The Real Reason Dave McClure Is Out at 500 Startups
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They say revolutions don’t happen overnight. They take years of anguish, and suffering, and hardship, until one day the dam breaks and a flood of people rise up together to create real change.

For years, the Venture Capital culture, with Silicon Valley as its nexus, has been rife with behavior that many consider abrasive and rude. However, looking only slightly under the surface, it has turned out that it goes far beyond that.

In the past weeks, we’ve seen the complete collapse of Binary Capital, a fund led by Justin Caldbeck, who allegedly assaulted multiple women, and Jonathan Teo, who allegedly assisted in covering up this behavior.

Dave McClure, Founder of 500 Startups, was forced to apologize for his lewd behavior, as well as resign from his role there, and as GP of the fund. Elizabeth Yin resigned in protest for his misconduct, and there are reports that others are not far behind.

Reid Hoffman, urged others in Silicon Valley to stand with him in signing a “Decency Pledge“, that would show which funds are allies to women, yet as more funds showed their support for this, other reports came forward against some of the people using this hashtag, which highlighted the point that the unethical behavior of certain VCs is unlikely to end anytime soon.

Since this story initially broke, more people have started to come forward. Cheryl Yeoh posted her experiences with Dave McClure, which may have been the lynchpin for his resignation. Comments made by Cathryn Chen, myself and others are eerily echoed in the words of Amy Varle, founder of the People’s Property Shop. “It actually makes me cry to read these comments and know I’m not alone. I have literally been stalked and bribed with a 100,000 investment via the latest guy. Its made me sick on a daily basis.”

There has been backlash against these women. VCs Sam Altman and Chris Swies got involved in the fray. Chris Sacca, himself named in the New York Times article, disputed the claim against him. As more women are coming forward, men are starting to fight back, turning this into a she-said, he-said.

Clearly, something isn’t working.

As I’ve been digging into this story since I started covering it, I’ve found that it goes deeper than simple gender bias. Not only have women come to me with their stories, I’ve heard from men who have had similar experiences of their being harassed while vulnerable – only they feel the repercussions for their coming forward would be too harmful for them to deal with.

Wherever there is a power imbalance, it is too easy for things to be misconstrued.

On the VC side, they may very well be innocently thinking: “Hey, this person is really fun to hang out with.” Unfortunately, they’re not taking into account the worldview of the person on the other side.

This other person is in an automatically vulnerable position. They’re not on the same level as the VC, because they have a fiduciary responsibility to their company to make payroll, pay vendors, get product out, etc. To them, at some level, the VC represents certainty, security. That person will never be “really fun to hang with.”

Chris Sacca, Dave McClure, even Justin Caldbeck and all the rest may well have had purely innocent intentions – in their own minds. Where they have failed is they did not take into account the other people around them.

I’m happy to talk to anyone in Silicon Valley or anywhere who would like help in understanding perspective. Maybe then we’ll start to make some progress.

Jul 5, 2017
John Bork and Stephanie Lynn, standing six feet apart.
John Bork and Stephanie Lynn, standing six feet apart.

Editor’s Note:Although the officialSmall Business Weekhas been postponed, we at Inc. feel it’s always appropriate to recognize the teams and companies that serve the needs of their communities and help keep Main Street humming–and not just for one week!

Sweet Spot Skirts and WellHaven Pet Health are just down the street from one another in downtown Vancouver, Washington. Until recently, location was about all they had in common.

Sweet Spot makes and sells derrière-cloaking skirts in funky colors and patterns for female bikers and runners to wear over shorts and tights.But despite owninga 12-year-old Australian shepherd, founder Stephanie Lynnhad never heard of WellHaven, a $50 million company operating 41 veterinary hospitals that employ 450 people in five states.

WellHaven founderJohn Bork was similarly unfamiliar with his neighbor.”I had seen Sweet Spot but I never used it,” Bork says. “I didn’t really know what it was.”

From the awarding of government loans to the designation of “essential” status, coronavirus frequently has set Main Street businesses at odds with larger companies. But in places like Vancouver, where a very active chamber of commerce is an enthusiastic yenta for its members, large and middle-market companies have formed surprising partnerships with mom-and-pops to fight the pandemic.

For example, when Chandelier Bakery was unable to obtain flour to fulfill all requests for bread donations for frontline workers, United Grain Corporation, among the Pacific Northwest’s largest grain exporters, supplied the wheat. Ryonet, a $50 million supplier of equipment to screen-printing businesses, not only stepped up to manufacture masks and face shields itself but has also contracted with two of its small local customers, Brainless Tees and Opake Screen Printing, to decorate them.

And in Lynn’s case,the larger companyhelped completely turn her business around. Sweet Spot does between $350,000 and $600,000 in annual revenue, much of itat sporting events. On March 12, Lynn was selling at a pickleball tournament in College Station, Texas, while thecountrywas rapidly shutting down.

“I got on the plane in Austin, and by the time I changed planes in Phoenix enough events had canceled to take $50,000 off my plate,” she says.

The next day, she was sitting with her landlord, in tears because she would not be able to make rent. The following Monday she laid off her entire staff of six.

Can you make this?

Bork, meanwhile, had approached the chamber for help. Government and industry leaders had begun asking veterinarians to donate their PPE to health-care workers who attend tohumans. Bork wanted to find a local business that could replace his surgical-grade masks and caps with something that would protect animals during procedures. The chamber quickly reached out to Sweet Spot.

The next morning, four days after Sweet Spot’s closure, Bork and his chief medical officer, Bob Lester, were at Lynn’s doorstep with a model surgical mask and cap. Lynn called in one of her seamstresses and over the next two days created prototypes from the fabric used for her skirts.

With check in hand for just over $10,000 to cover 500 masks and 500 caps,Lynn brought back her whole staff. “She would text me when she had 60 or 100 made,” Bork says. “I would walk over and fill up my backpack, bring them back to the office, box them up, and off they would go.” Sweet Spot filled the entire order in just under three weeks.

