Values & Innovation Conference
“A company that realizes that it’s causing harm to its users must course-correct”
Rabea Zioud, CEO of Hasoub, a group that connects the Arab population with the high tech industry, was speaking during a panel on Calcalist and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom’s Values & Innovation Conference
What do liberal values mean to high tech companies whose business revolves around technology? That is a question that isn’t often asked in high tech or business settings. However, over the past few years several entrepreneurs and high tech employees have begun asking questions that pertain to the ethical or philosophical aspect of business operations. The most prominent example is the impact that social media is having on current society. While Facebook is the most well-known example, protecting and guarding those values is a common problem for many.
On the other hand, technology companies are business-oriented, and their traditional outlook is mainly focused on making money. Those issues and more arose during the Values & Innovation Conference, which analyzed the link between liberal values, innovation, and the startup ecosystem, and was organized by Calcalist and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom. The “Liberal Values and the Startup Ecosystem” panel discussed the tensions between liberal values that drive innovation and the social impact it creates, such as whether personal data or privacy is compromised. Cecile Blilious, Head of Impact & Sustainability at Pitango Venture Capital; Ornit Shinar, Head of External Innovation and Venture Investing at Citi-Israel, and Rabea Zioud, CEO of Hasoub, an organization that connects the Arab population to the high tech industry, discussed these different issues.
“In my opinion a good successful profitable company, which aims to serve both its shareholders and stakeholders, must certainly consider liberal values such as diversity and inclusivity, as well as privacy and the climate crisis - it all has to be part of the discourse and model,” said Blilious. “If they don't look at things and say: ‘Wait, how can we create a better society?’ Then who would?”
Zioud added: “If a company realizes it's causing harm to its users, or perhaps the environment, then it needs to course-correct. These things could bounce back to them.”
Shinar disagreed. “Companies don’t care. When they're asked in surveys, they say that they care. But in reality, I don't think it matters that much. When consumers experience something that seems unfair to them, they go to the media and the press. You see articles and Facebook posts where they express resentment over certain actions. People use apps that deny their right to privacy completely, but it depends whether the ‘cost’ of privacy justifies its use. It all depends on what users are willing to compromise on.”
When asked how Israeli high tech companies can better incorporate Arab employees, Zioud said: “Most of the industry in Israel is based on your connections, and Arab society is not part of those circles, since Arabs don’t serve in the military. Even if they study at some of Israel’s best universities, they usually remain closed off from that network. At Microsoft, 82% of its industry is based on people recruiting those they know. If you don’t know anyone, you get filtered out right away. We try to foster friendships, and create networks for Arab students so that they can reach these companies’ doorsteps.”
You can watch the full panel in the video above.