Goldman Sachs’ new board member diversity rule misses the mark

Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon recently said the investment bank won’t take companies public that don’t have at least one board member from an underrepresented group. The main focus will be on female board members, he told CNBC, because companies that have gone public in the last four years with at least one woman on their board of directors performed “significantly better” than those without. The new rule is set to go into effect in the U.S. and Europe on July 1.

While the move is significant, what Solomon and Goldman are doing is not a novel idea, nor is it the best version of an outdated idea. It reminds me of something Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff said a few years ago at Dreamforce:

Overall, diversity is extremely important to us. Right now, this is the major issue [gesturing to the room/crowd]. I think when we feel like we’ve got this, you know, a little bit more under control, then I think that one is gonna surface as the major thing we’re focusing on. We’re not ignoring it, it’s something that we support, it’s something that we’re working on, but this is our major focus right now, is the women’s issue.

At the time, Benioff failed to address the complexity of diversity, which is what Goldman Sachs is doing. A “focus on women” does not take into account the intersectional identities many people have. And it’s those intersectional identities — whether it’s being a black woman, a trans man and so forth — that bring both intellectual and financial value to the table. By focusing on women, as Solomon said, Goldman Sachs is setting itself up to exclude women of color, as they are oftentimes left out of women-focused initiatives. This outdated and misguided strategy, where diversity equals more (white) women, needs to be squashed.

While this requirement will likely increase returns for Goldman Sachs and operate as a forcing function to boost diversity at startups, it needs to go further. By focusing on a broader definition of diversity, Goldman Sachs could be more inclusive and make its returns even greater.

How scooter charging startups want to make the industry more profitable

In an industry where unit economics are low, operators are seeking ways to improve margins while also maintaining fleet reliability and low prices for riders. Charging stations may be part of the solution. Already, there are a handful of companies, other than the operators themselves, looking to address this issue by deploying charging stations. The latest one that has come onto our radar is called Charge, which just launched charging hubs in Los Angeles for both bikes and scooters.

“Charge came from two investors of Lime who were noticing a trend in the several markets Lime was rolling out into,” Charge Global Head of Community Quemuel Arroyo told TechCrunch. “They saw the Achilles’ heel was the lack of charging infrastructure, and that infrastructure could allow scooters to be charged all day and would undo the litter and obstacles in the right of way that scooters have become in the world.”

Charge’s hubs, located on private properties, are designed to make it easier for gig workers to charge several scooters at once. Workers can reserve space at hubs for 24 hours at a time, with each secure bay supporting 18 scooters and each hub accommodating 72 scooters at a time. Once charged, workers can pick them up for redeployment.

“In addition to the solution of providing charge, we’re enhancing the experience for juicers,” Arroyo said.

Bird, Lime, Spin and other micromobility operators rely heavily on independent contractors to collect their scooters, charge them overnight and then redeploy them in the morning. That means scooter companies don’t have to use their own gas, labor and electricity in order to recharge these vehicles.

For gig workers who rely on charging scooters as a source of income, having a place to go other than their homes to charge a bunch of scooters at once is a major benefit. The catch, however, is that Charge costs $30 to charge while Bird and Lime, for example, offer a base pay of $3 to $5 for every charged and released scooter, but pay more depending on how difficult it is to locate.

Let’s use Spin, which pays $5 per scooter charged, as an example. If someone collects 15 scooters and brings them to a Charge hub, that worker will receive $75 from Spin for charging and redeploying the scooters, but will have to pay Charge $30. That’s a net profit of just $45.

“It’s not cheaper for them, but juicers say that instead of being able to charge 12 a night, they can charge 24 or more scooters per night,” Arroyo said. “That’s where we see an incremental increase for revenue for juicers themselves.”

Trying the calculation again with 24 scooters, the worker would pay Charge $30 and get $120 from Spin for a net profit of $90. That doesn’t seem all that great, but it could be depending on someone’s situation. Maybe one person only has enough space to charge five scooters at a time, so they would only be able to make $25 per night charging Spin scooters. If that same person can then charge 24 scooters a night, they still end up making a bit more by utilizing Charge. On top of that, they don’t have to crowd their living spaces and put themselves at risk of fire hazards.

Even though micromobility is a relatively young industry, there are already a number of startups specifically focused on charging micromobility vehicles. Collectively, they have raised more than $19 million in funding.

