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Tech leaders write checks and code to help communities amid coronavirus

From connecting volunteers to buying hospital workers meals to writing $1 million checks, tech leaders like Sheryl Sandberg, Dick Costolo and Paul Graham are stepping up to help out communities during coronavirus.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg teamed up with other tech leaders to create a $6 million fund for the Second Harvest of Silicon Valley food bank.

Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

On March 13, Instagram co-founder Mike Krieger got a call from a panicked friend who was going to have to close their San Francisco restaurant as the city wrestled with the spread of coronavirus. Two days later, it had closed its doors. To try to stop other restaurants from meeting the same fate, Krieger and his wife, Kaitlyn, spent the weekend building SaveOurFaves.Org, a website that makes it easy to buy gift cards from local businesses.

"It's a seemingly small gesture, but it means that the business gets income today to stay afloat through the crisis," Krieger wrote in a Medium post about the website's launch. "You'll get repaid in burgers/lattes/negronis (and gratitude) when they're back on their feet."


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Tech companies are doing their part to make a lot of essential software free, but tech leaders and venture capitalists are also spending their spare time spinning up tech solutions. Startup founder Radu Spineanu created HelpWithCovid.com to connect people with coronavirus-related projects that need volunteers, which investor Sam Altman says was inspired by an idea from Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz.

Others are opening up their pocketbooks to help the community. On Friday, shipping startup Flexport announced that Paul Graham, the co-founder of Y Combinator (a Flexport backer), donated $1 million to its nonprofit arm, which is shipping medical supplies to the U.S. Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian bought out billboards in Times Square to tell people to stay home. Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg and her fiancé teamed up with other tech leaders like Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, WorkDay co-founder Aneel Bhusri, Intuit's Scott Cook, Nike CEO John Donahoe and Benchmark's Bill Gurley to create a $6 million fund for the Second Harvest of Silicon Valley food bank, she announced Monday. Billionaire investor Chris Sacca said he and his wife are matching $250,000 of donations for teachers in high-need communities who are transitioning their lessons online.

Like Krieger, many tech leaders are focusing their efforts on helping the local small businesses in their community — and restaurants in particular, which are in turmoil. Former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo said he is donating $2,000 a night to support 40 family dinners at San Francisco's Che Fico restaurant, which calls him a longtime supporter. Since the announcement on Monday, other people have donated and tripled it to 120 dinners a night, according to an Instagram post by Che Fico's chef and co-owner David Nayfield.


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On Tuesday, a group of venture capitalists, founders and executives (including Redpoint Venture's Ryan Sarver and Art.com's Frank Barbieri) started a new push to help donate restaurant meals to ER and ICU staff at some San Francisco hospitals. Right now, they're asking people to donate $1,000, which is the cost to sponsor a night's meal for about 50 essential hospital workers. They have also made a plea to the tech community to help them work out fractional donations so people can donate less and still support hospital workers. They raised over $200,000 since going public with their simple Google Form three days ago. On Friday, they open-sourced the project so other cities could follow suit.

"Health care workers are in such a tough spot, but the restaurants are fucked unless they get a bailout," said Sarver, who is also an investor in a restaurant group. "If big companies are interested [in sponsoring], we'd be happy to chat with them, too."

Protocol | Fintech

Plaid’s COO is riding fintech’s choppy waves

He's a striking presence on the beach. If he navigates Plaid's data challenges, Eric Sager will loom large in the financial world as well.

Plaid COO Eric Sager is an avid surfer.

Photo: Plaid

Eric Sager is an avid surfer. It's a fitting passion for the No. 2 executive at Plaid, a startup that's riding fintech's rough waters — including a rogue wave on the horizon that could cause a wipeout.

As Plaid's chief operating officer, Sager has been helping the startup navigate that choppiness, from an abandoned merger with Visa to a harsh critique by the CEO of a top Wall Street bank.

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Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at bpimentel@protocol.com or via Signal at (510)731-8429.

Sponsored Content

The future of computing at the edge: an interview with Intel’s Tom Lantzsch

An interview with Tom Lantzsch, SVP and GM, Internet of Things Group at Intel

An interview with Tom Lantzsch

Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Internet of Things Group (IoT) at Intel Corporation

Edge computing had been on the rise in the last 18 months – and accelerated amid the need for new applications to solve challenges created by the Covid-19 pandemic. Tom Lantzsch, Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Internet of Things Group (IoT) at Intel Corp., thinks there are more innovations to come – and wants technology leaders to think equally about data and the algorithms as critical differentiators.

In his role at Intel, Lantzsch leads the worldwide group of solutions architects across IoT market segments, including retail, banking, hospitality, education, industrial, transportation, smart cities and healthcare. And he's seen first-hand how artificial intelligence run at the edge can have a big impact on customers' success.

Protocol sat down with Lantzsch to talk about the challenges faced by companies seeking to move from the cloud to the edge; some of the surprising ways that Intel has found to help customers and the next big breakthrough in this space.

What are the biggest trends you are seeing with edge computing and IoT?

