Transparent Talk About a Tough Layoff


Photo of unemployment line: Getty Images

Today’s Top Stories
 — Telling the Truth About a Layoff: Buffer’s CEO bites the bullet and shares the whole story.
 — Airbnb Needs a Policy Update to Fight Racism: The company’s class-action waiver may make it harder for customers to get justice.
 — New York Legislators 1. Airbnb 0: It’s what happens when your business model is against the law.
 — A Cryptoheist Has Big Repercussions: A pair of virtual currencies go tumbling.
 — Why Young Americans Are Losing Faith in Capitalism: It’s how it’s practiced.

Telling the Truth About a Layoff
No one enjoys being part of a layoff. It’s hard to soften the pain of being let go, but it’s welcome and still reasonably novel when a company is open and straightforward about what’s going on. Buffer founder and CEO Joel Gascoigne has published Tough News: We’ve Made 10 Layoffs. How We Got Here, the Financial Details and How We’re Moving Forward, a long and wrenching blog post detailing the overall problem (Buffer grew too big too fast), what decisions led to the problem, how executives decided who would be let go, and the specific financial and organizational steps they’re taking to dig out of their mess. Cynics may point out that despite all the humility and self-lacerations, Gascoigne still has his job. But if these moves lead to a turnaround, Buffer will serve as a model of how to handle the news when things are bad.

Airbnb Needs a Policy Update to Fight Racism
Here’s the more common way companies treat transparency, unfortunately. Although Airbnb says it is committed to eliminating racism from its service, the company’s class-action waiver doesn’t let people use the service unless they agree not to sue Airbnb (New York Times). And without that possibility, discrimination complaints are less likely to be addressed. The class-action waiver, though common, was not added in Airbnb’s terms of service to ward off discrimination claims, but in practice that is what is happening. The company says it will announce later this month additional steps it’s taking to fight discrimination. We’ll see if the policy will still include giving up the right to sue.

New York Legislators 1. Airbnb 0.
And that’s not the only problem Airbnb is facing. On Friday, despite alarming last-minute tweets from everyone from Fred Wilson to Reid Hoffman to Ashton Kutcher, legislators in both houses of the New York Legislature passed a bill that will make it harder for Airbnb to do business in the Empire State. If Governor Cuomo signs the bill into law, many if not most Airbnb listings, which violate existing rules against rentals for less than 30 days, would be met with steep fines up to $7,500 (Fortune). This is a clear example of incumbent actors protecting themselves against innovation, but for now at least those actors have the law on their side. “The bill says: You can’t advertise an illegal activity,” said one legislator. “I don’t know what the big confusion is.” We’re guessing she soon will.

A Cryptoheist Has Big Repercussions
Worried about the safety of your money in the blockchain? You should be. Last last week, Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO), which traffics in ether, a cryptocurrency competitor to bitcoin, lost $79 million in a heist (Quartz). As of late Sunday night, it was still unclear how it happened. What was clear immediately, though, was that the price of ether went tumbling and bitcoin followed suit. Also on Sunday, it appears as if a second, smaller proof-of-concept heist took place (NewsBTC). As Bloomberg’s Matt Levine puts it, “The bright lines and sharp edges have now sliced the DAO’s techno-utopians, or at least their wallets, apart.”

Why Young Americans Are Losing Faith in Capitalism
It’s become a truism that young Americans have turned away from capitalism, but wags rarely get beyond the assertion and take a crack at why. In Foreign Policy, Sarah Kendzior looks at a recent Harvard study and lays out a scenario: 15 years of wars, a global economic collapse followed by the most uncertain of recoveries, wage stagnation, massive student debt. Add that all together, Kendzior argues, and you have a generation dubious about the underpinnings of the economy. But that doesn’t mean they’re picking up socialism as an alternative. The director of the Harvard poll says it’s not capitalism as a concept that’s getting the thumbs-down: “The way in which capitalism is practiced today, in the minds of young people — that’s what they’re rejecting.”

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