Amazon's biggest day of the year is on a collision course with the coronavirus

Alex Gallardo/Reuters

Hello fellow work-from-homies and welcome back to Trending, Business Insider Prime’s weekly newsletter of the latest tech industry developments.

I’m your host, Alexei Oreskovic, Business Insider’s West Coast bureau chief and global tech editor.

This week: A risky April calendar and Amazon’s biggest day of the year

Whether you live for April Fool’s Day or consider it a tiresome tradition, you probably agree that this isn’t the right time for pranks that could mislead people.

Google sent word throughout the company last week to halt all April Fool’s Day gags and instructed staff to “suss out” any planned pranks that might have slipped under management’s radar. Other big companies did the same (and they will spend an anxious Wednesday praying that all their employees got the memo).

The untold April Fool’s jokes will ultimately be a painless cost for tech companies write off. The same can’t be said of other events on the calendar.

Jeff BezosClodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

The Summer Olympics that were due to kick off this July in Japan will leave a lot of businesses reeling from their postponement. Tokyo hotels and restaurants that were banking on the games will suffer. But the pain will also be shared by tech companies like Airbnb and Uber, whose multi-billion dollar valuations are based upon tapping into local businesses.

On Monday, Airbnb announced it would put up $US250 million to help its hosts weather the COVID-19 cancellation storm – it’s a nice move, but $US250 million isn’t much for a service that’s estimated to generate $US2.5 billion a month in bookings.

And I imagine there are a lot of Airbnb hosts in Japan with properties that will now sit vacant in July. If they start asking Airbnb for reimbursements, it could get expensive.

Similarly, the missing marketing that would have accompanied the Olympics will be felt by online ad platforms like Google and Facebook. As Hugh Langley writes, the combination of the Olympics postponement and the general travel deep-freeze will leave a big hole in Google’s revenue – so much so that at least one Wall Street analyst expects Google to post its first-ever year-on-year revenue decline later this year.

That brings us to another big July event: Amazon Prime Day. This corporate paean to the shopping gods doesn’t have the history or the mythology of the Olympic games, but it has quickly earned its place in the pantheon of consumer traditions. And as Eugene Kim reports, Amazon is not about to call it off so easily.

According to leaked emails that Eugene obtained, Amazon is pushing full steam ahead with this summer’s Prime Day, telling merchants to be ready to ship their inventory by May.

It’s a tricky proposition for Amazon. The company’s supply chain and warehouses are already straining to provide consumers with essential items, from face masks to toilet paper. And with the company under scrutiny for the safety conditions of its warehouse workers during the pandemic, a giant sales spree of electronics, sneakers and other less essential goods would not be a great look.

On the other hand, if the COVID-19 situation improves by July, Prime Day could serve as a much-needed boost for suffering merchants.

Like an April Fool’s Day joke, timing will be everything.

Read Eugene’s full story here:

Leaked emails show Amazon is moving full steam ahead with this year’s Prime Day shopping extravaganza, even as it grapples with the coronavirus pandemic


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Slack’s moment in the spotlight

Stewart ButterfieldREUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Slack, the workplace chat app, has had a rough reception in the public market since its June IPO, with its stock price falling as much as 60% from its highs. But the corporate world’s sudden shift to working from home has caused a surge in demand for its product and helped its shares regain some ground.

In an interview with Paayal Zaveri, Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield reflects on the precarious moment in the company’s history. One of the key challenges on Butterfield’s mind: hiring. To cope with the surge in demand for the product, Slack needs to bring on more engineers and staff. But no matter how good business looks right now for Slack, it’s hard to ignore the crumbling macroeconomic backdrop.

Read Paayal’s interview with Slack’s CEO here:

The CEO of Slack explains how a recession would make it much harder for it to hire the people it needs to sustain its growth and take on Microsoft

Here are some of the other highlights from the tech team:

The coronavirus crisis is putting Amazon’s cloud to the test like never before. Here’s how it keeps its massive data centres running smoothly, helping apps like Netflix and Zoom stay reliable.

A diversity-focused recruiter for Facebook is suing the company for $US100 million, accusing it of discrimination

One of Silicon Valley’s most prolific seed investors says VCs don’t have the ‘mental headspace’ right now to go after deals with founders they don’t already know

The $US2 trillion stimulus law could leave startups out in the cold. Here’s why Silicon Valley is worried.

And a few other good reads from across the BI newsroom:

The coronavirus is disrupting law students’ path to $US200,000 full-time gigs

The top 17 managers and agents for gaming YouTubers, streamers, and esports competitors

The ‘trade of the century’: 2 hedge-fund managers break down a simple investing strategy built to profit from wreckage caused by the coronavirus

7 charts show how the coronavirus could clobber real estate, from retail vacancies of nearly 15% to plunging office rents in Texas cities

That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading, and remember, if you like this newsletter, tell your friends and colleagues they can sign up here to receive it.

– Alexei

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