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Technology Ventures Corporation (TVC): Watch New Mexico Rise

Technology Ventures Corp (TVC)

 

While there are organizations and institutions that have been a part of New Mexico longer than Technology Ventures Corporation  – better known locally as TVC – I am not sure there is an organization that has helped bring more funding into the state focused on investments in New Mexico-based tech companies or helped launch more tech startups or  with the sole purpose of changing the economy through creating an entire support system to identify, support, grow and exit tech startups in the state. Please know that if there are, I welcome the corrections, as this is a personal look at what is going right in our state and not a thoroughly researched piece of journalism.

In fact, TVC first came on my personal radar when I was a freelance journalist. Assigned to write a profile on the iconic Sherman McCorkle, who was part of the initial team which, in 1993, launched TVC as a nonprofit 501-(c)3 as part of the initial bid by Lockheed Martin to manage Sandia National Laboratories. Sherman served as President and CEO and was deeply involved in the reach and scope of TVC until his exit in 2011. He also served on a long list of company’s boards as well as community and educational institutions. I interviewed Sherman in late 2010, one of the last assignments I took before wrapping up my writing career as I prepared to launch my own tech startup which didn’t even have a name at that point.

Sherman McCorkle

Sherman McCorkle

During my interview with Sherman, he was relaxed. He reclined behind his desk with his legs crossed, revealing his always iconic cowboy boots. But the moment I mentioned my idea to Sherman as an example of a follow-up question, he quickly abandoned the prospect of talking further about his own history. His face lit up with a wide smile as he uncrossed his legs and leaned forward behind his desk. For the next few moments, I shared my first tentative ideas about my business, which I hadn’t yet completely decided to launch. By the time we ended our interview, Sherman had pretty much moved me to the next steps of founding my own company. I once told him later that I never understood his willingness to not only humor me on that day but to continue to mentor me and provide introductions and access to those I needed to help with APPCityLife. His response has carried me through many dark, low points along the way. “There were several of us who saw the spark in you, who believed you had what it would take to become a great CEO,” he said. “Besides, you had a damn good idea.”

Sherman’s passion to foster those tiny sparks of possibility within individuals was infectious and became part of the culture of TVC that still drives today’s team. By their own accounting, TVC “… figured prominently in the production of more than $1.2 billion in venture capital investments,more than 120 new high-tech companies and more than 13,500 new jobs.” And as impressive as that is, – and as a repeat recipient myself of TVC’s services – it actually isn’t why I believe that TVC is one of the most important cogs in the wheel that is helping New Mexico rise. I believe TVC has served a vital role in our state because their entire focus is on what is best for the entrepreneurs they support. As a 501(c)3, TVC has the privilege of focusing on goals other than creating a revenue stream or building value off of those they serve, including:

  • Free to the public classes on a continuing basis to empower startup founders to learn the tools needed to protect intellectual property as well as entrepreneurial training in partnership with Sandia
  • Hosting one of the only major pitch events in New Mexico where promising tech companies are given vital national exposure after being mentored for several weeks to properly prepare for on-stage pitches to investors who attend the annual summit from across the country. In fact, one in three companies to go through the program have received funding – all without giving up any equity to TVC.
  • TVC continues to foster tech transfer from the federal labs to entrepreneurs in the private sector, leveraging tech innovation already developed through our tax dollars into high-paying tech jobs in startups which are not dependent on federal funding but, instead, contribute to the tax base of the state.
John Freisinger

John Freisinger

In the past few years under the leadership of the organization’s current CEO, John Friesenger, TVC’s team has broadened its scope to embrace more tech companies which are not built on tech-transfer, including companies like my own. In fact, this year’s Deal Stream Summit features several companies which are private enterprise rather than tech transfer. I am excited to have the opportunity to share the vision of our company when I join nine other companies who will pitch at this year’s Deal Stream Summit on October 7, 2014, in Albuquerque.

In the past decade, the number of organizations and groups springing up across the country whose revenue and growth are completely dependent on entrepreneurs has exploded and have generated increased concern over the burgeoning numbers from many in the industry including Mark Cuban. TVC has been serving the startup community long before it was vogue to be a startup and has continued to evolve to support today’s startups. TVC is a shining star among the organizations helping us all watch New Mexico rise.

