Women, Ponytails, and Unconscious Bias

image from flic.krSocial froth is thick with talk of unconscious bias in Silicon Valley. Amidst it, I was bemused to see that my last 500 Women lightning talk had inspired this Medium article from Deema Tamimi...on ponytails. (Photo credit: Swirl Ponytail Barbies by RomitaGirl67)

Every entrepreneur I know has worried about image, but asking if you should wear your hair up or down makes you feel like an idiot. It's not exactly covered by TechCrunch.

So I laughed out loud, then earnestly responded with why, in a valley swimming with complex social dynamics, a simple ponytail has impact.

First: Not everyone (male or female) needs to wear their hair back. But put it up if it’s distracting — your hair shouldn't mask facial expressions, block eye contact, or otherwise interfere with establishing trust and connection. More importantly, pin your hair back if it is remotely possible you will play with it, brush it away, or blow it back during a meeting. Nothing says “CEO” to an investor like fidgeting with your hair, earrings, etc. You don’t want us to pay attention to anything besides your pitch.

Or like your mama used to say, "keep your hands away from your face."

Second: Numerous studies show that for women, playing with hair is a common “preening” gesture to demonstrate sexual interest. Or it’s a nervous twitch. Neither screams "I'm a winning founder", and I imagine most women would be horrified to realize they sent either signal during a pitch. Body language reactions are almost impossible to change, so just remove the variable. If your hair is out of your unconscious reach, then you eliminate the risk of female-centric messaging that hurts your chance at funding.

When all is said and done, here's my advice for entrepreneurial ladies: if your hairline is high and back enough to keep your hair out of your face; if you don't fidget; or if you have gravitas, then wear your hair however the hell you like to. Otherwise, think about buying stock in Goody.

Is Streaming the Music Industry’s Gateway Drug?

image from flic.krThe sharp and fabulous Zahavah Levine, VP of Global Music Partnerships at Google Play, shared a number of insights in discussion with Ted Cohen of TAG Strategic at today's SF MusicTech Summit. One thread that stood out for me: much ado has been made on the death of downloads. But is instead of streaming being a downloads killer, is it really the music industry's gateway drug? Is Taylor Swift making a horrible mistake?

According to Levine, Google Play is investing the massive resources at its disposal upon streaming consumers: 

'Subscription is by far the fastest-growing revenue segment of the industry. We'll [Google Play] extract more dollars per person, and in exchange, we'll give them access to any music, any time, from anywhere in the world.'

At the same time, Levine notes that her average Google Play subscriber spends $120/year, and 67% of music revenue comes from download sales.  This compares to a mere $40-50 spent per year by pre-digital-era consumers. 

'We are still in a world where more listeners are buying music than subscribing to it. There is room for both models for many years to come.' 

Levine noted that streaming is Google's most effective tool for download conversions, though it wasn't clear that this was important to the company's Play strategy. Rather, we still see a strategic focus on the streaming experience:

'Google Play has the opportunity to be profitable, at scale...the question is, how do we grow subscriptions into a mass product?'

If Google's experience with streaming-to-download conversion is a reasonable proxy for the industry, it bodes well for artists. (Google pays artists the same percentage on either a download or a stream, so the artist makes more from downloads.)

UPDATE: Josh Constine of TechCrunch authored a more detailed article on Levine's talk, and Google's miraculous ability to grow download sales. If streaming is Play's secret weapon for selling downloads, music publishers and artists (Taylor Swift, I'm looking at you) should take a hard look at their attitude towards streaming.

 

 

 

The *Other* Reason to Stop Using Booth Babes

There's a practical, less-controversial, economic reason for marketers to stop using booth babes...they are a hopelessly outdated marketing technique. Booth babes aren't targeted, can't be a personalized experience (wearable LEDs aside), and aren't strategic to my tech brand. (Unless, of course, I am running a modeling site.) Not to mention that I can't quantify the ROI, or optimize the results. If I were back in the marketing saddle, choosing from current platforms and techniques, I wouldn't allocate spend to decorative meat sacks...no matter how lovely.

Thanks to Raygun Brown for pointing this out (and in a much more entertaining manner), based upon his recent experience at PAX Australia:

"Don't you dare bring boobs into this. Don't try to deceive me with cheap and misguided arousal. This isn't an army base in the 1950's. I can get boobs at home. I don't need you trying to pathetically circumvent my genuine interest and pushing a marketing technique at me that has been around for several hundred years. More people are interested in video games in 2013 more than ever before. They are interested in video games, not your banal song-and-dance. Video games are exceedingly creative. You are not."

...and to the extent looks matter, maybe I could just hire professional hair and makeup for the good sales and marketing folk who *should* be on the front line with a potential customer. Just sayin'.

