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Protocol Index: Experts aren’t optimistic about a vaccine

Syringe

Good morning! This Thursday, health care experts don't think a vaccine's coming for a while, Resy's CEO thinks restaurants will get assertive about delivery fees, and tech billionaires are annoying politicians. Want Index in your inbox each morning? Subscribe here.

Also, I owe you an apology: Some of you might have received yesterday's Index twice, thanks to a glitch with our systems. I'm very sorry, and will make sure it doesn't happen again. Anyway — on with the news!

What Matters Today

  • 1:45 p.m. PDT: Marvell's earnings are expected to be strong, with Rosenblatt's Hans Mosesmann saying that "incremental strength in data center demand" could help the company.
  • 2 p.m. PDT: Investors will hope that Salesforce earnings mirror Workday's, which yesterday beat investors' expectations. Wedbush analysts note that Salesforce does face challenges, though, saying they've seen "a pause in digital transformation initiatives such as enterprise CRM."
  • 2:30 p.m. PDT: Deutsche Bank's Jeriel Ong thinks "conservatism [is] warranted" regarding Dell's earnings, forecasting weakness in its server and storage business. Competitor HP missed expectations yesterday, with PC revenue down 7%.

Layoff Watch

  • SoftBank's Vision Fund is reportedly planning to cut 10% of its staff, which would be around 50 people.

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Today's News

As of 4:30 a.m. PDT: Nasdaq Futures: -0.35% | Euro 600: 1.11% | Nikkei: 2.32% | Hang Seng: -0.72%

OPPORTUNITIES

THREATS

  • From Protocol: Trump's executive order against social media platforms, which could be signed today, would encourage federal agencies to reduce their ad spending on platforms that have imposed "viewpoint-based speech restrictions." It would also ask the FCC to review Section 230.
  • From POLITICO Pro: The European Commission said it was "ready to act" to impose a digital tax, even if the OECD didn't agree on multinational rules. It said the tax could bring in around $1.4 billion a year.
  • Facebook whistleblowers have reportedly filed a complaint with the SEC, alleging that the company has failed to tell shareholders about illegal activity on the platform.
  • India's competition commission is reportedly investigating Google Pay, over claims that the company unfairly promotes the app in the Play Store.
  • Meng Wanzhou, Huawei's CFO and the daughter of Huawei's CEO, lost a Canadian court fight, paving the way for her extradition to the U.S.

DEALS

  • Apple acquired Inductiv, a machine-learning startup that cleans data.
  • Coinbase bought Tagomi, a crypto brokerage platform, in an effort to build out its institutional trading offering.
  • Marqeta, which issues payment cards for Uber and Square, raised $150 million at a $4.3 billion valuation.
  • ZoomInfo aims to raise $801 million in its IPO, which would value the company as high as $6.9 billion.
  • Jio Platforms is reportedly already preparing for its IPO, planned for sometime in the next two years. The company reportedly plans to list outside of India. Separately, The Hindustan Times reports that Microsoft is considering a $2 billion stake in the company.
  • Tencent issued $6 billion in new bonds, reportedly receiving $46 billion worth of demand.

Interview

Resy's CEO on the restaurant reinvention

Ben Leventhal, the founder of Eater and CEO of Resy, is in a pretty weird situation right now: He turned off his revenue. Resy, which charges restaurants a subscription fee for its online booking software, has waived all fees for the rest of the year amid absolute carnage in the restaurant industry. That's a huge hit to Resy's business, but Leventhal says "it was frankly never a question."

  • Resy, which is owned by American Express, could afford to take the hit. And with its customers struggling so much, it wanted to play the long game instead.
  • The long-term outlook is murky, though. "It's very, very hard to imagine how restaurants operate in a post-COVID world," Leventhal recently told me. But Resy's tried to do it anyway, building virtual waitlist and capacity limitation features to help restaurants adjust to the new reality.

"There will be a contraction of this industry, there's no question about it," Leventhal said, though he said he doesn't know how bad it will be. Coming out of this, he thinks restaurants will diversify their revenue streams away from meals, offering "chef experiences, meal kits, cooking lessons" to make up for reduced sit-in diners.

  • "This is not a simple exercise of turning the lights back on," he said. "This is a reinvention moment for the industry."

Food delivery is one area where things might change a lot, he thinks.

