The Truth behind Kino’s letter. ~ Paul Javid

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The letter in question: When one Big Company picks on one Yoga Teacher. ~ Kino MacGregor

For 15 years, Elephant has played the delicate but vital role of engendering dialogue around difficult and controversial situations and important issues. As you know, we tend to take sides (which is important, when based on facts) and objectify the “other.” We can do better. We can stand for truth, but also listen. War and litigation helps no one. Yoga is union, and union is difficult—and worthwhile.

As independent, mission-driven media, we stand apart from Facebook, twitter, Instagram and other platforms dedicated to quarterly returns and riven with fake news and invective. Our only motivation in this case is to help yoga culture and our larger culture be honest and kind and fair. In that spirit, we are honored to host a rebuttal or reply in response to Kino’s brave letter. Kino is a longtime Elephant featured columnist, and we encourage both “sides” to work this out peaceably and move forward with greater understanding and freedom. ~ Waylon, ed.

Note: You can read Kino’s letter here

And now here’s Kino’s request to end the lawsuit.

With thanks to Andrew Sealy for bringing folks together, below is the response from Paul Javid, CEO of Cody App.:

 

 

Dear Yoga community—its teachers, students, supporters and advocates:

I am a co-founder of Cody.

I am not a Yoga teacher and do not presume to take credit for its message. That is not my role.

My role, through Cody, is to bring light and attention to Yoga teachers, and their messages—messages that I and all the employees at Cody, and Alo, believe can invoke incredible personal transformation, not just of self, but of communities, countries, and the world.

When I read Kino’s letter on Elephant Journal, I was saddened, because it calls for the Yoga community—a community that stands for peace and love, both internally and externally—to choose sides. Such an action can only cause harm. There are never any winners in a conflict like this.

And, like Kino, Cody considers itself a defender of the spiritual heart of Yoga.

So, I write this with the belief that truth will always sing the loudest, and that whatever may come from truth will always lead to the greater good.

To be clear, I am not asking you to choose my side, but rather to share my and Cody’s presentation of the events referenced in Kino’s letter. This is a difficult situation because I have never sought the public spotlight. I simply want to build a business that is a platform for teachers and students alike. But because of what Kino states in her letter, my fellow employees at Cody feel we must present a full picture of Kino’s relationship with Cody. Not only does it affect us, but it has already negatively affected the teachers who we work with, their livelihood and their families.

So, in the spirit of truth and transparency, I share with you the following:

Cody’s business relationship with Kino began in 2014. At the time, Cody was a four-person team. We had just enough money in our bank account to keep our company running. I spent my days either on the phone speaking with Yoga teachers or on set filming with them. I remember first filming with Kino at her home in Miami and calling my business partner to share how happy I was that we were working with her. She had and has such a strong voice, and her message was powerful. I knew we were doing something special, and a few months later we launched our first video series with Kino. We were creating online learning experiences in a way that had never before been done. Cody was excited to share it with the world. As time went on, our business relationship with Kino grew deeper. At one point, I offered Kino shares of the business, so that together we could build the platform that the world needed.

Over the next few months, Kino approached me with an idea to start a Yoga TV channel. I spoke about it with our team, and we quickly realized that we did not have the financial resources to take on such a large endeavor. We were in the first year of creating online video content, and we were losing over $30,000 a month to keep our operations running. To put things in perspective, the business deal Kino negotiated with us was beneficial to her. At the time, she was getting paid more than our entire company’s payroll. I share this to help make the point that Kino is and was a shrewd business woman and we were a small company working to figure out a business model that would allow us to provide this platform to the Yoga community. Ultimately, Cody told Kino that it could not start a Yoga TV channel, but if she was willing to take stock instead of cash together we could create that in the future.

Kino did not want to become a shareholder of Cody, and she informed me that she was going to go her own way. This decision by Kino was bad news for Cody. At that time, Cody was losing money and the departure of our top instructor meant that there was a real chance Cody would have to shut down, our six employees would lose their jobs, and Cody’s (at the time) 10-15 instructors would lose a significant portion of—not only their livelihood—but the platform that allowed them to share their voice and message with the world.

Our business was built to support our Yoga teachers, both financially and to help build their brand. We created content and put their name on it first. We promoted their message. And when Kino told me she no longer wanted to be associated with Cody, it was difficult, but I wished her all the best on behalf of Cody.

