Politics

'Kick in the teeth': Startups pivoting again after warning on SBA loans

If businesses already applied for a loan through the PPP but believe they don't fit the bill anymore, they have until May 7 to return the money.

Steven Mnuchin

Steven Mnuchin's Treasury Department released stricter guidance for businesses seeking emergency loans.

Photo: Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Venture capital-backed startups are once again recalibrating their stances in applying for coronavirus stimulus loans after the Treasury Department sent out new guidance.

The guidance, released late Thursday, places stark parameters around how startups should assess whether they need loans from the Small Business Administration, putting the onus on individual companies and their lawyers to take a hard look at whether they could obtain money from investors rather than the government.

"It's important that startups show evidence that they did a thorough, good-faith evaluation of their access to other sources of liquidity before they apply," said Trevor Loy, an investor at FlyWheel VC. "Even if the answer is no, you need to show evidence that you asked the question and got the answer."

The Treasury Department also clarified that businesses must prove they need the money because of struggles related to COVID-19. And there's a warning: If you already applied for a loan through the PPP but feel like you don't fit the bill anymore, you have until May 7 to return the money.

Ed Zimmerman, a lawyer who specializes in venture capital and startups at Lowenstein Sandler LLP, called the new guidance a "kick in the teeth."

"We've previously begged @USTreasury @SBAgov for more guidance on what the certification of need means & Treasury has now given us RETROACTIVE GUIDANCE," Zimmerman tweeted. "The Goal Posts Have MOVED after the game was played!"

Cooley, a law firm that has been advising VC-backed firms on government aid, responded to the guidance with urgent advice: "To the extent that applicants did not specifically consider alternate sources of liquidity in connection with their initial application, it is clear from the FAQs that they should."

The new guidance could result in a slew of VC-backed startups retracting applications or even returning the money. One industry source told Protocol that it's not entirely clear what the guidance means in practice, but noted that many venture capital firms don't have money set aside to help out existing companies.

"A lot of times, when a venture fund raises money, it's not all for existing companies — it's for money in the future," the source said. "You can look at this and ask, 'Wow, your venture firm has a lot of money, why can't you get that?' But … that money may only be for growth milestones, that money may only be available for new companies. … All those factors can mean that the funds may not be available to the company to sustain ongoing operations."

The PPP ran out of money last week, but it is expected to begin accepting applications again on Monday after receiving a $310 billion infusion from Congress. President Trump signed a relief package freeing up $484 billion in additional funding, part of trillions in spending designed to rescue the battered economy.

"Consequences of new guidance seem clear," tweeted Mark Suster, the managing partner at Upfront Ventures. "If you believe you have other sources of capital not detrimental to your business, you should not accept PPP loan. … I believe founders should consider re-discussing with board calls to discuss whether the board still agrees [to] accepting PPP."

Apple’s new MacBooks are the future — and the past

After years of reinventing the wheel, Apple's back to just building really good ones.

Apple brought back the ports.

Photo: Apple

The 2015 Pro was, by most accounts, one of the best laptops Apple ever made. It was fast and functional, and it had a great screen, a MagSafe charger, plenty of ports, a great keyboard and solid battery life. If you walked around practically any office in Silicon Valley, you'd see Pros everywhere.

Many of those users have been holding on to their increasingly old and dusty 2015 Pros, too, because right about when that computer came out was when Apple seemed to lose its way in the laptop market. It released the 12-inch MacBook, an incredibly thin and light computer that made a bunch of changes — a new keyboard and trackpad design chief among them — that eventually made their way around the rest of the MacBook lineup. Then came the Touch Bar, Apple's attempt to build an entirely new user interface into a laptop.

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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.

The way we work has fundamentally changed. COVID-19 upended business dealings and office work processes, putting into hyperdrive a move towards digital collaboration platforms that allow teams to streamline processes and communicate from anywhere. According to the International Data Corporation, the revenue for worldwide collaboration applications increased 32.9 percent from 2019 to 2020, reaching $22.6 billion; it's expected to become a $50.7 billion industry by 2025.

"While consumers and early adopter businesses had widely embraced collaborative applications prior to the pandemic, the market saw five years' worth of new users in the first six months of 2020," said Wayne Kurtzman, research director of social and collaboration at IDC. "This has cemented collaboration, at least to some extent, for every business, large and small."

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Kate Silver

Kate Silver is an award-winning reporter and editor with 15-plus years of journalism experience. Based in Chicago, she specializes in feature and business reporting. Kate's reporting has appeared in the Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Atlantic's CityLab, Atlas Obscura, The Telegraph and many other outlets.

Protocol spoke to founders and tech execs who've embraced async and have tips on how to get started.

Image: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

Imagine a company where there are no meetings — just time for deep, focused work punctuated by short conversations on Slack and project updates on Trello.

Now imagine a company where the no-meeting ethos is so ingrained that it's possible to work there for 10 years without ever speaking face-to-face with a single coworker, and for your boss to not even recognize the sound of your voice.

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Michelle Ma
Michelle Ma (@himichellema) is a reporter at Protocol, where she writes about management, leadership and workplace issues in tech. Previously, she was a news editor of live journalism and special coverage for The Wall Street Journal. Prior to that, she worked as a staff writer at Wirecutter. She can be reached at mma@protocol.com.
Protocol | Workplace

#AppleToo activist says Apple fired her for deleting apps from her devices

Janneke Parrish says she was dismissed after deleting Robinhood, Pokemon Go and Google Drive from her work devices during an investigation inside the company.

The Apple Too movement is trying to organize Apple workers into a collective movement.
Photo: Bloomberg via Getty

Unlike most other companies, Apple asks that its employees use their work phones like personal ones — and for five years, Apple program manager Janneke Parrish did as she was told. But last week, when Apple asked Parrish for her devices in an internal investigation, she was afraid Apple would see her personal and private information. She disobeyed orders and deleted apps like Robinhood, Pokemon Go and Google Drive. Then Apple fired her.

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Anna Kramer

Anna Kramer is a reporter at Protocol (Twitter: @ anna_c_kramer, email: akramer@protocol.com), where she writes about labor and workplace issues. 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.

Protocol | Workplace

8 Zoom settings you didn’t know existed

We've been Zooming for over a year and a half now, but there are still some settings you've never heard of and that might change your life.

Illustration: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

At this point in the pandemic, most people are Zoom pros. Even though every meeting still prompts a "you're on mute" comment, we rarely find ourselves accidentally turning into cats these days. Zoom is an essential tool in the hybrid workspace, connecting remote workers with those in-office. We know how to share our screens, how to use the thumbs-up reaction and how to blur our backgrounds. (Virtual backgrounds of beaches are very early 2020. Stop using them.)

And yet, there's still always more to learn. A deeper dive into Zoom's preferences unleashes a treasure trove of settings you may never have known existed. Here are eight Zoom settings that will make your life easier, and your meetings more fun.

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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.

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