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Do incubators have an obligation to actively seek out female hackers? (debate)

Jon Soberg:

The discussion about women in tech is one of the most important discussions in the ecosystem today. I believe we need to continue to make this a priority, both in discussions and in actions.

Originally posted on VentureBeat:

Y Combinator founder Paul Graham set off a small firestorm over the weekend with his opinions about women in tech.

On Friday, Valleywag posted excerpts of Graham’s in-depth interview with news site The Information, in which he reportedly said: “We can’t make women look at the world through hacker eyes and start Facebook because they haven’t been hacking for the past 10 years.”

Graham claims he was misquoted and published a response, but that hasn’t silenced his critics. This morning, investor Fred Wilson provided one of the more balanced viewpoints in a blog post. And it engendered quite a bit of debate (and a reaction) from the VentureBeat office too.

Related: Read our top stories about women in technology from 2013.

It’s a particularly sensitive topic in Silicon Valley and other tech hubs, given the numbers. According to the Kauffman Foundation, only 3 percent of tech startups are…

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15 thought-provoking VB guest posts you probably missed in 2013

Jon Soberg:

Pretty cool to have a post listed in the 15 you should see from 2013.

Originally posted on VentureBeat:

With the year coming to a close, we wanted to pull out some of the awesome, thought-provoking guest posts written by investors, founders, and entrepreneurs for VentureBeat in 2013. Make sure you check these out before the year comes to a close:

Porch cofounder Ronnie Castro and his family.

Porch cofounder Ronnie Castro and his family.

I have brain cancer. What’s your excuse?

By Ronnie Castro. If you think your entrepreneurial journey is tough, just read this guy’s story and put your own life in perspective. From the article: “When you come close to dying, and survive, a lot of things change. Decisions become more black and white, trivial problems disappear, time becomes precious.” Read more…


Image via Women Who Code

30 years of being the only woman in the room — and how that’s changing

By Ellen Leanse: “As an investor, barely a day passes that I don’t hear a pitch from a bright, ambitious, woman…

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Crowdfunding — not just for early stage

Originally posted on VentureBeat:

Jon Soberg is a managing director at Blumberg Capital.

The long term potential of the JOBS Act looks very promising, but the implementation so far feels like watching paint dry.

Crowdfunding is getting a lot more hype in the aftermath of the JOBS Act implementation, but there’s a long road ahead.

Early stage risks

I have been on the record as a strong believer in crowdfunding for projects, causes, and pre-orders, but have voiced some concerns about equity crowdfunding. My concerns come primarily from the numbers. A large percentage of startups don’t make it — period. If we also assume that the best entrepreneurs will attract “smart” institutional money, there is an adverse selection issue. The top early stage investors see thousands of deals per year, and filter those down to only a handful of investments, and not all of those investments succeed. They say it takes a couple of years and $10M…

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A tribute to my grandfather – living life “lucky”

My grandfather passed away this morning, at the age of 92.  Today has been a tough day for me– I miss my grandfather even more than I thought I would.  It is especially tough knowing how difficult this is for my dad- it breaks my heart to see him this sad.

At the same time I find myself being thankful for many things.  My grandfather lived a very long, and fruitful life, and was quite healthy right up to the day he died.  He was out at a restaurant with my parents just 3 days ago, joking and having fun.  Still living life.  He died today in his home, and both of his kids were with him.   I hope when I go, I can say the same.

But, this post is about living life, and the example my grandfather set.  Whenever I spoke with my grandfather, from the time I was very young, until very recently on the phone, he would always say “I’m doing great!  I’m so lucky!”  Over the past few years, his short term memory had been fading, so I would get to hear those words repeated several times in a conversation, but I never tired of them.  He would say, “Oh, I’m getting old, forgetful, not what I used to be, but I’m doing great, lucky to be alive and healthy!”  He always had a joke, or a lighthearted comment, many of the self deprecating sort, and always getting back to being lucky.  Growing up it was the same.  He was always cheerful, loved to take us swimming, fishing, camping, or just hanging out.  And, we always heard how lucky we were.

He was lucky.  His father emigrated from Norway to the US (and changed his name, or had it changed by accident when he arrived).  He had plenty of stories of hard work to pay for college.  He was on the swim team (and had the most efficient swim strokes I have seen anywhere).  He loved to tell stories about winning wrestling matches against kids twice his size because he was quicker, more determined, and maybe a bit more strategic.  He was a pilot in the Pacific theater during WWII, and used to love to show me the collection of old WWII guns he amassed from his travels in the war (I never did ask him how he brought them all home).  He never told me about the tough parts of the war, but always focused on how lucky he was to fly, to be with the brave friends, and to survive.

