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WHEN: Today, Tuesday, April 30, 2019
The following are the unofficial transcripts of CNBC Exclusive interviews with CNBC's David Faber, and Trian CIO and Founding Partner & GE Board Member Ed Garden, eBay CEO Devin Wenig, and Quibi CEO Meg Whitman from the 2019 Milken Institute Global Conference in Los Angeles, CA. All interviews aired live on CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" (M-F 9AM – 11AM) and CNBC's "Squawk Alley" (M-F 11AM – 12PM) today, Tuesday, April 30th. Video of both interviews are linked below.
All references must be sourced to CNBC.
CNBC EXCLUSIVE: ED GARDEN, TRIAN CIO AND FOUNDING PARTNER & GE BOARD MEMBER
DAVID FABER: Welcome back to "Squawk on the Street." I'm David Faber, at the Milken Institute's Global Conference. Joined now by Ed Garden, board member of GE in addition to other companies as well of course, and of course, Co-founder and CIO of Trian. Ed, nice to see you.
ED GARDEN: It's good to see you, David.
DAVID FABER: It's been awhile. A good morning, of course, to have you, given GE's earnings. The stock is up, it's being at least responded to positively by investors. But it does seem that Mr. Culp wants to temper expectations. To those who would say, 'Ah, this is the light at the end of the tunnel,' what do you say?
ED GARDEN: What I would say is you can feel that we're getting on our front foot operationally. And I think you can feel that we're starting to make progress on the places we need to improve and the issues that we have. But nobody at GE is doing a victory lap. And while we're confident on the path that we're on and the progress we're making, we're sober about the fact that we still have a lot of wood to chop, a lot of things that we need to improve at, and a lot of issues we need to address.
DAVID FABER: When you say feel, as a board number, what's the feeling? In other words, what goes into that feel?
ED GARDEN: Well, if you -- maybe to frame the discussion, if you think about what's happened over the last 18 months, when I joined the board, the board was 18 people. Today it's ten people. Highly engaged, very active. The board is very facile on all the issues. It's a very strong board. This is not a board that treats a position as an on honorarium. It's very much a responsibility to shareholders. We started simplifying the business. Right? We've separated the transportation business in the Wabtec deal. We've publicly announced we're going to separate Baker Hughes GE. Simplifying that conglomerate –
DAVID FABER: Significant sale out of health care as well, of course.
ED GARDEN: Absolutely. Something that hasn't gotten a lot of attention, David. We've announced we've taken the vast majority of corporate costs and we're pushing them down into the business units. And that's going to make the business less bureaucratic, faster moving, faster decision making, more dynamic. That's a very, very big deal.
DAVID FABER: Will it actually have the effect of improving margins?
ED GARDEN: Absolutely. It's going to make the business much more efficient in my opinion.
DAVID FABER: How long does that take?
ED GARDEN: It takes time. It doesn't happen overnight. That's not something you flip a switch and it happens. But it's in process. New CEO. Right? First time ever an outsider CEO of GE, and not just any CEO, Larry Culp, who many think is the best industrial CEO of the last–
DAVID FABER: And do you agree with that? I mean, now that you've had an opportunity. Obviously, you were instrumental in -- he was on the board first and then elevating him to CEO. But given what you've seen, you feel as though you're confident obviously.
ED GARDEN: Yeah. Larry is a real leader of people. He's very strategic. He's a real operator. The other thing I've learned about Larry, and other great CEOs, a common trade I see is a great judge of talent. Right? Putting the right people in the right seats to manage the business. I think he's really good at that. The last thing I would mention is the culture is evolving. And I think what I've observed at the GE culture is no tolerance for rhetoric or spin. You know, very much grounded in reality. Very humble and hungry. And I think that type of culture is going to serve all our stakeholders well.
DAVID FABER: Right. But it's still going to take quite some time. I mean, we are, to bring reality in, talking about a company that still has negative cash flow. It's getting better, but it's still not even positive.
ED GARDEN: Yeah, look. I can give you my assessment of the issues. And my goal is not to promote the stock today. But let me give you my perspective. On cash flow there are those who would say the company is not worth a lot because the cash flow is negative this year, and I understand that. I'll take the other side of the debate and say you need to look at the sum of the parts. The negative cash flow is primarily related to one business, the power business and other legacy liabilities. Our two most important businesses, aviation and health care, are generating a lot of cash. And I would argue that those two businesses are beach front property in the industrial landscape and very strategic. So, making progress on cash flow, our goal is to get power cash flow positive. But I think you--
DAVID FABER: By when?
