Clothes, but Emperor questionable

After the past two+ years of chaos and horror, witnessing the dramatic regression of our governance, social fabric and heck global climate, in real-time, Pete Buttigieg was a breath of fresh air: an oxygen of intellectual, reasoned, unflappable calm after months of I think it’s safe to say, the polar opposite.

And please: he taught himself Norwegian.

Then sometime back in April I saw this…

But then I got this:

Obviously I was in for a Friday night at only $25. So I get there, and look around, and realize, well….

…and what I shared what I saw with my friend, he (chat) replied, “Ofc. He is an urban elite dream.”

And off we went. Already-iconic Chasten (Buttigieg’s husband) opened with smoothly-delivered endearing, self-aware stories. Which proved a natural segue to Buttigieg himself. He got off to a less-than-perfect start when, perhaps forgetting he was no longer in Indiana, he crescendo-ed up to “no, no…neither party has a claim on …. GOD.” This of course, was not met with thunderous applause, but rather, an enormously pregnant silence. San Franciscans, godless people we are, dgaf about God.

He soon recovered, eloquently laying out a calm, reasoned approach on social issues like marriage, immigration but at a level that didn’t leave much to disagree with (certainly, among this crowd). Perhaps I was among the few if any among the crowd that was still in shopping vs. buying mode, but I was left wanting to hear what the tangible platform was, beyond a Constitutional Amendment addressing political campaign funding (not a new idea, but at least, concrete).

And I was left frustrated at his own responses to “why him” beyond the fact that he is young (which has its pros and cons, can we admit?), gay, and a vet. I did find his midwestern provenance as a differentiator almost compelling but account part of that to the fact that I hail from there myself (Motown forever).

Don’t get me wrong. I stand by what I shared with my family: “For as brilliant as he is, he’s not compelling as a candidate. At all. He himself has substance, but he doesn’t have deep experience or a well-thought-out platform.” He’s certainly thought deeply through social issues (this is one of his big draws). Just not the presidential-level ones.

I guess I’m leaving it with him here. Onward.

Women Do Tech

Cross-posted from Mozilla

This June, two of my worlds collided beautifully when my employer, Mozilla, announced its sponsorship of a prize for the most privacy-respecting Women Startup Challenge finalist in the EU. On the side, I’d been volunteering with the organizers, Women Who Tech, for three years. So how did this all come together? And why?

When I joined Mozilla in 2011 to help run WebFWD, I was excited to support open source startups and their founders. The role was a great marriage of my experience with venture and startups, along with my desire to support innovation globally. As my role at Mozilla has evolved, my passion to support technologists globally has grown; today in my day job, I get to help our own developers around the world be more productive; and I’m still helping others “outside” Mozilla, as a mentor with WXR Fund and Hackers/Founders.

In 2015 when I met the organizers on a shared dist list, they were (and have since remained) focused on solving one big, persistent problem: less than 2% of all venture funding goes to women-led startups. Note that’s in the U.S.; the EU is a bit better, at 11%, but still far from ideal.

Compelled by the scope (and maddening nature) of the problem (and the tenacity and skill of the Women Who Tech team), I raised my hand. First, I helped recruit some online event panelists, including Julie Wainwright and Rebecca Eisenberg. Later, I helped design the startup challenge and have acted as an online and in-person judge. There I saw firsthand the caliber of the participating teams, which made me further lament the wasted opportunity that the current funding environment poses — not only for women founders, but for all the people they could serve if they only had the funding. Everyone loses.
Judging the first Women Startup EU Challenge in May 2017 @ London City Hall

When a broad mix of humans are behind technology, it leads to better outcomes, both in product and people. And, if you read through Mozilla’s Manifesto, you’ll see that Mozilla cares deeply about not just technology, but how technology impacts humans. While funding is hardly the only disparity between men and women in tech, it is significant, as it determines who will be driving what solutions for our future. For all of these reasons and more, I’m thrilled to see the visions of Mozilla and Women Who Tech come together.

Being Open about Being Open

Last year WebFWD (the accelerator program I run for Mozilla) had the privilege of hosting a few events with Black Founders, a fantastic organization doing great things for tech entrepreneurs. At one of the events I had the pleasure of meeting Chad Whitacre, chief promulgator of Gittip, a radically open organization seeking to change how value is exchanged. Gittip brought along their partner Balanced, a payments processing, escrow and payouts service.

Fast forward a few (or maybe 9) months or so and we all reconnected when Balanced came up with the idea of exploring how “open” extends not only to code, but to business practices. Balanced help us frame the topic with a quote from Eric Raymond, author of the classic work The Cathedral and the Bazaar:

“I expect the open-source movement to have essentially won its point about software within three to five years (that is, by 2003–2005). Once that is accomplished, and the results have been manifest for a while, they will become part of the background culture of non-programmers. At that point it will become more appropriate to try to leverage open-source insights in wider domains.”

I then had the pleasure of moderating a discussion of this with our 4 panelists:

  • Chase Adam, Co-Founder/Vision, Watsi
  • Jaisen Mathai, Co-Founder, Trovebox
  • Matin Tamizi, Co-Founder/CEO, Balanced
  • Chad Whitacre, Founder, Gittip
  • The ensuing discussion was rich, partly due to the broad range of perspectives of these panelists. For example, where Chad shared how he does not pay his staff, Matin stated that he embraces open as simply “good business practice” with a focus is to maximize revenue, margins and shareholder value. For Jaisen, operating in the open is a key vehicle to gain users’ trust: “It’s impossible to stab our customers in the back.”

    What ‘open’ looks like also varied among the panelists. Matin was careful to point out that many people hesitate operating openly out of a misunderstanding of their core value proposition and competitive advantage is. Typically this is NOT the product roadmap (which Balanced publishes), but it IS the brand, customer relationships and the culture.

    Most did agree that operating in the open – sharing product plans, rationale for making key business decisions, etc. – takes a lot of work. It takes energy, time and focus to ensure that these things are communicated in the proper channels, and questions are addressed. Nonetheless, “we’ve never had a debate that was not worth having,” says Chase. However, “it is a challenge to build mechanisms for ingesting all of the information” he adds. Example: Watsi exports all o ftheir quickbooks information (with key user information anonymized) onto their website – before it is audited. This means they got lots of feedback on what is not correct or needs fixing. The benefits of corrected accounting offset the cost of managing all of the feedback.

    Jaisen also shared that his definition of “Free Open Software” is less about offering software at no cost and more about offering a range of choice for software. Trovvebox has over 100 contributors to its source code and many offer strong opinions that help the team continually consider its choices in direction.

    What in summary would these panelists advise others considering running their businesses more openly?

  • Do it early. This was a common theme. It’s harder to open up elements of your business later on, when more stakeholders need to be managed.
  • Be committed. As mentioned earlier, it’s a lot of work to manage an open community and it will take a lot of energy. So be committed to supporting this at the outset, knowing the investment pays off later.
  • DianeGrillsPanelists

    Grilling is fun!