Where were you 10 years ago? Morning Brew’s managing editor, Neal Freyman, was trolling Duke basketball players as a college freshman at the University of Maryland. But oh, how times have changed.
Where were you 10 years ago? Morning Brew’s managing editor, Neal Freyman, was trolling Duke basketball players as a college freshman at the University of Maryland. But oh, how times have changed.
This week on Morning Brew’s weekly podcast Business Casual, Neal joins host and fellow Brew editorial team member Kinsey Grant to discuss a decade’s worth of trends, themes, and breaking news in the business world.
And after years of writing your daily Brew newsletter, Neal has seen a thing or two. In the episode, Neal covers...
You don’t want to miss this episode, especially if you’ve ever wanted a peek inside how the Brew covers everything in business, from the student loan crisis to Beyoncé’s greatest hits.
Check out the rest of our decade in review coverage here.
Business Casual - Neal Freyman.mp3
Kinsey Grant, Morning Brew business editor and podcast host [00:00:06] Hey, everyone, and welcome to Business Casual, Morning Brew's weekly podcast that's seen it all at this point. I'm your host and Brew business editor, Kinsey Grant. [sound of a ding] Let's get into it.
Kinsey [00:00:16] So as you probably know by now, I really like to spend time on Business Casual telling you about the future, how some of today's biggest questions in business are going to inform tomorrow's biggest decisions in business. But today, in the spirit of a new decade, starting in just a few days, let's take a minute to take a look back, because more often than not, looking where we've been can help us understand better where we're going. And the last decade has had enough news to fill a generation. I mean, with WeWork alone, [chuckles] right?
Kinsey [00:00:45] So today, I'm bringing in one of my favorite guests yet. Maybe it's because we sit two feet away [laughs] from each other in the Brew's office. Maybe it's because he's the Brew's Managing Editor and longest tenured editorial team member. Maybe it's because about a year and a half ago, he gave me a job. [laughs] But Neal Freyman, welcome to Business Casual.
Neal Freyman, Managing Editor at Morning Brew [00:01:04] Thank you.
Kinsey [00:01:05] On the other side of things now, taking a turn for the audio. So like I mentioned, you are the managing editor at Morning Brew. You've been there for — ever in terms [chuckles] of how long Brew has been around. What like, 2 1/2 years?
Neal [00:01:20] I think I came on June 2017, blacked out.
Kinsey [00:01:23] Yeah.
Neal [00:01:23] And now it's the end of the decade.
Kinsey [00:01:24] And here we are. [laughs] Yeah, I think that makes sense. So, you know, usually you're editing my writing. So you have to stop me if I make [Neal laughs] a terrible joke —
Neal [00:01:34] Correct.
Kinsey [00:01:34] That no one's gonna get that needs some work.
Neal [00:01:36] That sentence just had way too many commas. I think we'll have to go back.
Kinsey [00:01:40] Dang it, already. [laughs] OK. So, you know, we actually had a podcast interview before. We did a practice podcast for Business Casual before Business Casual existed. And you were the first guest.
Neal [00:01:51] That's right.
Kinsey [00:01:52] I feel like where we're coming full circle with the end of the decade, and in more ways than one.
Neal [00:01:55] And now, many more people are listening.
Kinsey [00:01:58] Yes. Many more people.
Neal [00:01:58] So small congrats to what you have done here. It's so awesome —
Kinsey [00:02:02] Thank you.
Neal [00:02:02] To watch —
Kinsey [00:02:02] Thank you very much.
Neal [00:02:02] From the sidelines.
Kinsey [00:02:03] So let's talk decade interview.
Neal [00:02:07] OK.
Kinsey [00:02:07] How's your decade been? [laughs]
Neal [00:02:08] Decade was good. [Kinsey laughs] Hung out with some friends, had some dinner, took out the laundry, you know, passed 300 Twitter followers.
Kinsey [00:02:18] Wow. That's really all you need.
Neal [00:02:20] So, you know, it's been an amazing decade.
Kinsey [00:02:22] Yeah. I mean, that last one is really the kicker—300 Twitter followers. @Neal_Freyman, right?
Neal [00:02:30] CBD Neal Freyman.
Kinsey [00:02:31] OK.
Neal [00:02:31] I'm with a trend, you know.
Kinsey [00:02:33] That's your name, right. So when people search CBD, you pop up. OK. So, where were you at the beginning of the last decade?
Neal [00:02:40] The beginning of the last decade was January 1st, 2010.
Kinsey [00:02:45] Yes.
Neal [00:02:45] Correct? [laughs]
Kinsey [00:02:46] That is correct. [laughs]
Neal [00:02:48] Told you. Things move fast. I was a freshman at the University of Maryland. I think the only thing that was on my mind was, when is the next University of Maryland basketball game and how early do I have to line up outside the stadium to get a good seat and be on TV? And is my sign cool enough? That was what I was thinking about.
Kinsey [00:03:11] Did you make signs for the game?
Neal [00:03:12] I did, yeah.
