Event Recap: Techstars in NYC Workshop – Killer Startup CEO

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Last night I attended the Techstars in NYC Workshop: Killer Startup CEO. I attended it in part because of my curiosity to see the incubators space, and because I wanted to see what type of information Matt Blumberg, Co-Founder and CEO of Return Path, had to impart on us.

To be honest a lot of the conversation was the same type of stuff that you hear at any of these fireside chats: Make sure you have a good team, it’s hard to find good technical talent, do reviews, and blah blah blah. There were a few points that he did make though that I thought were interesting and wanted to share with you.

When building your board of investors make sure they are strategically engaged but operationally distant.

You want your board to help you as you navigate the startup landscape, but you don’t want them so involved that it hinders your effectiveness as a CEO. By being strategically engaged they can help guide you with where your business should be going and improving, but by being operationally distant it allows you to focus on building your product without feeling as though you’re being micro-managed.

A good board will consume what you put in front of it. 

When presenting information to your board they’ll take in what you put in front of them. So if you give a ridiculously long in-depth analysis on your day-to-day operations they may want to be more involved with the small details, which isn’t an efficient use of their time. Now, if you present a  few pages of strategic goals that you need help with they can focus on those bigger picture items.

Limit the amount of investors and management on your board.

When creating a board you want to make sure that you get a diversity of views  and ideas represented through your board. If too many of your management and investors are already on your board then you’re just surrounding yourself with the same mindset.  By bringing in outsiders, who are still knowledgeable and creative, you’ll be able to get opinions that your team never would have thought of. They can also provide business insight onto what’s important to outsiders such as your consumers.

Key is to know what you want to get out of your board every time you meet. 

If you’re going to meet you need to make sure that you have an idea of why you’re meeting and what you want to get out of it. To meet just to mark it off in your calendar isn’t beneficial nor efficient for anyone involved.

Values and culture are less changeable than product. 

Everyone likes to talk about the lean startup model and being able to pivot or adapt your business when necessary. That’s great, but it’s also important to understand that there are some things that should not change like the values and culture you want your company to be built on. By creating  these long-lasting ideas from the beginning product, management, and features  can change, but your company could survive though those changes.

Good VC’s and Angel investors will give you their references. 

Whenever you’re looking for investors it’s important not just to find them, but to make sure they’re beneficial. A way to separate the good from the bad is often the good ones will give you their references and want you to speak with other CEO’s that they’ve worked with. This will give you an idea if the investor is truly a good fit or if they just want some of your equity without being helpful.

Those were the takeaways from last night’s event that I thought I should share. Has anyone received other interesting advice from other fireside chats that you can share?

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Event Recap: Vets In Tech NYC Launch

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This past Thursday was the national launch of Vets In Tech. I was able to attend their NYC Chapter launch, which was held at Union Square Ventures. As a child of a Navy veteran I really appreciate these organizations that are focused on helping them transition into this increasingly popular field.

“VetsinTech supports our current and returning veterans with re-integration services, and by connecting them to the national technology ecosystem.”

The VIP guest of the evening was Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist. He gave a great speech about how he is a nerd, but now wants to be “your nerd.” A nerd that is committed to helping out veterans.

Interested in learning more? Follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

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A few words from Work Market – one of the sponsors of the evening.

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Love this slogan. Visit http://www.iava.org to learn more.

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Craig Newmark and I.

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Event Recap: Defy Ventures Business Coaching Night

Last Tuesday I had the amazing opportunity of being introduced to Defy Ventures. If you’ve never heard of this organization then you’re missing out on helping with an amazing mission. Defy helps formally incarcerated inmates take the skills they learned while being street entrepreneurs and harnesses those traits to help them build thriving legal businesses. These street entrepreneurs are turned into Entrepreneurs in Training (EIT) at Defy. Most of the stories that we heard were about people being put away for drug related actively stemming from hard life circumstances that most people find hard to even fathom.

The night started off with me uncomfortably entering and not knowing what to expect besides people pitching their business ideas. After getting settled the staff quickly corralled us into another room to finish getting the room set up. When we re-entered we went through a human tunnel only to be greeted with bear hugs at the end. Before the evening even got started you could feel the love and passion for the work that was being done throughout the room.

We also participated in a “Step to the Line” exercise that really helped people understand the difference (and quite a few similarities) between those that had been incarcerated and those of us who were lucky enough to be on the other side of the line.

After getting to know one another that’s when the pitching got started. What I liked was that most of the business pitches weren’t huge, difficult, and/or expensive ideas. They ranged from industrial kitchen cleaning, dog walking/board, personal training, and so forth. All of these sounded achievable, and these people just need a little more business and marketing mentoring.

I’m glad to say that I’m not the only one who thinks that this organization is amazing. There were probably more volunteers then EIT’s at the event. It was a very packed (both with people and love) room. Also, famous folks can see the impact Defy is making. Just take a look at Sir Richard Branson’s blog post about them.

Okay enough with me gushing about this organization. Be sure to check them out for yourself and follow my blog to hear more about my experiences with this group, because that event isn’t the end of it.

Have I gotten you excited about volunteering? Then click here.

Can you only donate to help this program continue? No worries, just click here.