If you have a story about your own experience with TVC or want to share a part of their history that might not be covered here, please share your comments here.

 


A ‘Glamorous’ Week in the Life of a Woman Entrepreneur

Enjoying an outing with my Hautepreneurs cofounder, Jessica Eaves Mathews.

Enjoying an outing with my Hautepreneurs cofounder, Jessica Eaves Mathews.

I was recently at the private opening of a new establishment with my cofounder of Hautepreneurs, a company we founded to enable women entrepreneurs in our state to think and create bigger, successful companies – a passion project in addition to our main careers – which, for me, is APPCityLife, a global civic tech platform connecting people and cities, and for Jessica, a serial entrepreneur, includes a myriad of companies like Untoxicating Beauty, a monthly subscription box curated organic and eco-friendly makeup, as well as Leverage Legal, an award-winning virtual law firm.

After negotiating schedules, it turned out that this event provided the most convenient time to connect with someone whose schedule was even more packed than ours. Thus I found myself in a somewhat surreal moment – weaving my way through paparazzi (if you can even call it that here in Albuquerque) and excusing myself through a long, snaking line of people who had, for hours already, been waiting their turn to get in.

When we finally reached the front of the line, a gentleman wearing dark sunglasses, a dark suit and an ear piece curly-quing its way to the back of his shirt, barked his question at us without looking up.

“Name?”

We answered, he checked his clipboard, and turned to a woman nearby, giving her instructions as to whom we were meeting. As we were waiting for our dinner companion to free up, a friend commented to us that she found our lives exciting and glamorous. I am a bit embarrassed to admit that I laughed out loud. I’m not saying I don’t love what I’m doing or that I haven’t enjoyed some incredible opportunities and experiences, but glamorous? Being a founder of a startup – especially as a woman – is usually anything but glamorous.

After her comment, I decided that perhaps it was time to share a few snippets of my week so that others get a view of what it is like to do what I do. I have no idea if this is what it is like for other women growing companies, but I’m pretty sure their lives are just as crazy busy and full of the regular messiness of life.

Monday

It is 4 PM when I realize I have completely forgotten about parent night which starts at our high school in just a few hours. My day began at 4:30 AM, and I am so not in the mood to scurry from one end of the high school to another and back again to follow my son’s schedule and hear the same thing in every class: I am your kid’s teacher, this is my name, this is how you can reach me, I don’t answer my phone during the day so don’t bother calling, this is how I grade, and this is what I think of the class your kid is in. But I go, because I need to meet them, and because my son needs to know I want to meet them. I am not as available for the school with this child; I can’t volunteer for bake sales or drive kids places; my schedule just won’t allow it. I walk home from parent night feeling a bit like a gladiator who gets to live another day.

Tuesday

In the middle of a meeting, I realize that I forgot to pick up my kid’s band uniform from the dry cleaners, and he needs to be in it by the end of the day when he rides the bus with his band members to an event. I text my older son who is currently on campus at the university and ask if he has time to get it. He bails me out. I go back to paying attention to my meeting. After my meeting I listen to a voicemail message from the school nurse reminding me I still haven’t turned in the form they need on file.

Wednesday

I spend the day buried in work. Somehow without me noticing, the clock skipped from 10:30 AM to 4:52 PM, and I am nowhere near finished. I take a break long enough to throw some clothes in the washer, yell upstairs to my son to come set the table, and stare into the refrigerator as if by doing so something will magically appear that I can serve for supper. I peel away the wrapping on a frozen clump of ground turkey and drop it like a rock into a cold skillet and fill a pot with water, setting it to boil. It isn’t until the noodles are almost cooked and the meat almost ready that I realize I don’t have any marinara sauce. I used to be a food writer, spending days tweaking a single recipe. If I have thirty minutes to put supper on the table now – that is a good day. My teenager recently told me, “Someone at my school was saying something about this business lady they read about, and I realized they were talking about you. I don’t see you as a business lady. I just see you as the lady who used to have time to make homemade pizza but doesn’t anymore.” We can all live without homemade pizza, but I hear the wish behind the words and purpose to make him pizza later in the week.

