Cristina Cordova

"Business Development is Sales Without a Quota"

Business development is undefined by nature. Someone hired into business development will need to do whatever it takes to make the business succeed, whether that means customer development, selling a product or managing a marketing partnership.

When someone says “Business development is sales without a quota”, they’re often referring to the fact that business development roles can have intangible results. People in  BD are rarely held to partnership or revenue quotas like comparable sales positions are. However, I find this not to be a function of the role itself, but most often due to the fact that companies are unsure of what they need from someone in this role.

A company that doesn’t have product-market fit hasn’t figured out exactly how to sell their product so they don’t think they need a sales team. Investors and advisors may suggest that the company hire a business development person without knowing what that person will do. The person hired has non-existent or low expectations and the rest of the team wonders, “What does that business guy do, exactly?”. To prevent that, I’ve found it helps to:

Create Clear Expectations: While quotas may not be a good fit at the start, it should be clear what the company expects from a business development employee over time. It helps to define the role: will this person be working on e-commerce partnerships or user-growth partnerships? More often than not, if you tell someone to “Go out there and get us some partnerships!” you’ll have a business development person with a calendar full of meetings and no idea where to take things. 

Determine From the Outset What Partnerships Are Off the Table: Some companies are willing to take part in one-off partnerships that require engineering, product and marketing resources. Other companies only strike standard partnerships that are fairly cookie-cutter time after time. Determining what your company is and is not willing to do for a deal will save time and headaches. 

I’ve spoken to more than a few people that dislike the functions of business development, PR, sales, recruiting and host of other non-technical roles. It’s difficult to find the right people for these roles, but it makes it much harder when you don’t know what you’re looking for. 

Reddit: Providing a Platform and Community for Citizen Journalism

18-Year-Old Morgan Jones Reporting on the Aurora Shooting via Buzzfeed

When I woke up Friday morning to the news of the shooting that took place in Aurora, all sources pointed to this comprehensive timeline of the incident on Reddit. The world was watching as an 18-year-old Denver resident, not a local or national newspaper or television station, chronicled the events. Patching together media reports, updates from a police scanner, tweets and other Reddit posts, Morgan Jones was able to give a more comprehensive account of a breaking news event than even the most seasoned journalists. Reporters began looking to the Reddit timeline in order to report the news across the web. 

This isn’t the first time this has happened and it certainly won’t be the last. While some journalists lament that any person can throw up a blog and call himself a reporter these days, I’ve found that this transformation has brought us closer to the truth. Rather than waiting for the news to go through filter after filter of eye witnesses, reporters, copywriters and editors, we’re hearing the news from the source at a faster speed than ever before. 

When I interned in a newsroom several years ago and saw that reporters were being laid off left and right and local papers were completely shutting down, journalists were concerned that the stories of locals may go untold. Today, stories like that of Caine, a 9-year-old kid in East LA who created an elaborate DIY arcade, or the story of Karen, the bullied bus monitor from Greece, New York, are found on Reddit first. 

Reddit is both a platform and a community. It allows anyone to tell his story or the story of someone who is unable or unwilling to tell it. Instead of reporters hanging out on street corners to tell stories, they hang out on the forums of Reddit and HackerNews waiting for the news to break. Ask a journalist what the favorite part of his job is. Often he’ll say “I get to tell other people’s stories”. Thanks to the Internet and sites like Reddit, we all get to do that now. 

Why I’m Thankful to be a Woman in Today’s World: My Mother’s Story

When I was growing up, I asked my mother why she dropped out of high school at 16. She told me that when she was in 4th grade, she was accused by her teacher of submitting work that her “older brother or sister” had done. She was the oldest child in her family and did the work herself.

In high school, my mother had straight A’s and made the cut for her school’s honor society. Yet, because she didn’t attend study hall (she clearly didn’t have trouble studying), the teacher in charge refused to let her in.

In her words, “the classes were boring, the teachers were boring” and she wasn’t learning anything. She dropped out at 16 and the dean of her local community college allowed her to take classes even though she couldn’t take the GED Test until she was 17. She worked part-time, but had to drop out when her bike was stolen and she couldn’t commute to both work and school. She said, “What did I need a degree for? All the women I knew were secretaries and you didn’t need a degree for that.”

