Chapter 4 Contact IQ: API Address to the Brain of Every EmployeeKate Scisel – Global Women in the Start-up World

CHAPTER 4

Contact IQ

API Address to the Brain of Every Employee

Kate Scisel comes from Kraków. She founded her first technology company at 22. Later she cooperated with a number of IT firms. One of her clients was the Californian start-up WhatsApp. She admits she was not able to understand at the time how such a small company could grow so much in such a short time.

In 2012, she decided to build her own start-up outside Poland. She moved to Berlin, London, and finally to Silicon Valley: “Silicon Valley did not seem like a logical choice for me but I still decided to move here and begin one of the most demanding stages of my life.” At present Kate is developing her own start-up, Contact IQ. She told me about the complicated process of founding a start-up. She also addressed the issue of female founders in Silicon Valley.

Silicon Valley is a mix of dreamers who believe in the future. Many of them live in the future and are out of touch with the real world. Had they not been a bit “crazy” they would not have been able to overcome life’s hurdles.

When I worked in Europe I read articles about the situation of women in Silicon Valley and I was somewhat surprised. I had the impression that they were either too sensitive or else they were blowing things out of proportion. But, unfortunately, my assumptions were wrong.

—Kate Scisel

I met with Kate in San Francisco at the Founders Den. This is short, precise description of this place:

Founders Den is what could be termed a “startup heaven.” But one problem: you gotta get invited to rent a desk here, so start networking!

Robert Scoble

blogger

Rackspace

The Kraków Start-up Ecosystem

We Did Not Know What a Start-up Was

I went to high school in Poland and Germany. When I returned to Kraków by chance I got a job at a technology company from New York. I helped in practically everything. Then my employer recommended me to a New York programmer with whom I started to collaborate. With this experience behind me in 2007, I established my first company managing server administration. It was a Polish-American firm. I was 21 and was still studying. From my university classes I went straight to the firm. It was a crazy time.

Most of our clients were in New York, and in Poland we hired specialists to do the work. We administered the servers of some of the largest TV networks in the world.

At the time Amazon Web Services entered the market. We offered something similar, but our product was not fully scalable; it was, rather, an outsourcing service.

From the Polish perspective no one even dreamed of building global start-ups. Ten years ago we didn’t even know what a start-up was!

Studies

I studied at Jagiellonian University. My studies were completely unrelated to technology so I wanted to switch my major. My business partner, who also did not study software engineering, convinced me not to do it. He argued that in technology you have to be always up-to-date and at college they will teach me things that are already obsolete. I listened to his advice. Strangely enough all our best specialists studied philosophy, logic, or history. But they were passionate about programming and taught themselves to code.

New Challenges

Soon I was approached by a British company, Erlang Solutions (which employed some of the creators of the Erlang programming language). They asked me to set up and organize their Polish branch. I accepted their offer because I needed another challenge. For many months I traveled between Kraków and London. In addition to our office in Kraków we also had branches in Sweden and the UK.

Most of our contracts were covered by nondisclosure agreements, which was how it was done in Europe at the time. We were making innovative products but no one was supposed to know about it. There were no TechCrunch articles about us, no publicity.

The Time of Change

In those years no Polish university offered courses in Erlang. So our programmers started to teach that language to their professors at the AGH University of Science and Technology and in a few years Erlang was introduced to the university curriculum. The fact that programmers were teaching their professors felt impressive and indicative of the changing times. We started working with universities from all over Poland.

Erlang Programming Language

Erlang, which itself originated as a start-up, is currently being used by both small start-ups and large international corporations. Some of the major users are Ericsson, Facebook, WhatsApp, T-Mobile, and Goldman Sachs.

Meeting and cooperating with people who had invented a programming language used worldwide became a turning point in my career.

WhatsApp

My activity in those days you can describe as helping scalable start-ups. One of our clients was a budding start-up from Mountain View called WhatsApp. When we started working with them they employed only four or five people.

We all know the story of WhatsApp. In 2014, it was sold to ­Facebook for 19 billion dollars! An almost unimaginable amount. In the tech industry in a very short time you can build up your company’s value immensely. At present WhatsApp has about 800 million active users. And WhatsApp was not the only one of our clients that developed so fast!

What Is the Secret?

I watched our clients grow but I did not understand their secret. I saw business models where it didn’t matter if the product had a few users or a few million users. I was full of admiration for our clients. As a witness to the process of product development, I knew how much stress it involved.