Event Recap: ThoughtWorks New York Celebrates Ada Lovelace Day!

Here’s a brief visual recap of last night’s event. It was great to feel like I was getting back in the swing of things by attending a tech event. I used to do it all the time in the Bay Area. FYI – Some of the talks were in lightening round style so I wasn’t able to get everyone’s information, so you know who the two people I don’t have captions for are below please let me know.

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Skype with Rebecca Parson’s, Thoughtworks CTO, from Ecuador. She was about to give a talk on tech there too.

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Next up was Christina Benavides, Director of Operations for Girls Inc NYC.

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Sydney Padua is the creator of a graphic novel on Ada Lovelace. Above are some excerpts. I can’t wait to read the whole thing.

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Technovation gave a great overview on their Iridescent program.

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Teachley’s Kara Carpenter talked about creating technology that truly helps teachers instead of replacing them or continuing mediocre teaching.

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Hack n’ Jill brings together men and women for hackathon with a “focus on 50:50 gender participation.”

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The NYC chapter of Black Girls Code is doing some amazing work with introducing programming, robotics, science, and much more to girls of color. Hope to volunteer with them soon.

Know any other interesting tech events happening in NYC? Contact me and let me know.

Happy Ada Lovelace Day!

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Today celebrates Ada Lovelace and women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (S.T.E.M) careers. Now while I don’t consider myself an official graduate of any of these degrees, since 2009 I’ve been diving deeper into tech and desiring to learn more.

Throughout my entire time working in tech I’ve mostly (or probably entirely) worked on the people facing side of technology, but recently I’ve increasingly become more interested in the technical portion. I took my first Front-end Development course last year at General Assembly and have tried a few levels of Python and Java on sites like Codecademy and Code Avengers. I must admit though that math and science were never my strong side and coding does not come easily. Sometimes writing code and understanding algorithms prove to be extremely difficult, but the least I can do is keep trying to learn. I know how important these skills will be if I want to continue my career in tech and to continue to prove relevant in the industry.

Now in celebration of the day I’ll be heading off to ThoughtWorks New York Celebrates Ada Lovelace Day! this evening and will report back on the festivities. It looks like quite a few awesome NYC female focused tech groups will be there, so as a new transplant to the city this is especially exciting. I had my go-to groups in Silicon Valley, but haven’t found them here in NYC yet.

Anyone else doing fun in celebration today?

Where are the Geek Gatherings in NYC?

To all you self-proclaimed geeks, startup entrepreneurs, nerds, vc’s, and so forth I’d like to ask a favor. Can someone please point me in the direction of where you all typically hang out?

I’m in startup starvation right now. Coming from the Silicon Valley I couldn’t move without bumping into a co-founder of this startup or someone who had invested in another startup. In NYC I’m finding it a little hard to find the official tech startup locations. Here is what I’ve come up with so far, but someone please let me know if I’m totally off or if there’s something missing:

General Assembly

These have been popping up all around the world, but since NYC is the birthplace I can see how entrepreneurs and geeks in general would flock to this mecca. This one I’ve been to and there’s definitely a great crowd of folks all intensely working on their projects, but still willing to chat to strangers such as myself.

Alley NYC

Still on the list of places to visit, but not sure what it’s like exactly. Heard they recently hosted a Music Education Hackathon which sounds amazing. Hopefully will be able to check this off the list soon.

Fueled Collective

The website looks fancy and the place looks amazing from a decor aspect, but not sure if I just like it cause it looks cool or if it actually is worth going to. Guess I’ll have to check it out, but need to see if I feel like spending that amount just to see a space.

While all of these places look great there’s the downside that to really enjoy all the benefits you have to be a member. I’m wondering if there’s a cafe or some place normal that entrepreneurs go to just hang out and chat similar to Coupa Cafe and the Creamery in SF. I did find this article  from the Business Insider, but it was written in 2011.

So in conclusion can someone please share an updated list of places for startup groupies like me to go to visit. If there isn’t one, or if the places from that list have change then I’ll try doing the leg work and putting something together.

S.H.E Summit Press Event

via ClaudiaChan.com

All my friends in San Francisco know that I am a serial volunteer. I love to help out at events where I’m interested in the organization and the mission that they’re working towards.

So I thought that it was a perfect match that the  first NYC event I volunteered for was the S.H.E (She Helps Empower) Summit Press Event. S.H.E Summit events are happening all this week with the official conference kicking-off this Friday. The line-up looks amazing and hopefully I’ll be able to still make it to some of the conference after work. If not I’ll be closely monitoring what happens through Twitter.

For the actual event I helped at it was held at the BCBGMaxaria Showroom near Times Square. I also thought this was a perfect match since I used to work for them in college and immediately returned my paycheck with all the clothes I bought.

It was great to see so many amazing women early on a Monday morning networking and prepping for the inspiring week ahead. There seem to be a good mix of press that came to listen to the Sallie Krawcheck and Claudia Chan as they started of this busy week.

After reliving the high of the networking/volunteering buzz I hope I’m able to find more exciting events like this to attend and chronicle on this blog. If anyone knows of similar events or great non-profits to help out please let me know. I can’t wait to get to know the city, the inspiring women who work here, and the impactful non-profits that are run here.