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."

Fintech

Judge Zia Faruqui is trying to teach you crypto, one ‘SNL’ reference at a time

His decisions on major cryptocurrency cases have quoted "The Big Lebowski," "SNL," and "Dr. Strangelove." That’s because he wants you — yes, you — to read them.

The ways Zia Faruqui (right) has weighed on cases that have come before him can give lawyers clues as to what legal frameworks will pass muster.

Photo: Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty Images

“Cryptocurrency and related software analytics tools are ‘The wave of the future, Dude. One hundred percent electronic.’”

That’s not a quote from "The Big Lebowski" — at least, not directly. It’s a quote from a Washington, D.C., district court memorandum opinion on the role cryptocurrency analytics tools can play in government investigations. The author is Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui.

Keep Reading Show less
Veronica Irwin

Veronica Irwin (@vronirwin) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol covering fintech. Previously she was at the San Francisco Examiner, covering tech from a hyper-local angle. Before that, her byline was featured in SF Weekly, The Nation, Techworker, Ms. Magazine and The Frisc.

The financial technology transformation is driving competition, creating consumer choice, and shaping the future of finance. Hear from seven fintech leaders who are reshaping the future of finance, and join the inaugural Financial Technology Association Fintech Summit to learn more.

Keep Reading Show less
FTA
The Financial Technology Association (FTA) represents industry leaders shaping the future of finance. We champion the power of technology-centered financial services and advocate for the modernization of financial regulation to support inclusion and responsible innovation.
Enterprise

AWS CEO: The cloud isn’t just about technology

As AWS preps for its annual re:Invent conference, Adam Selipsky talks product strategy, support for hybrid environments, and the value of the cloud in uncertain economic times.

Photo: Noah Berger/Getty Images for Amazon Web Services

AWS is gearing up for re:Invent, its annual cloud computing conference where announcements this year are expected to focus on its end-to-end data strategy and delivering new industry-specific services.

It will be the second re:Invent with CEO Adam Selipsky as leader of the industry’s largest cloud provider after his return last year to AWS from data visualization company Tableau Software.

Keep Reading Show less
Donna Goodison

Donna Goodison (@dgoodison) is Protocol's senior reporter focusing on enterprise infrastructure technology, from the 'Big 3' cloud computing providers to data centers. She previously covered the public cloud at CRN after 15 years as a business reporter for the Boston Herald. Based in Massachusetts, she also has worked as a Boston Globe freelancer, business reporter at the Boston Business Journal and real estate reporter at Banker & Tradesman after toiling at weekly newspapers.

Image: Protocol

We launched Protocol in February 2020 to cover the evolving power center of tech. It is with deep sadness that just under three years later, we are winding down the publication.

As of today, we will not publish any more stories. All of our newsletters, apart from our flagship, Source Code, will no longer be sent. Source Code will be published and sent for the next few weeks, but it will also close down in December.

Keep Reading Show less
Bennett Richardson

Bennett Richardson ( @bennettrich) is the president of Protocol. Prior to joining Protocol in 2019, Bennett was executive director of global strategic partnerships at POLITICO, where he led strategic growth efforts including POLITICO's European expansion in Brussels and POLITICO's creative agency POLITICO Focus during his six years with the company. Prior to POLITICO, Bennett was co-founder and CMO of Hinge, the mobile dating company recently acquired by Match Group. Bennett began his career in digital and social brand marketing working with major brands across tech, energy, and health care at leading marketing and communications agencies including Edelman and GMMB. Bennett is originally from Portland, Maine, and received his bachelor's degree from Colgate University.

Enterprise

Why large enterprises struggle to find suitable platforms for MLops

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, and as larger enterprises go from deploying hundreds of models to thousands and even millions of models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

Photo: artpartner-images via Getty Images

On any given day, Lily AI runs hundreds of machine learning models using computer vision and natural language processing that are customized for its retail and ecommerce clients to make website product recommendations, forecast demand, and plan merchandising. But this spring when the company was in the market for a machine learning operations platform to manage its expanding model roster, it wasn’t easy to find a suitable off-the-shelf system that could handle such a large number of models in deployment while also meeting other criteria.

Some MLops platforms are not well-suited for maintaining even more than 10 machine learning models when it comes to keeping track of data, navigating their user interfaces, or reporting capabilities, Matthew Nokleby, machine learning manager for Lily AI’s product intelligence team, told Protocol earlier this year. “The duct tape starts to show,” he said.

Keep Reading Show less
Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye is an award-winning multimedia reporter digging deep and telling print, digital and audio stories. She covers AI and data for Protocol. Her reporting on AI and tech ethics issues has been published in OneZero, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, CityLab, Ad Age and Digiday and heard on NPR. Kate is the creator of RedTailMedia.org and is the author of "Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media," a book about how the 2008 presidential campaigns used digital media and data.

Latest Stories
Bulletins