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Women in Tech

September 27, 2019
Written By
September 27, 2019
Episode 8
29:55
Written By

Transcript

Speaker 1:

Welcome to the Closed Session, How to Get Paid in SiliconValley with your host, Tom Chavez and Vivek Vaidya.

Tom Chavez:

Welcome to this edition of the closed session. I'm TomChavez, I'm over here with Vivek Vaidya. Vic, say hi.

Vivek Vaidya:

Hello everyone.

Tom Chavez:

We are excited because we have a special guest today,first time in the history of the Close Session where we get to bring insomebody super smart and fabulous and interview her, say hi to Deborah Kader.Hi Deborah.

Deborah Kader:

Hi. Thank you for having me.

Tom Chavez:

So today we are going to take up the general issue ofwomen in tech and nobody better than Deborah to speak authoritatively aboutsome of these topics. Before we dive in, I thought we should quickly take inventoryof how we got here and why we think it's so important to devote a podcast tothis topic. So I'll go first. At our last company, there was this moment whenwe're gathering around the table for a big, big meeting with leadership in NewYork. I had gotten there early and our chief revenue officer, Matt was thereearly. We were covering off on a couple of different topics. And so we'rehanging out and suddenly leadership starts to string in and it's just one whiteguy after another. And Matt looks at me, he can see my crest falling and hesays, "Yeah man."

And so I realized in that moment like, oh yeah, it wasn'tintentional, but here we are. I made this mess. And look, at the end of theday, we were fortunate to have lots of key people like Deborah and others inkey positions, but the ratio, and it wasn't just about the ratio, it was justthe tenor and the feeling of the company just wasn't what I wanted it to be.And so I had that moment and that for me really was a turning point where, and[inaudible 00:02:01], as we got going with Superset and all the other companiesthat we've been building, we just said, we're not going to get up off thecouch. We're not really going to even get going unless and until we have theright kind of lineup burnt into the founding team from the get go.

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah, that's absolutely right. And there was a veryinteresting article, I guess we can call it that. It was a long article thatcame out in New York Times a few months ago, was titled The Secret History ofWomen and Coding. And not many people know this, but the world's firstprogrammer was actually a woman.

Tom Chavez:

That's right.

Vivek Vaidya:

Lady Ada Lovelace.

Tom Chavez:

That's right.

Vivek Vaidya:

And so since then-

Tom Chavez:

Grace Hopper, not far behind her-

Vivek Vaidya:

Grace Hopper, not far behind her. And there were a lot ofwomen named in that article of programmers. And since then there's been thishuge drop in women engineers, women in tech in general, programmers inparticular. There are lots of reasons cited in the article for that. And we'lltake some of them up in this podcast. But we are here and I think one of thethings that I think we'll pick up in this podcast is what can we do about it?Well, how do we go forward and try to solve some of these problems that existthat plague or industry today?

Tom Chavez:

So Deborah, you want to contextualize some of this for usas well?

Deborah Kader:

Yeah, so it's interesting because when I went to school,the university I went to was very forward thinking about diversity and it was,gasp, 25% women in engineering for my class. But nationwide it was only 16%.Now that article, I read that too, Vivek, and it was very interesting about thereasons why there was a dropoff in the 50s and 60s and it slowed to climb out.But I'm really hopeful that with the movements today and the tension that it'sgetting, and it really does have to come from all levels, it has to come fromsome tips I'll provide at the end of the podcast, but also leaders like yourselfand recognizing that it's so much easier to start from the get go rather thanfix the problem. I've heard people say, "Wow, I'm a 100 person startup intechnology and I only have three women. Oh, I got to fix that." You're notgoing to fix it. That ship has sailed. It's really hard to do later on.

Tom Chavez:

So let's hurdle in and let's start with the big, bigquestions. So just for the sake of being provocative, is there really a problemof systemic gender bias? There's a view out there that says, "Move on,nothing to see here. You're trumping it up and making a mountain out of a molehill." It has a cousin view that says, "Don't worry, the market willeventually correct itself." So the essence of these views I think is thatthere's no intentional systemic effort to exclude women from tech. What do youthink about that, Deborah?

Deborah Kader:

Look, there's systemic bias everywhere and it's not justgender, there's racial and other aspects as well. And it just comes down to,our brains are very complex and they were developed to be able to process largeamounts of data very, very quickly. And to do that it has shortcuts, which iswonderful when you think about doing things like driving. If we drove today,like your very first time we got behind a wheel we'd never get anywhere. It iswhite knuckled. You're thinking about all the intricacies and we create theseshortcuts so we can do great repeatable tasks. And that's what these shortcutsare good for, is these repeatable tasks. But then it bleeds over and somepeople call them these implicit bias or mind bugs or whatever into how we workwith people.

