MIT VC and Innovation Conference – Thank you @WomenWhoCode

This year, I got a chance to attend the MIT VC and Innovation Conference. It was not possible without the support of one of my favorite organizations – Women Who Code. Women Who Code is a non-profit organization dedicated to inspiring women to excel in technology careers. They have chapters in each city where they hold classes introducing women to tech (coding). They have a weekly newsletter [CODE Review] which includes topics such as quotes from inspiring women in tech, ticket give aways to conferences and discount for tech events etc. This is how I got the ticket to attend MIT VC and Innovation conference. You can subscribe to their newsletter here or view their last newsletter here.

Now on to the conference notes and learnings:

Panel 1: VC Business Model Innovation

[Bob Higgins Waterline Ventures and Highland Capital Partners; Elizabeth Yin – 500Startups; Jay AcunzoNextView; Kaidi RuusaleppFunderbeam; Christopher MirabileLaunchpad]

  • Make sure you know who is the lead investor in your seed round – @cmirabile
  • Traditional VC’s are like the mainframe, but we are living in the era of iPhone. Traditional VC model is not sustainable. It is partly a self inflicted wound and partly that the economy changed – Bob Higgins

I later came across this article by @CMirabile which I thought was excellent – 10 Due Diligence Survival Strategies for Entrepreneurs

Keynote – Investing Globally (New Innovation Hubs) | Anis Uzzaman – Fenox Ventures

I really enjoyed this talk and learned a great deal about investment opportunities – especially in Asia. It was really interesting to learn why Fenox Ventures chose to open an office in Bangladesh, why India was a bit of a challenge. His talk was  agreat example of how VC’s can get involved in the business and help entrepreneurs grow their business (including globally). One such example Anis shared was TechInAsia , how they helped them move to Silicon Valley (YCombinator) which helped them grow globally.

Not too many people talk about how investor can help founders and share their stories. This talk was awesome – even from a founders point of view about what can come along with the $ (especially for early stages).

Keynote – Innovation and Change in the VC Industry | David Fialkow, General Catalyst

  • On starting a tech company: It is true that starting a tech company has never been easier for multiple reasons. Access to capital is easier, technology needed is cheap enough to get started (AWS etc). He also added – there is no better time to start a business… (in Boston) :).
  • Ignore what you read in papers, ignore bubbles – no better time to start a tech company.
  • On opening offices outside of Boston: “VC is a local business”, he added. It is not an investment business, it is a relationship business. He spoke about opening offices outside of Boston because it is a local business. It is very easy to lose out on the deals if you are not present locally.
  • Mentors: There are great mentors in every city. Find the people who you want to work with, who are local.
  • On teams: Great founders build great businesses not because they have great investors but because they have great teams (which investors can also help build).
  • Product People: Great founders are typically product people!
  • Be Agile: Nobody has ever done what they said they were going to do. It is important to be agile and just go with it.
  • Incubators: I don’t like the work incubators. Because in that they put sick babies. I prefer the term hatcheries. {iLike}

Fireside Chat  – Evolution of VC / Entrepreneur Relationship | James Geshwiler (Converge Venture Partners) and Graham Brooks (406 Ventures)

JG:

  • When you raise (as a founder), you should really ask what else comes along with the $.
  • Entrepreneurs do not do enough diligence on their investors. Investors do a lot of diligence on the founders. This is extremely important because you will be partners for a long time. It is more binding than marriage.
  • Founders are mainly looking for advice at early stages. At late stage, they are not really looking for advice (once they have already found a product market fit)

GB:

  • First time founders from Boston get a bad rep. They are usually students and they end up doing consumer oriented companies.
  • Often the most revolutionary ideas come from first time entrepreneurs
  • What we look for in entrepreneurs
    • Horse power (brilliant)
    • Demonstrated ability to execute
    • Coachable

Keynote – Disruption in Seed Stage Investing | Chris Lynch (Accomplice)

I have never heard anyone say this but it’s kinda true when you come to think of it….(about accelerators)

IMG_4836

  • Zuckerberg would have been successful whether he went through or the McDonald’s drive through.
  • When I meet with former accelerator companies, I feel like a plastic surgeon – the 2nd one you go to after you have had a bad nose job.