Kinsey [00:03:12] What was your best line?
Neal [00:03:14] My best sign was—so there was a Duke player, you know, we all hate Duke. You hate Duke.
Kinsey [00:03:20] Right. As one does.
Neal [00:03:21] Everyone hates Duke. There was a Duke forward called Kyle Singler. And, you know, he was extremely hateable, obviously. And I made a sign that said "All my Singler ladies," and I had Kyle Singler's face and a few other Duke players on, you know, the Beyonce all my single ladies dance leotards.
Kinsey [00:03:46] Yeah.
Neal [00:03:46] So I made that. A little play on words.
Kinsey [00:03:46] Because at the beginning of the decade, that was one of the most popular songs, right?
Neal [00:03:50] Correct.
Kinsey [00:03:51] Awesome.
Neal [00:03:51] It still is.
Kinsey [00:03:52] Yeah. It's still got something.
Neal [00:03:54] Yeah.
Kinsey [00:03:55] So it's just amazing.
Neal [00:03:56] Correct. So that's what was on my mind. Yeah. So, you know, I've come a long way. So it's been a good journey.
Kinsey [00:04:05] Well, that's exciting. One of the big projects you're working on right now, though, The Decade in Review, Morning Brew's series of newsletters.
Neal [00:04:12] Correct.
Kinsey [00:04:13] Tell me more about this project that we've all been pouring our hearts into.
Neal [00:04:16] True. I just want to give all the credit in the world to our writer, Alex Hickey, who's been spearheading this effort. It's been Morning Brew's practice in our long-storied history of 700 days. No, it's been longer than that, but not —
Kinsey [00:04:32] But not that much longer. [laughs]
Neal [00:04:32] Not that much longer. To use the week between Christmas and New Year's to do a wrap-up of the year. And we did that in a series of newsletters last year. And I want to continue that practice. So in 2019, instead of doing a year in review, we're doing a decade in review, issuing a new newsletter on a different theme every single day. And there will be a trivia one at the end, obviously. That's what we do. This is Morning Brew. So that's our plan for the newsletters. And each of those themed days will dive in to a variety of topics on that theme. Should I give one away or —
Kinsey [00:05:17] Yeah. I mean, can we get a —
Neal [00:05:19] Get a little sneak peek?
Kinsey [00:05:21] Cause they're blasting the 23rd through —
Neal [00:05:24] Through the first, basically. Yeah. Let's talk about one. I was just editing it the other day, and it was corporate/business. What has changed in the corporate business world. And I know that's big. So what we did was we started off with Facebook, and we used Facebook as the real crystallization of—we think Facebook can really tell the story of what's happening in business over the course of the past decade. So just 400 words [laughing] charting the rise and fall of Facebook.
Kinsey [00:05:54] Right. One of the most influential companies ever.
Neal [00:05:55] Correct. And I shouldn't say fall, even though it feels like everything's hitting the fan with them. You know, record revenues, they have 2.5 billion monthly active users. Instagram is one of the most popular apps ever. So even if we don't check Facebook platform, per se, anymore, except for events and I'm having a party Saturday night. [Kinsey laughs]
Neal [00:06:16] So you should check Facebook at least once this week because you probably have an invite, but it's shown the ability to morph and change and grow with the times and change with consumer behavior.
Kinsey [00:06:28] Do you think that's indicative of the broader corporate world right now, or throughout the past decade?
Neal [00:06:34] Well, a bunch of brands have crashed and burned. And I think Facebook's done an amazing job of copying Snapchat. [laughs]
Kinsey [00:06:40] Well, Snapchat, like maybe crashes and burns [laughs] [indistinct]
Neal [00:06:45] They're doing OK, but I think it shows how things are not static. And the things me and you, you and I enjoyed at the beginning of the decade are not the way we enjoy them now. And so I think Facebook's a great example of you can't really stick to the status quo and change with the times.
Kinsey [00:07:03] Let's talk about tech in the broader sense throughout the last decade.
Neal [00:07:07] Yeah.
Kinsey [00:07:07] If you had to pick the biggest theme in tech.
Neal [00:07:11] The biggest theme in tech [indistinct crosstalk]. I think Fortnite.
Kinsey [00:07:20] Interesting.
Neal [00:07:20] Yeah. I saw your eyebrows go up.
Kinsey [00:07:23] They did. OK. Tell me more about why.
Neal [00:07:26] I think Fortnite is the best example of a phenomenon that's just blended the digital and physical worlds so seamlessly, where you don't even know if you're—when you're hanging out, IRL, it doesn't even matter. Kids go home and log onto Fortnite to hang out with their friends the way we used to go to the local candy shop. So it's just completely changed social, the way we interact with people, more so than anything else. And I don't think Fortnite's the first to have done that, but it's the first to have popularized that on such a scale that we've never seen.
Kinsey [00:08:01] Right. The scale is incredible. And when Matthew Ball was on earlier this year, he was explaining that video games are taking up more oxygen.
Neal [00:08:09] Correct.
