Dear sf.citi members,
To say 2020 was not the year we expected is an understatement. In 2020, we grappled with a pandemic, deserted downtowns, toilet paper shortages, empty offices, record wildfires, an orange sky, and equal parts devastation and resilience. On top of all that, we navigated two major elections, both of which were significantly altered by COVID-19, and one of which delivered us a new President of the United States.
Rather than slow us down, 2020 sped us into the future. Seemingly overnight, businesses, nonprofits, and governments shifted their operations online. They used the best of technology to unite teams that were suddenly distributed across the country, if not the world. And while it hasn’t been easy, we at sf.citi worked hard to pivot and continue serving you, our members, through the many changes 2020 brought to our lives, our workplaces, and of course, the City of San Francisco.
After adapting all of our operations and programming online, sf.citi focused much of our time and energy on helping the San Francisco community navigate and overcome the challenges presented by COVID-19. Inspired by the outpouring of generosity from sf.citi members, we developed a COVID-19 resource page featuring some 30 COVID-19 tech resources and initiatives pioneered by sf.citi members. We also launched a weekly COVID-19 newsletter to provide important updates and nonprofit resources and support from the tech industry.
Over the course of 2020, connection became even more vital for our community, and sf.citi hosted four times the number of events we normally do. We organized 16 virtual events, including two new event series about the long-term impacts of COVID-19 and social impact in a remote world, covering racial equity in tech, virtual volunteerism, and more. We coordinated conversations between our members and more than 20 government leaders to discuss ways tech can support San Francisco’s recovery and collaborate on policies. And in the lead-up to the November 2020 election, we introduced sf.citi members to leading Supervisorial candidates and hosted two widely attended debates.
While this was an unexpected year in nearly every way, there was one particularly familiar continuation of past years: San Francisco’s flurry of legislative activity. Between the March 2020 Presidential primary and the November 2020 general election, San Francisco residents voted on a whopping 18 San Francisco ballot measures. In addition to producing five election resources to help voters make sense of the local elections, sf.citi became a go-to authority on the three San Francisco business tax measures placed on the November 2020 ballot. Before and after the election, we provided thought leadership in the press around the City’s tech exodus and brought light to the economic hardships exacerbated by these tax hikes on the tech industry.
Even with a COVID-19 vaccine on the horizon, we recognize that San Francisco faces many challenges in the years ahead. We nonetheless remain hopeful that San Francisco will rebound and that the tech community will play a vital role in rebuilding the City we love. Furthermore, the history of our industry reminds us that many of the world’s most exciting tech innovations were born in times of scarcity and downturn. To each and every one of our sf.citi members, we thank you for the generosity, resilience, and innovation you demonstrated in 2020. Here’s to building an even brighter future for us all.
WHO WE ARE
sf.citi is San Francisco’s tech trade association developed to empower the San Francisco tech community to have a voice in local tech policy decisions and collaborate with government on solving local issues. Founded in 2012, sf.citi drives cross-sector conversation between the City’s tech, nonprofit, and political communities, and advocates policies that offer innovative solutions to longstanding issues facing San Francisco.
Learn more about sf.citi’s work in 2020
contributed by sf.citi members to Give2SF
COVID-19 resources and initiatives from sf.citi members
conversations with San Francisco leaders
Uniting tech and policy leaders around San Francisco’s COVID-19 response
As was the case for each of you, the COVID-19 pandemic shifted our lives and operations at sf.citi. We quickly pivoted our priorities and our programming to meet the many challenges presented by COVID-19. Shortly after Mayor London Breed announced a citywide Stay Home order on March 17, 2020, we witnessed the tech community come together in record speed and solidarity to help people transition to our new COVID-19 reality.
