Lecciones de éxito para los empresarios por Amancio Ortega, fundador de Zara

1. las personas introvertidas pueden prosperar como empresarios
La mayoría de los empresarios están abiertos a la gente, pero no es necesario para tener éxito. Muchos grandes empresarios son introvertidos y Amancio Ortega es una de ellas. Poco se sabe sobre conglomerados de retail, porque hace un gran esfuerzo para evitar hablar con la prensa. Una vez dijo:: “Tienes que salir tres veces al día: Cuando naciste, Cuando uno se casa y cuando se muere “. No se desanime si no tiene vacaciones vida, porque todavía se puede ejecutar un negocio rentable.
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The Assholistocracy

The reaction to the Christchurch attack, at least here in the US, has been a mix of shock and horror but not very much surprise. We’ve been watching this trend build for years: The ugly, disingenuous rhetoric of politicians, taken seriously by zealots and the mentally ill. The excuses that right wing lawmakers and commentators use when challenged on their own words: I was only kidding! It was satire! Free speech! The Christchurch attack is as horrifying as it was inevitable – the moment when online griefing mutated into real world genocide.

This is what happens to the world when assholes are in charge; when assholes allow other assholes to broadcast their bigotry with impunity, and nobody wants to stop them lest even more assholes get even more angry.

This is what happens when the President of the United States dog whistles to Breitbart that his supporters in the military and police and biker gangs like to “play tough,” or when Silicon Valley libertarians start believing that bigotry is somehow a pre-requisite for innovation…

We shouldn’t be skeptical or amused at Zuckerberg’s “pivot to privacy” memo. We should be disgusted

The media reaction to Mark Zuckerberg’s memo on privacy and Facebook has mostly fallen into two camps: skepticism and open mockery.

Mockery of the notion that, as TechCrunch put it, Zuckerberg has suddenly “discovered privacy.” Skepticism as typified by Mashable’s helpful warning that “if the last 15 years of Facebook have taught us anything, it’s that we shouldn’t take Zuckerberg’s words at face value” and the Washington Post’s adorably credulous claim that “should [Zuckerberg’s] ambition be realized, it is nothing less than an epochal shift in Facebook’s business model.”

Even Zuckerberg himself acknowledged how hard it is to believe that Facebook really cares about creating a space where users can communicate privately and in small numbers.

“I understand that many people don’t think Facebook can or would even want to build this kind of privacy-focused platform — because frankly we don’t currently have a strong reputation for building privacy protective services…”

I mean, we killed democracy, gave a platform to Nazis, sold your data to the highest bidder so… kinda hard to believe a single word we say, right?

Ho ho ho!


Are toxic masculinity deniers the new climate change deniers?

Over the last few months the data has begun to stack up: Toxic masculinity is not only harmful for companies and industries, it’s not only harmful for women…it’s harmful for men too.

The APA recently issued new guidelines for treating boys and men that outlined how awful the state of male mental health is. Yes, especially among white male, straight, cisgendered and privileged men…

Finally, the big dogs are coming to the public stock market

Finally, the big dogs are coming to the public stock market.

For most of the past decade, the tech startups that emerged, then mushroomed in growth, then came to dominate the industries they either created or changed – these companies have stubbornly remained private.

But in the past few days, signs are emerging that many of them may go public in 2019…

Sheryl Sandberg is practicing what she preached

I keep getting asked why I haven’t written anything about the recent Facebook scandals, especially as it relates to tech’s most influential and until-recently admired female leader, Sheryl Sandberg.

Well, one reason is the rest of the world is busy with their own hot take and I’m not sure we need one more. Another reason is that, frankly, Pando wrote about a lot of these issues years ago. Nearly two years ago, I wrote about the growing concern among women in Silicon Valley that she had abandoned her “let’s link arms!” feminist rallying cry in the wake of the Trump win…

October has brought an autumn of discontent for tech

It’s been a tough October for tech.

After the mega-cap FAANG gang led the overall market higher for most of 2018, a selloff triggered by rising interest rates and an escalating trade war hit the leaders of tech especially hard.