Bork ordered another 500 masks and caps, which he distributed to other veterinary hospitals in Vancouver and neighboring Portland, Oregon. With each donation, he included Lynn’s contact information.A few of those practices placed their own orders. Word spread, and other groups–Vancouver public schools, an organization of home inspectors–reached out.

With skirt orders down 90 percent, Lynn launched Facewear Fashions to go after the consumer PPE market. Those masks, with names like Pinch Me Pink Floral and Doilies for Your Face, retail for $14. (Businesses, which receive volume discounts, still account for 50 percentof mask sales.) Lynn plans to cross-promote her product lines. Buy a skirt, get a free mask made from the same material. “I match mine all the time,” she says.

The collaboration with WellHaven continues. Bork made an offer to match any donations of masks to worthy causes by other Vancouver businesses. When the Vancouver Farmers Market reopens, Sweet Spot will have a place in WellHaven’s booth.

“Had WellHaven not come about, I don’t know where I would be,” Lynn says. “They saved me completely.”

May 18, 2020

How To Keep Living After You Lose Everything Youve Always Worked For.Html

Work-Life Balance

The Proven Mental Checklist to Handle Losing the Only Thing that Matters to You

Most entrepreneurs spend all their time and energy focused on being a success. Here’s how to prepare for the day after you exit.

Working From Home

How This Founder Cuts Distractions During Quarantine

Modern Fertility founder Afton Vechery has made some concessions to a difficult situation, but not when it comes to productivity.

The Proven Mental Checklist to Handle Losing the Only Thing that Matters to You
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What does it mean to lose everything you’ve worked for? What does the day after look like?

For many entrepreneurs, there is no day-after mentality. They don’t allow themselves to think about life after the business, because that would distract them from achieving their vision. But what happens when their time in the business ends?

No matter the reason for the exit — be it selling for millions, or losing it all — the sudden loss of something that meant everything to them, unfortunately, leads to emptiness. If there is nothing to fill the hole, all too often it leads to suicide,or suicidal thoughts,even in people with no history of depression.

When I was a child, my dream was to become an astronaut. I proceeded to spend every waking moment working toward that goal, with very little time for anything else. And at Marshall Space Flight Center and via the UAH Astronautics Program in Huntsville, AL, I was close to achieving it.

Until one day, a neurologist took that all away from me. My body betrayed me — my brain has a defect that doesn’t allow me to go into space — or even do something as trivial as scuba dive. As I was listening to this doctor sentence me to life on terra firma, I literally felt my reason for living disintegrate.

When I left his office, I drove to the top of a mountainand perched my car on the side of a steep cliff. I sat on the hood of the car in a trancelike state for what I waslater told was three days.

In that time, I considered what I’d just been told. I pondered what the purpose had been of my life unto that point and felt it had amounted to nothing. I couldn’t get myself to move — until I remembered a school friend of mine who I had admired greatly that died five years prior.

I asked myself, if he’d had another day, what would he have done with it?

I realized he probably would have just gone to school, played games, talked to friends — same as any 13-year-old. It occurred to me — literally for the first time — that life doesn’t have to be all grand visions and dreams every day, it just is whatever you make of it.

It’s that thought that got me to crawl off my car and drive back down the mountain, to find panicked friends and family had been searching for me. People who hadn’t occurred to me to think about while I was up there, but were suddenly extremely important.

As entrepreneurs, it can be difficult to think about the ordinary. We always have to be so perfect, and exciting, and grand, that when our dreams are taken from us — whether through success or failure — the blow can be too much to accept.

While you may think this could never happen to you, it is always a good idea to be prepared. Here’s a quick checklist to help you think about “the day after.”

1.Be social, even if you don’t want to be.

This is probably the hardest part, but the worst thing you can do is lock yourself away and disappear from the world. Posting on social media doesn’t count; go out in public to community and volunteer groups where you can be around other people that have different needs than yours.

2.Go away.

Research shows that the best thing you could possibly do during transition periods is do something completely different than before.

Scheduling a quick retreat or vacation right away will help you acclimate to the new way of life.

3.Get a coach.

When dealing with any major life change, it’s a good idea to talk to someone about it. Unfortunately, for many entrepreneurs, we tend not to share our innermost thoughts and feelings with those people closest to us.

Having a properly trained, impartial, judgment-free sounding board is more beneficial to your well-being than you may realize.

4.Start a new project.

Entrepreneurs often don’t suffer from a lack of ideas. If you suddenly find yourself with a lot of free time, find something new to fill it with that gives you a sense of purpose.

5.Don’t change too much at once.

No matter what you do, try not to make any radical life changes right away. During the initial transition phase, you may experience a strong temptation to be self-destructive. To combat this, try not to make any decisions too quickly, and not do more than one new thing at a time.

And lastly, the best way to plan is to start ensuring you have more than just “one thing” that encompasses your whole life. That way, it won’t matter as much when it is gone.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255 with free confidential support for those who feel at risk of harming themselves.

Jun 11, 2018
Afton Vechery, co-founder of Modern Fertility.
Afton Vechery, co-founder of Modern Fertility.

For Modern Fertility’s Afton Vechery, the biggest adjustment to going remote during the coronavirus crisis has been minor but symbolic: “I’ve had to switch from contacts to glasses because of all the screen time and video calls,” she says. Vechery co-founded her home-fertility-test startup, which has $22 million in funding, in 2017. While many now have plenty of time on their hands for, well, fertility, Vechery is busier than ever. Here’s how she stays productive.

Climb Every Mountain

The alarm clock buzzes at 6:30 a.m. “A lot of founders have these amazing morning productivity hacks, like meditation,” says Vechery. “For me, the single greatest motivating factor is to just be doing something I love. And so, uh, that translates to emails in bed when I wake up.” After that, Vechery typically bikes to work. During the crisis, she’s swapped her commute for an early-morning ride to the top of San Francisco’s Twin Peaks. It doubles as me time. “It’s really helpful to understand what’s going to bubble up from your subconscious when you’re not being stimulated sitting in front of a computer,” she says.