What happened next was sad given our previous history. Within six months it became clear that Kino did not want to become a part owner of Cody…and she intended to compete against us. She started YogaChallenge.com. And, unfortunately, in starting this new business, we later found out that Kino had taken the core of Cody and copied it. Not only did she copy our concepts, but she also began creating online plans (or courses). She replicated the look, feel and layout of Cody’s website; the copy she used to describe and sell her courses; and even the creative images and videos to promote her courses. It seemed clear to us that Kino didn’t leave to start up a Yoga TV network—rather, she had just copied Cody and started a competitive business.

 

Cody FAQ.

Above: the YogaChallenge.com FAQ, copied nearly word-for-word from Cody.

       

Above, the Cody Course Page.

Above, the Yoga Challenge.com Course page.

 

Above: the Cody Workouts view.      

 

 

Above, the YogaChallenge.com Workouts View.

 

 

Given Cody’s financial situation, we could not afford to take any legal action. And despite disappointment from my fellow Cody employees, I explained to them that rather than using that negative energy to create confrontation, we just needed to put our heads down, keep innovating and creating, and take the high road to success.

As a result, we doubled down on our efforts internally and gave it our all to continue growing. In the meantime, while we continued to struggle financially, we continued paying Kino a substantial amount for the content that we had created with her, consistent with our agreement.

By 2017 Cody had created a strong name in the Yoga community.

We worked with over 40 instructors who not only educated but inspired this growing community. We started spending significant resources to share inspirational stories such as the inspiring “I Am Worthy” video of Dana Falsetti, or Ana Forrest’s You Can be Free video where she tells her story of battling addiction and epilepsy.

Despite these achievements, after four years, Cody was still far from profitable, and we were forced to layoff multiple employees. This was extremely challenging for our team. On one hand we felt like we were doing good for the world—but on the other hand, we still were not breaking even financially. Despite these financial difficulties, we continued to honor our agreement with Kino and make our monthly payments to her.

Given Cody’s financial situation, I started exploring how we might fuel our growth so we could continue to work with our instructors and spread their message. We (my business partner, Pejman and I) started exploring additional financing options, as well as talking with various parent companies that aligned with our mission, and could help us grow Cody. We spoke with over a dozen companies in our space, and after spending months with Danny Harris, Marco DeGeorge and the Alo team, we felt that we had found a partner to allow Cody to continue its mission and prosper.

When Pejman and I met Alo and its owners, it was clear that their interest in Cody was to do good within the Yoga community. Rather than approaching our initial conversations with the desire for profit maximization, their initial proposal was focused on giving away all of our content for free. I was inspired by their vision to use their charitable foundation, Alo Gives, to bring Yoga into classrooms around the world. If we can offer to teach a deeper level of consciousness to our children and youth, it would give our future generations the tools to reach their full human capacities and to live rich and meaningful lives.

It was and remains clear to me that Alo and its owners are genuinely committed to their vision: to impact people for the better and “change the vibration of the planet,” through yoga and mindfulness. As we continued our business discussions we decided that the best way to achieve this goal is with a global online platform; representing people and teachers from around the world, in different languages, and from different ethnic backgrounds and nationalities. Taking this on is a huge endeavor that takes years and needs strong financial backing. To fund this endeavor, we decided it made sense to move Cody to a subscription business with the aim to become profitable.

Once we finalized our business partnership with Alo, Cody remained a separate company. I called all of our instructors, including Kino and Dana, to share with them our renewed vision and opportunity for growth with Alo. Since we value our relationships with our instructors, we wanted to make sure that every single one of them knew that Cody had been acquired by Alo and that Alo would be investing in the business. In each call I made clear that this was confidential news, and that we wanted them to know early as we prepared for an exciting public announcement.

When I called Kino, it was the first time we had connected in months. Given the past incidents with Kino, I was unsure of how she would react to this news, but I wanted to put the past behind us and focus on a positive future. In this spirit, I opened the conversation asking if she would consider working together again. She said she would, and as a result, Alo’s owners, Kino and I spent the next two months outlining a possible deal for us to work together.

It was an exciting time as the folks at Cody and I looked forward to working with Kino again and focusing on the future of Cody, with help from a company like Alo that shared our mission. But unfortunately I started to hear from various sources that Kino was calling our instructors to try to convince them to leave Cody and join OmStars, a competing business that Kino had started.

After confronting Kino about this, it became clear to me that Kino had no intention of working with Cody.

Our conversation shifted to her wanting Cody to take her content down from our website. She made this demand despite Kino having agreed that (and having been paid over $500,000), Cody owned the content we created and still does to this day—which is also how the film and music industry works.

Even though we were not contractually obligated to take down Kino’s content, we wanted to explore that path with her given our past working relationship in the hopes of avoiding conflict. We even offered to take a fraction of the amount we had paid for the content, which Kino did not want to pay.

