I think the industry is really curious about this topic — almost so much so that we appear committed to proving how different (or perhaps difficult) it is to be a female CEO.
If a reporter asks me why it sucks to be a female CEO, I can come up with hundreds of reasons. On the other hand, if I am asked to argue why it’s awesome to be a female CEO, I can also do that pretty well. So here is my take on both sides.
Top 3 reasons it sucks to be a female CEO
If you are aggressive, you are a bitch. If you are emotional, you are PMSing. If you are soft, you are too feminine. Whatever way someone finds you, they can always justify it is because you are female.
You may get more sales meetings because some of the guys that you are pitching to have a different agenda. Since it’s difficult to distinguish it early on, you may end up wasting some time. If you turn down their advances (and it gets awkward), doing deals with their companies can become difficult.
Hiring engineers can get tricky. When you reach out to prospective developers, you may get emails like this: And the sad news is, this is one of the more professional emails.
Top 3 reasons it is awesome to be a female CEO
Sometimes, guys are more willing to help you because you are a girl. On the flip side, girls will help you because you are a “fellow female entrepreneur.” This is one of the rarely spoken benefits of being a female CEO, especially when you are trying to get things off the ground.
Fundraising can be easier. For instance, there are female investors whose personal goal is to empower other female entrepreneurs. When Tyra Banks invested in Locket, I felt lucky to be a female CEO.
You might be able to hire more talented female employees. You understand them better so it can be easier to identify a good fit. And if you land on the right ones, they can be really good (e.g. our designer Lisa is the best). After all, there are bunch of studies (done by female organizations, obvi) that show women perform better on the job.
The lesson here is that it is all about how you frame your perspective. If you are committed to believing that it sucks to be a female CEO, you will be right, and it will suck to be you. If you are committed to believing it’s awesome to be a female CEO, you will be happier and confident to be you.
After all, it’s not like you can choose whether to be a female CEO vs male CEO. But you can choose your attitude toward it.
Locket is a San Francisco based startup changing the way we use our lock screens. We check our phone over 110 times per day and we believe there’s more to your lock screen than a boring, static picture of a flower. Locket brings stuff you care about to your lock screen based on your interests, swiping habits, and time of the day. This post first appeared on Medium.
Above: Ravi Gururaj, Dr. Rathan Kelkar, Joseph Landes, and Rajinish Menon officially launch JumpStart, a hotline that answers business and technical questions for startups and entrepreneurs.
Startups face all sorts of vexing questions. Now they have a place to turn for advice: a toll-free hotline established by Microsoft.
The initiative, called JumpStart, comes from the Indian branch of global accelerator program Microsoft Ventures. It may seem baffling to folks outside the country, but Microsoft India’s Joseph Landes argues that “a major pain point for startups across the ecosystem in India, irrespective of their stage of maturity, is the lack of real-time support for various critical queries they face.”
Microsoft says it’ll apply what it learns from the hotline calls to improve the Microsoft Ventures program.
JumpStart answers calls during business hours Monday through Friday (9 AM to 5 PM IST). This VentureBeat reporter called the number (1-800-200-2114), only to discover that he’d won a free cruise. Hurrah!
In other words, the number is not accessible from the U.S. — but if you do manage to dial in, JumpStart will take questions in both English and Hindi. Then you can finally get an answer to that age-old question: to use Amazon Web Services or not to use Amazon Web Services?
Verizonseems to have caught the startup competition bug.
Last year, the company launched its first-ever Powerful Answers award, which awarded $ 1 million prizes to innovative startups working on education, healthcare, and sustainability solutions. Now the contest is back for 2014, and it’s adding a new startup category: transportation.
If you’ve got a startup that’s focused on those four categories, you can submit an entry in the competition here. The winners in each category will once again receive $ 1 million, while two runner-ups in each category will receive $ 250,000.
“Last year was just us beginning from a standing start,” said John Doherty, senior vice president of corporate development at Verizon, in an interview with VentureBeat.
“It was just absolutely phenomenal; we expected wonderful things; but we really didn’t know what would come out of it.”