Today, as I look back on my fascination with the technology market, I can see how naïve I was. I could see how much could be gained. But I did not know the inside stories of how those companies who did not make it.

TEDxKraków

I remember how the Kraków start-up community was just emerging. In 2009, there was the first TEDxKraków meeting, which galvanized the Cracovian start-up ecosystem.

With just a few people, we organized TEDxKraków conference at practically zero cost. We got support from many people, we managed to find sponsors; we invited world-famous speakers. Jagiellonian University gave us use of a 500-seat room. That TEDx conference really energized Kraków.

The start-up ecosystem is so interconnected. Łukasz Kostka, who was then my roommate, met Jakub Krzych during the TEDx conference. Jakub’s collaborator was at that time also Julia Krysztofiak. TEDx integrated the Kraków start-up community. Before people were creating interesting things but more privately, at home, individually. After that conference they began to network. The first Hive53 community was created. And later the first Kraków Startup Weekend took place.

Risky Decision

In 2011, Erlang Solutions sold its shares. I think if our company had operated in Silicon Valley it would have enjoyed a much wider, global success. Exit in Europe was also a success, but not on the Valley scale.

I began to consider the next step in my life. I wanted to create something of my own. After having worked for a few years in tech, with world-class programmers, I could not imagine working in any other field. I got a few offers, but in the end I decided to leave Poland. I knew this was a risky decision. But I came to the conclusion that if I wanted to create a global company, I should do it outside Poland—which at the time lacked a solid system of innovation support.

Berlin, London, San Francisco

Key Criteria

I conducted an analysis of places where I could start my own operation. I did not want to make emotional decisions. I put all the data into an Excel spreadsheet. I chose the key criteria: a well-developed technology ­industry, good developers, and an innovation-friendly environment. I also wanted to work in a country whose language I was fluent in.

After completing my analysis I singled out three cities: Berlin, ­London, and San Francisco. I decided to travel to those three cities to find out how they functioned. At the time I thought this was a sensible plan. Today I think it was crazy.

Berlin

I moved for a month to Berlin. I got to know its start-up environment. I liked it there a lot. Still, I got the impression that it was a ground zero zone for hype. There was a lot of media noise around start-ups. This is exciting and attracts a lot of interesting, creative people. The best ­programmers are brought in from Poland.

And although Berlin is a fantastic place I decided not to do my start-up there.

London

My next destination was London. I also stayed there for a month. I worked at the London Google Campus. Just as with Berlin, London is a fantastic city, with great atmosphere but with the same problems as Berlin. First of all, they lacked programmers and just as in Germany, the few they had had been imported from Poland or other Eastern European countries. And of those, the best programmers were often lured into the London financial firms. London wasn’t right either.

Mountain View

I described my journey on Facebook. My old Silicon Valley advisor got in touch and, expressing surprise, asked me what I was doing. When I told him about my plan he suggested that I come to San Francisco. I answered that I was going to Mountain View.

The Weather and the People Did it…

I came to Mountain View full of optimism. It was at the end of November, beginning of December. At this time of year, the weather is summer-like. I decided that, since San Francisco was so wonderful—climate-wise and people-wise—I was not leaving. My sister wrote to me that I could not stay in Silicon Valley just for the weather and the social life. I replied, “Just watch me!” And I stayed…

Moving into Silicon Valley was, in a way, contradicting my “European logic” since I was planning to employ programmers from Poland. The time difference between Poland and California is deadly for your sleep cycle. And, oddly enough, moving to Silicon Valley had never been my dream.

The Idea

The Search

In Silicon Valley I began collaborating with my former mentor. He told me that he would help because he had been helped by others in the past. For me it was an important gesture. I also contacted my old clients from Kraków. Every day I met new, great people. I started having new ideas and when I put them down on a piece of paper I realized the list was artificial. None of those projects was really my thing.

The Problem Found Me

Meeting so many people I was unable to keep track of so many names, business cards, and contacts. My network looked like a disorganizational mess. I knew a lot of people but I did not have access to them because their data were scattered, chaotic.

When I came to the Valley I had about three hundred Facebook friends. I don’t know if it speaks to how many people we actually know. After moving to the Valley the number of my friends fast grew to 1,300. It was hard to analyze whom I had met, with whom I should meet again. I had contacts on Facebook, LinkedIn, in my e-mails. For the first time I encountered a problem which affected me personally; in fact, the problem found me, instead of the other way around.