Face Time

Vechery’s days in quarantine include more one-on-one meetings than they did before, but that’s the cost of keeping information flowing. Modern Fertility has implemented daily meetings at which employees can check on current and upcoming projects. And the staff has organized optional virtual lunches and happy hours, which Vechery will drop into when she can. Whether at home or in the office, she and co-founder Carly Leahy generally eat dinner while working and wrap up around 9 p.m.–though they encourage staffers to leave earlier.

Clear Screen, Clear Mind

Vechery relies on an app called Captio, which lets the founder email a note to herself with one click. But you won’t find the Captio icon on her iPhone’s home screen, which is clear of everything but three apps: Calendar, Clock, and Notes. Manually searching for apps lets Vechery ignore distracting notifications. “As a founder, there’s constantly something else you could be doing,” she says. “But when you have space to think through what you’re working on, you’re a better leader.”

Portion Control

When she makes time for a TV show, Vechery starts with the season finale and views the episodes in reverse order. The strange habit helps prevent the urge to binge. “I have an incredibly addictive personality,” she says. “So this is better for everyone.” Vechery also unwinds by playing the trumpet. “It’s a total break from everything else in life,” she says. “It lets you process your thoughts in a really different way.”

May 13, 2020

The Only 4 Questions You Need To Ask To Create Resolutions That Stick.Html


The Only 4 Questions You Need to Ask to Create Resolutions That Stick

Twenty years ago I asked myself these four questions. Now, its my framework for success for the year ahead.

By Heather Wilde, CTO, ROCeteer@heathriel

Jun 1, 2020
The Only 4 Questions You Need to Ask to Create Resolutions That Stick
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As we are entering a new decade, there can be even more pressure to stick with our New Year’s resolutions. We tend to look back at the past ten years as a whole and can stress over what changes we’ve made –or haven’t –and focus more on our failures than celebrate our successes.

Similarly, at the end of 1999, I felt a ton of pressure sinceit was the end of a whole millennium. I spent tons of time looking back on my life and began to evaluate what I liked and didn’t like and asked myself four questions. The resolutions I made as a result of those questionschanged the course of my career.

Twenty years on, I have followed the same framework for defining my resolutions every year. They’ve been an essential part of setting me up for success in each new year– and beyond.

Here are the questions that I ask:

1. What outcome do I want to achieve?

Most people don’t really stop and think about this thoroughly. If you don’t have a specific definition of what success means in each thing you are doing — such as to find five new clients, or open a new business location, or increase your savings by 10 percenteach month for your retirement account –you’ll never know that you’ve achieved it. Being specific is much more helpful than making a vague goal to “succeed in your career” or “learn something new.”

2. What is holding me back?

Sometimes we truly aren’t aware of what blocks us from achieving what we want, but most of the time we just don’t want to admit what’s stopping us. Once you name the thing that is stopping you from moving forward, you can brainstorm ways to get past it. Anticipating what can be in your way helps you be prepared and come up with a plan for when you’re actually faced with it.

3. What is my plan to get there?

Witha specific goal in mind, look for easily quantifiable actions to take that will allow you to achieve it. This makes things much easier — and less daunting — than if I was looking at it the other way around.

To give yourselfaccountability, you can have a coach or mentor to help you along. Additionally, you can write your goals down in a passion planer or a notebook on a weekly or monthly basis to track how you are doing along the way.

4. What am I willing to commit?

Once you’ve defined your outcome, removed what’s stopping you and have a plan, you’re just left with your own accountability. You can commit time, resources, money or a combination of those things to see a project through — but you need at least one of those, or it will have no momentum.

After you’ve answered these simple questions, you’ll be much clearer with your business outlook –into this decade and beyond.


Dec 30, 2019
The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

The Mistake That Cost United Airlines 14 Billion In One Day Twice And What You .Html

Cloud Computing

The Mistake That Cost United Airlines $1.4 Billion in One Day (Twice) and What You Can Do to Avoid It

A combination of poor communication and ineffective crisis management caused one of the worst PR disasters of the decade.

By Heather Wilde, CTO, ROCeteer@heathriel

Jun 1, 2020
The Mistake That Cost United Airlines $1.4 Billion in One Day (Twice) and What You Can Do to Avoid It
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They say history repeats itself — if you wait long enough.

The year was 2008. A passenger on United Airlines, Canadian musician Dave Carroll, was sitting in Chicago awaiting takeoff when he heard a commotion. Outside the window, baggage handlers were throwing guitar cases haphazardly before loading them into the hold.

This alarmed him, as they were his guitars. He called for assistance, but flight attendants told him there was nothing they could do, and to bring it up when they land.

Upon landing, he found one guitar was broken and told to file a claim for compensation. Carroll attempted to negotiate with the airline for nine months, hitting dead end after dead end. United was unapologetic and unsympathetic.

In early 2009, he wrote the song, “United Breaks Guitars.” This became a viral video, spawning two sequels and spurring United to update its customer service training and its social media outreach policy. While they eventually compensated him $3,000 for the guitars, the PR damage had already been done.

Above and Beyond

They seemed to have learned from this.

In 2013, United was again in the news — this time for their excellent customer service.

Passenger Kerry Drake was on his way to Lubbock, Texas from San Francisco when he found his flight in Houston would be delayed. He had a 40-minute connection to the last flight of the day.

When he heard of the delay, he broke down in tears.

When flight attendants saw him crying, they brought him napkins. They asked him what was wrong only to find that his mother was on her deathbed and would likely die that night. If he didn’t make it to Texas, he’d never see her again.

The crew radioed ahead to his next flight to keep it grounded until they landed, delaying it so he could make his connection. This delay cost the airline thousands of dollars and put the airline’s on-time departure record at risk — but they felt it was the right thing to do.