The original contest was announced by Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam at last year’s CES as proof that the company was getting serious about using LTE for social good. And with the winners for last year’s competition, Verizonseems to have proved his point: Smartvision Labs is developing a way to conduct eye exams using smartphones; Lavamind developed the fantasy business simulation game Zapitalism; and BridgingApps is developing ways to use technology to help people with disabilities.
“One of the things we absolutely learned is that if you do something like [put on a competition like Powerful Answers], amazing things happen,” Doherty said.
As for the new focus on transportation, Doherty noted, “It made the most sense to us at this point in time. This contest is very much about innovation. We are a commercial institution; we want to make sure there’s also some relation to our business as well.”
“In transportation, we also have some use from companies that offer machine-to-machine products, and there are some things that connect back to our core business.”
Of course, while Verizon’s focus on social good is praiseworthy, the contest is also clearly a way for the company to ingratiate itself with the startup community. The company’s court case against the FCC ultimately led an appeals court to decide that the FCC couldn’t impose net neutrality restrictions on businesses. That’s a move that could have far-reaching implications for the way the internet works in the future.
The Powerful Answers Award also gives Verizon a way to promote its Innovation Centers. Located in San Francisco and Waltham, Mass., the centers feature tools for companies to test their technology on its network. Technology from Powerful Answers Awardwinners will also be featured in Verizon’s Innovation Centers.
My earliest experience making my own rules came when I entered high school. In the first weeks of my freshman year, I tried to do everything right. I did exactly what I was told to do—and this included my homework. After lacrosse practice and my after-school job as a box boy at a local supermarket, I got home around 8:00 p.m. At this point, I was expected to eat dinner, do homework, and go to sleep so I could wake up and do it all over again.
I quickly discovered that trying to complete all the homework assigned to me meant staying up almost all night long every night. I couldn’t quit lacrosse—I’d created the team! And I needed my job in order to contribute to the family income. My mother’s jobs, when she could get them, were not enough to pay the bills. By high school, the house we lived in had an actual dirt floor downstairs and walls without plaster. Now I could honestly say that we were “dirt poor.” My mom and I did our best to improve the house on the weekends, but we always needed more money.
This whole homework thing clearly wasn’t going to work. I decided to take matters into my own hands and implement a “No‑Homework Policy.” My plan was simple. I would work as hard as possible to pay attention and be completely focused in each class, but I would not bring my books home, and I would not do any of the homework assigned to me. If the homework was intended to reinforce what was taught in class, I would be fine—because I would make sure to absorb it all during the school day.
The next day, one by one, I walked each of my teachers through my plan. The conversation went pretty much the same with all of them: First, I said hello and reintroduced myself. Then I explained that I’d been attempting to do all my homework for the past two weeks. (I may also have hinted that perhaps the teachers might communicate with one another more about how much work they were assigning to students.) I told them that doing the work took me until approximately 4:00 a.m. Regrettably, I was unable to sustain this. Then I introduced my No‑Homework Policy.
Some of the teachers laughed, but ultimately all of them told me in their own ways that if I really wanted to go ahead with this, I could, but it would affect my overall grade. I was willing to live with that.
From that point on, I didn’t do homework. I paid attention in class and strived to absorb the material. Ultimately, perhaps because I had been so up front and clear in my communication of the policy, my teachers did not end up penalizing me. In other words, my No‑Homework Policy didn’t have an impact on my overall grades. It was, for all intents and purposes, a rousing success.
The point of this story isn’t “cocky kid blows off homework and gets away with it,” though on the surface that’s exactly what happened. Homework is generally regarded as useful, and far be it from me to mount a one-man campaign against it. (Not right now, anyway. Talk to me when my kid is twelve.) But I had an idea for a different way to do things, one that worked better for me. There was no harm in proposing this to the school administration. The point of school, after all, isn’t to do homework. The point of school is to learn. As high school progressed, I focused on learning what inspired me, so I might get an A+ in genetics and a C in something easy. It was a mistake to assume that teachers—or anyone else, for that matter—automatically knew what was best for me.
