So You Want to be a Venture Capitalist? My Q&A w/ Beth Seidenberg, KPCB

Venture capital is not for the faint of heart. The special sauce needed to make it includes experiential acumen, an entrepreneurial spirit and nitty-gritty-roll-up-your-sleeves action.

Beth Seidenberg’s name had come up a few times in recent months. A partner with the venerable Silicon Valley firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, she’s a no-nonsense lady who leverages her years spent as a physician and executive to identify the best companies to back as a partner at KPCB. Naturally, when I turned my attention to spotlighting a VC for an upcoming piece on Women2.0, I made a bee-line for Beth. Amidst her hectic schedule, she took time to answer my questions for our readers. Check out her insight and, as always, let me know what you think!

How to Pitch Your Startup to the Media on Women2.0

You’ve got a product. Super savvy team. Maybe even a nice little cushion from a funding round. Now you just need people to discover your start-up. Enter the press.

Entrepreneurs can tout many enviable attributes, but they often fail miserably when it comes to pitching to the press and developing relationships with us that last.

I put my thinking cap on for my latest piece on Women2.0, offering up my own list of suggestions for pitching your startup to us writing types. There is no one-size-fits-all, so I reached out to three of my favorite fellow writers for their take as well. You’ll find golden nuggets of advice from Thomson Reuters’ editor Alastair Goldfisher, Forbes staff writer Hollie Slade and Ubergizmo co-founder Eliane Fiolet.

If you’re a founder or a startup communications and PR team member, give it a read and let me know your thoughts! http://women2.com/2014/09/02/pitching-your-startup-to-the-press/?hvid=1eqCi6

Disruptors: 5 Women to Watch in Health Tech

Women in tech may remain a minority, but don’t tell that to the majority who work in health tech where they are innovating, problem-solving and collaborating to create uncommon opportunities.

I recently spotlighted 5 such women who represent just a smidgen of those tackling obstacles in wide-ranging areas including digital health, wearables and biotech. Though they are as diverse as the technologies they stand behind, their shared passions urged them into new frontiers.

Read my latest piece for Women2.0 here (and if you’re an entrepreneur, don’t forget to sign up for the upcoming San Francisco Fall Conference while you’re over there!)

Chrystal City, VA: From Concrete Jungle to Thriving Tech Hub

Haven’t heard of Chrystal City, Virginia, yet? You will.

Whether you’re a startup founder, investor, innovator or just looking to make your next move, Chrystal City is a budding tech ecosystem ripe for the taking.

My latest piece appears on the singular Women 2.0 website (if you haven’t checked out their site, Meetups and media platform, do it now… great insight shared for women and men alike). Check out the article and, as always, let me know what you think!

Why Chrystal City Just Might Be the Perfect Place to Launch Your Startup

 

Why Advice to Younger Self is Worthy of Our Reflection

“Don’t worry so much about all the things you’re thinking. I’ve learned a different way of thinking; instead of getting wrapped up in my thoughts full of fretting and contradictions and worry, I’ve learned to just appreciate my thinking as it comes and goes.”  -Norman Fischer, abbot San Francisco Zen Center

I gotta hand it to my parents’ generation. Baby Boomers, it seems, aren’t satisfied with blending into the background as they age. Instead, they are resolute in their continued efforts at life- at living, at offering their insight and experiencing each day as something new to be cherished and to be learned from.

Though America has long been known to shun aging in all of its forms, perhaps we’re at a tipping point; a place where finally those among us with the most experience have a platform to share their wisdom.

It falls to us ‘younger ones’ (however young or not our years may reflect) to listen, to assess our own ever-evolving lives, and to accept that we- all powerful in our careers and family lives and spending power- may not, in fact, have all the answers… now, or ever. Perhaps that’s the secret of it all.

I’ve witnessed myriad blogs, articles and books devoted to the concept of offering advice to one’s younger self. Lessons learned through lives lived oozes from the pages of some of my favorite new readings (check out Arianna Huffington’s latest Thrive to see what’s on my bedstand currently). And just this morning, as if on queue from my own readings and inner-thinking, KQED’s Forum featured an hour-long program of ‘What Advice Would You Give Your Younger Self’.

As I sat in my car at the delayed red light, I turned up the volume and listened to the words of wisdom spoken from 40 and 50 and 80 year olds to only themselves. No lectures. No judgments. Just reminders of love and introspection that comes from experience.

“Relax,” said many of the show’s call-in participants, famous and otherwise. “Things will happen as they happen.” And, “Follow your passions. Even if you can’t make any money off of them, do them anyway.” (I like to think this blogging thing falls into that latter category).

One woman’s advice to herself was particularly poignant for many where I reside in Silicon Valley- an area swarming with youth and excitement but always tempered with an air of uneasiness, expectation and stress.

“I spent my 20s being a good girl, being a graduate student, working hard to please my bosses, to climb the career ladder and do what I thought was expected of me,” spoke a woman from San Jose whose thick Indian accent offered such calmness. “But I was plagued by analysis paralysis. I was on the linear part of life back then. I wish I had written to myself reminding me that I should not have stewed in misery, spending too much time over-thinking things and living for others.”

The abbot of San Francisco’s Zen Center, Norman Fischer, spoke eloquently about minding to the little things in life. Cleaning, gardening, cooking… these are things that youth often relegates to chores and dismisses them as something where no meaning can exist. But Fischer reflected that in fact meaning exists in everything that we put effort into, from our relationships and friendships to the things that make up our days.

