Silicon Valley’s $13B nonprofit takes another hit: Toxic culture costs them 3 executives
On Friday, the New York Times published yet another exposé on the “toxic,” grow-at-all-costs culture at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, a Mountain View-based nonprofit that’s quietly grown to $13.5B in assets -- larger than both the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations.
Over the past decade, huge gifts given by high-profile founders from Mark Zuckerberg ($1.8B in Facebook stock) to Nick Woodman ($500m in pre-IPO GoPro stock) have made SVCF Silicon Valley’s charity of choice.
But investigations into the abusive behavior of their top fundraiser have left SVCF in a precarious position.
The Chronicle interviewed 19 employees who similarly described their employment under Loijens as “oppressive,” saying she “[screamed] at the top of her lungs” and at one point tried to kiss an employee.
Her transgressions became so frequent that Loijens and employees began to use a mutually agreed-upon safe word, “muskrat,” when Loijens had crossed a line.
Loijens resigned a day after the Chronicle article, and SVCF CEO Emmett Carson hired a law firm to investigate the allegations because he claims he was unaware of her behavior. But employees don’t buy it, saying Carson actively ignored their complaints.
Why didn’t the CEO stop this sooner?
In short, because Loijens was really good at her job.
For a combined $433k a year in salary and benefits, she oversaw the “donor-advised funds” that make up 83% of the foundation’s assets and had unparalleled knowledge of how to optimize donors’ tax benefits.
Sources say that Carson’s “bigger is better” mentality shielded her from criticism, and 65 of SVCF’s near 140 employees have since signed a letter to the board asking for accountability (Carson has been put on paid leave and head of HR Daiva Natochy resigned).
Their next moves will be crucial
Now, everyone’s watching to see what SVCF will do to right the ship -- especially donors.
Forbes notes that, because SVCF’s strategy is so donor-focused, if their billionaire beneficiaries decide to take their money and run, SVCF may be up startup creek without a pivot.
The safeword is “you’re fired”
Netflix streamed right past Comcast, and Disney is its only competitor -- for now
Last week Netflix’s value hit $142B, knocking rival Comcast (worth $141B) down a step on the podium in the race for media’s gold medal. Now, the only media company left for Netflix to beat is Disney.
But coming from behind to overtake media leaders (like Fox and Time Warner in 2017) is a Netflix original strategy -- and, at $150B, Disney’s empire is now in striking distance.
An underdog that never loses
When Netflix started in ’97, media leaders like DVD-giant Blockbuster were already popping the celebratory popcorn. But after introducing streaming in 2007, it took less than 3 years for the company to zip past its former rival.
Then, Netflix’s huge gamble on original content with House of Cards in 2013 paid off big. By 2016, ’Flix original hits like Orange is the New Black and Stranger Things were successful enough to catapult the company to 130 new countries simultaneously.
Netflix has no plans to chill
In the Netflix-Disney race, the momentum is in the ’Flix’s favor. In 2017, Netflix’s return grew by 64% -- while Disney’s and Fox’s both declined.
To maintain its lead, Disney plans to roll out its own streaming service in 2019. But before it can finalize that service, Disney will also have to duke it out with Comcast in an expensive battle for 21st Century Fox’s assets.
As these 2 old-school media heavyweights wrestle each other, Netflix is prepping to give ’em both the chair, spending $8B on original content and an additional $2B to market that content in 2018.
A toe-to-toe battle: Adidas and Skechers duke it out in the courts
Mere moments after a US appeals court slammed the gavel in favor of Adidas to affirm that Skechers knocked off the iconic Adidas Stan Smith tennis shoe (yeah, they’re identical), Skechers copied Adidas yet again.
This time -- by countersuing.
The new Skechers suit hopes to make a buck off a recent bribery scandal where Adidas executive Jim Gatto was indicted for gifting money to players’ families at Adidas-sponsored colleges Kansas and NC State to guarantee they re-signed with the brand as pros.
Does Skechers even compete with Adidas?
No, but they totally could -- according to Sketchers, at least.
While Adidas is ubiquitous among today’s athletic superstars, Skechers is more geared toward retired ballers -- with spokespeople like Joe Montana, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and, on a less relevant note, Kim Kardashian.
But Skechers believes it wouldn’t be spending all its time jogging around retired hoop-star heaven if Adidas hadn’t muddied the playing field of premiere high school and college athlete markets with dump trucks full of bribe money.
So, for its alleged troubles, their lawsuit seeks “recovery of Adidas’s ill-gotten profits.”
You can’t take the Skech out of Skechers
Bribery attempt aside, Adidas called the suit “frivolous and nonsensical” compared to Skechers unabashedly ripping off Adidas’ style for years.
In fact, the ruling that ordered Skechers to stop selling their Stan Smith knockoff granted them permission to continue selling their Cross Court shoe -- one that apes Adidas’ three stripes trademark.
Brands are shouting over each other for the #1 spot on your smart speaker
To buy groceries, Americans aren’t heading to the store or even the internet -- they’re just turning to Alexa.
Today, consumers purchase $2B of goods from their smart speakers, but in 4 years that number is expected to skyrocket to $40B.
As more and more homes gravitate toward smart, e-commerce enabled speakers, struggling consumer brands are fighting to ensure that Alexa knows about them so they can make their way into smart-pantries.
According to Alexa if you’re not first, you don’t exist
“Alexa, order some tea.” - Got it. Ordering Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime Tea.
Because Celestial Seasonings was first, but every other tea brand lost. See, with Alexa, unless you ask for a specific brand, the brands listed first in the Amazon store (or in your history) are added to the cart by default -- meaning that, unless brands are in good standing with Amazon’s algorithm, they might not make it to your cart.
As fewer shoppers buy in-store, big brands have taken a hit (this year Hershey has dropped 18%, General Mills 28%, and P&G 20%). Some brands with name recognition (like Kleenex or Cheetos) may benefit, but the vast majority will lose.
Apps are the new Super Bowl beer displays
Brands that used to pay for prime real estate in grocery stores now pay for Prime real estate on Alexa -- mostly by creating branded apps.
To keep their mayonnaise moving, Hellmann’s created an Alexa app called “Hellmann’s Best Recipes” that integrates with Amazon -- and ensures customers order the right mayo.
And last week, we broke something. In our Deals, Deals, Deals segment, we forget to share some sweet, sweet deals from our sponsors (never fear, we’re sharing them below so you don’t miss out on any of those choice coups).
We’re working hard to bring you more cool stuff as fast as possible, but we’re still a small team and when you’re redlining the rod, sometimes a screw comes loose.
We’re lucky to have advertisers who understand the struggle of being a scrappy startup and have stuck with us from our days as a 7-person outfit working out of a living room to now -- a 19-person outfit working out of a slightly larger living room.
Cheers to the ride-or-dies, and cheers to a great pit crew that’s constantly tuning our machine so we never break the same thing twice.
-- Kolby “Earnhardt Jr. Jr.” Hatch
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“Boy do I have a treat for you. This week, we’re benching TWO sets of the internet’s hottest deals. That’s right, you’re getting 2 hot and ready deal rundowns in 1 week: Monday and Wednesday. Our mistake is your sweet, sweet gain.”