If anything, opportunities like this are easier to recognize and implement in the workplace. Do you work best in a dimly lit room? Would you like to work on a side project that is more interesting to you? Rules are there to help us—to create a culture, to streamline productivity, and to promote success. But we’re not computers that need to be programmed. If you approach your bosses or colleagues with respect, and your goals are in alignment, there’s often room for a little customization and flexibility. And on the other side, those in positions of power shouldn’t force people to adhere to a plan for the sake of protocol. The solution, always, is to listen carefully—to your own needs and to those of the people around you.
Biz Stone is one of Twitter’s co-founders. He also was instrumental in the launches of Xanga, Blogger, Odeo, and Medium. His current startup is Jelly, a Q&A platform using images.
SAN FRANCISCO — Keith Rabois, the fast-talking KhoslaVentures investor and former Square executive, has been carrying around a big idea for 11 years. Now he’s finally ready to act on it.
Under the codename HomeRun, Rabois has assembled a four-person team, including himself and an unnamed data scientist, to upend the residential real estate business with a super-fast way to sell a house.
“My belief is that if you added a frictionless, convenient, simple process, more people would sell their homes,” Rabois said in an interview with VentureBeat at the DEMO Enterprise conference.
The startup sounds like the fresh attempt to rock a substantial slice of the economy with the help of — you guessed it! — big data. Companies like Airbnb, Coursera, and Uber have done this. Now HomeRun could be the next big thing.
The idea for HomeRun cropped up in 2003.
“My friend Peter Thiel suggested that I come up with an idea to innovate in residential real estate,” Rabois said, referring to the PayPal and Palantir co-founder.
“It’s the largest part of the economy unaffected by the Internet. And that was definitely true then, and even with things like Trulia and Zillow, it’s fundamentally true today. But the process of (selling a home) hasn’t been transformed by technology.”
HomeRun’s approach, Rabois said, is simple.
“We have to value the home, sight unseen,” he said. “You can put in your address and we tell you what it’s worth instantly. And we’ll want to buy it from you for that price.”
Underneath the covers, HomeRun will analyze lots of data — some being proprietary, some not — to make an split-second calculation, with minimal human interaction. It’s “pretty complicated stuff,” Rabois said.
To do such work at scale would be vastly more complicated. So, at least initially, HomeRun will focus exclusively on the U.S..
“This can be a $ 10 billion to $ 100 billion [business] if we just do the U.S. correctly,” Rabois said. “I don’t want to get distracted. Focus is the most important thing for startups.”
A few things have prevented Rabois from launching HomeRun before this.
“Over the last decade, I considered doing this a few times [but] always got distracted by amazing entrepreneurs talking me into their vision,” said Rabois, who held executive roles at PayPal and LinkedIn before getting involved with Square and Khosla.
Besides being too busy all these years, there’s much more data floating around today than there was in the past –and fleets of servers to crunch it all, thanks to public clouds like Amazon Web Services. And more of the real estate business is online today, which also helps.
“In 2003, I believe, in Texas, transactions in Texas weren’t even available online at all,” he said.
But that has changed, and now Raboisfinally has the bandwidth to work on HomeRun, which will be based in San Francisco.
“We’ll be ready to launch something in the summer, maybe earlier,” he said.
Above: HBO's Silicon Valley cast from left to right: Kumail Nanjiani as Dinesh; T.J. Miller as Ehrlich; Thomas Middleditch as Richard; Zach Woods as Jared; and Martin Starr as Gilfoyle
No one is more perfectly suited to lampoon the startup scene than Mike Judge.
The creator of classic comedies like Office Space, Idiocracy, and, yes, Beavis and Butt-Head, Judge also spent several months working for a Palo Alto, Calif., technology company in 1987 (before he, presumably, ran away screaming). Judge gets tech, he gets geeks, and most important, he gets the strange culture that’s so specific to the technology world.
All of that is evident from the very first scene in HBO’s Silicon Valley, which premieres Sunday night. Kid Rock is playing at a company’s launch party, and nobody cares. An overly excited entrepreneur loudly proclaims his love for esoteric and unsexy enterprise technology onstage. And Google chairman Eric Schmidt is there for some reason.