He made it to the hospital that evening to say goodbye, and she passed away at 4 a.m.

The Unfriendly Skies

Fast forward four years to 2017, and the focus is once again on United. First, an incident where the airline denied boarding to three passengers over their inappropriate dress. This could have been handled better by the gate agent before it took to the internet, but their explanations were curt and misleading. By allowing the court of public opinion to go unchecked before resolving the situation, the tide quickly turned against them.

Second, a situation involving an involuntary denied boarding (IDB) spiraled out of hand when gruesome footage of a passenger being beaten and bloodied reached the internet.

From all reports, United did not clearly explain the IDB rules to the passengers on the aircraft (and in my time as an airline employee, I cannot recall anyone doing so). In the aftermath, United’s Social Media team offered the contract of carriage as proof of their permission to remove a passenger, however it took multiple tries to extract an apology from the CEO. In the time it took him to do so, their stock plummeted $1.4B USD.

This begs the question – is there something fundamentally wrong with United Airlines culture, or has this all merely been a communication problem?

When you look closely at the incidents, Mr. Carroll’s guitars were broken by employees who clearly showed a lack of care. A few years later, the United employees went above and beyond to show how much they care. The more recent incidents with United employees speak more to poor communication – the physical violence was not performed by a United employee, so it is possible that miscommunication allowed it to happen.

Coming In for a Landing

The thing about history is, those who do not learn from it are doomed to repeat it. So, what can we learn from United Airlines’ PR woes that can help us avoid their fate?

1. Say Something

Silence on the internet just begs for someone else to fill it. Get as far ahead of things as you can by acknowledging that you’re at least aware of whatever it is that people are chattering about — even if you have no information yet. This will help to stem the tide of the “@company – did you know that this is going on?” messages.

2. Take It To the Source

Wherever people are the most actively conversing about you, that’s where you need to be responding. If you’re trending on Twitter, you need to respond there. If people are on your Facebook page, answer them with Facebook Live. Be prepared for outbreaks on Reddit, Snapchat, Pinterest, even 4chan – they can and do happen.

3. Apologize – And Mean It

It should go without saying that if you’ve messed up in the public eye, you should ask for forgiveness. If you’re not sincere, people will see through the apology, and it will be even worse for you in the long run.

4. Be Tactful

Some things are simply better handled out of the court of public opinion. Getting things offline as quickly as possible can help you remove mob mentality and allow you to reasonably settle disputes.

5. Learn From It

After the PR dies down, document everything and perform a post mortem. Analyze the behavior to see what happened, what you did well, what you could have done better, and what you should not have done at all.

In the case of United, it’s obvious that they have some work to do to in both their social media response protocol and their overall communication team. However, with a culture that empowered their employees to work together in Kerry Drake’s case, I believe they’ll be able to find a way to come back from this.

Apr 17, 2017
The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

Click Here for Official Rules

Jun 1, 2020

The Essential Business Tools You Need To Declutter Your Life In 2020 Beyond.Html


The Essential Business Tools You Need to Declutter Your Life in 2020 and Beyond

By implementing these programs into your routine, you’ll gain hours back in your week.

By Heather Wilde, CTO, ROCeteer@heathriel

Real Talk

This Billion-Dollar Brand’s Covid Strategy: Act Like a Startup Again

Austin-based jewelry and home decor seller Kendra Scott reminds herself that there are lessons in every challenge and that the customer is always the boss.

The Essential Business Tools You Need to Declutter Your Life in 2020 and Beyond
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Ok, I’ll admit it. I’m not the most organized person –which is more common for entrepreneurs than you might realize. Therefore, when it comes to tools that promise to make my work life easier, faster and more productive, I’m all in.

I am always willing to try the latest and greatest to cover up my own weaknesses in the workspace,and of course, make me look like I’m a confident boss who has things more together than I really do.

With the help of a little bit of AI and some other clever apps, I have managed to increase my productivity so much that I even can take time for myself. The best part? You can replicate my results by adding these few simple steps to calm your own hectic life.

Calendar Tools

If you’re anything like me, you have more than one calendar. Whether it’s an iCal feed coming from Tripit, shared calendar with your significant other –or kids –or multiple client accounts you need to merge into one, having a “single source of truth” for your actual schedule is a never-ending nightmare.

Luckily, there are two tools that you can use to help with that. In order to view all your calendars at once– without seeing things duplicated– I recommend Fantastical. To have other people book your time, have them use Calendlyafter loading all your relevant calendars into the mix.

Email Tools

Once upon a time, I had one email address, and only a few emails to check each day. Now, I have multiple inboxes that I need to keep track ofand they all have their own daily supply of newsletters, junk mail,and spam to sift through before I can find the useful mail. Rather than aiming for Inbox Zero, I’m on the Inbox Infinity plan –and I’m making great strides every day.

Thankfully, I have a few solutions for that too. The mobile app Chuck helpfully sorts through your inboxes and will sort through to find any newsletters, unread emails, potential junk, etc. With a simple click, you can unsubscribe, archive or delete hundreds — or in my case, 20,000 — emails at once.

As for email programs, there is no one-size-fits-all. If you’ve got multiple inboxes, though, Edison email provides a unified inbox, which automatically finds all your most useful emails and sorts them for you. While it doesn’t let you set any mail filters or rules yet, it does save a lot in processing power.

Note Taking Tools

Now, you may not believe this, as I did previously work with Evernote,but I hate taking notes. I have always preferred to pay attention and be present in meetings, so taking notes always seemed counterintuitive to me.

Thankfully, technology has caught up to my conceit! Now, I have some awesome note-taking options for every meeting I’m in. Zoom offers automatic transcription for every cloud-recorded meeting I start. offers transcription for all my other calls, and then is handy for in-person meetings. Now, I have automatically transcribed notes from my calls that I can send out right away –win, win.

