The company will offer a two-week technology lab at its campus in Cupertino in which participants will receive one-on-one app development guidance from Apple experts and engineers. That includes “mentorship, inspiration, and insights from top Apple leaders,” the company says.
Participating startups can send up to three people to the sessions. At least one must be a woman developer, and one must be a female founder, cofounder, or CEO. A third person can be any gender, Apple says. The tech giant says it’ll keep doing the coding labs–once every three months starting with the first one in January. Each event will accept 20 startups.
The relationship doesn’t end after the two weeks. The startups get ongoing follow-up from an Apple developer who knows the industry niche that the startup is involved in. The startup also gets a membership to the Apple Developer Program, which allows them to submit their apps to the App Store. And the startup’s founder, cofounder, or CEO, along with one female developer, get to attend Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference.
The tech industry is still largely a male industry, and the numbers show it. Just 23% of all tech jobs at Apple were occupied by women in 2017; that’s only a slight improvement over the 20% reported in the company’s diversity breakdown in 2014. A quarter of skilled tech jobs at Google are filled by women, up from 21% in 2014.
CNN Digital has more women in leadership and on staff than ever, and their perspective is changing video storytelling.
“The best ideas come from people who don’t think like everybody else,” says Wendy Brundige, vice president of global video for CNN Digital. “So, it’s been really important to me to build a team of people who represent different kinds of backgrounds, who’ve had different kinds of experiences.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by four other women in leadership at the network when they talked to Fast Company in the run-up to covering the midterm elections, which had an unprecedented number of female candidates at the federal, state, and local levels.
Election coverage itself is just a flash in the news pan for these women who are collectively responsible for the creation and promotion of a massive amount of video reporting. CNN is just behind YouTube, Facebook, Netflix, and ESPN, yet still reaches over 2.2 billion people across the globe every month. The network asserts that they experience over 500 million starts a day, which they claim is more than any other news brand. Doing this work is a global staff of 660. Although they weren’t able to disclose actual specifics of the breakdown, CNN Digital currently has more women than men on staff.
This is significant. The news business has long suffered from a lack of female representation. Women make up just 32% of U.S. newsrooms (and women of color represent just 7.95% of U.S. print newsroom staff, 6.2% of local radio staff, and 12.6% of local TV news staff), while men get 62% of bylines and other credits in print, online, TV, and wire news, according to the most recent Status of Women in the U.S. Media study. The media industry has also faced criticism for a lack of racial diversity. Data from a 2016 survey by the American Society of News Editors found that underrepresented minorities represent less than 16.94% of newsroom personnel at traditional print and online news publications overall. CNN declined to disclose the racial and ethnic breakdown of its news staff.
In an industry that reaches people of all genders, races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and is supposed to prize objectivity, lack of diversity is a potentially huge stumbling block.
Cullen Daly, executive producer for CNN Digital Productions, says there are a lot of different factors that determine what gets covered. Some of it is based on the calendar, other times it’s news that’s bubbling at the moment, but deserves a more comprehensive look. “I’d say a lot of it has to do with innovation,” Daly says, “stories that we think could be told in new and different ways.” Chris James, who did the story on the trade war, told it through a different lens, she says. “He told it through what’s going to happen to people in the middle of the country.”
Brundige takes a somewhat controversial stance when she says she believes that for too long, people have thought about diversity as mostly about race. While experts like Scott Page, the author of The Diversity Bonus, argues in favor of cognitive diversity (which occurs naturally among people of different backgrounds, regardless of race, gender, or other factors), it wasn’t that long ago that Apple’s former vice president of diversity and inclusion Denise Young Smith came under fire for stating that a room of “12 white, blue-eyed, blonde men” could be diverse.
“We have a lot of racial diversity in particular in my team in New York,” Brundige asserts, “but it’s most important to me to have geographic diversity and not just have a bunch of people who grew up in the Northeast and went to Ivy League schools.” Still, she’s quick to add that there’s room for improvement.
Taking another tack, S. Mitra Kalita, the senior vice president for news, opinion, and programming for CNN Digital, observes that sometimes differences can illuminate common ground, too. She grew up in northeast India. “It’s a very rural region, but Wendy’s family and my family both had cows,” Kalita says. “We look nothing alike, and you would never put the girl from Kentucky next to the girl from Assam, and yet our families are actually very surprisingly similar.”
The mission of CNN Digital, according to Kalita, is to find some common factor with your audience. “So, I don’t think your background can be divorced from that process of storytelling,” she says. As the mother of two, Kalita recalls how she felt when Brundige brought a story idea about a woman in Chicago who was on a quest to find out how her son died because he was left with marks all over his body. It was called “Beneath the Skin,” says Kalita, and remembers Brundige talking about the period between the death and the funeral and what that’s like for a mother. “That just haunted me for days,” she confesses. “I would argue that she probably had a similar reaction,” says Kalita, noting that the creators of the piece were also women. “So on projects like that, it’s wonderful to be able to bring yourself to the work, and have it enhance the work,” she says.