 

  • Talking about challenges – I have had 4 successful outcomes after failing multiple times

 

 

 

Personally, I have thought about accelerators mainly for networking and $. I personally feel that if you don’t get $ or brilliant mentors being part of the accelerator, it can actually be a total waste of your time. Most of the time you can get all of that separately as well (without being part of one) – An advice given to me by an angel investor in Boston after getting a rejection from YC.

Last but not the least, yesterday I came across this 5 minute interview of Brian Chesky – where he shares how they started AirBnB, something you might be already aware of. But I really enjoyed the part where he actually shares how they felt everyday waking up (before AirBnB was huge) and loved this quote :

“I would rather fail doing something I love than wonder what could have been” – bc

I am pretty sure many founders feel this way. I do!

Happy Friday and Happy Holidays!

 

2xinTech FF Conference – NYC

With Kara SwisherGrand Central Tech , based in NYC is a community of startups and strategic partners providing office space and support to accepted startups.

GCT organized a female founders conference on October 27th in NYC. Around 250 female founders were accepted to attend the free, 1 day conference and I was one of them. Most of the attendees were from NY but I did happen to meet Jackie Delarosa from Boston (who is launching her beauty startup very soon. Having attended a few conferences/festivals focused on female founders in the past (including YC female founders conference and Women Entrepreneurs Festival organized by Joanne Wilson), I knew this too was going to be a great experience. It really was, one of the best. One of the highlights of the conference was meeting with Kara Swisher (Co-executive editor and Co-Founder Re/Code) who also was the emcee for the day. In our two min conversation, we talked about Re/Code podcast, interview with Arianna Huffington the same morning, Boston consumer tech scene and my request for who I want to hear from on the podcast! Kara was so nice and amazing and said she will try her best:).

Welcome remarks were by Kara Swisher and Susan Lyne (President BBG Ventures). As you can imagine, the conversation revolved around female founders in the male dominated ecosystem. So here it goes… Why is that VC’s and tech startups are predominantly male? Susan Lyne pointed out that the first customers for initial technology products were mainly guys. She talked about the earlier days when it took a lot more $ to start a company. She went on to say that today, it is much cheaper and there are a lot of opportunities for women as well. Less $ required to start a company.

Susan also stated that when it comes to diversity, the issues which VC’s face is different from what tech companies face. Susan went on to say that she is stunned that how little has changed (talking about diversity in Venture Capital). When asked about one tip to aspiring entrepreneurs, Susan said you should really think about the business model early on.

Here are few of the take aways from the conference:

Build relationships now even if u don’t need them immediately ~ Alexandra Wilson (Co-founder GlamSquad; Gilt)

Tech should be the most inclusive but it is exactly the opposite! – Susan Lyne 

You and everyone at your company should know your top 3 KPIs and stay focused on them – Hayley Barna 

The best one – > When Alexandra was raising for GlamSquad on Sand Hill Road:

You mean you can work and get a blowout at the same time?

Brutally honest Q n A with Sam Altman @HBS

IMG_1588

I attended Cyberposium last year at HBS. Really enjoyed it, learned a lot, had they had a great speaker line up including Travis form Uber.

I signed up again this year. Main reason this time was keynote speaker Sam Altman from YC. It was an amazing keynote. Sam didn’t have a presentation (like many East Coasters do) and left most of the session to Q n A which was the highlight of the day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are a few notes from Q n A. These are in no particular order

Audience Q #1

IMG_1590

Sam: It is a stupid idea if a journalist writes a stupid article about stupid apps he finds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audience Q #2

IMG_1591Sam: This is what a company does when they are really struggling!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audience Q #3

 

 

 

IMG_1592My observation: Sam really really really struggled to answer this Q :). He did get help from the audience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audience Q #4 

IMG_1593Soon Sam made a correction on this slide (and I personally agree with that).

Sam: After SV, it is Seattle/NY

In other words, not Boston

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audience Q # 5 (This was one of my personal favs)

IMG_1596 Sam: Technology 🙂 The room filled with laughter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From personal experience I can say, the quality of questions in East Coast is so different from kind of questions people may ask in NY or SV. There is a reason why NY follows SV when it comes to growing startup ecosystems

Other questions:

Q – Which is the most creative pitch you heard from any founder who went through YC?

Sam: AirBnB guys. When I heard it, I thought they were crazy.

Q – What would you advice to MBA students planning to do a startup?

