The Upside of Tough Times: CEOs of Juno Medical, Adobe, Shippo +More
Dr. Akili Hinson of Juno Medical, Shantanu Narayen of Adobe, Laura Behrens Wu of Shippo
You might not want to hear this, but these anxious economic times we’re heading into aren’t all bad. Scarcity can be a clarifying force. Thinner marketing budgets can mean less noise. Without the puffery, we can lean into purpose.
I think back to the first economic crisis of my career, the dotcom bust. I was 24 in the fall of 2000 when the wheels started coming off. The experience forced me to take the rose-colored glasses off in my coverage of technology, to realize the difference between innovation and trend chasing.
Strange things happened when the shadow of death drew over Silicon Valley. The IPO market shriveled. Companies succumbed. E-commerce Winter fell. But at the same time, green shoots: The first Apple stores opened in 2001, when Apple also released both the iPod and the Titanium PowerBook G4, progenitors of the smartphone and the modern laptop. In 2002 Starbucks began offering WiFi. Nature was healing.
I suspect the same is happening now, though I can’t tell whether we’re in the middle of an economic storm or barely starting it.
I see promising signs in some of my recent CEO conversations.
Dr. Akili Hinson reminded me that sometimes new, efficient models are born in crisis. Juno Medical, which brings primary care to underserved communities, launched just before the COVID pandemic hit, and is now poised to expand to more cities. A tougher economy will test the model for sure. But Hinson is aware of the risks.
I spoke with Shantanu Narayen about the present and future of Adobe. The company’s stock has been under especially intense pressure over the last few months, as investors react to the planned acquisition of upstart design rival Figma. Some assumed the purchase attempt is a desperation move because Adobe’s core business is in decline; the fourth quarter results pushed back hard against that notion. He told me Adobe’s deep enterprise product portfolio and the rich stream of data it yields on what customers need will help his team keep things growing.
Laura Behrens Wu is navigating e-commerce upheaval. Since I first spoke with her back in April, the economy has sent online shopping on a volatile path, prompting her to cut staff and refocus on Shippo’s core customer base and its need for efficiency in a slowdown. Fortunately for her, the business has cash and she seems to have shifted into preservation mode earlier than many in the ecosystem.
Bipul Sinha and John Thompson shared thoughts about demand for cybersecurity and ransomware protection, especially considering hackers tend to ramp up attacks during economic shocks when defenses are lower. The two expressed confidence in Rubrik’s model and momentum, and yes, the way its cash flow bolsters its strategy in times like these.
Finally, my conversation with Sanjit Biswas reinforced what I suspected: that some corners of the “digital transformation” story will intensify during tough times. Samsara, which designs sensors and software to help companies boost efficiency in manufacturing and supply chains, is seeing its meteoric growth continue as customers use data analytics and computer vision to identify ways to reduce energy costs and streamline operations.
What this all adds up to? Behind the headlines, innovators continue to do their thing. And while all the people and companies might not succeed, they’re not simply sailboats tossed in a macro maelstrom. Some of them will figure this out and thrive.
This is the last installment of the Fortt Knox newsletter for the year, as I’ll have the week after Christmas off. I will have another installment of my new On the Other Hand newsletter (maybe two)! So be sure to enjoy and share that one, too. Happy Holidays!
Dr. Akili Hinson, CEO of Juno Medical, on Building a New Model for Family Healthcare
Shantanu Narayen, CEO of Adobe, on Q4 Earnings and Adobe’s 40th Anniversary
Laura Behrens Wu, CEO of Shippo, on Recalibrating in a Tough Economy
Bipul Sinha, CEO of Rubrik, and John Thompson, Lead Independent Director, on the Road Ahead for Enterprise Software and Security
Sanjit Biswas, CEO of Samsara, on Tech for Logistics
For my latest On the Other Hand segment, check out the new On the Other Hand Newsletter:
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