Posts Tagged ‘breaks’
Via: Techie News
Source: Dutch DPA
Via: Techie News
Source: Dutch DPA
San Francisco asked tech companies to help local community groups in exchange for tax breaks. 21Tech’s charities, however, look an awful lot like startups.
Paul Sakuma / Via AP
Technology consulting company 21Tech is one of the six San Francisco tech companies earning 1.5% payroll tax breaks on new hires over the next six years in exchange for “giving back” to the community. The idea: to bring more tech companies to the city, but to make sure the massive influx of new, monied residents doesn’t come at the expense of existing neighborhood residents — a phenomenon recently described as “hyper gentrification.”
While most of the companies have focused on schools, nonprofits, and homeless shelters, 21Tech has taken a different approach: assisting two startups with getting bids on government contracts.
21Tech first proposed its plan to the city as follows: It would help small local businesses register as minority- and women-owned small businesses, which would give them priority status for getting discounted government contracts. 21Tech would help them navigate the whole process, including bidding for the government deals. The city didn't specify what kind of businesses they had to be, only that they somehow benefit the Mid-Market area.
The city did not outright dismiss the concept. “We didn't specify the sort of business,” Bill Barnes, the city administrator overseeing the tax break process, told BuzzFeed. “I know in Mid-Market, a lot of individual sole proprietors that are struggling with rent are PR or marketing or startups. That is the business mix that exists in the area.”
Whether these count as neighborhood businesses is a matter of technicality. So is the question of whether they qualify as minority-owned or women-owned businesses, or whether they really need much help in the first place. The question of whether their existence and success helps the neighborhood, however, is not. It should be possible to determine if Regroup, a mass messaging platform, and DelC2, a business and international transaction consulting group, have any true relation with and impact on the Mid-Market neighborhood. There is scant evidence that they do.
DelC2, according to their website, is an “international network of professionals in the United States and Spain” that helps clients “develop global strategies” by providing “business and international transactions solutions.”
Information about the company itself is limited. It has no records on LexisNexis. According to city records, its address is the tony Marina district. Its website lists a Google Voice number and a list of advisors. 21Tech helped the company register as a small, women-owned local business by listing one of those advisors as the owner.
DelC2 did not respond to BuzzFeed's emails or phone calls. But one of the advisors listed on the company's site told BuzzFeed he has no relationship with the company beyond a single conference call. He subsequently got his name removed from the website.
The other company, Regroup, isn't located in the Mid-Market area either. It is registered at a Mission District address, four blocks from Zuckerberg's $ 10 million pied-à-terre. The CEO, Joe DiPasquale, splits his time between New York and San Francisco.
DiPasquale founded Regroup while getting his MBA at Stanford. The platform, which allows companies, universities, and local governments to send simultaneous mass messages via email, text, social media, and voice, started as a service for Stanford students.
In 2008, DiPasquale raised an initial $ 2 million round of funding, mostly from prominent angel investing groups. He himself is an angel investor as well as a venture investor at an early stage and structured growth capital firm, and has worked in investment banking at Deutsche and done strategy consulting for Bain, IBM, and McKinsey.
At a recent City Hall meeting, 21Tech introduced DiPasquale to the community board as the poster boy of their work helping the local community.
When asked about the two companies' relationship, DiPasquale told the board that he met the 21Tech CEO several years ago at a Silicon Valley event, long before the tax breaks were conceived.
Questions were raised as to whether Regroup qualified as a minority-owned business. 21Tech argued that it did, because the CEO is gay.
In its October six-month progress report, 21Tech reports that it has registered Regroup as a small, locally owned business. According to city records, it has not.
Reached by BuzzFeed, DiPasquale said he didn't know much about how the tax break program worked. He seemed genuinely concerned: He couldn't remember the name of the committee he spoke before at City Hall but also seemed anxious to get off the phone. He has not responded to follow-up inquiries. Whether he knew he was helping 21Tech get tax breaks remains unclear.
21Tech did not respond to multiple inquires from BuzzFeed.
According to its six-month report to the city, 21Tech has helped the community in other ways, including taking an online pledge to keep streets clean, hiring a summer intern from San Francisco State University, telling staff about a local street fair with emails and a poster in the break room, posting jobs on the city website, going to local restaurants — a list on which it included Subway and Starbucks — and having the local Bike Coalition talk to employees about biking over lunch.
Barnes said he and the community advisory board are in the process of reviewing 21Tech's case.
He and the community board have asked 21Tech for additional information. The company will appear before the board next month to answer this and other questions about its six-month progress report.
“The intent is good, but they haven't verified the deliverables,” he said. “Our big focus is how are these benefits serving the geographic area.”
This Week On The TC Gadgets Podcast: Steam News Breaks While We Record, Surface Sequels And Adobe Gets Mighty
A rare treat this week as you can hear the TechCrunch team react to breaking gadget news (the Steam Controller, to be specific) live as it unfolds. It’s like being inside our brains without the echoes and cobwebs. We also cover the big Surface 2 reveal, Steam OS, the Steam Box announcements, Adobe’s Mighty hardware and BlackBerry’s very bad quarter.
