Square files to go public

Square filed an initial public offering today.
The payments company, which was co-founded by Jack Dorsey and Jim McKelvey in 2009, has been rumored to be planing a public offering for some time. Now it has filed its S-1 with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.
Square will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange with the “SQ” symbol. The NYSE became popular among tech companies looking to go public in 2013, after Nasdaq was widely perceived to have bungled Facebook’s public offering.
Dorsey serves as the company’s chief executive, and was also recently named the full-time CEO at Twitter, the other company he co-founded. Interestingly, Square mentions in the S-1 filling that Dorsey’s split attention between the two companies could be a risk factor.
Dorsey for his part does, however, explain his commitment to Square in a letter included in the filing:

I believe so much in the potential of this company to drive positive impact in my lifetime that over the past two years I have given over 15 million shares, or 20% of my own equity, back to both Square and the Start Small Foundation, a new organization I created to meaningfully invest in the folks who inspire us: artists, musicians, and local businesses, with a special focus on underserved communities around the world. The shares being made available for the directed share program in this offering are being sold by the Start Small Foundation, giving Square customers the ability to buy equity to support the Foundation. I have also committed to give 40 million more of my shares, an additional 10% of the company, to invest in this cause. I’d rather have a smaller part of something big than a bigger part of something small.

Fusion notes that even as Square’s revenues grew by $298 million between 2013 and 2014, its losses also grew by $50 million in the same period. (It drew $561 million in revenues in the first half of 2015 and lost $78 million in that time.)
Previous reports indicate that Square plans to complete its initial public offering by the end of the year. The company has not yet revealed its initial price range, nor how many of its shares it plans to sell in the offering.

Newsweek designer defends his controversial tech sexism cover

The relaunched version of Newsweek is no stranger to controversy. Almost a year ago, it brought the ire of the internet upon it with its launch story on Bitcoin creator Satashi Nakamoto, to the point where the company had to hire private security for the reporter who wrote it.

This week, the venerable old magazine is seeing another wave of conflict. This time, the backlash concerns cover art used to illustrate the story of sexism in the tech industry. Instead, some believed the image was an act of sexism itself: It features a cartoon graphic of an eyeless women molested by a giant computer cursor. Full disclosure, I’m one of them.

Others disagree, saying the image is “provocative” but that’s the whole point. It brings more attention to the issue. The debate raged yesterday and into today, on Twitter, Facebook, and even The Today Show.

Newsweek larger

As Alexia Tsotsis pointed out, the picture fails a checklist of objectification. The eyeless face makes the woman incomplete; she could be interchangeable for any woman. She is literally being clicked on, as thought she’s an object.

Newsweek editor-in-chief Jim Impoco tweeted that if people read the story they’d understand the picture was a perfect fit for it. Author Nina Burleigh penned a generic, albeit very thorough 5,000 word look at tech’s sexism problem.

All the discussion got me wondering about what really happened and what the artist who designed the woman thinks of the controversy.

So I reached out to Edel Rodriguez, the illustrator who drew the woman. He worked in conjunction with the art directors for the piece, an independent design firm called Priest+Grace which has designed many of the new Newsweek’s cover art. The firm declined to answer my questions, but they confirmed that Rodriguez pitched the idea and drew the woman.

Rodriguez answered my questions over email, and we covered everything from the process of choosing the cover to whether he’d do it again if he could go back in time (an emphatic yes). We only did one round of questions, so we didn’t get to have a back and forth. If you want to hear more of his thoughts, check out the discussion he’s taking part in on Facebook.

How did you come up with the idea/design for the Newsweek cover? Were women consulted in the decision? Was there debate over whether to run it?

I received the assignment from the art director for Newsweek covers, a very talented and smart woman. She sent me the article, which I read, and then proceeded to brainstorm and come up with sketches based on the article. I sent her my ideas and she picked this idea for the cover. I then went ahead and did the final artwork.  The staff at Newsweek received it and designed the cover. Women were involved all throughout the process. I am not sure about their discussions because I was not present at their meetings.

What was it supposed to convey or represent?

The subject of the article is how women are treated in Silicon Valley. It details the sexual harassment, jokes and treatment that women put up with in the industry. The image represents this harassment. A woman should have the right to dress however she pleases without this happening to them. These men have grown up around technology and video games their entire lives. They see women as objects that they can mistreat. The image conveys the exact moment when the harassment is symbolically taking place.

Did you suspect some people would react negatively to the cover or were you surprised?

I assumed some people would have negative reactions to the image, it’s the case whenever one does an image about sexism, racism, or other social topics. Some people will agree with your point of view, others will see it another way. Many women have had good reactions to the cover as well, they see it as showing the problem, which it is. The purpose of a magazine cover is to bring attention to the story and to start a conversation about the topic. I feel it has done that.

What would you say to people who think the cover objectifies women and marginalizes the sexism issue in Silicon Valley?

I would tell them that it’s not my intention and that if they read the story they will understand that the image is illustrating a very real and persistent problem in the tech industry, and that my intent is to bring attention to the behavior of these men.

If you could do the cover over again would you still take this approach?

Yes, absolutely.

What did people not understand about the cover?

That my job is not to be an advocate of what things should be, my job is to illustrate the story. The topic is “What Silicon Valley Thinks of Women”, and, unfortunately, according to the story, this is how many men treat women in that industry.

