Tag Archives: #startup

Guest post by Miki Saxon. If the Shoe Fits: Is This You?

A series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mAre you really a more competent leader than the woman founder who you beat out for funding or do you just think you are?

Research says it’s the latter, i.e., all in your mind.

Results show that when all leadership contexts are considered, men and women do not differ in perceived leadership effectiveness. Yet, when other-ratings only are examined, women are rated as significantly more effective than men. In contrast, when self-ratings only are examined, men rate themselves as significantly more effective than women rate themselves.
From the abstract of a paper by Samantha C. Paustian‐Underdahl (number 5 on the list; the full text is available upon free registration)

Are you the reason this question keeps coming up on Quora?

Is it true that software development has no future once you get to a certain age such as 40, and one should pursue to steer his development career towards management?

Do you pride yourself on being part of the bro culture? Do you agree, publicly or privately, with what White_N_Nerdy wrote on Reddit?

“I’m honestly trying to understand why anyone says that females are ‘needed’ in the tech industry.” He continued: “The tech community works fine without females, just like any other mostly male industry. Feminists probably just want women making more money.”

If, in the deepest, most private place in your mind, your response is ‘yes’, then consider that the women you degrade and perceive as troll bait are someone’s sister, mother, aunt or cousin.

And that somewhere/somewhen someone will do the same to your sister, mother, aunt or cousin.

And someday, when you hold your newborn daughter or son, know that this world you helped build is the world they, too, will eventually face.

Image credit: HikingArtist

Me and AI

 

credit: business insider
Google’s AI, Deep Dream, generated this.

Two weeks ago I shared a review of Geoff Colvin’s Humans are Underrated and promised to tell you more about why the AI discussion resonates so much with me.

Me in short: I was born and live in Tomsk, which is in Siberia. My mother is an economist and a military engineer by education. My father is air-conditioning engineer, but really proficient in modern tech just for fun. 

More importantly, I’m young, just 21, so all the talk about AI ( ) taking jobs and even making humans obsolete is worrying.

It’s not a sharp pain, but more like a subtle ache that you know you should do something about, but procrastinate, because it doesn’t seem all that urgent.

I read that robots will take over jobs and render humans superfluous.

And AI isn’t just a nebulous concept for me. I do business development for NTR Lab, which is considered an expert at building AI software and its component parts for clients.

Plus, my work means I talk to many of our clients — entrepreneurs creating new uses and applications for AI.

As a philosophy major this really bothers me; as someone who will live in the worlds described it sometimes scares me.

That’s probably why I refuse to focus on the “ache.”

It’s also why reading about Colvin’s book is so heartening.

It gives me hope that my studies in philosophy will give me the empathic edge I need to stay relevant.

Only time will tell.

 

NTR Lab Gives Back To The Startup Community

Recently we started an amazing campaign called Give Back To The Startup Community.

The idea is to “give away” two of our development teams as our way of saying thanks to the community that drives our growth.

Each team consists of 2 skilled developers for up to 2 months.

  • Javascript team (node.js + AngularJS or React); and
  • neural networks/Machine Learning team (we are AI experts)

I also want to tell you a bit about why and how this happened.

The motivation is pretty simple — we grew 51% Y2Y in 2016 helping startups scale their software development.

We had an opportunity to work on great products with entrepreneurs from San Francisco, Austin, Boston, London, Amsterdam and many other amazing places around the world.

We worked with a lot of talented founders and the learning was definitely reciprocal. Although NTR Lab, at 16, is no longer a startup, our development centers feel like startups, with that special atmosphere of new ideas and pure enthusiasm.

The startup community has given a lot to us, so we wanted to give a lot back to it. And what better way than to help two of them succeed?

We are looking for two startups — at any stage — with one of three situations:

  • building their MVP to secure funding;
  • urgently needing to complete something to meet a critical deadline; or
  • needing to implement an important new feature.  

Our plan is to cooperate with accelerators and venture capitalists, as well as founders, to choose the two most innovative ideas that are likely to succeed.

There is absolutely no charge to the chosen startups.

If you are interested send our founder an email describing the project (it should be interesting/fun for the developers, too). Please include your pitch deck with your message.

Note: If you want the AI team, you must have a dataset to train the neural network.

There are two caveats.

  1. We reserve the right to choose the applicant we believe is the best fit.
  2. We have the right to document and write about how and what is happening. This is the first time we have given back and want to describe the process and publicize the story. (Be sure to follow us on twitter and don’t forget to check for new posts here).