So you go into a room and you see the one woman in theroom and assume that she's the subordinate and not the manager. And then yousee the tall white-haired guy and you think he's the boss and not theassistant. So we have these mind bugs, these shortcuts that we take, but itdoes get under problem and we just have to be very, very mindful.

Tom Chavez:

Blind spots abound.

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah, really. So where do these problems start? Thesesystemic biases that you're talking about, are they baked into the highrecruiting process? How we source candidates? Are they baked into the hiringprocess? In other words, do we have qualified women candidates who are not gettinghired because of these biases? Or is it something larger going on?

Deborah Kader:

It's all over the place. That's really hard to answer thatthis one, just one place to look at. Absolutely, even the sourcing side of thecoin is people just go through their networks and what do their networks looklike? Well traditionally like them. And so you find people who went to yourschool, you find people who you held your last position with at your last job.And that's how we just tend to look at leadership groups at some of these bigcompanies that they all look alike. They all came from the same largecorporation, they all went to the same school, they all are the same gender. Sothat's one side of it. And it really does take effort to look beyond your traditionalnetwork. It's harder, but it's important.

Vivek Vaidya:

One of the things I also found, just to build on that isit's also sometimes an incentives problem. You're working with a team ofrecruiters and they're incentivized to fill positions as quickly as possible.So that exacerbates the problem. They go look where the fishing is good andmost of the fish in the pond are males, Indians, Chinese, white, what have you,but they're males, right? And then they're asked to fill positions in a short amountof time and the pipes are naturally filled. They don't make the effort, to yourpoint, they don't make the effort to go out and seek women candidates ordiverse candidates in particular so that we can make sure that, again, to yourpoint, the problem is fixed from the get go.

Deborah Kader:

And just on that point is looking on the hiring side, isthat we also look for shortcuts on, "Oh, you went to this school and havethis degree. Well I'm just going to mental shortcut that you have the capacityto do this job." And honestly, as workforce changes and AI and automationis going to change the way that jobs are done and the more of the soft skillsand the collaboration skills are going to and the problem solving skills aregoing to become more valuable. That's something that humans will have tocontinually do. I think we just have to be more mindful and creative aboutevaluating those other skills rather than just looking at a degree or a school.

Tom Chavez:

Yeah, look, I think 25% Deborah, that's what I think Iheard you say, 25% of the people you went to college with and were studyingengineering were women. That's a remarkable ratio.

Deborah Kader:

Yeah. This year it's 50.

Tom Chavez:

That's amazing. When I was in college and certainly ingraduate school, it was just mostly dudes. And so when it came time to startthe first company, and this is a common thing for entrepreneurs, you just hirethe known quantities who are there at the ready. We started wrapped with abunch of people who were just friends of mine from Stanford graduate school,because I knew them and there weren't actually graduate school, undergrad wasterrible, graduate school was appalling. So there were just no women to drawfrom. So all of this is to say there is a supply problem.

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah. I'll give you more stark example. In our class of250 students at [inaudible 00:09:09] to Delhi entering in 1991, there were 16women. That's it. 16 women out of 250.

Deborah Kader:

Right. But look at the graduating classes today. They'revery different. So it's 50 50, my alma mater this year. And I will ask you,Vivek the technologist, do you want to take on a 50 year old coder who hasn'tcoded since Fortran? Or would you like to take somebody who's out of school andwho's thought about some of the newer technologies and you have more supplythat's coming into the market?

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah, I totally agree with you. I think that a lot haschanged in the last, I don't know, five, seven years, where the base, thedenominator, as we like to think of it, has expanded. Your point about 50% ofwomen graduating now are, 50% of people graduating now are women. We need thatdenominator expand to solve the supply problem, Tom, that you're alluding to.

Tom Chavez:

And I think you touched on it Vivek, the idea now ofdrawing from that larger denominator to set up slates of candidates for everyrole, whether you're talking about founders or employees who come later, alwaysinsists now, and this is a habit that we're into, it's something you need to getintentional about whatever your role, whatever your gender, you just have to beconscious of it so that you're not stuck in that place that I found myself atCrux. It's again, as Deborah you point out, there's nothing intentional aboutit. There are these mind bugs and blind spots that plague us. We're not evenvividly aware of them most of the time. So lesson until you stop and say, we'regoing to pay a lot of attention to this, by the way, it's hard. So we have towork harder to find the candidates we're after here. But that's the first stepthat you take towards getting it right.

So look, we're talking a lot about some of the systemicproblems, we'll keep coming back to these topics, but Deborah, I wanted tocontinue in my role of provocateur and ask you, so there are systems and forcesand slates and dynamics and ratios and in school and otherwise, but can we getmore specific and more personal about the things maybe women are doing and howthey're showing up in ways that could inadvertently perpetuate the problem?