I didn’t think much about it again until I was a senior in high school. My longtime debate coach told me that the history teacher who just started teaching at my school brought him a paper I wrote and said “I don’t think Cristina wrote this. She must have plagiarized it.” My coach told the history teacher to run my paper through Turnitin. She did and found that the work was my own. I never knew this until I was about to graduate and my debate coach told me what happened.

The same thing happened to my mother (much earlier and repeatedly). Thankfully, 25 years later, it was happening to me and I had absolutely no idea. It’s been shown time and time again that girls are thought of as less capable than boys in the classroom. When I think about why there aren’t more examples of women in the highest positions of any industry, I think about how hard it must have been for them and how lucky I am to be a woman in today’s world. 

WakeMate Co-Founder Departs, Steals Technology From Company & Spams its Users

Today, WakeMate users received an email from Greg Nemeth, named Co-Founder and President of PerfectThird, Inc., the company that makes WakeMate. He told them about a new company he was starting to take “the WakeMate sensor technology the next level with MiLife+” (page now taken down, but video still up) and encouraged people to donate to the new venture. Arun Gupta, another co-founder of WakeMate, posted an update on the WakeMate blog stating that this email was “completely unauthorized” and “not affiliate with” WakeMate in any way. As the blog post is currently down, here it is:

WakeMate Update

Hello everyone.

MiLife+

Many of you received an email this morning concerninga new product called MiLife+.

Today is the first time I have heard of this product and I am shocked at the way it was promoted to WakeMate customers. We are not affliated with this product in any way. It was completely unauthorized and I am scrambling to get to the bottom of it. I sincerely apologize that you received those unsolicited messages.

What’s Next?

I poured my heart and soul into this company and though we stumbled along the way I believe that weprovided something of value to our customers. However, as many of you have guessed, we have exhausted our capital and will no longer be making any more WakeMates.

Currently our plan is to keep the service going whilewe work on open sourcing the technology. Hopefully this will ensure that you can continue to enjoy theproduct and its benefits even after the company nolonger exists.

As always if you have any concerns please email meand I will do my best to resolve them:arun[at]wakemate[dot]com.

all the best,

Arun Gupta co-founder of WakeMate

It seems Nemeth took the WakeMate technology and began working on another competitive product, emailed WakeMate’s userbase and responded to its users on Twitter — all without permission. Nemeth recently took down the fundraising page. 

I suppose this is a good lesson to all: choose your co-founders wisely.

Question: Dear Cristina, I was doing research on how to contact individuals at major corporations and I saw your posting. You stated that you use "rapportive", and gave a link that explains how to use it. When clicking the link the archive on your website was not found. Can you please repost it? thank you for your help. Sincerely, Shane

Sorry about that - I migrated my blog over to Tumblr and it caused some issues. Here’s the link to the post: http://cristinajcordova.com/post/23529974485/using-rapportive-finding-the-email-address-of-anyone

Facebook Removes the Email Address You Set to Your Profile in the Name of “User Control”

Today, as Matthew Keys notes below, Facebook hid all email addresses you have added your profile and replaced them with a single Facebook email address. When asked why they would do this, Facebook said that they were giving the user more “control”, allowing them to decide what email addresses they want to show or hide on their timelines. 

Yet, they ignore the fact that users have purposefully added several email addresses to their profiles. Hiding all email addresses except the one the user has no control over (for example my email address is 221530@facebook.com), is not a step in the direction of more user control or privacy. 

Funnily enough, when I visited my Facebook and added my google email address back to my profile, I saw this nifty ad from moo.com. All in the name of privacy and user control, eh?

producermatthew:

“As we announced back in April, we’ve been updating addresses on Facebook to make them consistent across our site. In addition to everyone receiving an address, we’re also rolling out a new setting that gives people the choice to decide which addresses they want to show on their timelines. Ever since the launch of timeline, people have had the ability to control what posts they want to show or hide on their own timelines, and today we’re extending that to other information they post, starting with the Facebook address.”

A Facebook spokesperson, in an email sent to me today regarding several press reports on Facebook’s decision to switch the default email account on a person’s Facebook timeline with a Facebook-provided email address, as outlined by LifeHacker.

(Source: matthewkeys)

Why Employees Leave Big Companies

I had dinner with a couple friends this week who work for large technology companies in Silicon Valley. Both said they really like their day-to-day jobs, but absolutely hate the internal politics they endure. They said they spent anywhere from 25-30% of their time dealing with internal politics instead of doing their jobs. To succeed, their managers suggested they do things like:

"Get all your internal stakeholders together" - This resulted in the employee calling for large meetings with everyone on the team, even the team members that didn’t really need to be there. 