Be sure to share this post with your network.

How to de-stress in 7 minutes the scientific way

 

source: https://www.verywell.com/exercise-at-work-1229761

I still remember mom’s constant refrain, “go outside and play,” but, somehow, I always went “later” — often several days later. Change ‘play’ to ‘exercise’ and I still follow that template.

We hear constantly from early childhood that exercise is a major part of staying healthy and nothing deserves more attention than our health, but this simple truth is easy to forget when work/family/social media call.

Several days ago I ran across a Forbes article about Sam Hodges’ research on “time-starved” entrepreneurs who regularly workout. However, I had to laugh at his examples.

Hodges, co-founder of Funding Circle, held up Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Cinnabon’s Kat Cole, Jack Dorsey; GoPro’s Nick Woodman, Mark Zuckerberg and Oprah Winfrey.

Duh. Sure, they are incredibly busy, but not in the same way as your average startup founder/worker. The difference is resources — money and people — in other words, the greater the need the less available the solution..

Anyone who reads knows the exercise lowers stress and increases serotonin production. Just what startup people (and that includes me) need most.

So I went looking for a solution. I wanted something that took very little time, was free (or close) and that I could do anywhere with, or without, company.

And I found it at the NY Times, of all places.

It’s a 7 minute workout that is scientifically vetted.

In 12 exercises deploying only body weight, a chair and a wall, it fulfills the latest mandates for high-intensity effort, which essentially combines a long run and a visit to the weight room into about seven minutes of steady discomfort — all of it based on science.

Plus, there is an advanced version and an app to make it even easier to do it where you are.

There is one other bonus — 7 whole minutes every day without thinking about problems, FOMO or anything else that is stressing our brains.

What more can anyone ask?

Authenticity instead of “reasons”

 

A couple of weeks ago I shared an amazingly honest post from founder Anand Sanwal detailing the “screwups” he’s made as he built CB Insights.

I found it unusual because of his blunt honesty; so many founders offer reasons and try to spread the responsibility for errors — or so it seems to me.

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image source: here

Then last week I read Slava Akhmechet’s post-mortem after shutting down RethinkDB. In which he took full responsibility.

In hindsight, two things went wrong – we picked a terrible market and optimized the product for the wrong metrics of goodness. Each mistake likely cut RethinkDB’s valuation by one to two orders of magnitude. So if we got either of these right, RethinkDB would have been the size of MongoDB, and if we got both of them right, we eventually could have been the size of Red Hat[1].

Obviously, you can learn a lot from his analysis.

But that isn’t my point today.

I’ve always wondered how founders can claim stellar success is the direct result of their efforts, but anything less is not.

Now I’m wondering if a shift is happening; a shift from founders having reasons and blaming external elements to honest analysis and taking responsibility.

I understand that it takes a giant ego to start a company and believe in one’s vision in spite of the naysayers.

However, I think it takes an even bigger ego, and, more importantly, a secure ego, to admit one’s errors, to say “I screwed up,” to take responsibility, to be authentic.

I salute those founders with the courage to be truly authentic.

And I hope the rest will follow in the footsteps of these outliers.

Avoiding Founder Errors

This is a short post, because I want you to have time to read the link.

At the start of a new year most of us look for ways to improve. We make resolutions that occasionally even last past January.

We study what others have done and in order not to make the same mistakes. This process is even more important for founders, because their errors have a greater impact.

These days more founders are willing to share their mistakes, but it’s often after the fact and sometimes dressed up to minimize their own responsibility. (Just saying.)

A few days ago I read a truly unvarnished description of 54 errors made by a founder I have enormous respect for, Anand Sanwal (@asanwal), CEO/Co-founder/Customer Service at CB Insights.

Anand Sanwal (@asanwal)1

“Here’s a running list of my screwups at CB Insights. They span all facets of building a company – everything from HR to culture to product to sales to operations to admin. I am what you might call “multi-talented.””

CB Insights is incredibly successful. And if you don’t subscribe to his newsletter you are missing out on terrific data presented by someone who is also an excellent writer.

It is rare to find such a complete and candid list. I guarantee that if you take the time to read it, it will save you from at least three disasters this year (and beyond) if not more.

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Happy New Year from Yana and the NTR Lab Crew

 

A new year is upon us, and you know what that means: you have only a few hours left to accomplish all that you planned to do in 2016.

Assuming you are still sane and didn’t use up all those hours, then you should spend the rest of your time before midnight creating your shiny new lists for 2017.