  • "The key change on this playing field is that for a lot of restaurants, delivery may be going from 20% of their overall revenue to 40% or 50%." That will mean "restaurants are going to pay a lot closer attention to the margins on delivery," which Leventhal thinks might lead to downward pressure on fees.
  • "You're going to see restaurants be much more assertive now," he said.

We also talked about the role of tech in the restaurant industry, and how Resy is moving forward in such an uncertain time: Check out the full conversation on Protocol.

Overheard

  • "One big difference between now and the last financial crisis is the cash balances of the tech majors are in the hundreds of billions, all effectively onshore, due to the Trump tax changes." — Lazard's John Gnuse has an explanation for why Big Tech M&A is picking up steam.
  • "That's a classic gangster strategy: When the market pulls back, one company doubles down, and then when it returns, you have the whole market." — Former Peking University professor Jeff Towson said that Alibaba's huge land grab is on a scale he's never seen.
  • "Digitalization of the logistic supply chain is picking up pace." — Maersk's Vincent Clerc told Reuters that shipping's current papertrail, often handled by couriers on motorbikes, will go digital.
  • "The days of people asking for a $12 million pre without writing a line of code are over." — An anonymous seed investor told The Information's Kate Clark that valuations have already fallen 30%.
  • "This is such a colossal waste and a perfect representation of a not well thought out corporate strategy." — True Ventures' Om Malik was not impressed by the mass disposal of Jump bikes.

Everyone's Thinking About

The experts aren't feeling good about a vaccine

Everyone has an opinion about the coronavirus outlook, but some opinions are worth a little more than others. Helpfully, health-focused VC firm Venrock has spent the last few months surveying health care experts on what they think — and the results are pretty sobering.

  • "There's an interesting divergence amongst this group and broad popular perception around the ramifications of what's going on — namely, how long it will take to find a really effective drug, and a really effective vaccine," Venrock partner Bryan Roberts told me yesterday.
  • Only 31% of the survey's respondents think a vaccine will come by the end of next year, with 6% thinking it will take more than five years. Those results come from an April 28 to May 6 survey and display a significant worsening in expectations from when they were last polled at the end of March. Back then, 44% thought we'd have a broadly available vaccine by the end of 2021.

The differing expectations extend to the economic fallout, too. "Something like half the people [surveyed] think there will be two waves of shelter in place," Roberts said, "and a third of people are expecting three waves."

  • "There's no way" a V-shaped recovery is possible if the economy's shut down for that long, Roberts thinks.
  • That has ramifications for healthtech. Big health companies are typically funded by large employers, Roberts explained, and if those employers are cutting back, that means health companies will cut back on spending too.
  • Startups offering something "existentially important during this time of crisis" will see their sales cycles accelerate, Roberts thinks, but if they're just offering "a nice-to-have something or another, then I think all of these buyers are going to be focused on other things."
  • Companies trying to reinvent dialysis, for instance, might see softer traction, because "people's risk tolerance for new things will go down," Roberts said.

That shouldn't affect early-stage funding though, he said.

  • "Entrepreneurs might perceive there being less capital available if investors are focused on problems in their own portfolio … but from an early stage perspective, [the crisis] shouldn't make much of a difference."
  • At the later stage, "one might think that pricing would come down," Roberts said. "I haven't actually seen that yet … but we're only a couple months in."

If you're thinking of pitching Venrock, Roberts is looking for a particular type of company.

  • "I would like to see businesses that take financial risks and provide longitudinal engagement and relationships with patients, in order to help them get better, cheaper care," he told me.
  • (If you take that advice to heart and raise from Venrock, you better invite me to your launch party.)

Closing Bell

Tech wants to fix politics

Recode had a great story yesterday on how tech billionaires are trying to help Democrats win the election, with tons of funding flooding into new think tanks, data efforts, and media outlets. Here's a quote from Jane Kleeb, chair of the Nebraska Democratic Party, that'll be familiar to anyone who works in tech-disrupted industries: "My problem is when Silicon Valley folks think that they know how to do our jobs better." Interestingly, Kleeb thinks Reid Hoffman is particularly "arrogant" — but she likes STAC Labs, an Eric Schmidt-backed organization that teaches parties how to use data effectively.

Thoughts/feedback/tips? Email me — shakeel@protocol.com — or anonymously contact Protocol. And subscribe to get Index in your inbox each morning. Thanks for reading, see you tomorrow.

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