Flexing the platform for good

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been touching base with many companies and individuals in the tech sector to understand how they are reacting to the current political environment.

Every company and community (of users, customers) is different, with its own sensitivities, priorities, and goals.  So it’s been really interesting to understand the very wide range of contexts and positions that companies are taking.  For instance, many tech companies have employee bases who skew left-leaning, but may also have user and customer communities that are very diverse (especially across red and blue states).  And even those companies who may skew left internally, they are generally sensitive not to alienate any Trump supporters on staff.  So it’s complicated.

As the white house continues to issues executive orders on issues like immigration that hit tech companies directly, and as issues like transgender rights — that are outside the pocketbook interests but may intersect with a company or community’s values — come up, it feels as though companies are going to continue to be under pressure to take public stands.

As this happens, one of the things I’ve been noticing is that some of the best ways to engage on issues are native to the platform — meaning, rather than simply signing a letter, there can be more creative, powerful, and ultimately more straightforward ways to get involved.

For example, our portfolio company Casetext, which builds a legal research tool that they sell to law firms, has offered free access to their platform for any lawyer working on civil liberties and civil rights issues:

What’s so beautiful about this is that it doesn’t involve taking a complicated political stand that runs the risk of alienating users or customers.  Instead, it is completely aligned with the core mission of the company and value proposition of the platform.  This reminiscent of Airbnb’s offer to host refugees for free, which is similarly elegant and platform-aligned.

Further, a risk in the current political environment is “outrage fatigue” — the rapid fire nature of policy today is exhausting, and individuals are feeling buffeted by the constant news onslaught.  So efforts like these are a nice counterforce, in the sense that they are proactive, constructive, and provide a longer-term basis of support for issues that matter.

I’m on the lookout for more opportunities like these.

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