This week, we have a very special episode of the Gadgets Podcast with a ragtag team of lovable characters, including myself – Darrell Etherington – Chris Velazco and special guests Frederic Lardinois and TCTV Producer Steve Long, so you just know it’s going to be the heartwarming comeback story of a lifetime.
We invite you to enjoy our weekly podcasts every Friday at 3 p.m. Eastern and noon Pacific. And feel free to check out the TechCrunch Gadgets Flipboard magazine right here, as well as the TechCrunch Droidcast.
Intro Music by Rick Barr.
We hope you aren’t depending on your Chromecast for local media playback. If you are, the device has just become a paperweight — temporarily, at least. Google’s most recent Chromecast update disables playback from external video sources, breaking third-party apps like AllCast and Fling that use the code for local-only streaming. Developer Leon Nicholls is hopeful that functionality will return when the official Cast SDK is ready for public apps, although we wouldn’t count on it. As Android Central notes, Google isn’t promising local media support on the Chromecast; for now, it’s focused on the cloud.
It’s been a crazy 36 days since Plug started its Kickstarter campaign. First, Plug is now called Lima due to some trademark issues. But everything else stays the same. The $ 69 adapter will seamlessly transform your USB drives into a personal Dropbox for all your devices. And now it will support Chromecast.
As a reminder, here’s how Lima works: you plug your router into the little adapter, as well as one or multiple USB drives. After that, you launch the app on your computer and then everything will go through Lima thanks to a deep filesystem integration. All your files will be moved to those drives and available on all your devices, at home or away. The only limit of this Dropbox alternative is the amount of storage space you have on your USB drives.
Lima is actually a small Linux-based machine that creates a VPN network between your devices and the adapter. The overall experience feels a lot like browsing and using your Dropbox files, except that you can choose to cache some folders on your device or not — it works like the offline playlist button in Spotify. Finally, you don’t have to pay a subscription fee and you own your files since they are not stored in an Amazon S3 data center. Lima expects to deliver its adapters in December.
For its new Google Chromecast feature, the company takes advantage of the SDK to stream media content to your TV using your phone or tablet. Music, photos and even videos should all work. For a little bit more than $ 100 ($ 69 + $ 35), you can stream everything that is on your computer from your sofa.
“We automatically re-encode all the videos that are stored on Lima,” co-founder and CEO Séverin Marcombes tells me. “An h.264 version of each video will be kept in Lima’s cache.”
That step was already necessary to allow Lima users to watch their videos on their phones and tablets — especially for iOS devices that can really only stream h.264 videos. The team just took it one step further by building Chromecast support into the iOS and Android apps.
Even more impressive than the device itself is the Kickstarter campaign. Back in July I wrote: “the Kickstarter campaign just started but its goal is pretty low. At $ 69,000, the Paris-based team will certainly attract a thousand backers to reach its goal.” It turns out that this sentence diminishes what the team has accomplished.
In just 12 hours, Lima managed to shatter its $ 69,000 goal. In fact, with $ 858,000 and 24 days to go, the campaign is now the 10th most-funded Kickstarter campaign in the technology category. In this list, there are pretty well-known projects, such as Form1 and Oculus Rift. The question on everyone’s mind now is whether the campaign will break the $ 1 million barrier.
Scanadu, the health startup aiming to arm consumers with a smartphone accessory capable of reading vital signs on their body, has taken another step forward in making its “medical tricorder” a reality. Having met its $ 100,000 crowdfunding goal on Indiegogo in one day, the Scanadu Scout went on to become the website’s most funded project ever, ending with $ 1,664,574 in total funding from 8,500 backers. While Canonical’s Ubuntu Edge smartphone looks set to smash that record, the campaign is some way off its $ 32 million target.
Spotify is set to receive San Francisco’s so-called “Twitter tax breaks” in exchange for “giving back” to the community. Meanwhile, the city has shut down the means to keep companies accountable.
A mural on the Warfield building, Spotify's new home, depicts the Mid-Market street life.
Spotify, the streaming music company, is moving its San Francisco offices to the city’s Mid-Market tax haven, where it can qualify for the city's controversial “Twitter tax breaks.”
Any company with offices in the neighborhood that has over $ 1 million in annual payroll expenses is eligible for tax exemptions: 1.5% on payroll taxes on new hires for six years. Currently, Spotify's 15 San Francisco employees are in a Financial District office — but their new three-floor digs in the Warfield building, home to San Francisco's famous music venue, has space for around 90 employees.
Spotify's tax break wouldn't go into effect immediately: The application for eligibility is Nov. 1. But Spotify has already begun conversations with the city.
