This Week: Slack market cap rockets to $20bn, an all time Wall Street high, the foldable phone future
This week in the US, tensions with the Middle East continued to escalate, as the Iranian government downed a $130mn US surveillance drone on Thursday morning. While the matter of whether the drone was encroaching upon Iranian airspace remains contested, the threat of military action reached new heights on the evening of the 20th, as sources confirmed that President Trump had approved strikes against the Islamic Republic, but rescinded orders shortly after.
The incident followed closely on the heels of last week’s oil tanker attacks, and further drove up the price of oil by another 5%. Abrupt hikes in the price of crude are speculated to be behind the halting of the strike, as high prices at the gas pump are a likely result of war with an OPEC member with the ability to disrupt trade through the Strait of Hormuz.
The UK’s largest investment management firm, LGIM, announced this week that it is dumping its holdings in several major US companies deemed to be ‘Climate Change Laggards’. The four US companies cut – ExxonMobil, Metlife, Hormel Foods and Kroger – represent funds worth $5bn.
Also this week, management app startup Slack’s stock market debut, and hopes for interest rate cuts drive S&P Index to record high. But first, Samsung:
Galaxy Fold is ‘Ready for Market’: Samsung VP
The race to the foldable smartphone has been hailed as the consumer tech battleground of 2019. While the honor of the world’s first foldable smartphone was stolen at the eleventh hour by the ‘charmingly awful’ Royole FlexiPal, a large part of the Royole’s premature release was due to the imminent release of the Samsung Galaxy Fold.
Unfortunately, review units of Samsung’s first foldable smart device were plagued by display issues which indefinitely delayed the release back in April. However, at an event in Seoul this week, Samsung Display Vice President Kim Seong-cheol announced that the issues had been resolved. “Most of the display problems have been ironed out, and the Galaxy Fold is ready to hit the market.”
The Galaxy Fold is set to have a price tag of around $1,900.
Slack attacks Wall Street IPO model
On Thursday, workplace management startup, Slack, debuted on the New York Stock Exchange, ending the day up in value by 48% from the company’s reference price of $26 per share.
Slack’s new $20bn market capitalization makes it the second large, venture capital-backed startup to complete a successful direct listing, according to TechCrunch’s report. Direct listing is an alternative to pursuing an IPO that bypasses investor, backer and administrative fees that accompany the process. If direct offering represents a trend in the future of startups reaching publicly-traded status, it could mean significant revenue and influence losses for the investment banks that extract both large fees and favorable stock purchasing options from the process.
The higher they close, the further the fall
Prompted by expectations that next week’s G20 summit could bring about the beginning of the end of the US-China trade war, and rumors that the US Federal Reserve is planning to cut interest rates, benchmark S&P 500 index hit a record high on Thursday.
Wall Street strategists, however, are counseling caution, fearing that the rally is ‘based more in hope than fact.’
“This is probably one of the riskiest points you’re ever going to see in the stock market,” said Michael O’Rourke, chief market strategist at JonesTrading in Greenwich, Connecticut. “The price level here is not supported by fundamentals. It’s supported by sentiment and hype and hopefulness about monetary policy.”
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.