In addition to the hubs Charge has launched in Los Angeles, the company is also in talks with the city of Paris to deploy smart charging stations on sidewalks, which can accommodate up to 12 scooters.

“We’ve gotten an exclusive contract with the city, where the mayor says her streets are compromised and they can’t continue to allow scooter takeover of pedestrian space,” Arroyo said.

In this type of model, riders would be able to rent and return vehicles using the docks. This model is more similar to that of Swiftmile, which is working with the city of Austin to deploy 10 public-use sidewalk stations. That comes out to 80 parking slips per station. The company hopes to do this by the end of the year. With this type of model, charging companies charge operators based on usage.

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Swiftmile’s guerilla marketing at SXSW

Swiftmile, for example, charges the operators by the minute, but not to exceed a certain amount, depending on the market. Initially, the docking system will be open to all operators in order to show them how it works and how beneficial it can be. After a certain period of time, Swiftmile will only charge its customers’ scooters. Swiftmile has also partnered with Spin to create branded charging hubs exclusively for Spin scooters.

“Cities and local officials have expressed ample concern about scooter clutter, and Spin has led the way in solving that problem, with the goal of making micromobility a true and sustainable solution for people to get around,” Spin CEO and co-founder Derrick Ko told TechCrunch. “We’ve heavily invested in our charging and parking solution — Spin Hubs — and have expanded our offerings, such as incentivizing riders to park in designated drop zones or at a Hub.”

Perch Mobility is another competitor in this space, which says it’s “built by chargers for chargers.” Perch, which also operates in Los Angeles, offers three types of products: the pod, the tri-pod and the suite. All three offer unlimited charging for a fixed price, ranging from $25 per night for charging 14 scooters and $45 per night to charge 21 scooters at a time.

Using Spin again as an example, a worker paying $25 a night to charge 14 scooters would earn $70 from Spin, resulting in a net income of $45.

“We are focused on providing our users both sustainable incomes and community sustainability,” Perch Mobility CEO Tom Schreiber told TechCrunch. “We serve all parts of a community, including lower-income areas.”

Perch Mobility gets workers more money, but Charge says its systems are better for the environment, as they utilize lithium-ion green battery power.

“We’re confident we have a completely green, environmentally sound asset that really helps introduce a missing parameter to make micromobility more successful,” Arroyo said.

If I were a charger, I’d surely continue to care about the environment, but I’d probably be more interested in making the most money.

*This story has been updated to clarify Charge’s pricing structure.

Pinterest’s diversity report is missing some key data

Pinterest today released its latest diversity report, showing slight gains in representation of underrepresented minorities while also hitting its three hiring goals.

The company has long been recognized as an industry leader when it comes to promoting diversity and inclusion. It was one of the first tech companies to publicly release diversity data, and in 2015, became the first to set concrete hiring goals.

In its report today, Pinterest said it beat all of its hiring goals, which focus on female engineers and engineers from underrepresented groups, as well as business and product employees from underrepresented groups. Women now make up 25% of the company’s engineering team and underrepresented folks comprise 10% of the overall company— but while making progress across its three hiring goals, there was little change in overall representation of underrepresented minorities year over year.

Is Instacart’s wider rollout of Pickup an attempt to rely less on gig workers?

Earlier today, Instacart more widely rolled out its Pickup product, which enables customers to retrieve groceries directly from stores. The announcement comes just a day after Instacart shoppers unveiled their latest action to #DeleteInstacart, another step in the ongoing series of protests against the grocery startup’s wage and tipping practices.

Next Monday, Instacart workers are asking customers and the general public to tweet at Instacart, telling the company they will delete Instacart until the company meets their demands. They wrote:

We have fought for fair pay, but Instacart continues to lower it. This current protest only has one small demand — to raise the app’s default tip amount back to 10%. This is the same default setting Instacart had originally, but the company has repeatedly lowered it (as well as resorted to outright theft) to take it away from us. Combined with their recent bonus-cutting act of retaliation, workers are now bleeding out of both sides — our pay is too low AND the default tip amount is too low.

In a statement, Instacart said it’s tested a number of default tip options over the years, including a 10% default, no default and a 5% default. That has been in place for the last two years.

“Ultimately, we believe customers should have the choice to determine the tip amount they choose to give a shopper based on the experience they have,” an Instacart spokesperson said. “The default amount serves as a baseline for a shopper’s potential tip, and can be increased to any amount by the customer.”