Sam: Don’t start one!

Lastly, here are the questions on the screen (all of which Sam couldn’t get to due to time limitations). And I hope HBS students were not too disappointed after this keynote with Sam where he was brutally honest about things, including MBA’s

IMG_1594

#StartupSchool @JanKoum interviewed by @SamA #WhatsApp

#StartupSchool Jan Koum interviewed by Sam #WhatsApp

IMG_1400

Jim (Sequoia) shared Jan’s resume. 🙂

Past and what did he learn from his previous job: Jan Koum Grew up in Ukraine came to US in 1992 at 16. He worked at Yahoo. There he says he learned a lot about scaling.

– At time of acquisition, had 20-25 engineers

Thoughts on starting a company – “I never decided to start a company, I always thought of developing a great product”. According to Jan, building a company is not as exciting as building a product.

How it (WhatsApp) started? Jan Bought an iPhone in Jan 2009 and had taken an year off after yahoo. 3-4 months after iOS sdk came out, we were trying to figure what to do. The original idea – wasn’t messaging.

– Jim Goetz who is an investor (from Sequoia) was on stage too. He shared his thoughts about Jan. They had a very hard time tracking down Jan when they decided to invest. One thing Jim mentioned about Jan was that he had an amazing focus on customer emails. Not my emails. :). Jim shared that they only knew Jan lived in Mt view… we actually walked around there to look for them – Whatsapp founders. We were looking to invest in messaging products.

– Jan on Customer Support ~ At 150 mm users we started hiring for customer support – Jan Koum

– “We are engineers, we hate meetings” – Jan about himself and Brian. Jan continued to say that they thought press will be a distraction. That way we will be able to focus on product.

Sam’s reaction to all this was – “In a number of ways it was an anti valley company” 🙂

– Sam to Jan: Best product decisions you made?

Jan: So many. Biggest (1) Wanted to use phone numbers (didn’t want usernames) (2) Access to address book

Sam: Worst product decision:

Jan: Broadcast maybe will remove… or improve (2) Status (not too many people use it)

– Jan On FB Acquisition

Met Mark 2 years ago. FB vision is helping people stay connected. That’s what we also do.

Our vision was to have whatsapp on every single smart phone.

– Money!

Jim mentioned that Jan was never focussed on the money. Even when they tracked  him down, they had no finance team who we could work with.

Sam – We have seen it at YC companies also, $ shouldn’t be the no 1 goal

 

In the end the really humble Jan added- we are far from getting things right. Our job is not too sexy. We come into work and we have to fix crashes.

#StartupSchool Kevin Systrom – Co founder Instagram

#StartupSchool Kevin Systrom – Co founder Instagram

IMG_1394– Grew up in Holliston (Boston suburb)

Lessons in entrepreneurship

You don’t have to be the best, but you have to be dangerous. Have an idea, build it and show it to the world. 

– What people tell you, and how they act is very different sometimes.

Instagram filters: Adding filters to photographs came up when I was in Florence taking a photography class when my instructor introduced to the filters on actual images. That idea remained dormant for 5 years

On choices he made on where to work – Go where the people are … worked at Google just because I wanted to be surrounded by amazing people. You will learn a lot.

– There is a very easy way to see your traction…

Select count(*) from USERS….

Instagram Launch Story

  • 8 weeks for first version of instagram. First day 25000 people signed up.
  • Launched at 12:30 AM
  • October 6 – pressed the button in the app store
  • Instantly people started signing up
  • We were on a single server.
  • Rented a physical server – in LA.
  • When someone said why don’t you use AWS and I am like what is AWS J
  • We called the facility asking or another server and they said it will take 4 day
  • Never follow twitter when you launch.

 

– On Values – Our first value is – “Community First”. Our community is our biggest asset. It is very difficult to build a community.

– We never lost the vision that our users were the biggest asset. Our first hire was a community manager.

