Technology

In the name of all that is holy, please don’t let Sheryl Sandberg become the next CEO of Uber

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg speaks at the American Enterprise Institute, Wednesday, June 22, 2016 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

If anyone in this world deserves to be a CEO somewhere, it’s Facebook chief operating officer and Lean In author Sheryl Sandberg.

And if there’s one place that needs someone like Sandberg in the CEO job, it’s Uber. Big, bold, and troubled to a fault, it’s desperate for leadership, diversity, and the business skills needed to keep it ahead of the curve while it aims to repair its image as a deeply sexist workplace.

But Sandberg leading Uber would be the worst sort of leaning in. Why? Because women in CEO roles start at a disadvantage when they are brought in as nurses to rush to the aid of a sickly culture, or as babysitters meant to buttress a male founder who acts like an overgrown child.

Companies that do this can claim to have broken the glass ceiling, but that’s not the only mess the new female CEO will need to sweep up. As she works to get her new company back on track, she will be all the while marching right up to the edge of the proverbial glass cliff, until she is thrown over by an impatient board or by frustrated investors who don’t understand why she failed in her role.

It’s true that it’s not only women who get recruited for big turnaround jobs. If that were the case, there would be far more women running big companies today. But studies have shown that when the going gets tough, we are more inclined to seek a female savior than a male one—although strangely this only tends to hold true when the tough times occur under male leadership.

Women, meanwhile, are frequently more inclined to want to clean up messes—or at least are more inclined to be willing to do so.

There’s a fabulous passage in Mika Brzezinski’s book Knowing Your Value in which Elizabeth Warren, then overseeing the creation of the US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and now a US senator, talks about a strange realization she had while serving as an associate dean at the University of Houston. It came over her when she had to find an instructor for the worst course at the worst time in the worst location—an assignment she that she had reluctantly volunteered to take on in previous years when she’d been asked to fill it. Here’s what she found when it was her turn to find an instructor for it:

Warren says, “Every single woman could be leveraged into teaching the lousy course at the lousy time in the lousy room. Men would just say, ‘No. That’s not convenient for me.’ I thought, ‘This is astonishing!’”

I ask Warren, “It never crossed your mind to say no?”

“Never,” Warren says.

“Why?”

“Partly I felt lucky to be there; partly, I’m the cooperator, you know, let’s get the job done. Someone needs to do this. Someone needs to mop the floor. Okay, hand me the mop.”

Asked to mop up a mess as big as Uber is, a lot of women might feel lucky for the opportunity, especially considering that only 6% of CEOs in the Fortune 500 are female.

There would be plenty of other reasons to take on the job, some of which could yield big gains for women in the realm of business. Female executives are frequently criticized for lacking “the vision thing,” and Uber, for all its faults, remains an extremely visionary company. Succeeding here would help put to rest the persistent stereotype that women are better doers than thinkers. And if a company as big as Uber, in a sector as culturally influential as Silicon Valley, were to thrive under a female CEO who perhaps could find a way to build a better workplace for women (or even better, women and men), the corporate world as a whole would be much better off.

For Sandberg specifically, the top job at Uber would be nice recognition of the work she has put in as Mark Zuckerberg’s number two at Facebook. The pay would no doubt be great.

But as much as I’d hate to see a woman turn down a vacant CEO job at an important company in the global economy, I hope Sandberg holds out for something better—perhaps Disney, which is drawing up plans for an orderly CEO succession while its business is on an upswing. Or maybe Sandberg will someday start a company of her own.

It’s no surprise to hear that Uber wants her now. But the investors and board members who kept enabling Kalanick after his behavior overshadowed his brilliance might never have tolerated so much corporate rot if they were certain there wouldn’t be a woman around later on to clean up the mess.

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Jeremy WebbIn the name of all that is holy, please don’t let Sheryl Sandberg become the next CEO of Uber
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Even unicorns need a moral compass: Uber and the ultimate toxicity of sexism

Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick

Evidence grows that sexism stands as the gateway drug to the worst of corporate behavior, with Uber and its recently departed chief Travis Kalanick just the most recent egregious example. If the CEO can’t understand that an employee outing to a karaoke bar that also features escort services is a bad idea, who knows else what he might attempt? Now we do.