ED GARDEN: But I think you need to look at this from the sum of the parts perspective. And Larry has talked about power getting turned around over the next couple years. It's not something that happens overnight. The other issue is leverage. And, you know, clearly, we have too much leverage. But I would take the point of view that we have line of sight to really bring the leverage down in line with our industrial peers. So, you mentioned the sale of the life science business. We're going to monetize the Baker Hughes GE stake at some point in time. We'll monetize the Wabtec stake at some point in time. And I think that we'll clearly grow the denominator in that calculation as well.
DAVID FABER: This has not gone as you might have planned originally when Trian made its first investment years ago. You know, I'm curious, from your perspective, as somebody who obviously examines your mistakes and tries to fix them, when you look back at this odyssey, my words, what do you see as sort of what went wrong and, obviously we know what you're trying to do to make it right?
ED GARDEN: Yeah. What I would tell you is, first of all, as you know, we were asked to invest by the former management team. And in hindsight probably had too much trust and not enough skepticism. But we told the management team at that point in time that the financial commitments that they were making to us and to the rest of the investor base, we would hold them accountable to deliver on those commitments. And at some point in time, if they didn't, we would influence corporate events and corporate behavior. And that's what we've done. And we're very focused on making -- helping management and the rest of the board make this company the best in class.
DAVID FABER: Well, when you originally invested long-term care, for example, the liability was not something fully known at all. It ended up paying an enormous cost and any number of other -- we didn't know what was going on in power either and the execution issues there. Did we?
ED GARDEN: So Trian, as you know, we go into corporate board rooms and look to be a positive agent of change. As I listed the progress we've made over the last 18 months, I think it's clear that we've added a lot of value at GE and this is an iconic U.S. company. It's an important U.S. company. It's a company that's important to the world. The products are important to the world. I think it's important for us to play a role getting this company back on its feet and we will.
DAVID FABER: And finally, Ed, how many years do you think it will take?
ED GARDEN: I don't know. We'll see. When we go on the board, David, our average duration is six or seven years. We've been in Wendy's for close to 15 years. So, we'll stay as long as it takes to make this company best in class.
DAVID FABER: Well, Ed, we appreciate you taking some time, thank you.
ED GARDEN: Good to see you, David.
DAVID FABER: Nice to see you, too. Ed Garden, of course CIO, Co-Founder of Trian, and as we've made clear, a GE board member. Sara, back to you.
Devin Wenig, eBay CEO
DAVID FABER: Welcome back to "squawk on the street." I'm David Faber at the Milken Institute's Global Conference right here in Los Angeles. And now, joining me is somebody from this side of the country, Devin Wenig is the CEO of eBay, a little bit north of here in San Jose.
DEVIN WENIG: Same general neighborhood.
DAVID FABER: Yeah, but you're dressing like a west coast guy.
DEVIN WENIG: I dressed up for you today.
DAVID FABER: You're wearing a collared shirt. almost. Kind of. Devin, it's nice to see you. Thank you.
DEVIN WENIG: Thanks for having me.
DAVID FABER: You know what, there was an interesting interchange you had with a gentleman named Mr. Bezos a couple weeks back when he wrote his annual letter. And I want to get your response to what he said. Because he, for some reason, decided to throw eBay in there in terms of discussing the growth of independent sellers on the Amazon platform. And he said, you know, why did independent sellers do so much better selling on Amazon than they did on eBay? And why were independent sellers able to grow so much faster on Amazon's own highly organized first sales organization? What do you respond to that when the CEO of obviously one of the most powerful companies in the world calls out eBay and says we're growing faster than you are for our core constituency? What is your core con constituency?