In light of a new California gig worker protections law, which Instacart opposes, the greater push into pickup services could be a way for the company to beef up its argument that gig workers are free from the control of Instacart, and that its part-time workers* do the bulk of what Instacart says is its fastest-growing business.

Away co-founder Steph Korey, who allegedly fostered a toxic culture, is back

Away co-founder Steph Korey, the one who stepped down as CEO following reports of her role in creating a toxic culture, is back at the helm of the luggage startup, The New York Times reports.

The original plan was for Lululemon COO Stuart Haselden to take over today and, in a way, he will. Though, Haselden will now be co-CEO along with Korey. In an interview with the NYT, Korey said the board changed its mind after realizing it wasn’t the right move.

This all comes after The Verge’s explosive investigation into Away’s toxic workplace. Since then, the company has hired a lawyer, Elizabeth M. Locke, though has not filed a lawsuit. If Locke’s name sounds familiar, it may be because she’s the one who successfully sued Rolling Stone for defamation regarding an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia.

Following The Verge’s story, which described a workplace where Korey was known for berating employees via Slack, Korey tweeted last week that she was “making things right” at the company.

“I’m not proud of my behavior in those moments, and I’m sincerely sorry for what I said and how I said it,” she tweeted. “It was wrong, plain and simple.”

She added that she had also been working with an executive coach since those incidents the report highlighted. According to The Wall Street Journal, Away had been looking for Korey’s replacement since the spring.

I’ve reached out to Away and will update this story if I hear back.

The electric scooter wars of 2019

Throughout 2019, a number of mobility companies launched in additional markets, while many pulled out of areas that no longer served them. Meanwhile, transportation startups continued to raise more money even as they laid off employees, a sign that industry consolidation has officially begun.

In October, Bird raised a $275 million Series D round at a $2.5 billion valuation. Prior to that round, Bird raised more than $400 million in funding and reached a valuation of $2 billion last June. Lime also raised more money last year with a $310 million round in February led by Bain Capital. That round valued Lime at $2.4 billion.

Despite Bird’s treasure chest, it laid off up to 5% of its workforce in March, followed by cutting up to a dozen Scoot employees in December. Lyft, similarly, also laid off up to 50 people on its bikes and scooters team in March. So it’s no wonder why Spin employees took the steps to form a union; roughly 40 workers in charge of deployment, charging and repairs are now part of Teamsters Local 665.

Lime is laying off about 100 people and ceasing operations in 12 markets

Lime is hoping to achieve profitability this year by laying off about 14% of its workforce and ceasing operations in 12 markets, Axios first reported.

“Financial independence is our goal for 2020, and we are confident that Lime will be the first next-generation mobility company to reach profitability,” Lime CEO Brad Bao said in a statement to TechCrunch. “We are immensely grateful for our team members, riders, Juicers and cities who supported us, and we hope to reintroduce Lime back into these communities when the time is right.”

That means Lime is shutting down in Atlanta, Phoenix, San Diego, San Antonio, Linz, Bogotá, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Lima, Puerto Vallarta, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.

This is not the first time Lime has pulled out of markets. Over the span of about a year, Lime exited at least 11 markets while it entered 69 new ones. Between 2018 and 2019, competitor Bird pulled out of 38 markets and entered 36 new ones.

And while layoffs are not fun, Lime is not alone. Last year, both Bird and Lyft laid off employees working on micromobility. In March, Bird laid off up to 5% of its workforce and then cut up to a dozen Scoot employees in December. Lyft, similarly, also laid off up to 50 people on its bikes and scooters team in March.

Following Lime’s $310 million round in February led by Bain Capital, it hit a valuation of $2.4 billion.

How gig economy giants are trying to keep workers classified as independent contractors

Now that 2020 has started, Uber, DoorDash and Lyft are taking additional steps to undermine a new California law that would help more gig workers qualify as full-time employees. These moves entail product changes, lawsuits and ramped-up efforts to get a ballot initiative in front of voters that would roll back the new legislation.

Let’s start with the most recent development; yesterday, Uber sent a note to users announcing that it’s getting rid of upfront pricing in favor of estimated prices, unless they’re Uber Pool rides.