"Send out weekly update emails" - This resulted in the employee sending long weekly emails to the entire management, sales and engineering teams so that they all knew he was doing his job. He admitted that the length of the email was more important than the content. He thought it was unlikely that anyone would ever read these emails.

"Be data driven" - This resulted in the employee spending hours looking at data (and getting engineering to pull even more data) to report to management, even though he knew this qualitatively from countless customers, clients and partners.

"Get management sign-off" - When an employee wanted to take the lead on a new project she came up with, she was told to get the approval of many other managers, directors and executives first. After working through scheduling, meetings and follow-ups, she gave up and went back to her day-to-day job.

Both of these employees are considering new jobs at smaller companies or startups. As companies scale, employees can shift from a “geting stuff done” culture to one of “talking about getting stuff done” and lose some of their best team members. What can be done to fix it? Or are all big companies doomed to become places where only 70% of employees’ time is spent getting stuff done?

The Great Startup Migration to San Francisco

On Monday, Pulse will have its first day at our brand new office in San Francisco - our fifth office. We started in Palo Alto coffee shops - where I was “interviewed” for about 30 minutes and then officially started working later that night.

We then graduated to a co-working space. It held us until we were a 5 person team.

We then made it to our own office in the fall of 2010.

Soon after, we grew out of that space and up to a larger office in downtown Palo Alto.

About six months ago, we hit 20 people and knew we wouldn’t have enough space for interns during the summer. So we began the search for our fifth office space…

If you take one look at office space in downtown Palo Alto, you’ll notice that there is a serious crunch. According to 42Floors, which combines commercial real estate listings from brokerages, landlords and Craigslist, there is currently not a single office space available in downtown Palo Alto over 1000 square feet. 

If you do the same search for San Francisco, you’ll have many more options.

When I was taking a look at office space in April of 2010, I was seeing about $33 per sqft/year in downtown Palo Alto. Today, I’m seeing about $54 per sqft/year. Contrast that with prices for San Francisco office space within a mile of the Caltrain station and you’ll find you can get space for about the same price you could get in Palo Alto two years ago. Not only are there very few spaces in Palo Alto within walking distance of public transportation, but the spaces that are available are small and expensive. 

Why is this happening? It’s no secret that more startups are getting funded and can afford office space, which makes for a crowded commercial real estate market. It certainly doesn’t help that Palantir Technologies controls a significant share of the market for larger space with offices at 151 University, 156 University, 101 Forest and 100 Hamilton (and those are just the ones I know of). The larger problem remains that while startups have been growing faster than ever, the Palo Alto real estate market hasn’t kept up. Buildings that could add a second, third or fourth floor have remained unchanged. There are several store-front spaces that have been sitting empty for years, but they’re zoned for retail space and startups can’t legally take them over.

So while some may think that “all the startups are moving to San Francisco because it’s cooler/hipper/younger”, it’s just not true. Making the move to San Francisco is not a matter of preference for a more lively scene or exposure to more technical or design talent. It’s a matter of necessity - there is simply no more room left to grow in Palo Alto. 

Path 2.0 Resulted in 4X User Growth

I decided to quickly chart some data about user growth that Path has pushed out recently:

November 10, 2010: Launch of Path 1.0

June 1, 2011: Path hits 500,000 users

October 20, 2011: Path hits 1M users

November 29, 2011: Launch of Path 2.0

February 3, 2012: Path hits 2M users

June 1, 2012: Path (almost) hits 3M users

Path went from zero to 1M users in 247 days, showing that they received about 4048 downloads per day during that period. Path went from 1M to 3M users in 119 days, showing that they now grow by about 16,806 downloads per day. Path 2.0 seemingly resulted in a good 4X increase in user growth. 

Zulily: The Flash Sale Site Growing Faster Than Fab & Gilt

According to Google Trends data, Zulily has more daily active visitors than both Fab and Gilt. Why have you probably never heard of it? It’s an online flash sale site for moms, babies and kids and the tech press typically doesn’t cover that demographic. It’s hitting its stride and growing faster than all other flash sale sites (Fab has been doing particularly well also). 

Beyond Zulily’s growth, I found it pretty interesting that some more well-known flash sale sites like Gilt, Jetsetter and Ruelala have seen litte growth over the last year.

