Tag 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!

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”.

At Web 2.0 Summit

Its been a while since I was at a conference (startups often get you into hibernation mode). But I am really enjoying Web 2.0 Summit. I participated in Guy Kawasaki’s TechHunch Thrifty panel (Guy comes up with the best names). He invited a bunch of startups (Disqus, RescueTime, InfinityBox, Posterous, PollsEverywhere, MightyQuiz and SlideShare) who started with little or no funding. It was a fun panel. I enjoying demoing SlideShare and seems like at least a few of you enjoyed the demo.

Now at Incubator 2.0 panel.

If you use SlideShare and have a question, comment, idea, please come by and say hi.

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.

Stepping down as BayCHI program chair

For more than five years now, I have been co-Program Chair for BayCHI hosting a variety of speakers from Peter Norvig, Bill Scott, Tara Hunt, Tim Brown, Jakob Neilsen, Jared Spool and Jesse James Garrett. When I started I was a researcher at UC Berkeley. In between, I ran a consulting company that morphed into a product company (MindCanvas) that planted the seeds of SlideShare.

I have really enjoyed this tenure. So why am I leaving? Because SlideShare is growing and I don’t have time anymore. Running a startup takes everything you have and more. I am also focused on startup issues rather than HCI issues. Finally, six years is a long time to do anything and its time to give someone else a chance.

We are looking for a replacement for me who will be co-program chair along with Paul Sas (he is a great co-chair to work with!). I have also loved working with Stacie Hibino, Steve Williams, Nancy Frishberg and everyone else at BayCHI. Get in touch if you have past experience at organizing such events and want to get involved.

This was a long time in the coming. Several times I wanted to tell my BayCHI colleagues, but was not able to actually say I was leaving. This is one of several threads that I am closing now that SlideShare takes 120% of my time.

December 9th is my last program. I am still putting it together. Come by if you are in the area…

“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.