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4 women in engineering discuss harassment, isolation and perseverence

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Women engineers often face workplace and career challenges that their male colleagues don’t because they remain a minority in the profession: Depending on how you count, women make up just 13% to 25% of engineering jobs. That inequity leads to a power imbalance, which can lead to toxic working environments.

One of the more infamous and egregious examples is Susan Fowler’s experience at Uber. In a blog post in February 2017, she described her boss coming on to her in a company chat channel on her first day on the job. She later wrote a book, “Whistleblower,” that described her time at the company in detail.

Fowler’s ordeal cast a spotlight on the harassment women engineers have to deal with in the workplace. In a profession that tends to be male-dominated, behavior ranges from blatant examples, like what happened to Fowler, to ongoing daily microaggressions.

Four female engineers spoke with me about their challenges:

  • Tammy Butow, principal software reliability engineer (SRE) at Gremlin
  • Rona Chong, software engineer at Grove Collaborative
  • Ana Medina, senior chaos engineer at Gremlin
  • Yury Roa, SRE technical program manager at ADL Digital Labs in Bogota, Colombia

It’s worth noting that Fowler was also an SRE who worked on the same team as Medina (who was later part of a $10 million discrimination lawsuit against Uber). It shows just how small of a world we are talking about. While not everyone faced that level of harassment, they each described daily challenges, some of which wore them down. But they also showed a strong determination to overcome whatever obstacles came their way.

Feeling isolated

One of the primary issues these women faced throughout their careers is a feeling of isolation due to their underrepresentation. They say that can sometimes lead to self-doubt and an inkling that you don’t belong that can be difficult to overcome. Medina says that there have been times when, intentionally or not, male engineers made her feel unwelcome.

“One part that was really hard for me was those microaggressions on a daily basis, and that affects your work ethic, wanting to show up, wanting to try your best. And not only does that damage your own self-esteem, but your esteem [in terms of] growing as an engineer,” Medina explained.

Roa says that isolation can lead to impostor syndrome. That’s why it’s so important to have more women in these roles: to serve as mentors, role models and peers.

“One barrier for us related to being the only woman in the room is that [it can lead to] impostor syndrome because it is common when you are the only woman or one of few, it can be really challenging for us. So we need to gain confidence, and in these cases, it is very important to have role models and leadership that includes women,” Roa said.

Chong agrees it is essential to know that others have been in the same position — and found a way through.

“The fact that people talk authentically about their own jobs and challenges and how they’ve overcome that, that’s been really helpful for me to continue seeing myself in the tech industry,” she said. “There have been points where I’ve questioned whether I should Ieave, but then having that support around you to have people to talk to you personally and see as examples, I think it has really helped me.”

Butow described being interviewed for an article early in her career after she won an award for a mobile application she wrote.  When the article was published, she was aghast to discover it had been headlined, “Not just another pretty face…”

“I was like, that’s the title?! I was so excited to share the article with my mom, and then I wasn’t. I spent so much time writing the code and obviously my face had nothing to do with it. … So there’s just little things like that where people call it a paper cut or something like that, but it’s just lots of little microaggressions.”

Pushing through

In spite of all that, a common thread among these women was a strong desire to show that they have the technical skill to get past these moments of doubt to thrive in their professions.

Butow said she has been battling these kinds of misperceptions since she was a teenager but never let it stop her. “I just tried to not let it bother me, but mostly because I also have a background in skateboarding. It’s the same thing, right? You go to a skate park and people would say, ‘Oh, can you even do a trick?’ and I was like, ‘Watch me.’ You know, I [would] just do it. … So a lot of that happens in lots of different types of places in the world and you just have to, I don’t know, I just always push through, like I’m just going to do it anyway.”

Chong says she doesn’t give in to discouraging feelings, adding that having other women to talk to helped push her through those times.

“As much as I like to persevere and I don’t like giving up, actually there have been points where I considered quitting, but having visibility into other people’s experiences, knowing that you’re not the only one who’s experienced that, and seeing that they’ve found better environments for themselves and that they eventually worked through it, and having those people tell you that they believe in you, that probably stopped me from leaving when I [might] have otherwise,” she said.

Women helping women

Chong’s experience is not unique, but the more diverse your teams are, the more people who come from underrepresented groups can support one another. Butow recruited her at one point, and she says that was a huge moment for her.

“I think that there is a network effect where we know other women and we try to bring them in and we expand on that. So we can kind of create the change or we feel the change we want to see, and we get to make our situation more comfortable,” Chong said.

Medina says that she is motivated to help bring Latinx and Black people into tech, with a focus on attracting girls and young women. She has worked with a group called Technolachicas, which produced a series of commercials with the Televisa Foundation. They filmed six videos, three in English and three in Spanish, with the goal of showing young girls how to pursue a STEM career.

“Each commercial talks about how we got our career started with an audience persona of a girl younger than 18, an adult influencer and a parent — people that are really crucial to the development of anyone under 18,” she said. “How is it that these people can actually empower someone to look at STEM and to pursue a career in STEM?”

Butow says it’s about lifting people up. “What we’re trying to do is sharing our story and hoping to inspire other women. It’s super important to have those role models. There’s a lot of research that shows that that’s actually the most important thing is just visibility of role models that you can relate to,” she said.

