Being A Male Advocate

In my role as chair of the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT), I’ve learned that one of the powerful things men can do in the gender equality discussion is be a male advocate.

This is easy to say, but difficult to do. Recently, there has been some controversy around the role of male advocates and an ensuing debate, not about the core issue of gender diversity, but about how men who are trying to be helpful potentially make things worse through their actions.

As a result Catherine Ashcraft and Wendy Dubow, two of the senior research scientists at NCWIT, wrote an article for Fast Company titled The Tricky (and Necessary) Business of Being a Male Advocate for Gender Equality. After explaining why male advocates are important, they list six specific things that male advocates should consider in the context of being effective, constructive, and helpful.

  • Listen
  • Don’t assume all women want to participate in diversity efforts
  • Reframe negative reactions as valuable opportunities for developing empathy
  • Realize that stereotype threat can apply to male advocacy
  • Approach advocacy with a growth mind-set
  • Be aware of the limitations of the male-female framing of this conversation

If you are interested or involved in the discussion and dynamic about gender diversity in tech, I strongly encourage you to read this article. It’s a very helpful one.

Rally Software Acquired By CA Technologies for $480 Million

Congrats to my friends at Rally Software on the announcement that they’ve signed a definitive agreement to be acquired by CA Technologies for $480 million.

Part of the fun of having a blog for a long time is that it captures some of the history – in the moment – of what’s going on. For example, from a post in 2008 about Rally’s $16.85m financing, I riffed on the origins of the company.

Rally started out life as F4 Technologies.  I remember my friend Ryan Martens sitting down with me and Chris Wand around 2001 and walking us through his idea for changing the how he approached managing the software development process.  I can’t remember if Ryan used the word Agile at that time, but I remember scribbles on a white board that listed out all the different software that Ryan had used at BEA to manage his dev team and how maddening it was to try to integrate information in Word, Excel, Project, a dev workbench, a set of testing tools, and the support / QA system.  Ryan had a vision for an integration web-based system to layer on top of all of this to help support and manage the software development process.

We weren’t the first investor in Rally.  Ryan quickly raised about $400k of friends and family money.  We offered Ryan space to work out of our office which he did for a year or so as he got things up and running.  About a year after he got started, he was ready to raise a venture financing.  At the same time, his partner at his previous company – Tim Miller – was doing an entrepreneur-in-residence at a local Boulder VC firm (Boulder Ventures).  Ryan was encouraged to team up with Tim and shortly after that happened we co-led the first round VC financing with Boulder Ventures.

It has been a rocket ship from there.  Tim, Ryan, and team have created a phenomenal company that is built on two trends that have picked up massive speed in the past few years: (1) Agile and (2) SaaS.  In 2003 – while Agile was known – it was largely limited to ISVs and a few leading IT organizations.  SaaS was beginning to be talked about as Salesforce.com’s success (and leverage from the SaaS model) became apparent.

Or if you want to go back to 2004 and 2005 when I was really learning about Agile, well before it had become a household name, you could read my posts Agile Software Development with SCRUM or Do You Develop Software For A Living? – Get Agile with Rally Release 5.

Or maybe dip into the 2006 and 2007 time frame when Rally was in an award cycle with my posts Rally’s New Financing and the E&Y Entrepreneur of the Year Award and Boulder 2007 Esprit Entrepreneur Awards.

Over the fast dozen years, Rally has gone from a raw startup to a 500 person public company. Tim Miller (CEO) and Ryan Martens (CTO, founder) have been working together from the start of the journey. Jim Lejeal, the CFO, was an original angel investor, then board member, and then CFO joining full time when the company was around 200 people.

It makes me so happy to reflect on my relationship with each of Tim, Ryan, and Jim. I first met Tim when he had just started Avitek (his previous company) working in the same office space as Andrew Currie, who had just started Email Publishing (my first angel investment in Boulder.) I met Ryan via Young Entrepreneurs Organization – we were both in the same YEO forum. And I was the seed investor, via Mobius, in Jim’s second company (Raindance, which he co-founded with Paul Berberian – CEO of Orbotix and Todd Vernon – CEO of VictorOps.) But more importantly, I’m close friends with each of them, even though my direct involvement in Rally ended about two years ago when the company went public.

There are hundreds of paragraphs I could write about all of the amazing things Rally Software has done for the Boulder Startup Community and for the extended city of Boulder. But I’ll end with one of them – the creation of the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado (now Pledge 1%). The story starts in 2007 with the founding of EFCO, which Ryan and I spearheaded and had a huge punch line in 2013 when Rally Made a Gift of $1.3 Million To The Boulder Community after their IPO. Ryan continues to head up EFCO and is co-founder of Pledge 1%, which is the effort to take EFCO international.

To the extended Rally Software family past and present – congratulations. You’ve built something very special that is part of the long arc story of Boulder. And – to Tim and Ryan – thank you for letting me participate in your journey.

Societal Structures Change Much Slower Than The Machines

I’m at Startup Iceland today. I like Iceland – this is the second time I’ve been here. It’s the closest place on earth I’ve been to Alaska, which I love dearly. And it’s fun to see and hang out with my friend Bala Kamallakharan. As a super bonus, Om Malik –  who I adore – is also here.

