Neo’s Ali Partovi on best practices for hiring early-stage startup engineers


On day one of TechCrunch’s Early Stage virtual conference, Ali Partovi joined us to discuss best practices for startups looking to hire engineers.

It’s a subject that’s near and dear to his heart: Partovi is co-founder and CEO of Neo, a venture aimed at including young engineers in a community alongside seasoned industry vets. The fund includes top executives from a slew of different industry titans, including Amazon, Airbnb, Dropbox, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Stripe.

Partovi is probably best known in the Valley for co-founding with twin brother, Hadi. The nonprofit launched in 2013 with a high-profile video featuring Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and Jack Dorsey, along with a mission to make coding education more accessible to the masses.

It was a two-summer internship at Microsoft while studying at Harvard that gave Partovi an entrée into the world of tech. And while it was clearly a formative experience for the college student, he advises against prospective startup founders looking to large corporations as career launch pads.

“I spend a lot of time mentoring college students, that’s a big part of what I do at Neo,” Partovi said.

“And for anyone who wants to be a founder of a company, there’s a spectrum, from giant companies like Microsoft or Google to early-stage startups. And I would say, find the smallest point on that spectrum that you’re comfortable with, and start your career there. Maybe that’s a 100-person company or maybe for you, it’s a 500-person company. But if you start at Microsoft, it’ll be a long time before you feel comfortable doing your own startup. The skills you gain at a giant company are very valuable for getting promoted and succeeding in giant companies. They’re not often as translatable to being your own founder.”


Source link

Snoop Dogg’s Casa Verde gets into the sleep space, backing NY-based Proper


Helping Americans get their 40 winks has never been more necessary as the country faces what some health experts have called a sleep epidemic, and Snoop Dogg’s cannabis-focused firm Casa Verde Capital wants to help.

The firm is leading a $9.5 million investment into a company called Proper, which is launching with a combination of sleep coaching and supplements, pitching a “holistic” sleep health solution.

One-third of U.S. adults don’t get enough sleep according to Proper’s estimates, and the company’s chief executive, Nancy Ramamurthi, says that the COVID-19 epidemic has only made the problem worse.

“Proper aims to help solve what the CDC has identified as a public health crisis — insufficient sleep — with a truly more holistic and personalized solution,” said Ramamurthi, founder and CEO of Proper, in a statement. “Proper has combined the best of natural, safe, evidence-based sleep supplements with expert behavioral coaching, which consumers have not traditionally been able to access. Now, thanks to the increasing popularity of telehealth, sleep coaching can be delivered online.”

The sleep coaching services from Proper are provided by board-certified health and wellness coaches under the guidance of a clinical psychologist and behavioral sleep medicine specialist, according to a statement from the company.

Ramamurthi said that clinical validation is a core component of the company’s business. Indeed, the company is currently running its formulations through a clinical trial to prove their efficacy. It’s an additional step that the company doesn’t need to take, she said, because the supplements have all been studied with clinical trials supporting the use of the ingredients as treatments for sleep therapy. “That’s in addition to them being used for thousands of years,” said Ramamurthi.

Proper was incubated within the consumer health venture studio Redesign Health and will use the new capital from investors led by Snoop Dogg’s Casa Verde to boost its sales and marketing efforts and continue its research and development activities.

While sleep aids may seem like a strange market for a cannabis-focused investment firm, Casa Verde partner Karan Wadhera says it’s a highly strategic investment for the firm.

[Cannabis] is an input as well and its use case will go beyond how people think of cannabis stigmatically,” Wadhera said. “At its core, [Proper] is a company that’s helping us target this sleep epidemic. We think CBD and cannabis at large can play a big role in addressing that in a way that traditional products haven’t been able to.”

The investment in Proper, then, points to a maturation of the cannabis industry, as investors look at the various chemical components of the cannabis plant and try to tease out a broader range of health and wellness applications. “We are starting to shift how we think about the business. It doesn’t have to be a core, specific cannabis product,” Wadhera said. 