Deborah Kader:

Yeah, and let me just be very clear, I'm going to bespeaking from my experience, which does come from a generational level as well,and I think is similar to maybe generations above me. But I certainly am seeingwaves of change in some of the newer generations that are hitting theworkforce, which I think are really positive. But I come from a generationwhere you think about in first grade and you get dressed up for your schoolpicture and boys are said, "Wow, you look so clever." And girls aresaid, "Wow, you look so pretty." And we were rewarded as girls bybeing pretty and kind and quiet. And that just perpetuates in how you grow upand go through the ranks. It was more important to be agreeable than to be rightor a leader. So that's just what happens when I entered the workforce.

And there's a lot of battles there that I've seen againstfrom other peers, not wanting to raise your hand, not wanting to createriffles, not wanting to be seen as aggressive, whereas a male would be seen asassertive, that's the clever/pretty side of the coin in the workforce. So Ithink there's a lot of just cultural aspects that were at least against me andmy generation, and I think it's really important to be cognizant of that. AndI'm hopeful that that's changing with this new slate of people.

Tom Chavez:

Can I just interject quickly there though, because I thinkVivek and I have always perceived you as nothing short of assertive and clearabout what you want and how you show up. So can you talk a little bit about thejourney maybe you've taken there or was there a transformation somewhere alongthe way before we got to know you? Or has it happened in the years we've beenworking together and we're just not again, vividly aware of it?

Deborah Kader:

Yes. And here's where history, just remember the morerecent me more vividly than the past me, I was very shy and reticent to speakand I wouldn't want to say anything unless I was 99% sure of the answer. And ittook me a while to realize that, wait, the threshold that most men in the room,which means everybody else but me because I was often the only woman in theroom is about 75%. And so maybe I can lower my own threshold down and speak up.

Tom Chavez:

My personal threshold is 40.

Deborah Kader:

That's debatable.

Tom Chavez:

On a good day.

Vivek Vaidya:

We've talked about the certainty of knowledge ratio in anearlier version of this podcast. And I think our starting to certainlyknowledge ratios are all low, which is a good thing.

Deborah Kader:

The other moment that really struck me was a senior exec.We were going through a rapid growth phase in the company, he turns to me andsaid, "Deborah, we need more women." And I just looked at him like,are you blind? I'm standing right here. Why? What do you not see? It's like,"Oh, get me more women," which is dumbfounding for a variety ofreasons. Like I just have a cave full of talented women. I could put the batsignal out and they'll come out and come apply for jobs.

Tom Chavez:

Bring them to me.

Deborah Kader:

Exactly. I just don't have those. And then that he was notlooking at me and seeing an opportunity for me to really step up and take moreresponsibility. And that's when I realized I wasn't really being forthcomingabout my own goals and my own aspirations. I was being just waiting to behanded things and to recognize for the amazing job I thought I was doing ratherthan really sitting down and understanding is it a perception problem? Dopeople really not see what I'm doing? Maybe all these men with big mouths whoare talking at a 75% threshold or 40% threshold are getting heard becausethey're getting more air time and I'm not getting their air time. And that wasa real turning point for me.

Tom Chavez:

There's no question if I could just amplify that point.For me, it's always been interesting to be on the receiving end of inboundsfrom employees. And I noticed that men are, again, way too certain of allthings, but including their talent and their contributions to the cost. So manytimes they're fantastic, but there's this feeling that too many of them havethat, wait a minute, I am being left behind here. What about me? What about myprice? How are you going to help me get to the next level? And by the way,you're not paying me enough. Get that every day of the week. And then you haveso many women who are just killing it and crushing it in every possible way whodon't toot their horn enough or feel sheepish about highlighting theircontributions.

Deborah Kader:

I've seen that directly on my team. I had both men andwomen on my team. And if there was anybody who thought less of themself than Ithought of them, it was invariably a female. And if there was anybody whothought that they were killing it, and I thought there was still a little moreroom for improvement, it was invariably a male.

Vivek Vaidya:

But I think that's where we need to hold ourselvesaccountable as leaders, and men in particular need to really think hard aboutwhat kind of attributes and values they want to inculcate and celebrate andreward. I don't think we necessarily want to turn women into men. Absolutelynot. Which will require a mind shift on the part of men to change as well. Yes,recognize that, oh yeah, Sally is actually doing a lot of good work, but is notspeaking up as much as John, who is not doing as much work, but is alwayssaying where the hell comes out comes in his mind. And so that's theresponsibility that leaders need to take seriously.

Deborah Kader:

Absolutely. Absolutely.