DEVIN WENIG: Well, we had a bit of a back and forth. And I don't think leadership is being in fights on Twitter -- I'm busy trying to run the company. But there are millions of sellers that sell only on eBay. And Amazon is pretty good at what they do. So, the natural question is: what is that? Why is it that millions of sellers make their home on eBay? And I think that's because this is still the number one or number two e-commerce platform in every market in the world. our pricing and our policies and our velocity is incredible for small sellers. And we built an almost 100-million-dollar marketplace. Amazon is really good at what they do. It's a $17 trillion commerce market, and there's plenty of room for eBay and Amazon. And I don't want to compete with Amazon. I want to get as far away from Amazon as we can get and build a moat around an independent eBay that stands for something different. I want eBay to stand for a human form of commerce, a champion of small business, and for consumers in an Amazon world, why do they buy $100 billion of stuff every year? I think the reason is, there's no better place that you can find incredible value or incredible selection. It's rare you won't get a better price or better choice on eBay. And that's why our business 22 years into this commerce war with Amazon has never been bigger and still thriving.
DAVID FABER: 95 billion plus in GMV in 2018. Although, your last quarterly results well received by investors. Nonetheless GMV went down. One would anticipate eventually that's got to go back up.
DEVIN WENIG: Sure.
DAVID FABER: You are looking at your return on investment, changing some of the parameters around that to increase margins. But when do you believe GMZ is going to resume acceleration?
DEVIN WENIG: I think what we've said is that the long-term growth rate at our margin of this business is probably above retail, below e-commerce. We're running a business in high 20s margin in an industry that has many competitors that are 2%, 3% margin. That matters in commerce. We were really happy with the way the quarter started. It kind of started exactly the way we wanted it to. We said we were going to withdraw low value marketing and we'd focus on profitability. At the same time, we're growing some new businesses that are really exciting, payments, advertising. They're both in very high growth modes. So, you saw our revenue grow well above our GMV. We've been able to deliver good profitability with that. GMV will come back. It always does. And we're very confident in the long-term growth of the core marketplace.
DAVID FABER: At the beginning of this year you very briefly had what appeared to be potential battle with an activist and then you settled it. Jesse Cohen from Elliott joined your board. Why did you choose to go that route as opposed to perhaps trying to fight?
DEVIN WENIG: Because I think there's no point in fighting if you actually believe in some core principles. And we would have no problem standing up for things that we didn't believe were sensible, but actually we sat down with Elliott and there was a lot they were saying and we were saying the exact same thing. A lot of what they were saying revolved around our portfolio. And we, if you look back over the last couple years, we're not a company that hangs on to assets when we don't need to. And, in fact, we've been net sellers over the past few years. We've disposed of billions of assets. With regards to the two assets they called out specifically--
DAVID FABER: StubHub and the Classifieds—
DEVIN WENIG: Right.
DAVID FABER: -- which they said they believe would be better served perhaps as independent entities.
DEVIN WENIG: And we said, 'Look, we will look at it as we always do and take a clear-eyed look at how best to create value for our shareholders.' And that's exactly what we're doing. We represent all our shareholders. And I think what they care about is we get value for those assets but we don't compromise the long-term growth and viability of core eBay. And you know, there are a number of ways that can come out. It's early in the process. But because we thought that was the right thing to do, we were actually largely on the same page as Elliott, and I think from them issuing a letter to us settling was a matter of a couple of weeks.
DAVID FABER: Now, you're giving more financials around – or more financial specifics around classified, around StubHub. Do you anticipate, though, when your review is completed or are you starting to sense they would be better as separated from the company?
DEVIN WENIG: It's premature to even guess at that. I think what we care about is that we recognize the value for eBay shareholders, but we don't compromise either the viability of those platforms or, most important, the growth and competitiveness of core eBay. We'll see how that comes out.
DAVID FABER: Well, that was the key, of course, of the letter originally from Elliott as well. Revitalizing, in their words, the core platform. Are you doing that? What can you point to specifically that says yes, in fact, we are?
DEVIN WENIG: I think if you look at just the last couple of years, we've added about 10 million new buyers. We've added a massive amount of new sellers and inventory. In fact, we had 800 million items for sale. Now we have 1.2 billion. GMV has never been bigger at 95 billion. And there's no metric that's not the greatest it's ever been on our core marketplace. So, we focused on what's unique about eBay, but modernizing and improving the core customer experience. What matters to me is consumers who shop with us, 180 million of them, get a great experience every day. So, that's improving customer service, shipping and extending the inventory advantage. And look, if you look at the underlying metrics, we're really, really happy with where we are. We've accomplished a lot. The business is big and it's growing. And I don't think it's ever been as competitive as it is right now.
