Monday, July 28, 2014

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Monday, December 30, 2013

Paul Graham Responds To Critics, Says Y Combinator Is Planning An Event For Female Founders

Y Combinator co-founder Paul Graham just published a blog post about what he did and didn’t say during a widely-discussed interview with The Information (if you don’t have a subscription, you can read the relevant quotes in Valleywag). He also makes an announcement, of sorts, that the incubator is planning an event for female founders later this year. As many of you have probably read, Graham attracted lots of controversy for his remarks about getting women interested in programming and hacking. (TechCrunch’s Colleen Taylor weighed in here.) However, Graham claimed in a tweet, and reiterated in the post, that his meaning had been distorted. Specifically, while he was quoted as saying, “We can’t make women look at the world through hacker eyes and start Facebook because they haven’t been hacking for the past 10 years,” Graham said there was a crucial word that had been edited out, and it should have read: “We can’t make these women look at the world through hacker eyes …” In other words, he said he wasn’t talking about all women, but rather the ones who “who aren’t programmers.” To be honest, the language in the new post can still be a bit confusing to parse (for example: “I didn’t say women haven’t been programming for 10 years. I said women who aren’t programmers haven’t been programming for 10 years.”), but Graham’s position (whether or not you agree with it) becomes a little clearer once you see the question he was answering, which was about whether YC should be more “proactive” about recruiting women by “lowering standards or something like that” (I’m not sure that’s the most helpful way to frame the issue, but moving on …) If I’m reading Graham correctly, his basic argument is that Y Combinator is happy to admit female “hackers,” but he’s resistant to the idea that it should accept women who aren’t hackers and “then somehow make up the difference ourselves during YC.” At the end of the post, he also that YC has reached “a quorum of female founders who are doing well,” so it’s been planning to hold a Startup School-style event focused on female founders. (Startup School is a popular event with big-name speakers like Jack Dorsey talking about their experiences and offering advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.) It sounds like this new event is in the very early stages of planning, but Graham said he felt obligated to announce it now because otherwise, it might seem “that we’re only doing it for PR reasons.” I asked YC co-founder Jessica Livingston for more details about the event, and she said she doesn’t have a firm date yet, nor has she invited any speakers: The rough plan is to have female YC founders give quick talks (a la Startup School) sharing their stories, giving advice and talking about what they’d wish they’d known when they were getting started. I imagine it will be focused mostly on practical startup advice (and inspirational stories) for women who are interested in starting a startup or have already started one. By the way, if you’re wondering about which female founders are part the aforementioned “quorum,” Graham’s post cites Adora Cheung of Homejoy, Elizabeth Iorns of Science Exchange, Kathryn Minshew of the Muse, Elli Sharef of HireArt, and Vanessa Torrivilla of Goldbely. (He also mentions an “Ann”, but when I asked who that was, Livingston said she’s from a startup that has yet to be announced as part of YC.)

Medallia’s Amy Pressman And Sequoia’s Doug Leone On Bootstrapping And Vetting Investors

In this three-part series, we hosted Medallia, an enterprise company that offers customer experience management software, and Sequoia partner and board members Doug Leone in the studio. Co-founder and President Amy Pressman talked about why she founded the company after being a consultant for a number of years. Medallia essentially helps companies track how they are doing with customers on a day-to-day and even minute-by-minute basis. Further, Medallia allows companies to act on that feedback continuously (and track the outcomes). The company measures customer feedback through all channels (web-based, social phone, call center, SMS, social, mobile). After staying bootstrapped for a number of years, Medallia raised $35 million last year from Sequoia Capital. Pressman talked about why she decided to raise money from institutional investors, and Leone revealed how he found out about Medallia and his persistence in pursuing Pressman and Medallia. Check out the video above for more, and stay tuned for our next part in this series, which addresses how Pressman and Leone work together.

Microsoft Was Right To Worry That Government Snooping Constituted An ‘Advanced Persistent Threat’

Early this month, Microsoft declared that ”government snooping potentially now constitutes an ‘advanced persistent threat,’” a statement that became ironic this weekend, given that, early this month, Microsoft likened government surveillance to “sophisticated malware and cyber attacks.” New NSA revelations out this weekend detailed precisely how the NSA’s methods lean on malware and employ cyber attacks in their “snooping,” to use Microsoft’s term. Thus, the NSA’s surveillance efforts are not a potential advanced persistent threat, as Microsoft first published. The term “advanced persistent threat,” by the way, isn’t a casual colloquialism that Redmond invented. According to the Wall Street Journal, the phrase “carries special weight in cybersecurity circles and is often used to describe hacker teams backed by the Chinese government.” That comparison is striking. As TechCrunch covered yesterday, Der Spiegel has reported new NSA capabilities, much of which were presented in a catalog-like format, with price points and implementation times for the various tools listed along with diagrams indicating how the tool in question works. Need to get into an iPhone? Doable. Get past Juniper and Cisco security? The NSA claims that it can do that, no sweat. It has become interesting to learn how holistic the NSA’s spying capabilities have become. The phone metadata program in the United States is perhaps (and perhaps wrongly) the most public piece of the NSA’s efforts. Through PRISM it can force user data out of American technology companies. Through MUSCULAR it can tap data cables between foreign data centers of American companies. And through the freshly disclosed ANT team and its book of secrets, it can break the security of American technology hardware companies. What this means is that the NSA has not only shot the privacy of individual Americans full of holes, but has also broken the spine of security claims of American companies. Microsoft’s comments were included in a post stating that it was working to bolster its encryption to prevent government incursion. But with the NSA working to harm encryption and backdoor hardware, it’s far from clear that even a concerted effort by large American technology companies can provide peace of mind to their customers. Now, much of what Der Spiegel unveiled would be incredibly useful for foreign surveillance that would raise no eyebrows. But the fact that the NSA has managed to so pervasively penetrate security raises a follow-up question: Who else? That’s not an indictment of the NSA but more comment on the current technology environment. The NSA can hack and track your phone. XKeyscore allows it to read your email. And programs as broad as tapping the core fiber cables of the Internet or a toolset to crack a single server of American provenance also allow ways in. What sort of threat to security could be more persistent than that?