When a former Uber engineer told the world about the routine sexual harassment she faced, Kalanick called the details “abhorrent and against everything Uber stands for.” Not true, then or now, it turns out. The ruthless approach to conquering international markets—and any plausible competitor—translated to a workplace where women were regularly demeaned.

That’s the problem with corporate cultures that celebrate winning at all costs. It becomes increasingly difficult to tell where the playing field ends and the “locker room” begins.

At Fox News, Roger Ailes unashamedly counted among his cable-TV commandments that blonde newsreaders are best, and most optimally viewed when their bare legs are visible through the glass desks he demanded for the set. The ensuing accusations of his sexually degraded underlings—a scandal that would engulf Ailes and Bill O’Reilly, his most prized on-air acolyte—astonished no one.

Sexism has been an ever-thus presence in the workplace, surviving despite the championing—with accompanying legal protections—of equal opportunity. There somehow remains plenty of room for “the paternalistic metaphor of the corporate family” that subjugates women, as Melissa Gregg put it for The Atlantic:

Unhappy workplaces feature all of the worst aspects of intimate relationships: They are needy (long hours), they punish by withholding love (promotions), they require obligatory felicities (email at any hour) and compulsory socializing (networking drinks).

As stiflingly workaday as all of that sounds for anyone in 2017, the grind for women who adapt their own identities to fit into male-dominated arenas is additionally nightmarish. Last week, Sarah Stockdale’s blistering Medium account, “The myth of the ‘cool tech girl’: And why she’s dangerous,” explained how insidious the idea of the “cool tech girl” is—”a toxic myth, she helps men feel safe in their sexism,” she notes. It was a coincidentally well-timed piece of writing:

When the news broke about (I roll my eyes as I write this) an Uber board member making a sexist comment about women on boards at a town hall about sexism at Uber (facepalm) — I saw men write in comment threads “he probably thought it was OK, he’s probably friends with Arianna [Huffington] and thought he could be funny, it was just a joke.”

Read: he thought ya’ll were cool girls and you’d be cool about it.

Kalanick scrambled to boot that board member, David Bonderman, according to a New York Times account of his final days as CEO. But that was too little, too late, as became clear in a final-hours chat with Huffington, another board member.

Uber’s investors did what they had to with Kalanick. Still, shakeups attack only a symptom, not the disease. The damage of sexism at Uber may be under some control now. The factors that allowed it to thrive there—and in workplaces around the world— won’t be so easily undone.

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Jeremy WebbEven unicorns need a moral compass: Uber and the ultimate toxicity of sexism
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History has paved a path for CEOs to return and it’s not one for Travis Kalanick

Boards have a penchant for bringing back ousted company founders: “boomerang bosses” is a well-worn phrase. So can we expect the same to happen to Travis Kalanick at Uber?

Perhaps the best way to start answering that question is to dig into what happened with Steve Jobs, the Apple leader who is probably the best-known example of a fired founder making a monumental comeback.

Kalanick certainly has the reckless, upstart, law-defying mentality many saw in Jobs. And while the specifics are different—Kalanick has suffered seemingly irreparable public relations damage with Uber, while at Apple in the 1980s Jobs was facing a politics and a power struggle at the top of the company—both were ousted for similar reasons. Both men revelled in rebellion at the start of their careers and didn’t manage to make the transition from fired up go-getter to sensible decision-maker at the pace required by a rapidly growing company.

Jobs left Apple in 1985, only to return over a decade later. It is striking that Jobs’ reappointment as Apple’s CEO came in 1997, a year after the company gobbled up NeXT, the software company Jobs had been working on in the interim. Clearly, the company craved creativity and saw it in their former boss. When Jobs was ushered back to the help, Apple had been operating at a loss just as its biggest competitor, Microsoft, was seeing revenues grow due to the introduction of the Windows 95 operating system.

The Jobs-Apple trajectory is a typical story. Most founders are only asked to return to chief executive roles when their darling is starting to rot and their industry’s playing field is changing. Infosys brought back its co-founder Narayana Murthy in 2013, desperate to inject some life back into an ailing company that had plenty of cash but dismal growth rates. In May this year, Biz Stone announced he would be rejoining Twitter, along with co-founder Jack Dorsey, amid long-running losses at the company. Jerry Wang, co-founder of Yahoo, who from the birth of the company in 1995 steered clear of getting involved in strategy and stuck to “creating good ideas” under the honorary title of “Chief Yahoo,” found himself roped into taking over as CEO in 2007 after a series of mishaps from his predecessor Terry Semel and amid growing competition from Google.

