People

Airbnb alumni are pledging IPO proceeds to charity — they want it to become part of a startup’s IPO playbook

Equity for Impact has a goal of signing up 1,000 employees and alumni to donate.

Airbnb alumni are pledging IPO proceeds to charity — they want it to become part of a startup’s IPO playbook

The idea for Equity for Impact came from a 2019 dinner between Janet Frishberg (far right) and Phillippe Siclait, former Airbnb colleagues.

Photo: Janet Frishberg

Over 180 Airbnb alumni have pledged to give away some of their IPO proceeds to charity, and that's just the start of Equity for Impact's ambitions.

The all-volunteer Airbnb alumni group is trying to recruit 1,000 of their peers to sign on to the promise of donating some of their IPO proceeds to charity, a goal that if met, could represent over $100 million earmarked for charitable giving. And they hope that it will be a playbook for other startups on the verge of going public to compete.

"So much of the conversation around tech company IPOs focuses on how the newfound wealth will be used for consumption," said Janet Frishberg, a recruiter for Airbnb from 2013 to 2019. "I was wondering if we could change that conversation and have at least part of the focus be on how we can give these newfound resources to help others and help our local communities and also help the world."

So far, much of the focus on charitable giving in Silicon Valley has been on the highest net-worth individuals, like Airbnb's billionaire founders who are all Giving Pledge signatories, or other up-and-coming founders, like the signatories of the Founders Pledge who may not be at the billion-dollar Giving Pledge mark yet.

But Equity for Impact is targeting an employee base that may give anywhere from a few hundred dollars to millions as part of an IPO, and it purposefully did not set a minimum donation threshold for alumni, employees or investors to take part as a way to encourage more people to give what they can around the IPO.

The idea came from a 2019 dinner between Frishberg and Phillippe Siclait, an engineer at Airbnb from 2012 to 2018. While much of the talk around employee IPO windfalls is about everything they'll buy — from the new cars, the new homes, even the yachts or airplanes — the pair wanted to focus on how an IPO could be used for good.

"Knowing the people that Airbnb brought together, I felt like there was a values alignment, and the culture of that community would make this possible," Frishberg said.

The duo started by interviewing around 20 alumni to learn about what they would want out of a charitable giving initiative. They found that the biggest gap was just in knowledge of the mechanics of charitable giving, particularly around donating equity versus cash, and that many people wanted advice on which charities they should be giving to that would deliver high impact.

Frishberg and Siclait recruited a group of volunteers, from former head of employee experience Mark Levy to former communications lead Marissa Coughlin, to help build Equity for Impact. The organization is also working closely with the Founders Pledge on educating its signatories around giving, and Founders Pledge is helping to pull together a list of high-impact charities from its own research that Airbnb alumni may be interested in donating to.

So far, the most popular causes that people are supporting are around climate change, social justice initiatives, education, poverty initiatives and homelessness, the group said. Siclait and Frishberg both decided to earmark 5% of their overall equity as part of their pledges. Frishberg plans to focus on some high-impact charities around climate change and local Bay Area food justice initiatives; Siclait admits he's taking a more data-driven approach and plans to work closely with Founders Pledge to help identify the charities that are driving the most impact.

"Our vision has always been that the value created by tech can serve those who need it most, and Equity for Impact makes a big step towards normalizing generosity at all levels of a company," Danielle Gram, managing director of Founders Pledge, said in a statement. "It's been inspiring to see how the grassroots movement around Equity for Impact is not only encouraging people to give, and give more, but to give differently and strategically."

Outside of just a desire to do good, there's also the potential tax benefits of charitable giving for a newly minted IPO class. While there's a particular trend of moving to tax-friendly locations like Texas or Miami in tech right now, charitable giving is an overlooked area for many employees. Frishberg and Siclait acknowledge that some people will be participating certainly for the tax benefits, but they still view it as a good thing to help educate and increase the tech industry's charitable giving.

"People are curious about it, especially as they're trying to plan for the end of this year and going into next year," Siclait said. "One of the things that we're doing is coupling our events where we talk about taxes and the financial implications with conversation around the kind of values that people have, and how they think about giving from that perspective, because we want to really make sure that the the conversation that we're starting is about the giving, and not just about the tax benefits."

The hope, too, is that this becomes a playbook for future tech IPOs. So far, the group is about one-fifth of the way to its goal of having 1,000 Airbnb folks pledging by six months after the IPO (around the time a typical stock lockup ends). If it hits its goal, it believes that it will amount to around $100 million given to charities as result, a perhaps more meaningful measure of an IPO's success than the number of Teslas that show up in the employee parking lot.

"Oftentimes in tech, the employees end up becoming the founders of future companies. So if we can get people to think about giving more at this stage, then hopefully when they go and start a company, then they can start thinking about that from the very beginning," Siclait said. "We've already seen that a number of Airbnb alumni who've gone on to found other companies are participating in Equity for Impact, so we hope that that will translate to the companies that they found, too."

Protocol | Policy

5 things to know about FCC nominee Gigi Sohn

The veteran of some of the earliest tech policy fights is a longtime consumer champion and net-neutrality advocate.

Gigi Sohn, who President Joe Biden nominated to serve on the FCC, is a longtime net-neutrality advocate.

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Joe Biden on Tuesday nominated Gigi Sohn to serve as a Federal Communications Commissioner, teeing up a Democratic majority at the agency that oversees broadband issues after months of delay.

Like Lina Khan, who Biden picked in June to head up the Federal Trade Commission, Sohn is a progressive favorite. And if confirmed, she'll take up a position in an agency trying to pull policy levers on net neutrality, privacy and broadband access even as Congress is stalled.

