AllVoices Wants to Create Safe Ways for Employees to Report Toxic Workplace Incidents

Bernard Mendez
Bernard Mendez is an editorial intern at dot.LA. He attends UCLA, where he is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics. Mendez was previously an editor at the Daily Bruin, the student newspaper at UCLA.
AllVoices Wants to Create Safe Ways for Employees to Report Toxic Workplace Incidents
Photo by Ales Nesetril on Unsplash

Born in the wake of the #MeToo movement, Los Angeles-based startup AllVoices is hoping to make it easier for employees to report incidents of workplace harassment.

The company's platform acts as a third-party tool to let workers report incidents of harassment and give feedback to companies anonymously, but as founder Claire Schmidt readily admits, it's not an end-all-be-all to end workplace harassment.


Still, she says it gives employees a secure way to voice their concerns anonymously – both concerning isolated incidents and about broader patterns within a company's culture. This week, the company raised $9.6 million in an oversubscribed round of Series A funding led by Silverton Partners, M13 Ventures and Crosscut Ventures.

The funding comes in the wake of several high-profile workplace conditions incidents. Recently, Santa Monica-based Activision Blizzard was hit with a lawsuit from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing alleging that male workers engaged in a "frat boy" culture at the company, drinking "copious" amounts of alcohol at work and treating female employees inappropriately.

The lawsuit led to an internal strike where hundreds of employees walked out of work and demanded change within the company and the resignations of several executives.

AllVoices' CEO and founder Schmidt said she has seen several examples of workplace culture veering into hostile territory. She recalled one employee who reported a company costume party where another worker dressed up as a religious figure.

"It wasn't about making the person who dressed in that costume bad or wrong," said Schmidt, who declined to name the company. "It was just like, 'hey, we're getting this feedback and in the future, we don't want anyone else to feel uncomfortable so we've decided to change the policy'."

The company eventually changed their policy to prevent people from dressing as religious figures.

Victims of workplace harassment often have a hard time getting their companies to take their complaints seriously. Around 75% of workers don't report workplace misconduct, largely out of fear of retribution – a figure that Schmidt wanted to address.

"To me, it seemed like there was a huge gap between companies' perceptions of what their employees were or were not experiencing and reality," said Schmidt. "I wanted to build a tool that could bridge that gap and help companies actually build trust with employees."

Schmidt sees the app as a platform for employees to voice complaints anonymously with a greater sense of security, particularly because employees might not trust internal reporting tools.

"If the employee doesn't have trust in the platform they're either not going to be honest in providing the feedback or they're not going to use it at all," she said. "We realized there was a massive need for a completely secure, encrypted third-party platform that placed the privacy and the security of the employee at the forefront."

AllVoices' user base includes companies such as Zillow, Box and GoPro, and is popular among companies in the tech and fintech industries, Schmidt said. She declined to comment on exact revenue figures, but said the company experienced around 400% growth in customers from 2019 to 2020.

Even if employees feel safe making allegations through AllVoices, companies that use the platform still have the responsibility to adequately respond to complaints.

It's also common for employers to respond to allegations of harassment inconsistently, which can dissuade victims from coming forward in the future, according to Sheerine Alemzadeh, the co-founder of Chicago-based nonprofit Healing to Action and a former litigator who worked with victims of workplace sexual violence. For example, companies may respond in favor of high-ranking employees or apply discipline in ways that victims see as unfair, she said.

"If you feel like people are not going to give you a fair shot when you make this complaint, especially around an issue that's already extremely stigmatized and embarrassing for a lot of people to talk about, there's really no incentive to come forward," she said.

Alemzadeh said it is important to have multiple avenues for employees to report harassment, particularly to prevent retaliation, and third-party platforms like AllVoices can be a good alternative for employees.

But she cautioned that an over-reliance on anonymous reporting tools may be an indication that companies need to address their company culture, she added.

"If you're feeling like the only way you can actually get people to come forward and share this is happening, is through an anonymous report that does not identify them, then you should probably be asking yourself some deeper questions," she said.

Even so, Schmidt said most companies she's worked with have been receptive to feedback received through AllVoices. AllVoices also lets employees give anonymous feedback on how they felt the company handled their complaint.

Schmidt believes a more proactive approach to working conditions could help prevent such large-scale issues from ever occurring.

"These are things that employees do, in my opinion, sort of a last resort," she said. "Ideally, if companies could identify these issues more proactively, provide more channels for employees to speak up, try to take action and help resolve the issues and show employees that you care, I think some of these more serious downstream incidents can be avoided."

Editor's note: dot.LA co-founder Spencer Rascoff is an investor in AllVoices.

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Cadence

This Year’s Techstars’ Demo Day Included Robot Bartenders and Towable Rockets

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College and previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to samsonamore@dot.la and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

This Year’s Techstars’ Demo Day Included Robot Bartenders and Towable Rockets
Andria Moore

On Wednesday, Techstars’ fall 2022 class gathered in Downtown Los Angeles to pitch their products to potential investors in hopes of securing their next big funding round. dot.LA co-sponsored the demo day presentation alongside Venice-based space news website Payload.