Time Tracking Tools

As a consultant, I used to dread filling out timesheets. As a lot of my time is spent in research, and another good chunk is spent writing and responding to emails, I would find myself seriously underestimating my time.

Thanks to Chrometa and Rescuetime, I can automatically generate timesheets for myself, and see exactly how much time I spent on each phone call, email, each web page — everything I do, really. Everything is handily organized into a spreadsheet that I can then edit and attach to any bill –or just keep for my own records.

By implementing these tools, you’ll be well on your way to a more organized new year.

Dec 20, 2019
The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of
This Billion-Dollar Brand's Covid Strategy: Act Like a Startup Again

Kendra Scott had 2020 planned out for her eponymous jewelry and home decor companywhen all of her plans–along with those of so many businesses–changed in an instant. “Covid-19 was not part of our plan,” Scott told Inc. editor-at-large Tom Foster during Inc.‘s latest Real Talk: Business Reboot webinarThursday. “The best-laid plans don’t always come to fruition.”

Scott, who’s based in Austin, says she had to return to a “startup mentality” to face the health crisis that temporarily closed the doors on her 108 retail locations and the economic freeze that altered her supply chain and changed customers’ purchasing habits. Working from home–while juggling homeschooling for herthree kids–and staying in touch with her teams and customers, she reminds herself to “be creative and collaborative and take each day as it comes.”

Here are some of the insights and highlights from Foster’s conversation with Scott:

Be flexible

Scott learned about flexibility during the Great Recession when she realized that selling her jewelry primarily through stores owned by others wasn’t going to work for her or her long-term plan. “Every store around was closing. Nobody had a store,” she recalled.

“When the crisis hit, I had to pivot quickly.It forced me to look at my business differently,” she said. That meant opening her own brick-and-mortar shop and going direct to consumer through the web. She remembers telling her staff that this move could not fail(“I’ll have to move back in my mother,” she said with a laugh), and thatit could succeed beyond their hopes.

A decade later, Scott has 108 stores and a thriving online business. And, pre-pandemic, her company wasvalued at $1billion.

Create a connection–however you can

Muchof the success of her retail locations is the way the stores’ designencourages customers to interact with the merchandise and salespeople. Unlike other jewelry stores filled with glass display cases (and, in some cases, plexiglassbarriers), Kendra Scott stores emphasizetactility and connection.

The challenge now is maintaining that feel in the 78 shops that have already reopened post-Covid, as well astranslating the experience online. Salespeople can no longer touch customers, but, as Scott muses, “How else can we touch her heart, touch her mind?”

One way has been speeding up a virtual try-on concept that was in the works for a year and that launched in April. Another has been implementing curbside pickup programs at some stores. This is especially important, since Scott believes brick-and-mortar stores are not going away. “We need those places,” she says. “We have to create places that allow people to connect.”

As Scott advises her employees: “Don’t worry about the transaction.Worry about the connection.”

Businesses need to ask (and answer), “Where is [the customer] in this moment? How can we serve her? How can we bring her joy?” Scott says. “Because she’s our boss. She signs our checks. If not for her, we don’t have jobs.”

Reach out

Since the start of the pandemic, Scott and her team have been reaching out to customers on every possible platform. She advises people to pick up the phone, send emails, or get on FaceTime with customers tomake them feel seen and appreciated. (Even her mother has been making calls.) Scott has also sent many handwritten letters. “The simplest things can make a real difference,” she says. “Don’t focus on the business. Focus on the customer.”

Learn from every crisis

Scott, whose company survived the last recession (and whose previous business did not succeed), knows about challenges. She also knows about keeping the faith during tough times. “There’s a reason this moment is happening,” she likes to tellherself. “In the moment, you may not understand it,” but a lesson will present itself. If you can understandthat lesson, you–and your company–will gain from it.

“Right now it seems so hard to understand why something like this has happened,” Scott says. One possible lesson: After the quarantine lifts and some of the harder hit sectors of the economy rebound, “We may be kinder to each other, more loving to each other,” she hopes. “Those are the gifts that may come from this struggle.”

May 28, 2020

The 8 Most Underrated Ted Talks That Defined 2017.Html


The 8 Most Underrated TED Talks That Defined 2017

From listening to your gut to a heartwarming plea from Pope Francis, this was our year in TED.

By Heather Wilde, CTO, ROCeteer@heathriel

Jun 1, 2020
The 8 Most Underrated TED Talks That Defined 2017
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Every day, somewhere in the world, it is likely there is a TED or TEDx event going on. This speaks to the power of a brand that has flourished for more than30 years, providing thought-provoking talks on the simple premise of “ideas worth spreading.”

This can be a double-edged sword — there are so many events, and their catalog of knowledge is vast. This can be daunting when you’re trying to find some truly amazing talks buried in the archives.

Here are just a fewthat I feel are worth another look.

1. Garry Kasparov — Don’t Fear Intelligent Machines. Work With Them

Former chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov implores us to take a look at the dawn of robotics and A.I. with an open mind and open arms. His recounting of how he faced Deep Blue and lost is poignant and beautiful, and gives a lovely perspective on how we should think about the years to come.

2. Casey Brown — Know Your Worth, and Then Ask for It

In a year where we have had a seemingly endless stream of negativitysurfacingin all industries, it is refreshing to hear Casey Brown’s simple message of positivity and personal responsibility. While she doesn’t promise a quick fix to all of the industries’ problems, it is a great first step.

3. Giulia Enders — The Surprisingly Charming Science of your Gut

In this quirky talk, GiuliaEnders takes us on a journey through our digestive system,and teaches us how our “gut feelings” really do mean something.

4. Pope Francis — Why the Only Future Worth Building Includes Everyone

As an entrepreneur, I’ve found this is probably one of the most important talks to watch of any on the TED site. In just a few short minutes, Pope Francis delivers a nondenominational talk that truly redefines “change the world.”

