CEOs eat crow. Thriving online fashion brands. No more snakes on planes.

'AI-first' — and then ice cream


I'm on vacation, so my 4-year-old daughter is filling in. Here are her thoughts:

Fairies are beautiful. I wish I could fly. I also love pegasi more than unicorns.

My cousin calls my dad "Marshmallow."

My favorite animal is usually a pig.

My favorite things are TV and ice cream — also, dessert.

This little dog that looks like Paddington Bear is really cute.

In other news...

Google’s claim last year that it would become an “AI-first” company wasn’t just empty words. 

In our Google Strategy Teardown, we show how since 2017 the company has: 

  • launched two AI-focused investment funds 
  • acquired three AI companies  
  • led big tech in speech recognition patents 
  • seen “neural networks” become among the three most common terms in its patent filings

And much more. Our Google Strategy Teardown covers how AI has permeated all of Google’s businesses and looks into the company's other priorities as it searches for the next big market to crack open.

How's that crow taste?

Sometimes big company CEOs just can't admit it when they're being faced with disruption, so they dismiss new ideas or companies. And sometimes, that comes back to bite them.

From Netflix and video streaming to the iPhone to Amazon, we take a look at big innovations that were initially shrugged off by top execs.

Fashion in the time of apocalypse

We've seen how the retail apocalypse is taking its toll on brick-and-mortar  fashion brands like Payless, Rue21, True Religion, and others.

Meanwhile, online fashion brands aren't just surviving — they're thriving. We rounded up 80+ startups revamping the fashion world. Clients can view the full map here.

What have you done for me lately?

The US unemployment rate is at a rare low of 3.9%, which means startups need to think carefully about how their compensation package attracts and maintains employees.

Our partners at Radford discuss four rules early-stage companies should use when building their compensation philosophy and rewards culture.

How to ______

The CBI TRANSFORM conference will deliver experience-based answers to questions we hear from growth-focused executives over and over, like:

  • How do I decide whether to start a corporate venture fund?
  • How do I generate a robust pipeline of new growth ideas to consider?
  • How do I identify high-potential opportunities in buzzy markets like blockchain and AI?

Only 300 seats are available, and prices go up September 7. Grab your ticket today.

Have a great rest of the week.


P.S. I think they suspend child labor laws in August, so the above should be OK, right?

P.P.S. Forbes, when's the "5 Under 5" issue coming out?

P.P.P.S. On August 21, we'll be discussing the rise of the wellness economy. Register for the briefing here.

This week in data:

  • -6%: Cannabis company Canopy Growth received a massive $4B investment from Corona and Modelo beer producer Constellation Brands. The deal, which gives Constellation a 38% stake in Canopy, was met with skepticism from investors: Constellation’s stock fell 6% yesterday (its worst daily performance since January 2017). Investing in cannabis startups is just one strategy brewers are pursuing as they struggle to stay afloat. Read more about what products — beyond beer — are getting brewers’ attention here.
  • 225.3K followers: Bertram the Pomeranian (@bertiebertthepom) was adopted from a shelter and now lives in NYC. He’s also racked up 225,300+ Instagram followers. In 2018, turns out anyone can be an influencer — even a dog. From athlete platforms to fan engagement startups, we put together a who’s who in our influencer marketing market map. Clients can check it out here.

  • 140%: As the US continues to levy heavy tariffs on trade partners like Mexico, the EU, and China, some countries are retaliating. Earlier this week, Turkey doubled tariffs on American cars to 120% and on alcoholic drinks to 140%, in addition to upping tariffs on US fruit, coal, makeup, tobacco, and rice. And company executives are taking note, with earnings calls mentions of “tariffs” at an all-time high. We rounded up execs’ thoughts on the winner and losers of the trade war. Check it out.

  • $1.2B in 5 years: Home Depot exceeded expectations on its Q2 earnings call earlier this week, benefitting from warm summer weather and a strong US housing market. Sales per square foot increased by 8.6%, while the average shopper's spend jumped 5% to $66.20 and revenue climbed 8.4% year-over-year. One area where Home Depot is focusing next? E-commerce and delivery, with plans to spend $1.2B over the next five years to build up its supply chain. We recently covered the threat Home Depot may pose to Amazon in a recent client note. Clients can read the full write-up here.

  • 84%: Passengers may no longer bring snakes onto Southwest planes, per the airline’s updated animal policy released earlier this week. Under the new rules, passengers may bring a single dog, cat, or (in rare cases) miniature horse as a psychiatric support animal. The change follows reports of increased problems with animals on planes: Delta has cited an 84% increase in “animal incidents” since 2016. Among animals Southwest and other airlines have banned recently: peacocks, kangaroos, and boa constrictors. Wondering how else the state of air travel is changing? Check out our (snake-free) briefing on reinventing the airport.

  • 25 cm per year: A new report finds that the Indonesian capital of Jakarta is one of the fastest-sinking cities in the world. The city — which is home to 10 million people — sits on swampy land and has 13 rivers running through it, is sinking by about 25 centimeters per year. Models suggest that by 2050, about 95% of North Jakarta will be submerged.
  • 7 days: Twitter has put Infowars creator Alex Jones in “read-only mode” for up to 7 days for violating the platform’s community standards. Twitter has been the holdout among big tech companies — YouTube, Facebook, Spotify, Apple, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Vimeo, and others have all censored, removed, or banned Infowars content in recent weeks. We previously used Jones as an example to look at the relationship controversial figures have with varying social media sites. Clients can read our client note write-up here.
One more thing...

Chewing gum has been illegal in Singapore since the 1990s.

The country's government banned the import of gum after it had repeatedly gotten stuck on train door sensors, under benches, and other inconvenient public places, making it a costly annoyance.

So now law-abiding Singaporeans chew dried, shredded cuttlefish instead. It's sold in foil-lined pouches and is flavored with sugar, chile, salt, and monosodium glutamate (MSG).
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