The “founder mentality” is something investors obviously find alluring—but only, it seems, at certain times in the company’s growth. Peter Cappelli, a professor of management at Wharton Business School, puts it down to organizations needing different skills at different times. The entrepreneurial zeal of a founder is great at a company’s start, but often isn’t enough to take a company through its next stage of growth, where stronger management is required. But then they can come to symbolize an energy and openness to innovation that the company may need to spur and sell new ideas further down the line. The founders seem to enjoy it too: speaking of his experience returning to Apple at a Stanford Commencement Speech in 2005, Jobs noted that, “the heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again.”

All that suggests there’s a chance Kalanick does return to Uber—when, down the line, the company becomes a stale elder statesmen in the tech world.

On the other hand, the problem with Kalanick is that any vision he did have has been overshadowed by the macho and misogynistic culture that pervaded all aspects of the company and which Uber is now desperately trying to shake off. Principles that should drive a company forward, and that are central to the ethos of the workplace, have at Uber been decidedly lacking: Kalanick himself struggled to finish describing them in an interview with FastCompany in 2015. He may have created one of the most disruptive companies of the 21st century, but it seems unlikely that the power and energy which Kalanick could offer if he did return would be enough for a company that’s faced such public relations nightmares. Apple could see beyond Jobs’ dictatorial streak because his attitude, though at times difficult, came from the right place: it’s hard to see the same being true of Kalanick.

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Jeremy WebbHistory has paved a path for CEOs to return and it’s not one for Travis Kalanick
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A former executive is accusing Infosys of racism that favours Indians

Infosys Chief Executive Vishal Sikka attends a news conference in Mumbai

A former senior executive at Infosys has accused Indian software major Infosys of a racist bias that favours Indian techies over others.

Erin Green, who worked at Infosys’s Texas office from October 2011 to July 2016, has alleged that his former employer tilted the scales too far towards Indians in its 200,000-strong workforce in the US. In a lawsuit filed (paywall) with the district court in eastern Texas on June 19, Green cites the lack of diversity at the firm as proof of discrimination:

While roughly 1% of the US population is of the South Asian race and national origin, roughly 93%-94% of Infosys’s United States workforce is of the South Asian national origin (primarily Indian). This disproportionately South Asian and Indian workforce, by race and national origin, is a result of Infosys’s intentional employment discrimination against individuals who are not South Asian, including discrimination in the hiring, promotion, compensation, and termination of individuals.

In 2013, India’s second-largest IT firm took a $34 million hit—the largest ever payment in a visa case—after a Texas court found the behemoth guilty of “systemic visa fraud and abuse.”

Although Green doesn’t explicitly address the potential misuse of visas at Infosys, he suggests that the predominance of Indians is not simply a product of meritocracy. Green, the former global head of immigration who has previously spoken out about the detrimental effect of curbing H-1B visas on the US tech sector, is accusing Infosys of using the very same work visas to replace or supplant non-south Asians at the company. Green has called for a trial by jury.

Blinded by colour

Apparently, trouble began after Green’s transfer to the global immigration team led by Vasudeva Nayak in 2013. In his complaint, Green makes serious allegations against the supervisor of stripping him of his responsibilities and passing on immigration- and compliance-related roles to “less experienced, lower level South Asian employees in India…or peer level South Asian managers in India who were consistently added to the US team with no prior US immigration experience.”

Since then, the lawsuit claims, “…Plaintiff (Green) was not promoted, and no white or black employees on Plaintiff’s teams were ever promoted, progressed, or given salary increases.” Only the careers of south Asians progressed. Binod Hampapur, whom Nayak reported to, is also called out in the complaint for not curbing the discrimination.

In March 2015, Green filed an internal discrimination complaint to no avail. Instead, in August 2015, Nayak gave Green his lowest performance rating during his four-year tenure at Infosys—a sign of retaliation by the senior management in Green’s view.

He escalated the matter in September 2015, filing an internal complaint with Infosys’s employee relations team. Even after a nearly year-long probe, there was no resolution. Green’s employment was terminated on the grounds that he used “his work computer for personal use a number of years earlier.” However, Green believes his firing had more to do with the company’s “obsessional preference for employees of South Asian race and national origin, usually Indian, and as retaliation for reporting Nayak and Hampapur’s discriminatory treatment of himself and others on the basis of race and national origin.”

Infosys declined to comment on the ongoing litigation.

Balancing act

The numbers do show the outsized presence of Indians. Of all nationalities, Indians were the recipients of the highest number (pdf) of US H-1B employment visas in 2013 and 2014. In 2015, they captured 72% of H-1B visas issued.

Although each of these hires may be a deserving candidate, experts have warned against the “halo effect,” the tendency to hire someone with a background and credentials that mirror the hiring officer’s or existing team members’ records.

A number of companies in the US have come under fire for opting for cheaper Indian talent over equally qualified locals in a bid to cut costs. Earlier this year, Larry Ellison’s $160 billion California-based software giant Oracle was sued (pdf) by the US department of labor for wage violations and hiring bias “against qualified white, Hispanic, and African-American applicants in favor of Asian applicants, particularly Asian Indians.” In 2015, a former Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) employee accused the company of “anti-American sentiment” and south Asian bias in its hiring practices. Several Quora users have also attested to cronyism among Indian employees at big name companies like Cisco, Qualcomm, Microsoft, HCL, Tech Mahindra, Wipro, and others.

For Infosys, the recent complaint comes at a time when its US-based CEO, Vishal Sikka, has vowed to ramp up hiring in America amid US president Donald Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” push.

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Jeremy WebbA former executive is accusing Infosys of racism that favours Indians
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Airbnb’s chief troubleshooter was founded by three Indian-origin entrepreneurs

trooly founders

Airbnb, the property rental unicorn, is in the process of integrating itself with Trooly, a little known California-based startup founded by three Indian-origin entrepreneurs.

Trooly has helped Airbnb stay trouble-free since 2015 by filtering out spurious postings. Now, the $31-billion, San Francisco-based company has decided to buy Trooly, Bloomberg reported on Friday. “We look forward to welcoming the Trooly team to Airbnb in the coming weeks,” company spokesman Tim Rathschmidt told Bloomberg.

The startup is the brainchild of entrepreneurs Savi Baveja, Anish Das Sarma, and Nilesh Dalvi, who serve as its chief executive officer, chief technology officer, and the chief science officer respectively. Baveja came on board Trooly after a stint as senior partner at consulting firm Bain & Company, where he was also a member of the board of directors. Sarma and Dalvi are both Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) graduates with research experience. The former, an IIT gold medallist, has worked at Google Research and Yahoo Research and completed a PhD from Stanford University. The latter has worked with Facebook and Yahoo Research.

Airbnb has long struggled with people trying to game the system. Sometimes, those posing as property owners post fraudulent listings on the site. At other times, renters try to sidestep it by contacting the hosts directly on social media and offering to pay them, circumventing Airbnb’s fees.

The Los Altos-based background-check startup uses information from the public web, the dark web, permissible social media, and its own aggregation of records to gauge the credentials of individuals and businesses. Its website claims that its comparatively wholesome predictions are “free of bias than old school background checks, credit scores, and risk management tools.”

Airbnb isn’t the only one taken by Trooly’s technology. Towards the end of last year, it raised $10 million from backers like Bain Capital Ventures and Milliways Ventures.

Details of the Airbnb-Trooly deal are still under wraps but aside from the core technology, it’s likely that Airbnb will also add Trooly’s 16 employees to its staff. Bloomberg said the deal is expected to close on Monday (June 19), when Trooly is expected to shut down operations as an independent company.

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Jeremy WebbAirbnb’s chief troubleshooter was founded by three Indian-origin entrepreneurs
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For Startups, Automation is a Key Ingredient to Success

Startups don’t generally flop from terrible ideas. In most cases, it’s due to a lack of planning, resources, or execution.

This is because startups usually lack the capabilities, in terms of human and financial capital, that other larger companies have. The answer, as thousands of other startups have discovered over the past few years, is automation.

Automation: Your Helping Hand

As the founder of a startup, you know just how difficult it can be to scale. You have a great idea, and perhaps even a few customers, but you just can’t seem to get things to the next level. It’s like the old saying that goes, “It takes money to make money.” In order to become a bigger business, you need access to big business resources. The problem is that you lack the money, people, etc. to obtain them.

This is where automation enters the picture. Automation technology lets you do more with less by allowing you to streamline certain tasks and continue scaling without requiring additional resources. Specifically, automation affords your startup the following benefits:

  • Saves time. The first benefit most people think about is the time savings. When you’re able to automate processes that you’ve otherwise been performing by hand, you suddenly have the ability to use your time and energy elsewhere. Theoretically, you should be able to double your output in some areas.
  • Centralizes communication. “When information is scattered across multiple systems or isn’t up to date, it’s difficult to find the correct information you need,” ConnectWise explains. For example, when a client calls and needs information on a specific project, they experience poor customer service when they have to wait for 15 or 20 minutes to get answers. “Automation streamlines the communications between different departments.” So, in this case, the client would be served in a much more efficient manner.
  • Establishes standard processes. With automation technology, standardization across the board is a much more realistic goal. You’re removing people from the equation, which prevents most inconsistencies from occurring. As a result, you don’t have to deal with as many errors and issues that startups typically have to work through in the beginning stages of growth.
  • Provides enhanced visibility. Another major benefit is multi-departmental visibility. As ConnectWise explains, “Automation tools increase visibility into your business’s operations by centralizing data in a way that makes it easy to figure out holistically how your company performs, in addition to the performance of each individual team member. You can even isolate the performance of one department.”
  • Better utilization of human capital. You’ll often hear people complain about how they believe automation technology does nothing more than lay people off and keep them out of jobs. Not true. What automation actually does is allow companies to better utilize human capital and give employees more engaging responsibilities. Instead of getting stuck doing mindless, repetitive tasks over and over again, your employees can do things that get them excited to come to work every morning.
  • Superior data and insights.  Finally, automation technology gives your startup access to superior data and insights that don’t always exist when you’re doing something manually. As a result, you’re able to better understand efficiencies, recognize areas of improvement, and get to know your customers more.

If you aren’t investing in automation, you’re missing out on a lot more than convenience. You’re missing out on a chance to push your business forward and improve your bottom line. While it will require some effort on your part to get started, this isn’t something you can afford to overlook.

Primary Areas Where Your Startup Can Leverage Automation

There’s clearly value in utilizing automation technology in your startup. However, most entrepreneurs don’t know where to start. Where does it make the most sense to integrate automation? Where do you get the most bang for your buck, so to speak? In most cases, these are the four primary areas to evaluate.

  1. Marketing

Let’s begin with the area that offers the most potential for budding startups: marketing. Marketing automation, or marketing personalization as JumpLead likes to call it, is the process of streamlining marketing activities without compromising on warmth.

In the past, marketing automation was something only big businesses with ample resources could use. But things have changed. Technology has become more affordable and startups are actually using automation to level the playing field.

Your startup needs marketing automation if you’re experiencing rapid growth and no longer have the time to manually reach out to every lead; you need to simplify complex marketing processes – or you need to create a marketing and sales process that’s more measurable.

As JumpLead explains, marketing automation involves two integral parts. The first is a contact activity trigger and the second is a marketing action. When the trigger is activated, the marketing automation is then automatically executed. An example of this would be a website visitor filling out a subscription form and opting into your email list. Once the user clicks the opt-in button (trigger), a welcome email (marketing action) is automatically sent to their inbox.

There are probably hundreds of different ways marketing automation can be used in your startup. Familiarize yourself with these opportunities and look for ways to ease the burdens you face on a regular basis.

  1. Human Resources

If you think about it, your startup’s HR department heavily relies on documents, forms, and processes. It’s impossible to have a functioning HR department without them. But the problem is that these require substantial preparation and involvement. Thankfully, automation can help in this area. 

When it comes to importing documents, filling out forms and applications, and reviewing job applications and resumes, HR automation tools can do the heavy lifting for you. They’ll deal with all of the things you don’t want to handle – all without compromising quality or accuracy.

Then, there’s the added benefit of security. “When automating human resources you can choose to back up your data to online servers, ensuring that in a fire or computer failure you won’t lose years of important information,” explains Unicorn HRO, a leader in the industry. “And you’ll also get security for your company, since human resources errors can lead to tax issues, legal troubles, and unnecessary expenses.”

  1. Supply Chain Logistics

Trying to manage your supply chain can feel like a full-time job. You’re having to change orders and processes from month to month, which removes some of the consistency that typically accompanies predictability.

By integrating some sort of supply chain automation into your business, you can perform better demand and inventory forecasting, increase operational and labor efficiency, streamline the delivery of goods through things like automated order entry, and respond faster to customer and supply chain partner requests.

  1. Competitive Analysis

What few startups realize is that automation technology will also allow you to conduct better competitive analyses, so that you can understand the marketplace and what’s going on. Considering how important it is for young companies to be hyperaware of their surroundings, automating your competitive analysis responsibilities is a huge bonus.

One thing savvy businesses do is implement automated price comparisons. “Automated price comparisons are a great way to benchmark against your competitors and incorporate business intelligence into your pricing strategy,” entrepreneur Angelica Valentine explains, using ecommerce as an example. “Online retail doesn’t exist in a vacuum and treating your online space and competitors as though they aren’t there is an easy way to lose customers.”

With automated price comparison tools like WisePricer, startups can understand the competition’s pricing strategies and create their own strategies that deliver greater value to the customer. It’s not a foolproof method for success, but it’s far better than manually checking prices, which can eat up valuable hours of the day.

Put Automation to Work for You

“Regardless of whether it’s as basic as pre-scheduling a couple of social media messages, or as intricate as constructing an email marketing funnel – automation is setting down deep roots and everybody is doing it,” entrepreneur Gaurav Sangwani says. While you certainly don’t want to do something just because everyone else is, it’s usually a pretty good sign that something is worth a second look.

The term “automation technology” is quite broad. It can be used to refer to any number of tools or platforms. But, in the most basic sense, automation technology is about making life easier on you and your startup. It streamlines mundane tasks, consolidates resources, and gives you the ability to focus your time, energy, and money on high-returning tasks that allow you to scale in an efficient manner.

If you’ve yet to invest in automation technology, now’s the time. Start slow and take things step by step. As you become familiar with one tool, consider adding another. Before you know it, you’ll have an automated network of systems that gives you hands-free control over your business.

From there, you’ll discover that the proverbial sky is the limit.

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Jeremy WebbFor Startups, Automation is a Key Ingredient to Success
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Infosys is worried, and it shows

Vishal Sikka, N.R. Narayana Murthy

The last year has been a rocky ride for Infosys, India’s second largest IT company.

Like the rest of the country’s $150-billion IT industry, Infosys, too, has been coming to terms with changing immigration policies, visa provisions, and business demands in key markets. Two of Infosys’s cash cows—the US and the UK, where it generated over 61% and 22% of revenue, respectively—are in jeopardy. The uncertainty brought forth by Brexit and US president Donald Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” policy is rattling confidence.

The strain is clearly showing in Infosys’s latest annual filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), where relatively vaguely-worded risks from the past have taken more definitive shape. Alongside, there is now acknowledgement that an internal boardroom tussle and an onslaught of negative press can also take their toll.

The ticking visa bomb

In its latest SEC filing, Infosys recognises that governments are starting to act on anti-immigration sentiments. As the H-1B program, which allows people to work in the US for over six years, is revamped and other countries around the world start shutting the door on Indian techies, business will likely feel the heat.

It’s instructive to compare the change in language in 2017, compared to the company’s 2016 SEC filing. Some parts have been emboldened for emphasis.

2016: Anti-outsourcing legislation in certain countries in which we operate, including the United States and the United Kingdom, may restrict companies in those countries from outsourcing work to us, or may limit our ability to send our employees to certain client sites.

2017: An increase in anti-outsourcing sentiments in certain countries in which we operate, including the United States and the United Kingdom, may lead to the enactment of restrictive legislations that could limit companies in those countries from outsourcing work to us, or could inhibit our ability to staff client projects in a timely manner thereby impacting our revenue and profitability.

The fear is real, and Infosys has already begun acting on it. In May, the Bengaluru-based firm announced that it’ll be hiring 10,000 American workers over the next two years.

Known enemy

For the first time, Infosys admitted that it is fighting a familiar yet unexpected beast: its own shareholders.

2017: Actions of activist shareholders may adversely affect our ability to execute our strategic priorities, and could impact the trading value of our securities. Responding to actions by activist shareholders can divert the attention of our board of directors, management and our employees and disrupt our operations. Such activities could interfere with our ability to execute our strategic plan. This may also require us to incur significant legal fees and public relations costs. The perceived uncertainties as to our future direction could affect client and investor sentiment, resulting in volatility in the price of our securities.

The company did not name names. In fact, it even went to great lengths to stress that activist shareholders “does not refer to any particular group of investors or individuals,” according to a report in the Mint newspaper.

However, earlier this year, Infosys co-founders like NR Narayana Murthy and others publicly chastised the company’s current management, even raising allegations of poor governance. In February 2017, Murthy questioned the hefty compensation and severance packages doled out by the company—a concern he raised again in April.

Press-ing hard

The public airing of concerns by important stakeholders has inevitably created another risk factor: bad press. It’s something the company has recognised in the past, too, but the reference to inaccuracy is something new.

2016: Media coverage and scrutiny of our business practices, policies and actions has increased dramatically over the past several years, particularly through the use of social media

2017: Media coverage and public scrutiny of our business practices, policies and actions has increased dramatically over the past twelve months, particularly negative and in some cases, inaccurate posts or comments in the media, including through the use of social media.

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Jeremy WebbInfosys is worried, and it shows
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9 Steps to Take When Your App Goes Live

Launching an app is a big moment for your brand. You’ve worked for months, maybe even years, to polish your app to perfection, and once it goes live, there’s no going back. The hardest and longest part of your work may be behind you, but the next phase of effort is only beginning.

How you choose to launch, support, and grow your app once it’s live will have a drastic impact on your long-term profitability, and it all starts with the actions you take as soon as that app goes live.

Immediate Steps to Take

Make sure you take these steps at a minimum:

1. Optimize for app stores.

First, start optimizing your app for app store searches if you haven’t already. User searches are one of the best ways to get found by unfamiliar and new users, so you’ll want to be as high in the rankings as possible.

According to App Radar, there are several factors used to determine an app’s ranking in both Apple and Google app stores. Some of these shared ranking factors include the keywords and keyword phrases that are included in the title of the app and its meta information, the types of engagements and number of downloads that those apps attract, the number and quality of the reviews they attract, and social signals that inform the app’s popularity.

It’s hard to gather good reviews and ratings this early, but you can at least optimize your app name and description with keywords that are relevant to your app’s purpose (and popular among your key demographics).

2. Run live tests.

Hopefully, you’ve already run a number of tests to make sure your app was running properly; otherwise, you wouldn’t have pulled the trigger to go live. However, it’s still a good idea to share the experience that your users will have, and go through the motions that they’ll be going through.

Sign up like a regular user (yourself) and download the app to your device, and make sure everything’s working properly. Last-minute hiccups aren’t common after a series of sufficient tests, but they’re devastating enough that you should check for them just in case.

3. Make an announcement.

As Hubspot explains, press releases aren’t a “magic bullet” in marketing that will instantly make you more successful, but they will help you build some early buzz and attract some strong backlinks in the process.

Before your app goes live, you should have a formal press release strategy in place—maybe even a draft of what you plan to submit to publishers.

From there, you can use a formal distribution site like PR Newswire, or submit your release to different major publishers yourself.

4. Get social.

Social media announcements should go hand in hand with your press release. If you aren’t already on social media, now is the time to claim your profiles. And if you are, you need to start marketing the heck out of your app.

Let your users know that everything is ready for them, and if you want an extra boost, consider giving them a signup bonus, such as a discount or bonus content for their early support.

5. Thank your early users.

Your first users will be pivotal to the success of your app. If they bail, or if they have negative impressions of your app, you might never generate the momentum you need to reach the top of the charts.

But if they stick around and have a favorable impression of you, they could be the momentum that takes your app to the next level of popularity. Go out of your way to thank them—personally, if you can, and give them incentives to keep coming back.

6. Gather reviews and ratings.

Your early reviews and ratings will be the most important ones you ultimately gather. They’ll be the foundation for your app’s early rankings, and they’ll form the first impressions of your second wave of users.

