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August 30, 2019

Welcome to Labor Day weekend, when we celebrate labor by not doing it. Login will be off on Monday. See you again on Tuesday.

Today's Smart Brevity count: 995 words, <4 minute read.

1 big thing: U.S. apps take more cues from China

Data: Yahoo Finance and Chinese Internet Report from South China Morning Post; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Yahoo Finance and Chinese Internet Report from South China Morning Post; Chart: Axios Visuals

A slew of Chinese-inspired smartphone apps and products are flourishing in the U.S., adding new Chinese influences to American culture and business just as the trade conflict between the two countries intensifies, Axios' Sara Fischer reports.

Why it matters: U.S. tech giants that once inspired Chinese products in the era of PCs and the web are now borrowing moves from East Asian counterparts, mimicking their smartphone apps and innovations, as a recent in-depth China Internet Report by the South China Morning Post documents.

Driving the news: Facebook is creating an app called Thread that aims to make it easier for users to chat more intimately and frequently with their closest friends on Instagram, The Verge reports.

  • The concept, reminiscent of Snapchat, was pioneered by WeChat, the chat app owned by China's Tencent.

For Chinese users, WeChat has become a "super" app, one that broadly expands across many different services. WeChat started as a messaging app but now offers everything from ride hailing to tickets to gaming.

  • Facebook Messenger has more broadly been mimicking WeChat over the past two years. Messenger has gone from focusing on private messaging between Facebook friends to a one-stop shop for payments, stories and games.

Shopping apps in China have also been heavily copied by U.S. tech giants like Amazon and Instagram.

Short video: The recent explosion of TikTok in the U.S., which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance, has been a wake-up call for U.S. tech giants like Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram.

  • Facebook launched a TikTok competitor last year called Lasso which lets users create viral short videos that often feature lip-syncing.

The big picture: Innovation on the smartphone has flourished in China because phones were the first broadly-adopted screen there.

  • Chinese companies had to build most of their new products and innovations for a smartphone-driven society, while U.S. companies had already built out services and products for the consumer PC market.

Be smart: Apps for social media, messaging and video are relatively easy for U.S. tech companies to replicate — they're less regulated by local governments than finance, hardware, or transportation, and less tied to physical supply chains that can be subject to trade-war tensions.

What's next: The "BAT" companies, Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent, have been increasingly investing in new companies that act as extensions to their services.

"If you're BATs, you want to invest in things you're not good at. For the most part, their core competency is social media, so they own the data. They want to make sure people use more data elsewhere — they see it as a protective shield. It helps them neutralize competitors."
— Humphrey Ho, managing director of Hylink USA, China's largest independent digital advertising agency
  • U.S. companies are now doing the same thing. Facebook is creating Threads and Lasso. Amazon was at one point creating two social media networks — Spark, a shopping social feed, and Anytime, a messaging app.

What we're watching: Major Chinese apps have been increasingly investing both in U.S. tech companies and also in Chinese tech rivals in order to expand platforms for users to access their services. Chinese tech giant Tencent, for example, has invested both in Snapchat and Swedish music service Spotify.

Yes, but: A deepening trade conflict between China and the U.S. could restrict that type of investment.

  • Under the Trump administration, we've seen crackdowns on Chinese acquisitions by the federal government's interagency Committee on Foreign Investment and discussions of tighter export controls.
  • If the trade war escalates, software creators in both China and the U.S. could find it harder to build on each other's innovations.

2. Long-Term Stock Exchange raises $50 million

The Long-Term Stock Exchange has raised $50 million in Series B funding led by Founders Fund, with new investors joining existing ones like Andreessen Horowitz, Obvious Ventures, and Initialized Capital, Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva reports.

Why it matters: Silicon Valley's big tech "startups" have increasingly delayed going public, in part because of the pressures of quarterly performance they must explain to stockholders. The LTSE, a brainchild of "Lean Startup" author Eric Ries, seeks to build a stock exchange without these traditional short-term pressures.

What's next: The company tells Axios that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission recently approved its standards. There's no word yet on when it plans to start operating, though a spokesman says that "early next year seems plausible."

  • When it does debut, it will likely start with just stock trading, though it could also have listings if interested companies' IPO timelines happen to line up.

Go deeper: Startups get a stock exchange

3. Apple sets Sept. 10 event; new iPhones expected

A crowd outside Steve Jobs Theater at Apple's headquarters.

A crowd outside the Steve Jobs Theater at Apple headquarters. Photo: Michael Short/Getty Images

Apple is expected to introduce a new crop of iPhones at a media event it has just scheduled for Sept. 10.

  • "By innovation only," reads the scant text in this year's invite for the event, which will take place in the Steve Jobs Theater at Apple headquarters.

Why it matters: Both Apple and the broader smartphone market have seen growth slow, adding importance to whatever Apple has in store for this year's model. Reports suggest additional cameras could be among the key selling points.

4. Bill Gates' Netflix documentary to debut

"Inside Bill's Brain," a three-part documentary series about Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, is set to debut on Netflix on Sept. 20.

Details: Gates spent part of several years working with the documentary crew, led by Davis Guggenheim of "An Inconvenient Truth" fame.

"I'm so glad you will get a chance to see inside @BillGates' brain (it's what made me fall in love with him!) and see how he thinks about tackling some of the world’s toughest problems."
— Melinda Gates said in a tweet

Go deeper: You can see a trailer here.

5. Take Note

Trading Places

  • Mozilla CEO Chris Beard plans to step down at year's end. The browser maker is seeking a replacement.
  • Educational firm Person added two tech execs to help with its digital transformation, naming Ishantha Lokugé as chief product officer and Satish Menonas as chief technology officer for product platforms.


6. After you Login

Red, the iconic Angry Bird, threw out the first pitch at a baseball game this week.