“Due to a new state law, we are making some changes to help ensure that Uber remains a dependable source of flexible work for California drivers,” Uber wrote in an email to customers. “These changes may take some getting used to, but our goal is to keep Uber available to as many qualified drivers as possible, without restricting the number of drivers who can work at a given time.”

Uber says it also has to discontinue rewards benefits like price protection on a route and flexible cancellations for trips in California. For drivers, that means they won’t see estimated earnings and drivers in surge arteas will no longer see fixed dollar amounts.

“AB5 threatens to restrict or eliminate opportunities for independent workers across a wide spectrum of industries, including trucking, freelance journalism and ridesharing,” an Uber spokesperson told TechCrunch. “As a result of AB5, we’ve made a number of product changes to preserve flexible work for tens of thousands of California drivers. At the same time, we’ve put forward a progressive package of new protections for drivers, including guaranteed minimum earnings and benefits, so voters can choose to truly improve flexible work in November.”

While Uber is essentially saying this is something the company must do, it’s worth noting that this is not some requirement of the new law; this is Uber’s attempt to beef up its case that it’s legally allowed to classify drivers as independent contractors. Since much of the rationale for determining whether or not a worker is an employee comes down to control, removing upfront fares and ditching penalties for rejecting fares could help Uber make a case that its drivers are operating on their own accord.

A year after being banned, Lora DiCarlo returns to CES with new sex toys

It’s amazing what can happen in just one year. After being banned from the Consumer Electronics Show last year, sex tech startup Lora DiCarlo is debuting two new sex toys on the show floor. Even more, both of these new products, Baci and Onda, have received an CES Honoree Innovation award.

All three of Lora DiCarlo’s devices use microrobotics technology to mimic human touch. While Osé is designed to help produce a blended orgasm, Onda is specific to the G-spot and Baci is specific to the clitoris.

These awards are thanks to a full 180 for the Consumer Technology Association, the organizers of CES. In July, CTA announced its plans to allow sex tech startups to participate and compete for awards as part of the health and wellness category on a one-year trial bias. That came after the CTA royally messed up with sex tech company Lora DiCarlo last year. The CTA revoked an innovation award from the company, which is developing a hands-free device that uses biomimicry and robotics to help women achieve a blended orgasm by simultaneously stimulating the G-spot and the clitoris. In May, CTA re-awarded the company and apologized.

As Lora DiCarlo founder Lora Haddock previously told me at TC Disrupt 2019, that snub did the company a big favor in terms of company awareness. Late last year, Lora DiCarlo started pre-sales for its first product, Osé. Already, the company has generated $3 million in revenue, with $1.5 million generated in just the first 36 hours of launch.

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SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 03: Lora DiCarlo Founder & CEO Lora Haddock speaks onstage during TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco 2019 at Moscone Convention Center on October 03, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for TechCrunch)

“Following last year’s incident having the Innovation Award rescinded and reinstated for Osé, we became change agents, initiating a critical public conversation about gender equity and creating a safer and more inclusive environment for all CES attendees,” Lora DiCarlo founder Lora Haddock said in a statement. “After learning more about our products and our mission, people have come to realize that sexual wellness is an important part of overall well-being. This year, we are at CES to continue to reshape how people think about sex tech. It’s not about the technology. It’s not about the orgasm. It’s about how tech-enhanced experiences can lead to a greater sense of wellness, including improved sleep, reduced stress, and better mood.”

My colleague Brian Heater will catch up with Haddock this week at CES to hear more, so be on the lookout for that.

Segway-Ninebot unveils a transportation pod and new kick scooter

Segway has unveiled a self-balancing vehicle that can go up to 24 mph. Called the S-Pod, it’s designed for sitting while navigating around enclosed campuses.

Details on how to actually use the vehicle are scarce, but Segway says the “S-Pod uses an adaptive center-of-gravity automatic control system to enable the passenger to easily adjust the speed by handling the knob to change the center of gravity in the pod.”

Segway-Ninebot also unveiled a kick scooter with a maximum speed of 12.4 mph at a $799 price tag. I haven’t tried out this scooter, but its light weight of 22 pounds is a plus, as is its alleged ability to handle 15% inclines without slowing down.

Though, the pricier and heavier Boosted electric scooter can handle hills with 25% inclines. In general, personal scooters can cost as low as $250 and up to $1,599.

Segway plans to unveil more details at the Consumer Electronics Show next week.