Make sure you have a feature in your app to encourage ratings, and remain active on social media to keep your brand top-of-mind for anyone who procrastinates rating you.

7. Learn from the early feedback.

Take the time to read your earliest reviews as they start to trickle in, and gauge users’ opinions of your app. Have they noticed any bugs? If so, you’ll need to fix them as soon as possible. Are they unimpressed overall?

You may need to recruit some UI/UX talent to investigate what could be going wrong. On the other hand, if reviews are strong, you can take them and use them to create your next marketing push.

8. Advertise.

Speaking of marketing and advertising, you may want to invest in some early advertising for your app, such as pay-per-click (PPC) ads through Google, content marketing, or social media ads.

This practice is only sustainable in the long-term for some niches and profitability models, but early in your app’s existence, it’s a valuable tool to get those all-too-important early ratings and reviews.

9. Prepare for the next updates.

Most app developers end up pushing at least one new update every month, with some going as often as once a week. This is common practice to fix bugs, improve security, and keep up with other updates.

The minute your app goes live, you should be prepared with the next round of updates, with a strategic vision for major updates your app will undergo in the future.

The Ongoing Effort

Never be fooled into thinking that your job developing or supporting your app is done. Technology evolves at an astounding rate, and user preferences evolve with them, so you’ll need to stay on your toes if you want your app to keep making money.

Always be looking down the road at the next update, and keep investing in your app with marketing and advertising efforts. The more information you gather, and the more willing you are to adapt to new circumstances, the more likely you’ll be to succeed.

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Jeremy Webb9 Steps to Take When Your App Goes Live
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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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Jeremy Webb5 Moves You May Not Have Considered for Your Tech Startup
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Mark Zuckerberg and Reid Hoffman say making mistakes is a key to professional growth

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg acknowledges a cheer from the crowd before receiving an honorary Doctor of Laws degree, as fellow honorary degree recipient actor James Earl Jones (L) looks on, during the 366th Commencement Exercises at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S., May 25, 2017. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

When two billionaires get together to discuss entrepreneurship, you wouldn’t expect them to talk about why being embarrassed is a good thing. But during a recent episode of the Masters of Scale podcast, LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman and Facebook cofounder Mark Zuckerberg discussed why you should be comfortable with embarrassment, how perfectionism is dangerous, and when business cultures should encourage failure.

Both Hoffman and Zuckerberg share the belief that releasing bold and half-baked versions of their products has two advantages: speed and the ability to learn from experimentation. This enables you to get user feedback and improve quickly to release subsequent versions.

“I have more fear in my life that we aren’t going to maximize the opportunity that we have than that we mess something up and the business goes badly,” Zuckerberg says during the podcast. He similarly warned against our impulse to “not do big things because we’re so afraid of making mistakes” during his recent Harvard commencement address. Facebook’s motto used to be “Move fast and break things.” (It’s been changed to the less catchy “”Move fast with stable infrastructure.”)

Hoffman acknowledges that embracing the possibility of embarrassment and failure may not sit well with high-achieving individuals and their perfectionist tendencies. He singles out MBA students, saying, “the same instincts that make us good students, can make us lousy entrepreneurs.” Susan Danziger, the CEO of Zideo, adds during the podcast, “We need to deprogram ourselves to release things that we are slightly embarrassed about.”

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, also appearing in the podcast, cites the example of a summer intern named Ben who wanted to figure out how to test the site’s resiliency to bugs. He created a faux bug, which took down the entire site down for 30 minutes. Despite this snafu, Ben got hired because despite the poor execution, it was the type of experiment that Facebook encouraged.

Research supports this approach. In her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck examines two mindsets that shape the way we think about ourselves and ultimately impact our success. Individuals with a fixed mindset “believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits.” Conversely, those with a growth mindset believe that talent and brains are just a starting point and that through hard work we can stretch our individual growth. Individuals with a fixed mindset avoid failure at all costs, performing tasks that they know they can complete while surrounding themselves with people who agree with them. But for those with a growth mindset, failure and embarrassment are teachable moments and launching points for growth.

Whether you’re the intern with a big idea, the new MBA, or the CEO of one of the world’s largest tech companies—not only is failure an option, it may be the best option.

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Jeremy WebbMark Zuckerberg and Reid Hoffman say making mistakes is a key to professional growth
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