Thursday

I attend a community event where I receive an award. I sit among my peers feeling incredibly grateful for this honor, making sure to savor this moment of my journey. It is far too easy when building a startup to not actually celebrate milestones or awards or special occasions but to see each as a goal to check off of a list in order to move on to the next. The fear of losing momentum, of not building more success on top of the last success can often inhibit our ability to fully celebrate the good stuff. I text my husband that the event has run long, and I won’t be home in time for dinner. He heats up something for the family and is putting the food away when I finally get home. As I’m standing at the sink cleaning dishes from a meal I didn’t even get to share with my family, wearing my favorite apron to protect the nice dress I’m still wearing, I joke that where I am at this moment is closer to the true reality of a woman founder of a company instead of the glamour that others see when they simply read the blurb in the paper the next day about the awards ceremony. And it isn’t that I don’t have help – my husband has been incredibly supportive; it’s that I can’t let myself off the hook. I don’t want to give up being mom, and so I push to try to do it all, even when it means doing dishes in a fancy dress at ten o’clock at night.

Friday

I finally make pizza for the family and look forward to a chance to relax a bit and decompress. Instead, I find my mind wandering, and I begin to making mental checklists for the weekend, for the team next week, for upcoming deadlines. I find it hard to let it go, to actually think about something else. In quiet moments, whether they hit at 2 AM or 9 PM on a Friday night – I end up with my thoughts back again with our company. I feel lucky to have a spouse working in the same startup. While it means that some days may end up feeling like a 24-hour board meeting, it also means having a spouse who gets the obsession, the intense focus – it becomes a shared thing rather than something that can tear a couple apart when only one is building a company.

Saturday

With a business trip coming up the next day, I spend the entire day getting ready to leave. It isn’t the packing or prepping for the meeting that takes so long – it’s getting everyone else ready for when I’m gone. I make sure there is enough food to heat up so the 14 year old has supper if his brother gets in late. I make sure everyone’s laundry is at least clean, if not folded. I go over my high schooler’s schedule and talk to him about what he needs to do while I am gone. I make sure he has found a ride home from the game so that I don’t have to worry while I’m gone. And when evening hits, I decide that packing can wait for the morning. I share a flurry of back and forth emails with a potential investor and schedule a time to meet when I am back in town.

Sunday

Made with Repix (http://repix.it)

Lawrence and I hanging out with Chris and Aileen Gemma Smith at 500 Startups in San Francisco.

This is usually our day, the day we set aside, but we don’t have that luxury this particular Sunday. An early meeting is scheduled on the West Coast for the next day, so my husband, who is traveling along with me this time to address the technical aspects of the project, and I have to fly out a day early. We land in San Francisco late afternoon and spend a nice evening visiting with friends that we met earlier in the year in New York City and who are now part of an accelerator in the Bay Area. We talk about startups and open data and civic tech; it is a nice evening sharing common interests with friends. We check into our hotel late that evening and prep for our meeting before calling it a night.

Monday

A new work week, and it starts all over again. There is no place to get off of this ride, and if there was, I wouldn’t want to take it. I love what I’m doing, and I love what our team is building. We’re solving big problems with global reach, and we’re meeting the challenges necessary to not only keep our company afloat but to build it quickly enough to meet the growing demand. It’s not what I would call glamorous by any means, and we have all sacrificed a lot of personal time and money to make it happen. But when you’re in the middle of something that sparks your passion and where your vision sees the end game, you don’t see the sacrifice – you just see the value of the journey.

 


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Stacy Sacco: Watch New Mexico Rise

Stacy Sacco

 

Stacy Sacco

Stacy Sacco

 

The middle parts in a long series are the easy ones – so many ideas to share of those who have inspired me. But this first post – as well as the last one, they are the two bookends of this series. This first post needs to be a shining star, and, thus, the choice of topic took some serious thought. Well, I’d like to say that’s true because it makes it seem more profound and difficult to decide, but, really, it didn’t take much thought at all. Where else could one begin besides Stacy? He is simply the glue that keeps us all together and the reason why many of us are compelled to do good for others.

When I first launched APPCityLife in 2009, I knew a few people in town from my days as a freelance reporter, but, by and large, I was building a business that needed community support without knowing much of anyone at all.

