Jay-Z’s Roc Nation and First Round Capital Invest $3 million in Bail Reform Startup

Nationwide, 62 percent of the jail population accounts for people who can’t afford bail, according to the Vera Institute of Justice. A lot of these incarcerated individuals are behind bars because they allegedly committed crimes at the misdemeanor level or lower. This is a significant statistic from a human rights perspective, as well as an economic one. It costs about $38 million a day to keep these largely nonviolent people behind bars, according to the Pretrial Justice Institute.

This is where Promise, a de-carceration startup that just raised over $3 million in a round led by First Round Capital with participation from Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, 8VC and Kapor Capital, comes in. Last Father’s Day, Jay-Z penned an op-ed about the bail industry and pre-trial incarceration. He noted how every year, $9 billion is wasted incarcerating people who have not been convicted of crimes.

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Promise, which is part of Y Combinator’s  current batch of startups, offers counties and local governments an alternative to holding low-risk people behind bars simply because they can’t afford bail.

For each participant, Promise provides counties with a comprehensive intake procedure and then sets up each participant with a care plan specific to them. Promise will then monitor and support participants by helping them ensure they know when they’re supposed to appear in court, and remind them of obligations like drug testing or substance abuse treatment needed. The app also helps participants access job training, housing, counseling and referrals.

Instead of a county paying to incarcerate someone simply because they can’t afford to post bail, they can use Promise to monitor compliance with court orders and better keep tabs on people via the app and, if needed, GPS monitoring devices. Counties, courts, case managers and other stakeholders can also access progress reports of individuals to monitor compliance.

Already, Promise is onboarding one county this week and is in talks with another three counties. Instead of a county jail paying $190 per day per person, Promise charges some counties just $17 per person per day. In some cases, Promise charges even less per person.

 

Jay-Z Pens Urges Fans to Fight For Social Justice

Jay-Z has published an essay addressing the importance of social justice titled “This Is Our Power.”

Written for The Hollywood Reporter, the essay begins with Jay-Z writing about Kalief Browder, the young black man who was wrongfully convicted of a crime he did not commit and served at Rikers Island for three years.

“The post-traumatic stress disorder he came out with led him to suicide two years ago, but not before he had the chance to talk about what happened to him,” Jay-Z writes. “…He’s just one example in a system that is broken. We need to be the ones who fix it.”

The rapper and entrepreneur then talks about the documentary series he made on Browder, Time: The Kalief Browder Story, and the importance of demanding change from the people we put into office.

“But social justice isn’t a political issue. It’s a human issue. It’s a story of empathy. When we are able to identify that we are all not perfect and have compassion for someone else, we can move forward as a society,” Jay-Z concludes. “Look around at what’s happening in your town and your city right now. Think small, and you can do much bigger things.”

Read more here.

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A Tidal Fail.

So Jay-Z has been struggling to get people to buy into his streaming music service, Tidal. Folks don’t appear to be biting. Last night, Jigga made another effort to push the offering. This time around, he used charity along with his wife, Beyonce, Usher, Nicki Minaj, T.I., Lil Wayne and the results weren’t too hot. I didn’t say it, The New York Times did:

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At least Bey had a good time.

For the most part, the stars came out, put in their few minutes, then disappeared — the night played like an old-fashioned telethon. Maybe that’s why the performances from the show that were broadcast later in the night on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” were more impressive: Sweeping cameras and strong editing can do wonders. 

Oh. And it get’s worse:

This show was merely too big to fail, and so of course it did. It’s hard to see Tidal as something other than an oligarchic hustle when it primarily engages in oligarchic behavior.

Yikes.

Well at least good will get done: 100 percent of the ticket proceeds from the show went to the New World Foundation, with the money earmarked for “organizations dedicated to advancing positive community relations and effecting systemic change for the development and sustainability of just societies,” according to Tidal’s website.

Read the entire review here.

Finish Strong.