The ultimate goal? Having enough support in the workplace that they’re able to concentrate on being the best engineers they can be — without all of the obstruction.

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/06/07/4-women-in-engineering-discuss-harassment-isolation-and-perseverence/

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Letting Go And Owning Up: Strategies For Learning From Mistakes

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@vinitabansalVinita Bansal

Technology enthusiast, passionate about building great teams and scaling organisations

We are programmed at an early age to think that mistakes are bad. Don’t make a mistake; you won’t get good grades. Choose the right career; there’s no going back. Make up your mind; there won’t be a second chance.

You will regret this decision later. What were you really thinking? All this well-meaning advice rings loud and clear in our heads, conveying a simple message – stay away from mistakes

Living in a mistake-phobic culture that links mistakes with stupidity and incompetence – it isn’t easy to admit a mistake. While most of the decisions we make aren’t about life and death, and the consequences are rather trivial, we find it extremely hard to say, “I made a mistake.” We avoid taking responsibility for our actions and use blame, lies, and other fanciful stories to avoid looking like an idiot. 

So extreme is our reaction to mistakes that we wish ourselves out of existence, says Kathryn Schulz in Being Wrong. She adds:

“Describing the moment of realizing certain mistakes, we say that we wanted to crawl into a cave, or fall through a hole in the floor, or simply disappear. And we talk about “losing face,” as if our mistakes really did cause us to disappear-as if our identity was rubbed out by the experience of being wrong.”

This thinking gets reinforced once we join the workforce. We soon realize that people don’t encourage open discussions, ask questions or use humility and curiosity to get to the underlying root cause. Rather blame gets in the way of embracing failure lessons. We notice that no one practices openness or has patience and tolerance for mistakes. We adapt to a work culture where admitting mistakes becomes synonymous with taking the blame. 

The mental energy best put to use in solving problems is spent in avoiding mistakes or covering them up once they do happen. What mistake! I didn’t make a mistake! I did my best! It wasn’t simply possible! It was the right thing to do! Covering up mistakes instead of owning them leads to a rift between couples, loss of trust between friends, unhealthy practices at work and it even stalls our own personal growth. 

Friedrich Nietzsche, a German philosopher, once stated, “What doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger.” It conveys a simple fact – the path to success goes through failure. It’s scattered with mistakes, big and small, and when confronted with challenges, we emerge on the other side more confident than we began. How can we learn from our mistakes unless we admit that we made them in the first place? 

But it’s not as easy as it sounds. Acknowledging a mistake is simply an acknowledgment of its existence. Accepting our part in it is an altogether different story. Even if we seem open to the idea of learning from our mistakes, self-justification can get in the way. 

The Siren Song of Self-justification

Most of us think of learning from mistakes as a three-step process:

  1. Acknowledge the mistake.
  2. Reflect on what went wrong and assimilate it into easy-to-implement strategies.
  3. Put these strategies into action.

Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Not so much. It’s more complicated than that. Usually, when we make a mistake, we feel an emotion – anger, sadness, disappointment, frustration, hopelessness, anxiety, fear, or embarrassment, and then we try to rationalize that emotion. We give it a language by telling ourselves a story. It’s at this stage that reality goes up for distortion as self-justification kicks in. And self-justification is really good at its job. It won’t budge once you let it in by ignoring any outside information that interferes with its own conclusion. 

Self-justification is the lie we tell ourselves, says Elliot Aronson, a psychologist who has carried out multiple experiments on the theory of cognitive dissonance in Mistakes were made (but not by me). He explains –

Self-justification not only minimizes our mistakes and bad decisions; it is also the reason that everyone can see a hypocrite in action except the hypocrite. That is why self-justification is more powerful and more dangerous than the explicit lie. It allows people to convince themselves that what they did was the best thing they could have done. In fact, come to think of it, it was the right thing

Since self-justification works beneath consciousness, we do not even realize that it’s protecting us by acting as a shield and shunning away our responsibility. It feeds our mind with alternative theories to describe our experience, one where we aren’t responsible for the mistake.

  • Mistake: Couldn’t finish the project on time.
  • Self-justification: The product team didn’t provide the requirements clearly.  
  • Mistake: Forgot to call mom on her birthday.
  • Self-justification: It’s not that big a deal. She doesn’t even remember her own birthday.
  • Mistake: Lost a major deal.
  • Self-justification: What a stupid bunch. They can’t even see their own loss. Good, this didn’t work out. I can now spend my energy with people who are worth my time.
  • Mistake: A marketing strategy that failed and cost the company a lot of money.
  • Self-justification: It indeed was a great strategy. No one could have anticipated the shift in market demand. We at least survived. Look at others who couldn’t keep up with this change. 

With self-justification by our side, the courage to accept the reality of our situation, and the humility to do the right thing never even crosses our minds. After all, we don’t know what we don’t know. We are oblivious to self-justification. Think about some of your mistakes in the past – did you do the right thing or taking the best possible action? Since we don’t question our own thinking, how can we ever catch our flawed justification? 

