I'm sure many of you have heard about the Python dev conference tweeting fiasco. In case you haven't, what happened was that a few developers were inappropriately joking about dongles and made a woman sitting in the row in front of them uncomfortable. She decided to snap a photo of them and tweet about their indiscretion to her 10k+ followers on Twitter. This led to all parties being fired, including the female involved.
For most women working in Silicon Valley, this is nothing new. Men can sometimes be inappropriate, and some may even call it a bit of a 'nerd fraternity' or boys club. I'll admit, it's hard to get use to even if you've been working in the valley your whole life like me. But in order to be a successful woman in the tech community you have to learn how to handle these uncomfortable scenarios professionally.
My hypothesis is that this woman felt powerless in the situation given that she was predominately surrounded by men (let's face it, it's a PYTHON conference). Overhearing a group of men behind her make inappropriate sexual jokes pushed her over the edge. There aren't many women (myself included) that would feel comfortable in that situation.
Unfortunately for the woman in question, she ended up going overboard by ultimately robbing these men of their power. Instead of tweeting their photo to twitter, it might have been better to be direct and tell them to shut up.
The #1 lesson for women to take away from this unfortunate scenario is to be direct. When we feel uncomfortable because someone is saying something insulting, we simply say so in a polite, professional manner. By doing so, we create clear boundaries for what is appropriate and what isn't. These situations are opportunities for educating others on becoming more self aware in social situations. It's in the best interest of everyone involved and it's our job as women to drive this change.
The #1 outcome that I hope will come from this is an improvement in hiring strategy and employee training. Companies need to understand that their brand as a whole is defined by the reputation of their employees. There is a strong need to teach proper social skills and social awareness so we can create a more cohesive culture where men and women feel comfortable working together. While many men in Silicon Valley are extremely talented and have a high IQ, we're seeing the increasing importance and value of a high emotional intelligence or EQ. If companies start to focus on EQ, I think we'll see more inviting culture and ultimately be successful at building more successful products.
I use to do a lot of social advising for YCombinator founders and other engineers and I'm more than happy to do my part and help.
Depending on the nature of your product, you should not be investing in much marketing when you first launch. The main reason for this is to test out the performance of your product organically without any externalities affecting your data set. The only time you’ll have an opportunity to capture organic growth data is when you first launch and these metrics are critical in determining your next steps. The entire point of launching your product is to validate the core assumptions that your product is based on. It's sometimes helpful to outline these assumptions and make sure you have the right tools implemented to track data against them post launch. That way you won't let your emotions get in the way of data. I recommend writing out the company vision first, the problem you are solving, and they key value propositions that the product provides. These value propositions are essentially the assumptions that underly your business.
You shouldn’t have to invest in marketing – if your product is good people will use it and will evangelize to their networks. Most of your marketing efforts should be spent focusing on tracking product/design metrics and user analytics such as engagement and traction. Who is using your product? How are they using it? Are they telling their friends to sign up? What is the viral coefficient of the product? Is your design flow optimal for customer acquisition? You should be able to answer all of these questions.
Once enough data has been gathered, generally over 2 - 3 months, you’ll be able to put together a robust marketing strategy that helps you drive towards growing the key metrics in your business. A brilliant marketing strategy will undoubtedly include a community development program that will transform your most active users into your biggest evangelists - your community will become your extended marketing team. More on that soon.
Tools you can use:
- Flurry Analytics
and many others ;)
It’s an exciting time to be in Silicon Valley. We can all agree that technology is advancing faster every day and infilitrating every possible industry - and we’re lucky enough to be exposed to it all. I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting lately, especially while reading The Startup of You (by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha), and I want to share my vision for the future I want to help create.
There are three socially-related things I believe will make people happier:
Improved network Intelligence: I have so many connections on various platforms to the point that I don’t know who I know anymore. I want technology that provides me with information on who I know, how often I communicate with them and on what platform, and generates my circles of friends automatically.
Connecting online to go offline, and using technology to increase quality of relationships with people we care about. Technology can’t replace relationships and right now social networks are optimized for loose connections (i.e. the thousand subscribers on Twitter or Facebook). As a result, it’s so easy to get lost in the instant gratification of likes and retweets that it’s like we are all alone together. There are two types of social capital, bridging and bonding. Bonding social capital includes close friends and family i.e. people you would ask big favors. Bridging social capital include people outside of your close network that you would discover nonredunant information from such as job opportunities, etc. Facebook is great for building bridging social capital since I can share articles and comment on, for example, Dave McClure’s posts. He can like those comments, which helps us become more familiar with each other. But we don't yet have great tools for building or improving upon bonding social capital, and I believe that needs to change to strengthen our social ties to people who we do or should care about.
Expanding the social graph. I want to be intelligently connected to quality people I should meet. The tough part is getting people to want to make new friends, so generally there are three types of individuals that are motivated to meet new people: a) single people, b) people in new communities (i.e. college students), and c) connectors. While we are more connected than ever before, we have become more efficient at filtering out people who think differently. And with technology increasingly closing in on personalization, we are less and less exposed to ideas outside of our filtered social graph. Meeting quality people in different social graphs helps expose us to new ideas and passions we would never know otherwise, and that is a good thing.
This leads me to believe that the next wave of successful social entrepreneurs will require high emotional intelligence. The social age brings less proprietary technology and more value on user experience and network effects as defensibility strategies. To succeed in this venture, I believe we need to find entrepreneurs who are socially savvy in addition to technically competent, or at least pair cofounders that skillfully balance in those domains. This could also be an excellent way for non-traditional entrepreneurs (e.g. women) to successfully enter the startup scene, which will enrich the history and future of Silicon Valley.
Most startups I advise don’t understand the point of PR and assume they need to hire an agency that charges upwards of $10k to do it. Let me be clear: PR doesn’t mean getting featured on Techcrunch, it can’t sell your product especially if it sucks, and while it may drive some initial adoption, it does not drive engagement.
The main purpose of startup launch PR is to gather enough data to help you find product market fit. As a startup founder, you have a set of assumptions about your product that you want to test in the market, and you should be using PR to help you acquire a solid sample size that can provide valuable information about your assumptions. That way, you can make data driven decisions on key next steps. A strong PR strategy supports throwing as wide of a net as possible to attract a variety of first time customers, meaning it must have a vertical focus that targets specific categories (e.g. lifestyle, gaming, etc).
You’ll know a PR strategy is bad when the core of it is aimed at getting an exclusive on Techcrunch. Techcrunch does not drive a high volume of conversions and is aimed at a small demographic of nerds like myself. So unless you are building a product for the startup community, please don’t launch your startup solely via tech outlets and call it a day. You’ll find yourself having more success in driving conversions via blogs that have an intersection between lifestyle and technology anyway.
To hire good PR people - yes people, not agencies - my suggestion is to tap into your network or identify startups you think have done phenomenal PR work and ask them who they use. The PR industry is relationship-based so solid PR people have strong relationships with journalists, understand how to pitch individuals and the audience of specific outlets, and know how to prioritize stories to share with each outlet. By focusing on relationship-based PR, you maximize the potential for feedback to drive product development and support the success of your company.