Tom Chavez:

Hey, so let's switch gears a little bit here. I want toexplore, so the context today is one where with Me Too and all of the othermemes at work, there's a lot of awareness and I think a lot of executives andleaders are talking about their commitment to getting this right. And itstrikes me that some of them are extremely authentic in that regard andsometimes maybe others are less so. And so I wonder, Deborah, if you could talka little bit about how you perceive the people who are paying at lip service versusthe ones who are earnestly getting the job done.

Deborah Kader:

I think there are companies that are just paying at lipservice and they put this big marketing blitz out there. They look at theoverall numbers. So great, we're 30% women, 50% women, whatever, withoutdigging down deeper and realizing they're all in one department and they'redoing terribly in engineering and technology, for example. The other piece iswhere maybe they'll do title inflation to make their numbers look better, orthey put programs in place to figure out how to bring women into VP level, butthere's no follow through. So you really have to put your money where yourmouth is and you have to have the intentions farther than just a marketingcampaign and something that you could put in the papers about how good you'redoing. Yes, that's important. And I'm glad they're doing it. I'm glad there'sbeing attention drawn to pay equity, but it's the longevity of it and it's inthe everyday motions.

So not just having a program, but to the small pointsyou're making, Vivek is, are we having that in terms of our behavior? In everysingle performance review are we looking at the language we're using on menversus women? Are we valuing as a company the traits and the capabilities thatSally's bringing as opposed to somebody else?

Vivek Vaidya:

Absolutely. And I think just to add to that, there are alot of well-intentioned efforts across a lot of companies, but sometimes Ithink they are bereft of reality and context. So oftentimes companies willthrow out numbers like we want 35%, 30, 35% women in leadership roles andwhatnot. And that as a goal, that's laudable. But you have to realize that ifyou do the analysis, 35% women means might translate into hundred positions.And in order to have hundred women as leaders, you need to have thedenominator, you need to have enough women rising through the ranks and peopledon't pay attention to that. And so-

Tom Chavez:

Unless a hundred of those women, wherever you find them,automatically get put into those roles. In other words, to our earlier pointabout a slate, three in one, one in five of the contending candidates get thejob. And if you don't do that, then my worry is that it devolves too quicklyinto tokenism.

Vivek Vaidya:

Exactly. Exactly.

Tom Chavez:

We're going to get anybody into that role just for thesake of having.

Vivek Vaidya:

And that's also not good. It's not good for the company,it's not good for the rest of the team,

Tom Chavez:

Individual, yeah.

Vivek Vaidya:

And so on, so forth.

Tom Chavez:

Well and that applies obviously to questions of gender. Itapplies to questions of race and diversity, partly.

Vivek Vaidya:

Everybody, everyone.

Tom Chavez:

The worry that I've had and will continue to have is I'm aproud Latinx guy and I want to see more Latinos in these roles wherever I can.Please don't just put somebody into the job just for the sake of checking thatbox. That for me sets everybody back. So what I heard you getting to Vivek isthe question of, well how big is the total available market of potentialcontenders who are women for the roles that you're going toward? This takes usback to that supply problem we talked about earlier. So the elephant in thechapel for me is that, look, this isn't something that gets solved in a monthor a year, because you have supply pipeline problems of not enough women inSTEM. Or I'm proposing, I'm asking Deborah what do you make of that? Are theyout there, we're just not finding them? Or is there this fundamental supplyproblem that I perceive?

Deborah Kader:

For top C level execs, yes, of course there's a supplyproblem because it's going to take 25, 30 years for those people to go upthrough the ranks. But in early graduates, no. And don't get off the hook forthat. And also companies who are putting all their attention in K through fivegirls STEM programs, thank you, that's wonderful. But if you're doing that andnot also thinking about going to other type of universities or looking at othertypes of degrees or people coming out of recent boot camps and having reentryprograms for women, entry women today, you're just writing your own ticket toget off the hook and that doesn't gel well.

Vivek Vaidya:

Yeah, I think I agree with that. I think especially in thelast five to seven years, the entry level distribution, if you will, haschanged significantly. And I think it is the responsibility of everyone whohires at various levels to really look at their hiring processes, theirrecruitment techniques, the networks they're reaching out into to really have abalanced pipeline of candidates that they're looking at. And your job actuallyunfortunately doesn't stop once you've hired the right amount of women, youhave to make sure, to your point you were making earlier, you have to make surethat the environment, work environment is nurtures the women in the right way.As a leader, you can't just be rewarding, aggressive to certain, but low onknowledge behavior, whereas, and you have to make sure that you make the effortto call out Sally and others who are not speaking up enough in meetings.

Deborah Kader:

And I'm glad that there are more remote workers and thatit is more accustomed for people to be working asynchronously or from theirhomes. Because it does give women who have traditionally been more in thesandwich generation and been caregivers the luxury to be able to do both, havea career and still have some family duties. And it doesn't stop there. Thereare men that are caregivers as well that are taking care of [inaudible00:23:22] parents or single fathers and it really should be inclusive ofeverybody.

Vivek Vaidya:

So before we close out, let's talk about how we solve theproblem and let's approach it from both a personal and systems perspective.Tom, what do you think we can do to combat these systemic issues?

Tom Chavez:

Yeah, look, I was being a little evocative or maybe justflat out rhetorical at the beginning because in fact, I do believe that it'spossible to name and claim and fix these systemic biases. That's exactly whatwe're aiming to do with a company that the three of us have launched calledEscalara. So Escalara is an HR employee experience platform that begins from apremise that these questions of inclusion can be measured, quantified. It ispossible to systematize diversity for companies large and medium size who arestruggling with these issues. What got me excited and quite passionate aboutthis is that there's to earlier point, there's so much lip service, there's somuch talkie talk about this stuff. What are we going to do about it? If youwant to systematize something in the world and take it in a particulardirection, we believe collectively that software is a great way to do that.

So the claim on the table is that we can systematizediversity inclusion. And so that's what Escalara is about. Now we start withthat premise, but on a broader level, if you look at marketing, which is aspace that we've wallowed in, former marketer, modern marketers would say, thisis art, not science. You can't possibly put the numbers to it. It's toocomplex, it's too rich. Well, guess what? It turns out that you can quantifymarketing and making marketing a lot more data driven is exactly this date ofplay today. We think the exact same thing's going to be happening with HR. Itis possible to quantify and systematize squishy things like belongingness,connectedness and so on. It's certainly easy to put the numbers to thequestions of hires and roles and backgrounds, the way we've been talking aboutit in this podcast. So the ambition over here for Escalara is to really get allof that right in a comprehensive software platform.

Vivek Vaidya:

Great. And now switching to the personal side, Deborah,what advice do you have for aspiring women who want to pursue careers in tech?

Deborah Kader:

Yeah well, whether it's in tech or just any more maledominated field, and I've touched on some of these is first is just think aboutyour threshold. You don't have to be 99% certain before raising your hand orspeaking up even without raising your hand. Find a threshold that is meaningfulfor you. And I don't get it right all the time. I know I'm constantly over andunder correcting myself and thank you that you know me so well, and call me outwhen I've gone too far in one direction. But just be aware of that. And thensecondly, find your personal superpower and what's going to be special for youand is it something you can do particularly well and really tout that andthat'll help give you the confidence to really speak up when you can.

Vivek Vaidya:

So what's your superpower?

Deborah Kader:

I'm a great translator. I've held, I've coded, I've sold,I've implemented, I've integrated. And I think being able to talk amongst allthe different teams just puts me squarely. And to be a great product leader,which is at the hub of the company.

Vivek Vaidya:

Which you're an introvert, right?

Deborah Kader:

I am. That's not a superpower.

Tom Chavez:

We chuckle because Deborah and as we use some of oursoftware and we display it to people, you have to identify some of yourqualities. And Deborah, whenever she's giving the demo, establishes that she'san introvert, which I think for all of us was a little bit of a surprise.

Vivek Vaidya:

Especially when she said her superpower is being atranslator. You've talked to people, gathered with different points of view, besocial.

Deborah Kader:

Being a translator and being social or not necessarilycorrelated, but we can talk correlation and causation later if you'd like.

Tom Chavez:

It's a paradox wrapped in a conundrum, wrapped in a pieceof bacon.

Deborah Kader:

Another thing is I think you really need to track yourgoals. And this is really important, especially for people who are justentering the workforce and thinking about getting up to promotion. It's reallyeasy for especially women or under a representative of minorities, take all thenon-complete work tasks to heart, planning the birthday parties, ordering thehoodies that are not necessarily integral to checking in your code and doingthe strategy meetings. So it often historically has fallen on women justbecause that's how we've historically been seen, at least, again, I'm talkingfor my generation, but think about where you're spending your time and are youspending your time on the right causes and demand transparency of what'srequired for your job, of what's required for promotion.

I had an experience early on where again, to the we needmore women comment and I saw myself as something that was not yet perceived inthe company. I sat down with my manager and said, what do we need to do? Whatdo I need to do so that I get more visibility so that it's not a head scratcherwhen you put me up for promotion. So really understand that.

Tom Chavez:

Makes sense.

Deborah Kader:

And then finally, build your support network. It'sunfortunately not going to be easy for some time, but get peers, find a mentor,[inaudible 00:28:43] call me. But just find other people that you can talk toand bad ideas. And I think having a good support network is really important aswell.