Elliot Aronson explains how over time, as the self-serving distortions of memory kick in, we forget or distort past events and come to believe our own lies, little by little. He adds –

We know we did something wrong, but gradually we begin to think it wasn’t all our fault, and after all the situation was complex. We start underestimating our own responsibility, whittling away at it until it is a mere shadow of its former hulking self. Before long, we have persuaded ourselves, believing privately what we originally said publicly

Everyone Makes Mistakes

N. Wayne Hale Jr. was launch integration manager at NASA in 2003, when seven astronauts died in the explosion of the space shuttle Columbia. In a letter to NASA employees, Hale took full responsibility for the disaster. He accepted his mistake:

“I had the opportunity and the information, but I failed to make use of it. I don’t know what an inquest or a court of law would say, but I stand condemned in the court of my own conscience to be guilty of not preventing the Columbia disaster. We could discuss the particulars: inattention, incompetence, distraction, lack of conviction, lack of understanding, a lack of backbone, laziness. The bottom line is that I failed to understand what I was being told; I failed to stand up and be counted. Therefore look no further; I am guilty of allowing Columbia to crash.” 

Even though a worker at Kennedy Space Center had complained to him that they hadn’t heard any NASA managers admit to being at fault for the disaster, he said:

“I cannot speak for others, but let me set my record straight. I am at fault.”

He wrote in his letter:

“The nation has told us to get up, fix our shortcomings, fly again — and make sure it doesn’t happen again. … The nation is giving us another chance. Not just to fly the shuttle again, but to continue to explore the universe in our generation.”

This NPR article describes how he solved the cultural problems at NASA. He said, “The first thing we’ve got to do is we’ve got to put the arrogance aside.” He became a listener. When an engineer came to him with an issue after the accident, even if he didn’t understand it, he tried. Hale oversaw many of the shuttle flights after the accident. It did not fail again. He says they made plenty of changes to checklists. But he thinks the biggest change was that everyone who worked at NASA became better at talking — and listening. That’s the power of acknowledging mistakes and learning from them. 

In another astonishing event, Oprah Winfrey dedicated an entire show apologizing for making a mistake. This is how the story goes. 

A Million Little Pieces, published in 2003, was James Frey’s memoir of drug addiction and recovery. Oprah Winfrey picked up the book for her popular on-air book club, an endorsement that boosted Frey’s sales into millions as his memoir climbed the best sellers list. 

Later in October 2005, Frey appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” to promote his book, which Oprah had previously said she “couldn’t put down,” calling it “a gut-wrenching memoir that is raw and it’s so real.” Then on January 8, 2006, The Smoking Gun website published that Frey had falsified and exaggerated many parts of his story. At first, Oprah justified her support for Frey when she called the “Larry King Live” show and said, “The underlying message of redemption in James Frey’s memoir still resonates with me, and I know that it resonates with millions of other people who have read this book, and will continue to read this book.” 

But later, Oprah realized her mistake and took responsibility for it. She got Frey onto her show once again and started right off with an apology for her call to Larry King Live show “I regret that phone call”, she said to her audience.

“I made a mistake and I left the impression that the truth does not matter and I am deeply sorry about that because that is not what I believe. I called in because I love the message of this book and at the time and every day I was reading e-mail after e-mail from so many people who have been inspired by it. And, I have to say that I allowed that to cloud my judgment. And so to everyone who has challenged me on this issue of truth, you are absolutely right.” 

Later in the show, she even told Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen who had called Oprah “not only wrong but deluded” that she was impressed with what he said because “sometimes criticism can be very helpful. So thank you very much. You were right. I was wrong.” Towards the end of the hour, the New York Times columnist Frank Rich appeared on the show to echo Richard Cohen, giving kudos to Oprah for speaking up, for taking a stand. “The hardest thing to do is admit a mistake,” he said. 

If Oprah and Hale could acknowledge their mistakes in front of millions of people, why can’t we do it too? Mistakes are not terrible personal failings that need to be denied or justified; they are inevitable aspects of life that can help us grow. 

Letting Go and Owning Up

People make mistakes all the time. They start companies they think they can manage. They have grand and bold visions that were a little too grandiose. This is all perfectly fine; it’s what being an entrepreneur or a creative or even a business executive is about. We take risks. We mess up. The problem is that when we get our identity tied up in our work, we worry that any kind of failure will then say something bad about us as a person. It’s a fear of taking responsibility, of admitting that we might have messed up. It’s the sunk cost fallacy. And so we throw good money and good life after bad and end up making everything so much worse – Ryan Holiday

Does this attitude lead to great things? Absolutely not. What does – letting go, owning up, and moving on. 

The only way to own up to our mistakes is to be attentive to our own thinking and catch ourselves before it’s too late. We need to act before self-justification kicks in. Instead of letting automatic thinking drive our decision, we need to recognize the moment of discomfort when we first learn about our mistakes. When we first feel an emotion, instead of letting self-justification cloud our judgment, we need to insert a moment of self-declaration “I made a mistake. I can learn from it.” 

By saying this out loud multiple times, we can empower our minds to adopt a solution mode instead of adopting a self-defeating goal of pushing blame externally. We can choose a different experience, one in which we no longer hide behind our mistakes, look to them as a measure of our competence or feel robbed of our identity because of them. 

We can adopt the mindset of a learner by considering our mistakes as a learning experience, a teaching moment on how our behaviors and actions define our future, an acceptance that mistakes are a necessary part of building new skills and acquiring new knowledge.