DAVID FABER: You don't?
DEVIN WENIG: I think it's at its strongest now.
DAVID FABER: When it comes to eBay and, of course, I can go back many years when we first did a documentary on it in the small and medium-sized businesses that made up the core constituency of your sellers. You're relying now more on larger sellers, aren't you? Does that change the complexion of the platform?
DEVIN WENIG: You know, it's mixed. The mix has changed. So we have added a lot. eBay still represents this long tale of small and medium-sized entrepreneurs and sellers. And that really is the heart and soul of our company. We are champions of entrepreneurs. They bring a lot of the unique inventory to our platform. A lot of the things that you can only find on eBay, which are millions of items, they come from those small sellers. So, that is never, ever going to be not the core of what we do. It happens to be that as we've gotten big, brands have joined the party, big merchants have joined the party. We have a lot of diversity in who sells on the platform.
DAVID FABER: Don't you end up looking a lot more like Amazon as a result?
DEVIN WENIG: I don't think so. I think that what customers want is choice. I don't want to be a commodity retailer. And we're not the drones and robots company. I think that we stand for a more human form of commerce. But that doesn't mean people don't want to buy Adidas shoes and they don't want to buy Dyson Vacuums. And they can do it alongside unique inventory on our platform.
DAVID FABER: Without some of those things you just mentioned, can you ever be as efficient as Amazon?
DEVIN WENIG: Well, I don't know that efficiency is the only thing consumers care about. I would argue, go take a look and see if you don't find a better price on that Dyson Vacuum or Adidas sneaker on eBay. So, we're not trying to win a logistics war. That's not what we're about. Amazon and others are very efficient. It happens to be that in the United States now an average package is delivered in about two days. That's not too bad. But we don't want to compete on one-day shipping, half-day shipping, quarter-day shipping.
DAVID FABER: Although if you put eBay on those boxes, it might be a good marketing opportunity.
DEVIN WENIG: That's not a bad idea.
DAVID FABER: Finally, we've been watching alphabet shares this morning. You're one of the largest advertisers with them. Any sense in terms of how you've been approaching the Google platform or what your sense is in terms of their share and what might have been behind this deceleration in clicks?
DEVIN WENIG: I don't know what's behind their deceleration. But I will say, what we find, is there's no better platform to get a return on advertising than Google. And that's been the case really for the last 15 years. It's also the case that there are a lot more alternatives now and there's a lot of competition. Whether that competition are social channels, other publishers, there are a lot of places to put advertising dollars. If you're a digital advertiser like we are and measure return religiously, there are probably 15 competing platforms now, and a few years ago there were a couple. I will say Google though in terms of return we find is still the best.
DAVID FABER: You do. Okay. Well, Devin, we appreciate you taking some time.
DEVIN WENIG: Thanks for having me.
DAVID FABER: Devin Wenig is the CEO of eBay. Back to you, Sara.
MEG WHITMAN, QUIBI CEO
DAVID FABER: Carl, thank you. And yes, we are, of course, as you pointed out, at the Milken Institution Global Conference in Los Angeles. Joined now exclusively by the former CEO of HP. She also was the CEO of eBay. Viewers may remember her, she occasionally would come on and join us. Pretty much every single quarter during her time at HP. Meg Whitman, nice to see you.
MEG WHITMAN: Nice to see you. Thanks for having me, David.
DAVID FABER: Very different world for you now. You actually are based in Los Angeles.
MEG WHITMAN: Yes, we have moved to Los Angeles.
DAVID FABER: And you are running a company that is getting set less than a year from now to produce short-form content at the highest end of production value, for essentially people's wireless devices, more likely their phone than not.
MEG WHITMAN: Yes.
DAVID FABER: Why will this be going to something that people – and it is called Quibi-- that people want?
MEG WHITMAN: Well first, I think you probably figured out, Quibi is a contraction of 'Quick bites,' which is what we call this short-form content. And what we know is people are increasingly watching video on their mobile—60 minutes a day up from just 6 minutes in 2012. And that's because there's better bandwidth and more content. And we're going to go after white space, which is very high-quality content in this short-form bringing together the best of Hollywood and the best of Silicon Valley. And it's an on the go use case. You know, every morning you leave your house with a little television in your pocket, and you have all these in between moments, like when you were waiting for me to show up, and a chance to watch six or eight minutes of something great. So, we've got incredible content coming. And we're doing great innovation on the technological side.
