Monday, March 31, 2014

Female Founders Who Are Using Tech to Empower Communities

As a renter in San Francisco who was recently slammed with a 40% increase in my housing rent, I’ve been engaging in a healthy dose of conversation about the impacts of gentrification in San Francisco. Most discussions have focused on blaming the influx of techies for ruining San Francisco. As a member of that community, I think more attention needs to be given to the many entrepreneurs who are using technology to impact society for the better.

I’ve been organizing Women 2.0’s Founder Friday* events (now, re-launched as City Meetups!) in San Francisco as a volunteer for two years, during which I’ve had the pleasure of hearing from some of the most innovative female thought-leaders –attendees and speakers alike–who are using technology and innovation to focus on change around their communities.

Jen Pahlka (Founder, Code for America) 
One of my favorite Founder Friday events featured Jen Pahlka, the founder of Code for America**, which is essentially “the peace corps for geeks.” CfA focuses on connecting techies with governments to solve public service problems, design community improvements and support civic startups across the United States. Making changes in the governmental sector is incredibly difficult, but she’s using techies and technology to make community changes around all of the red tape. Not only did she tell our group about the company’s many accomplishments in public policy innovation she’d shared in a TEDTalk, but she also got on a more personal level with the audience and talked about how she schedules her life to balance the duties of running her company while being a mom. (Sidenote, they have a cool list of free apps for things like collecting and interpreting community feedback and helping parents select schools for their kids).

Jessica Scorpio (Founder, Getaround)
As a long time fan of Singularity University, which is a generator of tech ideas to better humanity, I was stoked to hear from Jessica Scorpio, who hosted a past Founder Friday, and shared the story of how she founded her company, Getaround. Getaround was conceived at Singularity University, where Larry Page tasked Jessica and her co-founders with thinking of something that would positively impact one billion people in ten years. The team decided on the solution of revolutionizing transportation through carsharing. Carsharing has put pressure on car companies to be more accountable for environmental considerations and for car rental and taxi companies to be more accountable for good service. Neither of these social changes would have happened nearly as quickly without the pressure of innovative startups like Getaround.

We’ve had countless amazing speakers over the past couple years including–Danae Ringlemann, Founder of Indiegogo, Julia Hartz, Co-founder of Eventbrite, and Leah Busque, Founder of TaskRabbit. All of these entrepreneurs have developed technologies that better integrate their communities and improve the environment around them through technology.

If you’re in the realm of wanting to be a techie or wanting to improve your tech skills, which is a popular initiative for furthering socioeconomic improvement, General Assembly should be on your radar. They were the venue for February’s San Francisco Founder Friday, and they’re focused on innovating traditional education by teaching relevant skills in today’s rapidly changing tech environment; like data science, front-end web development, and digital marketing, which can be directly applied at work.

While I’ll leave the core gentrification debate to writers much more evocative than myself, there is a definite role that “techies” and entrepreneurs can play in fixing the negative effects of gentrification and prioritizing social change. We already have some great role models to look to, and continuing to highlight them in the media and at events such as Women 2.0 City Meetups, will help make social change a greater priority in the innovation dialogue.

*Founder Fridays (newly re-named “City Meetups”!) are events produced by Women 2.0, which give a city’s current and aspiring innovators an opportunity to speak one-on-one with notable mentors in innovation, to meet each other, and to share their experiences on a regular basis (if you’re not in San Francisco, these events also take place in 19 other cities).

**I have no promotional obligation to any of the referenced companies.

Reblogged from my original post at

Attempting to Program Serendipity Through Women 2.0 City Meetups

I learned about Women 2.0 back in 2007 via a blog post by Sarah Tavel. I was living in Los Angeles at the time, and Women 2.0–along with all of the other writers of the blogs I was reading–was based only in San Francisco. I was already buckled into the tech startup bandwagon, but this particular post about a napkin startup pitch competition gave me the serious case of FOMO that eventually brought me to the beautiful, meteorologically erratic city of San Francisco.

After experiencing the transplant initiation frenzy of attending every Eventbrite and happy hour I could find, I wanted more involvement and got in touch with Women 2.0 about volunteering opportunities. Soon after, I was told they needed help officially launching Founder Fridays (newly re-named City Meetup) in San Francisco. I’ve been organizing the Women 2.0 San Francisco monthly meetup events for more than two years now and have seen them launch in 20 cities worldwide. We’ve had more than 25 different female founders (Julia Hartz of Eventbrite, Ruchi Sanghvi of Cove/Dropbox and Jen Pahlka of Code for America, to name a few) speak at our San Francisco events and meet with attendees one on one.

