Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo: Competition regulation will stimulate innovation
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo met with members of the Fortune CEO Initiative yesterday and made a couple of points worth passing on.
Asked about President Biden’s executive order on “Promoting Competition,” which I wrote about Monday, she rejected the notion that new regulation could stifle innovation.
“If we do it right, it will actually stimulate innovation. Competition is the bedrock of our capitalistic system. Many, many small companies, innovative companies, entrepreneurial companies will tell you it is increasingly difficult to compete because of concentration in the tech sector.”
The critical phrase in the comment above, of course, is: “If we get it right.” This is a tricky line to walk, and the government’s record at walking it is, well, spotty.
Raimondo, who previously served as Governor of Rhode Island, also talked about the importance of making sure the government’s training and reskilling effort has “business at the center.”
“I know from experience as governor that this only works if business is at the center of what we do. The public sector over a long period of time has invested a great deal of money in job training programs that weren’t effective because they weren’t done that way. You need to put the demand first…We need to have a coalition of businesses, which I plan to convene from the public sector, where we sit at the table in a very real way and chart forward a very specific path.”
Raimondo also told the CEOs that to make the training effort work for all Americans:
“We all have to get serious and candid with ourselves about the willingness of the private sector to hire people with a non-traditional background. Most companies are still hiring the same way they did a decade ago. It’s check the box, do you have the right degree from the right school?”
Separately, on the Leadership Next podcast this week, Ellen McGirt and I spoke with one of Asia’s newest multi-billionaires: 39-year-old Anthony Tan, founder and CEO of Grab, the Southeast Asian ride-hailing company that also has become a food delivery service, an e-commerce service and a fintech company—a true “super app.” Grab is on the verge of a SPAC-IPO transaction that will raise $30-$40 billion, which Tan says the company will use to “build the digital infrastructure” of Southeast Asia.
Grab grew out of a project at Harvard Business School, after Tan and his cofounder took a class called Business at the Base of the Pyramid. “We said, ‘Wow, you can build a great business and have real social impact.’” So they started by looking for a serious problem to solve, and concluded that in Malaysia, safe transportation—particularly for women—topped off the list. The rest is business history.
“One thing I’ve learned is that many businesses tend to be too focused on building a company that will last for generations. Our focus is on building a company that will leave future generations better off. Doing good is actually good for business as well, and I believe we can be proof of that.”
Cathie Wood's Ark Investment Management has been getting rid of its Chinese tech stocks, thanks to the Communist Party's reining-in of the increasingly powerful sector. Ark's Innovation ETF was 8% Chinese in February; now it's just 1%. Wood: "I do think there's a valuation reset." More widely, though, global investment into Chinese assets continues to grow. Fortune
The Russia-linked REvil ransomware gang, which has caused chaos around the world, seems to have gone offline—at least, all known websites associated with it have disappeared. Nobody is quite sure why. Fortune
China will reportedly launch the world's biggest emissions trading program on Friday, to help it reach peak emissions this decade and net zero by 2060. Good timing, with the EU set to launch its big anti-emissions push today—a package that will likely include not only a ban on selling fossil-fuel-powered cars within two decades, but a carbon border adjustment mechanism targeting imports from countries where insufficient carbon prices are being paid. Wall Street Journal
Al Gore, the former VP and maker of An Inconvenient Truth, is optimistic about the actions that are finally being taken to tackle the climate emergency. Gore: "It makes all the difference in the world, and all the difference to the world, when the U.S. is on side, leading, and really providing the kind of momentum that's necessary…U.S. and China move in the right direction, then the rest of the world has a great chance of making COP26 a spectacular success." Fortune
AROUND THE WATER COOLER
India's vaccination drive is being hampered by the fact that you need digital tools to book a jab. Just over half of Indians (mostly men) have smartphones, and 11% have PCs. As Fortune's Biman Mukherji reports: "Health officials now are looking for ways to make India’s digital-first vaccination drive more analogue as the country’s daily vaccination rate plateaus at roughly 4 million a day, down from a peak of 9 million in late June." Fortune
Fortune's Europe team takes a look at the various incentives being given for vaccinations, to overcome hesitancy. They include carrots (such as, er, meatballs—forgive the mangled metaphor) and sticks (such as making vaccination a condition for entry to leisure and culture facilities). Fortune
Ethical foie gras
A French startup called Gourmey, which announced $10 million in venture funding today, is making lab-grown duck and goose liver, the bases for foie gras. Foie gras is a great delicacy, but it involves force-feeding the birds to fatten them up, and is banned in many countries. Gourmey bypasses that horrendous practice and, while it can't call its product "foie gras" in France, it's a fascinating indicator of the lab-grown meat phenomenon going way beyond burgers. Fortune
Apple has made a magnetic battery pack that looks like an iPod, snaps onto the back of the most recent iPhone range, and costs $99. What would Steve Jobs say? Fortune
This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.
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