A secret presentation from Walmart said 'we fail our customers today.' Here's its plan to fight back in the war against Amazon.

Hello everyone!

Welcome to this weekly roundup of stories from Insider’s Business co-Editor in Chief Matt Turner. Subscribe here to get this newsletter in your inbox every Sunday.

What we’re going over today:

  • Walmart’s secret initiative in the war against Amazon. 
  • Travis Kalanick’s kitchen startup is angering local residents.
  • How Mark Zuckerberg’s banker built a secret Silicon Valley empire.
  • Goldman Sachs is telling interns they may be coming into the office this summer.

Here’s what’s trending this morning:

  • Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says the stimulus bill will get the economy back on track “quickly,” with near full employment next year.
  • America is running out of houses, so anyone who wants to buy a home right now is basically screwed.
  • A deluge of horny ads is about to flood America, as companies try to cash in on a country starved for physical contact.
  • A cannabis exec says he stumbled into buying a Beeple NFT for $969 and it’s now worth at least $289,000. He explained how he bought it and why he thinks digital assets are the future.

Walmart’s secret initiative

From Blake Dodge, Shelby Livingston, and Áine Cain:

Walmart is grappling with how to improve its online-shopping experience at a time when ordering online has never been more critical. 

As part of a broad effort to shore up its digital strategy, Walmart launched a confidential initiative called “Project Glass” to fix its clunky e-commerce experience early last year, according to an internal presentation obtained by Insider.

Project Glass aims to position Walmart as its customers’ first choice for any need, and it comes as its key rival Amazon continues to steal away shoppers.

According to the presentation, which was published in March 2020, more online shoppers head to Amazon than Walmart for immediate needs, such as groceries. Sluggish online-order fulfillment and basket minimums also present major obstacles for customers when shopping for routine needs, the documents showed.

“We fail our customers today,” Walmart said in the documents.

Read the full story here:

  • Walmart is betting on a secret initiative called ‘Project Glass’ in the war against Amazon. See the full presentation outlining its plan.

Also read:

  • Amazon has over 800 people working on its secretive ‘Vesta’ home robot — but insiders are worried that it’s a niche, gimmicky product that could fail
  • After pumping $11 billion into e-commerce in 5 years, VCs are finally funding the risky warehousing startups they’ve been avoiding

Travis Kalanick is at war again

From Meghan Morris:

Two miles west of Chicago’s Wrigley Field, Uber founder Travis Kalanick’s latest venture is whipping up chicken nuggets, waffle fries, and neighborhood alarm.

Kalanick’s CloudKitchens — think WeWork-style shared office space but for restaurant kitchens — bought a long-vacant building in 2018 on a block of North Rockwell Street filled with single-family homes and one- and two-story buildings. Backing up to the Chicago River, the North Rockwell location is one of about 50 buildings CloudKitchens has purchased across the US, according to a January analysis by Insider.

The startup, funded by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund and Kalanick’s money from Uber, sets up small industrial kitchens focused exclusively on takeout and delivery orders and used by everyone from mom-and-pop owners to the biggest names in fast food. 

Orders at the North Rockwell location spiked in recent months, thanks to stay-at-home rules, Chicago’s snowy winter, and popular Chick-fil-A, which set up shop in one of the site’s kitchens in November. More orders led to an influx of drivers on the two-lane street. Suddenly, neighbors told Insider, CloudKitchens has upended a block where small local businesses have coexisted peacefully with each other and residential neighbors. 

Read the full story here:r

  • Travis Kalanick is at war again. The ex-Uber CEO’s kitchen startup is angering local residents, and one neighborhood is at a ‘boiling point.’

Also read:

  • Analysts worry all the hype over the imminent Compass IPO hype could invite WeWork comparisons

Inside Iconiq

From Rob Price and Meghan Morris:

Kanye West failed to impress Divesh Makan.

It was an unusual pairing: Makan, a disarming, strong-willed investor with a world-class Rolodex and a commitment to absolute discretion, and West, a maximally bombastic and unrestrained rapper whose life has played out almost entirely in the public eye.

The two were brought together as a result of Makan’s constant drive to expand his network of clients, a list that includes Mark Zuckerberg and Tom Hanks. At stake for West was admission to Silicon Valley’s most exclusive club: Iconiq Capital.

Makan’s standards are exacting, however, and Yeezy didn’t make the cut. An initial meeting between the two went nowhere, and in subsequent conversations with his employees, the Iconiq founder was dismissive of West, whose frequent tabloid appearances and brushes with controversy had the potential for a public-relations risk. (A spokesperson for West declined to comment.)

Other celebrities have had far more success.

Over the past decade, Makan has quietly built an unrivalled network of billionaire and celebrity clients through his high-end wealth-management firm, Iconiq Capital. By leveraging an early connection to Facebook’s founding team, the South African-born businessman transformed himself from a rising star wealth manager at Morgan Stanley into a free-wheeling counselor to billionaires, responsible for $40 billion in funds under management.

Read the full story here:

  • Inside Iconiq: How Mark Zuckerberg’s banker built a secret Silicon Valley empire and made billions

Also read:

  • We identified the 175 most powerful people at Microsoft. Here’s our exclusive org chart.
  • Private-equity giant Vista is out fundraising as founder Robert Smith looks to move past his tax-evasion agreement
  • Wealthy donors are fueling a psychedelics renaissance as universities vie for funding to study ‘magic mushrooms’ and MDMA

Goldman Sachs wants interns back in the office

From Reed Alexander:

Goldman Sachs has told incoming interns it’s keeping the door open to some in-office experiences this summer, as firms across Wall Street recognize that door — while still narrowly ajar — is quickly closing.

In a memo viewed by Insider and sent to all of Goldman Sachs’ incoming summer interns, the bank said it was preparing to roll out an internship program this summer that would offer interns some in-person experiences, if the situation allowed. The bank did not fully commit to a hybrid model that would fuse virtual and in-person elements.

In the memo, sent on February 25 by human-resources personnel at Goldman Sachs, the firm said prioritizing the well-being of its people was its primary objective and that it was keeping a close eye on the rapidly developing public-health situation.

Read the full story here:

Goldman Sachs is telling interns they may be coming into the office this summer as rival banks remain more cautious

Also read:

  • Mike Bloomberg said in a memo he expects staffers to return to the office once vaccinated — but some were hoping for more flexibility
  • Demoralized junior bankers are contemplating ditching investment-banking altogether as they battle burnout after a grueling year working from home
  • Introvert? Extrovert? Agreeable? Anxious? How to tell if WFH is the right fit for you.

Lastly, don’t forget to check out Morning Brew — the A.M. newsletter that makes reading the news actually enjoyable.

Here are some headlines you might have missed last week.

— Matt

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