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Good morning! This Friday, it's almost impossible to make sense of how many video calls we're all making, Amazon isn't going to turn a profit next quarter, and a sneak peek at Protocol's new VC and startup newsletter.
Also, we're co-hosting a virtual event next Thursday with sf.citi and sea.citi all about tech's race to respond to COVID-19. We'll have folks from Slack, Twitter, Postmates, Amazon and more with us — and we hope you'll join us too! Register here to save your spot.
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People Are Talking
Amazon shopping is way up, but Jeff Bezos said it won't mean big profits:
- "If you're a shareowner in Amazon, you may want to take a seat, because we're not thinking small. Under normal circumstances, in this coming Q2, we'd expect to make some $4 billion or more in operating profit. But these aren't normal circumstances. Instead, we expect to spend the entirety of that $4 billion, and perhaps a bit more, on COVID-related expenses."
Some fintech startups are winning by not building products for themselves, Chime CEO Chris Britt said:
- "There is a bias in Silicon Valley and amongst investors to create products for yourself, but the needs of a high-earning Google engineer are different to our customers who live all over America."
Warren Buffett got an iPhone — and the most impressive customer-service team in history:
- "I went out to California, and Tim Cook very patiently spent hours trying to move me up to the level of the average 2-year-old. And didn't quite make it."
Adaptability has been vital to keeping up with the pandemic, Amazon head of workplace health and safety Heather MacDougall said:
- "Experienced leaders throughout Amazon with a demonstrated bias for action and ownership stepped into uniquely created roles to lead us through this pandemic. While that is part of the secret sauce of Amazon, it can also be personally challenging, for anyone on my team or another, when new roles and teams are forming all around you."
The Big Story
What's in a user number, anyway?
Approximately 65,000 times a day for the last month, I've gotten an email from some tech company that wants to talk about how fast it's growing. Spoiler: Everybody's using the internet more. The numbers, they're big!
But all these claims of growth have made clear that even when we talk about hard data, we're not all actually talking about the same thing. Take video as one example:
- Zoom had to walk back its most recent figure — 300 million users! — because what it actually meant was 300 million daily meeting participants. If you have five Zooms a day, you're five of those 300 million. The number's still huge, and growing fast! Just … less huge. And harder to make sense of.
- Zoom told me that "We use participants instead of users as a metric because we believe it better reflects the total volume of usage on the platform."
- Microsoft Teams has 75 million daily active users, but that's for Teams altogether, not just video calling. Teams also said it had 200 million meeting participants in a day — a day, though, not every day.
- Google, meanwhile, touts Meet's "peak daily usage" as growing 30x, and claims it's adding 3 million users every day. It does have 100 million daily meeting participants, though, which provides a rare apples-to-apples comparison with Zoom.
To recap, here's what we actually think we know:
- Zoom is the biggest player here based on daily meeting participants, which is the only metric all three report. Teams lands in second (on its best day) and Google in third. But all are dwarfed by Facebook, which said last week that "between WhatsApp and Messenger, more than 700 million accounts participate in [real-time video] calls every day."
- That's … it, actually. Otherwise, these numbers are good indicators of directional growth, but not much else.
The same principle holds across so many industries right now. Coronavirus has changed the fortunes and trajectories for a number of businesses, but we don't yet have the data to see who's really going to win and lose in the long run.
All we know for sure? Everyone's having too many video meetings.
First get the video app. Then secure the system.
In terms of "metrics that are actually useful," Okta's tracking of how often users open apps is as good a proxy for popularity as any. And in its newest report, in addition to once again confirming that everyone's in too many video meetings — Zoom was Okta's fastest-growing app — Okta found some surprising trends.
Turns out security is the other big thing on everyone's mind:
- Just behind Zoom were two remote-workforce VPN apps, Palo Alto Networks GlobalProtect and Cisco AnyConnect. They saw their unique user numbers from February to March climb by 94% and 86%, respectively.
- And in fourth place was Citrix ADC, which accelerates application performance and secures other apps from attacks. It's seen unique user growth of 56%. The fifth fastest growing app, up 40%, was Proofpoint Security Awareness Training.
- Multi-factor authentication of all kinds is ticking up in a big way as well — including Okta Verify, SMS, voice, Google Authenticator, Symantec VIP and YubiKey.
As so many companies rushed out WFH procedures they jumped on any tool that would help keep a distributed team secure.
- And with good reason! The report points out that Barracuda researchers have observed a 667% increase in spear-phishing attacks since the end of February. Be careful with any email you receive about your stimulus check.
One other interesting tidbit: Okta's data pinpoints March 6 as The Last Day Before Everything Changed. That was a Friday — by Monday, nearly every workplace trend went haywire. And March 23, for whatever reason, seems to have been Peak Remote Work Day so far.
