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Why Meg Whitman is Betting on Quibi as“The Da Vinci Code of Content”



Every year, a personal Upfront Summit highlight is getting to sit down with experts in a field I care about. Sometimes that’s venture capital generally (like last year’s conversation with Reid Hoffman) and sometimes it’s in a space where I’ve invested (like mobility and city innovation with Bird’s Travis VanderZanden, one of our portfolio founders.)

I’ve spent a lot of my career thinking about digital and online video (with investments in companies like Maker Studios) so for that reason amongst many, I was excited to open the Upfront Summit a few weeks ago by interviewing Meg Whitman about Quibi and the digital media space.

Of course you’ve probably known of Meg as a business leader for many years, formerly as President and CEO of Hewlett Packard and the CEO of eBay before that, but since late 2018 she has been the CEO of Quibi (joining founder Jeffrey Katzenberg as the first employee). Between the heavy hitters at the helm, the more than $1.4B raised (more on that later), and the A-list names they’ve signed up for their first batch of content, they’ve certainly raised a lot of expectations and more than a few opinions. So I was excited for the audience to have the chance to hear from Meg in advance of Quibi’s April 6th launch.

I encourage you to watch the entire 30 minute video (below or here) both for insights into Quibi and understanding how a leader like Meg thinks about innovation, but I’ll also pull out a few highlights.

Why (and who) she thinks will pay for premium Quibi content

In a world of Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and YouTube, why would a customer choose to pay the $4.99 monthly subscription (or $8 ad free) for Quibi? Meg shared the perspective that Quibi is targeting a different kind of viewing experience (mobile-only video, which she say is only 10% of the viewing for other streaming services and virtually none during the day) and a different kind of content than what exists currently.

They’re primarily thinking about 7 AM — 7 PM mobile viewing of movies, lighter scripted and unscripted programming, and daily news/sports/politics, in the kinds of 10-minute content chunks you can consume on your commute or waiting at the dentist. Hence, her analogy of content like “The Da Vinci Code” which had 464 pages and 105 bite-sized, fully realized chapters. In essence, you’re not intimidated by the size of each episode so you dig in and might just read 8 chapters in a sitting before realizing you read 35 pages. And so it is with video.

(Quibi = “quick bites”). But unlike some of the existing mobile video on YouTube or IGTV which typically costs at most $1-5K/minute to produce, Quibi is focusing on high-quality production value content, spending up to $100K/minute on some programming (in line with typical streaming services like Netflix.)

“We would argue that our movies are world-class movies, just designed entirely for mobile.”

She also spoke about how they’ve seen premium content creators respond creatively to Quibi’s unique portrait — landscape format, and how they’re banking on what could be seen as a constraint to really produce unexpected, innovative content. For example, she spoke about how Steven Spielberg wanted to create a horror-based program that viewers could only watch at midnight. To time-restrict content requires an entirely new platform, one that only Quibi can support to date.

How Quibi is a technology platform first and then a content platform

Being an investor in LA and having seen a decade’s worth of video startup ideas, one of the reasons many video startups fail is because they think they can just distribute content online the way they’ve done it offline for a hundred years, without the innovation of technology. (And of course there are the Silicon Valley video startups who think it’s all about the tech and ignore the storytelling.)

Meg spoke about how Quibi first built out the technology platform and only then exposed it to content creators, and how technology is primary to the platform both in content creation as well as how customers will experience the content. That includes things like:

  • Structure of the “turnstile” content — the content needs to be originally filmed and edited to deliver a seamless portrait and landscape edit, with the sound synced. This is an entirely new way of filming
  • Personalization — to provide a curated feed new each day, they’re not just tagging every piece of content, they’re metatagging each frame of content to get viewers what they want, faster
  • Interactivity — by designing or mobile consumption, they can eventually take advantage of every aspect of the phone including the camera, the touchscreen, the gyroscope, etc.

“There’s a long history in Los Angeles and Hollywood of technology enabling new ways to tell stories … We’ve created a really interesting technology platform that has inspired creators to do things in a completely different way. ”

She also spoke about the importance of 5G and why they think Quibi will be a perfect use case for the technology.