She then gave us a deadline to either do a deal to take her content down or she would use her platform against us.

As to Dana, for her own reasons, she decided that she did not like Alo. That is her right and she is free to express her opinions. Nonetheless, I told Dana that Cody would take down her content when we first discussed the Alo deal. She was happy about that, and we had even discussed a date by which Cody would remove her content and our desire to off-board her from our platform before delisting her content.

After Dana emailed me to tell me to take no further action without speaking with her attorney, we waited for her attorney’s response. Dana’s attorney didn’t respond to us for over a month, so we took no further action.

During this time Dana knew we had been waiting to make a public announcement regarding our new relationship with Alo until we ensured that all of our instructors were aware of this as well. Instead of waiting, Dana decided to announce the Alo deal publicly and…very negatively on her Instagram.

This forced Cody to make the announcement to our users and community before we were ready.

Cody continues to pay Kino and Dana every month as it has contractually agreed to do. And it is important to note that while Dana has claimed that Cody breached its agreement with her about her content and Cody’s use of it, a judge already rejected that claim finding that Cody had not breached its agreement with her.

Kino’s David vs. Goliath metaphor is misleading. The false statements that Dana decided to post about Alo is what resulted in Alo taking separate legal action against Dana. Moreover, while Alo is a larger company than Cody, and while Alo is a successful business, Alo has nothing to do with Kino’s decision to start OmStars and to compete with Cody.

We think it’s healthy for there to be competition as long as the competition is fair and just.

The core values Cody has held dear over the years remain strong. We believe in Alo, and we know we are all stronger together. We’re happy that almost all of the 40+ instructors who are choosing to remain with us. However, after Kino’s post, Cody felt it important to point out what we believe are the business motivations behind the statements made by Kino.

My ask is not for you to choose sides, but to consider, internally, what may be driving all this heartache. I do not want ongoing confrontation within the Yoga community. There is already enough of that in our world.

 

 

~

Bonus: Drama is boring. Here’s what actually matters in all this Kino vs. Goliath stuff.

Bonus round: a few Walk the Talk Show videos, unrelated to the above, but related.

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Paul Javid

Paul Javid is a co-founder of Cody.  Prior to starting Cody, he spent years in India working with rural and slum schools through a nonprofit organization he co-founded called Digital StudyHall.  He received his Masters in Public Health and his MBA from UC Berkeley.

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Nicole Steward Jun 5, 2018 6:59pm

I like the Cody platform and own(ed) some of their plans. But Alo is a company I cannot stand behind. And when all this broke out, the Alo Ambassadors (IG Yoga models) began fat shaming Dana in a way that was so blatant I had to re-read some of their posts in amazement. The female Alo ambassadors were calling her "gross" and the male ambassadors were literally posting videos saying she's "making being fat/unhealthy OK and it's not". So if Cody believes they are a company of integrity and "a defender of the spiritual heart of Yoga", they need to take a good, long look at who they partner with because Alo is not any of those things. This whole episode has me disillusioned with the Insta-fame yoga world and many of the IG yogis I used to respect. You have all done more damage than you realize and it was all to line your pockets. Pathetic.

Moodthy Al-Ghorairi Mar 31, 2018 10:10am

I just remembered today why the whole "she copied cody's format" bugged me so much. Cody was started, I think 2013? StudioVeena has been around since 2008. You can see the format right here, which hasn't changed much in all that time. https://www.studioveena.com/lessons/view_category/30-day-take-off I say this with love, but you didn't invent this format. You cannot accuse someone else of stealing something that was created before cody was even "born".

Nunh Grader Mar 28, 2018 9:15pm

Well put - and I agree!

Ananda Cait Mar 28, 2018 4:00pm

it's definately NOT and was not intended for this. So dissappointing.

Ananda Cait Mar 28, 2018 3:53pm

I have to say, I am so dissappointed in the way this all happened. And in all its "DRAMA" prooves to me that there is something wrong in the yoga industry (and yes it has become an industry) and it was bound to happen given the opportunity to make money. This situation comes at a time when EVERYONE needs to be more aware of the WHY. Why are you sharing your yoga with the world? And if the answer is to maximize profit and recognition, you are in the wrong community. I appreciate some of the yogi paraphrases used in this letter, but let's be honest... good PR doesn't go far these days. You are allowed for your story to be heard, but I think the BEST part of ANY story is the end when everyone can JUST SAY SORRY.

Samuel Gaedke Mar 26, 2018 4:53pm

There doesn't seem to be anything yogic about any of the parties.