 

#StartupSchool Ron Conway interviewed by PG

Notes from YCombinator startup school – October 11, 2014

Ron Conway  from SV Angel w/ Paul Graham

Ron Conway from SV Angel

Ron Conway interviewed by PG

  • Founders – be ready to work 24/7.
  • Once you have an idea, find a co founder
  • In 20 years, invested over 750 companies. Out of 30 companies we talk to, invest in 1
  • Let your bf/gf, spouse know that your dream is #1 priority
  • People in 30’s are better advice givers (to founders)
  • When the idea comes to your mind, it is usually based around a personal experience.
  • All biggest companies based on a founders own need.
  • One of the Q’s I ask – What inspired you to start the company. It is about persistence and conviction about your idea!
  • All SV angel invest in is people… 40% of our investments fail
  • We invest in traits of the individuals – clear focus on the product (Pinterest). E.g. Ben Silbermann. Product is all he cared about. (Same with Larry, Steve …). FOCUS ON THE PRODUCT. You will keep updating the product until user growth explodes.
  • PG – focus on product. Busienss follows.
  • What do young founders get wrong when they start companies – When you don’t get traction, its not working. Founder needs to decide to stop working. Success is binary.
  • Your product is getting traction or now (binary).
  • New founders too prone to remain in denial.

YCombinator’s Female Founders Conference (Part 2)

Adora Cheung, Co-founder HomejoyAdora Cheung; Founder Homejoy – An online service which allows you to find a background checked, professional cleaner.
Homejoy was founded by brother-sister duo – Aaron & Adora Cheung.

I have heard before that the first 100 days of a startup are very hard. Adora shared the reality. She said, the first 1000 days are like dark ages. Usually there are ups n downs in startups – for us, there were no ups“.

Adora and her brother tried multiple ideas before they settled for Homejoy. She confessed that at times they built the solution before there was a problem. What she realized was that both of tem were really good at executing idea.

Many entrepreneurs come up with ideas for their starups through their personal experience and I really find that fascinating. Some of us do realize the gap in a service and try to fill the gap. What I found interesting about Adora and the way she and her brother came up with their idea about Homejoy. In 2012 Adora was working out of her brothers apt when they came up with the idea for homejoy – looking for professional cleaners. “Whenever there is a marketplace, there is a chicken and egg problem”. What she decided was to solve the problem by learning how to clean herself and understand more in detail the business of cleaning. And yes, she did find a cleaning job. This job made her understand the inefficiencies of cleaning business.

In the end Adora added: “You and I are here because we are just a little nuts enough because we want to build something big and impactful”.

——–
Elli Sharef: Co-founder HireArtElli Sharef Co-funder HireArt HireArt makes the pre screening of job candidates by creating online interviews simulating the real job.

YC batch: Winter 2012

Advice to founders:

1. Just do it
There will never be a perfect time to do it!

2. Keep trying
It may take time. You must be open to pivoting.

Confidence is very important. This is true especially for female founders. There are 2 aspects. Internal confidence (you should know what you really believe in) and External confidence – you should be externalize what you believe in to your stakeholders. The reality is that men are so good at it!

Elli joked that earlier she thought that men just think (e.g. their idea is great). But then she realized that they actually believe in it. Most women dont because they are much more humble, practical and realistic.

3- Failure
Elli gave the example of HP CEO Meg Whitman. She failed at becoming governor of CA. She had put in her own millions of dollars in the race. Even after this, she became the CEO of HP.

Elli shared her experience about how she felt when they had to raise $ at the end of the YC batch. “I started crying.  I almost gave up. But being able to get back up is very important”.

“Nothing should stop you if you really believe deep down that it will work”.

Final though – “Enjoy the ride!”

YCombinator’s Female Founders Conference (Part1)

My last post was about how I made it to YCombinators first ever female founders conference at the Computer History Museum on March 1st, 2014. Next few posts are going to be more about the best take aways from various talks.

Jessica LivingstonSpeaker: Jessica Livingston (Partner, YCombinator)

The conference took place at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. It is the same place where YC’s demo days happen. The first thing Jessica Livingston mentioned was – in that room there have never been so many females 🙂 at a YC event. Now if you are thinking why not, do your homework on women in tech and entrepreneurship :).

Jessica shared her story about how she quit her corporate job to work on her book Founders at Work – stories of startups early days. In reality, her book wasn’t the only thing she left her job for. She was also planning to start YC with her then boy friend Paul Graham (better known as PG in the YC community). She accepted that it was very hard for her to tell her dad that she was quitting her job to start the firm with her boy friend.

From my own personal experience, one of the hardest thing is to convince your parents when you are quitting your job for a startup or anything as crazy as that. Happened with me too. My mom thought I was totally crazy leaving behind a great job and of course health insurance… to do what – study something called Human Factors in Info Design and to work on something called a startup with the words uncertainty and risk attached to it!