I met Stacy at one of the first social events I attended, likely an event hosted by Albuquerque The Magazine. Stacy hurried up to me as if he’d known me for years, thrust his hand out and, with a smile that brightened his entire face, welcomed me to the event. I didn’t know it then, but I likely stuck out as one of the few people Stacy didn’t already know. With his warm welcome, he made me feel safe and a little bit braver. We talked for a few moments, and try as I might, Stacy deftly deflected my attempts to get him to talk about himself – something I’d learned to do as a reporter. Instead, he asked me a barrage of questions about my new business. This was followed by rapid-fire questions that began, “Do you know …” and “Have you met …” followed by, “Oh, and you should also meet … they could help you.”

Stacy is like a walking Rolodex with a heart of gold. He is passionate about Albuquerque and about making this a place we can be proud to live. He remembers almost everything about everyone he knows, and when he hears of a problem or a need that someone has, he almost always knows just the person to help. But he doesn’t stop there. He follows through and makes sure it all worked out.

In digging through my archived email, I found this early note from Stacy after an early talk I gave about the then-new concept of mobile marketing. I found this message in my inbox later that day:
Made with Repix (http://repix.it)

This message is the epitomy of why Stacy is the glue who holds us all together. Not only did he boost my own courage and confidence to keep on growing and learning new things so that I could run the company I wanted to build, but he praised another’s talents and talked up the value of an organization in our community. He still rarely communicates with me in writing or in person without sowing the seeds of hope and praise for others in our city.

Stacy and Dorothy - 2011.

Stacy and Dorothy – 2011.

Stacy, born of immigrant grandparents, was only one of four to complete high school among his thirty cousins. Ask if there was that one teacher who inspired him to believe he was capable of bigger, and he’ll tell you it was Sidney Humble, his high school Algebra teacher. And you may not know that Stacy once a part of Up With People, traveling with his 300+ cast members and staying with more than 135 host families. He says that their generosity and opening their homes to him still fills him with gratitude.

Over the years I’ve gotten to know Stacy and his lovely wife, Dorothy. She is equally as positive and joyous as he is. I consider it my fortune to count them among my friends.

Stacy is respected for his wealth of knowledge and the many years he committed to serving the startup community, and his passion as an educator has inspired many a graduating college student to pursue their own dreams. He recently did an audit of his life – of all of the associations and committees he belongs to, the volunteer and consulting work he does, which could in itself be someone else’s full time job. He is a professor at both Webster University and the University of New Mexico and is the Director of UNM’s Small Business Institute. As he reviewed the ever-growing list of current commitments, he laughed, “I’ve decided to start a new group – Over-Committers Anonymous!” Even with so many personal ties to the community, it is likely that Stacy is best known for his massive email list to whom he sends monthly updates about upcoming events and opportunities to connect with others in the community.

A few years ago, Stacy delivered a moving TEDxABQ talk about the importance of living every moment to the fullest. He inspired many with that talk, not only by his words, but because his life backed them up. You can view it in its entirety below.

But I think even more than any of his professional connections or contributions, the way that Stacy most affected me as a fledgling founder of a startup was just how real he was – no games, no power plays, no hidden agendas. He helped without expecting anything back.

If it hadn’t been for some of those early connections which Stacy initiated on my behalf – and the unspoken endorsement of me as a person when he used some of his personal capital to gain me entrance with someone whose influence would help my efforts – I don’t know that I would have survived that first year as a solopreneur. His belief in me and the vision I had for APPCityLife carried me through a lot of self-doubts and fear, and the desire to not let him down or make him regret his willingness to introduce me to someone were very strong motivators to do what I didn’t know how to do and learn what I needed to know.

Stacy is, for me, the perfect way to kick off this journey. If he’s had an impact on you, leave a comment and share your own experiences with him.

