In April of 2015, Menlo Park-based startup Globality raised $10 million in a Series A round from investors including former Vice President Al Gore, Yahoo CFO Ken Goldman, Columbia computer science professor and “serial co-founder” Yechiam Yemini, and other notables. Earlier this month, a Series B round brought in another $27 million from five of the same investors (including Gore and Goldman).
Yet the there’s no public valuation, and no one outside the company can actually tell you what they do.
Globality’s LinkedIn page puts their mission more succinctly and concretely than anywhere else:
“Globality is creating a new ecosystem for global trade, enabling small and midsize companies anywhere in the world to participate in the global economy.”
You’ll find similar riffs on that theme dotting their website—currently a rather sparse yet well-designed homepage and nothing more.
You’ll also be able to read that they plan to accomplish their goal of building a new “ecosystem” using artificial intelligence and “human curation,” but if you’re hoping for an understandable description of the product(s) and or service(s) that Globality will be offering, you’re shit out of luck.
Why We Should Care About This Unknown Unknown
The only reason Globality is on anyone’s radar—and honestly, they haven’t been much more than a blip—is because of the people involved. Co-Founder, Chairman, and CEO Joel Hyatt was a business partner with Gore in Current TV, which created controversy with its 2013 sale to Qatar-backed media organization Al Jazeera for $500 million (Gore/Hyatt and Al Jazeera have mutual lawsuits related to the deal). This past relationship suggests that the two are close partners on this venture as well.
Gore’s credentials as politician, businessman, and global warming advocate are fairly well-known. Hyatt has been somewhat less prominent despite his rather whitewashed Wikipedia page making claims that he was a “household name” due to his commercial appearances for Hyatt Legal Services, which he founded. The page also identifies him as a politician, though he’s never held elected office—he had one failed Senate bid in 1994, securing the Democratic nomination but losing the election, and he served six months of a six-year term on the California Public Utilities Commission.
What Hyatt has done is make a lot of money; with Hyatt Legal Services, providing low-cost legal services to the masses; with Hyatt Legal Plans, a provider of legal services as an employment benefit, which sold to MetLife in 1997; even with Current TV, which never attracted large audiences but had decent revenue from distribution deals at the time of its sale. Hyatt also served as the National Finance Chair for the Democratic Party in 2000 (the year of Gore’s presidential run, you may recall).
So we’ve got a well-funded startup backed by some politically-connected and super serious folks intent on changing global trade and presumably ushering in “the globality”—a theoretical end stage of globalization where there is only one free and open global market and national boundaries are meaningless.
I think that’s worth paying attention to.
Also on board at this stealthy startup are marketing manager Porter Gale, former VP of Marketing at Virgin America; CFO Russell Burke, formerly of Price Waterhouse, Sony Music, and most recently Magic Leap, another secretive but seductive startup (apparently they’ve created their own “HoloLens”, but they won’t tell anyone much about it) poised for a big launch this year; and Chief Product Officer York Poon, who is notable not only for possessing my new favorite name but for his former role as head of product and design at Elance/Upwork.
For anyone unaware, Upwork is the result of the Elance/oDesk merger, enabling bargain-hunting businesses to find questionably qualified freelancers in all sorts of fields. The site has been the biggest boon for people in the developing world—upper-tier freelancers in the West tend to get priced out of the global marketplace pretty quickly (I was a top-rated writer on oDesk for about a year prior to the merger, but even with the boost that ranking gave me it was hard to find clients willing to pay more than minimum wage).
With Poon’s experience in product development for a company that makes its money on high volumes of low-value deals, his involvement in Globality is telling.
What it’s telling us, though, still isn’t clear.
The mix of AI and “human curation” mentioned by Hyatt on the company’s homepage could be a customer-to-business-and-business-to-business matching service. It could be a network of smart vehicles or smart transport software that use Big Data to manage shipment volumes and routes based on dynamic global demand to save big money on logistics and lower trade barriers for smaller manufacturers and distributors. It could be the next step in the Illuminati’s installation of a new world order (all hail the bringer of the light, for the night is dark and full of terrors).
Right now, no one at Globality is saying.
They are hiring though, so if anyone wants to get a job and violate what will almost certainly be an ironclad NDA to get me up to speed, I’d appreciate it.
Daniel A. Guttenberg is an Atlanta-based writer who fell into the startup world by accident and has been gleefully treading water ever since. He will be survived by his beard and his legacy of procrastination.