JL accepts that in those days they had no idea how big YC will become. They had no prior startup experience. But they did it. She adds – One of the most important qualifications of founder is that they should have a deep interest in the problem they are trying to solve.

Jessica was the non tech co founder and says that in a startup, if you are the non-tech co-founder your job is to do everything non tech including delivering pizzas.

Jessica Livingston’s advice for founders:

1. Determination
Stick around even when things get tough

2. Withstand Rejection

3. Empathy

4. Make something people want

5.  Focus, Focus, Focus

Advice for Women

1) Do it before having kids – It’s easier to do startup before kids. It is definitely possible. But if you have a choice, it will be a lot easier to do it before kids.

2) Quiet Founder – It’s ok to be the quiet cofounder. By quiet, she was referring to herself. “For the most part I have chosen to be behind the scenes”. You can be the quiet cofounder as long as you get stuff done. However, you will b ignored by people who are used to listen to loud voices. So just prepared to be ignored sometimes.

JL was referring to her own experience when she had announced through YC blog that there will be a female founders conference and Inc. magazine wrote that PG announced the female founders conference.

The truth is, “quietly determined people tend to win”.

Advice to non tech co founder
1) You will have a hard time  finding tech cofounder.

JL: At YC, we have seen lots of female non tech founders n they find it hard to find tech co founders.

Best option/advice – learn to program

2) Start a startup with significant other
If you are married, don’t be afraid to start a startup together.

(From personal experience I can say, this is definitely possible. It is easier to work at 2am with your own husband than with someone else’s. As long as egos can be kept aside, you both believe in the idea and bring something solid to the table, this is the best option).

More on the conference and take aways from remaining talks in my next post. Stay tuned!

Techcrunch in Boston… & women in tech

TechCrunchTechcrunch came to Boston … finally. It was the Boston pitch-off event this evening. 130+ startups had applied to pitch at the event. 13-14 companies were selected. Sadly, “Date My Wardrobe” wasn’t 😦

I am a female founder from Boston. Someone who loves technology and startups. Who gets excited visiting Silicon Valley on vacation and going to all tech company HQ’s. Trust me – read this blog post.  YCombinator, 500Startups, Techstars all excite me. I crave to meet fellow female founders with whom I can share this passion and excitement. sadly, I don’t come across many in Boston.

I signed up to attend the Boston Techcrunch event a while ago. Got to know about it on Twitter. I am almost an addict! I was very much looking forward to it. On my way to the event, I was excited like a teenager going to a rock concert. Oh yeah!

One of the biggest advantages of attending such events is networking. I met some great entrepreneurs from the Boston startup community. Someone who worked at my former employer, someone I went to grad school with. Others whom I have met at other startup events and have heard some pitch in the past. The vibe was simply awesome. It really felt like heaven for Boston startups.

Overall it was really an awesome event and I cant wait for them to be back in Boston. However, other than the huge disappointment of my startup not being selected to pitch, it was shocking to see the number of female founders pitching at the event. Lately, I have actually started counting the number of female founders pitching at such events. Sadly, it was worse than I had expected. 13/14 founders who pitched this evening were male founders from the Boston Startup community. I am not saying this means that Techcrunch picked the wrong startups or didn’t pick the female founded startups.  It could be a number of factors. It is possible Boston doesn’t have too many female founders (hard to believe) or maybe the ones who applied their ideas were not at par with Techcrunch’s expectations? No idea!

I would like to share with you a few other stats which I came across recently:

1) I am a huge fan of startup podcasts and one of them being 500 startup run by Mark Saldana. I listened to the 500 startup podcast introducing the founders of approximately 30 startups which are a part of batch 007. I kept waiting to hear the 3 minute intro by a female founder. Sadly there were just 4-5 of them out of almost 30. I reached out to Mark Saldana who runs these podcasts. This is what he said: “We have 5 female co-founders this batch – either their co-founders did the interview or they weren’t free (traveling, busy, etc.)”. Mark – the reality is even if they were not available, we have a problem.

2) A few months ago 500 startups did the podcasts from NY (startups from NY). A week long session meant 5 sessions and guess what, 0 female founders. I had reached out to Mark at that time as well. Again, they were not available.