Why they raised so much initial funding

As I said in the interview, we at Upfront come from the land of small first rounds of financing. But Quibi has raised $1.4 billion and counting, before they’ve ever released a piece of content (I jokingly called it a $1 billion seed round). Why?

Meg shared their reasoning that Quibi would face two big challenges. First, given their unique format, they would have no existing library of content. But when you’re serving up 10 minute bites of content you can’t launch with just four shows. So they felt they needed to invest heavily in creating a breadth of high-quality content from day 1.

Second, no one had ever heard of Quibi, so they felt they needed to spend a lot of money on marketing to build the brand and awareness. If you watched the Oscars recently, you probably saw ads for a few Quibi shows — definitely a big and expensive promotional bet for a “startup”.

“We decided that to give ourselves a real fighting chance to make this work, we had to raise enough money to be able to create, at launch, a completely immersive experience.”

April’s launch will give us a lot more insight into Quibi’s big bet but I appreciated having the chance to hear Meg’s vision for the service. I hope you’ll enjoy the interview as much as I did.

Why Meg Whitman is Betting on Quibi as“The Da Vinci Code of Content” was originally published in Both Sides of the Table on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.



Jack Ma on FinTech: slams regulatory barriers

Jack Ma on FinTech regulatory issues. Jack Ma believes FinTech is being destroyed by regulatory barriers. The entrepreneur also slams Basel accords. Monetary regulators of China are under fire, accused of failing to understand the comprehensive risk prevention system by Jack Ma, co-founder of tech conglomerate Ali Baba and Head of the fintech firm Ant […]



  • Jack Ma on FinTech regulatory issues.
  • Jack Ma believes FinTech is being destroyed by regulatory barriers.
  • The entrepreneur also slams Basel accords.

Monetary regulators of China are under fire, accused of failing to understand the comprehensive risk prevention system by Jack Ma, co-founder of tech conglomerate Ali Baba and Head of the fintech firm Ant Group. Further disapproving the Basel concede, Ma rejected the international regulations on the finance sector, deeming them unfit for China market.

The tech giant strongly disparaged the notion calling them constraints to innovatory growth of digital finances across Europe and answer to the older financial era’s problems.

Jack Ma on FinTech, slams Basel accords

Speaking at a shanghai based forum, Ma highlighted the Chinese market’s absence of a financial ecosystem, while the Basel regulatory framework continues to address organized financial risk which is not the need of the current time. Present at the event were notable industry leaders such as the governor of the People’s Bank of China (PBoC), Yi Gang, the vice finance minister Zou Jiayi, and former governor Zhou Xiaochuan.

Ma spoke about the rising innovations of the day and the importance of supervising them through an equally innovative approach instead of outdated supervisory standards.

Before the Jack Ma on FinTech views, the Ant group recently made public its IPO (initial public offering) in Hong Kong, expected to be highest ever reported historically and is said to be between $350,000 – $450,000 approximately. The news is further targeting a raise of $30 billion, leaving Saudi Aramco behind in the race. This would also explain the Jack Ma on FinTech stance, the entrepreneur is taking.

Zou Jiayi, China’s vice finance minister, warned blockchain tech firms to stay withing set financial regulations. He further recognized the importance of striking the right balance between technology and financial security. Opposing Jack Ma’s views Zou highlight the risk of low-interest fields within which fintech companies are operational and supported the prevention of tech giants, creating a monopoly within the sector.

Public Bank of China is overseeing rigorous testing to launch its digital currency Yuan through a blockchain enhanced QR code-based mobile application.

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Avanti Financial Joins Kraken as a Wyoming-Approved Crypto Bank



Blockchain pioneer Caitlin Long is now the CEO of her own special purpose depository institution (SPDI) in Wyoming. 

Avanti Financial’s banking charter was approved unanimously by the Wyoming State Banking Board on Wednesday, becoming the second newly chartered bank in the state in 2020 after Kraken Financial earned approval last month.

Avanti, like Kraken, now has to jump through a few hoops – like raising more capital – before it can be granted a certificate of authority to operate.

