PricewaterhouseCoopers and several other stops...Apple’s head of diversity and inclusion, Christie Smith, is leaving the company. No replacement has been named yet...Twitter hired former FBI general counsel James Baker as deputy general counsel...Fiona Carter, AT&T’s chief brand and advertising officer, is leaving the company at the end of the week after five years in the role.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Apple debuts Translate app at WWDC 2020 By Jonathan Vanian
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BEFORE YOU GO
If you're in need of a little bit of visual or mental inspiration, may I suggest the Messy Nessy web site, which bills itself as a "cabinet of chic curiosities"? Yesterday's post of the daily "13 Things I found on the Internet today" feature included some mind-bending architecture images, story quilts by artist Faith Ringgold, and the typeface that's everywhere.