After the war, my grandfather was an executive at a couple of construction firms in Duluth, Minnesota.  We would drive around the city and he loved to point out all the different buildings he had helped build, and was immensely proud of what he contributed to the community.  “We built that hospital” or “We won that project because we did that special design”, or “we worked extra hard on that one, and barely won it.”  Every drive had a story.  He was the guy who did the final estimates, and then supervised projects.  He could do math in his head that most had trouble doing with calculators, and always pointed out the common sense angles that he used to win.  He won most of the projects he bid, and he would usually say it was a combination of “luck and a bit of hard work.”  He built his own house, and loved to show me the specifics, the tricky parts, and the things that others wouldn’t notice.  Always paying attention to the details, and always working just a bit harder.

As a father, he loved his kids more than anything, even though I know he worked more than he would have liked.  From all of my memories of him, and I have many amazing memories over the years, the one I recall most strongly was two summers ago.  My family went to visit Minnesota, and he met Melina and Nadia for the first time.  He thought the world of the girls– I don’t think there was anything in the world that could have made him happier than spending time with them.  He kept repeating, “Jon, you are so lucky.  Cherish every minute with these girls.”  And, given his short term memory lapses, he repeated it enough that it is my  strongest memory of him.  There are times now I wonder if the short term memory failure was just a hoax so he could get his point across!

I believe that luck is not just about chance, but is also about being ready and able to take advantage of opportunities.  My grandfather is a case and point.  He always spoke about “luck”, but he helped make his luck, and I don’t ever recall a time when he was not “doing great!”  Always quick with a joke, a word of encouragement, and full of love for the world, Grandpa Ray was always grateful, and in a word, he lived life “lucky.”

Thank you Grandpa Ray.  I hope to live life “lucky” like you, and we all miss you very much!

Bitcoin: Are we looking at a revolution?

Jon Soberg:

My first post on Bitcoin. Have more thoughts coming in the future. Exciting times in Financial Services!

Originally posted on VentureBeat:

Bitcoin’s roller coaster ride over the past few months has been well documented.  We watched Bitcoin’s meteoric rise in value from $33 at the end of February (then an all-time high) to a peak of nearly $266 on April 10, followed by the crash of as much as 70 percent.

But Bitcoin prices are not the story.  The opportunities that Bitcoin creates and the new virtual algorithmic currency companies are the true story.

Bitcoin is maturing quickly and has the ingredients for success

At the recent Bitcoin Conference, which attracted over 1500 people on a weekend in San Jose, it struck me how quickly the ecosystem has matured and how this is not some libertarian or hacker movement.  This is a sophisticated financial technology that has the potential to dramatically change the way we think about currency, remittance, fraud, and transactions.  I came away even more bullish than when I…

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German incubator proves a ‘clone factory’ isn’t a bad thing

Jon Soberg:

I spent time with some of the people I respect most in the startup world on this trip, and also with a couple of Rocket folks. I came away impressed as you can see from my latest post.

Originally posted on VentureBeat:

Jon Soberg is a managing director at Blumberg Capital.

In Germany, and in many other countries, Rocket Internet is a constant topic of startup conversation, while in the U.S., there is a dearth of knowledge about the incubator.

I just finished another trip to Germany, where I am actively investing (seven investments in the past 18 months).  Several investments have been made along with Rocket Internet and Global Founders Capital (the fund managed by Oliver Samwer, Marc Samwer, and Fabian Siegel).

In the standard U.S. press articles, Rocket Internet is portrayed as a “clone factory.”  It’s also known for high attrition rates; in fairness, it does have high attrition in some countries.  Some call Rocket Internet “Startup Boot Camp” and say it is the best training for entrepreneurs anywhere; many former Rocket people become founders of new companies.

Rocket is ruthlessly focused on aggressive growth and execution, where top performers get…

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Integrating work and home — tech dads need balance too

Jon Soberg:

This is a post I just did that really is important to me, and I’m hoping that others find it valuable.

Originally posted on VentureBeat:

Tech dads need balanceI recently had a Twitter conversation with a great friend about an article that really hit home for me. A recent Pew Research study concluded that more fathers feel they aren’t spending enough time with their kids than mothers (including working mothers), and I have to say that it was like someone had done the study at my house.

I am a father who loves my children more than anything in the world. At least that is what I feel.

A chart of my hourly time spent would not make anyone reach the same conclusion.

And that causes cognitive dissonance for me — in a big way. I’m an accountability guy. I look for it in myself, my co-workers, the companies I invest in, and just in general. I strongly believe that priorities are a huge key to unlocking a person’s values, and to success. The way a person spends…

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