“Kraken definitely captured attention, but now that there’s a second one chartered it’s no longer a one-off situation and a trend is in motion,” Long told CoinDesk in an email.

Along with the charter approval, the banking board approved Avanti’s future issuance of Avit, a programmable electronic currency that’s redeemable at par with a U.S. dollar. The Avit is not a security token, meaning it is not a digital representation of an investment that’s expected to generate returns.

The Avit will be issued initially on Bitcoin sidechain Liquid and then on Ethereum, Long said. 


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Markets Rocked by Lockdown Nation

Xi communist fistComplete red greets markets today as investors are faced with difficult decisions amid a marching continental lockdown in a repeating concert. All are holding their breath for Emmanuel Macron’s address…



Complete red greets markets today as investors are faced with difficult decisions amid a marching continental lockdown in a repeating concert.

All are holding their breath for Emmanuel Macron’s address to the nation. He is expected to order a house arresting lockdown.

Schools will remain open they say but not secondary schools and higher with this potentially the first country to total lockdown.

Wales has already locked up. “People have been told to stay at home and only leave for essential food, medication or to take exercise among other limited exceptions,” CNN reports.

Germany has gone for a soft lockdown for now, while in UK barbers will remain open, but restrictions continue to be imposed across the continent.

Walter Ricciardi, an adviser to Italy’s health minister, called for an immediate shutdown of the city. “In Milan you can catch the virus by simply entering a café or getting on a bus,” he said.

Mass public protests in Siberia against Putin have given way to ambulances protesting a lack of beds.

The situation in Russia is apparently getting towards terrible, with the country being generally very poor as its people barely earn $200-$300 a month due to most government resources being spent towards the army.

This is just the beginning they say. November is expected to be worse. December presumably worser. January even worse than that. As well as February.

2023 some say this will continue. Some say immunity lasts just three months, making any vaccine irrelevant and thus these lockdowns irrelevant too.

“Hospital bosses in Nottingham have cancelled some cancer operations due to ‘pressure on intensive care units’.

Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust medical director Keith Girling said the trust had taken the ‘extremely difficult decision’ to postpone four cancer operations this week.” Bosses, over government run hospitals.

Top companies by market cap, October 2020

All are bracing for tomorrow, which happens to be a Thursday, with investors unsure whether they are to expect another -20% quarter.

Just as they are unsure whether this V recovery we’ve seen is more of a dead cat bounce.

Typically, after a bubbly top is reached an asset briefly quickly falls and then almost fully recovers, to then turn falling downwards.

Whether that’s the case here is not too clear, but what is clear is that the “just three weeks” we were told was a complete lie.

Moreover, what is also absolutely completely unclear, is how can China claim their rates are stuck at about 5,000 with 90,000 cases, as when the lockdown was lifted in March.

Obviously, it is either the Chinese government lying – in which case how on earth can they lie to 1.4 billion people and the world – or it is our government lying.

Because, how on earth did this all begin and finish in three weeks there, while it goes on to last for a year here and some say for another three years?

Who is lying, and why? Who is killing these cancer patients that had their operation cancelled?

Stock prices, October 2020
Stock prices, October 2020

The first on the top from the left is American stocks with their V recovery based on some $2 trillion of bazooka money, some directly given to Americans.

They’ll have to pay it all back, of course, with interest, meaning they’ll actually be poorer due to the indiscriminate manner of this taxed giveaway.

Euro stocks are on hourly candles, and then you have the Chinese stocks doing terribly in 2019 amid Trump tariffs, but watch what they do.

Sideways gives way to a shallow dip, instead of a massive crash as March US stocks. Then we have even more new highs as they increase their business by forcing masks and all sorts of plastics on offices and public spaces.

The British stocks have suffered the worst. Almost halved to barely recover and now turning downwards towards that halving again.

Japanese stocks appear to be doing better, while German stocks are now seeing that sharp downturn.

Cui bono, is always the question, and here the answer is clearly China. What to do about it is primarily what America will vote on in six days.

It’s a heavy vote and all else is secondary to this matter in this election.

We trust the American people and their judgment, but the decision is a clear appeasement with Biden, or a response with Trump.

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