With two days to go in the month, the Nasdaq Composite has fallen 13%. Apple is down 7%, Facebook down 12%, Alphabet down 15%, Amazon down 23%, and Netflix down 25%.

There are a variety of reasons for the sudden slump. The bull market is approaching its tenth year, elderly by any historical measure, leaving investors half-expecting the music to stop any moment even though, for most of 2018, indexes reached record high after record high. Tech companies cleaning up in their markets were among the market’s leaders, giving them an air of invincibility that, we’re now seeing, may have gone too far.

Take Amazon. The retail giant’s estimated revenue of $232 billion this year is equal to nearly 1% of U.S. GDP. Every move the company makes into a new market like health care or groceries sends stocks in those sectors sliding because, well, Amazon is coming.

But while Amazon blew away profit estimates – net income of $5.75 a share beat forecasts by $2.66 a share – investors were more focused on revenue. This may be what Jeff Bezos gets after 20 years of insisting that net income doesn’t matter at Amazon. That message finally seems to have sunk in: Investors saw that Amazon’s revenue last quarter was below their estimates. Worse, Amazon indicated revenue this quarter – the all-important holiday quarter – would also be weak, growing about 15%, well below the 22% that Wall Street had been forecasting.

Now, this represents just a quarter or two of lower-than-expected growth, but it gets at what tech investors have been grappling with this month. Amazon, of all tech giants, has been such a reliable growth engine it inspired complacency. Since peaking in early September, Amazon has lost a quarter of its value. Last week, Microsoft (Microsoft!) surpassed Amazon in market value. If those two sentences don’t wake Amazon investors from their complacent slumber, what will?

Amazon’s is no outlier. Netflix has fallen even further than Amazon in October, despite an earnings report that showed much stronger subscriber growth than most were expecting. But that short-term piece of good news was later outweighed by longer-term concerns, namely those surrounding the rising costs of producing its own content and the growing pile of debt the company is amassing to pay for it.

Those concerns were underscored last week by Netflix’s announcement that it would sell another $2 billion in debt, bringing its total amount of long-term debt above $10 billion. On the face of it, the news wasn’t itself bad. If interest rates, as expected, keep rising, it makes sense for Netflix to lock in a relatively low rate now. And Moody’s indicated it’s not worried about Netflix becoming over-leveraged, given subscriber growth in overseas markets.

But the new bond offering also served as a quiet acknowledgment that Netflix knows the clock is ticking on its ambitious project to build a vast library of content. The new dollar-denominated bond will have a 5.875% yield, well up from the 3.625% yield on a bond Netflix issued last year. Netflix is already facing tough competition from Disney’s soon-to-launch streaming service and from a similar offering from AT&T based on HBO and other Turner Broadcasting content. If subscriber growth stalls, Netflix’s options for spurring new growth will be more limited.

Despite the severity of the tech selloff this past month, the tone among tech investors is one of caution. Not that the sky is falling, but that the FAANG stocks had been flying too high for their own good. But simply recalibrating for the prospect that these companies will no longer to blithely breeze over the same speedbumps that slow down less nimble companies means a something of a reset.

Apple offers a good example here. The company avoided a potential problem after CEO Tim Cook lobbied, wined and dined President Trump to exempt most Apple products from tariffs that Trump was imposing on China goods. On Monday, the Trump administration reportedly threatened new tariffs against all remaining Chinese imports if the coming round of trade talks between the U.S. and China lead nowhere. That news sent stock indexes from the greed into the red, and Apple was hit hard, falling as much as 5% during Monday trading.

Last week’s earnings dump had other news to discourage tech investors. Alphabet’s revenue also missed estimates, thanks to relative weakness in its hardware and “other bets” moonshots. Snap and Twitter both disappointing user growth (Snap’s users fell from last quarter, Twitter’s monthly users were below its guidance), but both are doing a decent enough job monetizing the users that cling to their social platforms. Twitter, perhaps the biggest Superfund site on social media right now, emerged as the hero in an otherwise dismal quarter, with its stock up 18% since reporting earnings.

