Benner on Tech: Diversity, Drones and Square Talks Deals

Katie Benner is a Bloomberg View columnist who writes about technology, innovation, and the cult and culture of Silicon Valley. She lives in San Francisco.
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People are Talking About…

The Silicon Valley law firm Fenwick & West released its "Corporate Governance Survey" and its "Gender Diversity Survey," which cover more than a decade of governance and leadership trends comparing companies in the S&P 100 and their counterparts in the Silicon Valley 150. The reports confirm lots of the stories that have come out of the tech industry lately. The use of dual-class stock, which can help ward off a hostile takeover or shareholder activist, doubled in 2013 and 2014 to 7.3 percent, up from 4 percent in the previous year.

According to the governance report, tech companies have more insiders as a percentage of their full boards than their counterparts in other industries - raising the age-old issue of how independent tech boards really are, and the quality of their oversight.

Gender statistics, unsurprisingly, remain out of whack with the rest of corporate America. About 21 percent of directors among S&P 100 companies are women, compared to only 10 percent for Silicon Valley companies.

Read the press release here, with links to the full reports.

** In semi-related diversity news, Microsoft’s general manager for global diversity, Gwen Houston, says that corporate leaders haven’t been held accountable on the topic.

But maybe there are things going on outside of the C-Suite that contribute to the lack of diversity.

From Model View Culture:

From the few interactions that I have had with black people concerning the events of Ferguson and Staten Island, I consistently get the vibe that most do not feel that the workplace is an appropriate venue for discussion regarding such potentially controversial topics…

There seems to be a belief that identifying and expressing solidarity with protesters may be detrimental to one’s career, especially considering that traditionally people in power in these companies are older rich white men. Too many blacks in tech believe that silence or neutrality will grant full membership and immunity in a system that has been nothing but violent to our community since this country’s inception. Silence and neutrality may make your non-black co-workers feel comfortable but it will by no means grant you the liberation that you seek.

And from music critic Bob Lefsetz:

One can argue strongly the sixties didn’t begin until 1966, when the antiwar movement took hold. It’s six years after the recession. How’s your job? How’s your lifestyle? Things improving for you?

Something is happening here and it’s sure not exactly clear.

But the truth is we haven’t seen protests like this since the sixties. Police abuse in Ferguson and NYC is emblematic of a police state wherein there’s a camera on every corner and you’re guilty until proven innocent.

Ventureland

Venture capitalists are now trying to invest in the next generation of great entrepreneurs even before they start their companies. Andy Weissman, a partner at Union Square Ventures, tells the New York Times: “You’re not going to win a deal as a V.C. just because you have capital… Money is a commodity.”

Box filed an amended S-1. Revenue hit $57 million during its most recent quarter. Losses came in at $45 million. The company spent $55 million on sales and marketing expenses. Sales growth is slowing and losses are holding steady. Pore over the numbers or read TechCrunch’s pretty good break down.

Square’s merchants had their first $100 million sales day.

Drone companies including Trimble Navigation, VDOS Global, Clayco and Woolpert received drone permits from the FAA. Now a total of 13 companies have received permits to operate drones for commercial operations.

Xiaomi has received a court injunction in India that says it can’t sell, advertise, manufacture or import devices that infringe on a set of patents that are in dispute. The Times of India says that it’s unclear whether it can no longer sell all of its smartphones in India.

Area 1, a cybersecurity firm founded by former-NSA employees Oren Falkowitz, Blake Darche and Phil Syme, just raised an $8 million series A round led by Ted Schlein at Kleiner Perkins.

Do you hate alarm clocks? Do you love being woken up by strangers calling you early in the morning? Then maybe Wakie, the “social alarm clock” is for you.

People and Personnel Moves

David Sacks, the co-founder of Yammer, has joined a human resources startup, Zenefits, as the company’s first chief operating officer, Bloomberg reports. Sacks will also invest in the software company, which was valued at $500 million in its latest funding round.

John Donahoe, eBay’s chief executive officer, is thinking about leaving eBay’s board and joining PayPal as a director when the company spins off the payments subsidiary next year, according to Re/Code’s Jason Del Ray. eBay CFO Bob Swan would take Donahoe’s place on eBay’s board.

Jack Dorsey sat down with the New York Times’ Farhad Manjoo presumably to set the record straight on Square.

First and foremost, we have never been in any talks about an acquisition with anybody for our nearly six years as an idea and over five years as a company. That has never occurred. Second, we have never had any plans of any substance about an I.P.O. We’ve had no plans to engage the market and investors, no plans on when. We believe right now that being a private company is best for us.

Companies

Apple…

More than 23,000 United Airlines flight attendants will all get an iPhone 6 that they’ll use to handle payments, store manuals, and, I bet, play a few games.

eBay may cut up to 3,000 jobs, or 10 percent of its workforce, after it completes the split with PayPal, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Google…

The search giant will shut down Google News in Spain on December 16 thanks to new legislation that would require the service to pay Spanish publications when their content appeared in a new search.

Microsoft…

**Mobile app developers take note, the company just acquired Hockey App.

** You can now use bitcoin to buy stuff on Xbox and in the Windows store.

Netflix…

The company is trying to convince cable and satellite operators to include its streaming app in set top boxes, GigaOm reports.

Cybercrime Never Sleeps

Sony is fighting crime with, well, a DDoS attack launched against websites hosting the data that the movie studio lost in the disastrous Guardians of Peace cyberattack, Re/code reports.

New malware that targets important figures like executives, politicians and diplomats and can record phone calls was discovered by Blue Coat Labs.

Stealth Chinese apps are gathering information on users, writes Steve Nellis at The Information.

News and Notes 

Web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee says that Internet access should be considered a human right, the BBC reports. A recent report from the World Wide Web Foundation says that online censorship is increasing and the web is becoming less free and access to information online is becoming more unequal.

Kevin Hart thought that Sony should pay up for his “social media presence.” Studio executives like Clint Culpepper thought that tweets from Hart to promote his work were part of what they bought when they gave him $3 million to make a movie. Never email anything you actually think. Especially not thoughts on which movies the president might like.

Smartphone driver’s licenses are coming to Iowa, the Des Moines Register reports.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the editor on this story:
Timothy L. O'Brien at tobrien46@bloomberg.net