Here’s what I’ve witnessed as an organizer of these events:

I’ve seen a number of attendees get jobs from people they met at the events, I remember one attendee in particular who got a job at TaskRabbit after meeting the founder who happened to be a speaker at the event.

Another cool account was hearing that Deena Varshavskaya, the Founder of Wanelo, (who hosted and spoke at our January event), had attended the nascent version of these events before she started her company. I’ve met women in the midst of building really cool companies at every event as well.unnamed

Beyond meeting people who’ve contributed to my consulting practice, I ended up meeting one of my best friends, a female engineer at Cloudera, at an early event. She’s my go-to tech and startup event companion and we’ve shared countless life memories since, including Burning Man. 

I met two of my co-organizers, Salem Kimble and Kate Rohacz, through subsequent Founder Friday events. I actually met my other co-organizer, Kathie Green, while on a flight to SXSW a few years back. The ephemeral nature of working in startups makes it difficult to find consistent mentors, so we have regular career coaching happy hours to bounce career-based issues and thoughts off of each other. It’s fantastic to know a group of women who make a point of creating sources for this, and it’s pretty logical that I found them through these events.

This is basic, but it’s the part that many attendees I’ve spoken with (and myself) tend to have the hardest time remembering. Business cards are like that pair of jeans you keep because you think you’ll eventually fit them, but they just end up unused in the back of your closet. Once I take the effort to use any business cards I get, I end up learning the most interesting things about the person, far beyond our initial conversation. Usually, talking to about five women at an event leads to at least one relationship that continues beyond it, as long as I follow up.

Lastly, in an elegant full circle, I ended up meeting Sarah Tavel at one of our events a few months ago. I’d invited Christine Lemke to speak and Sarah showed up to support her. As a result, I got to hear about how she’s liking the startup world at Pinterest and we discussed how we had some company projects in common.

Despite constantly reflecting on how many ridiculously smart people live in San Francisco, I’ll never get over how easy it is to meet someone awesome, by just talking to a handful of new people every month. It also really helps that attendees at our events are self-selected in wanting to meet other women who also think about innovation and technology in their free time.


Reblogged from my original post at

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Women's Studies

I haven't blogged in years and feel pretty guilty, so I'm putting this in as a quick, filler post. Therefore, it won't be as well-developed as I'd normally like but it will hopefully start the figurative ball(point) rolling.

I've recently gotten involved with and have been going to a some women-centric networking events. As I work constantly at a company of about 60 males and 3 females, it's actually quite refreshing to be around estrogen for a change.

I brainstorm project ideas pretty frequently, and recently had inspiration for an inkling of an idea when I read Sheryl Sandberg's bio (she's the COO of Facebook and about to be the first self-made woman billionaire) but got frustrated that it's difficult to find much about her children or family life outside of her TED Talk. It inspired me to think about the possibility that it would be really interesting to put together the full professional and personal profiles of powerful business women, for the purpose of both a book, but even more, potentially a Women's professional network. I have a tendency to grill any business-dressed women I meet on planes about all the factors that brought them to where they are in life, and I thought this would be a good funnel for that habit.

I discovered soon after thinking about this that there is a site for young women professionals, Levo League, which recently got funded by Sheyl Sandberg and Gina Bianchini, but it's not quite what I have in mind.

Either way, I briefly ran this idea by one of the women at Women2.0 and am trying to figure out if there's some way for me to execute a small-scale women's study of profiles or polls with them. The woman I ran the idea by was amused by the iPad note title of my thoughts, which I've used for the title of this post, so it inspired me to try to get my thoughts back into this blog.

I was on a plane as I was thinking out this idea and I typed it out on my iPad, so I'll post my notes here:

Working women's community site?
Women access only - linked in authentication?
Start by pre-populating certain women's profiles
Will it be too personal or invasive to ask full disclosure of all of this?
***How do I keep this from polarizing women or making them look emotional/too family-focused?

Focus: Change the bio of a woman who had kids - standard bio is structured with school and career accomplishments but not anything about family. Get credit for the work we never hear about.

Profile outline:
Women who work full-time and maintain careers
present in a timeline with work on top of line and childrearing on bottom
- Career aspiration at 18 - Career at 18 - hrs per week
- career aspiration at 25 - Career at 25
- Career aspiration at 30 - Career at 30
- career aspiration at 35 - Career at 35
- career aspiration at 40 - Career at 40

Life/ family goals
Age of having first child
Age of getting married
# Kids
Primary Breadwinner?
Childrearing help - live in, part time, daycare
Husband's Career
Dinner habits
Weekend family time?
Amount of family assistance - financial/babysitting
Homework assistance
Kid's extracurricular involvement

What is greatest factor in your success?
Any regrets about child-rearing?