Kinsey [00:08:09] To use that example, that you can only watch Game of Thrones so many times, there's no new content eventually. But with Fortnite, you can spend an infinite number of hours playing with community. You're also eating all of your time using something digital. But there is that community aspect.
Neal [00:08:24] Totally. And they have a store that you can buy stuff at. And you may even find more value in buying stuff at the Fortnite store. You might buy a piece of clothing at the Fortnite store that's more valuable to you than a necklace that you buy at H&M or something. Do people buy necklaces at H&M?
Kinsey [00:08:40] Yeah, sure.
Neal [00:08:41] OK. [Kinsey laughs] I think the audience is learning my fashion sense.
Kinsey [00:08:47] Yes [laughs]
Neal [00:08:48] So. Yeah. I mean, Tim Sweeney, who's the CEO of Epic Games, he's been there since he started the company in 1991 and they're just hanging out in North Carolina. I think they're really revolutionizing the way that people communicate with one another and people spend time. So I don't think it's so obvious now how it's changed this decade. But I think we'll look back in two to three decades, when we're sitting here and doing this podcast in Fortnite next decade, we'll say, damn, Neal was right.
Kinsey [00:09:18] Neal was right. [Neal chuckles] All right. Well, we'll have to circle back and figure that out.
Neal [00:09:23] Yeah.
Kinsey [00:09:23] All right. So that's maybe one of the, I would argue, more positive aspects —
Neal [00:09:27] Right.
Kinsey [00:09:27] Of this sort of tech, I don't know, takeover. There have been some negative headlines [laughs] in the last decade about tech, especially in the last couple of years, things like data privacy and obviously Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. What do you have to say about those? I mean, if Fortnite is your biggest theme for tech in the last decade, what about these other big themes that people are saying are unseating democracy in the United States, et cetera?
Neal [00:09:52] Yeah, I think it's interesting because frankly, I was not thinking so much about the business world at the beginning of the decade, and I told you what I was thinking about. But, I joined Morning Brew in 2017. And I think things changed then. The narrative around tech changed, and I think it's the adoption curve with basically any piece of technology, where it's so exciting. Everyone's using it, and then sort of you see the cracks. And I think you see this a lot.
Neal [00:10:25] I think a really good example of this is with Uber. And I know it's not a hard tech example, but in 2010, Uber was, I think, a year old, and it was coming across every city and everyone was so excited to use it. Now the narrative is completely switched. Oh, it's unprofitable. It's treating its workers like crap. It'll never make money. Its self-driving cars are killing people. Its founder was an erratic asshole.
Neal [00:10:55] And I think it's just the way humans are aware. The new shiny thing is so exciting, and we don't really care about the negatives and we don't care to know the negatives. And then it starts hurting people. And reporters do really in-depth great work about bringing some of the problems to the fore. And that's what happened with Cambridge Analytica, and Cambridge Analytical with Facebook. I don't think the actual data privacy scandal was the big issue. I think companies from Equifax to Marriott to even Google have data privacy issues. I think it was the lack of awareness on behalf of the C-suite to understand the gravity of the situation.
Neal [00:11:38] And it was a sort of the first come to God moment for Zuckerberg, like, oh, my God, I have more power than basically all of the governments combined in the world. And I think he kind of freaked out and we all kind of freaked out because that was the first time it hit us about the power that Facebook had accrued.
Kinsey [00:11:58] Right. Let's talk about power more in-depth here. It's been a really big trend recently, the kind of takedown of these godlike CEOs, to borrow some colorful language from earlier guests, Scott Galloway, on the show. That we kind of revere these founder CEO-types as godlike figures. And they have arguably too much power. I would argue a lot of them do. Do you see, or have you seen any change in the kind of power structure? Is it that they've always had this power and we're just kind of now, it's the hot topic, or has this power that they do hold evolved?
Neal [00:12:37] I think it's, you know, not to get too nitty-gritty and I'm not an expert on this, but I think you have to look at corporate governance structure and dual class shares. And Mark Zuckerberg has a ton of power because the Facebook board can't do anything to stop him because he has a certain class of share where any motion they bring to unseat him, he can easily vote that down by virtue of his super-voting.
Kinsey [00:13:04] Right.
Neal [00:13:04] And you've seen that with a bunch of the tech IPOs, because all of the founders say, I want as much power as Zuck. Let's do this format, and often the boards just sort of say, OK, let's do that. But I think there has to be checks and balances within any system. And I think what you're seeing in terms of the structure of corporate boards is that there hasn't been that checks and balance. And then I think you also see companies staying private longer and there's even less accountability to corporate boards because they don't exist. Well, they're not held accountable to the public market. So I think that's where you have to start looking.
Kinsey [00:13:43] OK, so let's open Pandora's IPO box.
Neal [00:13:46] OK.
Kinsey [00:13:46] And talk IPOs in the last decade. Pick a favorite IPO.
Neal [00:13:51] Favorite IPO. I think—I like Snap—Snapchat.
