Recapping the Historic First Half of 2020 – Morning Brew

Posted: June 30, 2020 at 1:46 pm

Think back to January 1. You were shaking hands with everyone you met. The words social distancing made absolutely no sense. And getting tested meant something...very different.

But humans adapt, and the fact that were still here reading email like chumps shows our resilience. We hope this newsletter allows you to take a step back, put all the events of H1 in context, and go into the second half of the year with more energy and purpose.

Before we dive in...we want to offer a huge thank you to all the frontline and essential workers who made the world turn in H1, from doctors and nurses to store clerks and municipal workers. Your perseverance will not be forgotten.

What will the first half of 2020 be remembered for? Likely when a microscopic parasite much, much smaller than bacteriaSARS-CoV-2demanded that we slam the brakes on the global economy to prevent mass death.

So we did. Countries around the globe performed the first coordinated global shutdown of the economy...ever.

Restaurants, retail stores, and offices were shuttered. Bustling airports turned into ghost towns. With theaters closed, performers were forced to give concerts on balconies. Some were better than others.

Not to get all 1am in the dorm room on you, but it's worth pausing to consider just how un...paralleled that is. Starting with

You already know this part. We're in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. 93% of the world's workforce lives in countries with partial or full workplace closures, the UN said in April.

As for the macro stats...last week, the IMF projected the global economy will shrink by 4.9% this year, worse than earlier projections. It called this "a crisis like no other."


No. 1: A historic tsunami of government intervention. In the U.S., Congress has authorized a record-shattering $3 trillion for coronavirus reliefand it may not be done yet. The Fed, meanwhile, has done everything it can to encourage spending, borrowing, and investing short of secretly installing Robinhood apps on our phones like it's a U2 album.

No. 2: Advanced communications and information tech allowed many workplaces to shift to remote in surprisingly seamless fashion. Sophisticated delivery systems enabled by the smartphone brought the grocery store, local restaurants, and bookstores to our doorsteps.

Looking ahead...the focus has shifted from the shutdown to the best way to un-shut-down. That's going to be much more complicated.

This spring, killings of three unarmed Black Americans led to the most widespread protests over racial injustice and police brutality in decades. And this time, a new face joined the action: corporate America.

Businesses said the three words theyve skirted for years: Black Lives Matter. And they promised, this time, things would change.

Some broke open their wallets. Bank of America pledged $1 billion over four years to address inequality. PayPal set up a $530 million fund to support minority-owned businesses. Pepsis $400+ million initiative includes doubling its spend with Black-owned suppliers. And Walmart, Comcast, Sony, Apple, Netflix, and SoftBank committed $100 million apiece to various initiatives.

Others looked twice at what theyre selling. Quaker Oats and Mars are removing racist branding and imagery from Aunt Jemima and Uncle Bens food lines, respectively. Beauty giants Unilever and LOral will remove fair and whitening labels from skin lightening products.

Looking ahead...those are powerful commitments from some of the private sectors most influential brands. But their legacy in confronting racial injustice will be determined by their actions when the world isn't watching.

MarketWatch | Before COVID-19, the all-time record for weekly jobless claims never cracked 700,000. This April, claims neared 7 million in a single week.

A look at the other numbers that have defined the last six months of COVID, quarantine, and craziness.


Black Lives Matter




If you know a business that hasn't been profoundly transformed in H1, reply with the name because we didn't know there were companies on Mars. 2020 has presented crisis after crisis for corporate America, and we can't think of a better case study than Twitter.

In an oddly prescient moment in February, CEO Jack Dorsey told investors Twitter would move to a more distributed workforce. After the pandemic reached the West Coast, it was among the first to let staff WFH; by March 11, WFH was mandatory. By May, it was a permanent option.

As demonstrations against racial injustice spread, Twitter was one of, if not the, most important platforms for protestors to share information and organize. And a few weeks ago, Twitter led big businesses in making Juneteenth a corporate holiday.

May 26, 2020, may go down as one of the most important dates in Twitter history after a pair of Trump tweets about mail-in voting finally set off the tripwire: Twitter labeled them as "potentially misleading," and a few days later labeled another Trump tweet as "glorifying violence."

Heading into the election, President Trump and all of social media are twisted up in their thorniest tussle over content moderation to date.

Big picture: In February, activist investors reportedly tried to oust Dorsey. Today, he's set aside the ice baths and meditation retreats to steer Twitter through a trio of crises.

The 2020 news cycle has been dominated by a pair of storylines, andwith Luke Hemsworth as proofwe don't always notice the third thing when two take up our attention. Here are some important biz stories that flew under the radar this year...

Big tech: The FTC expanded its investigations into the largest tech companies over anticompetition concerns. The Justice Department, House Judiciary Committee, and state attorneys general have all launched antitrust probes that will heat up this summer, virus or not.

Samsung scandal: The South Korean conglomerate is still wading through a swamp of legal troubles surrounding its founding family. De facto leader Lee Jae-yong is currently awaiting trial for manipulating merger terms, among other allegations.

Gig workers: Food delivery services were hit with lawsuits as DoorDash and others continued to classify workers as independent contractors rather than employees, defying California's new AB 5 law.

Trade: As the COVID-19 blame game soured relations between China and the U.S., suspicions arose that the countries' Phase 1 trade deal, signed in January, would collapse.

Space travel: We doubt you missed the news that a private company (SpaceX) flew humans into space for the first time in May. Elon Musk is now one step closer to raising X A-12 on Mars.

Noam Galai/Getty Images

New York City painted white circles on the grass of Domino Park in Brooklyn to promote social distancing.

Carl De Souza/AFP via Getty Images

Brazilian soldiers disinfect a metro car in Rio de Janeiro to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Getty Images

After government lockdowns shut the city down, a man walks across an empty highway in Wuhan, China, where the coronavirus originated.

It sometimes feels like the world stopped spinning in 2020. Well, most of the time. But the pandemic also took some trends that were just getting a foothold and shot them into overdrive.

Remote work: When lockdowns started in March, businesses had only days to spin up the infrastructure to support a remote workforce. Now that offices are slowly reopening, a growing cohort of workers may never endure a daily commute again as employers embrace WFH.

Higher ed: Colleges are built around cramming youths into dorms and stuffing their minds with knowledge in lecture halls. That model may not work for the upcoming academic year, and colleges are racing to prepare virtual-first learning experiences. Major changes in the admissions process are also underway as universities finally throw out standardized test requirements.

Virtual spaces: People are finding new ways to socialize, and gaming platforms provide, quite literally, new worlds for hanging out and entertainment. While the Staples Center can hold 20,000...Fortnite can hold a lot more.

Cities: Urban areas need to rethink and redesign with public health in mind. Many were starting to dabble in smart city tech, and now they'll have extra ammunition to make big investments in sensors, automation, and other tech that can help improve safety and health.

Retail: Online shopping was trending up before the pandemic, but now its prospects are looking brighter than everin the U.S., e-commerce sales increased 49% in April. The hottest category is online grocery shopping, which has made years' worth of inroads in a few months. March sales were 200% higher than last year.

We've done enough looking backit's time to look ahead. Heres a glimpse into what the next sixth months hold. Disclaimer: Like everything this year, these events are subject to change.





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Recapping the Historic First Half of 2020 - Morning Brew

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