Show an ad over header. AMP

I am the FIRST

"The flights may never fly": A CEO's effort to get an employee out of Afghanistan

"It's just a mess. We got the money and the planes, but the manifested people can't get into the airport. The flights may never fly."

That's how the CEO of a Silicon Valley startup valued at over $3 billion described his efforts to extract an employee and others from Afghanistan.

  • The employee, an Afghan with a green card who once served as a translator for the U.S. military, did get out with his wife (who had been waiting more than two years for a visa). But other members of his family remain, including a brother who he tried to get through the airport gates, so we are keeping the name of the company and its employee anonymous.

Behind the scenes: An ad hoc group of tech investors and executives has been quietly pulling strings and writing checks, trying to help as many desperate people as possible. But successes are becoming harder to achieve.

  • "One of my executives used to work in the defense industry, and offered to make some outreach," the CEO, who is an immigrant, explains to Axios.
  • "Serious people wrote him back, saying that if we contribute money, then they could get him out. At first it sounded illicit, but I didn't care, this was someone's life at stake, pull that thread," the CEO adds.
  • "Soon we learned that it was an ex-military logistics group on a humanitarian mission, and they needed to close the funding gap for a plane that would hold between 150 and 200 refugees."
  • "We raised over $100,000 in just 12 hours from a lot of people who probably know, and who have been working on other evacuations. As a CEO it's a very interesting trust-building exercise, to wire $100,000 to someone you just met, but this is an immediate, life and death sort of situation."

But that plane hasn't yet arrived in Kabul. Nor have several of the other planes funded by the same donors, because their intended passengers remain stranded outside the airport gates.

  • The employee and his wife got out on a military transport, first to Doha and then to D.C. The other plane was viewed as a backup for them and a primary way to fetch the rest of his family.
  • "There are planes just sitting a few hours away [from Afghanistan] that could take out thousands of people, a lot of whom have been trying for years to get visas, but the whole process was slowed down by COVID and other factors ... I just got off the phone with someone trying to get a busload of 100 people into the airport, but it doesn't look like it's going to happen. Even 48 hours ago there were some people getting through ... Now we're basically having no success."

The bottom line: The U.S. military remains scheduled to leave Afghanistan on Tuesday, which would make evacuations even harder.

Why the startup world needs to ditch "unicorns" for "dragons"

When Aileen Lee originally coined the term "unicorn" in late 2013, she was describing the 39 "U.S.-based software companies started since 2003 and valued at over $1 billion by public or private market investors."

Flashback: It got redefined in early 2015 by yours truly and Erin Griffith, in a cover story for Fortune, as any privately-held startup valued at $1 billion or more. At the time, we counted 80 of them.

Keep reading... Show less

Scoop: Facebook's new moves to lower News Feed's political volume

Facebook plans to announce that it will de-emphasize political posts and current events content in the News Feed based on negative user feedback, Axios has learned. It also plans to expand tests to limit the amount of political content that people see in their News Feeds to more countries outside of the U.S.

Why it matters: The changes could reduce traffic to some news publishers, particularly companies that post a lot of political content.

Keep reading... Show less

Scoop: Amazon quietly getting into live audio business

Amazon is investing heavily in a new live audio feature that's similar to other live audio offerings like Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces and Spotify's new live audio platform, sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: As with Amazon's efforts in podcasting and music subscriptions, the company sees live audio as a way to bolster the types of content it can offer through its voice assistant, Alexa, and its smart speaker products.

Keep reading... Show less

Hurricane Ida exposes America's precarious energy infrastructure

The powerful hurricane that plunged New Orleans into darkness for what could be weeks is the latest sign that U.S. power systems are not ready for a warmer, more volatile world.

The big picture: “Our current infrastructure is not adequate when it comes to these kinds of weather extremes,” Joshua Rhodes, a University of Texas energy expert, tells Axios.

Keep reading... Show less

"We must go further": 70% of adults in European Union are fully vaccinated

About 70% of adults in the European Union are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said Tuesday.

Why it matters: The milestone makes the E.U. one of the world's leaders in inoculations, after an initially lagging vaccine campaign, the New York Times notes.

Keep reading... Show less

What Elizabeth Holmes jurors will be asked ahead of fraud trial

Jury selection begins today in USA v. Elizabeth Holmes, with the actual jury trial to get underway on Sept. 8.

Why it matters: Theranos was the biggest fraud in Silicon Valley history, putting both hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of patients' health at risk.

Keep reading... Show less



Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories