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Data Sheet—Monday, August 22, 2016

August 22, 2016, 12:35 PM UTC

When I perused Fortune’s latest “Change the World” ranking of companies tackling major societal problems over the weekend, I was dismayed to see how few information technology companies made the list. I wasn’t surprised, however, by the inclusion of cloud software giant Salesforce.

Philanthropy was baked into Salesforce’s business model when it was founded 17 years ago, when the company dedicated 1% of its equity, 1% of its employees’ time, and 1% of its product toward causes around the world. Even though many skeptics suggested that this sensibility would be downplayed as the company surpassed the $1 billion mark, it’s still a huge part of the $6.7 billion software giant’s corporate culture. The specific reason Salesforce made this year’s list? Its willingness to spend $3 million on closing its gender pay gap, after discovering that 6.6% of its employees needed an adjustment.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff has also made plenty of headlines over the past year as an outspoken critic of state laws in Georgia, North Carolina, and Indiana that threatened gay and lesbian rights. What you might not realize, however, is that there is a whole wave of up-and-coming companies—900 and counting—eager to follow in Salesforce’s footsteps through the “Pledge 1%” movement.

Two names stood out for me, because both of them are business software companies that managed to pull off successful IPOs within the past 12 months: Atlassian, which co-founded the initiative along with Salesforce; and Twilio, which took its pledge to donate 1% of its equity to corporate philanthropy and social causes during the run-up to its initial public offering. Yes, co-founder Jeff Lawson convinced his backers to dilute their investment by participating in the pledge.

Would it be such a bad thing if doing business to change the world became the new normal?

Heather Clancy is a contributing editor at Fortune. Reach her via email.


Amazon invests big money in smart thermostat startup. The $35 million in funding for Ecobee includes the biggest investment yet from the Amazon Alexa fund, created to speed development of software and hardware that works with the e-commerce giant's Alexa virtual assistant. (Fortune)

Zuckberg sells $95 million in Facebook stock. The sale of 760,000 shares was made on behalf of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the philanthropic organization the Facebook founder and his wife, Priscilla Chan, created last year. (Fortune)

Authorities are scrutinizing Amazon's tax returns. Contradictions in how the company values the technology behind its e-commerce operations and cloud services have tax agencies on both sides of the Atlantic asking questions. So far, the IRS wants Amazon to pay $1.5 billion in back taxes. (Bloomberg)

An astonishing number of companies already use augmented reality. New research from Deloitte suggests that early renditions of the technology are commonplace in interactive corporate training programs and in industries such as construction and home improvements, where the software can be used to visualize planned changes. (Fortune)

Where are Silicon Valley Republicans in this presidential race? Prominent GOP supporter Larry Ellison, who supported Mitt Romney with $3 million in 2012, hasn't opened his wallet to help Donald Trump. Even Trump advocate Peter Thiel has yet to turn his support into donations. (Fortune, Wall Street Journal)


Software firm Qualtrics embraces "radical transparency" with new headquarters. It’s unusual to find a tech startup that doesn’t use an open office design to organize its workspace. Qualtrics is taking that idea to extremes with 17 acres of gardens at its new facility in Provo, Utah, blanketed by wireless and "international watercoolers" that let workers chat with other offices via live video feeds. (Fortune)

Dropbox CFO resigns for personal reasons. Vanessa Wittman, who has experience with public companies like Microsoft, Motorola, and Marsh & McLennan, joined the software company to help prepare it for an initial public offering. She's leaving because of her health. Ajay Vashee, a key member of Wittman's team who has been with Dropbox since 2012, is taking over as CFO effective Sept. 1. (Dropbox)

SAP taps outsider to lead healthcare initiative. Thomas Laur, who was CEO of analytics software firm Sutherland Healthcare Solutions, was named president of the software giant's new Connected Health division. The group's mandate is to use digital innovation to "ensure the right treatments are getting to the right people at the right time." (SAP)


Why HP Inc. appeals amid tales of shrinking revenue. The personal computer and printer company is expected to report another sales decline on Wednesday, when it discloses its latest quarterly results. But its cash position and generous dividend have helped share values gain more than 22% this year. (Wall Street Journal)


MIT Spinoff to Market Breakthrough Batteries by 2017, by David Z. Morris

Controversial Investor Steve Cohen Reveals Big Stake in Square, by Leena Rao

Why Your Next Wireless Plan Will Be an Unlimited Plan, by Aaron Pressman

Airbus to Build Autonomous Flying Taxis, by David Z. Morris

Google and Apple Team Up to Kill Robocalls, by Aaron Pressman


How to lead after disaster strikes. Former Citigroup chairman Dick Parsons has tackled some of the toughest corporate jobs in America, including leading the bank out of the financial crisis in 2009. On the latest Fortune Unfiltered podcast, Parsons addresses his latest battle, fighting the blood cancer multiple myeloma, and reflects on being one of the first African-Americans to run a Fortune 500 company. (Fortune)

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Heather Clancy.

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