It’s hard to believe – 2014 will soon be over. This year has demonstrated tremendous lessons, both personal and professional. Here are my top five:
1. Great leaders make the difference. When the wrong people are in position, it can be damn near impossible to get things done. Being a capable leader doesn’t simply rest on your credential or a title. I’m means articulating a vision and trusting your team to execute. It means leading by example and never stooping to the lows of office politics. It means openly, genuinely and frequently recognizing the accomplishments of your team and not magnifying their failures. Dear friends, not all are built to be leaders.
2. Social customer care is everything. I’ve always been obsessed with social customer care before I even knew what that meant. ‎Three years ago I tweeted at Anthropologie and I remember, clear as day, they responded, located the item I was looking for and sent me a coupon within a matter of hours. To this day, I tell that story – they have set the standard for me. I cannot tell you (I’d be too ashamed to) the amount of money I’ve spend with them since then. Yes, I love the uniqueness of their merchandise. But more an that, I’m a fan of the brand and how they handled that incident. This year, as I encountered Pret a Manger, USPS and everyone in between, I carefully watched their moves when it came to customer response. Strong customer response via social matters to the bottom line.
3. You can’t control everything. This year ‎almost everything that I thought I could control slipped right out of my hands. I won’t go into too much detail but we have all heard the saying, “if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” That’s the absolute truth. At the top of the year, I became aware of the Sand Mandala. It is is a Tibetan Buddhist tradition involving the creation and destruction of mandalas made from colored sand. A sand mandala is ritualistically destroyed once it has been completed and its accompanying ceremonies and viewing are finished to symbolize the Buddhist doctrinal belief in the transitory nature of material life. . It amazed me that these individuals would spend so much time creating something so ornate and then destroy it.  It’s great to focus on a goal but not to be so tied into the process of how you ‎get to the finish line. finish-line-900
4. Take a risk and if you fail, take another. This year, I continued to try out new ways to engage my organization’s social audiences. The previous year, our Facebook and Twitter Chats had been successful. I decided to explore the possibility of using livestream video to bring our annual plan meeting to various stakeholders. Weeks of planning went into the ‘how’ as it was the first time the organization would attempt this type of broadcast. There was hurdle after hurdle: we didn’t have the proper equipment, the internet speed at the venue was shaky. Even two minutes after we went to air there was a glitch – Youtube shut us down as it was picking up the ambient house music and that was in violation if copyright regulations. My team quickly worked on a resolution and it was fixed just as the Chair and CEO stepped to the podium. Had we given up at any point, if we were not relentless about achieving the goal at any cost, we would have failed.
5. You belong. I’ve been attending conference after conference for a solid month. I wanted to gain knowledge in my area of expertise, showcase my skill-set as well as meet leaders in my industry. There was a VP of a worldwide company who was set to panel at one of the events I attended who I was anxious to connect with. I checked his name on the program, determined to speak with him at some point. At the end of day two, I had my opportunity: there he was, packing up his bag and standing alone. Yet, I felt my legs carry my body right past him and out of the door. “Wait, what are you doing?!” I literally said aloud. I walked back to him, stuck out my hand and introduced myself. Long story short, he gave me his direct line and email address. Had I allowed fear to grip me, I would have walked right out of the venue and been cursing myself on the ride home.
In the next 30 days, my focus will be on mindfully observing and influencing the above areas. I’m a strong believer in pushing hard the last leg of the race. Usually, I crank up my Jay Z and I go numb as I run to last mile. Nothing else matters. I’ll let you know how I do.

What’s with Jay’s Foundation?

Surely,  no one was shocked when Hip Hop mogul Jay Z announced that he’ll take a “leadership role” on the “disturbing” issue of recent racial profiling accusations at Barney’s in NYC by continuing his partnership deal with the luxury store and having all the proceeds go to the Shawn Carter Foundation.

I will say that the whole thing has people taking a closer look at just how ‘good’ the Foundation actually is. Enter the Washington Post.

In a report released earlier this week, WP put the charity on blast.

The paper reports that the charity, founded in 2003 and is dedicated to helping low-income students “further their education at institutions of higher learning,” has since its inception, given over 750 students awards totaling over $1.3 million in individual grants of $1,500 to $2,500.

Laughing all the way to the bank.

The foundation is run by his mother, Gloria Carter, who takes no salary from the part-time job. In the most recent IRS 990 records for 2011, the foundation lists $802,425 in revenue, $132,819 in expenses and $141,357 given out in grants and services, leaving a reserve of $528,249

The Washington Post sourced Erica Harris, an assistant professor at Rutgers who specializes in celebrity charity accounting, recently co-authored “The Relationship of Celebrity Affiliation to Nonprofit Contributions” with colleague Julie Ruth. The two found that both for-profits (such as Barneys) and non-profits did better when aligned with a popular star. In their study of 514 charities, donors gave 1.4 percent more to the charities, which averaged $100,000 per year.

That holds true whether the celebrity endorsed an outside charity or established their own. And only large donors ($10,000 or more) looked closely at executive compensation or the amount actually spent for the charity’s stated purpose.

The top 15 celebrity charities rated by efficiency, meaning the ratio of money spent on the mission of the nonprofit to its total expenses, don’t include Jay. The top name: champion surfer Kelly Slater’s foundation, along with the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS foundation, Larry King’s cardiac foundation, the Jane Goodall Institute, Elton John’s AIDS foundation and charities headed by Boomer Esiason, Andre Agassi and Michael J. Fox.

But what does he care? His very presence is philanthropic enough.