Tom Chavez:

Well, and as we kick around, all of this is great advice,Deborah, and as we kick around these topics, especially on that last one, itdoes really up the ante for you personally in terms of role modeling thebehaviors and changes you want to see in the world and being available as amentor to the women who are looking to build their own support networks overtime. So, no pressure.

Deborah Kader:

No pressure.

Tom Chavez:

Really, really great having you with us here today.

Deborah Kader:

Thank you for having me. It was a joy.

Tom Chavez:

Thanks everybody.

Vivek Vaidya:

That's a wrap.

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We don’t critique, we found and build.

The super{set} studio model for early-stage venture It is still early days for the startup studio model. We know this because at super{set} we still get questions from experienced operators and investors. One investor that we’ve known for years recently asked us: “you have a fund — aren’t you just a venture capital firm with a different label?”

read more

Silicon Valley’s Greatest Untapped Resource: Moms

This post was written by MarkovML Co-Founder, Lindsey Meyl, as part of our #PassTheMic series.

read more

New Venture Ideation

Where do the ideas come from? How do we build companies from scratch at super{set}?

read more

Good Ideas, Good Luck

Coming up with new company ideas is easy: we take the day off, go to the park, and let the thoughts arrive like butterflies. Maybe we grab a coconut from that guy for a little buzz. While this describes a pleasant day in San Francisco, it couldn’t be further from the truth of what we do at super{set}. If only we could pull great ideas out of thin air. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work that way.

read more

Data Eats the World

The wheel. Electricity. The automobile. These are technologies that had a disproportionate impact on the merits of their first practical use-case; but beyond that, because they enabled so much in terms of subsequent innovation, economic historians call them “general-purpose technologies” or GPTs...

read more

The Four Types of Startup Opportunities

In our last post, we discussed how data is the new general-purpose technology and that is why at super{set} we form data-driven companies from scratch. But new technologies are a promise, not a sudden phase change.

read more

VCs Write Investment Memos, We Write Solution Memos

When a VC decides to invest in a company, they write up a document called the “Investment Memo” to convince their partners that the decision is sound. This document is a thorough analysis of the startup...

read more

Lessons of Grit from my Immigrant Parents

This post was written by Ketch Solutions Engineer, Sahiti Surapaneni, as part of our #PassTheMic series.

read more

People, First

What does it mean to be a super{set} co-founder and who do we look for? Why is the Head of Product the first co-founder we bring on board?

read more

Navigating Juneteenth

Considered by some to be “America’s Second Independence Day,” Juneteenth has only recently entered the national zeitgeist. Celebrated on the third Saturday in June, it became a federal holiday just last year under President Joe Biden. Many companies are left wondering how to acknowledge the holiday. We sat down with Eskalera’s co-founder Dr. Tolonda Tolbert to get her take.

read more

The super{set} Entrepreneurial Guild

Has someone looking to make a key hire ever told you that they are after “coachability”? Take a look at the Google ngram for “coachability” — off like a rocket ship since the Dot Com bubble, and it’s not even a real word! Coaching is everywhere in Silicon Valley...

read more

Why Head of Product is Our First Co-Founder

At super{set}, we stand side-by-side and pick up the shovel with our co-founders. Our first outside co-founder at a super{set} company is usually a Head of Product. Let’s unpack each portion of that title....

read more

Why I'm Co-founding @ super{set}

Pankaj Rajan, co-founder at MarkovML, describes his Big Tech and startup experience and his journey to starting a company at super{set}.

read more

Too Dumb to Quit

The decision to start a company – or to join an early stage one – is an act of the gut. On good days, I see it as a quasi-spiritual commitment. On bad days, I see it as sheer irrationality. Whichever it is, you’ll be happier if you acknowledge and calmly accept the lunacy of it all...

read more

The Product Heist

Tom and Vivek describe how building the best product is like planning the perfect heist: just like Danny Ocean, spend the time upfront to blueprint and stage, get into the casino with the insertion product, then drill into the safe and make your escape with the perfect product roadmap.

read more

Founder and Father: A Balancing Act

Making It Work With Young Kids & Young Companies

read more

Early Stage Customers

Tom and Vivek discuss what the very first customers of a startup must look and act like, the staging and sequencing of setting up a sales operation with a feedback loop to product, and end with special guest Matt Kilmartin, CEO of Habu and former Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) of Krux, for his advice on effective entrepreneurial selling.

read more

Overheard @ super{summit}

Vivek Vaidya's takeaways from the inaugural super{summit}

read more

How I Learned to Stop Optimizing and Love the Startup Ride

Reflections after a summer as an engineering intern at super{set}

read more

Why I Left Google To Co-found with super{set}

Gal Vered of Checksum explains his rationale for leaving Google to co-found a super{set} company.