Next up is Facebook, which reports its earning Tuesday. Judging from last quarter’s earnings report – which led to a $120 billion lossin market value after signaling slowing user growth – Facebook will be talking to a wary crowd of investors and analysts tomorrow. Analysts are expecting earnings of $1.46 a share (down from $1.59 a share a year ago) and $13.8 billion in revenue (vs. $10.3 billion a year ago). One analyst said “revenue deceleration is inevitable,” while another wrote, “Working through Street concerns will take a few quarters.”

Perhaps that sets a low enough bar for Mark Zuckerberg’s stiff limbs to jump smoothly over. If so, Facebook could offer some much-needed relief to jittery tech investors. If the selloff that has shaken more than a little loose change out of the market caps of big tech this past month continues, the might FAANG could lose some of their bite.

Move fast and break human lives

Early in my career, I covered venture capital investments in biotech and medical devices for BusinessWeek.

We were a few years past the fervor enthusiasm of decoding the human genome, and it was starting to dawn on folks that the industry may never see the creation of another massive powerhouse like Amgen or Genentech again.

Why? Bringing a drug all the way to market was just so damn expensive, time consuming and risky with all that Federal regulation, yunno, making sure new drugs didn’t kill people. Instead, drug discovery companies were finding something novel, proving it in the early phases, and then licensing it to big pharma to test and bring to market. Silicon Valley’s biotech industry was basically becoming an outsourced R&D lab.

Around this time, I started to speak with more and more investors who were talking up investing in medical devices instead. Sure, medical device companies also weren’t turning into publicly traded companies by-and-large either. And it was long seen as the less potentially lucrative category of the healthcare investing world. But it was a solid way of getting “doubles” and “triples” in portfolio management speak, with one massive advantage: Way less of a “regulatory headache.”

This was also a time when investing in healthcare and tech was increasingly becoming de-coupled in Silicon Valley. In the aftermath of the dot com bubble, the view was that healthcare VCs simply were playing a different game than investors who could fund a company like Netscape and take it public in 18 months. Firms were breaking in two, with each sets of partners going their own way. Still, healthcare investors couldn’t help but have some tech-return envy.

It didn’t jar me at the time, hearing investors become positive giddy imagining a world where the government took a more “disruptive” “wait and see” attitude when it came to human lives, to the efficacy and safety of things millions of people would be advised by doctors to put inside their bodies. From an investor point of view, I got the logic.

It’s only now— after seeing so much of the dark side of “disruption”— that I see that, much like feminists, regulators aren’t there to be buzz kills or to ruin a VC’s day. They are there to keep people alive.

People like me— in a small, tiny way— have collaborated in enabling an terrifying crisis when it comes to medical devices in America, according to a blistering new documentary by Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick, “The Bleeding Edge.” I just saw the film last night at a screening sponsored by Netflix, and it has– once again– forever changed how I think about yet another corner of the Silicon Valley industrial complex. It’s also changed how I think about medical care for myself or my loved ones.

The film details — complete with interviews from past senior FDA executives and scientists— the many ways the regulatory process for medical devices simply fails Americans. How devices require far thinner and shorter clinical trials, if they require them at all. A loophole has allowed the vast majority of devices to get approved without trials, simply by proving it’s similar to an existing approved device. It doesn’t matter if that existing approved device has since been pulled from the market or has since been proven to be unsafe.

The film also details how trade-offs get made between science and marketing within large companies. (Spoiler: Marketing always wins.).

In one of the most chilling segments, the film even shows how women in a clinical trial for Essure had their answers on their survey forms secretly changed after the fact. Women who reported experiencing intense pain were later shocked to discover their responses had been crossed out and replaced with the lie that they were, in fact, very satisfied with their treatment.

But the most chilling parts of the film were the dozens of stories — of faces— of people whose lives had been ruined by getting talked into either unnecessary, elective procedures, or “improved” versions of procedures that had worked just fine since the 1970s. It’s horrific to watch a loved one suffer under the treatment of a disease like cancer. But you can’t make sense of someone’s life and family being ruined because she opted for a new way to, say, essentially have her tubes tied or have a hysterectomy or get a new kind of hip replacement. A way that was ultimately untested or known to have risks. But it was so novel, the industry could charge way more for it.

