Category Archives: Slideshare

Why VCs don’t invest in women led startups – my perspective

I just noticed lots of tweets citing me as an example of VCs investing in women led startups, and felt that I had to speak up about the issue. First of all, some VCs do invest in women led startups and don’t distinguish between women and men leaders. The VCs who funded SlideShare for example. Venrock has a history of funding women. Specifically, for David Siminoff and Dev Khare who funded SlideShare – a woman leading the company was never an issue. David Siminoff has funded other women as well, e.g., Lisa Stone from Blogher (I knew about that when I met him, and it did influence my going with Venrock). All our angel investors, Dave McClure, Hal Varian, Ariel Poler, Saul Klein, Mark Cuban – none of them cared one way or the other that SlideShare CEO is a woman.

So note to women entrepreneurs – there are VCs out there who will fund you. My biggest takeaway – look for a history of funding women. If someone has been a VC for 10 years and has never funded a woman, chances are they will not fund you. If a VC firm cannot speak of women entrepreneurs they have supported, take that as a sign and move on. If you find out that they have replaced their women founders as CEO’s, take that as a sign and move on.

In looking for funding for SlideShare, there were a few VCs who I knew after one meeting – that they would never fund a woman. In looking back, what was common to these VCs? I don’t think they understood the leadership style of women. Women can have a different leadership style and if you don’t understand that style, it can be a blocker in funding women. I felt this time and again – they don’t how I operate, how I lead. I think they felt I was weak, when it was just a different style. I don’t think they were against women CEOs, rather it was the particular leadership style they did not want to fund.

This is something I know through my psychology background as well – men and women can have different leadership styles. Culturally, we are sensitized to identifying a male style as a leadership style. And VCs in particular, seem to most understand leadership styles of 22 year old, male Stanford students (yes, I am stereotyping here :-)).

Having said that, I want to emphasize that overall I don’t feel discriminated against. I know that statistically speaking women have a lesser chance of getting funded. But I also have lots of male entrepreneurs friends – it can be hard for them as well. And some of the stylistic biases can operate against them as well.

Women Entrepreneurs: there are VCs out there who do fund women. Look for them. Look for a history of funding women. The best way to predict the future, is to look at the past. Ask them for a list of women entrepreneurs they have funded.

Sleeping through the launch of SlideShare mobile app

Last night we went out for St Patrick’s day and I completely forgot that our mobile app was being launched. I woke up this morning to check my feeds and realized that the app had been launched, was generating a bit of enthusiasm, and had been TechCrunched - all while I was sleeping!

This is the day every startup founder lives for – when smart, capable folks are taking the ownership for the app. I am lucky that we have such an awesome team! As you might have read the SlideShare mobile app was a skunkworks project – some of SlideShare team members decided to build a mobile app for Yahoo hackday. They started building it, rest of team pitched in as needed, and pretty soon it was ready to launch.

Thanks Kapil, Prasanna, Mani, Bhups, Cju, Ashwan, Arun and the entire team!

Running a scrappy startup – what would you like to hear about?

Next Sunday, I am giving a talk at Entrepreneur Trek at Stanford on a topic close to my heart: how to run a scrappy startup. It is something I know a lot about, having run SlideShare on a small budget. We took a modest round of funding in our second year, post funding, we remain a scrappy startup.

I will cover a whole gamut of startup issues from when to spend on marketing and bizdev, how to get started with sales, how to choose a lawyer and accountant, how to negotiate the best rates for every service you spend on. But most of all how to do this without compromisng the quality of the product and keeping up a fast pace of growth. At the end of the day, it would not matter how scrappy you are if your product is not great and if you are not growing fast. So the trick is knowing what to spend on (great developers, designers, good hardware) and what to skimp on (marketing, PR).

If you are running a startup or thinking of one, what topics would you like to hear about? What startup issues do you always have questions about?

Women speaker Wednesdays on SlideShare

Ever so often the topic comes up of women speaker at conferences. All of us notice the small number of women (especially speakers) at tech conferences. I hear such discussions, but so far have been a silent observer. This time, I felt like I had to do something.

And its not just at tech conferences, I was just at a venture conference in New York, and the proportion of women (even women attendees) was even smaller than at tech conferences.

We feature presentations on the SlideShare homepage everyday. It drives a fair bit of traffic and conversation. From now on, every Wednesday, we will make it a special point of featuring women speakers. So if you are a woman who speaks at conferences (or want to speak at conferences), please upload your presentations to SlideShare and tag them “womanspeaker“. We will look here when we feature presentations on Wednesday.

Also, please complete your profile so we can see who you are. Tagging your presentation does not guarantee you will be on SlideShare homepage, we will look at everything with the tag and make an editorial judgment. But this tag will help identify women speakers for everyone (especially conference organizers) and I am personally (and publicly) committed to highlighting it in every way I can.

Please pass this on to your friends and colleagues. Ask them to tag themselves “womanspeaker”.

