Discover more from Fortt Knox: Innovation Curated
Cashing in On Change: Affirm & Shopify Team Up, Crypto Gets Official +More
I bought a Peloton bike this week. That in and of itself wouldn't be weird, because a lot of people have been ordering pandemic Pelotons. The weirdest part about it was that my wife ordered it on Wednesday morning and it arrived Friday afternoon. At the beginning of the year they were backordered. Now that we're staring down summer, they're delivering as fast as Amazon Prime.
Either supply of bikes has increased significantly, or demand has slacked off. But either way, it appears that lots of money is flowing toward big-ticket purchases as people look beyond the pandemic. That's a takeaway from the latest update from Affirm, which helps people take out loans on better terms than credit cards offer.
Speaking of money flows, El Salvador caused big waves this week when it voted to make Bitcoin an official currency of the country. This of course got Bitcoin bulls very excited, because announcements about institutional adoption tend to boost Bitcoin prices. El Salvador isn't likely to be as fickle as Elon Musk in its Bitcoin embrace. But I had a few questions for the founder of a company that's helping the country with the process.
Oh – and for the fourth installment of March Forth, my social justice themed monthly conversation, Jayson Council and I spoke to the man in charge of making sure NBA players make the most of their personal brands. So the theme of the week is ...
Time for a Wealth Tax? On the Other Hand
Do the recent tax revelations about billionaires make the case for a wealth tax? I argued both sides in the latest On the Other Hand, on CNBC's Squawk Box:
Affirm CEO Max Levchin: Shopify Partnership Comes As Demand Surges Back
Shopify, Shopify, Shopify. (Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!) The company's name is getting dropped all over the place lately. Two examples: On Friday, Netflix launched a Shopify store selling merch connected to its brands. Also this week, Affirm CEO (and Fortt Knox alum) Max Levchin joined me on TechCheck to talk about a partnership with Shopify that will bring Affirm's tech-powered "pay later" features to pretty much every Shopify merchant. That's notable during this time of economic reopening and rising prices, because flexibility could be key to keeping consumers spending. (I should mention: Affirm's lending platform lets people break a payment into four installments, with no interest.)
Strike CEO Jack Mallers: El Salvador's Bitcoin Move is Just the Beginning
This week in wild crypto moves: El Salvador (the country) voted to adopt Bitcoin as an official currency. In other words, merchants in the country will be required to accept it as payment. Merchants won't be required to hold Bitcoin, though; they can choose to have it immediately converted into another currency and held for them. The company signed up to help El Salvador with this process: Strike, helmed by Jack Mallers. I couldn't help but notice that the U.S. government has concerns about corruption when it comes to officials in El Salvador though, and whenever the government is offering to put its own crypto wallet in the middle of every transaction, it seems there's potential for shady behavior. I asked Mallers whether his tech is up to the challenge of whatever issues might arise:
The Momentum Question: Coupa CEO Rob Bernshteyn on Sales Growth
Coupa uses cloud technology, machine learning and anonymized data from multiple sources to help companies make better decisions about how they spend money. The company has been working on this tech since before it was quite so buzzy — and so it's one of the stocks that's been on quite a run, up and down (mostly up) over the last two years. Lots of people are questioning, though: What happens to these software darlings now? Were they overhyped, or is there still a lot of growth potential in them? I talked to CEO Rob Bernshteyn (another Fortt Knox alum) about it, on a day when some investors worried Coupa is slowing down. Bernshteyn countered that narrative:
Atlas Soared: MongoDB CEO Dev Ittycheria on Database Traction
What can I say? Lots of interesting CEOs are Fortt Knox alums. MongoDB CEO Dev Ittycheria joined me on TechCheck after an earnings report that showed notable momentum for the company's fully managed database, Atlas. But might MongoDB still suffer the same fate as Cloudera, as it tries to both compete and cooperate with the cloud giants? I asked him:
Baller Brands: How the National Basketball Players Association Monetizes Off the Court
My monthly social justice-themed series with my friend Jayson Council continues. This time Jayson invited Payne Brown, president of THINK450, the licensing and business development engine of the National Basketball Players Association. We talked about the value of personal brands in the digital era, from the perspective of someone who's dealing with some of the most recognizable personal brands in the world. Oh, and we talked about fans attacking players in NBA arenas, too:
Evolving Retail Through Omnichannel and Apps: Tractor Supply and Vitamin Shoppe
At CNBC we have a couple of membership groups for C-level executives. One of them, the Technology Executive Council, convenes technology leaders for deeper conversations about innovation and strategy. I'd been wanting to start leading conversations with TEC members about topics I'm exploring in my research. This week, in parallel with Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference, I spoke to tech leaders at Tractor Supply and Vitamin Shoppe about their app strategy, and how it fits into their overall approach to retail and loyalty:
If you know me, you know that I like projects. I put a lot of thought into things that are important to me, at it's not limited to Fortt Knox. My company, Fortt Media, is the home of The Black Experience in America: The Course, a curriculum I researched, designed, taught and then built into an interactive experience. I'm still building it, and crafting teacher training to increase its impact.
To share what I've learned from the process so far, and to learn from others who are passionate about Black history education, I'm participating in the Teaching Black History Conference, hosted by the Carter Center for K-12 Education at the University of Missouri, led by LaGarrett King. My presentation will be 7/23 at 8 a.m. ET. It's $99 to attend (virtually). Register here: