Software

The fate of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was sealed in March

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick attends the summer World Economic Forum in Tianjin, China, June 26, 2016.

Just a few months ago, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick “absolutely” had the full confidence of Uber’s board, according to director Arianna Huffington. Yesterday (June 20), he was forced out of the $70 billion company he founded, pressured by investors who found his leadership lacking.

Uber had numerous issues related to Kalanick’s leadership, including a sexist culture that resulted in allegations of harassment, a ruthless approach to expansion and labor relations that drew the ire of regulators and taxi unions globally, and the poaching of a former Google executive that led to a lawsuit from Alphabet over allegedly stolen technology.

All those issues—and more—led to a slowing of business and put the company’s prospects for an initial public offering in jeopardy. Investors, including Benchmark,​ Menlo Ventures, Lowercase Capital, First Round Capital, and Fidelity Investments had had enough and decided to push Kalanick out, the Wall Street Journal reported (paywall). Kalanick, 40 years old, had already opted to take an indefinite leave to mourn the sudden death of his mother in a boating accident that also critically injured his father on Pine Flat Lake in California in late May.

But the first public sign that Kalanick was on his way out came in March, with that “full confidence” remark. Historically, whenever a CEO, or a board—or your own boss—says publicly that they have full confidence in an executive, that marks them for firing, executive coaches and recruiters have long observed.

In June of 2011, Yahoo’s board stated they had “full confidence” in Carol Bartz as CEO. In September, she was fired over the phone by Yahoo’s chairman, Roy Rostock, one of the company’s co-founders. On July 25, 2010, BP publicly stated that Tony Hayward, the CEO famous for running the company during the disastrous Deepwater Horizon oil spill, “has the full support of the board,” only to announce the next day that US BP chief Bob Dudley would take over; Hayward had been still negotiating his severance package.

Even in government, such statements read as career death knells. On Feb. 13 this year, Trump surrogate Kellyanne Conway told MSNBC that then-national security advisor Michael Flynn enjoyed the “full confidence of the president.” Flynn was toast the next day. Whenever a boss says, ” ‘You have my full confidence,’ I often advise the person to update their resume,” Dee Soder, managing partner of the CEO Perspective Group in New York, which advises top executives, told Quartz. Such statements are often made publicly by sports team owners about losing coaches, says Randi Melnick, an employment lawyer in New York. “Those are red flags,” she says. “One more losing season and the coach does not have their confidence any more.”

For Kalanick, Huffington’s full-confidence statement was followed by a devastating report from an outside legal firm documenting numerous problems with the company’s ethics, culture, and business practices. And with that, the last whiff of investors’ confidence evaporated.

Read next: When your boss asks if you want to stay in your job, he’s saying, “You’re fired!”

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Jeremy WebbThe fate of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was sealed in March
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5 Moves You May Not Have Considered for Your Tech Startup

Startups are known for the speed at which they convert an idea into a viable product. That is the exciting part. This bigger picture tends to eclipse the part where founders have to deal with day-to-day operational issues. But this part matters, too.

With so much ground to cover between conceiving an idea and launching your product into the market, you might have only considered these five things in passing, or not at all:

Working with a developer using the hybrid model

If you aren’t a developer, you’ll need to find someone else to help you turn your idea into a product. But should you hire or outsource this talent? Having in-house developers has its advantages, chief of which is working with the same member or team during iteration.

However, it can deplete your funds more quickly.

The hybrid model lets you hire developers on contract from an outsourcing agent or partner. You can manage the developers directly, pay them for the period agreed on, and choose not to renew the contract if the first version of the product fails. This model allows you to avoid obligations you aren’t ready to meet, including a monthly salary and employee benefits.

Finding unlikely co-founders in your support group

In other words, delay finding a co-founder. That is if you’re down to searching for interesting candidates on Google Search. If this is the case, then you might not have the right kind of relationship yet. Doing it alone seems to go against conventional wisdom in building startups. But it’s the same wisdom that says you and your partner should invest equally in the project. 

At this point, you are better off with your existing support group. Some startup founders stress the importance of having a spouse, partner, or best friend who can provide you with emotional support during hard times. Chances are you can rely on the feedback from someone close, too. You’d want someone who won’t mince words when your test product isn’t living up to its promise.

Protecting the source code

It is likely that licensees will attempt to request access to the source code and other materials critical to maintaining the software. Without the raw code, they have no guarantee that they can still use or profit from your product should you go out of business. On your end, keeping it secret is about protecting your intellectual property. It can be damaging to your business to let it fall into the wrong hands.

It is best to set up a source code escrow to mitigate risk on either end. In this case, a neutral third party holds the escrow materials and releases them to the licensee if and when a mutually-agreed-upon event occurs. As the vendor, you will gain the confidence of your licensees without losing control over your product.

Offer software as a service

Software vendors are not exempt from the effects of human nature. There exist elements that take others’ digital property without permission. They are freeloaders in a world of hustlers. It’s good to be aware of the threats.

Purchase-and-download product packages are more prone to piracy. These days, most startups feel more secure when they offer software as a service. Through the subscription model, they provide clients packages each with a range of features from simple to advanced. Clients need to enter their credit card credentials to complete a transaction, so the chances of theft are slim to none.

Having insurance for your business

Investing in insurance is a prudent move for anyone who’s starting a business for several reasons. There are several reasons and types of insurance to consider. You may take on a “key person” insurance for employees whose skill sets are very important to your startup. You may also choose to get protected from a potential liability claim. The insurance is useful in situations such as when a client files a suit against you because your product did not perform according to your intentions. (Yes, this has happened.)

 Conclusion

The things pointed out here are supposed to help you avoid mistakes that might cost you not only your money but also your startup. So choose well.

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For programmers, the ultimate office perk is avoiding the office entirely

Programmers are most likely to work from home

Slack, Skype, Google Hangouts, Basecamp, BlueJeans. Over the past decade, designers and engineers have invented dozens of new tools to keep us connected to the office without actually going there. Unsurprisingly, those same engineers have been among the first to start using them in large numbers. More programmers are working from home than ever and, among the most experienced, some are even beginning to demand it.

In 2015, an estimated 300,000 full-time employees in computer science jobs worked from home in the US. (This figure also includes related professions such as actuaries and statisticians, but the vast majority are programmers.) Although not the largest group of remote employees in absolute numbers, that’s about 8% of all programmers, which is a significantly larger share than in any other job category, and well above the average for all jobs of just under 3%.

These numbers are not easy to find. Quartz analyzed data from the US census, the American Community Survey, and the American Time Use Survey to estimate how many full-time employees work from home, what jobs they do, and how much time they spend in their home office instead of the office office. We excluded self-employed workers from this analysis, to focus exclusively on the home-working habits of the wage-earning workforce.

Programmers not only work from home more often than other employees, when they do they are more likely to work all day at home. From 2012 to 2015, the average full-time programmer who worked from home said they spent an average of five and a half hours doing so. That’s an 92% increase in the average time spent at home from 2003 to 2005, and nearly double the average for all jobs.

For many programmers, the attractions of working from home are obvious. I’m one of them—I wrote the code for this analysis—and I know all too well the intense concentration required to engineer good solutions to complex problems, as well as the productivity-wrecking frustration of being interrupted mid-flow. Working from home, assuming one can maintain a certain discipline, offers a tranquility seldom found in an office.

Technology companies, used to luring job candidates with office gyms and free meals, must now contend with an increasing number of candidates who don’t want to come to the office at all. In a survey conducted in January by popular programmer website Stack Overflow, 53% of programmers ranked remote work as one of their five most valued benefits. That’s more than chose healthcare, working hours, or professional development.

Hiring managers appear to be coming to terms with this, at least for employees with enough clout to negotiate aggressively. The number of programmers who work full-time from home has been growing at an average rate of 11.5% per year over the past decade, but this growth isn’t evenly distributed. According to the Stack Overflow data, better paid and more experienced programmers tend to be the ones who want to work from home, and they are also the ones most likely to be given the opportunity. (There’s another reason managers might be increasingly keen to allow employees to work from home: They want to join them. Managers are single largest group of remote workers in the US.)

 The movement of well-paid professionals out of the office could have broad social and political impacts. It’s unclear if these trends extend beyond the United States. National statistics in other countries are generally not as detailed nor as consistent as those in the US, making direct comparisons tricky. Most available data seem to suggest that working from home is less popular in most European countries, but even more popular in fast-growing economies like China, India, and Indonesia.

The movement of well-paid professionals out of the office could have broad social and political impacts. As a remote worker myself, I’ve brought my coastal salary to a small city in Eastern Texas. I personally know two other remote programmers in similar situations around here. For now the numbers are modest, but they provide a hypothetical path to reversing the intense wealth concentration that has made places like San Francisco and New York City unlivable for most Americans.

It may also just be more humane. Remote workers report being happier and more productive. Stack Overflow found programmers who always work from home are about 11% more satisfied with their jobs than those who never do. (This could also be because they tend to be more experienced and better paid.)

That said, working from home has many critics. Silicon Valley standard-bearers Facebook and Google discourage it. IBM recently announced it was telling thousands of remote employees to return to the office. Still, those companies’ qualms don’t appear to affect programmers’ rising enthusiasm for working from home.

The R code written for this analysis, as well as methodological notes, are published on Github.

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Jeremy WebbFor programmers, the ultimate office perk is avoiding the office entirely
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For programmers, the ultimate office perk is avoiding the office entirely

Programmers are most likely to work from home

Slack, Skype, Google Hangouts, Basecamp, BlueJeans. Over the past decade, designers and engineers have invented dozens of new tools to keep us connected to the office without actually going there. Unsurprisingly, those same engineers have been among the first to start using them in large numbers. More programmers are working from home than ever and, among the most experienced, some are even beginning to demand it.

In 2015, an estimated 300,000 full-time employees in computer science jobs worked from home in the US. (This figure also includes related professions such as actuaries and statisticians, but the vast majority are programmers.) Although not the largest group of remote employees in absolute numbers, that’s about 8% of all programmers, which is a significantly larger share than in any other job category, and well above the average for all jobs of just under 3%.

These numbers are not easy to find. Quartz analyzed data from the US census, the American Community Survey, and the American Time Use Survey to estimate how many full-time employees work from home, what jobs they do, and how much time they spend in their home office instead of the office office. We excluded self-employed workers from this analysis, to focus exclusively on the home-working habits of the wage-earning workforce.

Programmers not only work from home more often than other employees, when they do they are more likely to work all day at home. From 2012 to 2015, the average full-time programmer who worked from home said they spent an average of five and a half hours doing so. That’s an 92% increase in the average time spent at home from 2003 to 2005, and nearly double the average for all jobs.

For many programmers, the attractions of working from home are obvious. I’m one of them—I wrote the code for this analysis—and I know all too well the intense concentration required to engineer good solutions to complex problems, as well as the productivity-wrecking frustration of being interrupted mid-flow. Working from home, assuming one can maintain a certain discipline, offers a tranquility seldom found in an office.

Technology companies, used to luring job candidates with office gyms and free meals, must now contend with an increasing number of candidates who don’t want to come to the office at all. In a survey conducted in January by popular programmer website Stack Overflow, 53% of programmers ranked remote work as one of their five most valued benefits. That’s more than chose healthcare, working hours, or professional development.

Hiring managers appear to be coming to terms with this, at least for employees with enough clout to negotiate aggressively. The number of programmers who work full-time from home has been growing at an average rate of 11.5% per year over the past decade, but this growth isn’t evenly distributed. According to the Stack Overflow data, better paid and more experienced programmers tend to be the ones who want to work from home, and they are also the ones most likely to be given the opportunity. (There’s another reason managers might be increasingly keen to allow employees to work from home: They want to join them. Managers are single largest group of remote workers in the US.)

 The movement of well-paid professionals out of the office could have broad social and political impacts. It’s unclear if these trends extend beyond the United States. National statistics in other countries are generally not as detailed nor as consistent as those in the US, making direct comparisons tricky. Most available data seem to suggest that working from home is less popular in most European countries, but even more popular in fast-growing economies like China, India, and Indonesia.

The movement of well-paid professionals out of the office could have broad social and political impacts. As a remote worker myself, I’ve brought my coastal salary to a small city in Eastern Texas. I personally know two other remote programmers in similar situations around here. For now the numbers are modest, but they provide a hypothetical path to reversing the intense wealth concentration that has made places like San Francisco and New York City unlivable for most Americans.

It may also just be more humane. Remote workers report being happier and more productive. Stack Overflow found programmers who always work from home are about 11% more satisfied with their jobs than those who never do. (This could also be because they tend to be more experienced and better paid.)

That said, working from home has many critics. Silicon Valley standard-bearers Facebook and Google discourage it. IBM recently announced it was telling thousands of remote employees to return to the office. Still, those companies’ qualms don’t appear to affect programmers’ rising enthusiasm for working from home.

The R code written for this analysis, as well as methodological notes, are published on Github.

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For these Microsoft workers charged with verifying images of child porn, the strain is too much

Microsodt is being sued by employees who claim they have PTSD after scanning child pornography

After screening thousands of images and videos of child pornography, a pair of Microsoft employees claim they are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

According to the BBC, Henry Soto and Greg Blauert were responsible for verifying the content of that images flagged as potentially illegal. The two worked for Microsoft’s online safety team, which was responsible for checking images surfaced by software or reported as offensive, and forwarding illegal ones to the US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

In a lawsuit against the company, they allege Microsoft did little to prepare them for their jobs, and offered little support after they struggled with the demands of their job, which Microsoft denies. The software giant also tried to make the work easier by manipulating the images to make them less graphic, the BBC said. The photos are blurred, rendered in black and white and shown only in thumbnail sizes. Audio is removed from video.

Still, the two men had trouble coping.

Blauert had a mental breakdown in 2013, according to their complaint, and Soto said he suffered panic attacks, depression, hallucinations, and had trouble spending time with children, including his son. The men said Microsoft minimized their complaints, suggesting they take a walk or play video games to take their minds of it, and told them if they wanted to transfer, they would have to apply for a new job.

Microsoft has rejected Soto and Blauert’s claims. The company said it acknowledges the difficulty of the job and that the employees had access to mental-health professionals and an individual wellness plan to “ensure those who handle this material have the resources and support they need,” a spokesman told Quartz.

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Jeremy WebbFor these Microsoft workers charged with verifying images of child porn, the strain is too much
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Companies are automating performance reviews so that millennials get the constant feedback they crave

Millenials love feedback.

Annual performance reviews were not built for employees who want regular feedback, and perhaps that’s one reason they’re going out of style. Accenture, Adobe, Deloitte, Microsoft, and General Electric have all abandoned the yearly ritual.

The emphasis now is on “continuous feedback” systems. For instance, SAP SuccessFactors, a performance-review software product used by 60,000 companies and 45 million workers, added a feature in February for “ongoing one-on-one check-ins between employees and managers.”

Startups like Lattice, TinyPulse, and Zugata take the concept to the extreme with quick reviews that are often meant to be completed every week and sometimes coordinated automatically. TinyPulse CEO David Niu, whose customers include Facebook and IBM, promised that a new product launched in February would capture “all the real-time data people crave to measure performance, all while keeping it fun.” By fun, he meant, for instance, that managers and employees can assess progress on their goals with a Tinder-like swipe-to-rate system.

Zugata, which is used at more than 500 firms including the ride-hailing company Lyft, analyzes employee communication on project-management platforms, emails, and chat apps like Slack to figure out who works closely together so that it can coordinate weekly peer reviews. Coworkers then evaluate each other by flipping through a virtual flash-card deck and rating their colleagues on a series of skills (options include “rocking it” or “getting there”).

Based on the assessments, Zugata sends the employees materials they can use to improve in the areas where they’re lagging, though the focus overall is on positive feedback.

It’s tempting to blame (or credit) the frequent feedback trend on coddled young people who won too many “good try” trophies throughout their youth soccer careers or who, as Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson recently put it, “grew up with the internet [and] just expect quick feedback on things.”

