Berkeley CSUA MOTD:Entry 53892
Berkeley CSUA MOTD
2022/05/27 [General] UID:1000 Activity:popular

2010/7/21-8/25 [Industry/Startup] UID:53892 Activity:nil
7/21    Finally remembered to log into soda to post... CSUA'er in the news.
2022/05/27 [General] UID:1000 Activity:popular

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Jen McCabe, center left, with Contagion Health, chats with Jessica Livingston, center right, partner and co-founder at Y Combinator, at Y Combinator in Mountain View, Calif. More coverage When I first met Jessica Mah, I wasn't sure what to think. Here she was, a 17-year-old girl schmoozing at a TechCrunch gathering a few years ago, talking about startups and the Web. She mentioned a successful Web-hosting service she started at age 13 back home in New York. Not long after we met, sponsors of the Next Web Conference in Europe flew her out to address the confab -- a teenage symbol of The Future. "I wasn't sure myself," she told me the other day with a small grin. At 20, no longer blessed or burdened with the "teen prodigy" label, she bears the bona fides of a computer science degree from UC Berkeley and funding from Y Combinator, the much-admired startup incubator in Mountain View. She is co-founder and CEO of inDinero, a Web-based money-management service for small business that has attracted more than 2,000 users since the site debuted July 2 "Even though we're doing pretty well, I still wonder: Is this a bubble or am I really capable?" Today, I have another notion about my initial skepticism: Gender profiling. If this had been a geek named Jesse, not Jessica, maybe I'd be wondering if this kid might be the next Zuckerberg, instead of wondering whether to take him seriously. With Advertisement former Silicon Valley CEOs Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina now running self-financed campaigns for higher office and Carol Bartz leading Yahoo, there is less talk today about the "glass ceiling." But they prospered on the executive track, not as entrepreneurs. While dozens of valley startups have been launched by women -- Judy Estrin, Kim Polese and Caterina Fake come to mind -- hundreds have been launched by men. Consider Y Combinator: Since its startup "boot camp" began in 2005, providing techies with shoestring budgets and a collaborative environment, about 450 people have been accepted to the program. The number of women: 14, including Mah and three others in the current class. It's tempting to think the Y in Y Combinator has something to do with the Y chromosome. But the name actually derives from a calculus term familiar to geeks. And geeks, it seems, disproportionately happen to have the male XY chromosome, not the female XX. Economist Larry Summers might yet be president of Harvard if he hadn't dared to suggest a link between gender and aptitude for math. And certainly Paul Graham, guru-in-chief at Y Combinator, knows it's a touchy subject. "Zealots," he said, assume there must be discrimination at work. But the male-to-female ratio in Y Combinator simply reflects the ratio of applicants to the program. "Go to Flickr and look at pictures of OSCon," he said, referring to the conference of devotees of the open-source software movement. This is pretty much just considered a given in Silicon Valley. Y Combinator co-founder Jessica Livingston is not a techie. She is the author of "Founders at Work," a compendium of interviews with tech entrepreneurs. Like Graham, she thinks that the uptick in women techies in Y Combinator is not a trend, but a random variation. For one thing, Y Combinator had its biggest class ever -- 36 startups, with 80 founders, so there are bound to be a few more women. But if this gap isn't a function of innate ability, is it perhaps a function of innate interest? Livingston recalled that when Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg spoke at Y Combinator, he talked about how as a teenager he was disciplined about getting his school work done so he could spend hours at the computer, coding. Girls, she said, just don't seem to have as much interest in the technology. "I definitely think it's both," said Adora Cheung, 26-year-old co-founder of a still stealthy startup with Aaron, her 21-year-old brother. Cheung suggested that it may be a matter of social expectations: When math gets tough, girls are often told that's OK and try something else, but boys are encouraged to work harder. Cheung said she was pleasantly surprised to find three other women in her Y Combinator class. Contagion Health co-founder Jen McCabe, who has scant computing skills, teamed with an engineer on their startup, designed to use social networks to promote healthy living. The notion that Y Combinator discriminates, McCabe said, is preposterous: "I'm actually surprised more women don't do this." And after talking to the women of Y Combinator -- and thinking about my young daughter and her brothers -- I'm thinking that Cheung is on to something. Maybe the paucity of female tech entrepreneurs has something to do with what has been called the soft bigotry of low expectations. Mah said she started coding when she was 9 years old, encouraged to excel by her father, an electrical engineer. Whatever the reason, she said she is pleased that her startup is getting attention. Return to Top Comments We are pleased to let readers post comments about an article. Please increase the credibility of your post by including your full name and city in the body of your comment.