3) I participated in Lean Startup Challenge in Boston (Sep-Oct 2013). The good news is that there were a few women led startups which were part of the challenge (30+) . A few though. And among the top 5, just one female founded startup was there.

4) … I can really go on & on!

And being a female founder under these circumstances is challenging. I would love to see more female CEO’s and learn from their experiences and share mine. We all need to make an effort to change that, support female founders and those in small/big organizations. This is surely not a field just for men but equally for all of us.

I sometimes wonder, how will guys feel if these numbers (no of male and female founders) were reversed? Just imagine!

LEANUX: Bridging the gap between UX and Developers (UXPABOS13)

Session 2: LEANUX: Bridging the gap between UX and Developers
Andrew Mottaz – CTO/Founder ProtoShare

Protoshare – collaborative web and mobile appl prototyping

🙂 Fun start – we got some people to admit they still use waterfall 🙂

Little bad side to compatibility between agile and modern UX
– Developer centric
– minimal requirements
– show what we have got when we are done
– sprints are sealed (Amrita: sometimes not always)

Since in agile, iterations are quick, focussed – and less time for a holistic experience. So its a good idea the UX sprints can be ahead of Dev sprints.

LEANUX in a nutshell:
(1)- Every design is a hypothesis and has to be tested
Good to validate earlier on in the cycle than later.
Who your users are – also starts as a hypothesis

(2)- Focus on shared understanding (rather than giant spec document)
Artifacts that can help yopu create a shared understanding
User stories are first grain of shared understanding.
User stories – verbal, user centered, abstract (broad focus)
shared with everyone – dev, qa, users, analysts, product owners…

Sketches, Wireframes, Prototypes
+ Internal Validation (make user stories visual with sketches …)
+ Walkthroughs and spec meetings
+ Visualizations are far more effective than written specs
[If I cant visualize it, I cant understand it – Einstein]
+ Start low fidelity, evolve to high fidelity as you need to get your point across

Best way to build consensus among team members-
– Talk about it – long meetings if needed
– Trusted authority
– Higher up – risky, difficult

* Have everyone participate in User Testing

How to align developers and UX together:
a – Shadow Sprint (Prototype the backlog) – ie UX sprint is ahead of dev sprint
b – Embedded UX with cross functional team (design and UX professionals in the agile teams) – can be more challenging

* Can have combination of pre sprint and embedded?
* Makes a huge difference when developers involved with UX and UX involved with developer.
* Google: Change blindness gorilla video

Lean UX is user testing:
– You should schedule user testing on a regular basis. Don’t wait!
– 3-5 users every week, month or quarter – but do it.
– Have all team members participate at least once.
– Can use low, med or high fidelity prototype – whatever is appropriate.

* Biggest lie in corporate America is Phase 2 🙂

Great session – was good to hear peoples challenges and experiences in the agile teams – specifically to do with UX and development

Office hours with Sheryl Sandberg – Lean In (Part 1/2)

WithSherylI came across Office Hours with Sheryl Sandberg (event) after I joined Levo League a few months ago. The moment I got the email, I signed up and decided to visit NYC for a day for office hours. I was scheduled to attend a session with Sheryl Sandberg organized by undergraduate women in Harvard University the next day but still decided to go to NY. And I am so glad I did. You know why? I was able to get her book signed and also, take a picture with her. It was one of the most memorable moments of my life. She was so kind. She signed the book and agreed to take a picture. Never thought I will ever meet her in person.

I started reading Lean In a few days ago and I must say, the stats about women in the corporate world given gives me shivers and my reaction to most of these stats make me say out loud “Oh My God”! Having worked in the corporate world myself, I can very well associate with things Sheryl talks about in the book including sitting at the table, women under estimating themselves etc. I 100% agree that for things to change for women, such a “Lean In” moment was important from someone like Sheryl Sandberg who truly believes in this. And I am so fortunate to actually hear her speak. As always, I decided to share with you all what I learned from the session. Some things you might have already heard and some you may not have. So here it goes.

My first reaction when I saw her enter the stage was – OMG, I cant believe this is happening. Thanks to Levo League to make it happen. She started by asking who all have said to someone in their life that they want to be CEO. Whoever did say these words, must stand up.
A very few people stood up and I was one of them. Honestly, I didn’t realize this was true till I looked around.


