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Brainstorm Tech delegates share ideas about the COVID pandemic’s accelerating effects

December 1, 2021, 11:22 AM UTC

Good morning.

Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech got underway at the Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay in California yesterday. Many of the participants began their day with a 5k “run with Hans” along the Pacific Ocean. The Hans was Hans Vestberg, CEO of Verizon, who also was first up on the Brainstorm stage, talking about the future of 5G. “Every technology has three different waves,” Vestberg said. “The first is when you build it out, the second is when you start innovating on it, and then third wave is when it’s a mature technology. 5G is just entering the second wave. But this one is going faster” than previous waves.

The event was an opportunity to share ideas about the extraordinary escalation of technology that has been sparked by the pandemic. Some other highlights/excerpts:

“I’ve been in fashion for over a decade, and what we’ve seen for the last nine months is unlike any period I’ve seen. The consumer has made a decision that self expression is how she wants to live. She’s more interested in fashion than she has ever been before. And she is more concerned with making choices that are environmentally conscious.”
—Jennifer Hyman, CEO, Rent the Runway

“E-commerce in China is 25% of retail. In the U.S., it is 15%. The potential for more digitization of the economy over the next 10 years in the U.S. is mind-boggling.”
—Hans Tung, managing partner, GGV Capital

“We are announcing today that we have entered into a partnership with Albertsons in San Francisco to actually deliver groceries autonomously.”
—Tekedra Mawakana, co-CEO, Waymo

“Crypto is about much, much more than just financial use cases.”
—Katie Haun, general partner, Andreessen Horowitz

“I am a fan of the metaverse as a work of fiction…But if you read all the way to the end, the world in those books is a horrible place. That’s not the future that we want…A different future is where we use this technology to try and reconnect us as a society.”
—John Hanke, founder and CEO, Niantic

“When a modern country confronts a company, the country is going to win, 99% of the time.”
—Kevin Mandia, CEO, cyber security firm Mandiant

Facebook in particular would love to have a regulatory structure in which they can just follow the rules, and then everybody will leave them alone.”  
—Alex Stamos, partner Krebs Stamos Group, and former chief security officer of Facebook

“40% of Americans changed waist sizes during the pandemic.”
—Chip Bergh, CEO, Levi Strauss

Also joining the group virtually was Ming Maa, the president of Grab, which operates a ride hailing, delivery and financial services “superapp” in Southeast Asia. Tomorrow, Grab will complete the largest SPAC transaction ever, and begin trading on Nasdaq at a valuation of $40 billion. When I asked him what he was going to do with the $4.5 billion the deal raises for the company, Maa demurred. But he did say that the company planned to go deeper in the eight countries where it now operates, and had no plans to expand to other countries.

More news below.

Alan Murray


Not transitory

The U.S. Federal Reserve no longer sees inflation as transitory and, as it expects inflation to continue into next year, it may soon speed up the tapering off its large-scale bond purchases. This news, delivered by Fed Chair Jerome Powell yesterday, teamed up with Omicron jitters to whack the markets—though futures are looking up today. Fortune

OECD warning

OECD chief economist Laurence Boone reckons Omicron is "adding to the already high level of uncertainty" and could end up slowing growth and increasing inflation. Boone on Powell's remarks: "There is no one-size-fits-all [monetary] policy because you have a very different situation in some emerging market economies with high inflation rates. The U.S. is also different from Europe and also different from Asia where there’s much less of an inflation issue." Financial Times

U.S. entry

The U.S. is going to tighten testing requirements for people (vaccinated and not) who are traveling to the country, so they need to get a COVID-19 test within one day of the trip, rather than three. The details will come out tomorrow, as President Biden explains how the country will handle the newly Omicronified pandemic during the winter. Fortune

C'est la VIE

China is reportedly planning to ban companies from using so-called variable interest entities to go public on foreign stock exchanges. VIEs have long been a valuable loophole for companies with such designs, and it's unclear what the rule change would mean for those that have already taken that route. Fortune


Generational wealth

A mobile banking platform called Greenwood is trying to "convert income to generational wealth" in Black and Latino communities in the U.S. It was founded  by former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, rapper-activist Michael "Killer Mike" Render, and Bounce TV founder Ryan Glover, and Render appeared at Fortune Brainstorm Tech with product management head Chidiebere Kalu. Render: "A phone in the hand of Black children on my side of Atlanta [makes it easy to open an] account, and instead of those children having to go to the liquor store to cash a check, those kids will be able to do that in their phone." Fortune

Stock tips

As part of Fortune's 2022 Investor's Guide, Anne Sraders has a handy list of 11 steady-rising stocks that you might want to own next year. Fortune

Dip vs crash

How can you tell if a stock-market dip is just that, or the prelude to a crash? Larry Light lays out four warning signs to look out for. Fortune

Priciest city

Last year, Tel Aviv managed only fifth place in the Economist Intelligence Unit's Worldwide Cost of Living report, but this year, it's number one. Rome, meanwhile, has plummeted to 48th place, and the world's cheapest city is still Damascus. Fortune

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

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