Data Sheet—What AI Will Do to the Financial System

Will they or won’t they? Two of the biggest tech startups are teasing about going public…in 2019. Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky, speaking at the Code Conference on Wednesday, said his company “will be ready to IPO next year, but I don’t know if we will.” And Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told CNBC his company is “on track” to go public in 2019, as well. “Lots of things can happen in the world but we have a reasonable buffer as well, so I think we’re in a pretty good spot,” he said.

It happens every year. Famed Internet analyst Mary Meeker issued her annual slide deck of Internet metrics. The 294-page presentation noted that smartphone sales have leveled off while smart speaker sales are exploding, albeit from a small base. Meeker also showed how Chinese tech companies are growing fast and entering fields like AI.

Coming into focus. Speaking of Chinese AI companies, SenseTime, a Chinese startup focused on using AI for image recognition, raised $620 million of venture capital in a deal valuing the company at $4.5 billion. The company says its software has been used in over 100 million mobile devices from China.

High hurdles. The California state Senate voted to maintain strict net neutrality rules similar to those that the Federal Communications Commission imposed in 2015 and repealed last year. The bill must next pass the state Assembly, where an earlier proposal died in January.

Double platinum. A couple of personnel moves at Apple Music have the record industry talking. After putting Oliver Schusser in charge of the service last month, Apple named Elena Segal as global director of music publishing. Getting into the publishing side of music could allow Apple to gain rights more quickly, or even set up its own record label, speculates Rolling Stone.

Turn up the volume. In what seems like a strange turn of events, headphone maker Monster filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission to issue up to $300 million of its own digital currency coins, dubbed Monster Money Tokens, that would be convertible into company stock. Sales at the company slipped 34% to $57 million last year, generating a net loss of $27 million.

The trend is your friend. Speaking of digital currencies, bitcoin set an all-time high close to $20,000 just before the Chicago Mercantile Exchange started trading bitcoin futures contracts. It has since fallen precipitously, trading under $8,000 now. But that’s completely typical behavior for a commodity price when derivatives contracts begin trading, according to a new study released by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. As with home mortgages and other instruments, early on investors have no reliable way to bet against the commodity, so prices rise dramatically. The arrival of futures trading allow pessimists finally to place their bets, driving down the price.

Android Jeff. At the annual shareholder meeting of Amazon, held on Wednesday in Seattle, several small groups gathered outside to protest. One group carried a huge mock robot with the face of Jeff Bezos, as they protested in favor of a proposal to increase oversight of the company via an independent board chairman. Shareholders rejected the plan. Bezos, who founded the e-commerce giant in 1994, holds both the positions of CEO and board chairman.

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