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Derek Jeter’s Sports Trading Card Company Brings in $10M

Kristin Snyder

Kristin Snyder is dot.LA's 2022/23 Editorial Fellow. She previously interned with Tiger Oak Media and led the arts section for UCLA's Daily Bruin.

sports trading cards
Arena Club /Andria Moore

Sports trading card platform Arena Club has raised $10 million in Series A funding.

Co-founded by CEO Brian Lee and Hall of Fame Yankees player Derek Jeter, Arena Club launched its digital showroom in September. Through the platform, sports fans can buy, sell, trade and display their card collections. Using computer vision and machine learning, Arena Club allows fans to grade and authenticate their cards, which can be stored in the company’s vault or delivered in protective “slabs.” Arena Club intends to use the new cash to expand these functions and scale its operations.

The new funding brings Arena Club’s total amount raised to $20 million. M13, defy.vc, Lightspeed Ventures, Elysian Park Ventures and BAM Ventures contributed to the round.

“Our team is thankful for the group of investors—led by M13, who see the bright future of the trading card hobby and our platform,” Lee said in a statement. “I have long admired M13 and the value they bring to early-stage startups.”

M13’s co-founder Courtney Reum, who formed the early-stage consumer technology venture firm in 2016 alongside his brother Carter Reum, will join Arena Club’s board. Reum has been eyeing the trading card space since 2020 when he began investing in what was once just a childhood hobby.

The sports trading card market surged in 2020 as fans turned to the hobby after the pandemic brought live events to a standstill. Since then, prices have come down, though demand remains high. And investors are still betting on trading card companies, with companies like Collectors bringing in $100 million earlier this year. Fanatics, which sells athletic collectibles and trading cards, reached a $31 billion valuation after raising $700 million earlier this week. On the blockchain, Tom Brady’s NFT company Autograph lets athletes sell digital collectibles directly to fans.

As for Arena Club, the company is looking to cement itself as a digital card show.

“Providing users with a digital card show allows us to use our first-class technology to give collectors from all over the world the luxury of being able to get the full trading card show experience at their fingertips,” Jeter said in a statement.

Hosts Who Rent From “Airbnb-Friendly” LA Apartments May Not Make a Profit

Amrita Khalid
Amrita Khalid is a tech journalist based in Los Angeles, and has written for Quartz, The Daily Dot, Engadget, Inc. Magazine and number of other publications. She got her start in Washington, D.C., covering Congress for CQ-Roll Call. You can send tips or pitches to amrita@dot.la or reach out to her on Twitter at @askhalid.
LA house

L.A.’s lax enforcement of Airbnbs has led to an surge of illegal short-term rentals — even four years after the city passed a regulation to crack down on such practices. But what if hosts lived in a building that welcomed Airbnb guests and short-term rentals?

That’s the idea behind Airbnb’s new push to expand short-term rental offerings. The company is partnering with a number of corporate landlords that agreed to offer “Airbnb-friendly” apartment buildings, reported The Wall Street Journal last week. According to the report, the new service will feature more than 175 buildings managed by Equity Residential, Greystar Real Estate Partners LLC and 10 other companies that have agreed to clear more than 175 properties nationwide for short-term rentals.

But prospective hosts in Los Angeles who decide to rent apartments from Airbnb’s list of more than a dozen “friendly” buildings in the city likely won’t earn enough to break even due to a combination of high rents, taxes and city restrictions on short-term rentals. Rents on one-bedroom apartments in most of the partnered buildings listed soared well over $3,000 a month. Only a few studios were available under the $2,000 price range. If a host were to rent a one bedroom apartment with a monthly rent of $2,635 (which amounts to $31,656 annually), they would have to charge well over the $194 average price per night for Los Angeles (which amounts to $23,280 per year) according to analytics platform AllTheRooms.

Either way, residents who rent one of these Airbnb friendly apartments still have to apply for a permit through the City of Los Angeles in order to host on Airbnb.

“[..Airbnb-friendly buildings] seems like a good initiative. However, from a quick look, it seems that given the rent, Airbnb revenue wouldn’t be enough to cover all expenses if the host follows the city’s policy,” says Davide Proserpio, assistant professor of marketing at the USC Marshall School of Business.

In addition, since L.A.’s 120-day cap on short-term rentals still applies to the buildings on Airbnb’s listing platform, that greatly limits the number of longer-term guests a resident can host. Not to mention, some of the buildings that Airbnb lists have even shorter limits – The Milano Lofts in DTLA for example only allows residents to host 90 nights a year.

Airbnb’s calculations of host earnings may be greatly misleading as well, given that the estimate doesn’t include host expenses, taxes, cleaning fees or individual building restrictions. For example, Airbnb estimates that a resident of a $3,699 one bedroom apartment at the Vinz in Hollywood that hosts 7 nights a month can expect $1,108 a month in revenue if they host year-round. But the Vinz only allows hosts to rent 90 days a year, which greatly limits the potential for subletters and a consistent income stream.

Keep in mind too that since the apartment will have to serve as the host’s “primary residence”, hosts will have to live there six months out of the year. All of which is to say, it’s unclear how renting an apartment in an “Airbnb-friendly” building makes hosting easier — especially in a city where illegal short-term rentals already seem to be the norm.

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