Why the LinkedIn platform is important

Last week LinkedIn launched their platform with several apps including SlideShare. Several bloggers wrote about the business oriented nature of the apps, and that you cannot throw sheep ! But there are reasons the platform is important going beyond the lack of sheep.

1) Its the first business oriented social network that is embracing a platform approach. This is the first time that business users have access to other types of apps that are relevant to them.

2) Its the biggest platform built on Open Social. Its an important endorsement for OpenSocial. I predict that we will see more platforms using it in the next few months.

3) It incorporates the lessons learned from other platforms including Facebook. The most noticeable thing about the LInkedIn platform is that they have worked hard to remain true to the core goal of LinkedIn (utility for professionals), and not let the apps take over the user experience of LinkedIn.

This is both reflected in the choice of business oriented apps (wordpress, movabletype, slideshare, huddle, google apps). And in the way that apps work on the site.

We experienced this again and again in the months of working together with LinkedIn for the SlideShare app. LinkedIn understands the rhythm and cadence of the LinkedIn site. They worked hard with the apps to make sure they added functionality, but did not fundamentally change that user experience.

I strongly agree with this approach. Looking back on the timeline for the Facebook platform, its clear that for a period of time, Facebook lost control of their end user experience. The apps were in your face (several were extremely spammy). When you have thousands of apps doing this, then pretty soon the social space itself changes. This is why Facebook had to do something as drastic as putting all the apps in a separate Boxes tab cutting traffic to the apps in half.

Social networks have a delicate balance, there is a rhythm to the social activity. There are channels for communication between users, and different channels are used in different ways, with different frequency. You cannot suddenly change this. Instead you have to understand what the rhythm of communication is, what users value about the experience on the site and make sure that does not completely change, even while apps are added to the site.

It will be interesting to see how the platform evolves in the months ahead. But I think LinkedIn gets this and am very bullish about the platform.

“Thirst” wins SlideShare’s World’s Best Presentation Contest

We declared the results of the second World’s Best Presentation Contest. Jeff Brenman (who also won the contest last year with Shift happens), walked away with this year’s top prize with Thirst. Other two winning presentations are Footnotes, a whimsical travelogoue told through shots of Melanie’s feet. And third prize is Zimbabwe in Crisis. We also have six category winners

Here is Jeff Brenman’s Thirst for your viewing pleasure.

Why did Google acquire Omnisio?

For those who live under a rock (read don’t read Techcrunch/Techmeme), Google just acquired Omnisio – a company that lets you synchronize YouTube videos with SlideShare slideshows. At first I was wondering if they are planning to use Omnisio to mashup Google Presently with YouTube. But I think I just found the answer in the YouTube blog.

Omnisio, a small California-based startup that’s focused on making online video more useful and collaborative. The Omnisio team has tremendous technical expertise when it comes to advanced video tools and having this kind of talent at YouTube should help us further explore ways to enhance your YouTube experience.

Its a talent and some technology acquisition. Its about video annotations and comments. Makes complete sense.

Video is a continuous stream. Omnisio lets you annotate and tag particular points in this continuous stream. Imagine coming to a video and rather than start it from beginning, go to particular points that have been tagged or commented. Imagine a layer of social metadata that lives on top of video (a la notes on Flickr pictures).

Our slidecasting technology does essentially the same thing – but for audio rather than video. Slidecasting allows you to link particular points in the audio stream and thus annotate them.

I ran into Ryan, one of the Omnisio founders, at the last Startup2Startup dinner and he mentioned there was interesting news upcoming. All the best to Ryan and other members of the Omnisio team!

Marketing department uploads, legal department serves takedown notice

This just happened. A big company approached us with a take down notice for a few slideshows. We responded and suspended the slideshows. The people who had uploaded protested. Turns out they were from the same company as the “big company” except from the marketing department. I see this happening again and again. Individuals from big companies want to embrace SlideShare (often web-savvy individuals, folks from marketing depts). The Legal and IT depts want to hold them back. Legal because they want every action to go through a set of legal hoops. IT because they have the “Made inhouse” syndrome and think they can build inhouse whatever web tool people are using outside.

Size and diffusion of responsibility already make it hard for corporations to be nimble and agile. Legal and IT depts make them even more backward thinking than they already are. Yes, both have their uses, but they don’t get the web, and especially how the consumer web has changed things for the enterprise by changing the individuals inside it.

Taking SlideShare to the next stage

Press releases are boring. We wanted to use a format that is native to SlideShare to let you know about whats up with SlideShare. Enjoy.

Dave, thanks for going along with this. I am so glad you agreed. Arun, thanks for making this slideshow come alive.

Tufte joins SlideShare board of advisors; No more bullet points

We are thrilled to announce that Edward Tufte the renowned author, academic, and speaker best known for his pioneering work on the display of quantitative information, has joined the SlideShare board of advisors. It took us a while to convince him to join our advisory board – given his “PowerPoint is evil” credo, but we convinced him that he SlideShare needed him to put an end to bad presentations.

Read our blog announcement about Tufte joining here.