Being wrong won’t always be joyful. The path to embracing mistakes is full of painful moments, and we handle those moments better when we remember they’re essential for progress. But if we can’t learn to find occasional glee in discovering we were wrong, it will be awfully hard to get anything right – Adam Grant

Once we acknowledge our mistake, analyzing it is the next difficult step. It’s easy to get carried away by emotions and speed through the analysis by attaching superficial reasons or drawing insignificant conclusions. Don’t fall for it. You can’t really learn from your mistake unless you move from addressing the symptom to exploring the root cause. Fix the symptom, and you will find yourself repeating this process quite often. Fix the root cause, and there, you have stopped the mistake from happening again, saving yourself time and energy to do the real work. 

A great technique to identify the root cause is the five-whys technique designed by Sakichi Toyoda who used it within Toyota Motor Corporation during the evolution of its manufacturing methodologies. It goes like this – Ask why the mistake occurred and use the response from the first question as the basis for the next question. Repeat this process (5 is a general recommendation, you can stop at 3 or keep going) unless you have the answer that seems right. For example:

  • Q: “Why did I miss the meeting yesterday?” A: I slept till late in the morning
  • Q: “Why did I sleep till late in the morning?” A: I was working till late the previous night  
  • Q: “Why was I working till late the previous night?” A: I am running behind an upcoming deadline and need to catch up on my work
  • Q: “Why am I running behind on my deadline?” A: I did the wrong effort estimation
  • Q: “Why did I do the wrong effort estimation?” A: I did not spend time analyzing the complexity of the problem and was overconfident in my abilities

This example is a clear demonstration of how the original answer to the mistake differs greatly from the actual source of the problem. Unless time is invested in solving the estimation problem, more such mistakes will keep cropping up. 

Now that you know how useful mistakes are; let go of the burden of covering up your mistakes and take pleasure in owning them. Even if you have been told throughout your life that “mistakes are bad” and the culture around you still supports the belief, you can choose to opt out of it. You can stand apart and be an outlier. Through your actions, you can encourage others to rethink their conclusions too. Isn’t that worth a try?

Ending with these thoughts from Ben Horowitz as stated in this article:

“All the mental energy that you use to elaborate your misery would be far better used trying to find the one, seemingly impossible way out of your current mess. It’s best to spend zero time on what you could have done and all of your time on what you might do. Because in the end, nobody cares.”

Previously published on https://www.techtello.com/learning-from-mistakes/.

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Investors say Eindhoven poised to become Netherlands’ No. 2 tech hub

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Eindhoven might not immediately spring to mind as a high-tech hub, but the Netherlands city is keen to position itself as a center for deep tech in Europe.

The Technical University of Eindhoven, High Tech Campus Eindhoven, and locally based corporates like ASML and Philips have been eyeing initiatives across Europe and applying what they’ve learned to the region’s strategy. Philips launched in Eindhoven in 1891 and played no small part in the municipality’s ambitions to become a tech hub.

Eindhoven produces a high number of patents per year considering its small population and has been home to an inordinate number of hardware startups. The local High Tech Campus has a high hardware focus, for instance.

Our survey respondents consider the city strong in areas like photonics, robotics, medical devices, materials science, deep tech, automotive tech, sustainability tech, medtech, Big Data, hardware and precision engineering. They are looking for more mature startups and scaleups focused on AI and hard tech.

Eindhoven is considered weaker in fintech and consumer products, and it exists in a small region with limited global visibility.

Over the next five years, one respondent said, “Eindhoven will have evolved to the Netherlands’ second-largest tech ecosystem, behind Amsterdam. On a European scale, Eindhoven will have entered the top 10.”

To learn more about Eindhoven, we queried the following investors:


Robert AL, Systema Circularis

What industry sectors is your tech ecosystem strong in? What are you most excited by? What is it weak in?

High-tech systems, photonics, robotics, medical devices.

Which are the most interesting startups in your city?

Lightyear, Bio-TRIP, EFFECT photonics, Nemo Healthcare, Sorama.

What are the tech investors like? What is the investment scene like in your city? What’s their focus?

Fully dedicated.

Who are the key startup people in your city (e.g., investors, founders, lawyers, designers, etc.)?

Steef Blok, Harm de Vries, Piet van der Wielen, Andy Lurling, Mark Cox.

Where do you see your city’s tech scene in five years’ time?

More mature, more focused on inclusive development, less quality coming from university spinoffs.

Nathan van den Dool, CEO, Space4Good

What industry sectors is your tech ecosystem strong in? What are you most excited by? What is it weak in?

High-tech systems and materials, the real high-tech and deep tech stuff that either leads to scientific breakthroughs or turns scientific breakthroughs into companies. Lithography makes a major contribution to that, as well as medical devices and production technologies.

Which are the most interesting startups in your city?

Nearfield Instruments, Optiflux, Dynaxion, AlphaBeats, Incooling.

What are the tech investors like? What is the investment scene like in your city? What’s their focus?

They focus mainly on high-tech machine building and software development, AI.

With the shift to remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic, will people stay in your city, move out or will others move in?

Largely unaffected.

Where do you see your city’s tech scene in five years’ time?

More integrated between AI and hard tech and production.