DAVID FABER: You know, nobody doubts your ability to innovate, and Mr. Katzenberg, of course your partner in this, as well. But people do wonder, in terms of short-form, I mean, you describe the way people would consume the content – I take the subway every day in New York, people are watching their videos there. But it's a half hour show or an hour show. Why do you believe that something in a shorter form will appeal to people who already seem to be happy watching, in shorter bursts, longer things?
MEG WHITMAN: Yeah. Well, I think it's real innovation. Do you remember when HBO launched? They said: we're – it's not TV, it's HBO. And at the height of advertiser-supported TV, and they created an incredible premium viewing experience. People love YouTube. We love YouTube. It's amazing what that company has done. You know, Snapchat, Facebook Watch, they're all doing really interesting –
DAVID FABER: --Instagram is another potential competitor to watch.
MEG WHITMAN: Instagram. Doing great things. But we're doing it at a different quality level. And we will tell long-form stories but in ten-minute chapters. My best analogy for you is "The Da Vinci Code." 464 pages, 105 chapters, each chapter is five pages long. Because Dan Brown said, if you've got five minutes, I want you to read one chapter. If you've got ten minutes, I want you to read two chapters. And people don't have these big blocks of time and to create story arcs around great stories that is for on the go viewing, we think there's an audience. And it's for millennials, 25-35 year-olds.
DAVID FABER: Right.
MEG WHITMAN: We'll probably get seven years younger and seven years older, as well.
DAVID FABER: And you haven't yet settled on a pricing metric.
MEG WHITMAN: Yes, we have.
DAVID FABER: Okay. What is it?
MEG WHITMAN: Yeah, it's $5 a month, actually probably $4.99 a month ad-supported, and $7.99 a month ad-free.
DAVID FABER: The creators you're going to for this content, I mean, it's a good time, I would assume in this town and others, to be a creator of content.
MEG WHITMAN: It's an amazing time here in Hollywood.
DAVID FABER: Is it ending up being more expensive than you'd anticipated? I know that many people are buying in and you have a lot of support of studios as well, but is the prospect of creating this content even more expensive than you might have anticipated, given the demand for these people creating?
MEG WHITMAN: It's not. It's not more expensive than we anticipated in the business case, because we knew there was a renaissance going on in Hollywood. And you know, every day there's a new entrant in this very high end long-form OTT services. So, we're competing. But content creators really like this because they know the cellphone, the smartphone, is the next big screen. If we're right, movies, televisions, Quibi. And so, they want to develop for this device. And we've made it an attractive proposition for them. So, first, we started, and we had to pitch, and explain what we're doing. And now much of Hollywood is coming to us with ideas, which is of course what you want.
DAVID FABER: Right. And of course, you want a hit, is what I would think you want.
MEG WHITMAN: We do.
DAVID FABER: Something that's really going to get word of mouth going.
MEG WHITMAN: Yes.
DAVID FABER: And create a sense that this is something people want.
MEG WHITMAN: Certainly, we need a hit, and that's what we call our lighthouses. But you know, part of what we're excited about at Quibi is we're going to create a daily consumption habit and we're going to launch something called "Daily Essentials" which will be, you know, in 6 1/2 to 8 minutes, a wrap-up of news, a wrap-up of sports, a wrap-up of music news, celebrity news, gaming news. And if we can get you to be interested in three of those a day that you really like, that you depend on, and that's where you get a lot of your news, that creates the daily consumption habit and the other kinds of content built on top of that.
DAVID FABER: Right. We are in a world where there was a proliferation of services that stream. Disney Plus, I was out here a few weeks ago interviewing Mr. Iger as they introduced their service at $6.99. What do you think the willingness of the consumers is to have all these different services including your own at $4.99?
MEG WHITMAN: Yeah. Well, I think in the end there won't be quite as many as there are today. I think in every industry – you know, think of the car industry at the turn of the last century, I mean, at one point -- there was like a hundred car companies at one point. Now there's three or four. But I think there's a lot of different business models. I mean, I think Disney was remarkable in its announcement.
DAVID FABER: Why did you think it's remarkable?