This may also be the year you decide that taking the “someday/somehow” approach — what I call the Linda effect — isn’t the best approach.

FYI, Linda is the Coen Brothers movie character in Burn After Reading who wanted to have plastic surgery. She didn’t think much about how she would get it or even why she wanted it. As it turned out, it involved blackmail, betrayal and murder.

Not what Linda was expecting, but she did get her surgery. (It’s typical Coen black humor and I love their movies.)

Here’s how I avoid being Linda:

  • I write down each goal in detail;
  • that includes some abstract (fantasy?) wishes, such as, “I want to meet a unicorn” or achieving world peace.
  • Next, I write down the concrete steps I need to take to accomplish the goals or help realize the dreams.
  • I do a timeline for each goal; and
  • even try to come up with ideas on exactly how I will do it, knowing that the much will change in the process.

I believe it is important to be very clear when wording my wishes and goals. I know they may morph or change over the year, but I need to start with a very clear understanding of what they are now.

Finally, I read things such as, how to become mentally stronger or make it like a boss and take the parts that apply to what I want to do, tweaking them as necessary.   

I hope this helps you in crafting your own lists! I also hope you take time to know exactly what you really do want (which may not be the same as your friends and followers), knowing that it will be your own hard work that accomplishes them.

For myself and NTRLab, I wish you a healthy, happy, prosperous and successful 2017. Know that we will work hard to turn your ideas into software every day, except for these days

Holiday Date 2017
New Year January 1-8
Defender of the Fatherland Day February 23-26
Women’s Day March 8
Labor Day April 29-May 1
Victory Day May 6-9
Russia Day June 10-12
Unity Day November 4-6

Meanwhile, we start New Year celebration in our Tomsk and Moscow offices. Here’re some pictures.

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Happy New Year!

My trip to Disrupt London and 46 facts for every entrepreneur

 

I don’t know about you, but last week was crazy for me.

I attended Disrupt London; it was my first trade show with NTR and my first as CMO and the days after meeting with potential clients. I don’t think I’ve ever been quite that busy!

My return trip took a full 24 hours! I don’t sleep well on planes or during layovers and on top of that I get terrible jet lag.

But I’m not really complaining; it was so worth it. The conference was fabulous; I met many interesting entrepreneurs and we developed many sales leads. Of course, London was fabulous, as always.

Because I’m so short of time this week, I thought I’d share a very interesting infographic about the global startup ecosystem.

For more about Disrupt, visit me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter; I’m writing as fast as I can.

In the meantime, here is the promised Infographic.

entrepreneurship-infographic

Created by DealSunny

Interview with the CEO of Poshare

I’m very excited to share today’s interview with Zhanna Merson, founder of Poshare. Anyone who loves glamorous gowns, but not their price tags, will love Poshare (for the curious, Poshare is a contraction of ‘posh’ and ‘share’). And that includes guys who are looking for something totally unique for that special woman.

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Tell me a little bit about yourself, your family, your background, your roots.

I am originally from Ukraine; I came to the United States in 2006 as an exchange student. Both my parents are engineers, my father started his own business in the 90’s, he has certainly inspired me to pursue something of my own.

When I moved to America, I lived in New York for the first nine years. When I started Poshare I had the opportunity to move to Houston, which, so far, has proven to be a smart move.

My initial idea was a result of my interaction with a good friend, with whom we used to exchange dresses and accessories. This practice has virtually doubled our wardrobes, but all that ended when she moved to Miami. Initially the idea was to build a P2P marketplace where women would rent dresses from one another which could help them kind of monetize their closets. But after thinking it through, I realized that a peer-to-peer marketplace had a serious flaw – unreliability. Women typically rent dresses for a particular event, so there’s no space for error. If the dress wasn’t shipped on time and in perfect condition, client may be left with nothing to wear, which would result in a nightmare, decorated with complaints and bad reviews. I decided that Poshare should be a curated community of boutiques and designers, those that have a proven track record of customer satisfaction. I wanted to pick and choose our dresses and make sure my vendors were professionals who would deliver the product in good condition and on time, minimizing customer service issues.

When did you start Poshare?

I started the company in 2015, but the website hasn’t launched until February 2016.

Congratulations! What actually drew you to become an entrepreneur, rather than working for somebody?

