George Tenet went to a craft fair and bought every table

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Gerry Bello's picture
Craft fair items on a table
How bad is the Esty IPO? For starters it is taking money out of the pockets of artists and putting it into big banking and the intelligence community. Photo by CrapChick via Flickr.

By Gerry Bello

The Citizens United Supreme Court decision stated clearly that in America corporations are people and have rights. It did not say whether or not corporations have souls. It is not clear if the Supreme Court can transcend it's normal temporal level of power and grant a corporation a soul. If so such a thing were to happen, would said corporate soul transcend national boundaries or would the corporation still be soulless across the Rio Grande at a maquiladora?

Aside from the existential questions that intertwine national politics, corporate structure and court jurisdiction, the (allegedly existant) soul of one corporation is being questioned. As Etsy approaches the date of it's initial public offering, or IPO, some artists accuse the company of selling out – selling it's soul. Others fear it's soul will be sucked out by the various investors who will bid on it. But was its soul drained by the intelligence community and it's associated investment firms long ago, with Goldman Sachs now coming along to pull meat from the corpse?

Esty, for those unfamiliar, is an online market place that allows artists to create an online store to sell their handmade goods. It charges a percentage for processing and charges the artist microtransactions for upload pictures of goods and changes to the store. The site has seen a number of controversies around privacy issues and the definition of handmade, but despite this it has found a place as one of the highest grossing sites on the internet. As it moves to greater commercialization and transitions to becoming a publicly traded company, the importance of the intelligence community in its evolution becomes more of a question.

The private equity firm Allen and Company is one of the underwriters of Etsy's IPO. Former CIA director George Tenet is a managing director there. Although they are an investment firm with a history of backing social networking products and being media merger deal makers, Allen and Company are no stranger to underwriting IPOs. They quietly underwrote Twitter's IPO for instance.

Tenet is no stranger to the venture capital game. While still CIA director he founded In-Q-Tel, which is a non-profit venture capital firm that backs start-ups that may be of later use to the intelligence community. In-Q-Tel shares board membership with Greylock Capital Partners, which was recently seen intervening in a local election in the Bay Area.

In-Q-Tel sits at the center of a network of private firms that seem to invest as a pack in certain technologies. For instance, the big data firm Cloudera raised series A capital funding from Accel Capital. Accel was joined in later rounds by Greylock. In still later rounds of funding, In-Q-Tel came on board. Accel has a major stake in Etsy with two board seats and participation in 3 rounds of funding.

Accel seems to be gaining a greater stake in Etsy. Now that stake will soon be a publicly traded stock. Accel's stake is complimented by that of Goldman Sachs, which also joined Accel and Greylock in funding Dropbox.

With George Tenet blessing Etsy's entry into public trading, it is clear that Accel's profits are a slam dunk. There is no public information on what interest the intelligence community has in the world of homemade art. Perhaps the backing is simply a quid pro quo for Accel being a team player on other ventures.

There is apparent profit to be made in moving Etsy to a less organic peer to peer model as new rules allow for products to be conceived or “authored” as handmade and still be actually supplied mass produced by third world sweatshops.

No information has come to light as to what intentions the intelligence community has for Etsy's soul. The state, or existence of Etsy's soul can not be confirmed or denied by anyone inside or outside the intelligence or craft community.

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