Pepijn Herman, venture builder, Brabantse Ontwikkelings Maat schappij

What industry sectors is your tech ecosystem strong in? What are you most excited by? What is it weak in?

The pros are high-tech systems, collaboration culture and excellent startup ecosystem; The cons are that it’s a small region with limited visibility globally.

Which are the most interesting startups in your city?

LionVolt, DENS, Lightyear, Morphotonics.

What are the tech investors like? What is the investment scene like in your city? What’s their focus?

They focus mainly on high-tech machine building and software development, AI.

With the shift to remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic, will people stay in your city, move out or will others move in?

Others will move in! Housing is extremely expensive but the demand for a skilled workforce is extremely high. If people move to surrounding areas, within 30 km, housing prices skyrocket all over.

Who are the key startup people in your city (e.g., investors, founders, lawyers, designers, etc.)?

BOM (that’s us!), Braventure, Brainport Development, TNO.

Where do you see your city’s tech scene in five years’ time?

Leading worldwide in several technology areas, mainly, high-precision, roll-to-roll processing atomic layer deposition, material handling, industry 4.0, silicon processing equipment.

Betsy Lindsey, CFO, Aircision

What industry sectors is your tech ecosystem strong in? What are you most excited by? What is it weak in?

The region is strong in deep tech, automotive tech, sustainability tech, medtech, Big Data, hardware and precision engineering. Most excited by sustainability tech and deep tech. The region is weak in fintech.

Which are the most interesting startups in your city?

Lightyear, Incooling.

What are the tech investors like? What is the investment scene like in your city? What’s their focus?

Conservative, non-risk-taking — there are so many subsidies they don’t need to take risks, so once the tech risk is gone, they are good, but they are not global enough; hardware.

With the shift to remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic, will people stay in your city, move out or will others move in?

Hardware is hands-on — people are still moving in! We have a housing “crisis!”

Who are the key startup people in your city (e.g., investors, founders, lawyers, designers, etc.)?

Innovation Industries.

Where do you see your city’s tech scene in five years’ time?

More mature startups and scaleups on the scene!

Andy Lurling, founding partner, LUMO Labs

What industry sectors is your tech ecosystem strong in? What are you most excited by? What is it weak in?

The region is strong in sustainable cities, health and well-being, and education.

Which are the most interesting startups in your city?

FruitPunch AI, AlphaBeats, Vaulut, Lightyear, Serendipity.

What are the tech investors like? What is the investment scene like in your city? What’s their focus?

Mainly hardware; LUMO Labs has an early-stage software focus.

With the shift to remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic, will people stay in your city, move out or will others move in?

Stay.

Who are the key startup people in your city (e.g., investors, founders, lawyers, designers, etc.)?

Nard Sintenie, Frank Claassen, Hans Bloemen.

Where do you see your city’s tech scene in five years’ time?

Competing on a global scale.

Han Dirkx, CEO and co-founder, AlphaBeats

What industry sectors is your tech ecosystem strong in? What are you most excited by? What is it weak in?

The region is strong in deep tech and health. I’m excited about opportunities for cooperation between different companies. It’s weak in seed investment.

Which are the most interesting startups in your city?

Lightyear, AlphaBeats, Carbyon, FruitPunch, Serendipity.

What are the tech investors like? What is the investment scene like in your city? What’s their focus?

Tech investors are mainly government-regulated constitutions or angels. Focus on scaleup.

With the shift to remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic, will people stay in your city, move out or will others move in?

They will stay; working from home has some benefits but meeting people in an inspiring environment gives the best synergy.

Who are the key startup people in your city (e.g., investors, founders, lawyers, designers, etc.)?

LUMO Labs, HighTechXL, Andy Lurling, Sven Bakkes, John Bell, Guus Frericks, Bert-Jan Woertman.

Where do you see your city’s tech scene in five years’ time?

Leading in the world.

Jonas Onland, managing partner, Serendipity

What industry sectors is your tech ecosystem strong in? What are you most excited by? What is it weak in?

The region is strong in building sustainable and resilient cities and a platform between cities/society and tech market.

Which are the most interesting startups in your city?

Digital Toolbox (a Serendipity spinoff), Amber (mobility), Active Esports Arena and other portfolio companies of LUMO Labs.

What are the tech investors like? What is the investment scene like in your city? What’s their focus?

Through LUMO Labs, there is a focus on societal investments; the rest is investment in high tech due to the big industries (VDLK, ASML, NXP, Phillips).

With the shift to remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic, will people stay in your city, move out or will others move in?

Work at home or mix in the office and at home.

Who are the key startup people in your city (e.g., investors, founders, lawyers, designers, etc.)?

A combination of accelerators (LUMO Labs, HighTechXL, Braventure) and Brainport (ecosystem management) supported by the Eindhoven University of Technology and big corporates.

Where do you see your city’s tech scene in five years’ time?

Leading in the world on societal/systemic change — moving from high-tech toward impact (more software and digitization).

Daan A.J. Kersten, CEO, PhotonFirst

What industry sectors is your tech ecosystem strong in? What are you most excited by? What is it weak in?

It’s strong in high-tech equipment, hardware, photonics, additive manufacturing, lighting, electronics, semiconductor technology and health tech, and weak in consumer products and apps.

Which are the most interesting startups in your city?

