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Craig's Blog

Female Founders Take On the Startup World

Hey, this past weekend my team and I were really impressed by the tweets from the #FemaleFounders Conference. This is the real deal. Y Combinator, founded by Jessica Livingston and Paul Graham, just hosted the second Female Founders Conference, where women shared their stories and practical advice for building a company.

If you're ready to take action, another event coming up that's focused on Women Startups will be the Women Startup Challenge and TeleSummit, hosted by Women Who Tech. You can get involved.

As a nerd, and I've said this before, I don't believe in settling, I believe people should be treated fairly. And that's still not happening. With events like these we are headed in the right direction, though.

There was some really good advice coming outta the hashtag #FemaleFounders, so my team and I put together a Storify to put some of our favorites in one place (folks, it was really tough to only choose a few).

Here are some highlights that stuck out:

bgc fund review

You can read the rest of the Storify here.

Were you at the conference? Or were you following along? I'd appreciate it if you shared some of your favorite quotes and advice. This is another step in the right direction…

6 Women Rocking Tech for Good

Folks, I figure it's really important to highlight women who are really making positive changes across the tech sector. These people aren't often given the recognition they deserve. If you're able, please support 'em and follow them on Twitter. They're the real deal.
rocking tech

1. Jessica Greenwalt, CoFounder & Lead Designer of CrowdMed

While in high school, she started a freelance design company which grew into an international design and web development firm, then Founded Pixelkeet, the world's only "parakeet run" graphic design & web development firm.

More recently, Jessica CoFounded CrowdMed, whose approach and health care innovation helps people to overcome obstacles and silos that exist within the medical establishment – empowering patients and assisting doctors who simply cannot know everything about every medical condition. CrowdMed helps diagnose medical issues faster and more accurately – not only improving outcomes, but saving lives.

2. & 3. Alice Brooks and Bettina Chen, Founders of Roominate

Alice grew up playing in her dad’s robotics lab and made her first toy when she was only eight years old. When she asked her dad for a Barbie, he gave her a saw instead. So she made her own doll out of wood and nails! As a young girl, Bettina loved Lego and built cities filled with spaceships with her older brother. More recently, Bettina has conducted research on bionic contact lenses and worked as an electrical design engineer at Discera and KLA-Tencor.

Alice and Bettina are changing the way girls play and learn through Roominate, our innovative line of wired building toys for girls. Roominate is designed to get girls ages 6+ excited about STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). With Roominate, girls practice hands-on problem solving, spatial skill development, and get an intuitive introduction to circuits. Roominate blends creativity, engineering, design, and fun.

4. Rose Broome, Founder & CEO of HandUp

Rose is passionate about using the power of technology to create social change. She came up with HandUp after passing a woman sleeping on the street in the winter of 2012 and wanting to see a new way to give. Rose loves organizing the community and has been active in groups like Science Hack Day and Food Not Bombs.

HandUp is a direct donation system for homeless people and neighbors in need that lets you donate to a specific person via their web profile and SMS. Funds can only be used on basics like food, medical care, and housing. HandUp is currently in a pilot with 100 homeless people in San Francisco in partnership with Project Homeless Connect.

5. Grace Garey, Donor Ops at Watsi

Grace is obsessed with the idea that connecting people will change the world. Before she started working on Watsi, she studied post-conflict development in Ghana, lived in a hospital in India, did humanitarian advocacy in DC, and launched a student outreach program at Kiva that generated over $5M for entrepreneurs in its first year.

Watsi is a global crowdfunding platform that enables anyone to directly fund healthcare for people around the world. They're made up of a team of developers, doctors, and marketers building Watsi because they believe that everyone deserves healthcare.

6. Pooja Sankar, CEO & Founder, Piazza

Pooja was one of three women in her undergraduate Computer Science class at IIT Kanpur (India). She had grown up in an all girls high school, and her 50 male classmates had grown up mostly in all boys high schools. She said, "We were too shy to interact with one another."

Pooja explained that she started Piazza so every student can have that opportunity to learn from her classmates. Whether she's too shy to ask, whether she's working alone in her dorm room, or whether her few friends in her class don't know the answer either. She wants Piazza to be a remedy for students who are not given the intellectual space, freedom, or support to fulfill their educational potential and desire for learning. Piazza is designed to connect students, TAs, and professors so every student can get help when she needs it — even at 2AM.


Who would you like to see added to this list? Add your suggestions to the comments, and my team and I will take note. Thanks!


Protecting the Internet via the upcoming FCC vote

Okay, long story short, this is about saving the Net for regular people, versus providing privileges for companies that spend lots of money lobbying in Washington and misinforming the American public.

The deal is that on February 26th, the FCC will vote on rules that promote strong Net Neutrality, which is about a level playing field so that regular people can compete with companies that prefer privilege over competition.

