August 2018 headlines reported; Apple Inc. becomes America’s first TRILLION dollar company, making it worth more than all but fifteen countries in the world. Apple is now only the second public company to top the one trillion-dollar mark (PetroChina hit this milestone for a brief period in 2007 on the Shanghai Stock Exchange).
While I wasn’t shocked by the news or the valuation, the following morning I woke up with one simple question: How does a trillion-dollar Apple valuation actually create positive value for real people living their lives? Does the existence of a trillion-dollar company make the world a better place?
There is no question that Apple has built a world dominating brand and created products that have positively impacted most of our lives – I admire Apple, as well as Google, Microsoft and Amazon. But, at the same time, the rise of these mega tech brands and their outsized influence and obscene wealth also concerns me as a citizen of the world. I care less about the impact of monopolies and more about their lack of impact on job creation despite such wealth and influence.
Let’s look at some numbers and we’ll start with jobs. In 1979, GM was valued at $17.9 billion (inflation adjusted) and employed nearly 620,000 people. In comparison, Apple is worth more than a Trillion and employs only 120,000 human beings. Their reduced overhead and infrastructure certainly makes them more profitable (yah for Apple!), but at what cost to society? All that wealth and they only support 120,00 people and their families? That’s an astonishing and concerning gap.
Next, let’s look at the indirect impact on the availability of non-tech investment dollars. How do we get investors interested in anything other than technology with those kind of multipliers? Add in the well documented bias against female founders in a non-tech space and you can understand why female founders garner only 3% of overall investment dollars.
My own story and struggle to secure funding as the female founder of Good Zebra, a good-for-you protein snack company, brings the one trillion dollar valuation of Apple into very personal territory. Three and a half years into my own startup, on the heels of over twenty years of marketing and product experience and accomplishments, I’ve been told time and again that someone would invest if ONLY I had a technology company with a bigger valuation. It makes me want to scream, literally scream, to the rooftops. Instead of doing that, I’ve decided to make my own small positive impact on the world. With a group of 100 female founders, we are launching THE F PROJECT in September to raise the awareness, profile and economic success of Female Founders. It’s a consumer facing, collaborative commerce project out to prove that people want to invest in and support female founders and their brands, even if they aren’t trillion-dollar tech companies.
Why? Because making stuff matters. Making beautiful things matters. Doing it together and in support of each other, matters. If we can collectively raise the profile and power of female founders maybe investors will finally start to pay attention.
Finally, I challenge Apple to take just a fraction of a percent of its profits and invest in non-tech related startups to help fuel innovation in other sectors, other types of products - to give back, to feel good and to fuel more jobs. What if they created a female founders fund to address the “less than 3% of funding to female founders” fact. What if they helped support and lift up female founders who are employing humans with creative, innovative but non-tech businesses that help to fuel our ecosystem 1, 2, or 50 families at a time?
In the announcement to employees after this milestone valuation, CEO Tim Cook referenced Apple’s co-founder Steve Jobs in a memo. "Steve founded Apple on the belief that the power of human creativity can solve even the biggest challenges -- and that the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do."
If anyone is ready to change the world, it’s this next generation of female founders who are bootstrapping and busting their ass without funding, making impossible dreams happen through sheer will and creativity. Hey Apple - how about a little help?