Ziering and Dick have won or been nominated for multiple awards because they are so good at telling almost-unwatchable stories of unnecessary suffering without giving the viewer anywhere to go to delude themselves that, well, maybe, things aren’t so bad. They don’t overreach. They start their film by laying out how many medical devices are great life saving technologies. They include interviews by FDA scientists who were just as concerned about some of these issues— and were later retaliated against. They say that most people investing in this stuff, building it, and even selling it got into this business to save lives. They don’t paint them as monsters so much as people following a set of incentives in a system that is set up for disaster.

To underline the importance of their work, Ziering told a story in the Q&A after the film about a senior doctor for a major hospital chain who was an early screening for it in LA. He ran into her later on in line at Whole Foods and told her that he’d seen her film and it had changed how he practices medicine. She asked how. He told her he’d been sent a new device that the rep told him could be used in everyone from infants to adults. He wrote back and asked for the trials. They sent him trials that studied the devices in twelve-year-olds to adults. He wrote back and asked for the research on babies. They said they didn’t have any. He told Ziering that before seeing her film, he wouldn’t have pressed them on it. He would have taken their word for it. Thinking of the helplessness of a tiny infant and the confusion that a new mother may feel when it comes to helping her child, that anecdote has haunted me for a good 12 hours now.

You cannot deny the stories of the victims in this film. How unnecessary procedures destroyed their lives and families in some cases. Although, several people in the film actually try. No woman can watch this film and not feel pangs of familiarity at a scene where a male gynecologist is telling one of the victims of Essure that she and the tens of thousands of women in her group simply didn’t experience the things they are saying they experienced. They’re just wrong. They didn’t feel all that pain, experience all that bleeding, go through all of those subsequent surgeries. It reminded me of Uber’s Travis Kalanick telling Gawker early on that alleged sexual assaults simply didn’t occur in his cars.

That’s the thing that the filmmakers didn’t intend, according to Ziering: This film also became a devastating commentary on the state of women’s health. Untested medical devices certainly hurt men and women. But because women’s pain is taken less seriously in American medicine, they wind up suffering more.

It’s not a gloom and doom piece of filmmaking that gives you nowhere to go, nowhere to hope. I left with illusions shattered about the role the FDA plays in protecting us, and just how much doctors even know about what’s being marketing to them. For the first time I saw how similar the culture behind “move fast and break things” tech investing and healthcare investing are. Before this film, I thought the reason that so many venture firms had split their healthcare and tech investing into two practices was because they were so different in the way they approached investing, risk, and reward. I guess that was naive. It’s amazing that after 20 years, I still find ways I’ve given Silicon Valley too much of the benefit of the doubt.

And lest you think this is just a jaded journalist being a jaded journalist, note how many Silicon Valley execs are increasingly calling for more regulation of their own industry. Tim Cook being the latest to add his name to the list. 

I also left this screening with a sense of agency. I know how to make better medical decisions now. This film may save the life of a loved one of mine, or of yours.

This is a film that has already had tremendous impact. After it was screened, Essure’s manufacturers finally announced plans to withdraw it from the US market. It has already been removed from the European market, where regulations are stricter. In order to make a bigger difference, more people need to watch this film.

Put “The Bleeding Edge” on your Netflix Queue right now and tell everyone you know to do the same. Show it to elderly loved ones who may be weighing different hip and joint replacements. Show it to young women in your family. Show it to everyone you love. Please help send a signal to Netflix that investing in content like this is every bit as important as the “Queer Eye” reboot.

Because in America right now, we can’t rely on the FDA to keep us safe or companies to self-report when things go wrong. The take away for Ziering after the brutal two year journey of making this film: It’s buyer beware.

The bias hidden inside “consensus”

A few weeks ago, my new company, Chairman Mom, hosted a retreat in a restored gold mining town for 100 women. There were no men on site– including the staff. And it was during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings.