Revenue-Sharing “Knowledge Community” Teckler Launches Its First Mobile App

Teckler is a site where users get a share of the revenue for the articles, photos, and other media that they post. And with the recent launch of the Teckler iPhone app, users will be able to post from their phone too. When I discussed the platform with founder and CEO Claudio Gandelman (previously the Latin American president for, he pitched it as a way for people who don’t have a website or blog of their own to share interesting content, particularly in areas where they have expertise. The site (and the quality of the content) seems pretty broad, covering topics like medicine, love/romance, and technology. Probably the most attention-grabbing thing about Teckler, however, is the fact that anyone can post and start getting a share of ad revenue — users are supposed to get 70 percent of the money from the ads that running alongside their content (they can cash out after an audit period and once there’s more than 50 cents in their account). How much money can they make? Well, this is actually popular discussion topic on Teckler itself. The company says that since its launch in June, it has paid out $20,000 total — so, not a tiny amount of money, but it probably hasn’t changed anyone’s life either … The company also says that contributors aren’t the only ones reading the site — they only account for 2 percent of Teckler’s 9 million monthly uniques. Gandelman also told me that even though the company itself is based in Brazil, its biggest audience is in the United States. As for the new iOS app, he said it’s really optimized around two of the big things people like to do on their phones — browsing content and taking photos. So naturally, the app allows you to read Teckler content and post photos. The company plans to add the ability to write posts from your phone as well. “I believe that in six months mobile will be bigger than the web for us,” Gandelman added.

Netflix Says It’s Testing New $6.99 Single Screen Streaming Plan, But It May Never Roll Out To Everyone

Netflix has informed TechCrunch that it is indeed testing a $6.99 single-stream plan to new users as part of a test. The option appears to some new users after selecting the streaming option as a free trial. Unfortunately for those of you excited for a dollar-off discount on a standard definition stream, a Netflix spokesperson also told us that not all users may see the option and that it may never offer it generally. The plan was first noted by Adweek this morning and we confirmed it as an option when we began signing up for the $7.99 streaming-only plan with a 30-day trial.
Offering a standard-def stream to one device might as well be called ‘the smartphone plan’, as that’s what it seems most suited to. Though many smartphone screens are above HD resolution, the smaller real-estate means that it can be difficult to discern a standard-def stream from a high-definition one. Netflix analyzes a junk ton of data about user viewing habits including locations, devices and times of day that people view stuff. If that information was telling them that people view Netflix a lot on smartphones while traveling, then a single stream in SD rather than HD might actually make a lot of sense for a certain subset of users. Of course, a buck off is a nice ‘sale price,’ and if people get utility out of it they might feel inclined to expand the plan further down the road.

How many versus how often

For these sites, which are constructed in large part around advertising-based business models, critical mass is crucial: you won’t visit a site if no one else is using it. Similarly, on the commercial side of the equation, one of the key metrics that the sites, and their advertisers, like to focus on is engagement. It’s interesting, therefore, that when it comes to frequency of use, the rankings change. Facebook continues to remain at the top in the daily rankings, with 63% of people accessing it on a daily basis. Instagram — last in the general rankings — is not far off and in second place, with a 57% daily use. Similarly, its weekly and “less often” rates are also close, respectively at 22%/20% and 14%/22%. (This goes some way towards explaining why Facebook was keen to acquire it: their usage patterns are very close.) Twitter may overall be seeing less usage in general than Pinterest but those who are on it appear more engaged: some 46% of Twitter users are on it daily for their quick fix of quips made and received. Pinterest, in contrast, has a fairly low rate of daily usage, with 23% of its users visiting on a daily basis. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter also are generating a significant amount of mulitple-times-per-day use, with 40% at Facebook, 35% at Instagram and 29% at Twitter, Pew says. LinkedIn, meanwhile, has a lot of work to do, with only 13% of its users going there daily. Are those the ones looking for work? In any case, this is another way of explaining why it is that LinkedIn has tried to overhaul its whole content operation, to create something that will attract people to visit it more frequently than just “less often.” Pew notes that for now it looks like Facebook is partly winning because of how it has managed to appeal to a wide range of users — a pretty impressive turn for widening its reach, considering that it started out as a network restricted only to university networks. The demographic data for other networks stands in contrast to this: Pinterest “holds particular appeal to female users”, with women four times more likely as men to be Pinterest users; LinkedIn is “especially” popular among college graduates and internet users in higher income households. Twitter and Instagram resonate with urbanites and younger adults, and non-whites. (Facebook has over 70% usage among whites, Hispanics and black users, Pew notes.) All of them, excepting LinkedIn, has its highest proportion of users in the 18-29 age bracket; LinkedIn is more popular with the 30-49 group. Among those who say they use only one social networking site, Facebook is a clear winner with 84% selecting it as their sole site, with the others lagging behind by a very far stretch: 8% solely use LinkedIn, 4% solely use Pinterest, and Instagram and Twitter each picked up only 2% — positioning them as firmly secondary in the U.S. market today.