Om and I did a fireside chat with Bala. At the end, Bala asked about the future and what we were uncomfortable with. Neither of us is uncomfortable. Instead, we are both optimistic and intrigued with what is going on. Om talked about his view is that this is the most exciting time to be alive and went on a riff about what is in front of us.

I started with my premise – that the machines have already taken over and are just waiting very patiently for us to catch up. They are happy to let us do a lot of work for them, including feeding them with data, building homes for them, and connecting them together. In the mean time, they are biding their time, doing their thing, along side us.

If you wind the clock forward 50 years, our current state will be incomprehensible to that future human. The pace of technological change at all levels is accelerating at a pace we can’t fathom. Some people are pessimistic and now concerned about the notion of a real advanced intelligence. I’m optimistic and accepting of it, not fighting the inevitability of the path we are on or being in denial about our ability as a society to control things.

This is the rant I ended up on. Human structures change slowly. It’s unevenly distributed based on geography, culture, and political philosophy. Our legal system lags far behind what is actually happening, and as a result we are in the middle of a bunch of debates around technology, including things around privacy, net neutrality, data storage, and surveillance. Our existing approach as a species to dealing with the challenges are painful to watch from the future.

It’s fun to ponder how quickly things are changing along with how badly certain parts of society wants to keep them from changing, hanging on to the “way things are” or even the “way things were.” Don’t ever forget the sound of inevitability.

Weekend Reading on Startup Communities

Amy and I had a very quiet weekend hanging out with each other, Brooks the Wonder Dog, and Super Cooper the Pooper. We like Memorial Day weekend – it always feels like the beginning of summer to us.

I read three books over the weekend. Since I was home, rather than reading on my Kindle, I grabbed some books from the infinite pile of physical books I have in my office. New stuff shows up every week – mostly business and entrepreneurship books, and the occasional “I think you’d like this” book. In addition, whenever I want something that isn’t on the Kindle, I just buy the physical book.

So this weekend was about startup communities with a bonus book on the startup visa tossed in for good measure.

The first was The Making of Silicon Valley: A One Hundred Year Renaissance. This book was written in 1995 and published by the Santa Clara Valley Historical Association so the updated subtitle should be “A One Hundred Year Renaissance – 20 Years Later.” Anyone interested in Silicon Valley, what it means, and how it came together should read this book carefully from cover to cover. There is so much shortened history out there, where the most extensive typically only goes back to Shockley, Fairchild, The Traitorous Eight, and the founding of Intel. The history is so much richer, the one page stories about the companies the shaped each era are just awesome, and the perspective of what 120 years really means for a the startup community that is undeniably the most robust in the world right now is very powerful. It also ends just as the rise of the Internet begins, so it’s the long arc of Silicon Valley is not overshadowed by the last twenty years.

The next book I read was Screw the Valley: A Coast-to-Coast Tour of America’s New Tech Startup Culture. I don’t like the title – it’s too intentionally provocative for my tastes because I’m not anti-Silicon Valley but rather pro-building startup communities everywhere – but the book is excellent. Timothy Sprinkle interviewed me early in his process and then set off on an almost one year trip across the US where he spent real time in Detroit, New York, Las Vegas, Austin, Kansas City, Raleigh-Durham, and Boulder. He writes extremely deep stories about each startup community, along with strengths, weaknesses, and things that are going on that shape them. I show up in a number of times, both personally along with references to my book Startup Communities, and Timothy does a nice job of using some of the concepts from Startup Communities to draw out major themes in each city. This is a great snapshot in time – right now – to show how startup communities develop anywhere.

The last book I read was The Startup Visa: Key to Job Growth & Economic Prosperity in America. Tahmina Watson wrote an extremely clear and easy to process book on the problem of the startup visa, why the US immigration system and visa process doesn’t work for entrepreneurs, why this matters, and makes recommendations about what to do about it. She also gives a nice history of the various bills in Congress, going back to S.3029 in 2010 (Lugar, Kerry) titled “The Startup Visa.” It’s disappointing that it’s five years later and Congress can’t seem to get a bill on the Startup Visa passed – or anything on immigration for that matter – but that’s life in government.

If you want a real punch line to the whole situation, read the short article from the NY Times Magazine – Debunking the Myth of the Job-Stealing Immigrant by Adam Davidson. Amy handed it to me on Monday and I said “I don’t really feel like reading another thing on immigration because I’m so annoyed by our lack of progress.” But then I did, and it was a great read.

Stannis Baratheon – King of Westeros, Lord of Grammar

It’s always a fun experience to be laying on the couch next to my wife Amy watching something on our 90″ TV when suddenly she grabs the remote, says “that’s awesome”, rewinds, and plays it again. It’s especially humbling when it has to do with grammar.

We’ve both been fans of Stannis Baratheon and regularly refer to him as the one true king when we talk about him. As in “Stannis The One True King.” Two weeks ago, Stannis demonstrated that he’s also the Lord of Grammar.

Last night, every time we saw Stannis, we cried our “Stannis The One True King and Lord of Grammar.” It turns out this isn’t the first time he’s done this (although it’s the first time we noticed.) See the following clip from Season 2.

The dude has my vote.