It’s hard to describe the energy and friendships that came out of it. Conversations happened that are hard to have a mixed gender room. There was a clarity that is frequently missing in conversations where you are talking to men as well as women.

One of our speakers was Sallie Krawcheck, among the most successful women in the history of Wall Street, once called the “Last Honest Analyst” by Fortune Magazine, and the founder of Ellevest, a company that wants to solve the investment gap between men and women.

She gave a fiery talk about everything from the limitations of the #metoo movement, what white women need to do right now, and her own challenges fundraising– despite a pedigree most women don’t have.

She has told me the stories before about the Silicon Valley VC who mansplained to her how hard it would be to hire and manage analysts. But in the middle of fundraising once again (because at that stage of company with that much growth, you never really stop…) she said something I hadn’t heard her or anyone say before in the context of gender.

She said she was sick of wasting her time and from now on, she was going to ask VCs how their partnership makes decisions before even pitching them. Because if the partnership requires a consensus, it’s almost always going to be a waste of time for women or people of color. It only takes one white man to torpedo you because of explicit bias, believe a company tailored at women is a “niche” opportunity, or simply just not have that same “gut feeling” about a woman or person of color that they do about someone who looks, acts, and talks just like them.

Her comments were like a lightning bolt striking me.

Of course.

Let’s take the bigots out of it. This is an industry that is 98% made up of White and Asian men and just over 98% of the money go to the same. Like invests in like in Silicon Valley. It’s hard enough to be a female CEO and ask a VC to go against what’s clearly a deeply ingrained point of view of what success looks like. If you are pitching a consensus partnership, you’re going to have to do that with multiple partners.

I don’t even know what she said after that because I was so busy scanning through my experience fundraising, and friends of mine who are female CEOs. How my best supporters have typically come from firms that don’t operate on consensus, single-partner firms, or deep-pocketed angels. At Chairman Mom, none of our three most supportive institutions required consensus, in part because two of them were solo-VC shops.

That can’t be an accident.

I thought more. The most frustrating “no’s” I’ve gotten are from ones where the partnerships are deeply divided. Where I know– because of backchanneling– that partners desperately wanted to do the deal, but there was one or two holdouts.

This, too, is likely part of the reason that firms with just one female investing partner tend to fund double the female founders. Even if those firms operate on consensus, it’s not the same uphill battle when it comes to pure gender bias.

It was the first time I thought that for women and people of color to succeed in this industry, the things the industry has taken for granted as positives might also have to change.

* * *

Krawcheck isn’t the only one who’s expressed frustration with consensus-driven partnerships in recent years. Upfront Ventures’ Mark Suster argued that the truly risky, potentially most high reward deals are ones where consensus is unlikely:

“There’s a problem with consensus driven decisions by VCs. I personally believe the most interesting companies are often doing things that most rational people would too outlandish, too against industry norms, too difficult technically, too much regulation or similar. I can’t imagine most consensus-driven decisions would have thought Oculus, WhatsApp, Airbnb, Uber or DropBox would have been as massive as they have become…

…We’ve been betting more aggressively on agriculture technologies because we believe that water scarcity will be one of the defining issues of the next generation and we believe this will drive huge economics and have an impact on the world. We’ve backed more healthcare companies even in parts of the industry with regulation.

These deals seldom have complete consensus. And as a firm we try to breed that culture. We want really high conviction…” read more

Engineers are fixing Silicon Valley

A little over a year ago, I quit the tech journalism beat. And every day I thank God that I did.

It’s depressing enough to be a mere consumer of journalism right now, never mind a producer. It’s struggle enough to see newspaper headlines about Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg enabling neo-nazis or the FSB without punching a wall. I can’t fathom how soul-crushing it must be to actually have to call those fuckers, or their functionaries, and listen politely as they repeat their disingenuous excuses for hastening the end of civilization.

And, by Christ, there’s not enough pity in the world for the poor journalistic souls who have to report on whatever shitty thing Travis Kalanick does at his next company.