“I choose to live each moment as if it were my last… without any regrets over a mountain not climbed, a fear not faced, a dream never attempted, a love not expressed, a thank you not given or my life half-lived.”
- Stacy Sacco, TEDxABQ, 9/7/12


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Watch New Mexico Rise: choosing a new view

IMG_3317-0.JPG

The dinner dishes were cleared away. A few of our friends and fellow entrepreneurs sat with us around the dining room table. The conversation turned to the spate of negative stories proliferating in the news and on social media. At least eight separate businesses based in New Mexico were represented that night, and each had already made an impact on some level or another on the economy as well as having contributed to the momentum of our growing startup community. Our dinner companions talked with us about the frustration of reading the words and stories of individuals who were no longer a part of the community, and, thus, should have no impact on the economy. Even after moving away, the platform of news stories made it possible for these individuals to negatively impact morale of those purposed with driving forward the momentum of change beginning to take root. The cumulative effect of the barrage of recent negativity was heavy on some of the most inspirational, driven entrepreneurs in our state.

I’ve thought a lot about that conversation and have come to a few conclusions.

I cannot change the news. I have no influence or say over what is deemed to be newsworthy – and I’m glad. I wouldn’t want to even if I could, because – as much as it may sometimes be a practice in futility considering the ever-growing conflict between journalists covering the news and publishers wanting to protect the bottom line – I very much want our news to aspire to the highest standards. I want stories by journalists who aren’t afraid to ruffle feathers, strain friendships, and weather public scrutiny in order to write hard-hitting news stories. While I may want news agencies to leave the public relations spin with those who should carry it into social media – from the cheerleaders to the woe-is-me crowd, I’m pretty sure that the line between news coverage and using spin and social media to build eyeballs – and thus enough revenue to stay afloat – is not going to go away. It is here to stay, and, like it or not, has become a part of the news cycle. I can’t change that, either.

What I can do is choose a new view and purposefully focus on what is right in our state. During the last five years which I’ve spent growing a tech company in New Mexico, I have crossed paths with an incredible number of people who – in the process of our interaction – inspired me in some way to push forward, think bigger, be more generous, rise above the pettiness, protect my integrity and build faster and better.

And here is what I will do.

For the next year, I am committing to turn the inspirational call to action – watchNMrise – started by my good friend, Jessica Eaves Mathews, and turn that call to action into a yearlong project. I will write about the people who have inspired me, about the companies that I am proud are a part of our economy and the organizations who have earned my respect because of the contributions they are making towards our future. It won’t be a complete list, and I’ll likely fail to cover some of the real movers and shakers among us, because this will be an in-the-moment decision to focus on a single reason we can watch New Mexico rise. This isn’t about PR or getting the spin just right, so I won’t be asking for updated projections or bios or photos. This is simply one person’s decision to combat the drain brought on by fighting negativity by reminding myself what an incredibly inspiring community we call home here in New Mexico.

If my project inspires you, here is what I hope you’ll do. I hope you’ll start on your own list – for everyone else to read or just for yourself. I hope you’ll send an unexpected email or text – or pick up the phone – and thank someone for the value they are adding to our community. It would be great if you decide to volunteer a day at a nonprofit you admire. And I hope you’ll spend a few dollars in a locally owned shop.

And the next time you read an article that covers a tough topic but is fair and balanced, take note. Make a point to acknowledge journalists who cover tough stories that must be addressed, who uncover the unseemly underbelly of the world in which we reside. Acknowledge their efforts, because these journalists are also doing their part to better our community – whether their words make us feel better in the moment or not.

Tomorrow I begin with my first Watch New Mexico Rise post. I may not post every day – I am running a startup after all. But I’ll be here often – and I hope you’ll join me.


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Addressing the Downside of Civic Hacking: Creating A Financially Sustainable Model

Members of the ABQ Civic Entrepreneur Bootcamp building apps on the CityLife platform

Members of the ABQ Civic Entrepreneur Bootcamp building apps on the CityLife platform

One of the best known civic mobile app contests is the NYC BigApps Challenge. The competition has attracted hundreds of teams from around the world, all vying for high dollar prizes and the promise of a coveted contract with the City of New York. Since the contest’s inception five years ago, hundreds of apps have been launched – with last year’s winners alone sharing a prize pool of over $150,000.

For the winners, it is well worth the effort. The prize money, especially considering that no stake in equity is taken from the winning team or company, is of high enough dollar amount to recoup costs for time spent developing, testing and deploying the app – and possibly make a small profit depending on the size of the team. Along with prize money, there is also the value of international publicity generated for finalists and winners.