Lightyear, ELEO Technologies, EFFECT Photonics, SMART Photonics, PhotonFirst, Amber.

What are the tech investors like? What is the investment scene like in your city? What’s their focus?

There is a relatively low number of investors in early stage.

With the shift to remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic, will people stay in your city, move out or will others move in?

They will stay. Eindhoven is a hot spot with many cultures, international tech community and great infrastructure, while it feels like a village.

Who are the key startup people in your city (e.g., investors, founders, lawyers, designers, etc.)?

Nard Sintenie, startup founders, HighTechXL.

Where do you see your city’s tech scene in five years’ time?

Worldwide dominance in high-tech hardware scaleups.

Daniel den Boer, CEO and co-founder, Vaulut

What industry sectors is your tech ecosystem strong in? What are you most excited by? What is it weak in?

The Eindhoven ecosystem is really strong in the sectors of mobility, smart city and energy. I’m most excited about smart city. This is our focus sector and it is the embodiment of ecosystem collaboration with impact solutions.

Which are the most interesting startups in your city?

Vaulut, Roseman Labs, FruitPunch AI, Amber, Sendcloud, Lightyear.

What are the tech investors like? What is the investment scene like in your city? What’s their focus?

The investment scene is getting better. They are increasingly realizing that deep tech takes time and needs to be nurtured, but the potential impact is massive and can have a dramatic effect on the entire ecosystem. There are still relatively few early-stage impact drive investors. LUMO Labs is leading the pack on that front.

With the shift to remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic, will people stay in your city, move out or will others move in?

I think more people will stay as the need to move to Amsterdam as the tech hub of the Netherlands diminishes, giving Eindhoven a boost to strengthen its own ecosystem, which will in turn make even more people stay and attract people to move in the city. As a result, COVID-19 will have a positive effect on Eindhoven’s tech ecosystem, I believe.

Who are the key startup people in your city (e.g., investors, founders, lawyers, designers, etc.)?

LUMO Labs, the Eindhoven University of Technology, High Tech Campus, Amber, Brainport Eindhoven.

Where do you see your city’s tech scene in five years’ time?

In five years, I believe Eindhoven will have evolved to Netherlands’ second-largest tech ecosystem, behind Amsterdam. On a European scale, Eindhoven will have entered the top 10.

Coinsmart. Beste Bitcoin-Börse in Europa
Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/06/18/investors-say-eindhoven-poised-to-become-netherlands-no-2-tech-hub/

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Start Ups

Zenefits Payroll Glitch Results In Delayed Paychecks For Small-Business Employees

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Employees of several small businesses were paid late Friday after payroll and benefits platform Zenefits closed for the Juneteenth holiday and experienced a glitch, two people affected told Crunchbase News.

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Zenefits provides tools for businesses to handle HR, onboarding, benefits and payroll. It’s used by many small and medium-sized businesses. The San Francisco-based company has raised at least $584 million in known venture funding, per Crunchbase data, and was most recently valued at $4.5 billion by private investors when it raised funding in 2015.

On Friday, several people took to the comments section of a Facebook post Zenefits made in honor of Juneteenth, which this week became a federal holiday celebrating the end of slavery in the U.S., to complain that their employees hadn’t been paid, despite their respective companies processing payroll. 

The post was soon deleted.

John Bazyk, CEO of Connecticut-based security system company Command Corp., told Crunchbase News that he realized Friday morning that his company’s employees hadn’t been paid after one of them contacted him. 

Command usually sees a tax withdrawal and employees’ net pay come out of its bank account on Wednesday, but this week only the tax withdrawal was taken on Wednesday, Bazyk said. 

The payroll amount was taken out this morning, but had yet to be disbursed to employees as of 4 p.m. Eastern, he said.

Bazyk said he spent four hours Friday trying to deal with the issue, and hadn’t received any communication from Zenefits such as an email alerting him of the issue. 

Some employees have bills that automatically debit from their bank accounts, he said, and not being paid could put them in a bind.

“The employees are upset at me, they think I didn’t run payroll,” Bazyk said. “Some of these are new employees. They’re joining a new company and it’s like, ‘Wait I’m not getting paid?’ ”

Usually preceding a holiday, Zenefits will remind customers to run payroll early, Bazyk said, but that wasn’t the case this week. He noted that he understands it’s a unique situation — with President Biden on Thursday signing legislation that made Friday a new federal holiday in celebration of Juneteenth — but the situation and lack of communication from Zenefits were frustrating. 

“Even if they make it right, we’re probably going to leave them because it’s an unacceptable mistake,” Bazyk said.

It’s not clear how many of Zenefits’ customers or their employees were impacted by the error.

Nancy, a controller and HR administrator at a company in the Washington, D.C., area, said she was notified by two employees Friday that they hadn’t been paid. Around 2:15 p.m. Eastern, she saw a notification in the Zenefits portal acknowledging the issue. Nancy did not want to share her full name because she was not authorized to speak on behalf of her employer.

“Businesses can make mistakes,” she said. “Whatever caused the debit to not go out is not good. But then to not be there to answer what happened … that’s bad.”

A Zenefits spokeswoman said in an email to Crunchbase News that the issue causing the payroll delay was resolved, and that employees would receive payment by 5 p.m. Pacific time.