Then for six or seven months after quitting, I also stopped using almost all digital tech. I downgraded to a dumb phone, I deleted my accounts with all non-essential online services, I removed pretty much everything from the cloud and for a while I even stopped streaming movies and music.

Looking back now it seems pretty clear I was utterly burned out and sick of Silicon Valley to the point where I wanted absolutely nothing to do with any of it. Part of that sickness was likely the inevitable consequence of having covered the same industry for almost two decades. Mostly though it stemmed from my acute sadness at how tech brociopaths had taken something that used to delight me – world changing innovation and technology – and turned it into an industry that was so unrelentingly toxic.

So I got out. Good for me.

Now, 18 months on, I’m slowly starting to pay attention to tech again. Critically, though, I’m not paying attention to it as a journalist, but rather as a consumer. When a couple of weeks ago I finally caved to work pressures and bought myself a semi-smart phone, I did so with zero clue about the state of the art beyond what reviews on sites like CNET and Gizmodo told me. I installed apps for car rentals and cloud storage with wide eyed naivety and zero baggage about what horrible thing the CEO of the company behind those services might have said or done that week. In other words, I interacted with Silicon Valley in the same way as billions of people around the world do every day: Not via the machinations of its executives but by the innovations of its engineers.

Seeing the tech industry through those fresh eyes is refreshing and wonderful: While I’ve been away the ecosystem wars (Apple vs Google vs Amazon) have given us astonishing advances in voice recognition and the early stages of artificial intelligence. Image recognition has warped ahead, while plain old search has become freakishly good at understanding context and intent. Amazon can now deliver packages up the Himalayas.

Meanwhile, all across the world, small teams of engineers at tiny startups have been busy developing tools that are finally delivering on all the promises technology made us a couple of decades ago before they became fixated on disruption for disruption’s sake. That is, they’re making us healthier, happier and more connected while – at an engineering level at least – trying to intelligently combat trolls, fraudsters, harassers and other bad faith actors.

Here’s my point: While I and other tech writers were focused on the genuine awfulness of people like Travis Kalanick and (Pando investor) Peter Thiel, or the moral cowardice of Zuckerberg, Sandberg, Dorsey et al, the engineers were continuing to do their jobs to stunning effect.

So it’s heartening, and perhaps unsurprising, to see those same engineers increasingly acting as a moral counterweight to the greed and selfishness of their bosses. It was an engineer – Susan Fowler – who led the internal revolt that finally ousted Kalanick. It’s engineers inside Microsoft and Amazon who are demanding that their innovations not be used to wage war or separate children from their families. It’s Google engineers who are most vocally protesting the company’s plans to build a censored search engine for China. It’s engineers who are behind the Tech Won’t Build it movement in which engineers pledge not to develop tools for making war or fueling hate.

Similarly it’s more often female engineers than female (or male) executives who – through organizations like Girls Who Code and Black Girls Code Girls – are pushing for true equality and diversity in the tech workplace.

More importantly, it’s working. The tech bros are paying attention, and even changing course. Perhaps they’ve suddenly realized something that should have been obvious from the start: They can’t get obscenely rich without engineers willing to build all their magical toys.

I’m out of the tech predictions business, but looking at the astonishing advances made by Valley engineers and the enormous power they have over the behavior of their bosses, it’s hard not to think we’re seeing the start of a new era in Silicon Valley. If the past decade gave us the “cult of the founder” – where investors, users and employees, were forced to bend to the whims of the Kalanicks and Dorseys no matter how much evil they did – perhaps the next decade will be remembered for the resurgence and reiteration of the cult of the engineers.

I say ‘resurgence’ because Silicon Valley, and the tech industry generally, was built around the cult of the engineer. It was engineers who started it all, and engineers who have been quietly working away as their bosses (many of whom would struggle to write, or even read, a line of usable code) take all the credit and most of the spoils. 

I say ‘reiteration’ because in the early days of Silicon Valley those engineers were almost exclusively white and male. That’s already not the case this time around and, if the trend continues, the talent pool is only going to get more diverse as it gets more powerful.

For the first time in years, I feel a glimmer of hope about the direction that the tech industry is taking.