Spreadsheet

I asked my future business partner, Peter, about how he organized all his contacts, business cards, telephone numbers. I knew he had a well-developed network. He told me he used Excel…

I peppered him with questions. What if someone changes their job and moves from one company to another? What about the people that you contacted via e-mail? There were no good answers. If someone doesn’t update their Facebook or LinkedIn profile or doesn’t have one, then the contact with that person is lost.

We agreed it was a problem looking for a solution.

Prototype

I came up with the idea of a mobile app that would organize all contacts. The principle was simple: after entering a name and surname we should get all the professional information about that person. I started preparing the application prototype. For the first several weeks I worked alone and in six months the prototype was ready. Then Peter decided it was time to develop the product. He quit a well-paying job and took a risk of coming in with me.

The First Product

We decided to pull together all our contacts—from the Facebook and LinkedIn accounts, from e-mails, all applications that we used. In this way we created a spreadsheet containing information on all people from our accounts. We started adding functions and macros, fine-tuning the data. Finally, from that chaotic list we made a product.

The Team

We were a two-person team. We needed a really talented technical leader—an engineer that would be our CTO. We did not want to recruit, but rather just to meet the right person. We looked through all our contacts. It was the first test of our product.

Local start-ups in the early stage do not advertise their hiring. No one organizes interviews. Start-ups just don’t do it this way.

Google was established by two friends who knew and liked each other and worked well together—Sergey and Larry. They build the prototype of their product together. They consulted with their Stanford professor and employed a bunch of their friends. This way, they kept extending their network. For the first years that’s how Google functioned. People recommended one another, creating a base built on trust. The base of Contact IQ is the same.

From the European point of view someone would say that looking for employees among your friends is nepotism. But from the point of view in Silicon Valley such a strategy is seen as enterprising and efficient. This is how we found Daniel Mendalka who came to San Francisco for Google I/O conference. Today Daniel is one of the founders of our start-up.

Cease and Desist

Court Summons

In 2013, we were sued by AOL for using data available on Creative ­Commons. We received a Cease and Desist letter. On Thursday we put our application in the App Store and on following Monday we were ­summoned to court. I could not believe it!

I was sure that we had not broken any law and I ignored the summons. Soon we received another letter, written in aggressive, lawyerly ­jargon. We could see this was no joke.

AOL is a gigantic corporation, and owner of TechCrunch which in turn owns CrunchBase. Both companies form a database that had the Creative Commons license with the so-called BY condition. This meant that as long as the source was quoted, everyone could use their content for free.

Wired Magazine

We were contacted by David Kravets, a well-known journalist of the prestigious magazine Wired. He said he knew about our case and was writing a story about it. We were very surprised. The question was simple—why would a huge corporation, using half-truths, try to destroy a start-up? It is to prevent situations like that that the Creative Commons organization was established in the first place.

When Wired magazine published the article telling our story, other media also reported it. We found out that media narratives cannot be controlled.

Let’s Fight!

We could have given up and closed our company or we could fight. We decided to fight!

Conflict of Interest

We contacted our lawyer, one of the best in Silicon Valley. He had represented Zappos during its sale to Amazon.

The lawyer said he would have helped us but he couldn’t. Since AOL is the client of the majority of law firms in Silicon Valley, the conflict of interest made him and other lawyers refuse us their services.

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)

So we turned to Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). This organization, if it takes on a case, does so pro bono. The Foundation representatives decided our case was vital not just for our company but also for the cause of Internet freedom.

Thanks to Electronic Frontier we won. The trial lasted a few months and cost our firm a lot of irrevocably lost time. But in the end we received a free license for the use of the database. The conflict around our company taught us a great lesson. We understood, among other things, why people pay so much for database access.

Development

Contact IQ

From a consumer application we started to turn into a B2B product. We named it Contact IQ.

Corporate Rolodex

One of the greatest challenges that faces the founder is to develop a good sales pitch. Initially we described Contact IQ as a graph search for business but none of our nontechnical friends understood what that was. One of our users defined our product as a corporate rolodex. The phrase turned out to be catchy and accurate. That’s why we decided to borrow this name. The shortest description of Contact IQ is: Private secure corporate rolodex for your company.

API Address for the Company’s Brain

If you asked me who I know at Google I could name maybe five people. If I added additional data—someone I know who also worked for Twitter and lived in San Francisco—I could not answer that question because it contains too many criteria.

Our brain automatically searches information about the people who are close to us or whom we met recently. This is how our mind works. Human brains cannot actively search information containing more than about 250 contacts. Working on our product, we wanted to create something that was analogous to an API1 address to the company’s “brain.” Such a product had not been created before.

We Do Not Yet Have Access to Such Intelligence

In Contact IQ, we created a system that collects these data and can analyze it in real time. Companies use our system when they want to, for example, find an ideal client. The system can also be useful when you search for CEOs of an industry living in San Francisco or try to contact representatives of particular companies, for example, in New York. It also facilitates whom we know as an organization and how we are connected to them.

The First Client

In the initial stages of our start-up my partner and I were able to finance it ourselves because we had previously sold our own companies. First we wanted to determine if our product made sense and only then start to think about financing.

Our first client bought five licenses of our product for 500 dollars. The sale came to me on its own! I was having coffee with my laptop open and working when someone asked me what I was doing. I told him and when he asked me the price, I did not know what to answer—I did not want to spoil my first sale!

We got more and more paying clients. Then I realized that since users were prepared to pay for an unfinished product it meant we were on to something. Every founder is afraid of charging first clients and I was, in a sense, still ashamed of the product—it still lacked an intuitive interface and a good website. But the clients saw value in it even at that early stage—which was encouraging.

And I had not yet chosen the color palette…

It Was a Bit Daunting

Our first client invited his friends to Contact IQ. In this way many influential Silicon Valley people added their contacts to our system. At first I was a little daunted. I was worried the system would crash. I was leery of negative opinions. But clients just kept using the product while we worked on it. The Contact IQ network kept growing fast.

Investors

We learned a lot from our first client. One of our first investments we got from him. It wasn’t the largest check of those we had received, but it meant a lot to us.

We also raised a small seed round. Our investors were private individuals, people connected to Google or PayPal. They were from an external network. A few investors found us on their own and offered financing—these are always very important moments to us.

Founding Team

The initial period of establishing a start-up is so intense that the people involved in product development must share mutual understanding and honesty. There is too much going on each day. If we were choosing people just for their competence the start-up would fall apart immediately. I was extremely lucky with my partners. Both Daniel and Peter are guys with whom I can talk about anything; we use constructive criticism. What’s most important for a budding start-up are well functioning basic human relations such as trust and respect. If people working in a team don’t like spending time together their start-up has a slim chance of survival. ­Initially the founders should spend time in one physical space. In our case we also lived in the same apartment.

I would like our first 20 employees to also feel that they are a part of the founding team. We try for every worker to have a real impact on ­Contact IQ. We want our staff to feel comfortable about voicing their opinions. In the United States, workers often own shares of the companies for which they work. What’s good for the firm is good for them. In Contact IQ, we also give shares to our team members.

At present we are opening a branch in Poland. And although there are not too many female programmers on the market, in Contact IQ we want to meet them. Employing a woman would bring balance to our team.

Female Founders

Women in Tech Sector

We are opening Pandora’s box… Women in tech is a very sensitive subject. When I worked in Europe I read articles on the situation of women in Silicon Valley and was somewhat surprised. I had the impression that the women in Silicon Valley must be either delicate flowers or that they exaggerate the problems. Working in Poland and in London I never encountered such degree of gender discrimination.

They Exaggerate?

After living in Silicon Valley for the first few months, I was dazzled by it. I had heard of how female founders were treated but I did not quite believe those stories. I thought girls should spend more time developing the product and then they would not have trouble raising a financial round or finding mentors. Only after a few months of work did I start to witness many awkward situations.

The First Disappointment

I was incorrect in thinking that women in Silicon Valley were treated on a par with men. Starting with mentoring, women do not have equal opportunity because the passage of knowledge across gender lines is harder. Often it gives rise to insinuations and ambiguous situations. My first disillusionment came when my good friend, a CEO of a large company, refused to mentor our start-up. I was not just surprised but disappointed. I did not understand his decision. I received an official e-mail in which he wrote that for reasons of his involvement in many boards of directors and lack of time he could not work with me. In spite of the e-mail his attitude toward me did not change his—he called me regularly on the phone and unofficially advised me with my start-up. But only unofficially.

Recently he apologized. He said he could not be my mentor because I was an attractive young woman and he did not want to give rise to unnecessary gossip. Besides he also promised his wife that he would not mentor women after work hours.

That was the most painful compliment I ever got.

That situation made me wonder about the status of women in the male-dominated world of technology.

Mentors are concerned about how their social environment will react. Will the wife agree that the husband meets up with “some blonde” after hours? And without mentors there is no support. Who, if not a mentor, will recommend us to investors at the early stage of our business? This creates a vicious circle that we need to break.