read more

The Era of Easy $ Is Over

The era of easy money - or at least, easy returns for VCs - is over. Tom Chavez is calling for VCs to show up in-person at August board meetings, get off the sidelines, and start adding real value and hands-on support for founders.

read more

The super{set} CEO

Tom and Vivek describe what the ideal CEO looks like in the early stage, why great product people aren’t necessarily going to make great CEOs, and what the division of labor looks like between the CEO and the rest of the early team. They then bring on special guest Dane E. Holmes from super{set} company Eskalera to hear about his decision to join a super{set} company and his lessons for early-stage leadership.

read more

How To Avoid Observability MELTdown

o11y - What is it? Why is it important? What are the tools you need? More importantly - how can you adopt an observability mindset? Habu Software Architect Siddharth Sharma reports from his session at super{summit} 2022.

read more

When Inference Meets Engineering

Othmane Rifki, Principal Applied Scientist at super{set} company Spectrum Labs, reports from the session he led at super{summit} 2022: "When Inference Meets Engineering." Using super{set} companies as examples, Othmane reveals the 3 ways that data science can benefit from engineering workflows to deliver business value.

read more

Infrastructure Headaches - Where’s the Tylenol?

Head of Infrastructure at Ketch, and Kapstan Advisor, Anton Winter explains a few of the infrastructure and DevOps headaches he encounters every day.

read more

Calling BULLSHIT

Tom and Vivek jump on the pod for a special bonus episode to call BULLSHIT on VCs, CEOs, the “categorical shit,” and more. So strap yourselves in because the takes are HOT.

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Former Salesforce SVP of Marketing Strategy and Innovation Jon Suarez-Davis “JSD” Appointed Chief Commercial Officer at super{set}

The Move Accelerates the Rapidly Growing Startup Studio’s Mission to Lead the Next Generation of AI and Data-Driven Market Innovation and Success

read more

Why I'm Joining super{set} as Chief Commercial Officer

Announcing Jon Suarez-Davis (jsd) as super{set}’s Chief Commercial Officer: jsd tells us in his own words why he's joining super{set}

read more

When and Why to Bring on VCs

Tom and Vivek describe the lessons learned from fundraising at Rapt in 1999 - the height of the first internet bubble - through their experience at Krux - amid the most recent tech bubble. After sharing war stories, they describe how super{set} melds funding with hands-on entrepreneurship to set the soil conditions for long-term success.

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Startup Boards 101

Tom and Vivek have come full circle: in this episode they’re talking about closed session board meetings in The {Closed} Session. They discuss their experience in board meetings - even some tense ones - as serial founders and how they approach board meetings today as both co-founders and seed investors of the companies coming out of the super{set} startup studio.

read more

Q&A with Accel Founder Arthur Patterson

Arthur Patterson, founder of venture capital firm Accel, sits down for a fireside chat with super{set} founding partner Tom Chavez as part of our biweekly super{set} Community Call. Arthur and Tom cover venture investing, company-building, and even some personal stories from their history together.

read more

Not Just On Veterans Day

This post was written by Ketch Developer Advocate, Ryan Overton, as part of our #PassTheMic series.

read more

How To Avoid Observability MELTdown

o11y - What is it? Why is it important? What are the tools you need? More importantly - how can you adopt an observability mindset? Habu Software Architect Siddharth Sharma reports from his session at super{summit} 2022.

read more

Why I'm Co-founding @ super{set}

Pankaj Rajan, co-founder at MarkovML, describes his Big Tech and startup experience and his journey to starting a company at super{set}.

read more

Data Eats the World

The wheel. Electricity. The automobile. These are technologies that had a disproportionate impact on the merits of their first practical use-case; but beyond that, because they enabled so much in terms of subsequent innovation, economic historians call them “general-purpose technologies” or GPTs...

read more

The Four Types of Startup Opportunities

In our last post, we discussed how data is the new general-purpose technology and that is why at super{set} we form data-driven companies from scratch. But new technologies are a promise, not a sudden phase change.

read more

Lessons of Grit from my Immigrant Parents

This post was written by Ketch Solutions Engineer, Sahiti Surapaneni, as part of our #PassTheMic series.

read more

Thick Skin, Tech and Black History Month

This post was written by Ketch Data Privacy & Compliance Specialist, Jocelyn Brunson, as part of our #PassTheMic series.

read more

Why I Left Google To Co-found with super{set}

Gal Vered of Checksum explains his rationale for leaving Google to co-found a super{set} company.

read more

Too Dumb to Quit

The decision to start a company – or to join an early stage one – is an act of the gut. On good days, I see it as a quasi-spiritual commitment. On bad days, I see it as sheer irrationality. Whichever it is, you’ll be happier if you acknowledge and calmly accept the lunacy of it all...

read more

Why Head of Product is Our First Co-Founder

At super{set}, we stand side-by-side and pick up the shovel with our co-founders. Our first outside co-founder at a super{set} company is usually a Head of Product. Let’s unpack each portion of that title....

read more

We don’t critique, we found and build.