Well, I guess growing up in a post-USSR country and living through the 90’s, with all that political turmoil and economical hardships around, made me feel uncertain about working the regular 9 to 5. It felt like I am putting my well-being into the hands of someone else. As a kid I remember seeing so many people with presumably steady jobs were losing their income, everybody was so stressed out about government companies closing left and right, people were wondering whether they will have a place of work tomorrow or not. From my experience most those who were bold enough to start something on their own, took risks of trying something new, have succeeded. Plus of course having this sense of freedom, being able to do what you think is right and being responsible for your own future looked quite attractive to me.

You mentioned that you don’t have a cofounder, so what triggered your move? Did someone influence that decision?

Initially I really wanted to find a co-founder but finding a good one is easier said than done. I’ve met a lot of people who were interested, some went as far as immediately printing ot business cards, but unfortunately when it came to sitting down, rolling up their sleeves and really getting to work – I kept hearing excuses: don’t have the time, not feeling it today, sudden health issues, this, that.. You know the old saying, if you want something done right – do it yourself. So that’s what I did. Initially I was working evenings, after a day at my full-time job. I think it took about 10 months before I realized that in order to really get Poshare off the ground I will need more time in a day. Fortunately, I have always been financially responsible and saved enough to be able to leave my job and fully dedicate myself to Poshare.

Tell me about your culture.

Our company culture is about being a team, being as open and honest with each other as possible. Thankfully we are all good friends from the same city in Ukraine so we know each other quite well.

Right now, Poshare consists of two people here in the States and three developers in Ukraine.

I want to build a friendly, compatible team, where people support each other, where everyone is comfortable bringing up an idea, asking questions, pointing out any flaws they may see. If someone disagrees with me and they have a better solution – I am happy to hear them out. I don’t want to run this company as a dictator and surround myself with only those who agree with me. I want a team environment where everybody feels equal in terms of being heard.

Nevertheless, I don’t want my teammates to think that our friendship means that they can slack, because they really can’t.

 You don’t want them to become too relaxed.

Exactly. There must be a clear understanding that, while I’m not going to micromanage and constantly look over your shoulder, I expect you to do your best. When I hire people I try to find those who love what they do, who share my vision about the product. One of the least pleasant things is having to fire someone. I’ve only done it a few times thank God.

What values are most important to you?

Professionalism – in whatever you do. Honesty and responsibility are two main traits that I’m looking for in people, whether we are speaking about my closest circle or the folks that I work with. I like straight shooters. Of course this isn’t about just flat out saying everything you think; it is about being open and honest. If you promise something, you make sure it’s done. You have to own it. People of course make mistakes and it is perfectly fine as soon as you can take responsibility for your actions and learn from it.

What focused you on those particular values?

It might be my Ukrainian background. One of the hardest things for me personally, when I moved to US, was to get used to corporate politics. I just feel a lot more comfortable when we act as a team – not when we pretend to be one.

Makes sense. How will you hire when the time comes?

Well, I’ve noticed that my best employees were brought into the company through referrals. I am kind of obsessed with recommendations and references. I also am not afraid of outsourcing certain things. Ultimately our team was made from outsourced developers that later became the in-house crew.

The last question is about leading. Of course, position-wise you are the leader of the company, but it’s interesting to know how you think about leading.

Leader should lead by example only: one must be motivated in order to motivate others, be able clearly communicate company’s vision, be passionate about what he/she does. If the spark isn’t there, it’s only a matter of time for the team to fall back. For example, if you expect someone to work weekends you should be ready to pick up the phone or respond to their email during that time. At least this is my philosophy. Being a leader is a great responsibility and a lot of hard work.

I first came to America thanks to a program called Future Leaders Exchange. I got a full scholarship. Applicants had to go through a number of exams and psychological tests, then among almost 3000 people only 50 were chosen. I work hard to live up to their belief in me.

They definitely made a good choice :)

Thank you and thanks for having me.

Interview with the CEO of Stuffed Pepper

 

Today’s interview is with Heather Jacobsen, the founder and CEO of Stuffed Pepper, an online magazine and resource for the gluten-free and paleo lifestyle. Heather says she is also a mother, researcher and writer, and loves to find order in chaos.

Jacobsen Heather

Tell me a bit about your family/background/etc.

My father was a Naval officer, which brought me to exciting places around the world. I’ve lived on both coasts (in the US), went to grammar school in Denmark and even got to spend Christmas in the Philippines when I was three. I developed my wanderlust at a young age, as well as an appreciation for the paradox that this world is vastly diverse, yet at the same time most of humanity shares many of the same values. One of those values I believe we all share is the desire to be healthy and most of us are even willing to take the proper steps to do so. Unfortunately, however, many of us are lost when it comes to knowing how to eat properly.

