New Models: Sugar Founder Pivots, Dell Launches APEX Service, Amazon Improves Sidewalk, Kajabi Raises $550M +More

These days we're constantly finding new ways to get things done. It's happening at both the corporate and individual levels. This week I spoke with Fatima Dicko, founder and CEO of Sugar, about how she changed her company's business model out of necessity in the early days of the pandemic; she's now wrapping up a $2.5 million funding round. Michael Dell talked to me about the new way he's selling hardware in the cloud era. And Dave Limp, Amazon's SVP running devices and services (think Alexa, Kindle, Ring doorbells and more) joined me on CNBC's TechCheck to share a grand plan for a new kind of shared network.

At the same time, my own way of work is changing. I'm finding digital streams are a great way to get work done and shared with an intelligent audience that cares deeply about the subject matter, and I can give more detailed attention to a lot more deserving topics. This week I brought the Fortt Knox audience the news of a Stanford Business School study on the state of Black entrepreneurs, a conversation with Kajabi's CEO on what he's going to do with the half-billion dollars in funding he just raised, and an earnings analysis with OpenText's CEO, minutes after the company posted results. That's the theme for the week: new models for business, new models for work:

Did Facebook's Oversight Board Do Its Job? On the Other Hand

Is Facebook's Oversight Board a joke? Or did it do an important job critics overlooked? I weighed in for this week’s On the Other Hand, on CNBC's Squawk Box:

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Dell CEO Michael Dell on Changes: Hardware As A Service and a VMWare and Boomi Spin

Michael Dell joined me on TechCheck in his first interview since Dell Technologies announced its plans to spin off VMWare and Boomi in transactions worth billions of dollars each. And he's got a new service, APEX, to keep on-premise hardware relevant in the cloud era:

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Amazon SVP David Limp on Sidewalk Vision and Shared Networks

Amazon has a vision that if we each set aside a little bit of our broadband connection and securely share it with strangers, it will enable services that help all of us. That's part of the idea behind Sidewalk. This week, Dave Limp joined me on TechCheck to announce new partners in Amazon's Sidewalk network, including Tile. This might be just what Tile needs to compete with Apple's AirTags:

See a larger portion of the TechCheck conversation here:

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Sugar CEO Fatima Dicko on a Stanford Study: The Challenges of Black Entrepreneurship

On Thursday, Stanford's Graduate School of Business released a study on the state of Black small business before the pandemic; it's got some insights that are especially relevant during and after the pandemic as well. I spoke with Stanford MBA grad (and Sugar CEO) Fatima Dicko and Stanford research analyst Inara Tareque on the State of Black-Owned Businesses:

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Kajabi CEO Kenny Rueter on Building a New Platform for Learning and Commerce

The Internet economy is diversifying away from a reliance on mainly advertising, as many businesses and entrepreneurs realize the limits of the digital ad model; often, the profit benefits go to the social and ad networks more than to the content providers themselves. That's given rise to platforms like Kajabi, that allow content creators to offer deeper experiences that an audience is willing to pay more to access. I talked to Kajabi co-founder and CEO Kenny Rueter and new board member Scott Wagner (former GoDaddy CEO) about the environment and the market opportunity:

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OpenText CEO Mark Barrenechea on Earnings, Recovery and Manufacturing

OpenText reported earnings this week, and I got some time with CEO Mark Barrenechea to talk about the global economy, how industries including automotive are recovering, and the trend in moving some supply chains out of China and closer to the customer:

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Many readers of this newsletter will be familiar by now with my latest project: The Black Experience in America: The Course. I designed it last year after the tragic killing of George Floyd, and I'm building out an online learning experience based on the content.

The students, faculty and alumni of my alma mater, DePauw University, gained access to the course material this year. I'm looking forward to more collaborations that lead us to a deeper understanding of this moment in history, the ideas that got us here and the work to move forward.

If you're interested in exploring the same material, a bundle of three lessons is available for purchase here for $12.