But what of the hundreds of apps that aren’t winners, which earn neither publicity nor money? An in-depth study that followed the apps submitted for the 2011 competition reported that only 35% of the applications could be verified as still working one year later. The apps which integrated multiple sources of data along with user-generated content were the most likely to still be in use, but even among those apps, almost half were no longer being supported. That is a lot of time, programming talent, and effort expended on projects with very little reward beyond the experience.

This is only one contest with one study, so perhaps the results would trend differently with larger samples, but I’m not so sure. As the founder and CEO of APPCityLife, a startup delivering a global platform with sustainable options for developing and maintaining useful mobile apps for cities, I have heard this story told all too often by hackathon organizers, city leaders and civic hackers. In fact, in a private conversation with our team, the founder of one of the world’s largest civic hacking groups went as far as expressing regret for launching the group due to the growing challenges of leveraging short-term volunteer labor to create longterm solutions for communities – not because solutions aren’t needed but because most of the events hosted by his organization delivered very little in the way of viable product – and when a completed project was deployed, finding funding and an entity to deliver continued support was an even more difficult proposition.

Here is what I believe must happen if we, as a global community, want to effectively exploit the power of mobile apps to address the growing civic demand for access to information and communication via mobile.

Free Labor Is Not A Sustainable Solution

While most of us have likely participated in volunteer efforts focused on a personal passion, very few of us can sustain full time or long term involvement without enough financial benefit to cover our day to day expenses. Even as a corporation, our team can only provide charitable support to a limited number of worthy institutions. This whole “build it and they will come” notion that somehow all that is necessary is for cities to send their data out into the ether and then the data will be embraced by developers and integrated into useful tools solving pain points for citizens for free is short-sighted. While open data most definitely accessed and used in very valuable ways beyond building mobile apps, it is important to realize that when it comes to this particular aspect of open data, free is not a sustainable solution.

Students, community groups and individuals are usually more than willing to show up for a day or a weekend to attempt to address local issues, brainstorm solutions and begin the hard work of building out the technology needed to bring that solution to viable product, more often that not, a day or a weekend is just not enough time. And expecting these groups or individuals to continue work over long periods of time without financial remuneration is not only unreasonable, it is not good business. Without proper funding, solutions are not easily maintained, updated, or grown to add new features. It is one of the reasons we spent almost a year building a real time coupon server where geolocated, targeted offers are deployed on the fly on a local level. By offering revenue share models where income generated through mobile coupons, sponsorships and advertising is shared with those creating solutions for their community, there is proper incentive for apps to be sustained longterm. And it works – our first public school app went out the door already generating more revenue for the school district than was spent on development or support fees.

Open Data Must Be Normalized For Affordable Mobile Integration

Since most open data is being delivered from legacy servers with myriad formats, the challenge of integrating multiple data sets that are structured differently is a difficult challenge even for experienced programmers. When our team began work on our own global open data app, we experienced first-hand the challenge of developing an app accessing data feed from a variety of sources, including companies like Socrata or Junar as well as data produced by in-house teams in other cities. Instead of tackling each of the data sets individually, we stopped production on the app and took a month to build an incredible piece of technology – a world-class open data server which analyzes data from almost any source and normalize it on the fly for immediate use in mobile as everything from charted city budgets to real-time mapped locations of food trucks. It almost feels like magic happens when an open data feed is added and then appears as a readable chart within seconds. And the best benefit of automating complex coding is greatly reduced requirements of both skill level and time to produce a finished product, meaning that an app that might cost six figures and take months with custom coding can be produced in a few days or weeks and supported for as little as a few thousand dollars a year – and generated advertising revenue can often cover or exceed those costs.

Make Mobile Development Accessible to Non-Developers

During a recent meeting with the CIO of a city on the West Coast, it was mentioned that the majority of people who attend the civic hackathons his city hosts arrive with almost all of the right ingredients: passion, ideas, and willingness to work as a team. What is missing from the majority of the attendees is the one skill needed to create mobile apps for civic solutions, mainly the ability to code. And after his team reviewed numerous platforms available on the market today, none provided the depth of flexibility or the sophistication needed to enable non-developers to create powerful civic apps that would actually solve the problem being addressed. It is one of the many motivators behind our decision to make the necessary upgrades to our platform to offer a version which graphic artists, web developers, and passionate activists could comfortably use. It is vital that as a global community, we enable those who are most willing and able to solve problems to access tools that enable them to finish the job in hours or days instead of months. After news of our first successful bootcamp this past weekend – the first time anyone outside of our own team gained access to our platform – requests for a spot on a waiting list to access this platform have already started pouring in from those in attendance to as far away as South America, Europe and Africa.

