I came across the incredible story of Pejman Nozad recently. I encourage you all to read/listen everything there is to this story - for there isn't one more fascinating than this. I hope they make a movie out of this someday. I suggest to start by listening to the "20 minute VC" podcast included below - so you can hear him, and then read the linked stories, including his own words.
Here is what I learnt from his story: each human is individual, it's not fair to paint a group with the same brush. When given the slightest bit of opportunity...the right nourishing environment, humans are capable of great heights. In Canada, we need great ecosystems and we need Pejmans of the world to *choose* us. *** Pejman arrived in Silicon Valley in 1992 from Iran (where he was a sports journalist) - and within a few weeks, had exhausted his meagre savings. He knew only a few words of English at the time. He started working/living in a yogurt shop before eventually getting a job in a rug shop in the area. He sold rugs to a lot of venture capitalists and entrepreneurs - building a network along the way; and then eventually convinced his boss to start a "tech venture fund" (with his savings and his boss' investment).
He continued his ace networking - inviting local VCs and founders to the rug gallery, running around their houses to personally collect the syndicate cheques and being helpful to founders. *** "We became the first investors in Dropbox, Lending Club, SoundHound, Danger, Zoosk and others. Today, the companies I’ve invested in are worth more than $20 billion — and many of them started as pitches in the rug gallery." ..."Today, PMV (his fund) has invested in more than 30 startups — including Doordash, Guardant Health, Gusto and Branchmetrics."
From the Forbes article: "Nozad is one of Silicon Valley’s greatest connectors. Top investors take his calls. Hit-making entrepreneurs consider him an uncle. And somewhere in between he’s piling up small stakes in some of the hottest startups in the world. Yet Nozad doesn’t have the staple calling card of Silicon Valley. No M.B.A. No Ph.D. No “technical background whatsoever” (his words). He’s never even worked at a technology company.
Nozad’s path to Silicon Valley power broker—and VC investor with a net worth in the ballpark of $50 million— was a far simpler one: He sold carpets....
...he was an opportunist in the greatest sense: This American neophyte recognized that fate had bequeathed him access to the most important people in the most important region of the most important industry during its most important era."
Ann Poochareoni was just in the doctor's office, two hours ago, filling out intake forms with pen and paper thinking 'why is there no app for this!?!'
12 hours ago · 2
Dave OlsonSo great. As my life has become very "medicalized" the last several years, I've taken to keeping a detailed log, as a PDF, and printing/dropping it off at doctors office in advance of appointments, or bringing it along. And getting information from the "my BC health" is an exercise in futility and inefficiency.
Varun MathurI am glad this got posted and shared. I wish you well Huda - you need to succeed not just for what you are doing, but as a role model. There are others watching you, women and especially visible minority women, and your story will become the stories they will tell their families when they decide to pursue entrepreneurship or join a local startup.
Saved all the soppy stuff for my personal page, but some relevant items here for SN regarding changes to BetaKit's organizational structure, some clarification on our backstory (looking at you, people that still send us news directed to Sarah and Erin), and a tease of some new stuff coming very soon (beware the Ides of March).
TL;DR: BetaKit is a startup and we have survived for one year. We intend to survive for many more. ... See MoreSee Less
I recently spent 10 days in the Valley for this thing called the Hive Fellowship (hive.org). I was also able to attend SF's Newco Festival, visited HQ's of Airbnb, Uber, and LinkedIn, and as much as 10 days isn't much - I think I got a pretty good feel of the city.
But, I must say - without exaggerating too much, I appreciate our startup/tech community so much here. For one - Toronto's a much cleaner city than SF, haha! Second - just loving the fact that our political climate is so much better than their's right now. Thirdly - I think we're a bit more down-to-earth than they are. Overall though - I of course can't compare too much since I wasn't there for too long and have never worked there and still definitely had a great time there... I still do however want to just say:
Loving what we have here as well, proud of our community, and would just like to extend well wishes to everyone hustling here! ... See MoreSee Less
Collage has raised $5M in seed funding from Diagram to bring HR and insurance in Canada into the digital age. They are the first platform to provide Canadian businesses with an all-digital solution to quote, buy, and manage their benefits plans online, with the ability to seamlessly integrate that plan with Collage's HR software.
Relevant to the startup founders and entrepreneurs in the group that have gone through the struggles of setting up benefits and continue to dedicate significant time to managing HR for their business.
I don't want to open up a round of Uber-bashing here, but this is a post worth reading.
Why post it in StartupNorth?
Diversity wins. There are lots of data about the value in diversity of gender, religion, national origin, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, politics, and pretty much every other axis on which humans can be partitioned. It reaches from the board room to the locker room, from small volunteer groups to 11-digit companies. The "startup industry", globally, is populated overwhelmingly by white, straight, 25-35 year old, middle-class-or-better, university-educated men. (The funders are similar, but 10-20 years older.) Canada seems no exception.
