The future of the office, how we'll shop and pay, and Masa Son's biggest challenge



As the curve flattens in many parts of the world and the movement to reopen the economy gains steam, I keep finding myself thinking about this seating plan.

Coronavirus Disease Outbreak in Call Center, South Korea

As Holly Secon reported this week, 44% of workers on one floor of a South Korean call center got the coronavirus. The desks colored blue show where employees with confirmed cases sat.

For some of you, that seating plan might look a little like your bank of desks at the office. It certainly looks like mine. 

A number of Business Insider reporters this week delved in to what a return to work might look like, and how offices will have to be reconfigured to make a return possible:

  • Joe Williams talked to the co-CEOs of Gensler, the largest architecture firm. They described the three ways that offices will change post-coronavirus.
  • Alex Nicoll talked to seven real-estate experts about what to expect when you’re back in the office. They explained what the transition will look like, and why the workplace may never be the same.
  • Mandatory temperature taking is largely seen as a critical way to return workers to offices. But Dan Geiger reported that some big NYC landlords are worried about its effectiveness.
  • Alex and Meghan Morris reported that the coronavirus is a “nuclear bomb” for companies like WeWork. They talked to 10 real-estate insiders about the future of flex-office, and how employers are preparing now.
  • And as WeWork and flex-space rivals stumble, 18 million square feet of space in NYC is at risk. Dan broke down what that means for the real-estate market.
  • Nationwide is permanently moving a chunk of its employees to remote work. Joe talked to the CEO about what that means for operations at the insurance giant.
  • Google will “stagger” its return to offices and extended work-from-home until June 1. Hugh Langley got his hands on the email CEO Sundar Pichai sent to staff. 
  • And Ashley Stewart reported on a guide to reopen your workplace, that’s based on best practice at Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks, and Costco. 

Contactless payment

How we’ll shop and pay

There are other questions beyond whether we’ll go back to the office, when, and what it might look like. How will we shop? How will we pay? What felt normal in February — queueing for Chipotle in a packed restaurant and paying by bank card — now feels anachronistic.

  • Shannen Balogh talked to two investors at VC firm Andreessen Horowitz about the new ways we’ll shop, bank, and pay, from livestreaming e-commerce to branchless banking.
  • She talked to a Mastercard exec about a surge in contactless payments that’s giving the company an unexpected boost as people rethink touching cash.
  • And she talked to PayPal cofounder Max Levchin about the future of brick-and-mortar retail, and the “software fight” that will go on behind the scenes.
  • Patrick Coffee and Tanya Dua reported on how Burger King, Chipotle, Domino’s, and Subway are adapting their marketing as customers move to a delivery-based future.
  • Shoshy Ciment talked to 10 CEOs from thriving DTC brands like Thinx and Magic Spoon about their playbooks for how companies can succeed amid a global pandemic.
  • Gary Vaynerchuk is charging up to $250,000 to help companies shake up their e-commerce operations. Lucia Moses got her hands on his pitch deck.
  • Appointment-only stores, hand sanitizing stations, and robots stocking shelves. Mary Hanbury took a look at how our shopping experience could change in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Lastly, Irene Jiang reported that UBS expects restaurant sales to plummet 40%, undoing 20 years of growth for the industry as grocery stores dominate. Kate Taylor talked to experts who predicted customer temperature checks and new fears of crowds.

masayoshi son 4x3

Masa Son’s biggest challenge

Where did it all go wrong for Masayoshi Son?

From Dakin Campbell’s story:

In 2017, Son, the founder and CEO of SoftBank, upended the tech establishment with the creation of the $100 billion Vision Fund, the largest venture-capital fund in history. Over the next two years, it would deploy $75 billion across 88 investments, with Son holding an outsized voice on the three-person investment committee. 

Son earned a reputation among some venture capitalists and entrepreneurs who saw him pressuring founders into taking more money than they needed, elbowing aside coinvestors, and warping markets by seemingly pushing for growth at all costs. Venture capitalists kept investing alongside him, and founders took the money as valuations rose. The fund earned some wins, selling a stake in India e-commerce company Flipkart to Walmart and making money on an investment in publicly-traded chipmaker Nvidia. But as more than one company with billions of dollars in Vision Fund cash and no profits began to crater last year, the Silicon Valley community quickly turned against him.

You can read the full story here:

Masa Son is facing one of his biggest challenges yet as the SoftBank Vision Fund racks up billions in losses. 12 insiders reveal where it all went wrong.

Lastly, if you didn’t catch the first installment of Starting Up, Business Insider’s interview show, you should check out Drake Baer’s conversation with Slack cofounder and CTO Cal Henderson. 

Below are headlines on some of the stories you might have missed from the past week. Stay safe, everyone.

— Matt

  • Private-equity firms fueled the US shale revolution with $125 billion. Now they face a reckoning of epic proportions as the oil market melts down.
  • Famed economist David Rosenberg nailed the housing crash. Now he says this crisis won’t end as quickly as it began and shares an investing strategy for the next 3 years and beyond.
  • The inside story behind a 15-partner exodus at elite law firm Boies Schiller
  • Zoom quietly retracted a claim that it had 300 million daily active users, and it spotlights a huge area of confusion about its business
  • The 33 insiders who wield the most power at YouTube
  • The cautionary tale of a marketing agency that ad giant WPP acquired for $300 million and shut down 4 years later
  • Leaked audio reveals StockX is facing a crisis in its authentication centers, with workers testing positive for COVID-19 and complaints of unsafe working conditions as product piles up
  • Airline analysts and executives predict it will take up to 5 years for the industry to recover, but airlines as big as American may not survive. Read their bleak forecasts here.

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