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December 4, 2020

Nasdaq Makes Diversity Demands – News Roundup Nov. 30 – Dec. 4

I hope everyone had a relaxing and enjoyable Thanksgiving last week! This year is quickly winding down, but we’ve got three solid weeks before the holidays muck up our schedules and sleep patterns and diets again. So let’s get back to it!


The Business Buzz

Nasdaq seeks to diversify its portfolio. This Tuesday Nasdaq submitted a proposal to the SEC that would require the more than 3,000 companies on its exchange to bring more diversity into their boardrooms. Specifically, Nasdaq wants most companies to have at least one woman and one person who is “either an underrepresented racial minority or LGBTQ.” Meeting the requirements wouldn’t get a company delisted from the exchange — but it would require a public statement explaining why it failed to meet the diversity measures. This may sound like more bark than bite, but I think forcing a company to endure bad press is a decent incentive.

Although numbers have improved recently (mostly for women), people who aren’t white and male are still severely underrepresented in c-suites across America. Nasdaq stated that right now an overwhelming three-quarters of its current companies wouldn’t meet the simple two-person requirement that it’s proposing. That’s a big deal when you consider that the Nasdaq exchange is the second-largest by market capitalization (first place goes to the New York Stock Exchange). So the majority of companies in one of the biggest stock exchanges don’t have just two people on their boards that aren’t white and male. 

If the SEC approves the proposal, companies will have between two-to-five years (depending on which Nasdaq market they are a part of) to bring diversity into their boardrooms. All companies will be required to release diversity statistics about their boards starting a year after the proposal is approved.

A (small) win for developers. Apple has faced backlash and legal scrutiny over how it runs the App Store. In particular, app developers have been fighting back against the 30% cut that Apple takes on all apps in its Store. And it seems to have finally paid off… Sort of. Last month, Apple announced a new “App Store Small Business Program” — which would reduce fees for developers who earn $1 million or less through their apps. Fees will be reduced from 30% down to 15%. And starting this week, Apple opened enrollment for the program. 

The move is a well-calculated one by Apple. On the one hand, less than 1% of apps on the App Store generated more than $1 million in revenue last year. So — ostensibly — the reduced fees will be available to the majority of developers. However, more than 90% of Apple’s App Store revenue last year came from the apps that did generate more than $1 million. That means this program is going to have very little impact on the money Apple makes from App Store fees. It’s a win-win for Apple — less bad press, possibly reduced regulatory concerns, and very little profit lost. 


The Private Market

From payment management to savings accounts. Fintech firm Stripe made big news this week with the announcement of Stripe Treasury. The company is moving from managing payments for its clients to offering a more comprehensive financial services suite. By partnering with various banks, Stripe wants to offer banking-as-a-service APIs that will enable clients to provide bank accounts for their customers. It’s something that’s known as “embedded finance,” and it’s symptomatic of traditional banking’s inability to adapt to a digital ecosystem. 

Stripe client Shopify has already announced how it will use the new services — the creation of Shopify Balance. So, merchants who want to directly use the money that’s in their Shopify accounts will be able to open a bank account in Shopify Balance. And they’ll be able to do all the normal banking things — like pay bills, deposit money, and make withdrawals — with that account. Stripe’s US bank partners include Goldman Sachs and Evolve Bank & Trust, while Citibank N.A. and Barclays are its global partners. 

Also worth noting — Stripe has nearly made enough startup investments to almost qualify as a VC firm. In the tradition of “invest in what you know,” the company has mostly invested in other fintech firms around the world. Stripe boasts a portfolio of more than 20 companies, including startups in the Philippines and UK.

Three magical letters. The question of when Airbnb would go public was a hot topic for most of the year. But the company has finally made things official — it plans to make its IPO sometime this month. As part of its emphasis on centering guests and hosts, Airbnb is setting aside just over 9 million non-voting shares in an endowment fund for hosts (users who rent their properties through the platform). The short-term rental company has not been immune to the impact of COVID-19. In addition to falling revenue and major lay-offs, Airbnb has faced myriad issues surrounding hosts and cancellation policies. Usually, Airbnb simply operates as a platform — so hosts were able to set their own cancellation policies for guests. However, in March the company created an “extenuating circumstances policy” that overrode many hosts’ policies. So, Airbnb created a $250 million fund to help hosts who suffered from the new policy. But many hosts still aren’t happy, and Airbnb is facing a lawsuit from one host who says the company violated its contract by forcing the extenuating circumstances policy.

Interestingly, Airbnb’s CEO — Brian Chesky — has been resisting the lure of an IPO for years. Chesky sacrificed profitability as he sought to expand the types of offerings guests could find on the platform — such as tours or bookings for local attractions. He wanted Airbnb to become an all-inclusive travel agency. However, he finally bowed to pressure when employees whose stock options were set to expire in 2021 began to voice their frustrations. Airbnb is expected to go public with a valuation around $30 billion.  


The Fun Stuff

“Please bring us some figgy pudding, please bring it right here.” Figgy pudding (also sometimes called plum pudding) is one of those ubiquitously Christmas — and British — things. But it turns out that neither plums nor figs actually appear in the dish at all! Instead, “plums” was a catch-all term for any dried fruit, though raisins or currants would have been the most commonly used. And while it bears the name of pudding, it can actually be made and stored months in advance of a Christmas celebration — and still be perfectly edible come December. Check out this video if you’re interested in making a figgy pudding for your own holiday party — though it might be considered under-seasoned with only three weeks to age.


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About: Aryelle Young

Aryelle Young is a published writer and editor with experience across industries. She has worked with an independent publishing company and as a proposal writer for a government contractor. Her original work has also been published in various journals and one short story collection. At KingsCrowd, she strives to provide insightful and actionable content for all readers. Aryelle graduated with a Creative Writing degree from George Mason University.

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