Tag Archive: California


Twitterglobe-feature

According to sources close to the situation, Twitter is planning on waiting until after its IPO – which is set to take place next week – to name its first woman to its board.

The move makes some level of sense, mostly because it would be difficult to have any new board member join the San Francisco-based social microblogging company now, given that that person would have to sign off on the public offering with little knowledge of its details.

Sources also added that while many are expecting Twitter to seek out a female director with media or tech experience – and there are many laudable candidates in both those areas – the company’s execs, especially CEO Dick Costolo, believe that one with international expertise is more important.

The reason is clear – Twitter is a global player, and runs into thorny issues all over the world around the proliferation of its open service. You might imagine that, in the future, as it grows, the company will face even more international conundrums that it will need a lot of mental heavy lifting to work out.

While the board had put former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the top of its overall list, she has not been contacted about joining as a director. She’s also likely to not be available, either, especially given that she is expected to run for the Democratic nomination for president of the United States in the 2016 election.

(Sorry, but she’s busy, boys! While Twitter chairman and co-founder Jack Dorsey will be bummed, most there actually considered her a very long shot.)

The number of women with international experience is also long. But if I were to bet on whom Twitter is considering for its top picks, I would name only two: Condoleezza Rice and Madeleine Albright.

Albright, among her many diplomatic roles, was the first woman to become the Secretary of State, named in the Clinton administration. She is now a professor of international relations at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service (disclosure: I went there), and is also chairman of the Albright Stonebridge Group, a global strategy firm.

Also – keep up, Peter Fenton! – she is fluent in French, Russian, Czech, Polish and Serbo-Croatian, serves on important boards such as the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Policy Board, and has written five books.

In addition – and this is just from my several encounters with her over the years – Albright takes no guff.

Neither does Rice, who also has some big cred in her corner. Along with other big government posts, she also served as Secretary of State under former President George W. Bush.

Rice also has some Silicon Valley links, both as a top administrator and professor at Stanford University, and her recent relationship with Khosla Ventures.

The VC firm signed a deal late last year with RiceHadleyGates, the international consulting firm that Rice runs, to “bring global and domestic insight to Khosla’s portfolio companies, helping them achieve their strategic goals in industries such as technology, energy, security and healthcare.”

No matter their gender – although that would also be a plus – either Rice or Albright would certainly be an asset for Twitter. The company has attracted not-undeserved scrutiny over not having a woman – or any diversity at all, really – on its board.

That board now includes: Former Netscape CFO and investor Peter Currie; former News Corp COO and Hollywood mogul Peter Chernin; Silicon Valley venture capitalist Peter Fenton, of Benchmark Capital; former DoubleClick CEO David Rosenblatt; Jack Dorsey (also CEO and founder of hot payments startup Square); co-founder and serial entrepreneur Evan Williams (now working on an innovative new publishing platform called Medium); and CEO Dick Costolo, who has already attracted controversy over the issue.

The lack of a woman on the board of a company is particularly glaring, given that numerous studies show that more women use Twitter than men, and that it is aiming to be a global company that represents, well, all of humanity.

Jimmy Pitaro

Jimmy Pitaro

Earlier today, Disney said what is likely not much of a shock to anyone – that it was handing over the reins of its interactive division to one of its two co-presidents, Jimmy Pitaro.

That means John Pleasants, who was the other co-president and was located in Silicon Valley, is leaving the kingdom, merging the games and media units under one leader in Los Angeles. Pleasants, as happens in these kinds of things, will be a strategic consultant to Disney Interactive.

The reorganization of the unit comes three years after Pitaro, a former Yahoo media exec, and Pleasants, who came to Disney via its acquisition of Playdom, were paired. Disney Interactive recently reported its second quarterly profit of $16 million on sales of $396 million, in what has been an uphill effort over the past decade for the entertainment giant.

Under the regime of former CEO Michael Eisner – many digital moons ago and which I covered since I am so dang old – Disney bought search engine Infoseek and tried to create a portal called Go.com. That failed, and was one of many efforts to define the media company’s Web goals. More recently, in 2008, Disney gathered most of its Internet properties under Steve Wadsworth.

Then came the pairing of Pitaro and Pleasants. And now, just Pitaro.

Disney said it “will move forward with a singular strategy for driving revenue and advertising across key platforms and franchises,” such as Disney Infinity – a big Pleasants project – and Club Penguin.

Hewlett Packard CEO who supported California’s Proposition 8 when running for governor switches to back same-sex unions

The Hewlett Packard CEO Meg Whitman, who supported a California law that barred same-sex unions when she ran for governor in the state, explained on Tuesday that she had changed her mind after being persuaded that gay marriage would strengthen society rather than weaken it.

