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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
"The real purpose of digital capitalism is to extract value from the economy and deliver it to those at the top."— Douglas Rushkoff, author of "Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus"
The restaurant industry is increasingly digital. That's good news for tech bros, but it's bad news for restaurateurs.
Driving the news: Travis Kalanick's new startup, CloudKitchens, raised $400 million from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign-wealth fund, at a valuation of about $5 billion, according to the WSJ.
As restaurants position themselves to compete against Kalanick's cut-price offerings, they find themselves paying increasing amounts of money for other digital services.
All of these services can feel a bit like a protection racket. Some restaurants join because they genuinely think these services will be good for business, but most join because they worry, with good reason, that if they don't join, their customers will just migrate to more convenient competitors.
"Without them you're dead, with them it is a slow death."— N.Y. Councilman Mark Gjonaj on the delivery apps he's trying to regulate, quoted by Crain's
The bottom line: Digital platforms are not restaurants' friends. If the amount Americans spend at restaurants stays roughly constant as a percentage of GDP, then all the customer money flowing to the lavishly financed startups is money that ultimately comes out of restaurateurs' pockets.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Is the Apple Card sexist? It certainly seems that way, judging by anecdotal evidence from David and Jamie Heinemeier Hansson, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, and countless other individuals on Twitter who say that wives were given lower credit limits than their husbands, even when they had the same income and even when the wife had a higher credit score.
The other side: Goldman Sachs, which runs the underwriting and issues the credit for the Apple Card, told Axios' Dan Primack yesterday that the consulting firm Charles River Associates signed off on the card even before it was launched. CRA certified that there was no “unintended bias coming out of the decision engine,” according to Goldman’s consumer bank CEO Carey Halio. (I emailed CRA to confirm this, but did not receive a reply.)
The big picture: Wall Street in general, and Goldman Sachs in particular, is notoriously secretive when it comes to proprietary algorithms. But Apple, if anything, is even more secretive.
"It’s unaccountable and opaque, and Apple doesn’t really care. We should demand that they do better than that. We should demand accountability on the part of anybody who’s using an algorithm like that."— Data scientist Cathy O'Neil, talking to Slate's Aaron Mak
Why it matters: Facebook and Google make billions of dollars every year from monetizing the data of individuals around the world. The most valuable data of all is financial data and health data.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
How much power do shareholders have over companies? Judging by Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi's comments to "Axios on HBO" this week, it must be quite a lot.
Enormous shareholders like Larry Fink, the CEO of BlackRock, are regularly imbued with awe-inspiring powers. Fink is "one of the most influential investors in the world," per NYT's Andrew Ross Sorkin, wielding "clout" and "outsize influence."
Reality check: Fink in reality has very little clout. Most of the money that he manages is in index funds, which means he has no discretion as to where to put it. If a private prison company is in an investable index, then BlackRock is going to be one of its shareholders.
Driving the news: Just about the only real power Fink has comes from his ability to vote his shares to nudge companies in a more ethical direction. But a Reuters analysis of his voting record shows that he doesn't even do that.
The bottom line: Activist hedge funds can strike fear into the heart of CEOs, as can countries using their sovereign wealth funds to achieve geopolitical ends. But those skills seem to elude individuals, social activists, and even multitrillion-dollar investors like Fink.
The subway is good enough for Mike. Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images
The financial crisis saw bank CEOs engaging in some extremely dangerous activities. For instance, Andrew Ross Sorkin recounts a fraught journey by Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack in his book, "Too Big To Fail."
Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon knows that it would have been quicker still for Mack to have just jumped on a subway from midtown. (Or, if he wanted to borrow a move from Michael Bloomberg, get his driver to drive him to the 4 train.)
Photo: Smith Collection/Gado via Getty Images
Bankrupt power utility PG&E wants to pay $11 billion in cash to companies that insured Californian property against fires it caused. It will find out on Tuesday whether it can, Axios' Courtenay Brown writes.
Photo: Jane Tyska/Digital First Media/The Mercury News via Getty Images
César Pelli's $2.2 billion Salesforce Transit Center and Park — a massive four-block-long, million-plus-square-foot structure that forms a terminus for trains, buses, and even a gondola — opened in the summer of 2018. And then, just 6 weeks later, it closed again.
The center is back open now, complete with an "undulating white aluminum exoskeleton patterned by physicist Sir Roger Penrose," Brant writes.