Spotify, like the other seven companies that get the breaks, would have to sign a Community Benefit Agreement (CBA), outlining how they will “give back” to the community. Other companies' CBAs have included a combination of volunteering, charitable donations, and in Twitter's case, $ 60,000 in promoted tweets. “The thing we're most excited about is working within the community artist groups and helping with workforce development,” says Spotify. “We have had discussions primarily with the city looking at introductions to the specific groups.”
But making sure that companies keep their word to “give back” is a complicated process. The city designated the City Administrator Office to oversee the CBA process, but the oversight system has broken down.
A major part of the review process is an 11-member Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC), which has been providing input to the companies about specific things the community needs, ways the companies can help, and what is and is not working. For example, many companies prefer one-day large volunteer events, which are easier to organize and dispense with service pledges quickly, but only organizations like soup kitchens are equipped to handle that volume of volunteers. The committee holds public meetings, coordinated by the city, as well as one-on-one sessions with the companies.
The CAC has no formal decision-making powers — that is up to the City Administrator Office — but they play a key, and highly symbolic, role in making sure the companies live up to the promises they made to the city in exchange for major tax relief.
Last month, with only hours' notice before the May meeting, the CAC was temporarily disabled. It was claimed that the four members were dismissed due to too many unexcused absences. Three other seats were already vacant — one due to maternity leave, another because of a conflict of interest (his organization received a grant from Twitter), and another that was never filled — leaving the committee without a quorum.
“There is now no public forum to discuss what is working what isn't working,” says CAC member Mara Blitzer. “There is no way for the companies to be accountable to community. That is something we have asked for from the start. The challenge will be community transparency.”
This leaves SF's tax haven beneficiaries without real public oversight, and at a crucial time: The six companies handed in their first progress reports last Friday, and the city won't yet publicly release their contents. According to Bill Barnes in the City Administrator Office, the city is moving forward anyway, and even speeding up the review process.
“The public wants to provide input in design of the reporting document, but ultimately [reviews of the CBAs] are the city administration's decision,” says Barnes. For now, citizens can mail in written suggestions.
The effective dismantling of the CAC is illustrative of the disorganization and miscommunication that has rifled San Francisco's most recent tech courtship since the start. “The city administration was open to community input but was not organized in how to received it,” says Dina Hilliard, former CAC committee chair, now on maternity leave. “It isn't their fault,” she adds, however. “They don't have the resources.”
Often meetings were scheduled and canceled extremely last-minute, say members of the CAC. They reported having difficulty obtaining meeting minutes and didn't know how to get an absence excused, which ultimately resulted in removals.
The legislation that created the CBA process is also questionable. It was created by a former city administration staffer and doesn't reflect the current process. For example, originally the CAC would meet quarterly, so missing four meetings meant missing all of them. Over the past 12 months, the CAC has met 15 times, making the absentee process much stricter, in effect. “When [my office] was alerted of the rule, we weren't taking attendance on a regular basis,” says Barnes, who adds he was “frustrated” by the process.
“I don't think it was nefarious,” says Blitzer. “But [the city] got caught not upholding the rules and instead of having moment of working through it, they took the most extreme response they could.”
Since the CAC's dissolution, the city has appointed a new staffer to work part-time with the Mid-Market group.
The CAC has already provided four months of feedback to the city and companies about the CBA progress. “It is not like the community has had no input,” says Hilliard. “It is really disappointing that we will miss out on community input on the specifics of the CBAs.”
Before the CAC was disabled, its members were urging the city to ask the companies for specific quantitative details in the progress report instead of using a more basic reporting form. The city has since rejected the idea.
The city is accepting new CAC applicants. The timing of the appointing process is not finalized, but the citizen committee should be up and running in time for the mid-year CBA approval.
Ironically, complaints about the unexcused absences came from members of the community who want more committed representatives. Now they have none.
H/T: Central City Extra community newspaper.
When the lead designers of the cult struck Planescape: Torment couldn’t get the rights they had to make a sequel, they decided to make the following finest thing. A spiritual successor called Torment: Tides of Numenera finished a Kickstarter project today, ending with even more cash pledged than for any various other video game to date. With $ 4,188,927 in financing, developer inXile Home entertainment more than quadrupled its required objective to produce the isometric RPG. It’s the business’s second appeal to Kickstarter. The first project, nearly a year ago, funded the RPG Wasteland 2, which is still in development.
Like Planescape: Torment, the brand-new game is based off of a fantasy setting for a tabletop RPG, and it takes a lot of cues from the …
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When the lead designers of the cult hit Planescape: Torment couldn’t acquire the rights they needed to make a sequel, they decided to make the next best thing. A spiritual successor called Torment: Tides of Numenera finished a Kickstarter campaign this week, ending with more money pledged than for any other video game to date. With $ 4,188,927 in funding, developer inXile Entertainment more than quadrupled its required goal to produce the isometric RPG. It’s the company’s second appeal to Kickstarter. The first campaign, nearly a year ago, funded the RPG Wasteland 2, which is still in development.
Like Planescape: Torment, the new game is based off of a fantasy setting for a tabletop RPG, and it takes a lot of cues from the…
Incoming search terms: