Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City

I am surrounded by change, in fact my very career in tech entrepreneurship bets on change.  But sometimes we don’t fully understand the impact of our actions and our innovations.  And in tech, we have been accused (rightfully so) of not understanding how the rest of the world lives.  The tech bubble isn’t just economic, its also a bubble of perspective.  Case in point, this hit me hard when Trump was elected because I couldn’t fathom anyone believing he would make a good president.


Since then, I’ve made a commitment to expanding my own awareness and getting out of the tech bubble.  I am in a unique position where getting this exposure doesn’t have to be hard, and  I just need to pick my head up to look around.  If successful, maybe, just maybe I can help “sides” better understand each others perspectives.


That’s why I’m pleased to share that I’ve joined the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s Economic Advisory Council.  Our role on the EAC is to help inform the Federal Reserve Bank’s leadership about regional trends, concerns, and opportunities.  Helping the Fed understand the sentiment and trends of tech – I can do that – especially given I’m standing amidst the maelström that is crypto-currency, investing, startups, and entrepreneurship.


However the thing I’m most excited about is learning how the Fed thinks and works, and hearing from my peers in the non-tech ecosystems.  How does hospitality feel about the current state of affairs?  Construction?  Transportation?  Agriculture?  What are the trends affecting those industries that I might not be aware of because I’m submerged in tech?  What does the government really think of our economy today?  How do the checks and balances put in place really work?


I’m on a perspective quest, and joining the Kansas City Fed’s EAC is just one step of many in expanding my awareness.


If you’re in the Denver area and would like to have your opinion represented at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, shoot me an email with your thoughts and I’ll ensure they get represented.

How connected are we, really?

I’ve been thinking a lot about the word connectivity.


In tech, we use the word ‘connectivity’ to talk about our devices – how our devices connect to the internet and to each other.  As one who travels a lot, connectivity is my tether to work and home.  I can survive without my cell connection, but sever my data connection and much is lost.  I can’t check my email, I can’t work, I can’t see if that company’s round is closing or what startups we decided to invest in or sign that board agreement.  I can’t FaceTime or text with my kids, can’t see the news, can’t check in on Twitter or Facebook. I have no idea what’s happening in the world around me.  Being connected to the internet helps me support not just a few investments and Techstars programs – but hundreds.  Being connected to the internet broadens my reach from what’s immediately around my physical person – to the global reach that Techstars has across 5 continents, 500+ cities, 100+ countries.  Connectivity helps me scale my productivity.


But as I ponder connectivity, I wonder when the cultural meaning of the word shifted from ‘the connection between individuals’ to the ‘connection to the internet’.  And more importantly, I wonder if internet connectivity has inadvertently developed into the antithesis of human connectivity.


Now, I realize that connecting to the internet does connect us to people.  After all, the internet lets me FaceTime with my kids, slack my colleagues, email our CEOs, Facebook with my college friends.  But in all these cases, software has become the intermediary of my relationship with them.  And since software has let me go wide in my relationships, let me scale the number of relationships beyond what I could otherwise handle without software, I’m beginning to believe it’s sacrificed the depth of relationships I could have.  After all, in an hour on my laptop, I could easily ‘connect’ with 100+ people.  But an hour deep conversation with someone face to face or over the phone?  That’s only one person.  And I’ve probably connected more deeply with that one person than I have with the sum of all the connections with the 100+ people.  The art of the intimate conversation has been replaced with 140 character blurb.


This was punctuated recently in a conversation with my mom who told me “we never talk anymore”.  And she’s right, we don’t.  We don’t ‘talk’ a lot.  Rather, we text a lot.  Short texts, often involving emojis to gain even more efficiency from our already short texts.  I remember spending hours on the phone with my mom, telling her details about my day, my life, my plans.  Mostly small talk, always bookended by the occasional big talk.  But it’s been a long time since we’ve done that.  Do I spend less time talking to my mom because I’m busy?  Maybe.  Maybe the 100+ conversations with others have replaced the 1 deep conversation I could have with her.  Or do I spend less time talking to my mom because our text messages sum up all the details with a couple of emojis?  I don’t know.  The small talk is largely gone, but with it, the big talk has gone too.


I was reminded of it when I went to a birthday party for one of my daughter’s friends.  Many of the parents knew each other, but since I’m the working parent and don’t usually take my kids to these events, I didn’t know that many people.  I sat in the corner and awkwardly checked my email, rather than putting myself out there to connect with the other humans in the room.  My email was safer and more comfortable. Plus I’m being productive on a Saturday! Bonus!


I’m reminded of it in public places, like airplanes. Man I HATE it when the person sitting next to me strikes up a conversation.  But before my device was connected, it didn’t used to bother me.  In fact, I loved conversations with strangers, they were always so interesting, if not awkward.   It was a way to get exposure to people outside of my normal operating bubble.  Now – leave me alone, I’ve got a board deck to review.


I am reminded of human connectivity every time I’m with a bunch of friends or colleagues and no one is talking because everyone is on their devices.  Sometimes I’m right there with them, on my device, not talking to anyone.  Then I look up and chuckle thinking “good thing we’re spending quality time together”.  Other times, when I present enough to think about it, and I’m eagerly waiting for my peers to finish making out with their devices, I think “hey man, I’m right here, right now.  Look at me.  Talk with me.  Life is right here, not out there.  Email #324 or Facebook friend #718 can wait.”


And I wonder – is all of this me? I admit, I’m a busy person.  I travel a ton, have a pretty hectic work life with a ton of relationships, and 2 small kids and husband at home.  So maybe my busyness has created this situation, where I’m trying to cram productivity into every moment.  But hasn’t the connectivity of my device enabled this situation?  Or am I just using busyness as an excuse when really it’s just that relationships are hard and take work?  It’s a lot easier to check on how my high school friend is doing on Facebook, than to call her up.  Have I traded authentic depth and closeness and intensity for brevity and volume and convenience?  As David Gilmore so eloquently says “…did you exchange…A walk on part in the war…For a lead role in a cage?”  Probably.


As I look around, everyone seems to be retreating to the sanctity of their devices.  I don’t know if it’s because we’re busy, or it’s because it’s easier.  My guess is we use busyness as the excuse, but the truth is that hiding behind our devices is easier.


I think the repercussions of this exchange of internet connectivity with human connectivity is gigantic.  People have forgotten how to ask for help. Worse, people have forgotten to even notice when someone looks like they need help.  We used to pay attention to each other, our social cues and facial expressions; the flash of doubt or fear or cynicism or sadness that would cross someone’s face in a conversation – that would drive us to dig in a little further on what was going on. But now we aren’t engaged in face to face conversation long enough to see those cues.  I had a founder in my office recently who was telling me how great everything was going, sales are up, board is happy, investors are happy, but his smile was so… so… fake.  I took a leap and told him I thought he was lying, and he laughed at me.  Laughed right in my face, meanly.  Then his laugh devolved into tears and told me that he hated his life and wanted out.  He confessed he hadn’t told this to anyone, hadn’t even admitted it to himself yet and was confused as to why it was coming out now.  I don’t think I could have gotten that from him if we had just been exchanging emails or texts, or even a 10 min watercolor conversation.


I’m old enough to remember what life was like prior to my iPhone.  Man I loved my Motorola Razor.  It was small, folded nicely to fit in my pocket, had tactile buttons that actually pushed, took pictures and let me text message.  If it had Google maps, it would have been the perfect device.  So I remember how often I used to connect with others back then.  It was definitely fewer people as compared to today – but those connections were more meaningful.  I bet if someone plotted cell phone minutes over time, starting in 1995 through today, we’d see a precipitous drop-off in number of minutes “connecting” to one another right around the time smart phones came online.


The thing that scares me is the younger generations don’t know that time period. While my generation knows but we have just developed bad habits, the younger generation has a new normal. These are kids that when life gets uncomfortable, or worse, it gets downright hard, many don’t turn to someone for help, guidance, and connectivity.  They turn to their device for situation avoidance – and they don’t even realize they’re avoiding the situation.  We have all been guilty of handing our kid a device when the situation gets rough.  Shit it’s easier than listening to them complain of boredom or yell and scream.  But this is disconnecting the kid from their emotion, not teaching them to deal with hard situations or people.  Not only are they not learning the art of connecting to someone else, they are not learning the art of connecting with themselves.  And together we are losing the art of navigating emotionally charged situations.


Mental health issues are running rampant.  Bullying is running rampant.  Lack of empathy is rampant, bigotry and racism are rampant, hate is rampant, and the art of the intimate conversation is dwindling.  Are these things related?  Is our reliance on the easy/quick fix of our devices a shortcut to connecting with who we are, how we feel, and how others around us are doing? Is our internet connectivity inadvertently eroding our human connectivity?


Last year I went to a conference and heard Dr. Dean Ornish speak.  He deals with heart disease patients that are given less than 3 months to live and has found a miraculous way of saving their lives by actually reversing heart disease, without the use of drugs, IN 30 DAYS!  His technique uses 4 key themes – 3 of which are not surprising.  Diet (yep), exercise (yep), stress management (obviously).  But the fourth I found fascinating – and it was intimacy.  Not sexual intimacy, or at least not that alone. But emotional intimacy.  Making sure the patient has people emotionally close to him or her.  The Ornish technique has been shown in scientific studies to reverse heart disease, and some indications that it works on prostrate cancer too.  Whoa.  Depth of relationships matter so much, your life could depend on it.


I was recently at a three-day Techstars Ventures retreat in the middle of the Colorado Rockies with 21 CEOs and the partners at TSV.  We all stayed in this one dark, musty, old hunting lodge featuring buck heads hanging off the walls and a huge stone hearth.  It had internet, but our guess is that it was a satellite connection that shared it’s limited bandwidth with the few neighboring buildings.  Try putting 21 tech CEOs on a single crappy internet connection that crawls like a slug for three days and it’s a recipe for sheer panic.  At first everyone was panicking.  In fact, one of us (who shall remain nameless but you know who you are!) actually took the locked door off it’s hinges to access the closet housing the wifi router.  One of the founders was literally trying to close his round that day and could barely get enough bandwidth to download the docs to sign.  The gnashing of teeth was audible. Lack of internet connectivity was a bug in our retreat.  But by the end, it was a feature.  21 CEOs, most of whom didn’t know each other, became pretty close by the end of it. We talked about some hard, personal, deep shit there.  I don’t think the impact would have been nearly as great if everyone could have been on their devices.


I don’t believe our devices and the internet connectivity of them are inherently bad.  Like any tool, it can be a weapon if not used properly.  And my connected devices let me get more done, faster. So I don’t blame the internet on our social issues.  But I have spent time trying to understand what the balance is – how to scale my productivity while maintaining the intimacy of existing relationships and connectivity with those around me.  How do I use my resources responsibly? How about this for a radical social rule – anytime a device is within 5 feet of another device, don’t use the device.  Human near human?  Engage with human.  Human alone?  Engage with device. Yes, even in public settings where you don’t know anyone.  I know it would never work, but a human citizen can dream.


There isn’t an answer here, nor is it really a complaint.  It’s simply a reflection and an attempt to be conscious about when and how I use my connected devices.  It’s a reflection on when the word “unplug” came to be something you did only on vacation.  It’s a realization that device connectivity is both a feature and a bug.  It’s a curiosity around whether our connected devices are causing interference in our emotional processing.  And it’s a little bit of a plea – if I’m not present with you, please, have a difficult conversation with me about being present when together.  I want to know the real answer to “How are you?”.  My email can wait.

We bought a bed.

Today marks a monumental day in Mark (husband!) and my life.

We bought a bed.

Now, I know this doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it is. Our mattress has been sitting on plastic-wrapped box springs, on the floor, for 5 years. Prior to that, our old mattress was on one of those free frames that comes with the mattress when you bought it, and I think it was the same frame I got in college.

The bed represents the first piece of furniture we actually *bought* in our adult lives. You know, something that we didn’t get on Craigslist, or Ikea, or was a hand-me-down or gift of some sort. In fact, the Ikea furniture that’s currently in our master bedroom replaced a used, falling-apart dresser that I literally bought for $20 FROM THE CLASSIFIED SECTION OF THE NEWSPAPER when I was a sophomore in college. It was that old.

As a 42 year old professional woman, grown adult, and mom, the fact that we didn’t buy a *real* piece of furniture until we were in our 40s, juxtaposes 3 conflicting emotions. Pride, envy, and embarrassment.

Mark and I are surrounded by people with more money than us. They have nicer houses, nicer cars, nicer gear, nicer clothes, nicer appliances, nicer STUFF, and people who actually afford things like interior decorators. Some of them are more ‘successful’. Some of them inherited it. Some were just damn lucky. And I admit I allow it to affect my sense of self-worth. The ‘keeping up with the Jones’ effect. I feel myself often apologizing to friends for the beat up dining room table, or the front steps that are falling apart, or the kitchen that desperately needs upgrading. I certainly have my moments of envy that my furniture is mis-matched and hand-me-down, or that my yard wasn’t designed by a landscape architect, or that a color specialist didn’t match my wall color to my throw pillows?—?and I do envy these Houzz-perfect friends and neighbors and magazine articles. (The lesson in here is “live in a shitty neighborhood well below your means” and you won’t fell pressure to keep up with anyone!).

However, there’s huge freedom in NOT GIVING A F*CK. Spilled wine on the sofa? Whatever. Big scratch through the dining room table? That’s cool. Broke the front-porch chair? No problem. Our house could burn to the ground and there are 3 objects I would be sad to lose. A pillowcase that was in my grandmother’s dowry, a lamp my father made out of a bowling pin when he was in his 5th grade shop class, and an antique guitar amp in Mark’s music studio. The rest could burn. I am not owned by my stuff, and I love it. In fact, I was reminded of this today as I drove to pick up the new bed in our 20 year old truck with 120K miles on it. The paint has totally peeled off the hood down to the metal, the dashboard is cracked like the Grand Canyon, and you have to detach the battery from the truck every time you stop it because some electrical poltergeist drains the battery to zilch in an hour. But you sit up high, you have to drive slow, and it makes the most phenomenal throaty bass 8-cylinder growl when it idles. It’s like an old man who’s history included decades of undefeated world fighting championships. He moves slow but WILL CRUSH YOU if you mess with him. I LOVE driving this truck, I could mow over 10 fire hydrants and would only feel joy that the truck could pull it off without dying. I am not owned by my stuff.

But when I let myself, I AM owned by that feeling of ‘keeping up with everyone else”. I have to work hard at not letting it bother me. Like somehow I’m not as worthy because my house doesn’t feature the latest seasons fashion (or really, any season’s fashion). It takes effort to push the feelings of inadequacy away, and to be my own reference point, rather than use someone else’s situation as my reference point.

Today, when I was unpacking the pieces from the bed that I a) picked up to save the $199 delivery fee and b) assembled myself to save the ‘white glove service’ fee?—?I was staring at the photos that hang on our dining room wall, and I was reminded why I’m okay with not owning nice stuff. The pictures on our wall are large photos I took while Mark and I traveled. 2 of them are from our trip to South America, where we blew the down payment we were saving for a house. That trip was 3 months long. We were in 5 countries, and featured epic backpacking the “W” in Torres Del Paine National Park, a 5 day trek through Incan trails to end at Machcu Picchu, and a huge mountain bike ride down the Worlds-Most-Dangerous-Road in Bolivia. The other pictures were of Aleka and Jackson when we took a 2 month sabbatical to go surfing in Costa Rica. Jackson turned three on that trip, Aleka learned to swim, and I surfed every. single. day. In short, we save our money for travel. I’d happily go into debt for an adventure. But go into debt for a sofa? Or a new retaining wall for the planter out front? Barf.

The other thing our lifestyle has afforded us is the ability for Mark to stay home full time with our kids. And while it’s a huge sacrifice he’s making, and honestly his job is harder than mine, I know our kids will reap the reward of our thrift for their entire lives. They are emotionally well grounded and get the attention they need to help them become productive, happy adults.

I don’t write this post to brag, or to judge, but rather to say that life choices are complex and often come with conflicting emotions. Honestly, I’m envious of my neighbor’s perfect landscaping and their design eye (they have the cutest little container on their front porch that stores umbrellas! It looks like a pair of rain boots. How sweet!) I feel embarrassed that our house is “that house” on the street, bringing the average price down. Sorry! But on another hand, I’d trade a monthly lawn service for a trip to the Egyptian pyramids any day of the year.

And at the end of the day, the fact that I even have these thoughts to begin with is a sign of the abundance Mark and I have in our lives and that all of these so-called-problems are manufactured, privileged, first-world problems. We are blessed with the stuff we do have, the lives we live, the opportunities that surround us, our health, our families, and our love for eachother…

So Mark, here’s to our first piece of furniture, that I bought ON SALE!. (And if you know anyone who wants to buy 2 twin box springs, still in the plastic wrap, ping me! We’re saving for Panama…)

We need more people like Phil Weiser

Phil Weiser is running for Colorado Attorney General and he is a man we should all support with our time, money, and voices.
I’ve known Phil for nearly a decade. Phil has demonstrated, time and time again, his commitment to the best interests of our community.  Among other things, he’s worked on Governor Ritter’s Innovation Council, was critical to bringing the Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network to CO, and when he was Dean of the CU Law school, he successfully pioneered an entrepreneurial program at CU that successfully integrates the local business community.  (Imagine that, law and entrepreneurship!)  More importantly, he’s already working to transform the government from the inside out through the Governmental Entrepreneurial Leadership Accelerator (of which I am a quasi-mentor) which takes motivated individuals inside of the government and gives them resources to make big changes with civic issues.
Through his list of accomplishments, you can see that Phil knows how to execute.  But looking more closely, you can see that Phil is phenomenal at navigating complex situations between powerful institutions and groups that result in a mutually beneficial outcome for all.  He knows how to drive positive change and collaboration among people because Phil’s values and motives are in the right place.  He is one of the best humans on the planet, and individuals like Phil will be the catalyst to getting our government on the right foot.  With Phil in a leadership role in our government, great things can and will happen.
When Trump was elected, I vowed to get more involved in our government.  For me, this means supporting individuals that I know bring the right qualities to office and that I trust to make hard decisions.  Phil is that guy.
Consider donating your time, voice, or dollars to help Phil’s campaign.

The lost art of a constructive debate

Because I was so surprised when our country elected Trump, I’ve been on a personal campaign to get out of my information bubble. In order to achieve this, I’ve been deliberately exposing myself to media sources I wouldn’t otherwise read, and most importantly, diving into the comments sections of these channels to attempt to understand people’s perspectives.

In reading comments – I thought I would discover why people think building a wall is a good idea, or why banning muslims is a sound move, but what I discovered was much worse.

Have you ever been in a conversation with someone where you stated an opinion, and the other person took such an antagonistic stance that you ‘fought back’? In fact, it became more about the fight than about the topic you’re fighting about, just to win?

Almost every single comment thread I read devolved into throwing insults. I honestly don’t recall a single thread where the individuals engaged in a healthy debate. Rather, it quickly got personal, people insulting others’ intelligence, with the original topic being lost in a sea of vitriol. Don’t believe me? Go head and read into almost any comments thread in political news right now. The anger people feel is downright terrifying.

And it strikes me – maybe this is the core of our problem today. The core of our problem isn’t that we all have different opinions, or that we elected Trump, or Dems Vs GOP, or any of the issues people are fighting today. It’s that we, as humans, have forgotten how to treat each other with respect when we disagree and stakes feel high. And because we’re treating each other with such antagonism, the fights keep getting more and more vicious. If we continue on this trend, pretty soon we’ll forget what we’re even fighting about, we’ll just be focused on winning regardless of what we’re winning. Then, we all lose. IMHO, electing Trump was merely a symptom of this underlying problem in the US.

My ongoing goal is to never attack someone for a differing opinion, rather try to understand their orientation and perspective, and help them try to understand mine in a constructive, non-antagonistic way. If you’re looking for skills on how to do this, I loved Difficult Conversations – it helped me improve all my relationships at work and at home, and really helped me identify how I was shaping the world around me.

An entrepreneur loving on strangers

A friend of mine (and a Techstars company), Jackie Ros from Revolar, emailed me a few days ago with a fantastic offer.  Revolar makes a personal security device – it’s like a little button that you can ‘wear’, and if you feel unsafe, it will call for help on your behalf.

Jackie’s email said “My Muslim friends are telling me they are having their hijabs ripped off, one was told to hang herself with it because it is no longer allowed here. My Latino friends are being yelled at to stop speaking in Spanish and told to go back where they came from. One of my female friends on Facebook was told to “shut up (b word I won’t type)” because she is a woman and “our country has spoken.”

To combat this hate, Jackie & Revolar are offering the Revolar device for $59 – which is normally $99, to anyone that currently feels unsafe.  If you feel like you’re at risk because of the election, Revolar wants to get it’s device in your hands to help keep you safe.  Enter discount code #givefirst in the shopping cart, and if you’re REALLY broke and can’t afford the $59, and you really are in danger, please email jacqueline@revolar.com and she’ll find a way to get you a device.

Thanks Jackie for loving on people that need it right now.



Moving forward post election

While I do vote at every election, I have always stayed out of public conversation around politics.  As a child, when the extended family dinner conversations turned to politics, it always resulted in anger and yelling, ruining the evening for everyone and dividing the family.  I don’t remember constructive, curious conversations, only defensive and offensive ones.  And with the proliferation of political rhetoric on Facebook, I deliberately opted to keep my opinions to myself, wanting to preserve the relationship with my family and friends and not wanting to add to the political raging in people’s feeds.  I believed (wrongly) that, in this case, silence could keep us together.
This last election was no different for me.  I did vote.  I voted for Hillary, with confidence that I selected was the right one “given the options”.
But I kept silent on why I voted for Hilary b/c I didn’t want to invite argument.  At the time, it didn’t feel like it mattered anyway, most everyone I knew were voting for Hilary.  My twitter feed was full of Hilary supporters, ditto on Facebook.  The news was basically mocking Trump for his last imbecilic contradiction.  I went to Lisbon for WebSummit mildly nervous for being out of the country during the elections, but predicting that Hilary would win by a landslide.
Wow.  Was I wrong.  Horribly, terribly wrong.  I was blindsided. My bubble, and my silence, was a huge part of the problem.
My initial reaction to Tuesday was total disbelief. The election was rigged!  It HAS to be rigged!  Trump yelled so loudly and often that the elections were rigged, of COURSE he’d rig them!  Then I was convinced we needed to move to a different country and honestly thinking about where we would go.  Basically I’ve spent the last 5 days feeling scared, angry, and betrayed.  Scared because what does this mean? Trump likes to hurt anyone who speaks negatively about him, does that mean my first amendment rights are at risk if I speak negatively about him now?  Angry at myself mostly – how I could be this  insulated from how the rest of the country feels??!  Realizing the thickness of my bubble, and the insulation I have from the rest of the country was a harsh and painful awakening.  And I feel betrayed, betrayed that the media led me to believe (or I let myself be led to believe) the rest of the country felt how I did.  Betrayed that my fellow Americans don’t have the same set of values that I have.  I’m not talking about position on political issues, I’m talking about values.  Values like respect for one another, regardless of race, gender, or socioeconomic status.  Values like truth.  Values like modesty.   Values like respecting our planet.  Because to me, this election wasn’t about political issues.  It was about values.
As I’ve slowly started to accept what has happened, I’ve talked to a handful of Trump supporters (to get out of that bubble I mentioned above), I hear that their election wasn’t about values, but it was about change.  Hilary meant more of the same to them, while Trump represented radical difference.  It was less about his stance on issues (although some did believe his stance was better), less about what he thought about building a wall, or his position on global warming, or disrespecting women – it was about the radical shakeup he’d bring.  Trump was, as Norman Lear said in his talk at #SummitAtSea, the proverbial middle finger of America’s right hand.
In America, I don’t believe we’re having the same conversations, which is why nothing ever feels like it’s moving forward.  And I think the only way we’re going to start having the same conversations, is to get back to the basics of values.  Let’s all get on the same page about values, because until we can all agree that “all people are created equal” and “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…” and “religious freedom” that our constitution and history declares – we can’t ever agree on the political issues at stake today and we will continue to have subpar candidates, on both sides of the aisle.
So today, in order to become a more active participant in the shaping of our futures, I uncomfortably  and publicly commit to 2 opposing actions:
1) Actively seek out and listen to others who don’t share my beliefsfor a genuine attempt at understanding those outside of my community.  We can’t move forward if we don’t understand.  Understanding doesn’t mean agreeing, but it does mean hearing and embracing and respecting those who disagree with me.
2) Speak out about the values I hold to be self-evident, not to preach but to invite conversation, and to  help shift media’s attention from negative hate mongering, to positive attributes like love and trust we share as humans.  As Seth Levine has just said, “…the US needs a strong and vocal counterbalance to the hate and bigotry we just empowered”.
I hope you join me in both actions.

Why the diversity conversation is so hard for me

I read this awesome post by Katie Womersley and I love it.  The quick synopsis is that people who identify with a specific stereotype could cause them to do WORSE.  I believe in diversity and think it makes all of us stronger, but I don’t actually identify with ‘being a woman in tech’.  I have never liked the label, and part of me resents it a little bit. I am just ‘in tech’.  Or rather, I just ‘am’.

Recently, I’ve become fascinated with this idea of the player and the victim, and I’m seeing it everywhere.  The player is someone who looks at the situation and wonders how they impacted the outcome.  “Wow, that was a big fight.  In what way did I create or contribute to the situation to cause that fight?”.  The victim is someone who takes more of a blaming stance. “That jerk took his bad mood out on me”.  I’m seeing it literally everywhere.  “The investors don’t get my business” vs “I’m not articulating my business in a way that makes investors excited”.  “You don’t trust me” vs “What am I doing that causes you to doubt me?”.  “My startup failed b/c we ran out of money” vs “My startup failed b/c I didn’t understand the economics of my business well enough”.  “This meeting is brain damage” vs “I have an experiment I’d like to try with the format of this meeting, if you’re game”

I worry that being identified as the victim here, as a woman in tech, creates victims.  In fact I can think back on 2 specific  situations where I walked out of a meeting extremely frustrated from not being heard, thinking “I’m just in a room full of men, THIS is what they mean by being a female in tech”.   But in retrospect, I took the victim stance. I should have asked myself “What am I doing that’s contributing to my inability to get my point across?”.  If I can answer that question, I can take myself to the next level (which I have by the way!).  Blame them for not being included in the boys club, and I move backwards, never in control of my own destiny.

I’m not saying that prejudice and bias don’t happen.  They do.  And they did in both of those meetings where I was frustrated. But the only way I can change what the world thinks of me is by not playing the part of the victim.  I don’t want to play the part of a woman in tech – but rather of someone who excels in her role, who can adapt to constantly changing and fast paced environments, with people that I do and do not identify with.  It’s not about me being a woman.  It’s about me kicking ass at whatever I chose to.

Thanks Katie.  Don’t lets stop this conversation.

Middle school students and entrepreneurship

I just spent the morning alongside David Brown, talking to 115 middle school students about entrepreneurship.  I do this periodically and it’s one of the most fun days of my year.  The amount of unbridled energy and enthusiasm in the room is always palpable, and the kids have wonderfully insightful questions on how to startup a startup.  Questions like:

  • What should I do if someone tells me my idea is stupid?
  • How do I know if my product is a good idea?
  • What happens when you fail?
  • How do I identify my target market?
  • Once I identify my target market, what kinds of questions do I ask them?
  • What is better, a product business or a service business?
  • How do I get the money I need for my startup?

Rewording some of these questions, they sound identical to the same topics we often discuss at Techstars.   I can only imagine that if we really taught entrepreneurship to kids at this age, imagine how much more quickly adult entrepreneurs could move through the stages of a startup.  Maybe they would be less afraid of failure, know more about when they’ve hit product/market fit…

I’m all for teaching kids entrepreneurship and wish more middle schools did it. Consider pushing your local school to add it to their curriculum, or mentoring a young student if they have a program in place already.