Data/graphing would be interesting on profiles

Research: (mostly the intro)
What can I find of this on the Internet for each woman?
- studies on time differential btw working moms and working dads
- maternity/paternity leave
- Differentiate US vs other countries' policies

- research
- email initial targets
- post profiles as a blog - women-only
- TED trend approach? Women in different positions - women throughout the world?
- populate into a women-only community

Monday, August 30, 2010

Overdue thoughts on the Facebook "Like"

I've been trying to replace my previous post for awhile, but I've been tremendously busy with job transitions and a relocation from Los Angeles to San Jose, and then from San Jose to San Francisco last week.  I just got brought on as the product marketer at a new startup that deals with video and photo facial recognition technology on the desktop and mobile phone, which will give me a lot of great ideas (but likely less time) for posts to come.

I've been wanting to write up some thoughts about the Facebook "Like" button since the f8 announcement, but I've been too preoccupied to sit down and write this blog.  Regardless, I'll speak to the "like" button for a few lines, and have seen interesting implementations of it by now.  

As a marketer and SEO-enthusiast, I've enjoyed speculating on the direction of the "like" button, especially as Facebook is using it to index all of the Facebook Connected sites within Facebook's search.  I discovered early on that if I "liked" a Sephora product on Sephora's website, and then searched "Sephora" in my Facebook search box, it would bring up the Sephora website in a new tab, which was really exciting to see, since the potential of Facebook creating a customized search index for me is game changing.

From a marketing perspective, I found that you can create social graph posts that specify an initial "like", but redirect the hyperlink to a separate website.  For instance, I could have someone "like" a piece of art or an artist on my website, but the hyperlink in the wall post on Facebook that would say "Marisol liked 'Wake Up Spring'", doesn't necessarily have to direct back to that art piece or artist.  Some sites that are clearly experimenting with the potential of this hole are and  Marketers are always looking to be the first to exploit holes or opportunities in new messaging/spamming features on Facebook or other platforms, so the fact that Facebook will allow 15 different pages to be created for "Avatar" from different "likes" (i.e. Avatar liked on IMDB, Avatar liked on Rotten Tomatoes, Avatar liked on Flixster, etc) is a huge, but temporary, hole. has just revamped their whole website to revolve around this redirect opportunity, and is enabling users to like hundreds of different topics, categories, and things on their site, all of which will create "like" newsfeed posts on Facebook that all redirect back to  I'm not actually sure if it's bringing them that much traffic, but it's a good implementation of a "like" button experiment.  

Facebook limits developers to using "like" buttons that say either "like" or "recommend". tried a different tactic, and enables users to "recommend" specific users, which posts "like" wall posts about specific people's names to user Facebook profiles, and then redirects the hyperlink from the specified name, to the person's profile on  I haven't had a chance to try this out at a company yet, because my previous company wanted to remain completely white hat, but I intend to try it out at my current gig.

A really interesting aspect to what is doing, is that Facebook page owners can message users in their newsfeeds about relevant information to the product.  I am speculating that at some point, Facebook will want to narrow down the number of duplicate results that it returns for a single search term, and may consolidate fans under any term with the most users.  Under this assumption, could possibly get their "basketball on" page ranked the highest, with a possibility of getting more fans if other basketball pages are consolidated into theirs.  

I am going to have to try out some different "like" implementations, and I'll report back here.

In the meantime, I just realized that this post was incredibly long, so I'll discuss thoughts on Facebook Places another night.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Greeting Card Reminders

Does anyone know of a service that emails you reminders about upcoming holidays or occasions for relatives and then provides you with customizable greeting cards that you can either email or snail mail to your friend/relative?

I was at Hallmark today and needed to buy a birthday card, Mother's day cards for my mom and grandma, and a New Baby card.  A site like that would have been useful and probably cheaper than the $11 I spent.

Jan 23rd, 2012 update - it would also be cool to have a google calendar plug-in of important media or news events. For instance, I realized the State of the Union was scheduled today, because of YouTube. It would have been cool to get a reminder for it in my calendar.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Siteless Web - Part I

This post is on a topic that I need to explore in MUCH more depth before writing a developed theory or any conclusive argument - but I wanted get my initial thoughts down for now.