Women make up only 26% of the tech workforce, and in product management that number drops to 5%. So Nancy Wang cofounded a nonprofit to help women change the ratio.
Nancy Wang remembers sitting down in a vendor meeting. “There were 12 middle-aged men of a very similar demographic and me.” Ten minutes after the meeting was supposed to start, she spoke up to ask what the holdup was. “It is because your boss isn’t here,” she recalls one of the men saying.
The thing is, as the first, youngest, and only female product manager at Google Fiber between 2014 and 2016, she was the boss. “I am the person making the decisions,” she said as she reminded him that a multi-million-dollar deal was in the balance. The vendor in question was taken aback by this information.
For Wang, however, this treatment was all too familiar. Over the course of nearly a decade of work experience in infrastructure product management and engineering, Wang has witnessed firsthand how few women there are in tech. In her current role as lead product manager for the startup Rubrik, she was also the first female to be hired into that role.
THE LACK OF WOMEN TECH MENTORS
According to the National Center for Women in Technology, women make up only 26% of the tech workforce, and Wang adds that in product management that number drops to 5%. She recalls one female tech leader pointing out that while that number may be growing (albeit slowly), adding three women to a marketing team at a tech company isn’t the same as increasing the number of women in actual technical roles. “We need to find ways to address that,” she asserts.
“On one hand Google does well with support groups,” Wang points out, but at the same time, there’s a distinct lack of female role models. Wang says that holding up Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg as examples of female leadership is great, “but not very accessible to mid-level project managers.”
Wang says accessibility is crucial to mentorship as well as to see evidence of representation in roles you can aspire to reach. “I was fortunate that the director of product and the director of engineering were both very supportive,” she recalls, and they promoted her in her first year. But the fact that she had to rely on male mentors who couldn’t understand a woman’s challenges in the space wasn’t helpful. And her only female mentor was on the business side–not in a tech role. So when Wang had a question about how to best motivate engineers, her female mentor wasn’t equipped to answer. “It’s hard to empathize with someone not in the same career role,” she explains.
FILLING IN THE GAPS
Wang’s had to figure out strategies on her own. Right now at Rubrik, there is less female representation than there was even at Google. As a result of collaborating with so many men who aren’t accustomed to working with women, she’s had to be extremely thorough in preparation for presenting ideas so they don’t get dismissed out of hand. Not only does she come armed with data points, says Wang, but she records testimonials from customers asking for a specific feature. “This is all the supporting facts I present before I even advance my idea,” she says.
Admitting that even with a rock-solid format like that, not all of her ideas have come to fruition, but she does say that through putting some of these tactical strategies in her own proposals at Rubrik, she’s been able to lead a significant portion of the company’s P&L and annual revenue for product lines for this year as well as those coming out in 2019.
Sharing her hard-won knowledge with others was the incentive to start Advancing Women in Product (AWIP), a tech networking and mentoring organization. Wang says that the events the AWIP sponsors are designed to provide the kind of mentorship to women that is lacking in the sector.
For example, there was a workshop on how to get executive buy-in when presenting to a manager or at a board meeting. The goal was not only how to present ideas but how to put them forth in a way that they are advanced and championed. This also tackled how best to respond to pushback as a woman, “because society paints this picture that we are softer and more malleable oftentimes that we can be taken advantage of,” says Wang.
AWIP provides tactical training and advice when encountering those who might discount their ideas out of hand. Another panel dealt with expanding your sphere of influence when vying for promotions at different levels.The need was evident in the fact that membership is now in excess of 3,000 with its largest contingent in the Bay Area, but also across the U.S., North America, Europe, and Asia. And part of their mission statement is equality, so AWIP has a number of male ambassadors and was recently actively recruiting for its Seattle team.
As she told Built in Seattle, “We try to keep an even ratio of 50% women and 50% men because men, in my opinion, are an essential part of the conversation. We’re talking about diversity in boardrooms, and 100% women isn’t the right answer either.”
A red laser pointer shining through a raw chicken carcass may not seem like groundbreaking science, but for veteran technologist Mary Lou Jepsen, it’s worth $28 million in funding for her latest startup, Openwater.
Jepsen performed the chicken act as part of her August TED Talk to illustrate how her imaging-tech company is building cost-conscious body-scanning technology by using the same components one might find at a science fair. The laser pointer’s light made both skin and bone of the plucked fowl glow, revealing a tumor just under its flesh. This simple demonstration shows the science behind what Openwater is trying to achieve; wearable diagnostics made from consumer electronic parts that offer higher resolution than multimillion-dollar MRI machines but cost as much as a smartphone.
Just as the chicken’s tumor blocked the laser pointer light, which shone through the rest of the chicken’s flesh, Openwater’s wearables will capture images by recording light particles and the negative spaces where they fail to scatter. X-rays use radiation and MRI machines use a magnetic field and radio waves because they can go through the human body and produce an image. But so does “red light, infrared light,” Jepsen tells Forbes. “Guess which one is cheaper by a lot?”
