Silicon Valley is the world leader in creating unicorns and home to some of the biggest tech names around. However, the glamourous Bay Area often masks the huge homelessness problem in San Francisco. Recently the issue has dominated the debate in the runup to US November’s midterm elections. It’s even caused the CEOs of Twitter and Salesforce to publicly clash over it on Friday October 12.
It all started when Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce and one of the biggest employers in San Francisco, tweeted his support for Proposition C after donating $1m to the cause. The proposition suggests the city’s top corporations should pay more tax to raise $300m for indigence programmes. The proposal will be on the ballot in November’s election. “Homelessness is all of our responsibility which is why we are supporting Prop C [in San Francisco], Benioff tweeted. “Together, as one San Francisco, we can take on our city’s most complex [and] difficult problems. As SF’s largest employer we recognise we are part of the solution.”
However, he soon had to defend his position when Jack Dorsey, CEO and co-founder of Twitter as well as well as the CEO and founder of Square, replied with his two cents about the issue. “I want to help fix the homeless problem in SF and California,” he argued. “I don’t believe this (Prop C) is the best way to do it. I support mayor London Breed and [senator Scott_Wiener’s] commitment to address this the right way. Mayor Breed was elected to fix this. I trust her.”
While this opening salvo seemed rather civil, it got personal really fast after that. Firing back, Benioff implied Twitter neglected charity for the homeless, tweeting: “Can you tell me what Twitter and Square [and] you are in for and at what financial levels? How much have you given to heading home our $37m initiative to get every homeless child off the streets?”
To which Dorsey called Benioff “distracting” and claimed Benioff had ignored Breed’s plans to fight homelessness in the past. When asked to clarify he added: “[London was] elected on a platform to help fix homelessness. Marc originally supported her and then withdrew his support. I don’t know why. I‘ve spoken [with] the mayor and trust her. Any reason not to? I’m open to being wrong.”
The skirmish ended with Dorsey posting a screengrab of an eight-minute call with his debate partner, adding: “Marc and I talked on the phone. Also talked with mayor London this afternoon. We’re all talking now and aligned to fix this issue as fast as we can. Will keep everyone updated.”
Benioff’s push for Proposition C is hardly surprising, considering his company’s record of donating millions to housing the homeless. But given the tax hike could hit Silicon Valley’s cash cows hard, it won’t be plain sailing to convince the rest of the Bay Area’s entrepreneurs to support the proposition.