Seeing so few women stand up, Sheryl said next time she wants to see more to stand up. The listed 3 reasons why so many women do not want to be CEO’s:

Issue # 1 : Women under estimate their own success.
Issue # 2 : It’s embarrassing to say u want to be CEO 

  • Women are not as ambitious to lead as the men.
  • Girls are called bossy but boys are not.
  • As men become more successful and powerful they are more liked. It is the opposite for women.

A piece of advice – You don’t have to be a senior to interrupt a conversation where women are pushed back. You can say I want to hear what she has to say.

Issue # 3: Because you want to be a good parent. You are not sure if you can do both – i.e. be a good parent and excel at your workplace (be a CEO)

  • Being a parent is imp. But do not leave before you leave.
  • Get a job you love, ask for promotion then you can have child care or you can manage your own schedule.

SherylA piece of Advice for women – date anyone (commitment phobic, bad guys) but don’t marry them.
One day, the sexiest thing in the world will be men doing laundry!

Kunal Modi (a student at HBS) wrote an article – “It’s time for men to lean in”. Sheryl says that this is the kind of leaning in we need

At one point Sheryl was very emotional and was almost in tears. She said that she is emotional about this topic and if you hear her speak, you will know what this means.
More to come in Part 2 of Office Hours with Sheryl Sandberg and also main points from her talk at Harvard University (Sander’s Theatre) on 4th April.

Role of Prototyping in Lean UX

LEAN STARTUP + UX = LEAN UX

Being a software engineer with agile background, having read Lean Startup and a UX student, I was curious to get into the details of Lean UX the very first time I read an article on the topic. I wanted to meet at the junction where various lean concepts meet (such as Lean Startup, Lean UX). I also realized as I did the research that this (hot) topic is going to help me as I work on a startup (on the side) – applying Lean startup principles to the field of UX (or how UX applies to startups).

Lean UX is a process of incorporating lean thinking in the world of UX. In other words, it is a way to describe how Lean Startup principles apply in a design context. According to Jeff Gothelf, lean principles apply to Lean UX in three ways. First, it helps remove waste from the UX design process. Second, it brings together cross-functional units such as software engineering, interaction designers, product management, quality assurance engineers etc. And third, team focuses on the whole design process and experiment with the product to make sure it meets the goals (Gothelf, 2013).

There are three foundations of Lean UX described below:

  1. Design Thinking:

“Design thinking is a discipline that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity”

– Tim Brown (CEO, IDEO)

Design thinking basically involves working towards the product goal by ideation, prototyping and implementation.

  1. Agile Software Development: there are a number of agile methodology principles that applies to Lean UX such as team collaboration (including the customer), frequent changes based on customer feedback, iterative cycle. Agile development methodology helps achieve the design thinking by an iterative approach towards delivering the product.
  2. Lean Startup Principles – Feedback loop is one of the core principles of Lean startup method.

Build (the product) – Measure (the Data) – Learn (new ideas)” (Ries, 2012)

This involves turning ideas into products, get feedback from customers and learn if pivoting is needed or not. You can start by creating the Minimum Viable Product (MVP), which basically is that version of the product that is built following the feedback loop and that requires least amount of effort and development time. It may not even involve coding. Prototyping is a big piece for building the MVP. In design terms, the same feedback loop can be thought of as “ThinkMakeCheck” feedback loop (Sharon, 2012). In this case, the new ideas are not just based on the feedback from the customer but also the thoughts/ideas of the designer involved.

Prototyping allows the designer to build the experience for the product being built by putting in minimum amount of effort and iterate based on feedback. This involves the most critical part of the experience for the customer.

It is extremely important to choose the right tool for prototyping based on what is to be learned from the MVP. A few of the tools that can be used for prototyping the MVP are as follows:

  1. Paper Prototype (low fidelity)
  2. Clickable wireframes (low fidelity) – OmniGraffle, MS Visio
  3. Mid fidelity prototypes – Axure RP, Adobe Illustrator
  4. High Fidelity – Code

Conclusion

Prototyping plays a major role in the Lean UX process and helps validate the design assumptions/changes made. Early prototypes can be considered to be the minimum viable products in Lean Startup terminology. These prototypes are used by the team/designer to get feedback from users. These are modified based on that feedback as well as the designer’s own thoughts/ideas.

You can read more about Agile methodology by clicking here.