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

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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:

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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.

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Travis Kalanick is at war again

travis kalanick chicago disruption 2x1

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. 

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Inside Iconiq

iconiq divesh markan

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.

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Goldman Sachs wants interns back in the office

David M. Solomon, President and Co-Chief Operating Officer of Goldman Sachs, speaks during the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills

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.

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

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

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— Matt


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