Recode’s annual Code Conference was held May 29–31 at the Terranea Resort ~ 15 miles south of Los Angeles and featured on stage interviews with the founders and leaders of some the world’s best known technology and venture companies. The conference was attended by 700 people via invitation.
Conference Summary: There were three overarching themes this year. The first was the tech industry’s responsibility for the content on their platforms and their product’s impact on society. The second was the consolidation of traditional media companies in an effort to compete with Apple/Facebook/Netflix in the entertainment space. The third was the position of China in relation to competing with the US for global technology dominance.
Microsoft’s President Brad Smith talked about the government’s case against Microsoft in the 1990’s and how people want to govern technology that changes the world. He mentioned that a founder’s instinct is to fight vs. compromise because startups are built on drive and ego and how that approach is a mistake that can lead to an overreach by regulators. He wonders if the US tech sector will continue to be global or give way to fragmentation via nationalism. > Full Interview
21st Century Fox’s CEO James Murdoch spoke about the probable Disney acquisition and Comcast’s attempt to up the price. Disney wants to complete with Netflix and this would be a way to level the field content wise. He discussed the consolidation in the media industry and its impact on the consumer and how content will be the driver of success vs. infrastructure. > Full Interview
Evan Spiegel the founder of Snap spoke about the redesign of Snapchat being targeted at making connections around smaller groups while still being connected to overall larger audiences. He doesn’t believe in relying too much on data when it comes to creative design. He said Snapchat moved advertising to a programmatic model which dropped ad revenue initially but is the only way to scale the business long term. He talked about managing the company based on doing the right thing long term vs. appeasing the public markets. He highlighted Snap’s data management approach of not hoarding user data and not building revenue streams by exploiting user data. > Full Interview
Sheryl Sandberg and Mike Schroepfer, COO and CTO of Facebook spoke about being late on data protection and fake news filtering. They mentioned the good things that Facebook has created and how they focused on the positives and as a result missed the negatives. They conveyed that Facebook is a platform of unprecedented scale with 2 billion users. The scale challenge has contributed to the current state. They said that Facebook currently publishes metrics on audited content and Facebook will be ready for election threats going forward including ad transparency. They also spoke about use cases of Oculus VR as an accessible VR platform for the masses. > Full Interview
Mary Meeker of Kleiner Perkins delivered her annual Internet Trends report. Highlights included: 50% of the world’s humans are now on the Internet, areas of high growth include digital payments, voice driven tech, Facebook per user monetization, capital going into tech companies, e-commerce startups, ad spend on social media, subscription services and household and student debt (all time highs). She highlighted that China now has 9 of the top 20 largest technology companies in the world with the US having the other 11. Alibaba is becoming the retail infrastructure in China similar to Amazon. Technology has reduced grocery spend from 15% down to 12% of household income in the US. She stated that there are 500k listings of Airbnb units and 1 million Uber drivers in the US and that on demand workers are a growing market and schedule flexibility is the main driver. She touched on health care costs continuing to grow substantially but that technology is focused on driving this market down in the long term. She also pointed out that data gathering and optimization is accelerating lead by AWS infrastructure availability and that this is improving service delivery predictability and execution. > Full Report
Katrina Lake the founder of Stitch Fix discussed the timing of the company’s IPO despite having had the option of staying private given their revenue growth. She mentioned there have been no significant discussions with Amazon regarding an acquisition. She stressed that they are more focused on brand vs. discount products. > Full Interview
The founder of Zipline, a drone delivery service headquartered in Half Moon Bay, CA showed the service delivering blood and medical supplies in Africa. See the details here.
The founder of Airbnb, Brian Chesky, talked about an evolving management approach and focus in order to scale. He wants to build global travel community vs. a commodity aggregator and highlighted the Airbnb Experiences product which is focused on local experiences vs typical tourist events. He pointed out that most Airbnb hosts are prior guests and that their are 5 million homes that are hosts. He discussed regulation issues around the collection of hotel taxes and the registering of hosts with local governments. Airbnb is on target to become largest collector of hotel tax in the world soon. He said he wants Airbnb to ultimately be good for neighborhoods. He projects they will be ready for an IPO in 2019. > Full Interview
Dara Khosrowshahi the CEO of Uber is focused on the success of the company vs. control. He mentioned culture management and setting up the business for profitability and a 2019 IPO are his priorities. He said he is working well with board members that founder Travis Kalanick appointed. He spoke about a focus on the driver as the main part of the service vs. eliminating the drivers with autonomous technology which Travis was focused on. This includes providing benefits for drivers as the competition for drivers is alternative work not just Lyft. He is also investing in alternative modes of transportation for short distances and wants to position the company as the Amazon of transportation, incorporating technology across all modes. He reported that Uber Eats is at $6 billion in revenue and growing. > Full Interview
Daniel Elk the founder of Spotify talked about the state of the business after their recent IPO. Currently they have 170 million users and 3 million artists on the platform. They are still losing money but are now cash flow positive. He believes the streaming industry is still in the early development phase. Currently 3 labels account for 86% of content on the platform. He mentioned he is not focused on competition as much as the ebs and flows of the market. Expanding the platform to podcasts and video is a major focus. He also said the company rolled out a global parental leave policy of 6 months for employees. > Full Interview
Recode also introduced a track called Code University — lecture type presentations of emerging technologies and ideas. Topics included resource mining of the moon, gut biome data research in relation to chronic disease, robotic development and regulation ideas around the big 5 tech companies.
Some of the companies represented by attendees at Code Conference 2018 included:
Alibaba | Airbnb |Amazon | Apple | Bank of America | Boston Consulting Group | Circle | Cisco | Comcast | DocuSign | eBay | Facebook | FOX | Goldman Sachs | Google | HBO | Hulu | IBM | IMDB | Intuit | Intel | JP Morgan | Kleiner Perkins | Microsoft | Nasdaq | NBC | Oculus | Salesforce | Samsung | Sequoia Capital | Snap | Spotify | Stubhub | Tech Crunch | The New York Times | The Wall Street Journal | Uber | Twitter | Walt Disney