While millennials now make up the largest generation in the US workforce, Zugata CEO Srinivas Krishnamurti pushes back on the idea that the need more for more frequent, positive feedback is a millennial-only concern. “When we started the company, that was one of our assumptions,” he said. But “I don’t necessarily buy that it’s a new thing or a millennial thing. Everything is moving much faster. I think that this is just one thing that hasn’t kept up with everything else that’s moving in our lives.”

Indeed, research shows that annual reviews are hated by almost everybody, and may actually hurt performance.

A survey of companies by Deloitte in 2015 suggested that performance-rating systems themselves are under review far and wide, with 90% of respondents saying they had updated their systems in the previous 18 months, were currently evaluating them, or planned to review them over the next 18 months.

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Laboratoria: The Latin American Code Academy Eradicating Female Poverty

One of the biggest obstacles in building startups outside of the United States is fundraising.

Many companies shut down after running out of money. What can entrepreneurs outside of the U.S. do to access venture capital?

Dave McClure, 500 Startups Founder and Partner, advises founders to be resilient and keep getting customers. The money will come if you focus on building products that people want. The following Latin American edtech company is living proof of McClure’s advice. They started with almost no money and recently, they shared a stand with the world’s top tech leaders.

Laboratoria: Empowering Women Through Technology

Four years ago, Latin American social enterprise Laboratoria launched with the hopes of giving young women opportunities for a brighter future through software education. Four years later, Mariana Costa, Laboratoria CEO, joined Mark Zuckerberg and President Obama at GES 2016 to discuss the impact that her program has made for thousands of low-income women in Latin America.

Mariana Costa next to Mark Zuckerberg at GES 2016 (Source: Stanford)

What’s Laboratoria and how did it first launch?

Costa and her husband met in New York City, and decided to open an agency to connect developers in Latin America with tech companies. When they started, they realized that it was difficult to find women developers, though the demand to hire them was high.

Costa decided to return to her home country of Peru, creating what Laboratoria is now – a program to teach young women to code while giving them access to work in the tech industry.

Laboratoria students (Source: Microsoft)

Unlike software academies like General Assembly and Hackbright Academy, Laboratoria targets young women who didn’t have access to high quality education. Once the students graduate, they pay back the cost of the program during their first 3 years of work. The results of Laboratoria in 4 years? See it yourself:

Screen Shot 2016-07-05 at 8.58.40 AM.png

When Costa first started, she didn’t receive much local support for her venture. Then, her team’s hustle and hard work paid off and partnerships and money came along. Now, the courses have expanded to 4 major cities in Latin America and Laboratoria is looking to open more offices.

Tech companies like IBM, Google, Linkedin, and Microsoft have funded Laboratoria to increase the supply of women developers. Laboratoria still has a lot of potential for growth. As the company expands, more young women who previously were making minimum wage will now have access to quality education in the digital age.

Historically, edtech companies have had a more difficult time to raise money and find strategic partnerships than other industries. Why? Many edtech founders are building products that don’t scale to a larger market.

Credit: Laboratoria’s Facebook

The topics of education and edtech are often discussed with a lack of empathy. Many of these products and services are targeting more affluent people. Thus, a lot of founders never truly understand their users and as a result, have growth problems.

The Institute of Design at Stanford teaches “empathy” as a step to create sustainable businesses. Laboratoria’s understanding of their students’ background and stories is an important factor of their business model, growth strategy, and teaching methodologies.

Founders, money is an important aspect of a company’s growth, but as McClure said, you shouldn’t focus on raising money – you should keep getting customers. During the early days of Laboratoria, Costa and her team focused on giving the best education to their students, which ultimately led to partnerships with the biggest tech firms in the world.

My advice? If you are a founder that wants to build an app for 100 million users, go talk to them. You probably see the world very differently than someone who struggles with hidden learning disabilities, or someone who has to work multiple jobs to pay for food. Build a product that people can and want to use. Success will follow.

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Jeremy WebbLaboratoria: The Latin American Code Academy Eradicating Female Poverty
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