5. Nagin Cox — What Time Is It on Mars?

One thing that many of ustake for granted is that because we are all human, we have basically the same experiences. In this delightful and informative talk from NaginCox, she opens up the world of dailylife — on the planetMars.

6. Mariana Atencio — What Makes You Special?

In a world where we are constantly told that we are all unique, Mariana Atencio’s talk shows usnot only how that can betrue but also why it matters.

7. Bill Eckstrom– Why Comfort Will Ruin Your Life

Sometimes, getting fired can be the best thing to happen to you. At least, that’s the premise of Bill Eckstrom’stalk about getting comfortable with discomfort. It wasn’t until he got the jolt to his career path that he was able to find his true calling — and he’s here to tell you what you can do to change your life today.

8. Sarah Knight — The Magic of Not Giving a F***

This is probably my favorite talk of the year — and I warn you, it’s as NSFW as it is hilarious. Sarah Knight expands on the premise of her best-selling book to tell us all how we can live much happier, better lives by simply letting things go.

These are my personal favorites, but I’d love to know what other underrated talks you have found interesting. Let me know in the comments.

Dec 22, 2017
The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

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Jun 1, 2020

The 6 Best Ways To Get Health Insurance When Youre Self Employed.Html

Startup Life

The 6 Best Ways to Get Health Insurance When You’re Self-Employed

For entrepreneurs, finding good health coverage can be difficult. Here are the options for getting the best care.

The 6 Best Ways to Get Health Insurance When You're Self-Employed
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For entrepreneurs, obtaining health insurance can be tricky. New regulations are in place that purports to make it easier, however, in reality, things have become more convoluted and difficult.

As my role requires a lot of travel, both domestic and international, I’ve always needed a health plan that covered me while traveling outside of my home state. This year, however, all of those plans have disappeared from the individual and small group market.

I found myself in the same position that many small businesses face: Groups are based on the number of full-time employees on payroll, and contractors who you offer benefits to.

That’s all well and goodif your company offers healthcare as a benefit. But what if it doesn’t?

Many small businesses don’t meet the minimum threshold to offer group insurance, preferring to hire contractors instead of employees. That includes my company.

Solopreneurs and married partners often only qualify for Individual insurance, which gives them extremely limited HMO plans to choose from. If you miss the open enrollment period, you can go up to a year without coverage. With my old plan no longer offered, I could stay on COBRA for a while, but that wouldn’t help my coworkers. I started to look into options.

Turns out, there’s an entirelynew category of healthcare dedicated to solving this problem. “Health Cost Sharing” started as a way for people who are generally healthy to protect themselves against unexpected health events.

James Maskell of health cooperative kNewHealth sees it as the best option for entrepreneurs — though he is, of course, somewhat biased. “With the increased buying power of the group, it brings the cost of health maintenance down for everyone,” he says

The cost is much lower than traditional insurance — for only a few hundred dollars a year, you can have coverage, which includes all the same types of care that you would expect. As long as you’re willing to live by the “code” of healthy living these co-ops require, it may be just what you need.

It’s one option of many.Not sure what to do? Here’s a handy list of how to gain health coverage as an entrepreneur:

1. Healthcare Marketplace is the main place many go to purchase insurance as an entrepreneur or small business. If you’re daunted by all the options, companies like StrideHealthand SimplyInsuredhelpyou navigate and find plans in a quick and easy way.


If you had access to a health plan from a previous employer, parent, or spouse, you can continue that coverage for up to an additional 36 months depending on the circumstances. Be careful with this, however, as COBRA is often more expensive than other options. Additionally, COBRA cancellation is not an open enrollment event.

3. Short Term Health Insurance

If you’re outside an open enrollment period, you can purchase Short Term Health Insurance. The price of this coverage is generally very low, but it doesn’t cover much, and can refuse coverage to those with chronic conditions.

4. Associations

Some associationslike NASE offer health insurance as a benefit to joining. However, according to the WSJ, the cost of the association fee may be greater than the benefit you receive. Do your research.

5. PEOs

Professional Employer Organizations, or PEOs, are companies that outsource management tasks like payroll and accounting. However, as they offer healthcare as a benefit, entrepreneurs who sign up with PEOs are able to gain group health insurance as well for a small monthly fee.Gusto, Zenefits, and Justworksare a few examples.

6. Health Cost Sharing

And, as mentioned above, there is the option for Health Networks. Companies like Liberty Healthshare, CHM, kNew Health and others are sprouting up to cover those who want affordable, no-frills healthcare. One thing to watch out for — you need to be in good health already to join.

Whatever you do, one thing is clear: Your health is vital to your business success. Do what you can to stay healthy.

May 23, 2018

The 5 Step Checklist To Help You Through Any Stressful Situation.Html


The 5-Step Checklist to Help You Through Any Stressful Situation

When the world around gets rough, here are five tips for staying calm and steady through whatever comes at you.

By Heather Wilde, CTO, ROCeteer@heathriel

The 5-Step Checklist to Help You Through Any Stressful Situation
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What do you consider an emergency?

  • Experiencing explosive decompression on your airplane?
  • Losing your phone?
  • Losing your passport?
  • Having a security breach within your company?
  • Being detained by the military in a foreign country?

At what level does it become an emergency?

Recently, I was on a flight that suffered explosive decompression. As I remained calm and assessed the situation, I realized the only action I could take was send quick text messages to certain people. I unwittingly set off a chain of different reactions in those three people:

  • The first person was unfazed–he knew he could do nothingto affect the outcome.
  • The second person was concerned, but also knew he couldn’t do anything.
  • The third person worried, tracking my plane, and grew concerned when it disappeared from radar.

Often, as entrepreneurs, everything we do has the urgency of an “emergency” attached. It goes something like this: If I don’t make this deadline, Iwill lose my funding opportunity. If I lose my funding, the company will fail. If the company fails, my life is over. This is called “catastrophizing.”