He then closed with his final piece of advice to his younger self, which dealt with what so many others have articulated so well… with many words and with few. Our thoughts dictate our lives. When we dwell on the negative (something I recently wrote about), we do a great disservice to all that we might have accomplished.

“Today, I can discriminate between a thought that can be beneficial and a thought that comes from confusion; I don’t need to be thinking about the latter,” said Fischer, a man whose spent the better part of his life living, reflecting and meditating. “To be able to tell the difference between a thought that is useful and noble and a thought that comes from our confusion is worthwhile to learn how to do. Relax around your thoughts- don’t be pushed around by them.”

As a thirty-something, these remain lessons I’m still learning. And however painful they may to acknowledge- to suck in- to gulp down- to confront inside- they deserve my attention. Not because someone told me to do so, but because one day I too may write an ‘Advice to my younger self’ piece. In fact, I think I’ll start one now.

 

Hubris & Sophrosyne

Combing through my LinkedIn feed for the day, I stumbled across a headline which grabbed my attention. The 5 Qualities of Successful Young Leaders began as many how-to articles do that target the up and comer’s. I nearly closed the window to turn my attention to another piece when I read the fourth and fifth pieces of advice: Personal Identity and Self-Awareness.

As I’ve been emphasizing these attributes in my own life lately, I decided to read on.

“Your role should not define you,” writes Alex Malley, CEO of finance services at CPA Australia, syndicated columnist and host of a TV show. “The most effective leaders are not defined by their own success or the title they hold. You will see on many occasions a person’s life unravel when they lose their leadership role. This is often because they have unwittingly allowed their title to be their identity and confidence.”

What Malley points out is that we tend to allow our professional roles (and defeats) define us. We tell ourselves tidy stories about our successes, but the slightest disruption in the stories we tell ourselves can wreak havoc on us professionally, personally, emotionally, and physically.

That’s not to say that it isn’t essential for each of us to have a clear purpose and feel adequate in the steps we take to reach our goals. We ought to recognize when we do things right; we need to feel appreciated and acknowledge the work we have done. But even if we achieve a role which was once a mere dream, we must remember that there must be something more. Career coach Bud Bilanich writes about the importance of BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals), “The mightier your purpose the more likely you are to succeed.”

It’s when we become so intertwined with our current state of being at work- or in life- that hubris takes over in a way that even the Great Bard himself couldn’t conjure up.

If hubris offers us a cautionary tale of what to watch out for in our professional lives,  then sophrosyne reminds us of what we can do to counter it. Referencing the goddess who escaped Pandora’s Box thanks to her self-moderation and restraint, the ancient Greeks heralded the ideal of sophrosyne as a state of healthy mental balance brought about by moderation and self-control.

A lofty goal that we can only attempt to achieve, a state of sophrosyne is more often than not neglected entirely by our modern society. There’s not a thing wrong with shooting for the stars and attaining them through hard work and will power, but when times get tough- as they are sure to do many times throughout our lives- we must have the poise and recognition that we are worth more than the job titles (or cars or houses or watches or whatever) that we have attained.

I think a state of sophrosyne is an important word to pay homage to in our daily lives- professionally as well as personally. To recognize that no one aspect of our lives singularly defines us. For young leaders, old leaders, those who aren’t yet leading and those who never will, we are all simply the sum of our parts at any given point in time- adjusting to life’s ebbs and flows for a clearer view of ourselves and what we can ultimately offer.

 

Focus on the Possible, Not the Probable

I was raised by a high performer. Not only did this have the natural effect of producing a Type A offspring, but it also gave me the opportunity to see firsthand the power of mind over matter.

Lately, I’ve been revisiting many of the ideas and motivations that my mother has long sworn by. The same lessons that helped her achieve what the rest of the world gawked at are pretty damn applicable to life in general: to our work, to our relationships, our parenting styles, our goals, our lives.

My mother learned to focus on the possible, not the probable. It’s easier said than done, as anyone who’s faced hard times can tell you. Most of us dilute our brain’s capacity for the possible with negative thoughts instead; we dwell on outcomes that are anything but certain; in the process we create that which we believe. It’s a personal manifest destiny that generally skews toward the negative.

In a nod to our collective ancestral past in which any given decision could literally mean the difference between life and death, researchers and psychologists point out that our brains tend to emphasize things that haven’t worked so well for us in the past more than the things that have gone our way. It’s as if we take for granted that which we do well, while harboring doubts about things that might go awry at some point in the future because of past hangups.

Getting over this natural inclination to protect ourselves is no easy task. And let’s face it- we don’t want to walk around with amnesia or completely forget lessons of our past. But we also don’t want them inhibiting our future growth and the possibilities that we can create for ourselves.

Renowned sports psychologist Jim Loehr explains, “If you put a lot of energy into fear, the muscle of fear will grow with investment. On the other hand, people that are very happy and high achievers in a positive way have the ability to take the hit- acknowledge it- and move on with a positive belief moving forward.”

Before my mother won the gold medal in the Olympics- before she set a World Record with her team mates- and before she made the US Women’s Swim Team- before the American Records-and before she swam in college…. my mother failed many times. At times, her failure to achieve what she wanted in the pool led her to nearly quit the sport she loved. Those times, she’s often said, is when she had to dig deep. Leveraging the words of her father in her head, she told herself to change what she could and let go of the rest. In so doing, she rejected the idea that a past failure or shortcoming somehow dictated a future outcome.

When we devote our time to negative thoughts, we honor them and slowly reap their unforgiving rewards: anxiety, anger, frustration, impatience. Worse yet, we lose that moment- the thought, the action- to expend our energy on the positive.

Positive thinking brings about the most productive days… but that’s another post to stay tuned for!