A Complex Problem

Many men mean well, they just don’t know many women who run start-ups. Some of them use their position to get to know a woman better and since sometimes they don’t know how to invite a girl out to dinner they write an e-mail: “Hey, let’s talk about your start-up.” Female founders often think that someone “important” is interested in their work while in fact they are interested in them personally. Such situations cause many misunderstandings. I don’t know how to solve this problem.

Industry Meetings

Many times I was asked with whom I came to a meeting—assuming I was accompanying a man—while I came to an industry meeting because of my work and I am a founder of a tech start-up. Many times I was asked to serve a drink, assuming I was a hostess.

Initially I didn’t think much about these little misunderstandings. I gave up wearing black to such conferences because most hostesses wear black.

One time my friend and I were invited to a group photo. She is a senior executive in one of the biggest Silicon Valley companies. It turned out they thought we were hostesses hired for photo ops. I just laughed but my friend was very offended.

Tolerance?

Theoretically Silicon Valley has a great culture of tolerance and mutual respect. In practice it is not always the case. If a woman does not want to be misunderstood she should refrain from doing many seemingly innocuous things. After arriving from Europe for the first months I wore dresses. Until the moment when I was told that I could not come to meetings in a dress, as it constituted “sending a signal.” From then on I stopped wearing dresses. Now I only wear jeans and T-shirts.

Recently I read an article whose author—a female programmer—noticed that when she went to a conference in a dress people took her for a hostess. When the next day she went to the same conference wearing pants and a T-shirt people would talk business with her. This is not caused by bad intentions. It is just stereotypical thinking.

Pay it Forward in Silicon Valley

Getting financing is hard on everyone but if a founder is a woman things can be double hard. The market keeps getting information about new start-ups closing financial rounds. Such start-ups are often established by people with previous successes. They have an established network, they have worked with influential persons. Looking for financing, they turn to people with whom they have already cooperated and now they are harvesting their share of Silicon Valley’s “pay it forward.” The investors can see clearly in whom and in what they are investing. In Silicon Valley there are many situations that are completely illogical from the European perspective.

Questions

During meetings with investors a male founder will be asked about technical details while a woman gets questions connected to marketing. It is an artificial approach, but unfortunately very common.

Women get asked: What do you think about it from a female perspective? —although my product is not targeted just at women.

Events for Women

I usually am against extremes and organizing women-only events are in my view an extreme measure. On the other hand you have to start somewhere. Women’s organizations do so much good that one should not criticize their work. If thanks to such support groups it will be easier for women to find mentors this is the first step in the right direction. Women can recommend each other to others, not just women. It is important for women to speak up. I think that women often are scared to address certain matters in the presence of men. I took part in several conferences organized for female founders and indeed the conversations in those meetings were different.

A Place of Talent Honing

Dreamers Believing in the Future

Silicon Valley is a Mecca for dreamers where many different cultures coexist and cooperate. The Valley attracts positive thinkers. People hearing even the craziest idea will imagine how to make it happen. Silicon Valley is a hub for dreamers who believe in the future. Many of them live in the future and are out of touch with the real world. Had they not been a bit crazy they would not have been able to overcome hurdles. People here are optimistic although everyday work here is hard and the real estate market is among the most expensive in the world.

To Get Started Here…

Start-ups operating in Poland should start looking for American clients on the Internet. They should have a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and have income before coming to the Valley for the living expenses. Do not start with looking for an investor in the Valley. To become a part of the local environment you should build your network. If you talk with someone who doesn’t know you the conversation will be very diplomatic and you will not receive any valuable, unfiltered information from them.

Working for a Large Company

It is worth considering coming to Silicon Valley for several months to work for a large company, get to know the local ecosystem, and help out other start-ups. Then, launching your own start-up you are already a part of the local community. Also, getting a visa is easier and less costly when a company like Facebook or Google takes care of it. Maybe my advice is not for everyone. Still, I think that young Polish people are so well organized that if they want to come here they can do it.

Feedback

Every moment is a good to start a conquest of the world. You should just remember that a Warsaw client is different from an American client. What matters for the Europeans can be irrelevant to the Americans.

In Contact IQ we work with a very sensitive product. Companies hand us their data and this is our added value. We have a client in London and the feedback we get from him is very different from the one we get from our clients in the United States.