I've recently been banging my head against a wall to sort out my thoughts on a set of concepts that I wanted to define as content publishing propagation and content publishing aggregation.  There's a huge movement toward these concepts, developing within the models of Posterous,, OpenID, OAuth, FBShare, and APIs like FBConnect and Twitter.  I'll attempt to outline my thoughts by breaking out content publishing propagation and content publishing aggregation separately, and their impact on businesses vs. individuals.

| Propogation |
I developed the working term "content publishing propagation", since I haven't yet found a definition for the concept of mass content publishing or posting or information sharing through apis (primarily apis for the time being) to numerous social platforms across the web.  I suppose people might call this "content sharing", but it is really a greater trend where bloggers, publications, corporations, and individual users want to more freely push their content to and across as many outlets on the internet as possible, that they do or don't have to manage, and may or may not have built profiles on.  

At the moment, and Posterous are the best-known tools for accomplishing mass content distribution.  Each of these sites enable users to distribute content from their own sites, but only to the limited number of sites that they have corresponding profiles on AND that allow them to sync with their APIs.  They also have incredibly basic tools and search features to actually organize, find, and manage large amounts of content that are posted through these sites.  FBConnect is attempting to be the centralized site so that users won't have to create dozens of different profiles across different sites, but they are sub-optimal when it comes to users distributing content from Facebook. The hope is that, at some point, optimized ways of searching for content could eliminate the need for individual site profiles.

| Aggregation |
On the flip side, content publishing aggregation is a concept of being able to easily locate and pull in all of the content that your business or you as an individual distribute across the internet.  As mentioned above, Ping and Posterous don't address these issues (and an aggregation site might not even be the last word in accomplishing this).  With this generation of incredibly active social networkers, who have varying internet profiles across multiple sites, there is a growing need to be able to aggregate all of the different content that an individual writes for different sites.  

Varying profiles on different websites will originate different content, and users should have ownership over ALL of the written content that they produce on any site - like Foursquare comments, Yelp reviews, band reviews on, blog response comments, Tweets, Netflix ratings, Facebook posts, etc.  I became frustrated the other day because I've invested a decent amount of time into Yelp reviews and bookmarks, but can't transfer any of my data from Yelp to any of my other internet profiles, like my Posterous blog.  The same issue would arise for anyone interested in film or music who invests time in writing reviews on Movie or Music sites but can't include their reviews in personal blogs or their Facebook profile without copying and pasting them all individually.  Disqus attempts to aggregate a person's comments across different blogs but, naturally, only works with blogs using Disqus.

I am interested in this aggregation concept because I like to start profiles on almost any new site I find, but don't gain much from investing my time into writing content beyond basic personal information, unless I can transfer it to other places.  

I'm still wresting to find the most popular terms for the above 2 concepts, but I have finally come close to discovering the term for the paradigm developing from these 2 concepts.  Propagating and aggregating business and individual web presences are incorporated in what I have just discovered is a paradigm termed - the Siteless Web.

Paul Gillin, an expert in social media marketing, appears to have coined the term - Siteless Web, to mean a "headless" web and branding presence where the brand and business's content and ideas are being spread without the company's website URL acting as the driver.

My developed and comprehensive vision of the Siteless Web paradigm extends much further beyond what I am trying to define from a marketing standpoint, but it incorporates the myriad of concepts that I have, until now, been unable to assign a label.

While I still need to to discover better terms for the 2 concepts explained in this post, I plan to write more about the concept of the Siteless Web in Part II...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Groupon Marketing

After finishing up the last post, I was curious if there were any websites where people looking for an online marketing service or software, could find discounts on various reputable services that are top companies in their field.  I had a hard time measuring the value of the discounts I was seeing online, relative to other products, and a Groupon model, that set up discounts based on sales cycles could be an effective one.  If reputable service companies, like an email marketing provider or SEO firm, are looking for clients in monthly cycles, they can post periodic discounts on their services whenever they're looking for clients.

One of the most important factors would be ensuring that sham marketing services and products wouldn't be offered to consumers.  So, the concept of a legitimate, user-reviewed directory of services and products would, in itself, be useful.  There are several blogs and basic sites that appear in search results, but many of the top results are limited, and the product reviews are very hard to navigate.

There's a site I saw advertised recently called, Angie's list, that reviews contractors, doctors, and other real-world service providers.  Creating a site specifically reviewing marketing or startup-targeted service providers and providing service discounts would make for a pretty interesting business model.
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