After San Franciscans voted “yes” on the hotly debated homelessness measure called “Prop C,” Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson announced that his company will commit $1 million to support homelessness programs.
Leading up to the election, the cloud communications company did not take a position on Proposition C. However, other tech giants in the city were especially vocal — notably Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff who advocated for Prop C, and Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter and Square, who spoke out against it.
“As we thought about it, there were so much attack, so much personal attacks,” Lawson told Business Insider. “To me, the biggest positive outcome [of Prop C] is kicking action on homelessness to the top of the leaders of the city’s mind. Obviously we see the problem but there wasn’t a lot of action on it.”
Lawson announced Twilio’s commitment Thursday night at an event where he was honored as one of San Francisco Business Times’ Most Admired CEOs. Earlier in the week, Lawson watched Twilio’s stock soar 35% after delivering blockbuster quarterly financial results.
On Tuesday night, Prop C won 60 percent among San Francisco voters. But the measure is likely to face legal challenges in the coming months, so Lawson says he wants to make help contribute to the cause right now.
“Let’s get it done,” Lawson said. “Our thinking is how can we start funding initiatives that get the process for Prop C started? If there’s a challenge before funds can be deployed, why don’t we start now?”
Twilio didn’t take a position on Prop C ahead of the election because it didn’t “feel like our voice would add anything.” But now that it’s passed and with legal challenges likely to come, business leaders can work on tackling this problem now, Lawson says.
Right now, there’s a legal dispute in the city on a measure to raise taxes on commercial rents to pay for child care services and early education, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. A coalition of commercial property owners sued the city in August, saying that a simple majority vote is not enough to pass this measure and it violates state law — instead, it should be a two-thirds majority, they said.
This could also potentially affect Prop C, so the city won’t spend the money until this legal dispute is resolved. The massive flow of cash from this measure — $300 million a year — for homelessness programs may sit on reserve for years.
Lawson hopes to get other business leaders on board.
“After this election, we’ve come together to say we’re going to address the homelessness crisis,” Lawson told Business Insider. “As I was thinking about it, this issue tore apart our cities in a lot of ways. This was a difficult proposition. It’s time to come together.”
Although the company hasn’t decided exactly where the donation will go, Twilio.org, Twilio’s social impact arm, is currently evaluating options and will provide updates in the following weeks.
“We’ve seen several organizations in San Francisco fighting homelessness,” Erin Reilly, VP of Social Impact at Twilio, told Business Insider. “We are looking at how we can support with technology, funding, and time and help folks who live in the city. Now is the time we’re coming together to fight homelessness.”
Below is Lawson’s Tweet about Twilio’s commitment.
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