For our part, sf.citi shared resources from our members and hosted conversations to help the San Francisco community respond to and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
WE RISE TO THE CHALLENGE OF COVID-19
sf.citi Launches the COVID-19 Tech Resource Page
Amid an outpouring of innovation among the tech community, sf.citi began compiling the policies, strategies, and resources sf.citi members were developing to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on their employees, customers, and the general public. Updated daily, our SF Tech COVID-19 Update page became the go-to information center for COVID-19 news, updates, and tech resources in the San Francisco Bay Area. To further support our community, we also launched a weekly SF Tech COVID-19 Update newsletter with the latest COVID-19 developments and tech tools.
sf.citi Connects Tech and Government Leaders to Collaborate on San Francisco’s COVID-19 Response
Early on in the pandemic, sf.citi hosted roundtable discussions between our members and City representatives to unite leaders around San Francisco’s COVID-19 response. We first talked to District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney about San Francisco’s most critical COVID-19 needs, which included supply donations and virtual learning resources for students and educators. With the Director of the San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD), Joaquin Torres, we discussed support for small and medium-sized businesses. We also brainstormed ways to improve connectivity and digital equity with San Francisco’s Chief Information Officer, Linda Gerull, and Digital Equity Manager at the San Francisco Digital Equity Initiative, Alex Banh.
sf.citi Launches The COVID-19 Effect Event Series
Featuring a variety of City and industry experts, sf.citi’s event series, The COVID-19 Effect, helped our community understand the effects of COVID-19 on the future of San Francisco. To kick off the series, sf.citi Executive Director Jennifer Stojkovic sat down (virtually) with City Controller Ben Rosenfield for a discussion about the impact of COVID-19 on San Francisco’s budget. He described the projected $1.7 billion budget deficit, revenue streams most likely to be affected by COVID-19, and San Francisco’s path toward economic recovery.
sf.citi Dives Deeper Into Tech’s Rapid Response to COVID-19
sf.citi partnered with Protocol and our Seattle counterpart, sea.citi, to host a virtual event exploring the tech industry’s rapid response to the COVID-19 pandemic. At The Race to Respond: Tech’s Leadership on COVID-19, we heard from Aaron Levie, CEO of Box, Sarah Rose, President and Chief Product Officer of TaskRabbit, Janet Van Huysse, Head of People at Cloudflare, and Tom Alberg, Managing Partner of Madrona Venture Group. Protocol’s editor at large, David Pierce, also moderated a panel discussion with executives from Slack, Twitter, and Postmates.
sf.citi Concludes The COVID-19 Effect Event Series
sf.citi ended our event series, The COVID-19 Effect, with the President of the San Francisco School Board, Mark Sanchez, to commemorate back-to-school and explore the challenges of distance learning. Over the course of three months, we hosted virtual conversations with seven government, industry, and community leaders and learned so much more about the impact of COVID-19 on life in San Francisco and beyond. We covered San Francisco’s office space market, pandemic housing and rental prices, local restaurant culture, public transportation, and the broader implications of COVID-19 on the 2020 Presidential election.
- Ben Rosenfield, San Francisco City Controller
- Rich Hillis, San Francisco Planning Director
- Jeffrey Tumlin, San Francisco Director of Transportation
- Alex Padilla, California Secretary of State
- Laurie Thomas, Golden Gate Restaurant Association
- Xiomara Cisneros, Bay Area Council
- Mark Sanchez, San Francisco School Board
WE LEAD THE CONVERSATION AROUND THE EFFECTS OF COVID-19
In tandem with our virtual event series, The COVID-19 Effect, sf.citi released seven in-depth policy pieces detailing the effects of COVID-19 on various aspects of life in San Francisco and beyond. These heavily researched analyses served as the basis for each of our conversations with local experts. They also kept our community informed of the short and long-term impacts of COVID-19 on the City’s budget, housing and office space market, school system, and more!