Kinsey [00:13:55] OK.
Neal [00:13:55] Snap. Snapping. [indistinct comment from Kinsey]
Neal [00:13:58] I think Snap was exciting because it felt like a new thing that wasn't Facebook. It was a challenger to Facebook and a new social media platform. And it's exciting to me now because as I talked about Facebook changing with the times, Snap's stock was in the dumps. You know, I think one tweet from—I'm going to say the wrong Jenner sister, so —
Kinsey [00:14:20] It was Kylie.
Neal [00:14:21] Kylie? OK, got it.
Kinsey [00:14:21] Kylie, yeah.
Neal [00:14:22] You know, wiped off almost $2 billion in market cap. When I first started Morning Brew, it was fun to dunk on Snap, and they've been really coming back with cool augmented reality products. And they're doing all sorts of stuff that Facebook wants to copy. So it's exciting to see them. And I don't know their exact stock price relative to their IPO, but I think the comeback story is superexciting to me.
Kinsey [00:14:46] Right. And you bring up a good point that I think a lot of people have lost sight of in recent months. When we talk about, relative to the rest of the decade from 2010 to 2020, a lot of these IPOs were not successful immediately. The first quarter is not always a good quarter. And we've talked about this on Business Casual before, but to expect—Facebook, Apple, these companies didn't immediately start soaring. They've weathered storms. They've gone through speed bumps. So to expect that of 2019 and 2020 IPOs, I think is maybe a little short-sighted.
Neal [00:15:18] Right. And everyone's freaking out that all these companies are unprofitable. But all you have to do is go back to Amazon to [laughs]—they're only recently profitable. And what you're seeing is investors don't have faith that [indistinct] or any of the CEOs of the nonprofitable companies [laughter] now can pull off what Jeff Bezos pulled off. So, yeah, and that's my thought on the IPO market. But I was going to say, the most exciting one is definitely Beyond Meat, which just came to mind.
Kinsey [00:15:48] OK. Explain to us here.
Neal [00:15:51] Beyond Meat is the plant-based meat company that was sort of sitting under the radar. We had talked about it because plant-based meat and vegetarianism and anti-beef was a trend we've been following. So it's a small company and then all of a sudden, its stock price shot up however many hundreds of percentage points in the first couple days. And it's definitely come back down to earth because everyone and their grandma is making a veggie burger now for the mass market. But super exciting.
Neal [00:16:23] I think it's a trend that even carnivores like me are excited about because a bunch of my friends who I talked to are all trying to cut back on meat consumption for whatever reason. And my friend, who's a vegetarian—we were driving past a Burger King, and he's never eaten Burger King before. And he saw Impossible Whopper, which is the plant-based burger from Beyond Meat competitor Impossible Foods. They have a very high-profile partnership with Burger King. And he said, you know what, I want to go stop and get an Impossible Whopper from Burger King. And so I think you're seeing that this trend is definitely catching on. And obviously, investors were superexcited about it.
Kinsey [00:17:02] OK. Let's talk more about investors specifically. We have spent the entire decade in a bull market, from start to finish. It started in March 2009. So we have not known anything [laughs] different.
Neal [00:17:17] My bar mitzvah money. I haven't checked on it in a while, but it could be doing well.
Kinsey [00:17:19] It might be. That might be some good news for you. So what are your thoughts on the length of this bull market? Do you think —
Neal [00:17:28] It's great. [laughs]
Kinsey [00:17:29] You know, is it tenable? Will this last? Is this something that you are concerned about, that it's been 10 years?
Neal [00:17:37] I feel great.
Kinsey [00:17:39] OK.
Neal [00:17:39] I feel great. I think when you look at all of the economic fundamentals, they look pretty strong, except for maybe a weak manufacturing sector. But people feel generally good about the economy. I think it's exciting. I think there's some warning signs in terms of the amount of debt people are taking on, especially student loan debt. But in general, I think I've been just saying this for the last two minutes, but —
Kinsey [00:18:03] Things are good.
Neal [00:18:03] Things are good and it's an exciting time.
Kinsey [00:18:05] Yeah. I want to talk more about this student loan problem, in just a second, but first, really quickly, let's take a break to hear from our sponsor. —
Kinsey [00:18:15] By the way, if you like what you've heard in this interview so far, go check out all of the incredible Decade in Review content Morning Brew is putting out this week at morningbrew.com/decade-in-review. We've got a ton of awesome stories that are hitting the wires from now until next Monday. And I really want you to see it all. And now, back to our decade in review with Morning Brew's Neal Freyman.
Kinsey [00:18:37] So, student loan debt.
Neal [00:18:39] Yes.
Kinsey [00:18:40] $1.5 trillion dollars in the U.S., I believe.
Neal [00:18:43] I think, yeah, it's a lot of zeros.
Kinsey [00:18:45] What are your big picture takeaways with the student loan crisis in America right now?