The series centers on Richard (Thomas Middleditch), an awkward, lowly programmer working at Hooli, a Google-esque tech company where employees ride Segways and hold bike meetings. Like many engineers, he also has a side project: an app that helps musicians and record labels figure out when someone is stealing their work. It’s the sort of niche and unmarketable startup idea we get pitched every day here at VentureBeat — but with one big difference.
It seems that amid developing his app, Richard also stumbled upon an ultraefficient method of file compression. (Judge consulted a Stanford compression expert on the technology, so the reveal doesn’t feel entirely like make-believe.) Like so many in the tech world, Richard is initially oblivious to the value of his own work. It takes a couple of tech-bro jerks to see the potential in his compression scheme.
The potential of Richard’s technology sparks an immediate bidding war among two tech titans: his boss, Peter Gregory, who wants to buy his company outright for $ 10 million (let’s call it the Zuckerberg approach); and Gavin Belson, who offers a $ 200,000 seed investment.
The way Richard confronts that choice likely isn’t far off from what many entrepreneurs go through today. Do you go for the quick paycheck? Or do you take the small investment and continue to build your own thing?
Part of the show’s genius, like Judge’s Idiocracy, is that it hits a bit too close to home. If you’re even tangentially connected to the tech world, you’ll know the type of people represented onscreen. Bigwig CEO Belson, played by Matt Ross, is hell-bent on abolishing higher education, which brings to mind investor Peter Thiel’s own anti-college campaign. And Richard is the sort of geek that prefers Steve Wozniak to Steve Jobs — because, of course, Jobs didn’t code.
The tech culture references are spot-on and genuinely hilarious, but they’ll also make you feel a bit dirty afterward when you realize the show is probably making fun of you. (Perhaps that’s why I’m hearing about so many in the tech scene who seem to be actively avoiding the show.)
This doesn’t mean that Silicon Valley is only made for geeks. It has plenty of easily accessible humor, ranging from the very low-brow to ingenious wordplay. It also helps that the show has a strong supporting cast, including Martin Starr of Freaks and Geeks fame as a Satanist with “theist tendencies” and Kumail Nanjiani, who had a string of great segments on Portlandia and other shows.
While Office Space was a condemnation of ’90s-era office culture, where workers were trapped in tiny cubicles and worked on projects of indiscernible value, Silicon Valley casts a light on the modern cult of the entrepreneur. Richard starts off as a cog in Hooli’s vast corporate machine, but he ends up becoming “the man” as CEO of his own startup.
One scene in Silicon Valley‘s second episode is a direct reversal of Office Space‘s infamous “What do you do?” scene. Instead of having his job threatened by menacing consultants, Richard is forced to ask all of his friends what exactly they do for his company. And for his closest friend, that leads to heartbreak.
Silicon Valley is genuinely hilarious, but it’s also got plenty of heart to it. The show is more interested in how people exist within the sometimes absurd tech world, rather than just showing off its excess (which is mostly used for laughs). How do friendships withstand a sudden influx of money and power? And what kind of a leader would you be if you had the chance to run your own company? This isn’t just Entourage in Palo Alto.
The show also reflects one of the real Silicon Valley’s pervasive issues: a stark gender imbalance. I saw only had two major female characters in the two episodes I watched — one an assistant to Belson, and the other a stripper (who uses Square to get paid for her services). This is something that may be fixed later in the season, but it’s a shame Judge didn’t see it as an immediate problem to address early on.
Ultimately, Silicon Valley is exactly what the tech world needs right now. It holds up a mirror that shows both the best and worst of the tech, and in doing so it forces us to confront issues that may be hard to see when you’re embedded in the Silicon Valley bubble.
The geeks are in charge now, but the business game is still the same.
Stealing from your new neighbors? Now, is that any way to make friends?
Bigcommerce, an e-commerce platform company that just opened its first office in San Francisco, has started trying to poach talent from heavyweights like Google and Facebook by offering potential job candidates poached egg breakfast sandwiches while they wait for their employee shuttle buses.
Artisanal coffee to wash that down? Check. Sales pitch about Bigcommerce, which closed a $ 40 million investment round led by AOL co-founder Steve Case last year? Check!