If we want open data initiatives to truly succeed and become the conduit for useful mobile tools in our communities, we must offer options for funded projects, provide access to powerful tools which serve as stepping stones for STEM. Only then can we create sustainable public-private partnerships. We will all reap the benefits of more available civic mobile solutions when we come to the place that the only limit holding us back is time.


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Are Women Entrepreneurs Better Off Than A Year Ago?

APPCityLife cofounder and COO, Lawrence Abeyta: Tech Fiesta ABQ Women In Technology Luncheon 2014 © Gabriella Marks

APPCityLife cofounder and COO, Lawrence Abeyta: Tech Fiesta ABQ Women In Technology Luncheon 2014 © Gabriella Marks

During yesterday’s second annual NMTC-WIT Luncheon, a reporter in the audience asked the panelists if things were getting any better for women.

In an article published this year in ForbesGeri Stengel predicted that 2014 would be the breakout year for women entrepreneurs. “While the number is still small —  nearly 20% of angels in 2012 invested in women-led businesses — the percentage grew more than 40% from the previous year, according to the Center of Venture Research, which studies early-stage equity financing for high-growth ventures. Even venture capitalists have increased their support of women-led companies. It’s still paltry, but the percentage of VC deals going to women-led businesses was 13% in the first half of 2013. That’s nearly a 20% jump over 2012, according to Pitchbook, a venture-capital research firm.” Encouraging statistics that point to better opportunities ahead. But the real question is, as individuals, do we see new possibilities or more of the same status quo?

The answers from the luncheon’s diverse panel of men and women, including our own COO at APPCityLife, varied from some panelists seeing no change at all to a few answers that, yes, things have changed. As a female CEO, I am well aware of New York Time‘s annual report that of the top 200 highest paid chief executive officers, only two are women. I’ve also seen first-hand at least one venture capital door close because of gender. I could easily see the glass as 87% to 95% empty (the percentage of venture capital currently funneled into male-founded companies in the US).

I choose to see it differently. In my experience over the past year, I’ve seen both significant and subtle changes that make me believe there is more respect, opportunities, and equality for women founders than ever before. Despite a few fairly disheartening experiences with investors, I’ve also found passionate support from others. Our company raised almost $500,000 in angel and family fund investments over the past twelve months, and we’ve been selected as one of only ten New Mexico companies invited to pitch for a larger round of investment at the upcoming Deal Stream Summit. Because of our focus on solving problems in the civic space, I’ve had the incredible privilege of being invited to meet with leaders from around the globe and participate in discussions about civic innovation. And I have yet to find an instance where my gender created any barrier of entry into any office when I’ve reached out to civic leaders – even in some of the biggest urban centers in the US.

But more than anything else, the topics of discussion at the luncheon were a strong indicator to me of just how far we’ve come as a community in New Mexico. Last year’s luncheon opened with the very uncomfortable topic of the jerk tech apps pitched from the stage of TechCrunch Disrupt. Almost the entire hour of conversation last year was focused on the unfairness, the bias, and the simmering anger of those who’d been passed over, ignored, and not taken seriously simply because of their gender. This year’s luncheon definitely covered some of the same challenges – the funding disadvantage, the challenge at being taken seriously – but what inspired me most was the questions that had to do with the real meat of running a business. Those questions were new. Topics ranged from the value of having Non Disclosure Agreements and Employment Contracts to implementing sales channels for international businesses. Instead of simply focusing on the problems women face, the panelists were able to share valuable insight and knowledge that were real takeaways for the rest of the crowd.

Perhaps the only reason we were able to focus on questions about business and expertise this year is because we did address the more uncomfortable topics in the past year. But I, for one, am heartened by the notion that as women, perhaps we’ve come to the place were the conversation can begin to change from how do we let women in at all to how do we help more women grow international, high growth companies.

It’s certainly what I and my cofounders have set out to do, and I am inspired by the growing support and opportunities making that more and more possible.