Living with this type of mindset can cause extended periods of stress, and heightened emotional states. These emotional states can lead to decisions made from fear, which reduce the likelihood of good judgment.

While I’ve personally experienced all of the above “emergencies,” I’ve managed to handle all of them without feeling outwardly stressed. Here are my five steps to help you through anything life throws your way:

1. Stay calm.

While this seems too simple, it all starts here. You need to be completely in control of yourself and your emotions before doing anything else.

Once, after finding that I had been pick-pocketed of my passport in a foreign airport,I first took a few deep breaths to center myself. I thought of a time when I wasfully calm–and toldmy mind to “play pretend” that I was in that place instead.

Once I was calm, I looked for a “police” symbol, walked to it, and used my phone to type out my problem into Google Translate. The policeman and I typed back and forth to each other, and the officer was able to use security cameras tofind my passport within minutes.

2. Take stock.

Once you have a clear mind, you need to mentally analyze the situation. Define the problem clearly. What resources are available to you?

We’ve all left cell phones in Ubers. After this happened to me, I ran through a mental checklist of what was available to me in that moment. Uber hada lost-and-found option in the receipt, which I could access via a computer–and I had my laptop with me. No reason to panic.

A more business-specific situation: We lose files all the time in business–whether emailing them to the wrong person, or deleting and emptying the trash. Knowing the possibilities to retrieve them ahead of time can keep you calm.

3.Take action.

Once you’ve determined what resources you have and what is possible for you to do, it’s time for you to act.

Sometimes, it’s proactive. While handling a security breach at Evernote, where I used to work, I made suretechnical support was constantly keepingcustomers apprised of the situation, even when we had no new information to give.

Other times, it’s reactive. If you accidentally email the wrong file to someone, Google has an “undo send” feature (if you’ve turned it on ahead of time). You canask the other person to delete the email. You should probablylet your IT team know.



See if there’s anything youmissed. Did you let yourself get stressed? Was there an action you could’vetaken? Did you use all the resources at hand?

Once, when traveling abroad, my partner and I were separated from each other at a military checkpoint. Women were being taken away with no warning or explanation after they’d already taken all of our electronics.

After we were reunited, we made a plan to have each other’s phone numbers memorized as well as the number for the US Embassy in case this type of thing happened again. When it happened to us again in another country, we were able to remain calm–we had a plan.

5.Keep things in perspective.

Everyone is different. The “end of the world” to you may not even be noticeable to someone else.

So, you didn’t sign this client? Take a few breaths, remain calm, and understand that not everyone is your target. Ask them why they weren’t interested in you–their feedback will get you closer to someone who will be a better fit for your product.

By following these five steps, you’ll guide your waythrough any situation with aplomb.

Feb 27, 2018
The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of
Jeffrey Costello and Robert Tagliapietra of JCRT
Jeffrey Costello and Robert Tagliapietra of JCRT

When New York State went into quarantine in mid-March, Jeffrey Costello and Robert Tagliapietra had just moved JCRT, their direct-to-consumer shirt company, to a new office on Pier 59 in New York City. Founded in 2016, JCRT celebrates all things plaid and camouflage, with colorful patterns named after David Bowie and Kate Bush albums and movies such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Stuck in a rentalhome in rural New Jersey,the married Costello andTagliapietragot to work. Heartsick that the city that had been their base and home for years was the epicenter of the Covid-19 outbreak, they wanted to do something to help friends on the frontlines.Costello began sewing masks from whatever sample fabrics he had on hand.Tagliapietra boxed them “by the hundreds” and the couplesentthem to wherever they heard PPE was needed.

“Everything was sort of unknown at that point,” Tagliapietra says. “We were very happy to be able to even do that.”

After sewing about 600 masks (“My hands were tired!” Costello jokes), they were able to reopentheir factory in the Dominican Republic, which been closed due to government quarantine and curfew rules, and began producing masks for sale and donation, giving more than 12,000 to first responders. They’re donating a portion of their retail sales to the New York City Covid-19 Emergency Relief Fund, benefiting health care workers, supporting small businesses, and vulnerable workers and families. Without any marketing other than their social feeds, Tagliapietra and Costello estimate they’ve sold 45,000 masks through JCRT and raised more than $65,000.

Now they’re selling masks and collared shirts made from a black, red, and green plaid, with proceeds going to Movement for Black Lives. Over the Father’s Day weekend, which also included the commemoration of Juneteenth, they donated 100 percentof the sales of those goods to the organization.

JCRT is a second act for Costello and Tagliapietra, who previously founded a women’s wear business called Costello Tagliapietra in 2005. Their runway shows were written up in glossy fashion magazines and the founders got a lot of press for their shared plaid-on-plaid aesthetic and impressive beards, which led to theirbeing dubbed “the lumberjacks of fashion.”

Keeping their operation small also allows the foundersto decide where and how to focus their energies, including supporting the causes they careabout. They’re nowat work on another fundraiser, this one for Pride month,with proceeds going to the Ali Forney Center, a New York City-based program for LGBTQ homeless youth.With their factory up and running, JCRT also continues to release new designs, sellingdressshirts, pants, jackets, bags, and accessoriesthrough their website.

Jun 23, 2020

The 5 Things Vcs Consider When Funding Your Next Business Idea.Html


The 5 Things VCs Consider When Funding Your Next Business Idea

When creating your next business, take care of these things before anything else.

By Heather Wilde, CTO, ROCeteer@heathriel

Jun 1, 2020
The 5 Things VCs Consider When Funding Your Next Business Idea
Getty Images

People come up with ideas all the time — and many of them don’t becomegreat businesses.Perhaps the idea has already beeninvented and patented. Maybe licensing is too expensive to go forward. If the idea is entirely dependent on something that isn’t available to the mainstream yet, you can’t even begin development.

Before founding his third company, Phil Libin had discussions about creating a “ribbonof information” that would capture the stream of someone’s life. Eventually, that researchled toa billion-dollar company, Evernote.