A VC said to a Founder...
Launching this Saturday: Protocol Pipeline by Biz Carson
Be ready for that Monday partner meeting. Your weekly Saturday newsletter to the fast changing venture capital and startup world.
A very VC approach to virus testing
If you haven't signed up to get Biz Carson's new weekly Pipeline newsletter about all things venture capital, well, you should. To prove it, here's a sneak peek from Biz of tomorrow's issue — an interview with Paul Buchheit, the Gmail creator and current Y Combinator partner.
Paul Buchheit has an audacious goal: wipe out COVID-19 by the end of 2020. If that makes you raise your eyebrows … that's OK.
- "It's definitely not easy, but it is in my estimation substantially easier than landing on the moon," Buchheit said. He knows people might dismiss his idea out of hand because existing infrastructure isn't built to support daily testing, but Buchheit finds the status quo wholly unacceptable: "I feel like we've lost our ambition as a nation."
- It's a very venture-capital approach, trying to leverage technology that could scale and not shying away from risk. After a call-out to the Y Combinator network, Buchheit recently invested in about 10 startups working on things from antivirals to vaccines to new testing equipment.
- "It's not because I think it's all going to work, but if one thing works in a big way, then it will definitely be worth it and I'm willing to take a chance," Buchheit said. "I wish the government were doing the same thing."
- Still, there are giant regulatory hurdles and science that will need to be proven for it to succeed.
Buchheit knows all that. But his approach is a clear distillation of a venture capitalist's view of big vision, big risk — and potentially big rewards.
- "Even if the odds are against you, if you have a chance to make a big difference, I feel like that's something you've got to do," Buchheit said.
This week's Pipeline also features an interview with Greylock's Sarah Guo, and everything else you need to know about what's happening in the VC world. Subscribe now to get it tomorrow!
Abby Kearns is the new CTO of Puppet, a popular devops tool. She was previously the executive director of Cloud Foundry, and said part of her new job is to fix Puppet's "perception problem" in the market.
Cynthia Hogan, Apple's VP of public policy and government affairs, is one of four membersof Joe Biden's VP-selection team. She worked with Biden when he was VP, and previously in the Senate as well.
In Other News
- Today in coronavirus: 3.8 million new people applied for unemployment in the U.S. this week — bringing the total jobless number in the country to 30.3 million. New York plans to hire thousands of people to do contact-tracing in the state. Facebook is starting to reopen some of its moderation centers. And Nokia warned that 5G rollouts could be delayed in Europe and elsewhere because of the pandemic.
- It's May 1, which means the annual return of the greatest meme on the internet. But 2020 is a special "It's Gonna Be May" year, because *NSYNC actually officially changed the name of the song to "It's Gonna Be Me - It's Gonna Be May." Why? Because that's what everyone searches for to find the song. The meme is bigger than the music.
- NASA awarded lunar lander contracts to three companies: Blue Origin, Starship, and Dynetics. Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos' company, is the primary contractor, and will both build much of the lander and oversee the whole project. Good thing Bezos hasn't, you know, been busy recently.
- Don't miss this story from the Washington Post about all the ways companies are building "remote offices," complete with monitoring software and always-on webcams.
- The NSA published a set of helpful guidelines for choosing a messaging and calling app for official use — and only Signal and Wickr managed to pass every test. At the other end of the spectrum, SMS was in a class of its own, failing every test but one.
- Ubisoft revealed some details about the next Assassin's Creed game, which stands to be one of the biggest games of the year. (Especially if we're all still stuck at home.) In a word: vikings!
- LinkedIn is leaning into messaging. What used to feel more like a built-in email client is now much closer to a standard messaging app, and with millions of people looking for jobs it could be a crucial communication tool in the future.
- Lyft is pulling back on the scooter business. It shut down operations in Austin, San Jose and Oakland, and won't be bringing them back. The company still has scooters on streets in a handful of cities, but the once-inevitable scooter takeover now seems to be on hold.
One More Thing
Iron Man saves the world … ish
Protocol's Janko Roettgers sends this in: When Robert Downey Jr. announced last summer he wanted to clean up the planet with robots and nanotechnology, fans cheered him on. A real-life Tony Stark! 10 months later, Downey finally unveiled his Footprint Coalition (check out the 1990s-looking website!), and all but admitted that he had underestimated the challenge. Instead of cleaning up all the oceans by himself, Downey now wants to invest in clean technology. "We are on a quest for people and companies that can imagine a more sustainable and resilient way forward, for humanity and for Mother Earth," said Footprint Coalition Ventures managing partner Jonathan Schulhof, who seems to be the Pepper Potts in Downey's world-saving plot. Downey should now have plenty of time to … I don't know, build a Palladium Arc Reactor?
Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to me, email@example.com, or our tips line, firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy your weekend, see you Monday.