Over 1,000 people showed up to Product Hunt’s massive happy hour

Product Hunt’s happy hour starts in 20 minutes, and the line stretches far down the street. As I stroll through Geary, blocks from the bar, I’m convinced the crowds must be gathering for a Diplo concert or something. There’s no way this many people showed up for drinks with the young, Andreessen-Horowitz backed tech company.

But I am wrong. The public Facebook event invite reached 312,000 news feeds, 16,000 people viewed the event page and 3,700 RSVPed. The bar only fits 1,200 people. Half an hour before the start time, hundreds of people have showed up early to Product Hunt’s fifth official Happy Hour, trying to make sure they get in.

The line outside Product Hunt's happy hour, 20 minutes before the event begins, wraps around the corner and down the street

The line outside Product Hunt’s happy hour, 20 minutes before the event begins, wraps around the corner and down the street

For the unfamiliar, Product Hunt is a Reddit-like app for early tech product adopters. The community upvotes and downvotes cutting-edge new products, which range from GIF keyboards to musical pants to the new version of Foursquare, and the founders surface frequently to answer questions. Product Hunt raised $6.1 million from Andreessen Horowitz in September, and with fewer than twenty employees it’s still pretty small by tech standards.

That hasn’t stopped it from exploding in popularity. It’s the place where Yo and Ship Your Enemies Glitter were discovered, and it’s regularly surfed by early-stage investors and journalists looking for the next buzzy companies.

The overrun happy hour Thursday further solidified the company’s status as hot new tech community. But it also raised the question: Have we reached peak Product Hunt?


The people in line may be there to bask in Product Hunt’s limelight, but they’re not too pleased about the wait. One young man near the front mutters, “Sure, it’s popular, but I don’t know if it can monetize.” His friend says, “Maybe they’ll raise money on Kickstarter. They have a great community.”

Blocks away, a few friends stop short when they see the hordes of people waiting in line. They swear loudly and snort, “Never mind.”

The snaking queue of fans leads right to the door of the bar 620 Jones, rented out for the night. Ryan Hoover, Product Hunt founder and CEO, meets me inside. He hasn’t checked out the line snaking around the corner yet and is nervous to stroll past it, lest he get mobbed by tech groupies. He tells me he prefers smaller events but knew a lot of people would want to come to this.

Much like [company]Twitter[/company], [company]Facebook[/company] or Reddit, Product Hunt needs a loyal user base of people posting content to survive. Offline events help these users develop connections with each other, leading to a sense of community, which is not an easy thing to build. That in turn intensifies their loyalty to the application.

[pullquote person=”” attribution=”” id=”909141″]One young man near the front mutters, “Sure, it’s popular, but I don’t know if it can monetize.”[/pullquote]

The bouncer starts slowly letting in clusters of people and Hoover disappears into the masses. Not for the first time, I find myself wondering how his life has changed with his newfound fame. Although he’s a confident person, he’s a self-admitted introvert who gathers his energy in moments of solitude. At the last Product Hunt happy hour, a smaller event that happened pre-funding, he snuck away early while the party still raged.

Ryan Hoover, founder of Product Hunt, in the empty bar minutes before the happy hour crowds were unleashed

Ryan Hoover, founder of Product Hunt, in the empty bar minutes before the happy hour crowds were unleashed

The soft red lights of 620 Jones give everything a chic, sophisticated vibe. Top 40 music pulses in the background as founders, techies, PR people, salesmen and reporters mingle. Many of the people I speak with have never used Product Hunt, but they’ve heard of the company and wanted to familiarize themselves – or be associated with it.

“I didn’t know what it was, but I saw the Facebook event group and thought I should find out,” a social media professional in pointed heels and a tailored dress tells me. Her friend, a publicist for the firm that represents Yik Yak, nods beside her in agreement.

When I ask a co-founder of an online music merchandise service why he came, he says, “I don’t know. It’s a viral thing. People feel like they have to be a part of it but they’re not sure why.”

Two women chat during Product Hunt's happy hour

Two women chat during Product Hunt’s happy hour

Many attendees are huge fans and recognize Hoover on the spot. Two women from CODE2040, a nonprofit formed to encourage diversity in technology, ask him questions over the throbbing bass. A man interrupts them to frantically show off his social app, before being interrupted by another man wearing an ironic t-shirt.

An older, reserved fellow nursing a glass of wine at the bar tells me his company is one of the sponsors of the drinks. He jokes that the company didn’t pay enough money to get its name anywhere at the event. He marvels at the fact that the event was so overbooked, even as sponsors they were initially told they could only put one person on the guest list.

Tech employees from Mattermark and Sony chat during the Product Hunt happy hour

Tech employees from Mattermark and Samsung chat during the Product Hunt happy hour

The crowd reminds me of the shifting nature of tech culture. I show up expecting nerds and geeks and instead see cashmere sweaters and polo shirts, slicked-back hair and biceps amid the hoodies and startup T-shirts.

Tech has gone mainstream and Product Hunt is the water cooler where the cool kids hang out. It’s a characterization I suspect Hoover would feel uncomfortable with, and it’s perhaps not representative of the app itself. But the app has become a brand that people want to be associated with, regardless of whether they’re using it.

There’s an inherent contradiction in Product Hunt’s business premise. It wants to be the place where early product adopters can come together, and it also wants to go big. If this happy hour turnout is any indication, it’s starting to achieve that.

But it will be challenging for a community that’s all about the early adopters to scale without losing its magic along the way. After all, if everyone is an early adopter, is anyone really an early adopter?


One line from this story has been removed since publishing because it happened during an off the record part of the interview.

People order drinks during the open bar at the Product Hunt happy hour

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