Gilt

Jetsetter

Ruelala

Whereas sites like Zulily and Fab have found their niche (the mommy & design-focused crowd in these cases), the same can’t be said for all flash sale sites. Is it the lack of a niche audience to market to or are users churning out of the flash sales sites faster than expected?

Sheryl Sandberg: Not Another Silicon Valley ‘It’ Girl – But A Role Model for Us All

This morning Eric Jackson wrote an article on Forbes comparing Kim Polese to Sheryl Sandberg in an effort to give Sandberg some advice of his own: “Tone down the public appearances for a while and just keep your head down” (now redacted from the article).

In 1997, Polese was listed as one of Time’s 25 most influential people in America. He begs, “What were they thinking?”. Polese sold her company for twice the capital it raised, served as an Entrepreneur in Residence at Kleiner and later became CEO of another company. Most startups fail, returning nothing to their investors or employees. Polese performed far above average at a time when most companies crashed and burned. 

He then goes on to compare Polese to Sandberg saying they both like to appear on magazine covers, do public speeches about being a woman dealing with power and are admired by young women. Participating in this, he argues, is “taking your eye off the ball” as Sandberg will ultimately be judged by her business accomplishments. 

What Jackson fails to mention is that it is not the press surrounding Sandberg that got her where she is today. She attended Harvard, was a research assistant at the World Bank, worked as a management consultant at McKinsey, served as Chief of Staff to then United States Secretary of the Treasury and was Google’s Vice President of Global Online Sales & Operations. More than these titles, however, she led the Treasury’s work on forgiving debt in the developing world during the Asian financial crisis, was responsible for online sales of Google’s advertising & publishing products and also for sales operations of Google’s consumer products. All of this was before leading the operations of a $100 Billion dollar company to its IPO. 

How does Jackson boil down her accomplishments? “She’s a great speaker and she seems to do a fantastic job at being Facebook’s COO. Her husband’s super-smart to boot” (now redacted from the article).

She did not make it to the top because of her public speeches or her husband, but from her hard work. To suggest that she should “keep her head down” is patronizing and gendered in its connotation. It is ludicrous to claim that landing a smart husband is somehow equivalent to successfully running one of the most valuable companies of our time.

If Jackson were a true friend of Sandberg’s as he seemingly hopes to be, he would praise her for being an example to women everywhere. In a world where women represent a small portion of the technology industry and are facing alleged sexual harassment and discrimination, we need a Sheryl Sandberg to remind us of why this type of article should never stop us. 

Gender in Tech: No Longer A Silent Issue

Yesterday, Techcrunch reported that Kleiner Perkins Partner Ellen Pao sued her firm for gender and sexual discrimination. A friend immediately told me “Well that’s career suicide” and I can’t say I didn’t think the same thing. While few can comment on whether the allegations are true, this news does highlight some of the reactions the media and tech community have had to gender issues in the past.

Over the past few months, many have been engrossed in the Valley gender gossip on “brogrammer culture”, sexist comments at tech panels and the general lack of women in tech. Many of these topics are easy to ignore as they’re off-handed comments or just the result of fewer female grads in computer science - and there’s not much we can do to change it.

When I first heard of Ellen Pao’s lawsuit, I thought of Noirin Shirley’s alleged sexual assault at a tech conference. It was first reported on Techcrunch by Alexia Tsotsis and then subsequently taken down because “TechCrunch editor Michael Arrington has a ‘no personal drama’ policy”. Gawker later pointed out that Arrington wrote about his personal issues with Jason Calacanis just a week before. It’s easy to silence issues like this as being about “drama” or “unproven allegations” - but we wouldn’t have much to read on Techcrunch if they waited for confirmation on other rumors, would we?

Ellen Pao’s lawsuit allows our community to discuss these “women in tech” issues as real problems that face our gender and our industry. This is no longer about about dumb comments made at a tech conference about bikini shots or “bro” attitudes - it’s about what’s stopping women from reaching their true potential.

How many women do you know about who have allegedly faced sexual harassment hoping that it will end once they’re promoted to Managing Partner or Director of Engineering? If you asked me Monday, I would have said not a single one. Yesterday, that changed.

For more, head to Women 2.0.

The views above are my own personal views. It does not reflect my employer’s views.