Bigcommerce, which has home bases in Sydney, Australia, and Austin, Texas, already snatched a few top executives from rivalsWest Stringfellow, a veteran of PayPal and Amazon, joined as chief product officer, and Ron Pragides, formerly of Twitter and Salesforce, is now vice president of engineering. Read more...
The second batch of companies to come out of DreamIt Ventures’ Austin incubator program pitched to a full room of investors today.
Nine companies presented as part of the demo day, which allotted founders seven minutes to make a convincing case for why their company will be successful. VentureBeat has rounded up the five most promising startups, which you can check out below.
SecondMic is a service that lets you listen to an audio feed for unofficial sports commentary during a live game or create a channel where you can offer your own commentary that others can tune in to. This seems like a relatively simple function, but since sports games are most exciting when watched live, experiencing a delay on an audio feed for outside commentary can be annoying. That’s why SecondMic built a patent-pending technology for syncing audio with live games that offers a delay of 40 milliseconds or less.
Right now the service is only available for college and NBA basketball games, but the startup has plans to expand to other sports in the near future. SecondMic founder Francisco Prat told me the startup will generate revenue through promotional partnerships with big brands. SecondMic claims that users have logged 300 hours listening to custom sports commentary since launching a beta version of the service six weeks ago.
If there’s a gem among this year’s DreamItAustin bunch, it’s most definitely Swan. The startup’s service lets you book appointments with beauty professionals (hair stylists, nail techs, massage therapists, etc.) at a location of your choosing. Users can pay for these services directly though Swan’s iOS app, and beauty professionals get paid via their own PayPal account at the time of the transaction.
Founder Julia Andalman told VentureBeat that Swan is appealing on two levels: Customers love having professionals come to them, and professionals in turn get a chance to book appointments during times that are usually spent doing nothing at a salon. Andalman said the startup only needs 1,200 customers to reach $ 1 million in revenue annually. Swan is only available in Austin and Dallas, but Andalman said she wants to launch in New York City, San Francisco, and Chicago in the near future.
Livewire‘s business is based on the premise that taxes are difficult to file for most of us – even for the so-called professionals at companies like H&R Block that usually have no formal training in accounting. Its solution? Build a service that lets you video conference with a trained accountant to file your taxes and ensure everything is in order. Livewire said its service is superior to the Liberty Tax Services of the world because their people are better qualified and are often less costly. It also offers an advantage over tax software because it allows Livewire (or the professional working on your taxes) to be accountable for errors should the IRS audit you. The startup has 10 full-time employees and is raising a seed round of funding.
EyeQ wants to bring physical retail stores better information about customer activity while in the store. It does this in three main ways: collecting usage data from touchscreen displays within the store, using the on-board camera on those displays to anonymously determine demographic data on that customer (age, gender, etc.), and tracking movements within the store from a customer’s smartphone (provided that customer has Wi-Fi enabled). EyeQ’s service is currently in beta testing and has four retail stores signed up.
The startup generates revenue by charging a fee for each device it sets up within a store. EyeQ CEO Michael Garel said he’d also like the service to eventually help bridge the gap for businesses that operate both physical and online retail stores, but such a move would require customers to opt in to sharing their shopping data first.
Obtaining loans for any type of powersport vehicle (motorcycles, ATVs, UTVs, PWCs, etc.) is different than for regular automobiles, and it hurts your credit each time a loan application is sent. On top of that, the process dealerships have to go through to apply for loans on these vehicles is also unique in that they have to fill out an application for each bank they solicit loans from for each customer. As you can imagine, this process isn’t exactly great for dealership businesses.
Austin-based Octane Lending built a SaaS platform that simplifies this process, allowing powersport dealers to fill out information once and then seek out banks for a loan. The startup has also set up a pre-approval loan process that prevents a dealer’s customers from taking a hit on their credit score. Cofounder Jason Guss told me after the demo that the company will generate revenue by charging a flat fee for each approved loan. This allows powersports dealers to use the service for free. The startup already has 41 dealers using the service and loan agreements with four banks.