Image Credits: Proper

Ramamurthi says that her company will be exploring applications for cannabinoids in its supplements later. “As we continue our product development process one of the things we are looking at is CBD,” she said. “CBD is one of the more effective ingredients at reducing stress and anxiety, and stress and anxiety are one of the main reasons why people can’t get to sleep.”

Proper’s studies are supported by a scientific advisory board that includes Dr. Adam Perlman, the director of integrative health and well-being at the Mayo Clinic, and Dr. Allison Siebern, a clinical psychologist and board-certified sleep medicine specialist at the VA Medical Center in North Carolina.

There’s a reason why sleep is so poorly understood and ignored as a health issue in America. Around 90% of primary care physicians rate their understanding of sleep’s impact on the body as “poor to fair” and there’s only one board-certified sleep specialist for every 43,000 Americans, according to Proper’s data.

Customers who sign up for Proper’s service can select one of five sleep formulations available for $39.99 per bottle or for a subscription with a 10% discount. New users also get a free 30-minute consultation with a Proper sleep coach, the company said.

The five versions of Proper’s sleep products include a core sleep product made from GABA, valerian root extract, rafuma leaf extract, and ashwagandha root and leaf extract; a sleep and restore product that includes melatonin; a calming pill with L-theanine added to the core sleep product; a clarity product that includes concentrated grape extracts; and, finally, an immunity product with added zinc, vitamin C, B6 and D.



Source link

Four steps for drafting an ethical data practices blueprint


In 2019, UnitedHealthcare’s health-services arm, Optum, rolled out a machine learning algorithm to 50 healthcare organizations. With the aid of the software, doctors and nurses were able to monitor patients with diabetes, heart disease and other chronic ailments, as well as help them manage their prescriptions and arrange doctor visits. Optum is now under investigation after research revealed that the algorithm (allegedly) recommends paying more attention to white patients than to sicker Black patients.

Today’s data and analytics leaders are charged with creating value with data. Given their skill set and purview, they are also in the organizationally unique position to be responsible for spearheading ethical data practices. Lacking an operationalizable, scalable and sustainable data ethics framework raises the risk of bad business practices, violations of stakeholder trust, damage to a brand’s reputation, regulatory investigation and lawsuits.

Here are four key practices that chief data officers/scientists and chief analytics officers (CDAOs) should employ when creating their own ethical data and business practice framework.

Identify an existing expert body within your organization to handle data risks

The CDAO must identify and execute on the economic opportunity for analytics, and with opportunity comes risk. Whether the use of data is internal — for instance, increasing customer retention or supply chain efficiencies — or built into customer-facing products and services, these leaders need to explicitly identify and mitigate risk of harm associated with the use of data.

A great way to begin to build ethical data practices is to look to existing groups, such as a data governance board, that already tackles questions of privacy, compliance and cyber-risk, to build a data ethics framework. Dovetailing an ethics framework with existing infrastructure increases the probability of successful and efficient adoption. Alternatively, if no such body exists, a new body should be created with relevant experts from within the organization. The data ethics governing body should be responsible for formalizing data ethics principles and operationalizing those principles for products or processes in development or already deployed.

Ensure that data collection and analysis are appropriately transparent and protect privacy

All analytics and AI projects require a data collection and analysis strategy. Ethical data collection must, at a minimum, include: securing informed consent when collecting data from people, ensuring legal compliance, such as adhering to GDPR, anonymizing personally identifiable information so that it cannot reasonably be reverse-engineered to reveal identities and protecting privacy.

Some of these standards, like privacy protection, do not necessarily have a hard and fast level that must be met. CDAOs need to assess the right balance between what is ethically wise and how their choices affect business outcomes. These standards must then be translated to the responsibilities of product managers who, in turn, must ensure that the front-line data collectors act according to those standards.

CDAOs also must take a stance on algorithmic ethics and transparency. For instance, should an AI-driven search function or recommender system strive for maximum predictive accuracy, providing a best guess as to what the user really wants? Is it ethical to micro-segment, limiting the results or recommendations to what other “similar people” have clicked on in the past? And is it ethical to include results or recommendations that are not, in fact, predictive, but profit-maximizing to some third party? How much algorithmic transparency is appropriate, and how much do users care? A strong ethical blueprint requires tackling these issues systematically and deliberately, rather than pushing these decisions down to individual data scientists and tech developers that lack the training and experience to make these decisions.