Representing our members in conversation with San Francisco policymakers
Advocating for collaborative policy solutions on behalf of the San Francisco tech community is core to sf.citi’s mission and work. The last decade has shown us that a thriving tech industry means a thriving San Francisco—a reality made all the more apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our challenge at sf.citi has been working with local policymakers to develop legislation that ensures tech’s continued growth in San Francisco, especially as the City rebounds from COVID-19. Looking ahead, we are ready to partner with government leaders on San Francisco’s recovery, just as we are committed to maintaining San Francisco’s status as the tech and innovation capital of the world.
conversations between sf.citi members and elected officials and candidates running for office
San Francisco election resources
WE ADVOCATE FOR INNOVATIVE POLICY SOLUTIONS
As in years past, sf.citi worked closely with our Policy Advisory Committee on developing a policy agenda to guide our advocacy work for 2020. When the COVID-19 pandemic upended our lives, however, we shifted our policy priorities to focus on the issues that we and our members considered most critical to San Francisco’s long-term recovery.
Bridging the Digital Divide
The COVID-19 pandemic brought new urgency to the digital divide in San Francisco. As life, school, and work suddenly switched online, technology and internet access became lifelines for people across the City. Early on in the pandemic, sf.citi connected our members with government leaders in San Francisco and Oakland to better understand each city’s needs. We were incredibly proud to see so many sf.citi members offer their innovation, services, and resources to bring connectivity and hardware to thousands of San Francisco residents. sf.citi members certainly eased the transition to digital learning for students and educators throughout California.
contributed by sf.citi members to the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD)
laptops, tablets, and Chromebooks donated by sf.citi members
wifi connections and hotspots donated by sf.citi members
Supporting Sensible Business Taxes
Since our inception, sf.citi has advocated for sensible, collaborative business taxes that allow tech to grow in San Francisco and continue fueling City services. This staple of sf.citi advocacy took on new importance in 2020 when sf.citi members were hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. As COVID-19 froze the global economy, sf.citi members saw their businesses suffer and were forced to lay off tens of thousands of employees. In spite of the pandemic-induced recession, San Francisco policymakers proposed a Gross Receipts Tax increase (Proposition F) and an Overpaid Executive Tax (Proposition L) for the November 2020 ballot. Ahead of the election, sf.citi helped educate our community and leadership about the negative consequences that would result from these additional tax burdens on San Francisco’s tech industry.
sf.citi remains concerned that the proposed GRT measure, combined with the onslaught of other new business tax proposals, will drive tech businesses out of San Francisco and create additional burdens for those who remain.
—Jennifer Stojkovic, Executive Director, sf.citi
San Francisco Examiner
Raising Awareness about the San Francisco Tech Exodus
sf.citi led the conversation around the San Francisco tech exodus. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we observed San Francisco’s influx of apartment vacancies, surging office subleases, and declining sales tax revenue. In conversations with local policymakers, we pointed out that all were signs of a mass migration of tech companies and workers capitalizing on the shift to remote work to move out of San Francisco to less expensive cities. We also placed several thought leadership pieces in the press to raise awareness among San Franciscans about the aftershocks a tech exodus could send through San Francisco for years to come and urged City leaders to address the longstanding issues driving people (and companies) away.
WE EDUCATE OUR COMMUNITY ABOUT SAN FRANCISCO POLITICS AND ELECTIONS
In 2020, San Francisco residents participated in two major elections: the Presidential Primary on March 3, 2020 and, of course, the Presidential election on November 3, 2020. In both elections, San Francisco voters had to weigh in on a number of local ballot measures and candidate races. Committed to helping San Franciscans exercise the full power of their political voice, sf.citi created a suite of San Francisco election resources for the March 2020 and November 2020 elections.
WE CONNECT OUR MEMBERS WITH KEY DECISION MAKERS
We routinely connect our members with key decision makers in and outside of San Francisco through our Lunch and Learn discussion series. In 2020, we transitioned our Lunch and Learn series online, which proved a pivotal forum for sf.citi members and San Francisco policymakers to speak candidly about the challenges presented by COVID-19 and solutions to overcome them. In light of the November 2020 election, we also hosted a Candidate Conversation series in which we introduced sf.citi members to almost all of the leading San Francisco Supervisor candidates running for office. Finally, we organized a special roundtable discussion with Mayor of Oakland Libby Schaaf.
