Term Sheet -- Friday, September 14
Good morning, Term Sheet readers.
THE DAY ONE FUND: Amazon chief Jeff Bezos and his wife are forming a new $2 billion charitable fund, focused on fighting homelessness and providing quality education. There’s also a Day 1 Academies Fund that will launch a network of free, Montessori-inspired schools in low-income neighborhoods. “We’ll use the same set of principles that have driven Amazon,” wrote Bezos of the preschool management. Read more.
BORING IS GOOD? I can’t stop thinking about this NYT story by Farhad Manjoo, in which he explores the notion that in 2018, CEOs strive to be boring. “When it comes to tech C.E.O.s, boring is the new black,” he writes. “Under the glare of global scrutiny, the daring, win-at-all-costs ethos that defined so much of the tech industry in the last couple of decades has been undergoing a thorough metamorphosis.”
That metamorphosis, the article claims, is that CEOs are becoming more about “functional competence over hypey salesmanship.” Manjoo adds, “It has become crucial to get a leader who doesn’t speak out of turn.”
What helped contribute to this phenomenon? He proposes that the tech press has gotten tougher, so even one tiny misstep can be ruinous. Manjoo notes that Larry Page has become a recluse and Sundar Pichai declined to appear at last week’s hearings. I fail to see why those are smart moves, though.
Here’s the thing — turning inward out of fear that you will be picked apart in the media is the wrong reaction. The right reaction is — don’t be a jerk to your employees, don’t tolerate inappropriate behavior within your organization, and communicate with your customers. That’s not “boring” … that’s called running a good business.
I’m curious to hear from the CEOs out there. Do you strive to be less daring and more of an “underestimated visionary” because the days of the daring CEO are over? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WEEKEND READS: Here’s your dose of interesting business articles for the weekend.
— ’Memo to the Silicon Valley boys’ club: Arlan Hamilton has no time for your BS:’ This month’s Fast Company cover story is on Arlan Hamilton, the founder of Backstage Capital. Backstage is a fund that invests in companies founded by underrepresented entrepreneurs, including women, people of color, LGBTQ company founders, or any combination of the three. In the article, Hamilton says, “I definitely am aware that the majority of my [investors] are older white men who are rich, and who will get richer by my work and the work of others. But right now the focus should be on getting that money to the founders so that they themselves can have massive exits.” Read the full feature here.
— ’The startup world’s cuddly, cutthroat battle to walk your dog:’ Well, this one is terrifying. Companies like Wag and Rover are cashing in on our obsession with pets — and they’re not without controversy. Both companies are digital marketplaces where pet owners can find dog walkers, pet sitters, and boarders via an app, with most services ranging from about $20 to $50. But much like companies that operate in the gig economy, they don’t offer coverage for their workers, who operate as independent contractors. A Wag walker named Lexi asked about accident coverage for workers. “I understand they can’t give us health insurance,” she says, “but it didn’t feel good that not only would the company not protect the walkers on the job, I was actually laughed at for asking.” Read the full story here.
— Oh, and there’s also a wild profile on Paul McCartney, because it’s Friday, and honestly, because why not?
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