“Today, Zenefits experienced an issue that resulted in a delay for some employees’ direct deposits,” the statement read. “This has been resolved and we can confirm that employees who did not receive their direct deposit this morning will receive it today by 5 PM PT. All employees will be paid and the funds have already been processed. We are currently waiting on the banks to send them out this afternoon.”

Another Zenefits spokeswoman said in an email at 2:40 p.m. Pacific time that the issue was resolved and affected employees had been paid.

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias

Editor’s Note: This story was updated after it was first published to reflect that payment for affected employees had gone through late Friday afternoon, after Crunchbase News first spoke with sources.

Stay up to date with recent funding rounds, acquisitions, and more with the Crunchbase Daily.

Handdii’s software works between insurance companies and vetted contractors.

New York-headquartered Gloat, an internal talent marketplace for employers, closed its $57 million Series C led by Accel with existing investors…

Coinsmart. Beste Bitcoin-Börse in Europa
Source: https://news.crunchbase.com/news/zenefits-payroll-glitch-results-in-small-business-employees-not-getting-paid/

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Artificial Intelligence

Extra Crunch roundup: influencer marketing 101, spotting future unicorns, Apple AirTags teardown

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With the right message, even a small startup can connect with established and emerging stars on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube who will promote your products and services — as long as your marketing team understands the influencer marketplace.

Creators have a wide variety of brands and revenue channels to choose from, but marketers who understand how to court these influencers can make inroads no matter the size of their budget. Although brand partnerships are still the top source of revenue for creators, many are starting to diversify.

If you’re in charge of marketing at an early-stage startup, this post explains how to connect with an influencer who authentically resonates with your brand and covers the basics of setting up a revenue-share structure that works for everyone.


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Our upcoming TC Early Stage event is devoted to marketing and fundraising, so expect to see more articles than usual about growth marketing in the near future.

We also ran a post this week with tips for making the first marketing hire, and Managing Editor Eric Eldon spoke to growth leader Susan Su to get her thoughts about building remote marketing teams.

We’re off today to celebrate the Juneteenth holiday in the United States. I hope you have a safe and relaxing weekend.

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch
@yourprotagonist

As the economy reopens, startups are uniquely positioned to recruit talent

Little Fish in Form of Big Fish meeting a fish.

Image Credits: ballyscanlon (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

The pandemic forced a reckoning about the way we work — and whether we want to keep working in the same way, with the same people, for the same company — and many are looking for something different on the other side.

Art Zeile, the CEO of DHI Group, notes this means it’s a great time for startups to recruit talent.

“While all startups are certainly not focused on being disruptive, they often rely on cutting-edge technology and processes to give their customers something truly new,” Zeile writes. “Many are trying to change the pattern in their particular industry. So, by definition, they generally have a really interesting mission or purpose that may be more appealing to tech professionals.”

Here are four considerations for high-growth company founders building their post-pandemic team.

Refraction AI’s Matthew Johnson-Roberson on finding the middle path to robotic delivery

Matthew Johnson-roberson

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin

“Refraction AI calls itself the Goldilocks of robotic delivery,” Rebecca Bellan writes. “The Ann Arbor-based company … was founded by two University of Michigan professors who think delivery via full-size autonomous vehicles (AV) is not nearly as close as many promise, and sidewalk delivery comes with too many hassles and not enough payoff.

“Their ‘just right’ solution? Find a middle path, or rather, a bike path.”

Rebecca sat down with the company’s CEO to discuss his motivation to make “something that is useful to the general public.”

How to identify unicorn founders when they’re still early-stage

Image Credits: RichVintage (opens in a new window)/ Getty Images

What are investors looking for?

Founders often tie themselves in knots as they try to project qualities they hope investors are seeking. In reality, few entrepreneurs have the acting skills required to convince someone that they’re patient, dedicated or hard working.

Johan Brenner, general partner at Creandum, was an early backer of Klarna, Spotify and several other European startups. Over the last two decades, he’s identified five key traits shared by people who create billion-dollar companies.

“A true unicorn founder doesn’t need to have all of those capabilities on day one,” Brenner, writes “but they should already be thinking big while executing small and demonstrating that they understand how to scale a company.”

Founders Ben Schippers and Evette Ellis are riding the EV sales wave

disrupt mobility roundup

Image Credits: TechCrunch

EV sales are driving demand for services and startups that fulfill the new needs of drivers, charging station operators and others.
Evette Ellis and Ben Schippers took to the main stage at TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 to share how their companies capitalized on the new opportunities presented by the electric transportation revolution.

Scale AI CEO Alex Wang weighs in on software bugs and what will make AV tech good enough

Image Credits: Alexandr Wang

Scale co-founder and CEO Alex Wang joined us at TechCrunch Sessions: Mobility 2021 to discuss his company’s role in the autonomous driving industry and how it’s changed in the five years since its founding.

Scale helps large and small AV players establish reliable “ground truth” through data annotation and management, and along the way, the standards for what that means have shifted as the industry matures.

Even if two algorithms in autonomous driving might be created more or less equal, their real-world performance could vary dramatically based on what they’re consuming in terms of input data. That’s where Scale’s value prop to the industry starts, and Wang explains why.