Anticipate – and avoid – inequitable outcomes

Division and product managers need guidance on how to anticipate inequitable and biased outcomes. Inequalities and biases can arise due simply to data collection imbalances — for instance, a facial recognition tool that has been trained on 100,000 male faces and 5,000 female faces will likely be differently effective by gender. CDAOs must help ensure balanced and representative data sets.

Other biases are less obvious, but just as important. In 2019, Apple Card and Goldman Sachs were accused of gender bias when extending higher credit lines to men than women. Though Goldman Sachs maintained that creditworthiness — not gender — was the driving factor in credit decisions, the fact that women have historically had fewer opportunities to build credit likely meant that the algorithm favored men.

To mitigate inequities, CDAOs must help tech developers and product managers alike navigate what it means to be fair. While computer science literature offers myriad metrics and definitions of fairness, developers cannot reasonably choose one in the absence of collaborations with the business managers and external experts who can offer deep contextual understanding of how data will eventually be used. Once standards for fairness are chosen, they must also be effectively communicated to data collectors to ensure adherence.

Align organizational structure with the process for identifying ethical risk

CDAOs often build analytics capacity in one of two ways: via a center of excellence, in service to an entire organization, or a more distributed model, with data scientists and analytics investments committed to specific functional areas, such as marketing, finance or operations. Regardless of organizational structure, the processes and rubrics for identifying ethical risk must be clearly communicated and appropriately incentivized.

Key steps include:

  • Clearly establishing accountability by creating linkages from the data ethics body to departments and teams. This can be done by having each department or team designate its own “ethics champion” to monitor ethics issues. Champions need to be able to elevate concerns to the data ethics body, which can advise on mitigation strategies, such as augmenting existing data, improving transparency or creating a new objective function.
  • Ensuring consistent definitions and processes across teams through education and training around data and AI ethics.
  • Broadening teams’ perspectives on how to identify and remediate ethical problems by facilitating collaborations across internal teams and sharing examples and research from other domains.
  • Creating incentives — financial or other recognitions — to build a culture that values the identification and mitigation of ethical risk.

CDAOs are charged with the strategic use and deployment of data to drive revenue with new products and to create greater internal consistencies. Too many business and data leaders today attempt to “be ethical” by simply weighing the pros and cons of decisions as they arise. This short-sighted view creates unnecessary reputational, financial and organizational risk. Just as a strategic approach to data requires a data governance program, good data governance requires an ethics program. Simply put, good data governance is ethical data governance.


Source link

Lo Toney’s product manager playbook for pitch deck success


The cold email worked — you’ve landed a meeting with your dream investor. Hell, you even set aside $40,000 for a pitch deck consultant to make sure your presentation looks suave.

One thing to figure out before you pick out a Zoom background: what information actually goes into those slides?

Lo Toney, founding managing partner at Plexo Capital, has advice for founders looking to raise money: think like a product manager while crafting your pitch deck. Toney has helped shape products at Zynga, Nike and eBay, and currently serves as both a GP and an LP at Plexo Capital, which invests in funds and startups. He’s done a ton of pitching and gotten pitched himself, which is why we invited him to TechCrunch Early Stage 2020.

“The framework of product management is very similar to the same playbook used by an early-stage investor and early-stage investors in the absence of an abundance of data,” Toney said. “They’re really thinking very similar to a product manager to evaluate an opportunity.”

Crafting a solid pitch deck is critical to the success of a startup seeking venture capital. Investors, however, spend less than four minutes on average per deck, and some even tell you that you have half that much time (so either talk fast or pick your favorite slides). Even if you have the business to prove that you’re the next Stripe, if you butcher the story behind the numbers, you could lose the potential to get the capital you need.

Toney said adopting a product manager mindset helps refine what that story looks and feels like.

“The story is not your product. It’s not your company, and it’s not the entrepreneur. It’s how your customer’s world is going to be better when your product has solved their problem,” he said, quoting Rick Klau from GV.

