Thursday, May 24, 2007

Facebook's MarketPlace and Senior Week

The announcement that Facebook would now be offering a Marketplace with Craigslist-esque classifieds sounded like a good idea to me, but I imagined that user adoption would only drip in little by little.

When I saw my facebook newsfeed this morning, I realized how wrong I was. Users aren't going to start using the Marketplace in drips and drops. They are going to flock to it in waves. This is because Facebook timed the launch perfectly with the annual rite of passage of Seniors trying to unload all the cheap stuff they acquired over the course of their college careers to open armed underclassmen. Now instead of parsing through hundreds of text emails on list-serves, college students will be able to easily scan hundreds of offerings on their facebook page.

So what becomes of the normal barrier of getting users over the hump of using a new feature? No problem here when timed around an accelerating event. Another smart move by the Facebook team.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

"Dearth of women in VC ranks traced to less interest in tech." huh?

I couldn’t help but notice Constance Loizos’ article, “Dearth of women in VC ranks traced to less interest in tech”, in a recent edition of Mercury News. Talk about a misleading title. On the lack of female Partners in Venture Capital, Loizos goes on to write, “Part of the answer may lie in the fact that, from a young age, women appear less interested than men in technology.”

While I understand what Loizos was going for, I take issue with the thesis. What does it mean for women to be “less interested than men in technology”? This reminds me of Larry Summer's explanation of why there aren't more women in the upper echelons of academia.

So regarding the lack of interest women have in technology: Is this an “innate” difference (a la Larry Summers)? Or is this something else?

Now that I am immersed in technology, I often wonder why I or any of my really smart female friends never took a computer science class while we were in high school. At Stuyvesant, a math and science magnet high school, there were plenty of computer science options, including an advance placement computer class. And we were bonafide math nerds. We took extra electives in math, were enrolled in BC Calculus (that's Honors Advanced Placement, thank you very much. heh). Heck - When I was in middle school, I even took a summer class on BASIC and would spend hours writing dinky little programs on the Apple IIGS I had because I thought it was fun. What happened? Where do women with the right orientation for computer science veer off path? Is it as simple as saying that we're "less interested"?

Of course not.

Preferences are shaped not only by the biomolecular make up of our bodies but by our societal context. It's a silly example, but if you compare the taste buds of someone in Vietnam who likes to snack on fried grasshoppers with the taste buds of someone from Manhattan, you're not going to find a significant difference. Yet the person living in Manhattan would not choose the grasshoppers over a slice of pizza any day of the week. "From a young age, Manhattanites show less interest in fried grasshoppers."

Is context everything for preferences? No. There are real, physiological differences between male and female brains. But there is also an element of performance to gender (Judith Butler, anyone?). If my friends or I had had some close female friends in AP Computer Science, we would have been far more likely to have considered the class. Instead, we walked by the Computer Science lab every day without giving it a second thought.

I'm not complaining, but I hope it won't be the same scenario for women at Stuyvesant now and that it won't be too long before an Intro to Computer Science class is required curriculum along with Biology, Chemistry, Math and Physics. I think this will be an important step.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Chatrooms and Blogger Comments

We all know Kathy Sierra’s story well, and it sucks. If that same story repeats itself again, ever, then that is a major and embarrassing failing in our online social fabric.

However, it is interesting to note that this occurrence (or "trend") might more fittingly be described as a second wave in a trend that first happened in the early 1990's - in chat rooms. In the article, Sexual Threats Stifle Some Female Bloggers, the Washington Post cited a couple studies to argue that a trend described as an “exodus of women” which first occurred in chat rooms (because of sexually explicit and malicious messages targeted at female chat room participants), is reappearing in the blogosphere.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Remembering the double bottom line

Just noticed MBA Polymers, an interesting plastics recycling company, just got funded.

Plastics recycling is clearly something that needs to be done in greater quantities in the United States. Although the business arguments made in support of companies like MBA Polymers will always be along the lines of the economic benefits (i.e., as crude oil prices continue to rise, the cost of producing plastics will be subject to volatility and price increases), this video from Good Magazine reminded me of the other argument.

Hattip: Nate

Saturday, May 5, 2007

The Hatchery

I am always on the look out for new events in New York City targeted at enabling entrepreneurs, and had the good fortune of meeting Andrea Madho at a recent Red Herring event. If you ever see her at an event, be sure to flag her down. Not only is she great and had me laughing the entire event, but she is one well connected lady in the nyc entrepreneur scene. If you're a new entrepreneur in nyc, I'll guarantee that she is worth your time.

When she informed me of an upcoming event by a division of her company (Gigapixel Creative), The Hatchery, it sounded too fun to resist. The event, appropriately named "The Gauntlet" is all about having entrepreneurs pitch their early stage companies to a panel of judges.

Hosted at a Columbia Business School class room, the Gauntel had its inaugural meeting last Thursday, and featured 5 entrepreneurs with companies in different stages of development (one was the proverbial slide deck, another had already landed a Fortune 2000 client). I would tell you more, but the audience had to sign NDAs, so I'm not sure what I'm allowed to say or not. ;) The 7 panelists, however, I think are fair game. And much like the entrepreneurs, they varied in range:

There was Amy Goldsmith, an Intellectual property attorney, who was sure to pepper the entrepreneurs with patent questions.

There was "dot com guru" Sanford Dickert, who faithfully brought the audience (and entrepreneurs) up to speed on Web 2.0 happenings.

There was Andrea Madho, who graciously lobbed softballs in between incisive questions.

And of course, a handful of VC / Angel types, who could be counted on for asking the hard questions, one after another after another after another.

If any of this sounds like a good time to you (and the NDA made you curious...), come to the next Gauntlet on June 6th. It is going to be an All Women Panel (how great is that idea?) and I'll be throwing my hat in the ring as a panelist.