Facebook Social Reader Apps Face Continued Decline

Jeff Bercovici originally reported that from April to May, Washington Post Social Reader faced a large decline in monthly active users - going from 17.4M to 9.2M. Some said these drops may just be temporary, but I was curious to see if the trend continued. I took a look at the latest reports from AppData and let’s just say it’s not looking any better. The Washington Post’s Social Reader went from about 9.2M Monthly Active Users at Bercovici’s first reporting to 5.9M monthly active users as of today.

The Guardian’s app was at about 3.9M monthly active users when Bercovici did his original report. They’re now at 2.2M monthly active users.

Looks like this isn’t just a temporary trend based on some changes to the Facebook newsfeed algorithm, but likely a much more permanent change.

For more, see Peter Kafka’s article on AllThingsD.

The views above are my own personal views, as a consumer. It does not reflect my employer’s (Pulse) views.

Facebook’s App Center: Controlling the Rise and Fall of Apps

Yesterday, Facebook released App Center, a home for Facebook-integrated mobile applications. Much like Google Play or Apple’s App Store, Facebook’s App Center will promote various apps to users. Unlike other marketplaces, apps are not ranked - each user will receive personalized recommendations. This is a great move by Facebook to promote apps built using their platform and gives them even more power than they already have on the uptake of certain mobile applications.

Facebook’s App Center enjoys a few distinct advantages over its competitors:

1. Data: Facebook has much more data on users and user behavior than Apple or Google. Facebook’s application recommendation system can employ a user’s likes and interests across Facebook and the web. They don’t need rankings to tell you what you should download and you won’t need to search for it. App discovery is an issue for even the best mobile developers, so if Facebook can target apps to specific users it will be a great tool for distribution.

2. The Ratings Game: Apple hasn’t been able to conquer the ratings spam issue that plagues the App Store. Developers leave 1-star reviews on competitor’s applications. Users leave ratings on apps they have never opened. These problems are exacerbated by the fact that user accounts on the App Store are not necessarily tied to a real person. Because Facebook user accounts are tied to a real human being, it’s much easier to avoid spam (the time it takes to set up a spam Facebook account > the time it takes to set up a spam email account).

3. The Social Graph: Mobile developers have to push users to share apps with their friends. With App Center, an app can be recommended to me because ten of my good friends are using it or give it a high rating. Knowing which mobile apps my friends are using would be much more valuable than knowing which apps everyone is using.

Now what’s in it for Facebook?

1. Platform Distribution: Facebook could control an aspect of the mobile app ecosystem. Mobile is an area of uncertainty for Facebook. They spent a lot of time pushing for HTML5, when they should have been focused on native applications. They need to ensure that their platform continues to grow on mobile as it has on the web. Pushing downloads of apps using the Facebook platform gives them even more data about their users.

2. Controlling the Rise and Fall of Apps: We’ve seen that Facebook’s platform is a very powerful tool for distribution. It can make your app soar to the top of the charts because of heavy newsfeed placement. A small change can also reduce the Facebook traffic heading over to other sites. Facebook can use App Center to demonstrate the power they have over mobile, not just the web.

3. Monetization: Facebook can charge developers for referrals that lead to paid downloads or take a cut for fixed-price paid apps within the App Center.

I’m excited to see where App Center goes - we’ll likely be seeing a lot more of Facebook on mobile apps in the near future.

OMGPOP CEO Lashes Out at Former Employee, But Why Are We Surprised?

Farmville, helping you lose Facebook friends since 2009.

Last night I came across the tweet below from Dan Porter, the CEO of OMGPOP, which makes the hit game Draw Something (recently acquired by Zynga). Porter is now the VP of General Management for Zynga New York. They’re in reference to a former OMGPOP employee, named Shay Pierce who wrote a piece in Gamasutra stating that he wouldn’t be joining Zynga post-acquisition citing that it “views players as weak-minded cash cows”.

Other than the above being tactless and petty, what really bothered me was that this behavior is not at all new for Zynga. They have quite the reputation for scamming their own users, ripping off the games created by other developers, requiring employees to give back their stock, and not telling employees how much their equity is truly worth. I’ve heard similar ramblings from former Zynga employees in person. So, why are we still surprised?

While I’m certainly proud of the OMGPOP team for working through the tough times to a successful exit, it’s hard to feel good for a company that treats people (their users and employees alike) this way time and time again. Hope the money was worth it.