Being the daughter or a Naval officer, I also developed a great sense of discipline at a young age, which helped me focus my creative world views, so I can really get things done. I have a Master’s in Ethnobotany and have used those skills to delve deep into the science of nutrition and break it down in a easy-to-digest terms for laymen.

What drew you to becoming an entrepreneur?

I never thought I was an entrepreneur. But I’ve always had the wish to do something that would “make the world a better place.”  After my second child was born, and I no longer had a career, I was looking for something to do and decided to start a blog.  Because I had been gluten-free for almost a decade, I thought I could share my gluten-free recipes and advice; I found I am not alone in my gluten sensitivity and the blog snowballed into a larger, community website as I found others that wanted to share their knowledge and expertise.

I continued to research the far-reaching effects of gluten sensitivity, as well as the proper way to stay gluten-free. It isn’t as straightforward as you think! It wasn’t long before I realized that people needed more than just recipes.  Going gluten-free is not easy!  Not when most of us have been conditioned since birth to eat bread and cereal with pretty much every meal, including snacks.

That led to developing meal plans, a 30-day program, and other downloads that would help people really stick with the diet and get back to health.

 

Where/how did you and your co-founder meet/decide to do a startup?

I don’t have a co-founder. But if you know someone who is interested… :)

 

Tell me about your company culture.

I work with interns from time to time. Otherwise, I am the sole employee. Other than my own posts, all of the contributions to the website are from volunteers.  I have no set schedule. I am a mother of two young children, who are my first priority. So I work when they are at school or when they have gone to bed. I allow the same flexibility with my interns and volunteers.

My interns are rarely local, so we meet over Skype when we need to. I don’t have a set schedule for posting articles or for tasks that need to be done by interns. We all work together to negotiate hours and timing so that it works to everyone’s benefit. Because my company is mostly online, we have that sort of flexibility. That is the nice thing about the digital age.

 

 

What values are most important to you?

Truth and integrity are hugely important to me. We are an online magazine giving free health and nutrition advice. Our income comes from our downloads and advertising.

Unfortunately, most people get their nutritional advice from the food industry itself. The food industry has a powerful influence in the FDA and the USDA who create our dietary guidelines, so there will undoubtedly be bias in what we are told we should and shouldn’t be eating.

Additionally, when consumers scan the labels of foods in the grocery store and see captions like “heart healthy” or “low calorie” they assume it must be healthy for them. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

Our aim is to provide honest, scientifically sound nutritional advice, without industry influence. We work only with food companies that truly understand the importance of nutrition, and are not just interested in the bottom line.

 

How did it happen? Were there conscious decisions on what you wanted the culture to be?

Yes. I consciously chose to be flexible, casual and also trustworthy. As a mother, I need flexibility. And I am not the only mother out there, who needs this. I have had several interns who were completing degrees in nutrition who were also mothers. Flexibility was also important to them.

I have also always been a seeker of truth. Maybe it’s because I am a Sagittarius, and we are notorious for being so truthful we sometimes hurt people. I try not to do that! Or maybe it’s because I always admired the muckrakers such as Upton Sinclair, who wrote The Jungle which brought to light the ugly truth behind the meat-packing industry of the early 1900’s.

Either way, I believe people have a right to be informed about their own health and that proper nutrition is the first place to start. For that reason, all of our information on the website is free. Its only the extras, the meal plans or the consolidation of information in books, that we charge for.

 

How do you hire? What are the most important traits you look for in a candidate?

In addition to having the proper experience, such as in nutrition or social media marketing, I look for someone who is enthusiastic about the subject matter, who can demonstrate hard work and commitment, and who has the ability to put their own creativity into the job.

 

Do you think of yourself as a leader? Why?

I have never really thought of myself as a leader. Which is why, I suppose, I never really thought of myself as an entrepreneur.

But in order for me to be able to stand behind my website, I needed to become an authority on the gluten-free diet. It’s when I began researching it more that I realized most people were not doing gluten-free “right.”

That is, simply replacing food containing gluten with those on the gluten-free foods aisle, was not enough to heal people’s bodies after gluten had done them harm.

This notion is different from what the majority of gluten-free consumers understand, and certainly what the foods industry wants them to believe. When I discovered this, I realized that I needed to take a stand, and become a leader in this new direction.

While there are still some who are resistant, I believe that more and more people are understanding that we really need to eliminate all grains from our diet or even adopt a paleo diet, if we want to truly heal. The paleo diet is receiving a lot more attention these days, and I am happy to help play a role in that.