Through Growth, Crowdfunding Continues Its Search For Identity

Collection-of-crowdfunding-company-logosThanks to the success of platforms such as Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, crowdfunding has become mainstream. Even among the trailblazers here at CrowdConf 2012, however, it's still a controversial topic.

The impending passage of the JOBS Act has highlighted many practical implementation challenges. What can crowdfunding be used for? Who benefits? How does it work? Competing - sometimes conflicting - crowdfunding models not only deliver different benefits, but also have different challenges. The stakes are high: as the space becomes more defined, and standards more firmly established, the opportunity for disruption is massive.

Fundraisers: Realizing Ideas vs. Building Businesses

Most traditionally venture-backed entrepreneurs that use crowdfunding are only using it for a portion of their round (say, 20%) as vs. the whole round. Slava Rubin (IndieGoGo) adds color to this by noting that money isn't the primary reason to use a crowdfunding platform: "When you do a crowdfunding campaign, you get to gauge demand, test marketing and iterate cheaply, gain exposure you couldn't otherwise, and obtain data. Campaigns take you from a transaction to a relationship. People will pay margin to build ongoing relationships."

Dawn Lepore (Prosper) noted that entrepreneurs (the everyday, non venture-backed kind) make up a substantial portion of Prosper's users. For them, Prosper is an alternative to banks - the average Prosper user receives funds within six days of filling out an application. 

Independent creators, on the other hand, may funnel their entire fundraising effort through a single campaign. According to Becca Plofker (Idea.me), many creators don't consider themselves entrepreneurs - they just want tools and support to bring their ideas to life. 

Funders: Passionate Patrons vs. Day Traders

On one extreme, the passionate funder of an indie album doesn't expect a fiscal reward for his/her support. They're creating the change they want to see in the world (crowdfunding can be applied to public good), or enjoying being part of a cultural experience.

At the other extreme, you see equity funders, who expect a fiscal return. Equity funders not only use platforms because they deliver access to opportunities, but also because through a crowdfunding platform, the small investor can (usually) obtain the same terms that more sophisticated investors agree to. These small investors can get a taste of the high-risk, high-reward investing that existing angels take part in, or they can invest in a local mom-and-pop.

Skeptic Naval Ravikant (AngelList) puts a sharper point on small investors entering the private market:  "Only 1/N angel-backed companies will make money in the private market...there will be lawsuits." That said, it remains to be seen what expectations the market will have for equity crowdfunding. As private asset marketplaces democratize fundraising beyond Silicon Valley tech companies, the "restaurant investor" model may be closest. Restaurant investors enjoy the perks of being an investor, and may be able to get some financial returns; but they also realize that not all restaurants make it, and easy liquidity (a la public markets)

Continue reading "Through Growth, Crowdfunding Continues Its Search For Identity"

Rebel Unit Seeking (Paid!) Video Agency Interns

image from b.vimeocdn.comRebel Unit is looking for three interns (20-40 hours/week) to support production, operations, and creative. Paid positions. Office in downtown SF, walkable to BART. (Transparency note: my husband Shannon is the CEO/co-founder and positions would report to him.)

Rebel Unit clients are primarily tech - Salesforce, Zuora, Docusign, etc – and they produce story content like this: 

They've been too busy to write up job reqs (they went straight from producing all Dreamforce content to a big Brazilian gig, and are in bleeding need of more bandwidth) but here are some standard-looking descriptions I "borrowed" online. Take them as general gist as vs actual job specifics.

Production Intern: You will work closely with our producers and editors, assisting them in all aspects of pre-production, production and post-production. Responsibilities include: assisting in the coordination of video shoots (creating call sheets and crew schedules, gathering props), serving as a production assistant and grip on set, and coordinating tapes, logs, and digitizing footage in the post-production process. You will also assist with day-to-day in-house needs. (i.e. maintaining video library, filing, archiving, etc…). You never have to go get coffee as our intern, but you do get to drink all the coffee you want, and gain some useful industry experience.

Creative Intern: Our ideal Creative Services Intern will be a talented videographer and video editor with a knack for visual storytelling. Photography skills and basic design skills will be a major plus. The more versatility the better. Beyond that, we’re looking for creativity, curiosity and the ability to thrive in our flexible, fast-paced environment.

Operations InternThe Operations Intern will learn various aspects of how a small agency runs, while helping us keep ours running smoothly (includes both business ops and tech ops). This is a great opportunity for the entrepreneurial-minded student to get his/her career started in business administration and operations.

Please do share as you see fit! Folks should contact Shannon Newton (shannon-ta-rebelunit-dot-com) with interest/resume/portfolio or etc as is appropriate to role.