Neal [00:18:52] I think it's an existential crisis for the United States. I mean, so many of my friends want to get the degree to get whatever job that they're seeking, and they're coming out buried in debt. And they take their paycheck and all they do is they go back to pay it off. And that's just the conversations I have with my friends every single day. The ones in medical school—I have to work for 10 years.
Neal [00:19:21] The amount of debt they're in is really staggering. And the age they're assuming that debt is also staggering. And I think it's something we have to resolve, because something I've been thinking about is the Brookings Institution report that came out three weeks ago or so, and it talked about regional inequality in the United States. And to me, you know, you see superstar cities like New York, San Diego, San Francisco, Boston really capturing a lot of the economic growth that's been happening in terms of innovative jobs. And those workers are people who are highly skilled, who are getting a great education at whatever university.
Neal [00:20:08] And I think if college debt keeps spiraling out of control and higher education costs keep going up, then so many more people are going to be left out of this innovation economy. And the gap that we're seeing is only going to increase.
Kinsey [00:20:25] Right. We've faced a lot of existential questions [Neal laughs] from the last decade.
Neal [00:20:29] I think it was dictionary.com's word of the year in 2019.
Kinsey [00:20:32] Really?
Neal [00:20:32] Yes.
Kinsey [00:20:32] Nice. You think. It sounds like it probably was.
Neal [00:20:35] I have to check my notes.
Kinsey [00:20:37] OK. [laughs] But there have been a lot. I tried to compile some of the more existential themes and trends in business that we've kind of been talking about and covering. And it was the hardest part of my prep for this, because we've got climate change. We have the president. We have student loan debt. There are all of these giant, behemoth kind of issues. What do you think is the biggest one? Is it one we've talked about? Is that one we have not talked about? Globalization, tax reform, trade. If you had to pick one.
Neal [00:21:08] You should give me a timer and we'll just go down [indistinct]. [Kinsey laughs] I think trade and globalization is huge. You can say things that have been static over the 2010s to 2020. And when I was thinking about this past decade, I was thinking about, oh, there was an iPhone in 2010 and there's an iPhone now. And we used Facebook in 2010. We use Facebook now. And we played basketball in 2010. And we play basketball in 2020 now.
Neal [00:21:35] But I think the conversation around trade and globalization has changed so dramatically. And I think all you have to do is look at the Trans-Pacific Partnership for this. And this was the trade deal that was touted by President Obama and was agreed upon by 12 nations on the Pacific Rim in 2015. And they represented 40% of the global economy and 33% of world trade. And there was a way to buttress China and it would lower trade barriers and establish standards across the growing Asian region, which everyone knows now is just the global—the center of gravity is totally shifting to Asia.
Kinsey [00:22:16] It's a huge engine for growth.
Neal [00:22:18] Right. So another thing about TPP was, guess who was the biggest booster? It was Hillary Clinton, then secretary of state, was going all over the world talking about TPP. It was gonna be amazing. We're gonna stop China in its tracks. And then all of a sudden Donald Trump comes in with his antitrade, America first thoughts, which he's had since the '80s. Anyone who's followed Trump knows that he always thinks the world is laughing at us and they're ripping us off in terms of trade deals. So it's no surprise that his first working day in office, he rips up TPP.
Neal [00:22:53] But little do people know that the same person who was parading TPP around the world, Hillary Clinton, was also against TPP during that election.
Kinsey [00:23:03] Interesting. Did it ever stand a chance?
Neal [00:23:07] It didn't stand a chance no matter who was elected. And I think that speaks to the changes in attitudes toward trade and it ties in to so many other issues in terms of automation, AI, workforce, you know, changes in the workforce. But I think both Trump and Hillary were going after the Midwestern states, which are so crucial to any election. Well, that's Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and a lot of those workers in those states had lost their jobs. Now, Trump wanted to say it was to Mexico and China based on bad trade deals. And, I'm not an expert enough to say whether that was the case.
Neal [00:23:46] Other people say it's more there's trends and automation and that's been hitting the manufacturing workforce. But I think the change from 2013 and 2014, when everyone was excited about TPP to now, when you see Elizabeth Warren's plans are very similar to Trump in terms of trade, where she knocks NAFTA, the free trade deal that was signed in 1994 between the North American countries. So whether you're Trump or whether you're a Democratic candidate, you're very skeptical of trade and globalization, because I think you're speaking to a certain set of workers that you want to get to vote for you.
Kinsey [00:24:32] Is there any way to change those workers minds?
Neal [00:24:36] It's hard for me to put [indistinct] in their place, but it's an awful feeling when you lose your job, and maybe you see GM closed down a plant in Detroit and opened one up across the border in Mexico. It could be a secondary function of a free trade deal. But it's harder to look that person in the eye and say, actually, there's technological changes [laughs] that have been going on for 30, 40 years and there's these chips that we can do cool things with robotics. And you know what? It can actually solder some part to a car at 3x the speed that you can.