Keep Reading Show less
Ben Brody

Ben Brody (@ BenBrodyDC) is a senior reporter at Protocol focusing on how Congress, courts and agencies affect the online world we live in. He formerly covered tech policy and lobbying (including antitrust, Section 230 and privacy) at Bloomberg News, where he previously reported on the influence industry, government ethics and the 2016 presidential election. Before that, Ben covered business news at CNNMoney and AdAge, and all manner of stories in and around New York. He still loves appearing on the New York news radio he grew up with.

If you've ever tried to pick up a new fitness routine like running, chances are you may have fallen into the "motivation vs. habit" trap once or twice. You go for a run when the sun is shining, only to quickly fall off the wagon when the weather turns sour.

Similarly, for many businesses, 2020 acted as the storm cloud that disrupted their plans for innovation. With leaders busy grappling with the pandemic, innovation frequently got pushed to the backburner. In fact, according to McKinsey, the majority of organizations shifted their focus mainly to maintaining business continuity throughout the pandemic.

Keep Reading Show less
Gaurav Kataria
Group Product Manager, Trello at Atlassian
Protocol | Workplace

Adobe wants a more authentic NFT world

Adobe's Content Credentials feature will allow Creative Cloud subscribers to attach edit-tracking information to Photoshop files. The goal is to create a more trustworthy NFT market and digital landscape.

Adobe's Content Credentials will allow users to attach their identities to an image

Image: Adobe

Remember the viral, fake photo of Kurt Cobain and Biggie Smalls that duped and delighted the internet in 2017? Doctored images manipulate people and erode trust and we're not great at spotting them. The entire point of the emerging NFT art market is to create valuable and scarce digital files and when there isn't an easy way to check for an image's origin and edits, there's a problem. What if someone steals an NFT creator's image and pawns it off as their own? As a hub for all kinds of multimedia, Adobe feels a responsibility to combat misinformation and provide a safe space for NFT creators. That's why it's rolling out Content Credentials, a record that can be attached to a Photoshop file of a creator's identity and includes any edits they made.

Users can connect their social media addresses and crypto wallet addresses to images in Photoshop. This further proves the image creator's identity, but it's also helpful in determining the creators of NFTs. Adobe has partnered with NFT marketplaces KnownOrigin, OpenSea, Rarible and SuperRare in this effort. "Today there's not a way to know that the NFT you're buying was actually created by a true creator," said Adobe General Counsel Dana Rao. "We're allowing the creator to show their identity and attach it to the image."

Keep Reading Show less
Lizzy Lawrence

Lizzy Lawrence ( @LizzyLaw_) is a reporter at Protocol, covering tools and productivity in the workplace. She's a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, where she studied sociology and international studies. She served as editor in chief of The Michigan Daily, her school's independent newspaper. She's based in D.C., and can be reached at llawrence@protocol.com.

Protocol | China

Why another Chinese lesbian dating app just shut down

With neither political support nor a profitable business model, lesbian dating apps are finding it hard to survive in China.

Operating a dating app for LGBTQ+ communities in China is like walking a tightrope.

Photo: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP via Getty Images

When Lesdo, a Chinese dating app designed for lesbian women, announced it was closing down, it didn't come as a surprise to the LGBTQ+ community.

It's unclear what directly caused this decision. 2021 hasn't been kind to China's queer communities; WeChat has deactivated queer groups' public accounts and Beijing has pressured charity organizations not to work with queer activists.

Keep Reading Show less
Zeyi Yang
Zeyi Yang is a reporter with Protocol | China. Previously, he worked as a reporting fellow for the digital magazine Rest of World, covering the intersection of technology and culture in China and neighboring countries. He has also contributed to the South China Morning Post, Nikkei Asia, Columbia Journalism Review, among other publications. In his spare time, Zeyi co-founded a Mandarin podcast that tells LGBTQ stories in China. He has been playing Pokemon for 14 years and has a weird favorite pick.

The Oura Ring was a sleep-tracking hit. Can the next one be even more?

Oura wants to be a media company, an activity tracker and even a way to know you're sick before you feel sick.

Over the last few years, the Oura Ring has become one of the most recognizable wearables this side of the Apple Watch.

Photo: Oura

Oura CEO Harpreet Rai swears he didn't know Kim Kardashian was a fan. He was as surprised as anyone when she started posting screenshots from the Oura app to her Instagram story, and got into a sleep battle with fellow Oura user Gwyneth Paltrow. Or when Jennifer Aniston revealed that Jimmy Kimmel got her hooked on Oura … and how her ring fell off in a salad. "I am addicted to it," Aniston said, "and it's ruining my life" by shaming her about her lack of sleep. "I think we're definitely seeing traction outside of tech," Rai said. "Which is cool."

Over the last couple of years, Oura's ring (imaginatively named the Oura Ring) has become one of the most recognizable wearables this side of the Apple Watch. The company started with a Kickstarter campaign in 2015, but really started to find traction with its second-generation model in 2018. It's not exactly a mainstream device — Oura said it has sold more than 500,000 rings, up from 150,000 in March 2020 but still not exactly Apple Watch levels — but it has reached some of the most successful, influential and probably sleep-deprived people in the industry. Jack Dorsey is a professed fan, as is Marc Benioff.

Keep Reading Show less
David Pierce

David Pierce ( @pierce) is Protocol's editorial director. Prior to joining Protocol, he was a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, a senior writer with Wired, and deputy editor at The Verge. He owns all the phones.

Latest Stories