MEG WHITMAN: Well, I mean, they have such a library of content. It was beautiful produced. Look at what "End Game" did this weekend, it was historic. But we're a different use case. A lot of these services are at night. You know, you come home from work, you want to invest an hour, an hour and a half, on the weekends. We think our use case is Monday through Friday, 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
DAVID FABER: And so, you believe there will be a willingness among -- how are you going to know when it's working? How are you going to you define success, or at least know you're on the road to it?
MEG WHITMAN: Yep. So, really the key metric for us at the end of the day is paid net subscribers. How many people try, how many people actually subscribe and then how many people stay. It's a classic subscription business. So, I think we'll know at the end of the first quarter, are we on track for our base case, or our goal case? What are people saying about the service? By the way, it's so wonderful, for the first time in 20 years, and you will appreciate this, I do not have a legacy platform. I get to build the technology platform from scratch. So, we can instrument it and develop it in a way that we would never have been able to do. And so, the technology innovation, and making video look great on your phone, is very much part of what we're doing. But in the end, paid net subscribers.
DAVID FABER: Right. So, we've got a little while yet and ask you if it's working or not—
MEG WHITMAN: Yes. Yes.
DAVID FABER: --given that it's not going to launch until April of next year. You know, it's funny. When you sat down, we were talking very briefly and you said your work now is more akin to what you did at eBay than it certainly is to HP. Why is that?
MEG WHITMAN: Yeah, yeah. Well, it's a startup; eBay I joined, remember, when there were 30 people and 4 million in revenue. This is a pre-revenue company. I was employee number one in March a year ago. But we now have a hundred people. And it's – you know, we're building something and that's much more akin to eBay. I loved my time at HP but that was, you know, really reinventing an American icon. And you might recall, I mean, when I joined, it was $129 billion in revenue.
DAVID FABER: I remember – and how many employees?
MEG WHITMAN: 325,000 plus 80,000 contractors. It's actually so much easier in many ways. I can manage by walking around. I know every person who works at Quibi. It won't be like that forever. But—
DAVID FABER: So, you enjoy that. You're enjoying that as well.
MEG WHITMAN: It's great.
DAVID FABER: You know, it's funny. Devin Wenig was sitting here not long ago, talking about eBay, and we were having the same kind of conversation that you and I may have had 15-18 years ago.
MEG WHITMAN: Yes. Yeah, Devin's a good friend.
DAVID FABER: When you look at the platform eBay is today, is it what you expected it might be? Are you surprised there are still sort of debates about re-energizing it, and the difference between large sellers and medium and small businesses?
MEG WHITMAN: You have to remember, I've been gone from eBay for ten years.
DAVID FABER: I know.
MEG WHITMAN: It's hard to imagine. So, in the life of that company, that's, you know, a third of it, basically, more than that. And, so—but think about how e-commerce has changed. When I was at eBay in the early days, we were explaining to people what the Internet was. Do you remember, our first ad was, 'www.ebay.com, it's on the Internet.' And so, e-commerce has changed. And the world is changing at a breakneck speed. I've never seen anything like this. It is – what happens--
DAVID FABER: You talk about it all the time. And you talked about it during our many interviews when you were running HP in terms of the rate of change increasing and therefore the need to do certain things.
MEG WHITMAN: It's just amazing.
DAVID FABER: Do you worry about it when it comes to Quibi? That there will be something that outruns you?
MEG WHITMAN: Sure. Absolutely.
DAVID FABER: Given the proliferation. I mean, every day there's a new announcement.
MEG WHITMAN: Every day there's a new announcement, there's new technology. But I think startups in some ways have an advantage. Because we can move fast, we can pivot. We see what needs to be done and we have a singular mission. And so, we just have to stay on our path, which is this, you know, on the go use case, very high quality, short phone content that fits into people's lives with a unique technology platform. And I'm pretty optimistic. As you know, I could have done a lot of different things.
DAVID FABER: Yes, you could have.
MEG WHITMAN: And I decided that this would be – I thought it was a fantastic idea and thought it would, you know, be very successful.
DAVID FABER: Well, I'm glad that we got a chance to catch up. Thank you.
MEG WHITMAN: Nice to see you. Thanks, David.
DAVID FABER: Nice to see you, too. Meg Whitman, CEO of Quibi. Back to you, Contessa.
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