Whitman is among scores of high-profile Republicans, including top advisors to George W Bush, former governors and members of Congress, who have signed a legal brief which is to be filed this week to the supreme court, in support of a lawsuit seeking to strike down Proposition 8, the controversial Californian ballot initiative on same sex marriage.

Whitman said her decision to switch her stance on the issue came about “after careful review and reflection” in the three years since she ran for governor. “Like several others who have either sought or held public office, including president Obama, I have changed my mind on this issue,” Whitman said.

In a blogpost published on Tuesday, she quoted David Cameron, the British prime minister, as among those who helped her to alter her thinking on the issue. She wrote: “In reviewing the amicus brief before deciding to put my signature on it, one passage struck an immediate chord with me. In explaining his own support for same-sex marriage, British prime minister David Cameron once said: ‘Society is stronger when we make vows to each other and support each other. So I don’t support gay marriage despite being a conservative. I support gay marriage because I am a conservative.'”

Whitman said that the amicus, or “friend of the court”, brief argues that the “oft-cited claims” that marriage between same-sex couples will hurt traditional marriage and be detrimental to children have been “rejected by social science”. It argues that same-sex marriage promotes family values by allowing children to grow up in stable two-parent homes and thus advances conservative values of limited government and individual freedom.

The American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), the sponsor of the federal constitutional challenge to Proposition 8, said it had worked hard to “strip the partisan veil” from marriage equality. It assembled a bipartisan legal team, led by Theodore B Olson, who was US solicitor general under George W Bush, to build up a case to demonstrate that Proposition 8 violates the US constitution by denying millions of people their fundamental right to marry and their right to equal protection of the laws.

Adam Umhoefer, the AFER’s executive director, said: “The support for marriage equality demonstrated by this amicus brief represents a microcosm of what we see happening all across the country.

“Americans are united behind the concepts of freedom, dignity and strong families. The conservative movement toward the freedom to marry is what we like to call the ‘Ted Olson effect’. We value the support of our conservative colleagues and welcome their voices to the growing majority of Americans who stand for marriage equality.”

Legal analysts told the New York Times, which first reported news of the Republican-supported legal brief, that the document had the power to affect conservative judges, as much for the legal arguments within it. The signers include a list of Republican officials and influential thinkers, many of whom are not normally associated with gay rights and some of whom, like Whitman and Jon Huntsman, the former Utah governor who opposed gay marriage during his 2012 presidential election campaign, have altered their thinking.

Among the names are representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, of Florida, and Richard Hanna of New York. Stephen Hadley, a Bush national security adviser, James B Comey, a top Bush Justice Department official, and David A Stickman, president Ronald Reagan’s first budget director, also signed.

Deborah Pryce, a former member of the House Republican leadership from Ohio, now retired, said on Monday: “Like a lot of my country, my views have evolved on this from the first day I set foot in Congress. I just think its the just the right thing and I think it’s on solid legal footing too.”

Huntsman announced his change of heart in an article for The American Conservative entitled Marriage Equality is a Conservative Cause.

Ken Mehlman, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee who came out as gay a few years ago, is on the board of AFER and was a key figure in gathering signatures. He told the New York Times: “We are trying to say to the court that we are judicial and political conservatives and it is consistent with out values and philosophy for you to overturn Proposition 8.”

The supreme court will hear oral argument in Perry vs Hollingsworth on 26 March.

people-Chris-Dixon

In mid-November, longtime entrepreneur, active angel investor, iconoclastic blogger and hardcore New Yorker Chris Dixon told the tech world something it least expected — that he had taken a job as a venture capitalist at one of Silicon Valley’s most powerful firms, Andreessen Horowitz.

Well, he’s arrived finally, and moved himself to San Francisco and his office to Sand Hill Road for real — even though he is still keeping his apartment back East.

It’s been a long and winding road to here for Dixon, who was CEO and co-founder of SiteAdvisor, which was acquired by McAfee, as well as recommendations engine Hunch, which was bought by eBay a year ago.

He is one of the founding members of Founder Collective, an East Coast-based seed-stage venture firm run by entrepreneurs, making a lot of investments in companies such as Skype, Invite Media and OMGPOP. Previously, he programmed financial algorithms at a high-speed options trading firm, and has also worked at Bessemer Venture Partners.

And, perhaps most intriguingly, Dixon has also blogged a lot about what needs fixing in the VC industry (a lot, according to him).

Yesterday, I motored the Mazda 5 down to Andreessen Horowitz’s office to talk about the move with the always clever Dixon, who is hoping to focus on a range of consumer-focused investments, and perhaps cast his freshly monied net more widely.

Here’s the video of the interview:

[ See post to watch video ]

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