A few years ago, there was a notion that the edge was going to be a simplistic model, where we were going to have everything connected up into the cloud and all the compute was going to happen in the cloud. At Intel, we had a bit of a contrarian view. We thought much of the interesting compute was going to happen closer to where data was created. And we believed, at that time, that camera technology was going to be the driving force – that just the sheer amount of content that was created would be overwhelming to ship to the cloud – so we'd have to do compute at the edge. A few years later – that hypothesis is in action and we're seeing edge compute happen in a big way.

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Saul Hudson
Saul Hudson has a deep knowledge of creating brand voice identity, especially in understanding and targeting messages in cutting-edge technologies. He enjoys commissioning, editing, writing, and business development, in helping companies to build passionate audiences and accelerate their growth. Hudson has reported from more than 30 countries, from war zones to boardrooms to presidential palaces. He has led multinational, multi-lingual teams and managed operations for hundreds of journalists. Hudson is a Managing Partner at Angle42, a strategic communications consultancy.
People

Citizen’s plan to keep people safe (and beat COVID-19) with an app

Citizen CEO Andrew Frame talks privacy, safety, coronavirus and the future of the neighborhood watch.

Citizen added COVID-19 tracking to its app over the summer — but its bigger plans got derailed.

Photo: Citizen

Citizen is an app built on the idea that transparency is a good thing. It's the place users — more than 7 million of them, in 28 cities with many more to come soon — can find out when there's a crime, a protest or an incident of any kind nearby. (Just yesterday, it alerted me, along with 17,900 residents of Washington, D.C., that it was about to get very windy. It did indeed get windy.) Users can stream or upload video of what's going on, locals can chat about the latest incidents and everyone's a little safer at the end of the day knowing what's happening in their city.

At least, that's how CEO Andrew Frame sees it. Critics of Citizen say the app is creating hordes of voyeurs, incentivizing people to run into dangerous situations just to grab a video, and encouraging racial profiling and other problematic behaviors all under the guise of whatever "safety" means. They say the app promotes paranoia, alerting users to things that they don't actually need to know about. (That the app was originally called "Vigilante" doesn't help its case.)

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David Pierce

David Pierce ( @pierce) is Protocol's editor at large. 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.

Transforming 2021

Blockchain, QR codes and your phone: the race to build vaccine passports

Digital verification systems could give people the freedom to work and travel. Here's how they could actually happen.

One day, you might not need to carry that physical passport around, either.

Photo: CommonPass

There will come a time, hopefully in the near future, when you'll feel comfortable getting on a plane again. You might even stop at the lounge at the airport, head to the regional office when you land and maybe even see a concert that evening. This seemingly distant reality will depend upon vaccine rollouts continuing on schedule, an open-sourced digital verification system and, amazingly, the blockchain.

Several countries around the world have begun to prepare for what comes after vaccinations. Swaths of the population will be vaccinated before others, but that hasn't stopped industries decimated by the pandemic from pioneering ways to get some people back to work and play. One of the most promising efforts is the idea of a "vaccine passport," which would allow individuals to show proof that they've been vaccinated against COVID-19 in a way that could be verified by businesses to allow them to travel, work or relax in public without a great fear of spreading the virus.

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Mike Murphy

Mike Murphy ( @mcwm) is the director of special projects at Protocol, focusing on the industries being rapidly upended by technology and the companies disrupting incumbents. Previously, Mike was the technology editor at Quartz, where he frequently wrote on robotics, artificial intelligence, and consumer electronics.

People

Why the CEO of GoFundMe is calling out Congress on coronavirus

GoFundMe has seen millions of Americans asking for help to put food on the table and pay the bills. Tim Cadogan thinks Congress should help fix that.

"They need help with rent. They need help to get food. They need help with basic bills," GoFundMe CEO Tim Cadogan said. "That's what people need help with to get through this period."

Photo: John Lamparski/Getty Images

Tim Cadogan started his first day as CEO of GoFundMe about two weeks before the pandemic wrecked the world. He knew he was joining a company that tried to help people make extra money. He didn't know his company would become a lifeline for millions of Americans who couldn't pay their bills or put food on the table.

And so after a year in which millions of people have asked for help from strangers on GoFundMe, and at least $600 million has been raised (that number could be as much as $1 billion or more now, but GoFundMe didn't provide fundraising data past August) just for coronavirus-related financial crises, Cadogan has had enough. On Thursday, he wrote an open letter to Congress calling for a massive federal aid package aimed at addressing people's fundamental needs. In an unusual call for federal action from a tech CEO, Cadogan wrote that GoFundMe should not and can never replace generous Congressional aid for people who are truly struggling.

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Anna Kramer

Anna Kramer is a reporter at Protocol (@ anna_c_kramer), where she helps write and produce Source Code, Protocol's daily newsletter. Prior to joining the team, she covered tech and small business for the San Francisco Chronicle and privacy for Bloomberg Law. She is a recent graduate of Brown University, where she studied International Relations and Arabic and wrote her senior thesis about surveillance tools and technological development in the Middle East.

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