In action, Toney broke down the framework into four key slides: problem, market, solution and, of course, team.


First up, most investors say they want to see the problem you’re trying to solve up high. Toney is no different.

“I like to see an entrepreneur describing the desired outcome first, and then what are some of those roadblocks that come along the way to that desired outcome?” he asked. Similar to a product manager, founders could illustrate the different challenges that could come to executing a solution on a specific problem.


Source link

What Is Information Technology?

At the most basic level, information technology is the application of technology to solve business or organizational problems on a broad scale. No matter the role, a member of an IT department works with others to solve technology problems, both big and small.

There are three primary pillars of responsibility for an IT department:

  1. IT governance: This refers to the combination of policies and processes that ensure IT systems are effectively run and in alignment with the organization’s needs.
  2. IT operations: This is a catchall category for the daily work of an IT department. This includes providing tech support, network maintenance, security testing and device management duties.
  3. Hardware and infrastructure: This focus area refers to all the physical components of IT infrastructure. This pillar of IT includes the setup and maintenance of equipment like routers, servers, phone systems and individual devices like laptops.

Even though an organization’s IT department handles many different functions and plays a critical role in keeping things running, Andrey Prokopchuk, head of IT at Belitsoft, says the perfect IT department is the one you aren’t even aware of. This means that they are able to automate and create processes for many of their daily tasks, so that the business continues to run smoothly. The ideal IT department is also aligned with the business’s goals and transparent in its processes in a way that the rest of the business can understand and provide input on.

Why is information technology important?

Simply put, the work of most organizations would slow to a crawl without functioning IT systems. You’d be hard-pressed to find a business that doesn’t at least partially rely on computers and the networks that connect them. Maintaining a standard level of service, security and connectivity is a huge task, but it’s not the only priority or potential challenge on their plates.

More and more companies want to implement more intuitive and sophisticated solutions. “IT can provide the edge a company needs to outsmart, outpace and out-deliver competitors,” says Edward Kiledjian, a Chief Information Security Officer and technology blogger. Let’s take a look at the needs that current and future IT specialists will be working on:

  • Data overload: Businesses need to process huge amounts of data. This requires large amounts of processing power, sophisticated software and human analytical skills.
  • Mobile and wireless usages: More employers are offering remote work options that require smartphones, tablets and laptops with wireless hotspots and roaming ability.
  • Cloud services: Most businesses no longer operate their own “server farms” to store massive amounts of data. Many businesses now work with cloud services—third-party hosting platforms that maintain that data.
  • Bandwidth for video hosting: Videoconferencing solutions have become more and more popular, so more network bandwidth is needed to support them sufficiently.

Toyota plans outrageous Ferrari rival

TOYOTA’S Gazoo Racing performance is planning put a $1 million supercar in showrooms alongside a high-performance HiLux and warmed-over hatchbacks.

Shigeki Tomoyama, president of Toyota’s Gazoo Racing arm, confirmed plans for a layered performance range to rival the likes of Mercedes-AMG in “a project which will be conducive to the transformation of Toyota”.

The manufacturer took its second victory at the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans race on Sunday, where the Japanese brand reaffirmed its commitment to the race.

New rules encourage marques to go racing with road-going supercars the public can buy, a return to the sport’s roots in the spirit of legendary cars such as the McLaren F1.

Toyota says it will compete with a hybrid “hypercar” at Le Mans in 2021 before introducing a road-going version of the race machine.

Aston Martin will join Toyota on the 2021 Le Mans grid with a racing version of its V12-powered Valkyrie hypercar – a car the British brand previously promised would be the fastest-ever road car around a racing circuit.

“Aston Martin has amazing history at Le Mans. It is a part of the company’s DNA,” Tomoyama says.

“I hope to create a similar link.

“Like Ferrari, Porsche and Audi, that is my dream,” he says.

At least one example of Toyota’s road-going Gazoo Racing Super Sports will come to Australia, with company spokesman Brodie Bott confirming that Toyota Australia has placed an order for the hybrid machine.