Featured Speakers in 2020
Supervisor Gordon Mar, District 4 | Assemblymember David Chiu, 17th Assembly District | Mayor Libby Schaaf, Oakland | Supervisor Catherine Stefani, District 2 | Chesa Boudin, San Francisco District Attorney | Dean Preston, District 5 | Ahsha Safai, District 11 | John Avalos, Supervisor Candidate for District 11 | Joel Engardio, Supervisor Candidate for District 7 | Myrna Melgar, Supervisor Candidate for District 7 | Vallie Brown, Supervisor Candidate for District 5 | Emily Murase, Supervisor Candidate for District 7 | Marjan Philhour, Supervisor Candidate for District 1 | Supervisor Aaron Peskin, District 3 | David Lee, Supervisor Candidate for District 1 | Connie Chan, Supervisor Candidate for District 1 | Supervisor Hillary Ronen, District 9 | Senator Scott Wiener, 11th Senate District
WE CELEBRATE OUR MEMBERS AND OUR CITY
sf.citi had the privilege of hosting Mayor London Breed at our annual end-of-year members reception for the third year in a row. This time, Mayor Breed joined us onscreen and emphasized tech’s vital role in San Francisco’s COVID-19 recovery, economy, and City as a whole. sf.citi Executive Director Jennifer Stojkovic then hosted a virtual discussion about the future of tech and San Francisco with Ron Conway, sf.citi Board Chair and Founder of SV Angel, and Kyle Vogt, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer of Cruise. While all agreed that tech jobs will likely emerge in more cities across the country as a result of remote work, they also predict tech will continue to gravitate toward San Francisco.
I think one of the draws to San Francisco is the energy and the optimism and lack of pretentiousness and judgment. People are going to want to come back and work together in a city . . . If I were to start a company all over again, I would do it in San Francisco.
—Kyle Vogt, Executive Director, Co-Founder and CTO, Cruise
volunteers participated in sf.citi’s One City Gives Holiday Giving Campaign
job seekers connected to tech employees at Breaking Into Tech
San Francisco nonprofits featured in sf.citi’s Community Update
Engaging our members in volunteer opportunities and partnerships that serve the broader San Francisco community
Since our founding in 2012, sf.citi has helped expand the tech industry’s social impact footprint in San Francisco. Every year, we organize events, volunteer opportunities, and partnerships for sf.citi members and their employees to give back to the San Francisco community.
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic lent new urgency to this work. Throughout the pandemic, we brought tech and nonprofit leaders together to navigate changes to their social impact strategies in light of remote work. We also managed to transition almost all of our mainstay sf.citi volunteer events online.
WE SCALE SOCIAL IMPACT—EVEN IN A VIRTUAL WORLD
By the end of March 2020, much of the tech industry had transitioned its workforce online to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Almost overnight, in-person volunteering—a staple of tech social impact strategies and nonprofit programming—became a thing of our pre-pandemic past. In sf.citi-led conversations with tech and nonprofit leaders, we helped identify key social impact challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic and brainstormed ways to scale tech’s social impact initiatives in an increasingly remote world.
COVID-19 Roundtable with San Francisco Nonprofit Leaders
In early April, sf.citi hosted a roundtable discussion between sf.citi members and three San Francisco nonprofit leaders (and members of sf.citi’s One City Forum): Lisa Countryman-Quiroz, CEO of JVS, Sherilyn Adams, Executive Director of Larkin Street Youth Services, and Ashley McCumber, CEO of Meals on Wheels San Francisco. They described how each of their organizations has joined the frontlines of the COVID-19 response by providing essential services to San Francisco’s most vulnerable populations. They also shared ways the tech industry could support their work during the pandemic, including laptop and cellphone donations and transportation assistance for their workers.