John Oliver makes it simple:

We’re talking about about what they call reclassifying Internet service provides as “Title II telecommunications services.” Specifically, the FCC is applying “light touch” Title II, with no rate regulation, no tariffs, no painful administrative filings, and no last-mile unbundling.

It’s not about Internet regulation, it’s about the best balance between government and market forces.

That’s required to protect American consumers from bad behavior, a big deal considering the following kind of thing:

verizon admits

photo2My deal is that that this Title II stuff regarding Net Neutrality is about basic fairness, about treating people like you’d like to be treated.

Let’s keep the Internet the best level playing field we can.

Salvation Through Comedy

Okay, I realize that I'm not as funny as I think I am, which Mrs. Newmark will remind me about now and then.

However, sometimes I want to confront people with an unpleasant truth, and confrontation often makes thing worse. (By "truth", I mean what I think is the truth; please adjust for that.)

In the mid-eighties at IBM Detroit, I had a really good manager, John S., who told me that my confrontational habit had polarized my coworkers. They either hated what I told 'em or loved it. He pointed out that my sense of humor might be my only saving grace.

It took little time for me to realize he was right, and that in practice, it frequently didn't matter if I was right. Aaron Sorkin got it right in the movie A Few Good Men:

Tom Cruise, in character, demands "I want the truth!" and Jack Nicholson responds: "You can't handle the truth!"

Maybe 20 years after watching the movie, I realized that comedy is what allows humans to understand an unpleasant truth.

Sometimes it doesn't matter if I'm not really all that funny, or have any more good material. As Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David reminded George Costanza, it's okay leaving them wanting more:

Okay, I really do realize I ain't all that funny, but it works.

I'm never going to do standup comedy, but in that spirit, please remember to tip the waiters!

In the meantime, check this out…

Toward Trustworthy News: “Lies, Damn Lies, and Viral Content”

We’re talking about an authoritative report regarding “how news websites spread (and debunk) online rumors, unverified claims, and misinformation.” That’s not, in itself, news, but it’s real valuable in that this report brings together and surfaces a lot of untrustworthy and very common practices.

My perspective, as usual, is that I’m a news consumer, never told anyone how to fix the news, I just want news I can trust. I’m not a news professional, haven’t “been there,” I’m an outsider, and continue to respect the boundaries. That’s why I rely on professional work like this.

I just don’t do the report or its methodology justice, so please check it out.

News websites dedicate far more time and resources to propagating questionable and often false claims than they do working to verify and/or debunk viral content and online rumors. Rather than acting as a source of accurate information, online media frequently promote misinformation in an attempt to drive traffic and social engagement.

Here’re the highlights:

• Many news sites apply little or no basic verification to the claims they pass on. Instead, they rely on linking-out to other media reports, which themselves often only cite other media reports as well. The story’s point of origin, once traced back through the chain of links, is often something posted on social media or a thinly sourced claim from a person or entity.

• Among other problems, this lack of verification makes journalists easy marks for hoaxsters and others who seek to gain credibility and traffic by getting the press to cite their claims and content.

• News organizations are inconsistent at best at following up on the rumors and claims they offer initial coverage. This is likely connected to the fact that they pass them on without adding reporting or value. With such little effort put into the initial rewrite of a rumor, there is little thought or incentive to follow up. The potential for traffic is also greatest when a claim or rumor is new. So journalists jump fast, and frequently, to capture traffic. Then they move on.

• News organizations reporting rumors and unverified claims often do so in ways that bias the reader toward thinking the claim is true. The data collected using the Emergent database revealed that many news organizations pair an article about a rumor or unverified claim with a headline that declares it to be true. This is a fundamentally dishonest practice.

• News organizations utilize a range of hedging language and attribution formulations (“reportedly,” “claims,” etc.) to convey that information they are passing on is unverified. They frequently use headlines that express the unverified claim as a question (“Did a woman have a third breast added?”). However, research shows these subtleties result in misinformed audiences. These approaches lack consistency and journalists rarely use terms and disclosures that clearly convey which elements are unverified and why they are choosing to cover them.

The report supports all this real solidly.

The Trust Project suggests we focus on the signals of trustworthy reporting. I’d suggest a few such signals, wherein an article would assert the following affirmatively or otherwise.

1. Are all claims/facts in the article verified by independent sources?

2. Are article headlines clickbait in the sense that they are sensationalized and inaccurate reflections of the stories?

3. Does the news org publish first, then relies on crowdsourced fact checking? (I formerly believed in that, then realized that considerable harm might be done prior to a correction.)

4. Does an article cite a party that hadn’t responded to requests for comment, if sufficient time is provided for comment. (I’ve seen cases where reporters requested comment very close to deadline, or very early morning, etc)

The news business is hard and getting harder, even if the intent isn’t trustworthy. I don’t want to be a hard case, just want news I can trust, and the Silverman reports helps point the way.