To Begin you week, three Items I’ve consumed Lately:
* Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s cover story on Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is a snappily written and illuminating take on the man who has presided over his company’s reinvention. This story has been told over and over. And still, the yarn about why and how Nadella focused on the cloud is worth reading. I found it interesting that Microsoft won’t affirm its Azure cloud business, which competes against Amazon’s AWS, is rewarding and that Nadella was ahead of the curve in slapping the expression”artificial intelligence” on products whatever the accuracy of the description. The article concludes that Microsoft’s success has been embracing its inherent boringness while shedding its pursuit of coolness. It ends with a killer quote from Nadella: “We learned from our habits in the past, where we feel like, OK, you can’t be one company and then suddenly, because you’re very successful, do something else. It just doesn’t work.” This is great advice for”transformation” wannabes and the management consultants who get paid a lot of money to advise them.
* The New York Times reports, in fascinating detail, that a sticking point in the Federal Trade Commission’s proposed settlement with Facebook is whether to hold CEO Mark Zuckerberg personally culpable for his company’s violation of an earlier agreement with the bureau. I don’t even play a lawyer on TV, but it’s tough to envision a scenario where this particular CEO, who founded Facebook in his dorm room, who controls its shares, and who’s universally understood to be it decider-in-chief on matters great and small, couldn’t be personally culpable for its transgressions. It’s funny when the topic of CEO pay comes up, defenders go on about how important the boss is and thus is deserving of compensation orders of magnitude greater than the average employee said boss’s company. But when there’s a screw-up? Oh, that’s the organization’s fault.
* I recently tripped across a marvelous podcast named China Tech Talk. It’s as high in content worth is it is low in production worth two clever Western journalists having a chat with a guest. In this event, “U.S. vs. China–A.I. Asymmetries with Jeffrey Ding,” the hosts tease from the American researcher subject a knowing discussion of A.I. in China, how Chinese companies are deploying it, and, importantly, misconceptions badly educated Western observers have about all of this.
“Developers, developers, developers!” Google and Microsoft are hosting dueling, developer-oriented events this week. Rumors of what to expect at Google I/O include talk of privacy, A.I.-powered additions to popular services like Google Maps and Gmail, a new version of Android featuring a”dark mode,” and pair of cheap new Pixel phones. At Microsoft Build, you will likely hear more chatter associated with A.I. tech, augmented reality, edge computing, alongside updates on Windows and the business’s Azure cloud service.
A bite of the Apple. The European Union is set to start an official antitrust investigation into Apple in the next few weeks for allegedly anticompetitive practices relating to the company’s music streaming subscription service, reports the Financial Times. The probe was spurred by a complaint lodged by Spotify in March. For such offenses, EU regulators can levy fines as high as 10% of a company’s global sales. In related news, a year after GDPR’s adoption in the EU, large penalties are imminent, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Batteries recharged. Strong demand for a Tesla bond and stock sale netted the company $2.35 billion last week. The electric carmaker said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that the company could raise up to $2.7 billion if underwriters exercise options to purchase additional shares. Investors reacted atypically favorably sending shares up almost 10% in the end of last week.
Grounded. Boeing knew about problems with a cockpit safety alert on earlier models of its 737 MAX jets annually before Indonesian and Ethiopian flight crashes brought international scrutiny, reports the Wall Street Journal. Airlines and U.S. Federal Aviation Administration officials are now questioning Boeing’s transparency as the company faces a criminal probe over the topic.
Putting the “fun” in fundraising. London-based Checkout.com, a 7-year-old payments provider, has raised a whopping $230 million“series A” round of financing, its first from outside investors, in a deal led by Insight Partners and DST Global. SendBird, a startup that lets developers easily add messaging to their apps in a fashion very similar to Twilio, has climbed to $102 million the value of its”series B” round of financing, which it began raising in February. And Noom, a wellness coaching and weight loss has raised $58 million in a deal led by Sequoia.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
A year ago the strategy for multibillion-dollar scooter startup Bird was to”blitzscale,” or grow at all costs. Now the company is prioritizing profitability, or”focusing on the unit economics of the business,” as Travis VanderZanden, Bird’s CEO and an alumnus of both Uber and Lyft, place it in a January tech conference. However an investigation by the Los Angeles Times suggests that Bird could be falling short of its goals, even as opponents encroach on its business.
Thousands of the Santa Monica startup’s signature black-and-white scooters appeared on street corners throughout the world, purchased with venture capital and rented to smartphone-toting riders.
Investors saw how quickly riders took to the new mode of transit, and visions of Uber-size earnings and growth flitted through their heads…. But facing a field of competitors, pushback and fees from local authorities, and questions about whether any company can make money by releasing electric scooters to the wild and charging per ride, staying aloft is proving harder than it first appeared.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Why Slack’s Upcoming ‘Direct Listing’ May Work for Investors by Lucinda Shen
Apple Week in Review: Slumping iPhone Sales and a Rising Share Price by Don Reisinger
Surveillance Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics by Clay Chandler
Why Bob Iger Deserves His $66 Million Pay Package by Jeffrey Sonnenfeld
Startups Are The Way To Diversity In Tech by Ellen McGirt
Tumblr Trouble Illustrates Verizon’s Messy Media Strategy by Cyrus Sanati
BEFORE YOU GO
Up in flames. Billy McFarland, the disgraced huckster of Fyre Festival infamy, is writing a book that aims to set the record straight about that conflagration that is spectacular. As New York Magazine reports, the memoir is tentatively titled Promythus: The God of Fyre. Our review: Please, stop, just no.
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