Top tech CEOs join this year’s Brainstorm Tech conference

November 20, 2020, 2:50 PM UTC

It took us a little while to find our way, but Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference is still on this year, running December 1 and 2, all virtually, of course.

Even in the year of COVID, we will hear from some of the leading figures in the tech industry including IBM CEO Arvind Krishna, who is unmaking part of his company so as to better remake the rest of it, Rakuten CEO Mickey Mikitani, who is at the forefront of using 5G to actually do something, and Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian, who shook up the Googleplex culture with the power of empathy.

And we will focus discussions on some of the most important issues raging in the world of tech. Assistant Attorney General and boss of antitrust Makan Delrahim and other experts in the field will offer perspectives on what’s become the most important year for suing tech companies since 1998. Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield joins a host of other leaders of companies that have benefitted from some of the changes to business wrought by the pandemic. And Under Armour CEO Patrik Frisk headlines a conversation about how tech is changing how we sweat and what we measure when we do.

If you are interested in attending this year’s virtual Brainstorm Tech conference, please check out the registration link.

Elsewhere in the Fortune multiverse, our year-end issue contains a package of stories to guide investors in 2021. I chuckled to read that the tech sector was left out of the main essay on the “21 best stocks to buy for 2021,” though my colleagues sneakily included Taiwan Semiconductor in the “International” category and a couple of cellphone tower plays like Crown Castle and Cellnex under “Energy and Infrastructure.”

One of my all-time favorite editors, Matt Heimer, played talk-show host to a panel of investors as they discussed some of the biggest risks and opportunities they see in the year ahead, as well as the implications of the IPO and SPAC boom, which seems like a microcosm of all of the risks and opportunities we face.

Aaron Pressman


IPO like a wrecking ball. Did somebody mention IPOs? Seems like we will have quite a few more in coming weeks. Video game host Roblox's new filing says that two-thirds of all U.S. kids 9 to 12 years old play on its servers. It will go public despite a loss of $206 million in the first nine months of the year on revenue of almost $600 million. Online lender Affirm, the company behind oh-so-many of those monthly installment payment plans you see online, lost only $113 million in its most recent year as sales doubled to $510 million. And e-commerce platform Wish's filing reveals a net loss of $176 million on sales of $1.7 billion in the first nine months of 2020. Not every hyped startup will make the jump, however. Job listing service Hired is considering closing up shop after failing to sell itself, The Information reports.

The gaming is coming from inside the house. After Apple tried to block cloud gaming services from reaching iPhone and iPad users via mobile apps, the services are finding another way in. Following in Amazon's footsteps, or should we say click stream, Nvidia says it will make its GeForce Now service playable on iPhones inside the Safari browser instead of with its own app. And Google Stadia plans to do the same.

Ready, set, soar. In-house development of Amazon's delivery drones is apparently taking too long. The House of Bezos is cutting R&D and manufacturing workers in its drone efforts and contracting the work out to Austria’s FACC Aerospace and Spain’s Aernnova Aerospace, the Financial Times reports.

All we hear is radio shack ga ga. The vultures who hoover up old brand names and turn them into e-commerce destinations grabbed what's left of Radio Shack's intellectual property this week. And while we're on the topic of trading in old brand names, Verizon sold the HuffPost online news service to BuzzFeed for an undisclosed sum. It's also a reunion of sorts: Buzzfeed CEO Jonah Peretti was a co-founder of HuffPost back in the day.

Tell me what you want, what you really, really want. Hollywood is slowly adapting to the new reality of empty movie theaters. On Wednesday night, AT&T said it will premiere big-budget comic book flick Wonder Woman 1984 online the same day it opens in theaters (Dec. 25). Now Disney is thinking of doing something similar with the live-action remake Cruella starring Emma Stone and some of its other major releases of 2021.


We discussed some of the hype over hydrogen-powered vehicles on Wednesday. My Fortune colleague Katherine Dunn has a deep dive into the excitement around hydrogen and what could deflate those expectations.

"Simply on its own, it's not economic without a high carbon price," penalizing its fossil fuel competitors, says head of future energy analytics at S&P Global Platts Roman Kramarchuk. "In order to really start displacing fossil fuels, it needs support."

Analysts at Bank of America say green hydrogen prices would need to fall by 85% to be competitive with regular hydrogen, which they estimate could happen by 2030.

For that reason, green hydrogen is still only a tiny percentage of the total hydrogen production, and essentially nonexistent compared to other fuel sources. In 2019, global low-carbon hydrogen production was 0.36 metric tons per year, according to the IEA—about a half a percent of total annual hydrogen demand.


A few great long reads I came across this week:

The Rise and Fall of Getting Things Done (The New Yorker)
How personal productivity transformed work—and failed to.

‘Like Being Grilled Alive’: The Fear of Living With a Hackable Heart (One Zero)
A device connected to my heart could save my life. It could also be hacked.

Times Change (New York Magazine)
In the Trump years, the New York Times became less dispassionate and more crusading, sparking a raw debate over the paper’s future.

Sustainable fashion? There’s no such thing (Financial Times)
The industry’s marketing may be ultra-green but the reality is very different.


Exclusive: Apple hires Intel’s Barbara Whye as its new head of diversity By Michal Lev-Ram

Facebook reveals that massive amounts of misinformation flooded its service during the election By Danielle Abril

There’s more 5G available in big cities. But which carrier is fastest? By Aaron Pressman

Meet the unicorn founder that braved war zones and missed meetings to make his mark on the startup world By Lucinda Shen

Facebook’s A.I. is getting better at finding malicious content—but it won’t solve the company’s problems By Jeremy Kahn

The cashless economy: How fintech is approaching the future of finance By McKenna Moore

To jump-start America’s economy, invest in women entrepreneurs of color By Charisse Conanan Johnson

(Some of these stories require a subscription to access. Thank you for supporting our journalism.)


It centered the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, had a starring role in the movie Contact, and assisted in advancing untold numbers of scientific endeavors. But now time has run out for the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico. The National Science Foundation says the 57-year-old structure is near collapse and will be taken out of service. Guess we will have to find other means to continue exploring. Have a peaceful weekend.

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