Moodthy Al-Ghorairi Mar 26, 2018 12:03pm

I bought some courses via cody, and while I loved those courses, I wondered how this platform was different to any other online course platform, like udemy or coursera. Maybe behind the scenes, the compensation was better towards the teachers, but from a consumer end, I didn't get how this was different. Reading through this letter, the is so much personal pain and almost a recurring sense of resentment that Kino went her own way - Dana's story is almost appended at the end. But as a product designer, and I say with so much empathy as I've followed this company right from the begining: you cannot build a platfrom that hinges on whether one person stays or leaves. I know this was never the intention when the app launched. It's what you did to keep going. But to be clear Cody app did not: 1) invent the playlist 2) buy all rights to future content from her, her style of teaching, etc 3) invent the concept of paid for online content- there are so many alternatives for online yoga by subscription. Plus patreon, wordpress plugins, etc. It's also pretty normal for teachers to start on one platfrom like Christopher Wallis did with Gaim/Gaia, and then move to another (Patreon). When both Kino and Christopher moved, I moved with them. Gaia is just big enough to not need him. When the content comes from someone's head and the platform is just a delivery method, the content will be pretty similar on both platforms. Cody, as it appeared to me, was focused on provding online workouts, including street dance, pilates, H.I.I.T, etc. Lots of nice stuff, but very broad in its' audience. That made it hard to please any type of user and narrow in content for people who liked only one particular type of content. Omstars was pitched as being about a total yoga lifestyle. Its audience was people who want to go deeper into yoga. People who wanted more than yoga workouts and were down with chanting, knowing the sutras, changing diets. They niched bodly, basically. I get that it's upsetting to have someone agree to work with you then poach your teachers, but what made them *so poachable*? Why didn't thy want to continue their work relationship with the new owners? The answers to these queste aren't your "fault"- just a consequence of the building a thing that wasn't something people wanted to pay for regularly, needing to pivot to something that kept you afloat and then needing to sell. That's also not your fault, btw. The startup world pushes ideas that are dangerous finacially and for mental health. One of which, I believe, is that idea validation means something. And you really pioneered and taught of the rest of us a lot of lessions. We have a lot to thank you for. Thank you. xxxx

Stephanie Lynne Mar 23, 2018 2:41am

PS I have been using Cody since 2015 and have never used omstars.

Stephanie Lynne Mar 23, 2018 2:38am

I think this has made cody look much worse than the other articles written or statements made. Interesting that he believed that Kino was ripping of cody when cody's core is clearly fitness based and Kino's site is more about all of the limbs of yoga. The sites might be similar in some ways, but not at the core. I also believe that Kino's site has always been subscription based (maybe not) so in that way Cody actually borrowed from her model.

Anika Schäfer Mar 22, 2018 9:52pm

Thanks for your view of things. I don't really want to take sides, I understand there are two businesses, two Goliaths, facing each other. One thing I'd like to throw into the ring though: I've been a Cody member for several years now and bought various classes. At the beginning of this year you changed your business model to a subscription based model. This basically meant to me (and those who were your members before) a disparagement of your existing customers, basically nullifying all the money we already spent on courses. Of course I can keep on using the courses, but I would have never bought them in the first place, knowing things would change that way. I complained twice and never heard anything back. So here's the thing: if you treat your customers like this, why should I believe you were any more honest with your yoga instructors back then?

Bex Mansfield Mar 21, 2018 10:41am

'As to Dana, for her own reasons, she decided that she did not like Alo.' - They charge through the roof for their leggings, they monopolise the market, their marketing focuses on yoga as a series of inaccessible inversions and "instagramable" asana performed by skinny white women. And, as demonstrated on one of the ambassadors' instagram accounts last year, body-shaming larger bodes runs rife in this particular yoga community. Dana attempted to have a constructive, open dialogue with one very well-known Alo ambassador about the ethics of a 'yogi' working with a company like Alo, and was met with body shaming by the ambassador's boyfriend even though the initial comment was in fact nothing to do with larger bodies, or any bodies. Alo is not inclusive. It reeks of "look at us, this is what yoga is, if you don't look like this then yoga is not for you." Indeed, many of the comments from their supporters include messages along the lines of 'being overweight isn't healthy, if looking at photos of these perfect bodies in expensive yoga tights you can't fit into makes you inspired to get healthy then that's a good thing'. You can NEVER know anything about anyone's health simply by looking at them. The fact that Alo doesn't want larger bodies wearing their clothing says it all. I'm disappointed to find out that several yogis I followed and was inspired by have turned out to have morals that completely misalign with mine. I've unfollowed, but Alo and their ambassadors have left a foul taste in my mouth and I hope people realise that Alo is not yoga.

