Jul 11, 2019

Axios Login

By Ina Fried
Ina Fried

We received a lot of positive feedback on the "What we're using" feature in yesterday's Login, but also some good questions. To be clear, any such products highlighted are purely our editorial choice and there is no affiliate revenue or other money changing hands.

  • In some cases, including the portable charger I wrote about yesterday, the product is a review unit provided by the company. (Items are eventually returned or donated.) Hope that answers any questions, but feel free to hit reply and ask anything else.

Ok, on to the news, 1,077 words' worth (4 minutes).

1 big thing: Trying to make enterprise software fun

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Lots of money is made in enterprise software, but it's hard to make it interesting, even for the folks investing in those companies. One investment firm, Wing.vc, has come up with a new twist: Rank the private companies in the space the way that a coaches' poll ranks college sports teams.

Why it matters: Though not always scintillating, enterprise technology, which serves large companies, organizations and institutions, brings in billions of dollars and accounts for some of the most successful IPOs.

  • "Some important tech companies that are really changing the way business is done fly under the radar," said Rajeev Chand, a former Rutberg analyst and Wing's research partner.

Yes, but: As with sports, not all players are equal. Some of the firms in the rankings are new startups while others are large companies on the verge of going public. So Wing divided them into early-, middle- and late-stage companies and listed the top 10 in each.

  • They started with more than 3,000 startups and winnowed the list to around 775, before polling about 6 dozen of the top investors in the space.
  • Each investor got to vote for 10 companies in each stage, but they were limited to 3 of their own portfolio companies to eliminate too much rooting for the home team.


This graphic shows the full top 10 in each category:


Key trends:

  • Of the 30 companies, at least 7 have received fairly little mainstream press attention: Retool, GatsbyJS, Clearbit, Sketch, Tray.io, LaunchDarkly and Pachyderm.
  • 7 of the 30 top companies were in data and analytics, including the top 4 late-stage companies.
  • 3 companies got acquired or went public while the process was going on and were eliminated from consideration. (Slack and CrowdStrike went public, while Looker was acquired by Google.)

The bottom line: Getting onto this list won't magically make any of these companies more interesting. But any project that helps put more of them on our radar — before they file to go public or get acquired — is doing some good. 

2. Prime Day has grown bigger than Amazon

Four years ago, Amazon held its first Prime Day — offering steep discounts and deals on its site. Since then, not only has Prime Day ballooned to a two-day affair, it has also gotten much bigger than Amazon, as Axios' Erica Pandey reports.

  • Per new research from Adobe, Amazon's competitors will see revenue jump by 79% on Monday and Tuesday, this year's Prime Days. That's the strongest-ever projected bump.

The big picture: The halo effect of Prime Day highlights Amazon's influence on the entire retail market. What started as an Amazon invention has become a Black Friday for July, with Walmart and Target adding their own summer deal days.

  • Prime Day has also become a moment for Amazon employees to stage protests. Last year, warehouse workers in Europe rallied against low wages. This year, Minnesota workers are planning a walkout.

Worth noting: The buying sprees that occur during these big sales are accompanied by a subsequent binge of returns, Adobe notes. Last year, Prime Day purchases saw 30% higher rates of return than goods bought on other days.

Go deeper: An e-commerce pitfall: never-ending returns

3. Apple pushes update to remove Zoom's Web server

In a rare move, Apple Wednesday silently updated the Mac operating system to remove a controversial hidden Web server installed by the Zoom Web conferencing app.

Apple confirmed to TechCrunch that the update was performed automatically and required no action on the user's part.

Zoom, which said it worked with Apple on the move, also issued its own app update Tuesday removing the Web server and giving users the ability to uninstall Zoom if they wish.

  • The company also apologized for its earlier handling of the issue and the way it communicated with the researcher who alerted the company to the vulnerability.
  • "In engaging this researcher over the past 90 days, we misjudged the situation and did not respond quickly enough — and that’s on us," the company said in a blog post. "We take full ownership and we’ve learned a great deal."

The bottom line: The moves undo the damage, but as we reported yesterday, the bigger question is, When will tech companies stop prioritizing features over privacy in the first place?

Meanwhile, Apple has temporarily disabled the "walkie-talkie" feature on Apple Watch due to a vulnerability that could allow eavesdropping of a nearby iPhone.

4. Trump administration probes French tech tax plan

U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The Trump administration said on Wednesday it will investigate a French plan to impose a 3% tax on U.S. tech companies including Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, Axios' Orion Rummler notes.

Why it matters: This move escalates the administration's global trade fight, "stok[ing] tensions with the European Union," per the New York Times. It is "a step that could lead Washington to impose trade penalties," the Washington Post adds.

The big picture: If the administration pursues this probe into France — a U.S. ally — it will use the same legal mechanism that President Trump used to strike China with trade war tariffs last year.

  • The investigation intends to "determine whether it is discriminatory or unreasonable and burdens or restricts United States commerce," U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer said in a statement on Wednesday.
  • French senators are scheduled to vote on the tax Thursday. Lighthizer anticipates it will pass.
  • Other countries are also considering implementing new levies on digital services, Bloomberg reports.

What they're saying: Tech trade groups praised the move, including the Computer & Communications Industry Association and ITI.

  • CCIA chief operating officer Matt Schruers: "This is a critical step toward preventing protectionist taxes on global trade. The French proposal left USTR little choice but to initiate an investigation of this discriminatory tax on US companies, and we applaud Ambassador Lighthizer’s swift response to this threat to U.S. exports.”
  • ITI vice president of policy Jennifer McCloskey: "We support the U.S. government’s efforts to investigate these complex trade issues but urge it to pursue the 301 investigation in a spirit of international cooperation and without using tariffs as a remedy."

Our thought bubble: How you see France's tax depends largely on where you sit. In France and other places, it looks like a way to derive tax revenue from companies that are earning lots of profit from people in their country. For the tech companies, it looks like an added and unique tax aimed at punishing U.S.-based companies.

5. Take Note

On tap

  • The White House is holding its social media summit this afternoon, with the Big Tech companies still not on the invite list. (More here.)

Trading places

  • Seattle sales automation startup Outreach has hired a trio of former Microsoft veterans for its leadership team, per GeekWire. Margaret Arakawa will serve as chief marketing officer, Amritansh Raghav will be executive VP of product, and engineering and Abhi Abhishek will be VP in charge of the voice engineering team.


  • A look at the nomads who rummage the country for stuff they can sell for a profit on Amazon's marketplace. (The Verge)
  • Facebook is reportedly looking to buy game studios in an effort to beef up content for its Oculus VR platform. (The Information)
  • Security software firm McAfee is in talks with bankers about an IPO. (WSJ)
6. After you Login

Want to watch people in T-Rex costumes run against each other on a racetrack? Of course you do, and you are in luck.

Ina Fried