On this score, I don't think Silicon Valley can be fixed. The economics, education, social structure, demographics, and especially incentive structure are all wrong. It's just baked in too deeply. People are fighting the good fight, but you can't fight a waterfall with a straw.
Canada, on the other hand...I think we have a chance. I think if we respond to stories like the Uber one with not only condemnation but reflection, if we're honest about where we need to improve and we celebrate people living the value of diversity, and if we take advantage of the diversity present in the cities and countries that surround us...we can win.
We often talk, as a community, about how we can be as good as Silicon Valley: funding, exits, comp, talent, quality of life. On diversity, though, I think we can be so much better. We have to be. ... See MoreSee Less
As most of you know, I left Uber in December and joined Stripe in January. I've gotten a lot of questions over the past couple of months about why I left and what my time at Uber was like. It's a strange, fascinating, and slightly horrifying story that deserves to be told while it is still fre
Thibaud Maréchal100% agreed Mike, we can win, altogether, big time! #canadastrong
1 week ago · 3
Kamil RextinYou got approved mike. I see why your thumbs would hurt. Definitely agreed with everything and silicon valley is ivey league straight white men on both sides. The funders have a bias to fund makers who act look and have the same background as them. There are some edge funds poping up that focus on diverse teams. I remeber listening to Tristian Walker (ex foursquare and Walker and Company) on diversity on the Recode podcast I think. Great lessons there
1 week ago · 1
Sabaa Quao"Canada, on the other hand...I think we have a chance." YES!
1 week ago
James MartindaleI suspect Uber will pull the trigger in their HR team now this has gone viral. There is not a lot of "ethics" in the sharing economy, like everything else, it is people wanting to get rich. Air B'n'B is more concerning than Uber. People need to open their eyes to the ridiculous rise in rents in Toronto and the demise of inventory.
Varun MathurIt is not a question of diversity - but about sexual harassment (which can be perpetrated by someone of the exact same "diverse" background as you) and sexism in the workplace (someone from the same gender can play an enabling role). People of diverse backgrounds can be assholes too - what do you do then ?
As a startup - you can't parent people into being better human beings. You are not the government, you are not framing laws, you are not defending them. What you can do is create a more inclusive and welcoming environment for everybody; and those who don't fit, let them go quickly.
Hiring a diverse workforce is in itself not a solution to the precise problem described here. People sometimes bring their own cultural baggage, and not all of it is good ("well in my culture we treat women like this" kind of nonsense)
Something like changing the focus away from a regular "bro-culture" evening alcohol driven session to coffee chats is more meaningful. Encouraging family meetups of employees could be another. Encourage folks to bring their kids to the office - these are the kinds of things which can ensure people put up their best behavior.
Lesley Dort-LendvaiSadly Susan's story is all too familiar to me. In two different incidents at an enterprise software company I worked at, one of my young female employee's and a female colleague were both told by HR to plan their work around their alleged offenders/men, even though they had hard evidence and witnesses. In one case the message from the head of HR was blatant. He's our top performing sales rep!! ...so you know what the means. No action was taken. We have a very long way to go across North America - Canada too!! I can say from first hand experience - the typical "old boys club" mentality prevails over and over again! Sadly. The sentiment among most of my female peers is that it's not even worth going to HR.
1 week ago · 6
Gareth MacLeodA couple notes from my reading of this:
- This is a case-study in why you have to get culture right the first time, and very deliberately promote inclusivity/sensitivity. So many people in this story should have known better and didn't.
- Travis tweeted "Anyone who behaves this way or thinks this is OK will be fired."
- The only person named by title is the CTO, who she says she reported illegal threats to, and he did nothing. If Travis' earlier strong statements about firing anyone who thinks this ok is true, then the CTO has to go.
1 week ago · 5
Jana ReidI've experienced enough sexism and misogyny in the workforce that I've started a retail store instead of having to work in a startup (or corporate) environment. You are already losing women here in Canada. Wanting to do better isn't enough.
1 week ago · 9
Simon MillsVery well said. Like you mentioned, Canada has a real opportunity to separate ourselves from the Valley and be better. We know that in the long run, diversity wins the day. Huge opportunity and differentiator for Canada if we can get it right
1 week ago
Andrew StanbridgeWill be interesting to see this unfold and how much Uber chooses to share.
1 week ago
Mike BeltznerPutting aside the well intentioned patriotism: good feelings and pride won't solve this or make Canada better than anywhere else. Actions will:
- collect the data; report the data; set goals on the data
- begin using Rooney rules or similar
- don't solely rely on government support for things like parental or bereavement leave
- don't question "does diversity make stronger teams," but instead question "does lack of diversity make stronger teams"
- set an expectation that everyone acts as an ally to their colleagues
In my (limited) Toronto based experience with Canadian startups, it wasn't much better than what I've seen in Silicon Valley - just a smaller scale so easier to intercept and course correct.