Edtech investors are flocking to SaaS guidance counselors

Image Credits: Getty Images / Vertigo3d

The prevailing post-pandemic edtech narrative, which predicted higher ed would be DOA as soon as everyone got their vaccine and took off for a gap year, might not be quite true.

Natasha Mascarenhas explores a new crop of edtech SaaS startups that function like guidance counselors, helping students with everything from study-abroad opportunities to swiping right on a captivating college (really!).

“Startups that help students navigate institutional bureaucracy so they can get more value out of their educational experience may become a growing focus for investors as consumer demand for virtual personalized learning increases,” she writes.

Dear Sophie: Is it possible to expand our startup in the US?

lone figure at entrance to maze hedge that has an American flag at the center

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

Dear Sophie,

My co-founders and I launched a software startup in Iran a few years ago, and I’m happy to say it’s now thriving. We’d like to expand our company in California.

Now that President Joe Biden has eliminated the Muslim ban, is it possible to do that? Is the pandemic still standing in the way? Do you have any suggestions?

— Talented in Tehran

Companies should utilize real-time compensation data to ensure equal pay

Two women observing data to represent collecting data to ensure pay equity.

Image Credits: Rudzhan Nagiev (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Chris Jackson, the vice president of client development at CompTrak, writes in a guest column that having a conversation about diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives and “agreeing on the need for equality doesn’t mean it will be achieved on an organizational scale.”

He lays out a data-driven proposal that brings in everyone from directors to HR to the talent acquisition team to get companies closer to actual equity — not just talking about it.

Investors Clara Brenner, Quin Garcia and Rachel Holt on SPACs, micromobility and how COVID-19 shaped VC

tc sessions mobility speaker_investorpanel-1

Image Credits: TechCrunch

Few people are more closely tapped into the innovations in the transportation space than investors.

They’re paying close attention to what startups and tech companies are doing to develop and commercialize autonomous vehicle technology, electrification, micromobility, robotics and so much more.

For TC Sessions: Mobility 2021, we talked to three VCs about everything from the pandemic to the most overlooked opportunities within the transportation space.

Experts from Ford, Toyota and Hyundai outline why automakers are pouring money into robotics

disrupt mobility roundup

Image Credits: TechCrunch

Automakers’ interest in robotics is not a new phenomenon, of course: Robots and automation have long played a role in manufacturing and are both clearly central to their push into AVs.

But recently, many companies are going even deeper into the field, with plans to be involved in the wide spectrum of categories that robotics touch.

At TC Sessions: Mobility 2021, we spoke to a trio of experts at three major automakers about their companies’ unique approaches to robotics.

Apple AirTags UX teardown: The trade-off between privacy and user experience

Image Credits: James D. Morgan/Getty Images

Apple’s location devices — called AirTags — have been out for more than a month now. The initial impressions were good, but as we concluded back in April: “It will be interesting to see these play out once AirTags are out getting lost in the wild.”

That’s exactly what our resident UX analyst, Peter Ramsey, has been doing for the last month — intentionally losing AirTags to test their user experience at the limits.

This Extra Crunch exclusive helps bridge the gap between Apple’s mistakes and how you can make meaningful changes to your product’s UX.

How to launch a successful RPA initiative

3D illustration of robot humanoid reading book in concept of future artificial intelligence and 4th fourth industrial revolution . (3D illustration of robot humanoid reading book in concept of future artificial intelligence and 4th fourth industrial r

Image Credits: NanoStockk (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Robotic process automation (RPA) is no longer in the early-adopter phase.

Though it requires buy-in from across the organization, contributor Kevin Buckley writes, it’s time to gather everyone around and get to work.

“Automating just basic workflow processes has resulted in such tremendous efficiency improvements and cost savings that businesses are adapting automation at scale and across the enterprise,” he writes.

Long story short: “Adapting business automation for the enterprise should be approached as a business solution that happens to require some technical support.”

Mobility startups can be equitable, accessible and profitable

tc sessions

Image Credits: TechCrunch

Mobility should be a right, but too often it’s a privilege. Can startups provide the technology and the systems necessary to help correct this injustice?

At  our TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 event, we sat down with Revel CEO and co-founder Frank Reig, Remix CEO and co-founder Tiffany Chu, and community organizer, transportation consultant and lawyer Tamika L. Butler to discuss how mobility companies should think about equity, why incorporating it from the get-go will save money in the long run, and how they can partner with cities to expand accessible and sustainable mobility.

CEO Shishir Mehrotra and investor S. Somasegar reveal what sings in Coda’s pitch doc

Image Credits: Carlin Ma / Madrona Venture Group/Brian Smale

Coda CEO Shishir Mehrotra and Madrona partner S. Somasegar joined Extra Crunch Live to go through Coda’s pitch doc (not deck. Doc) and stuck around for the ECL Pitch-off, where founders in the audience come “onstage” to pitch their products to our guests.

Extra Crunch Live takes place every Wednesday at 3 p.m. EDT/noon PDT. Anyone can hang out during the episode (which includes networking with other attendees), but access to past episodes is reserved exclusively for Extra Crunch members. Join here.

Coinsmart. Beste Bitcoin-Börse in Europa
Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/06/18/extra-crunch-roundup-influencer-marketing-101-spotting-future-unicorns-apple-airtags-teardown/

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