Neal [00:25:16] So, we're accountable to our shareholders to make profits. And this is the investments we're gonna make. And I don't think anyone's really making that argument except Andrew Yang, who has been touting—you could ask him about, you know, Froot Loops, and he'll be like, well, I have a plan to combat AI and automation by giving everyone a $1,000 a month. So he always goes back to that; it's a core part of his platform. But I think he's also driving the conversation among other Democratic candidates who want to speak to these people with things that matter to them.
Kinsey [00:25:56] Right. I think one of the interesting aspects of this part of the conversation to me is that these companies have kind of in the last decade been tasked with taking on big social issues. People are trying to hold C-suites accountable for their impact on the environment, for their attitudes toward gender and racial and ethnic diversity, et cetera. But when it comes to automation, that's kind of where the buck stops. We haven't really seen a company that's like, well, you know what, we are going to forgo profits because we want people in the Midwest to keep their jobs. That's not something they're willing to put profits aside for.
Neal [00:26:30] No, I think you see that totally with what General Motors is doing. In the auto industry in general, they're investing tens of billions of dollars in electric vehicles. And the thing about electric vehicles is they're great for the environment. They're not great for hiring lots of workers. They're much more simple than internal combustion engines. And only recently, the United Autoworkers Union has been negotiating with Fiat, with GM, with Ford. And I think, and I wrote this in the Brew, that it's just a Band-Aid on a much larger wound, where the industry is moving in a direction that requires coders and not necessarily factory workers. So, yeah.
Kinsey [00:27:21] Let's talk about some of the people that have been at the forefront for the last decade. Who would you choose as your MVP, whether that's for good or bad reasons, when it comes to a business leader in the last decade?
Neal [00:27:35] Yeah, I would —
Kinsey [00:27:37] Yeah.
Neal [00:27:37] Yeah. I mean, this is gonna sound cliche, but I have to go with Mark Zuckerberg. If you go back into the Time Person of the Year records, and you looked at 2010, you'd see his face.
Kinsey [00:27:51] Plastered on the cover of Time.
Neal [00:27:52] And I'm not sure that would happen now. So this guy, you know, super innovative company that he started in a college dorm room. What a story. Now you have Business Casual podcast guests calling him worse than Fidel Castro. So I don't think, just like I said, Facebook is sort of the company you should choose to symbolize this decade. I think Mark Zuckerberg has to be the face of the business world over this decade and the rise—and not necessarily fall—but the narrative arc that tech and the broader world has taken to Facebook.
Kinsey [00:28:36] Right. What about some other big names from the last decade? I'm gonna give you a name. Give me your quick take.
Neal [00:28:41] OK.
Kinsey [00:28:42] Good. Bad. Neutral.
Neal [00:28:44] Terrible person. [laughter]
Kinsey [00:28:45] All right. Elon Musk. You knew it was coming.
Neal [00:28:47] Elon Musk. I didn't know about him at the beginning of the decade. And I first heard an interview with him when he was talking about the simulation, which basically, if you don't know, everybody, we're living in a simulation.
Kinsey [00:29:00] News flash—breaking news from Business Casual.
Neal [00:29:02] So feel free to do whatever you want at this point. But, you know, incredible visionary, incredible risk taker, not a perfect person. No one is. He's very high profile. I think maybe he's not the most important person of 2010, 2020, but he could take Zuck's place next year because I think he's taking on the big questions.
Kinsey [00:29:27] All right. Speaking of looking ahead, Masayoshi Son, Softbank.
Neal [00:29:32] Yeah. He's had a lot of egg on his face recently. He thinks 300 years [indistinct cross-talk]. He's taken over an entire industry, which is pretty impressive. But he's also taken $49 billion from the Saudi government. So he clearly has compromised some sort of morals. I think he may be a blip on the radar. I don't think we'll be talking about Masayoshi Son two or three years from now.
Neal [00:30:07] OK.
Neal [00:30:07] Yeah.
Kinsey [00:30:08] A hot take.
Neal [00:30:08] I really don't. So my hot take on Masayoshi Son, and it's the right take, is that we probably won't be talking about him two or three years from now.
Kinsey [00:30:16] That's my favorite kind of hot take. [Neal laughs] The right kind.
Neal [00:30:18] The correct one.
Kinsey [00:30:19] And lastly, Elizabeth Holmes.
Neal [00:30:22] Elizabeth Holmes. Also, we won't be talking about her two, three years from now.
Kinsey [00:30:28] Because she'll be in prison.
Neal [00:30:29] She'll be in prison. [laughs] And there's gonna be so many other crazy stories that happen that'll capture our collective mindset that she'll just be a footnote in the fire fest of controversial business leaders.
Kinsey [00:30:43] I love that. The fire fest of controversial business leaders. I would buy a ticket. OK. Let's take a quick break. We'll come back and talk more about some of these thought leaders and the culture of the last decade in just a second. But let's take a quick break to hear from our partner. —
Kinsey [00:30:59] And now back to the conversation on the decade in review with Neal. Neal, we have not talked about Amazon.
Neal [00:31:08] It's amazing.