This was originally published on Huffington Post.


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Four Signs You May be Part of the Mean Girl Culture

image I recently ran into a former PTA Mom who had shared with me one of the most miserable volunteer positions ever: serving as hall monitors at a middle school. We spent most of the year dealing with a particularly difficult group who thrived on the Mean Girl culture. As we talked about the gossip, bullying and petty meanness that we battled that year, my friend made the observation that as bad as those girls acted, it wasn’t nearly as distasteful as when those same behaviors show up in adults. In fact, search for items relating to “mean girl culture” on the internet, and it will only take .42 of a second to return over 102 million hits. That is a good indicator that this particular form of bad behavior is not only prevalent but a problem. It is a good for us to realize that Mean Girl culture can hit at any age — and with either gender — and can end up hurting our careers if we don’t take steps to avoid it.

Here are four signs you may be sabotaging your own career by adopting Mean Girl culture:

You undermine your peers under the pretense of sharing helpful information.

We’ve probably all done it, and we often tell ourselves we’re just being ‘helpful’, but if you find yourself taking your boss or a coworker aside to make sure they are aware of a failure or fault of your colleague, you may be participating in Mean Girl culture. There are times when it is absolutely necessary to point out problems with someone else in the office, and it isn’t spiteful or petty to look out for the success of a project by reporting issues with someone who is failing to meet deadlines or creating problems for the team – if you’ve already addressed the issue with your colleague to no avail. But if you find yourself regularly getting on the good side of the boss by sharing insider information, you may find that it backfires when your colleagues discover that you didn’t have their back.

You participate or instigate water cooler gossip.

At some point in your career, you’ve probably attended an event where one of the people in your group spoke up with the following question, “Did you hear about so-and-so?” You circled in a bit tighter as the group listened and timagehen discussed this latest bit of gossip. You may have even promised not to tell anyone else, but, most likely, you did.

Gossip makes us feel special; it makes us feel trusted enough be included in the secret. It also makes us feel superior to whomever happens to be the target of the current gossip. And if we’re brutally honest with ourselves, we’ll likely admit that we enjoy the bonding that takes place with our peers as we share the secret; we feel like we’re an even tighter group by the secret we now share.

But when you participate — even just by listening — you are putting every other person in your circle on notice that this is what you’re willing to do to them when they’re out of earshot. Gossip builds distrust within a group, which, in turn, can lead to missed opportunities in our career, especially if the gossip we’ve carried later proves to be false or highly embellished. It’s also good to remember that gossip invariably makes its way full circle, and when the person we’ve betrayed discovers that we participated in spreading rumors, we’ve burned a bridge not only that person but with everyone in their circle. Whether we live in a major urban center or in a small town, we can’t afford to hurt relationships that might be with the very person deciding the fate of our career. Next time someone in your group asks you if you’ve heard something about someone else, just remove yourself from the group. Your career will thank you for it.

You pick sides in a cat fight.  

imageThere is little that feels more awkward in the work place than when you are stuck in the middle between two coworkers who dislike each other and work to recruit others in the office to pick sides. And just like schoolyard politics when there was a falling out between two of your friends, if you pick sides, you’ll be the one that is out in the cold when the two of them end up making up and choosing to be friends again. Unless someone has conducted themselves dishonestly, harmed another individual, or conducted themselves in such a manner that avoiding them is the prudent course of action, do everything possible to remain neutral when your coworkers get in a spat. If they don’t make up, you’ll still be able to work on projects with either of them. And if they do patch up their differences, they won’t be able to share with the other anything nasty you might have said had you chosen to pick sides.

Playing Dirty With Your Competition

You might have caught the story in the news about Uber playing dirty with their competition. And whether their practices prove to be legal or not, the company took a big risk with their current and potential customers becoming disgusted enough by their tactics to take their business elsewhere. While no one is expected to give up opportunities or take a hit to their own career so that someone else can benefit, it is also wise to take care that we don’t sabotage the efforts of others in an attempt to gain the upper hand. Competition can be a good thing, and it can help us hone our skills and bring our A-game, but when we stoop to playing dirty to get ahead, we run the risk of it backfiring and hurting us even more in the long run.

 

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