You Must Unlearn What You Have Learned

Coming from Poland to Silicon Valley it would be good to forget all you learned working with the European market. This is hard. Here in the Valley, it is important to be open to new information. And instead of starting with complaints it is best to try and understand the local community and its rules. Before coming to the Valley I lived in many countries—­Germany, England, Australia—but figuring out the specifics of Silicon Valley took me six months. This place escapes logical analysis. And founders tend to logically analyze a situation. Investors often don’t invest logically, they use various criteria for their choices. Silicon Valley has a gigantic accumulation of capital. It is inhabited by successful people who want to invest their own money. And understanding the motives behind an investor’s decision can be very hard.

The Client Is Crucial

When a start-up gets its first clients some problems are likely to be solved. Twitter survived in spite of many obstacles. Same with Uber2—it fought many battles and had the product not enjoyed clients’ support it would have disappeared long ago. That’s why the clients are crucial. Start-ups offering consumer products have a harder time making income. This kind of operation needs a different plan as there is no simple way to predict company growth.

Founders Den

In Contact IQ we never went through an accelerator. As a start-up we are members of Founders Den—“an association for experienced entrepreneurs.” Founders Den was established by Jonathan Abrams, the founder of Friendster.

Every six months Founders Den accepts a few new start-ups—they can work there, and have access to such mentors as Keith Rabois or ­Dennis Crowley. The list of mentors is impressive. To get into Founders Den you have to be recommended by an existing member or a mentor. I was recommended by the founder of AngelList. I was lucky to have met many outstanding people in the course of my work; people who created global products on world scale. Every one of them is an inspiration for me.

On Success

Global Product

Success in Silicon Valley means creating a product which will change the world and make life better. Will it be a product that will give people more time, income, information? People here believe that they can curve the space-time continuum and change the world. For me success means making a global product that is scalable.

Visa 01

I am not just a woman-founder. I am also a foreigner, an immigrant. Luckily there are many immigrants in Silicon Valley. Last year I was granted working visa O1.3 This is my personal success, as well as the success of our company. The investors started treating us more seriously. Now we don’t have to worry about bureaucratic matters unconnected to our work.

A Milestone

Coming to Silicon Valley and competing with other local companies.

Feedingforward.com

I am often a judge at hackathons. During an event last year the judges were very critical of an idea presented by a young woman who did not have a finished product, just a vision. I could see that she took that criticism very personally. And hackathons are supposed to be creative, joyful events and not merciless criticism.

After the presentation I came up to her and told her that the judges did not understand her and had given her unfair feedback. I told her to keep developing her project. The girl had found the problem she wanted to tackle. Every day in the United States, tons of food gets thrown out while 49 million Americans go hungry. Why does the country that wastes so much food have so many hungry people? The girl decided to solve the problem and connect the two worlds. She decided to take food from those who discard it and give it to those in need.

Today feedingforward.com4 feeds almost a million people.

To me this is a true success story. And to think that thoughtless criticism almost killed that project before it even got born. You have to remember that the person who presents a new idea sees it and imagines it differently. And the listeners have to hear it with the ears of a storyteller’s audience.

Failures

Admitting defeat is painful. Creating a start-up involves many people—founders, investors, employees, partners. In the Valley we witness many successes so admitting a failure is especially hard. The slogan It’s OK to fail is misunderstood. Under no circumstance is it “OK” to fail, as failing involves disappointing many people who count on us: co-founders, investors, clients, workers, and so on.

It’s OK to fail means that failures happen and you have to minimize their consequences. If you can save something for the investors you have to give it back to them. If you can pass your clients to another firm you should make this transfer ASAP. That’s why it seems critical that if the company is going to fail you should speed up this process. However, failures often are precursors to success. Silicon Valley certainly does not encourage failure. But Silicon Valley promotes risk. And when risk is combined with innovation failures are inevitable. If founders and investors did not risk the business would become very predictable and there would be no Google, Uber, or Facebook.

I know it Has to Work

We can never be sure that what we do will not turn into failure. That’s why I treat every activity as a challenge. At Contact IQ we put all our eggs in one basket. My work visa is connected to the company. If the company is not successful I will go back to Europe. That’s why I am even more aware that it’s NOT OK to fail. I know it has to work.

***

The interview took place on July 2, 2015 in San Francisco.


1 API: In computer programming, an Application Programming Interface (API) is a set of subroutine definitions, protocols, and tools for building application software. In general terms, it is a set of clearly defined methods of communication between various software components. (Source: Wikipedia).

2 The interview was conducted in July 2015, meantime Uber underwent some internal changes.

3 The O-1 nonimmigrant visa is for the individual who possesses extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or who has a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry and has been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements. (Source: www.uscis.gov).

4 Now: Copia.