Kinsey [00:31:09] It kind of is under the radar. And I've brought this up on previous episodes of Business Casual, that in the streaming wars episode, we talked about the streaming wars. Rarely is Amazon included in the kind of big headline names.
Neal [00:31:23] Yeah.
Kinsey [00:31:23] Why do you think that Amazon has kind of achieved this sort of under the radar cool factor? Maybe it's cool. Maybe it's not. Maybe they're just quietly taking over the world.
Neal [00:31:33] I think that's it.
Kinsey [00:31:34] Yeah?
Neal [00:31:34] Yeah. I think they're like the weather. They're just there. And you don't think about it, but it's just there and affecting everything you do every day. You know, when you walk outside, Amazon is everywhere, whether it's all of the websites you go to powered by AWS.
Kinsey [00:31:54] What an apt metaphor.
Neal [00:31:57] So I don't think it's a coincidence that we didn't speak about Amazon. And I think that's what Jeff Bezos wants. It is so ingrained in our daily life from what we watch to what we buy to what websites we use that that's the way he wants it. And it's a stealth mode kind of takeover, which is the best kind. Because you don't realize it's happening. With Facebook, we realize it's happening and that's why we're talking about it. Because they've been a little clunky about it.
Neal [00:32:25] Bezos has been building warehouses right next to New York City, right under our noses. So that when he says you can have free shipping on your toilet paper in two hours, it happens and we don't even think about it. And it makes sense. Last night I was—I have an Alexa, because obviously, and I was about to go outside and I said, well, you know, I was thinking, what do I need to wear outside? And my first instinct was to ask Alexa whether it was raining or not.
Neal [00:32:57] And I looked around my living room. I just moved to a new place. And I sort of panicked. I was like, do I have an —
Kinsey [00:33:03] Where's my Alexa? [laughs]
Neal [00:33:04] Did I install Alexa? Will I be walking outside and not knowing what the weather is? Will I have to open up my app? My weather app? And then it kind of struck me where I was paralyzed without Alexa.
Kinsey [00:33:19] And that's exactly where they want you.
Neal [00:33:20] Exactly. Without me knowing it, I was paralyzed without an Alexa. I don't know what there is to say about Amazon there.
Kinsey [00:33:33] They are everywhere.
Neal [00:33:34] They are everywhere. And they're only gonna be more everywhere, you have to think. Except Long Island City. [laughter]
Kinsey [00:33:44] Do you admire that about Jeff Bezos and Amazon? Or do you think it's —
Neal [00:33:49] Sure. Yeah. And just like any company that employs 650,000 people around the world and has probably nearly $1 trillion market cap or above right now, there are going to be bad things. And I think that our job as people who write the news is to hold them accountable. And, you know, there's been terrible things about the way they structure their warehouses and how they treat people who work there. And, you know, those should be dealt with and Amazon should be held accountable for everything they do. From a personal standpoint, as someone who observes the business world, yeah, it's incredible what they've done.
Kinsey [00:34:37] OK. You bring up an interesting point about the hard stories to cover as a reporter and a writer. There have been a couple, even in just recent years since we have been writing Morning Brew, but it's certainly beyond that as well. What do you think has been the most difficult story or theme in business for you to cover? We've seen like —
Neal [00:35:01] Plane crashes.
Kinsey [00:35:01] Yeah. Like there's Me Too and Black Lives Matter and the Boeing plane crashes. What would you think is the hardest?
Neal [00:35:07] I think a story that's really been driving a decade is, though, the opioid crisis. So many people have died. And now the corporate angle is a bunch of the pharmaceutical companies are being sued for their marketing of these drugs and basically their recklessness in getting these really addictive painkillers into vulnerable communities. It's just a really sad story because whole communities have been devastated. So that hasn't been fun to cover. But it's important. And these companies should be held accountable for what they did.
Kinsey [00:35:47] Well, we've covered a lot of big, burly topics. [indistinct chatter from Neal] Oh, yeah, I'm bringing the phone out. Just because you work for Morning Brew does not mean you are immune to the wheel.
Neal [00:35:59] OK.
Kinsey [00:36:00] It's that time. Take it for a spin.
Neal [00:36:03] Spin the wheel.
Kinsey [00:36:06] Actually, I gonna turn my volume up.
Neal [00:36:07] Yeah. We gotta hear the—it's like a tactile — [sound of wheel spinning] There you go. Wow, fast wheel. [sound of a ding]
Kinsey [00:36:08] Pick one. OK. I'm changing this one. [Neal laughs] Pick one that has to go. One has to go.
Neal [00:36:20] Like leave?
Kinsey [00:36:21] Yeah.
Neal [00:36:21] The world?
Kinsey [00:36:22] Yes. Forever.
Neal [00:36:23] OK.
Kinsey [00:36:24] Baby Yoda, [laughs] Philadelphia sports teams, or AP planner?
Neal [00:36:32] I think I gotta go Philadelphia sports teams. I love them, but they're not, you know, Baby Yoda is my lifeblood.
Kinsey [00:36:41] Yes.