Mastrad, a company founded in 1994 that had its IPO in 2006, has done a combination of licensing and direct distribution for their products. Both companies have filed extensive patents throughout their years of operating.

How can you determine if your idea is worthy of moving forward for funding? Here are a few things to consider:

Market potential

Quite simply, this is how many people your product affects. You want to understand exactly who the target market of your product is so you can clearly identify the size of their spend in that category. That way you can show the potential return on any investment that someone puts in your company.

For example, when creating a new line of IoT (Internet of Things) cooking thermometers, French company Mastrad needed to consider the “Smart Kitchen Appliance” market, which was roughly $890 Million in the U.S. in 2018.

Team viability

Have you ever wondered why many of the funded teams have similar backgrounds, whether educational or work history? Investors like to know what they are getting. They need to knowthe team can do what it says it can do, and past history of success– be it through personal experience or institutional credibility– goes a long way.

For Evernote, Libin looked to people he already knew, like his college friends, family, and myself, to help build his vision.

Future earnings potential

In line with understanding your customer demographics, you also need to know the financial trends of that market. Learn what they spent in that (and related) categories for the past five years, and project out to the next ten. If it’s not a nice big upward trend, it isn’t interesting. In the world of VC funding, “steady is deadly.”

For companies in the FoodTech industry, like Mastrad, the growth potential can be enormous right now. The market was$520 Million in 2014, and it’s projected to hit $3 billion by 2024.

Investor interest

Too many people go to the wrong investors to ask for money. If the person you are talking to is interested in FinTech and you are a FoodTech group, the deal won’t close no matter how nice you are.

Even the most minimal research on your potential investors will help you to understand their expertise. As Warren Buffet says, you shouldn’t invest in businesses you don’t understand, so approaching people who don’t have an understanding of your industry is likely to get you turned down.

Investor Mood

Even if you have everything else lined up perfectly, you still might not get funded because you caught the investor on a bad day, and they saw your deal negatively because of that. They’ve got 20 other options in the pipeline so it’s not a big deal to them.

Any team that wishes to receive funding must satisfactorily pass all of those tests in the eyes of their investor. The streets of Silicon Valley (and elsewhere) are littered with teams who have not.

May 31, 2019
The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

The 3 Reasons Female Founders Dont Raise As Much As Men.Html


The 3 Reasons Female Founders Don’t Raise as Much as Men

While more women are starting businesses, and in different sectors, men still receive the lion’s share of funding.

By Heather Wilde, CTO, ROCeteer@heathriel

Jun 1, 2020
The 3 Reasons Female Founders Don't Raise as Much as Men

While it should come as a shock to absolutely no one, there’s something I need to share with you:Women and men are different.

(No, really.)

Whether it is biological, through cultural conditioning— or as a byproduct of near-constant scrutiny — there are general differences in how women and men process and react to information. In turn, this results in behavior that is common enough to form patterns across gender lines.

Take, for instance, the report that Michelle Williams received merely a daily $80 per diem for her reshoots during the movie All the Money in the World,compared to Mark Walberg’s $1.5 millionfor the same amount of work. Her reasoning was “It never would have occurred to me to ask to be paid for that.” (When Walberg found out, he donated the entire paycheck in her name to TimesUp, a fund established as part of the #MeToo movement.) While the outcome was positive, Williams also said the attention “made a private pain public.

For female founders, the disparity can be especially painful. A recent Quartzreport showed that we’ve raised only 22.12 percentof the amount that men have in similar companies. Our company valuations are only 16.38 percentthat of men’s. Worse, our companies don’t increase in value over time in the same way that male-founded companies do.

As a co-founder and CTO of multiple female-led companies that have successfully raised significant capital, I have a few ideas as to why this is the case. Yes, these are generalizations–but I’ve yet to personally encounter many male entrepreneurs with these same traits:

1.Female founders are more conservative.

As a female founder, I willdevelop new features and products only after I have a business case for them. I’ll spend more time with prototypes (Typeform anyone?) and client surveys making sure I have enough of a reason to expend development resources.

This runs counter to the Agile “fail fast” methodology that the traditionally male-oriented Techstars and YCombinator-type startups have, where they are urged to develop their MVP feature set and release it as quickly as possible — then move on to the next thing.

2.Female founders don’t like spending other people’s money.

For the majority of female founders I’ve spoken to, it’s a familiar refrain: “We need to save money” and “decrease our burn rate.”I’ve seen my female colleagues time and again hire people at alarmingly low rates, even demanding free work — or insisting they will simply take care of “it” themselves. Unsurprisingly, 63% of female foundersin a recent Inc survey said they funded their startup through personal savings.

Research by FingerPrint For Success shows that successful male founders are more willing to burn through investment capital quickly in order to determine if a product is viable or not–which speaks further to that “fail fast” mindset.

3.Female founders humanize their investors.

Most female founders I know are acutely aware of each name on their term sheets and how much money was given to them. Almost unanimously, these investments are seen as a sign of trust and a great honor. I have seen more than one woman break down at the thought of not being able to pay back her investors should her business fail.

Quartz’s findings purport that the reason for such a disparity in valuations is that women simply aren’t asking for as much money as men — because they don’t spend as much.

This logic reminds me of my time working in the government.

At the end of each year, we’d have to work out our departmental budgets for the following year. Usually, we’d simply choose the same number that we had the previous year — and as long as we spent exactly that amount each year (or more), we’d be fine. If we spent less, then we’d have less the following year.

This meant that we had a lot of extraneous purchases toward the end of the year — including a supply closet filled to the brim with expired highlighters — simply to make sure we spent every dollar. It certainly prepared me for the startup world, where startups raise $1.5 million,spend it all on kombucha and beanbag chairs, and go bust in a year.

I suspect, as with most things, the right answer is somewhere in the middle. Perhaps, if men and women joined together in business more frequently — like Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg — you’d have the best of both worlds.

Sep 18, 2018
The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

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