Jayde Elise Beddall Mar 20, 2018 10:17pm

Well even if this is all true and both parties are at fault, I still don’t think it justifies suing a 24 year old woman for more than she has. That’s basically taking away her life and for what. Regardless of whether she has done something you deem as bad that is in no way justifiable. She announced something earlier and caused you a bit of grief, big wow you ten both companies that wouldn’t even take a blip of difference over it but now you could have potentially ruined a young woman’s life. That’s like leaving someone to die when you know you can save them! It’s vile, disgusting and shameful.. and more so definitely not something that the yogi living would condone, or any human being that has a heart and a conscience for that matter!

Erica Gann Kitaev Mar 20, 2018 8:32pm

Sure, but my point is it should publish neither. This is a business dispute. This is of course why we have courts - because each side believes it’s version of the truth to be the real one. Let them arbitrate their dispute in the correct forum, and let me read actual content that I want to see. And yes, I didn’t have to read this except that I didn’t know what it was, so it took me a minute to figure it out. It’s getting on the record that my preference ad a user is for elephant to stay out of people’s arguments :)

TiffanyJo Patel Mar 20, 2018 6:58pm

Elephant Yoga is driven by user content, so I assume to save face, it's only right to agree to publish both sides.

Roxanne Banta Borger Mar 20, 2018 4:47pm

I really appreciate your response adding some perspective to this conversation. I believe this conversation is part of a greater challenge right now in the health and wellness world. How can instructors actually make a living, why do we go off on our own versus doubling down with an already existing entity, the commoditization of yoga, and ultimately how do we help others become healthier and happier versions of themselves?

Dan Fanthorpe Mar 20, 2018 2:37am

So much suffering and miss communication over some Lycra and vids. I hope you can work it out like mature yogi’s. I’m going to go contemplate the nature of reality.

Céline Rapp-Lienhardt Mar 20, 2018 2:02am

Again, this is his truth just like Kino’s letter is her truth. I am frustrated to even read this BS at first place when I think that bottom line it is about Yoga! Who has not yet copied who in this industry (yep I said industry!) and try to brand it their own at some point? This is big around us lately but I wish it would be more exposed to the public to read, the students, so they can see by themselves how miserable this place also becomes. So they can make appropriate choices when they purchase a $100 nylon legging, so they can decide to return where it matters most, not instagram perfect bendy bodies but the small studios. Small studios where real people teach. The real « Davids » where communities gather and lift each other up. Not Cody, not Alo, not Kino. You and me!

Víctor Carlos Mar 20, 2018 1:50am

That is not Yoga... That's only a game of Maya

Nicole Calhoun Mar 20, 2018 1:27am

Sally Smith Totally.

Sally Smith Mar 20, 2018 1:09am

Cody app who? I didn't even know there was such a thing. Let's not forget we are giving them a voice when none should be given by a 'non-entity'....eye roll times 1000.

Sally Smith Mar 20, 2018 1:08am

cody app who? never heard of it.

Sally Smith Mar 20, 2018 1:07am

agreed!

Sally Smith Mar 20, 2018 1:06am

Elo Du-Bo really? She doesn't need to do shit for them. She made them. Later losers.

Sally Smith Mar 20, 2018 1:01am

Seriously? Alo's clothes are shit. Even when Kino was promoting them I wouldn't buy them because they are shit. Nothing has changed. And this is yoga donkey's. It's not fighting on the front lines, or performing open heart surgery, and shockinly (I know) solving the middle east peace process. So get a life and if someone wants you to take their shit off of your site do it. And then get a life. Ridiculous. GIANT eye roll! With a vomit on the side. Also, until I heard about this scurfuffle-I haven't read anything on EJ because it's also a joke. Truly you ALL need to get a life. Waylon or Wade or whatever...kidding me?

Nicole Calhoun Mar 20, 2018 12:49am

I-and several others I know-have always stayed away from Cody because of the blatant lack of diversity on the site, particularly African-Americans. Cody, and several other online platforms, perpetuate the idea that amazing yoga teachers have a certain look, and that look ain't black. And that the only A-A teacher of quality is one who is overweight and loving it; even though heart disease is the number one killer of black women in this country. Why are black teachers not given the same opprotunities as 'typical' yoga teachers on Cody?I know several yoga teachers of color who reached out to Cody and asked to be given a chance to audition for Cody. NONE of them ever received a response. So, with all that being said, even if Cody isn't at fault in its situation with Kino, I would never support a platform that doesn't support true diversity-PERIOD.