Social impact leaders predict that 80-90 percent of tech volunteering in 2021 will be virtual.
Scaling Social Impact in a Remote World
About eight months into the pandemic, sf.citi hosted a second conversation about social impact in the age of COVID-19 and remote work. This time, we featured tech and social impact leaders from three different sf.citi member companies: Amy LeBold, Executive Vice President of People at NextRoll, Tina Lee, Head of Social Impact at Dropbox, and Amanda Lenaghan, Head of Social Impact at Cruise. They offered examples of how their companies adapted their social impact strategies during the pandemic and how nonprofits can partner with tech companies in the future.
Conversation about the Tech Exodus and San Francisco Nonprofits
Two days after the November 3, 2020 election, sf.citi Executive Director Jennifer Stojkovic sat down (virtually) with Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC) Executive Director Paula Arrigoni to discuss the future of tech, San Francisco, and social impact. The conversation was part of SF Commons’ ongoing SF Nonprofit Spotlight Series, which highlights San Francisco’s network of nonprofits and all of the important work they do for our City. sf.citi’s Executive Director explained how, in addition to affecting San Francisco’s overall financial health, the migration of tech workers and companies out of San Francisco carries significant implications for local nonprofits who depend on City funding. We explored what a tech exodus could mean for San Francisco nonprofits and how they can prepare for a post-pandemic future.
Circle the Schools Goes Digital
Throughout the pandemic, sf.citi members continued to participate in one of our flagship social impact programs, Circle the Schools. Started by sf.citi in 2014 with the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) and the San Francisco Education Fund, Circle the Schools matches local businesses and sf.citi members with one or more SFUSD schools. Companies then donate time, resources, and expertise to their partner school(s). In 2020, sf.citi members NextRoll and Salesforce creatively adapted their longstanding tradition of hosting career panels for students at June Jordan School for Equity and Francisco Middle School (their respective Circle the Schools partners). To do this virtually, employees at both companies recorded themselves talking about their pathway into tech and answering questions submitted in advance by students.
SFUSD schools circled
WE CHAMPION DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION IN TECH
Building a more inclusive and equitable tech industry has been a longtime priority of sf.citi and our members. In 2020, the killing of George Floyd and subsequent Black Lives Matter uprisings challenged the tech community to step up its efforts against discrimination like never before. To accelerate much-needed change, sf.citi themed our first Scaling Social Impact event around racial equity. Industry leaders at Airbnb, Twitter, and Black Girls CODE shared actionable steps that tech companies can take to make their products and workplaces more inclusive. In our weekly Community Update, sf.citi began highlighting racial equity commitments and initiatives made by sf.citi members to inspire continued accountability and momentum around anti-racism within the tech industry.
WE GIVE BACK TO OUR COMMUNITY
Every year, sf.citi partners with local nonprofits to organize multiple industry-wide volunteer opportunities for our members and their employees. In 2020, we continued the tradition of bringing San Francisco’s tech community together—albeit virtually—to give back to those in need.
Weekly Nonprofit Spotlight and Call to Action
At the same time they were providing critical services to San Francisco’s most vulnerable populations during the pandemic, local nonprofits were also grappling with the financial and operational challenges brought on by COVID-19. We wanted to galvanize the sf.citi community to bolster their work. That’s why we added a new section to our Community Update called “Support Our San Francisco Community.” Every week, we feature a different San Francisco nonprofit and share ways to support its mission.
Breaking Into Tech During the Pandemic
Breaking Into Tech has easily become one of sf.citi’s most popular events. Each year, we connect current and aspiring tech workers through a series of speed networking sessions. With so many jobs lost during the pandemic, sf.citi knew hosting Breaking Into Tech was more important than ever in 2020. We transitioned the entire program online, offering a full week of virtual speed networking sessions with tech professionals, as well as a panel discussion about shifts in the job landscape as a result of COVID-19.
