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Going Back to Work with Starbucks and Microsoft

China lifted the lockdown over Wuhan last week, and people are going back to work. TomTom has some cool data showing traffic in Wuhan bouncing back from 0 to ~50% of the 2019 average last week, and other places (Shanghai, Beijing) in China are almost back to 2019 levels.

Starbucks and Microsoft both have large businesses in China, so last week they shared some of their learnings about reopening in China with the Seattle business community to help local business leaders prepare for the US to go back to work. Here were some of the highlights:


  • Initially Starbucks closed 80% of its 4,200 stores in China. Now, eleven weeks later, 95% of stores are reopened, though business and consumer behaviors are very different
  • Instead of a store being open or closed, they are thinking of opening as a “dial, not a switch.” (e.g., using different formats like drive through)
  • The four factors they look at when deciding to reopen a store are: (1) Local state of the pandemic, (2) Local government posture and orders, (3) Community sentiment, and (4) Store readiness
  • Starbucks believes we can’t return to “normal” until we have a test and survey technology that can be deployed quickly

Microsoft ☁️

  • Microsoft has been back to work in China for about a month, and they are up to ~50% capacity so far. This was their six-point plan for bringing people back:
  • 1) Bring people back in phases rather than all at once
  • 2) Support people who should or want to work from home
  • 3) Provide all returning employees and visitors with safety supplies and sterilized facilities
  • 4) Require employees and visitors to (self-)certify their health as they are re-entering
  • 5) Continue social distancing at work
  • 6) Refrain from business travel unless there is an extraordinary need
  • The three principles they wanted to share with the business community were: (1) we need common goals for bringing people back to work, (2) we need detailed guidelines but flexible implementation, and (3) private action relies on common, public infrastructure

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