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.
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.
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.