One City Gives Holiday Giving Campaign
Our annual holiday day of action, One City Gives, has become a staple of sf.citi’s social impact work. As with Breaking Into Tech, we extended the 2020 edition of One City Gives into a week-long campaign and adapted the format so that tech workers could participate virtually from all over the country. Our 100+ volunteers wrote cards for homebound seniors with Meals on Wheels San Francisco, donated items from Larkin Street Youth Services’ Amazon wish list for young people experiencing homelessness, and read children’s books for unhoused families served by Compass Family Services.
Connecting our members at events with other industry leaders to discuss the most pressing issues facing tech and San Francisco as a whole
Events have become a major component of sf.citi’s work. Each year, we host large-scale events that offer thoughtful insight and information on topics affecting both the tech industry and the greater San Francisco community. And in 2020, despite being virtual, we hosted more events than we have in the past few years combined!
Our main event series is organized by sf.citi’s One City Forum, a group of nine tech and nonprofit leaders dedicated to bringing a ‘one city’ approach to bettering San Francisco. We also partner with other influential San Francisco organizations to produce events focused on strengthening relationships between the tech industry and other sectors in the City.
sf.citi events hosted to date
attendees at sf.citi events
speakers featured at sf.citi events
WE DRIVE CROSS-SECTOR CONVERSATION
The Business of Doing Good: How Corporate Leaders are Advancing Animal Welfare
Airbnb’s animal welfare policy was the conversation starter at The Business of Doing Good, hosted in partnership with World Animal Protection US and Airbnb. The event featured a unique blend of speakers focused on ways the tech community can work with other industry leaders to affect positive change. With sf.citi’s Jennifer Stojkovic to moderate, we heard from Mikel Freemon, Airbnb’s Head of Animals, Alesia Soltanpanah, Executive Director of World Animal Protection US, and California State Assemblymember Ash Kalra.
We know that understanding the job market is the most fundamental step in a successful job search . . . Never in our lifetime have we experienced such a dramatic change in circumstance as we have over the last several weeks.
—Lisa Quiroz-Countryman, CEO, JVS
The COVID-19 Effect Series
sf.citi organized a series of policy discussions with City and state leaders to explore the impact of COVID-19 on the future of San Francisco. We looked at the effect COVID-19 had on San Francisco’s budget, office space market, and restaurants, as well as the 2020 Presidential election.
What we’ve seen in this pandemic is how important the sharing economy is at so many levels. The frontline workers and delivery workers are being touted as household heroes . . . As people recognize the importance of independent work and the sharing economy, we need to advance the conversation around portable benefits.
—Sarah Rose, President and Chief Product Officer, TaskRabbit
Scaling Social Impact Series
Along with just about everything else, COVID-19 and remote work drastically altered the landscape of corporate social impact. sf.citi hosted several conversations with tech and nonprofit leaders to better understand the changes to the social impact space and uncover ways tech companies can scale social impact strategies in an increasingly remote world. Our first event focused on social impact work to promote racial equity—an issue that gained much-needed attention after the killing of George Floyd. In our second event of the series, tech leaders shared their approach to social impact during the pandemic and provided insight into what social impact will look like in the future.
Local Matters: Understanding the Power of Local Elections
Three months ahead of the November 2020 Presidential election, sf.citi hosted an important conversation about the power of local elections. From Associate Professor of Political Science at Tufts University, Eitan Hersh, we learned three common reasons people do not vote in local elections. And from President of Emerge, A’shanti Gholar, we learned about several local leaders who have gained national recognition for their exemplary response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Most importantly, we learned how important it is to vote in local elections!
San Francisco Forward: 2020 Supervisor District Debate Series
Ahead of the November 3, 2020 election, sf.citi hosted virtual debates with the Supervisor candidates running in San Francisco’s most competitive district races. With the incumbent District 1 and District 7 Supervisors vacating their seats, many candidates rushed to fill their spots. sf.citi organized debates with the top San Francisco Supervisor candidates in both District 1 and District 7.