The super{set} studio model for early-stage venture It is still early days for the startup studio model. We know this because at super{set} we still get questions from experienced operators and investors. One investor that we’ve known for years recently asked us: “you have a fund — aren’t you just a venture capital firm with a different label?”

read more

The super{set} Entrepreneurial Guild

Has someone looking to make a key hire ever told you that they are after “coachability”? Take a look at the Google ngram for “coachability” — off like a rocket ship since the Dot Com bubble, and it’s not even a real word! Coaching is everywhere in Silicon Valley...

read more

Why I'm Joining super{set} as Chief Commercial Officer

Announcing Jon Suarez-Davis (jsd) as super{set}’s Chief Commercial Officer: jsd tells us in his own words why he's joining super{set}

read more

super{set}’s Spectrum Detoxifies The Online Space

We are living in a time of extraordinary concern about the negative consequences of online platforms and social media. We worry about the damage interactive technologies cause to society; about the impact to our mental health; and about the way that these platforms and their practices play to our most destructive impulses. Too often, the experiences we have online serve only to polarize, divide, and amplify the worst of human nature.

read more

How I Learned to Stop Optimizing and Love the Startup Ride

Reflections after a summer as an engineering intern at super{set}

read more

Q&A with Accel Founder Arthur Patterson

Arthur Patterson, founder of venture capital firm Accel, sits down for a fireside chat with super{set} founding partner Tom Chavez as part of our biweekly super{set} Community Call. Arthur and Tom cover venture investing, company-building, and even some personal stories from their history together.

read more

Infrastructure Headaches - Where’s the Tylenol?

Head of Infrastructure at Ketch, and Kapstan Advisor, Anton Winter explains a few of the infrastructure and DevOps headaches he encounters every day.

read more

When Inference Meets Engineering

Othmane Rifki, Principal Applied Scientist at super{set} company Spectrum Labs, reports from the session he led at super{summit} 2022: "When Inference Meets Engineering." Using super{set} companies as examples, Othmane reveals the 3 ways that data science can benefit from engineering workflows to deliver business value.

read more

Founder and Father: A Balancing Act

Making It Work With Young Kids & Young Companies

read more

From Watsonville To The Moon

This post was written by Habu software engineer, Martín Vargas-Vega, as part of our new #PassTheMic series.

read more

Good Ideas, Good Luck

Coming up with new company ideas is easy: we take the day off, go to the park, and let the thoughts arrive like butterflies. Maybe we grab a coconut from that guy for a little buzz. While this describes a pleasant day in San Francisco, it couldn’t be further from the truth of what we do at super{set}. If only we could pull great ideas out of thin air. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work that way.

read more

VCs Write Investment Memos, We Write Solution Memos

When a VC decides to invest in a company, they write up a document called the “Investment Memo” to convince their partners that the decision is sound. This document is a thorough analysis of the startup...

read more

The Balancing Act For Women in Tech

This post was written by Ketch Sales Director, Sheridan Rice, as part of our #PassTheMic series.

read more

The Era of Easy $ Is Over

The era of easy money - or at least, easy returns for VCs - is over. Tom Chavez is calling for VCs to show up in-person at August board meetings, get off the sidelines, and start adding real value and hands-on support for founders.

read more

Silicon Valley’s Greatest Untapped Resource: Moms

This post was written by MarkovML Co-Founder, Lindsey Meyl, as part of our #PassTheMic series.

read more

Overheard @ super{summit}

Vivek Vaidya's takeaways from the inaugural super{summit}

read more

Navigating Juneteenth

Considered by some to be “America’s Second Independence Day,” Juneteenth has only recently entered the national zeitgeist. Celebrated on the third Saturday in June, it became a federal holiday just last year under President Joe Biden. Many companies are left wondering how to acknowledge the holiday. We sat down with Eskalera’s co-founder Dr. Tolonda Tolbert to get her take.

read more

Former Salesforce SVP of Marketing Strategy and Innovation Jon Suarez-Davis “JSD” Appointed Chief Commercial Officer at super{set}

The Move Accelerates the Rapidly Growing Startup Studio’s Mission to Lead the Next Generation of AI and Data-Driven Market Innovation and Success

read more