Neal [00:36:42] AP planner is a great resource for my job. And Philadelphia sports teams, I mean, the receivers are just so bad on the Eagles. It's so tough.
Kinsey [00:36:53] OK. Another spin.
Neal [00:36:55] OK.
Kinsey [00:36:59] [sound of wheel spinning] All right. Role reversal. I gonna give you options.
Neal [00:37:02] OK.
Kinsey [00:37:03] Either you can ask me a question, which is typically the role reversal question, or you can tell me, if you weren't working at Morning Brew for the last couple of years of this decade, what would you be doing?
Neal [00:37:13] Hmm. I'll ask you a question.
Kinsey [00:37:17] OK.
Neal [00:37:17] What were you doing in 2010? You asked me that.
Kinsey [00:37:20] Yeah. So at risk of aging myself in the wrong way, [laughs] I was a sophomore in high school. I guess, January 2010, I was actually a freshman in high school.
Neal [00:37:34] Right.
Kinsey [00:37:35] I was probably listening to a lot of Kesha. My mom still drove me everywhere, which she still does. So I guess that really hasn't changed. But I wanted to be a news anchor. That was my plan.
Neal [00:37:49] Well —
Kinsey [00:37:50] On television, and now, a podcast. So, it's not that far off.
Neal [00:37:54] If you knew what a podcast was then, I feel like, you know, 50/50 shy, you would've said podcast back then.
Kinsey [00:38:02] Yeah, probably.
Neal [00:38:02] And then, you know, your mom's outside right now waiting to pick you up. [Kinsey laughs] So what has changed?
Kinsey [00:38:08] You're exactly right. OK. [laughs] One more spin around the wheel. [sound of wheel spinning] It is [sound of a ding] truth or truth. So you just have to tell me the truth to this question [indistinct].
Neal [00:38:19] OK.
Kinsey [00:38:20] What are you most excited for at Morning Brew for 2020?
Neal [00:38:24] Yeah, I definitely want to see the editorial team grow and just us blow it out of the water. Last year, you remember what it was like [Kinsey laughs] working at Morning Brew.
Kinsey [00:38:36] Barely.
Neal [00:38:36] It was just me and you sitting in a small room in a WeWork crunching out the newsletter every single day. And I think our team goal was, when we would have our all-hands in the morning—on Monday mornings—it would be, let's not make a mistake. And that was our goal. [laughs] To see where we are now, where we have an emerging tech newsletter that goes out three times a week, a retail newsletter, a politics and business newsletter. An amazing podcast. It's so exciting to see the growth that we've done over the past year.
Neal [00:39:08] And I think we're ready to take it even to the next level next year with more newsletters, other types of products, more podcasts. Just superexciting to get more writers in the door. And I think if we continue to build out an editorial team that's just superyoung and hungry and eager to learn, I think we'll be in a great place.
Kinsey [00:39:31] Okay. Well, [laughs] thank you so much for doing this, Neal, I know that you are very busy with editing everything. So it's awesome that you took the time to come and chat about the decade interview. I'm really excited for all the decade interview newsletters that are coming out this week. I think everybody is going to love them.
Neal [00:39:49] Yeah.
Kinsey [00:39:49] There's some really, really interesting and hugely impactful topics that we didn't even touch in this interview —
Neal [00:39:56] Correct.
Kinsey [00:39:56] That we're writing about. So I encourage everybody to check them out and to let us know what you think, because we, like Neal said, are doing projects like this a lot and we want to know what your thoughts are. So even though we were both in [laughs] very different places in the beginning of the last decade, I think it's really cool that we have spent the last couple of years writing together.
Neal [00:40:18] It's been incredible.
Kinsey [00:40:18] It has been.
Neal [00:40:19] And I love what you've been doing.
Kinsey [00:40:21] Thank you very much. And I don't think this is the last time that, you know, for the next decade, 2020 to 2030, that you guys will be hearing from someone on Morning Brew's editorial team, in your ears and your AirPods. So keep a look out for all the big things that we've got coming out in the next couple of months and years and forever, if we're talking like Elon Musk. So we're really excited for the coming year and we really hope you are too. And we will have an episode out next Tuesday. So don't worry, we'll be here for you. And happy holidays, everybody. And thank you, Neal, for being here.
Neal [00:40:51] Thanks so much.
Kinsey [00:40:56] Next week on Business Casual, we are ringing in the new year with new tech. I'm talking to two of the biggest names in direct-to-consumer retail to understand how texting you might make you buy more stuff since, you know, email is dead and everything. See you on Tuesday. [sound of a ding]
Kinsey [00:41:11] And if you're still listening, go subscribe to Morning Brew's daily newsletter. If you're not already on the list, this week, the Brew is all about the decade in review. All the cool stuff Neal and I just talked about, times about a thousand. We've got everything from pieces on PewDiePie to amazing insight on trade and globalization. I even wrote a piece on all of the Fed chairs of the last decade. Check it out at morningbrew.com/decade-in-review. That's morningbrew.com/decade-in-review.