Today's Topics

2 charts for you today:

  • Slack and Microsoft Teams are battling to be at the core of the modern workplace, but who is winning?
  • The price of gold is glittering again, as investors seek out safe haven assets.
In 2016 Microsoft was reportedly considering making an $8bn offer to acquire Slack, which was then a small but fast-growing messaging system for the workplace, mostly adopted by tech companies and start-ups.

In the end, Microsoft didn't try to buy Slack, instead focusing their efforts on building out internal platforms such as Skype for Business and eventually launching Teams, their own communication and collaboration platform.

After a slowish start to life, growth began to accelerate as Teams was bundled in with other Microsoft products, such as Microsoft Office. Then, in November last year, Microsoft announced Teams had hit 20m daily active users, about 8m more than Slack. That growth has accelerated tremendously in light of the coronavirus pandemic, with Microsoft announcing 75 million daily active users just last week.

In an interview last week Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield came out and said that "Teams is not a competitor to Slack". That's a bit hard to believe given that The Verge brilliantly point out that in a recent SEC filing Slack stated "Our primary competitor is currently Microsoft Corporation".

In fairness, the recent surge in Teams usage may turn out not to be too bad for Slack. It's entirely possible that many of the organisations that make up the ~55m new daily users that Teams has added since November, don't stick around in a post-corona world. We also haven't had an update on Slack's own numbers for more than 6 months, which will undoubtedly have increased in a world increasingly reliant on enterprise software to keep working.
Stock markets around the world have clawed back almost half of their losses since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, mostly because of truly unprecedented government fiscal and monetary stimulus. That bounce has come despite mounting evidence that the global economy is about to be plunged into a recession worse than that of 2008. 

In times of distress, investors often seek safe-haven assets. Perhaps the most famous, if not simply the oldest of those, is gold. With few practical uses, gold has been a store of value for investors seeking stability amidst volatility for many years, and so far this year it's worked well – gaining a little over 10% in value at a time when many stock markets are still down 10-20%.

Gold is doing particularly well because it's seen by some to be a good hedge against inflation. Some economists believe the extraordinary actions of governments, pumping trillions into the economy, will lead to rampant inflation. If that's the case, the price of gold will probably keep up in a way that cash might not, or at least that's what investors in gold would hope for. So far, they've been right.

Data Snacks

1) Elon Musk has had a busy week. He's vowed to sell all his possessions, with 2 properties worth almost $40m appearing on Zillow, and he's had a baby, which him and singer Grimes have called X Æ A-12.

2) Consumer investing app Robinhood has raised another $280m of funding at a $8.3bn valuation.

3) The UK has now recorded almost 30,000 deaths linked to COVID-19, the most of any country in Europe.

4) Airbnb has announced they are laying off 25% of their workforce – around 1900 jobs – as the company expects to record half of the revenue that they managed last year.

5) The cast of Parks & Rec have reportedly raised more than $3m for COVID-19 after coming together for a quarantine episode.

6) The New York Times has reported hitting 6 million digital subscribers, adding 587,000 during the last 3 months. Good subscriber numbers were offset by advertising revenue, which fell 15%.

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