It’s a method similar to how holograms are made, and it uses readily available camera and display chips you can find in a smartphone. It’s also an idea that took Jepsen’s skill set to consider, and perhaps her impressive CV to convince investors to buy in. The serial founder led the display divisions at Intel and the semi-secret research group Google X and helped develop Oculus after Facebook purchased the virtual reality headset company in 2014. But Openwater began with Princess Leia’s projected message to Obi Wan Kenobi, when Jepsen aimed her life at building holograms like the one she first saw in Star Wars.
Hooked by the lasers and optical illusions involved, Jepsen made her first hologram as an engineering undergrad at Brown. Later, she’d use her growing skill set to develop computer display screens and VR glasses at the top tech companies in the world.
At that time, however, holograms did not pay the bills. Because holography was viewed as a frivolous “technology looking for an application,” no one would fund it, Jepsen says. “I just had to figure out a way to support my habit. I basically lived all through my 20s on $12,000 a year just because I thought I’d die if I couldn’t make holograms,” Jepsen said.
Her pursuit of holograms bought her to Melbourne, Australia, where she worked as a professor of computer science at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and helped put holograms on the country’s paper money. In Cologne, Germany, she built some of the world’s largest holographic displays, including one of historic buildings projected on an entire city block. Still, she didn’t feel her work was taken seriously, so Jepsen figured she’d need a Ph.D.
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It’s a great time to learn how to code. Whether you’re looking to reinvent your career and become a developer, leverage a new skill in your current job, or just better understand what the developers on your team are up to, there has never been a better time to get into programming.
There’s been an explosion of coding boot camps and online resources to help you get started. But it’s a double-edged sword: with near-unlimited resources, countless different languages—and a rabbit hole of passionate voices debating which are the easiest to learn, best to help you get a job, and so on—where do you start?
The best way to learn to code is to stop endlessly analyzing what to learn and just start. So, with a giant disclaimer that these aren’t all of the languages you could consider learning to start your coding journey, here are a few languages you can learn.
Great for: beginners, aspiring software engineers
Great for: beginners, aspiring software engineers
Ruby was specifically designed by its inventor Yukihiro Matsumoto to make programmers happy, and it’s delivered upon that objective: Ruby is accessible and reads like English, allowing new programmers to focus right away on the fundamental concepts and logic, rather than basic syntax. Even beginners can start building right away. The teachers at the Flatiron School find Ruby to be extremely effective at helping students learn how to think like programmers, break problems down, express themselves technically, abstract ideas, and work together with other programmers. (The Flatiron Co-founder Avi is a little obsessed with it, too.)
Great for: budding data scientists
There’s a massive amount of data out there. Companies that harness it can create better products and understand their businesses better; companies that don’t lose their competitive edge and get left behind. But while at its core, data science may be similar to your high school stats class, with so much data (hundreds of millions of records), your old spreadsheet is the wrong tool for the job. That’s where code comes in. The R language is super specific to statistics, whereas Python is a general-purpose language that happens to have great tooling available to make it a perfect language for data science. It’s actually similar to Ruby in a lot of ways: easy to read, forgiving for beginners, and there’s a passionate community around it, devoted to creating and improving the tooling to make Python even more powerful.
Great for: mobile developers, developers breaking out of their comfortzone
For beginners hoping to get into mobile app development, now is the perfect time to dive into Swift. It’s new enough that there is a lot of energy and excitement around it. Each year, Apple holds their Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) where Apple engineers discuss the intricacies of Swift along with all the new and exciting features (don’t be surprised if it inspires you to try implementing all the new concepts into your own apps). But it’s also been around long enough that the early kinks have been worked out, and the open source community has grown significantly. If you’re already a programmer, learning Swift is a way to get out of your comfort zone—the constraints iOS puts on your code forces you to, as Apple would say, “think different.”
Still not sure where to start? That’s OK! There’s really no correct first language to learn. The important thing is to consider what you’re excited to build, what language will help you do that, and then to just start learning!
Source: This piece was originally published by WeWork, which provides companies with the space, technology, and services they need to success.
Marlene Arroyo may have started her career in finance, but it was the human aspect of any job that always drew her in. From Dell to her current role as Vice President of People Operations at Liftoff Mobile Inc., a high growth tech company in Silicon Valley, she has made it her career mission to champion employees and embrace how their humanity impacts their jobs.It was knowing what her career mission was at its core that made it possible for her to transition from one career path to the next.
“Philosophically, it became apparent to me that human resources was my calling when, as a finance professional, I’d enjoy spending most of my time dissecting costs associated to SG&A, training, hiring and coaching,” shares Arroyo. “Mechanically, the way I was able to make this transition was by having informational meetings with HR executives, taking evening courses, asking for help and being open about my aspirations to my sponsors. While the art of Human Resources came naturally to me, to differentiate myself, I needed to supercharge the impact I delivered by drawing from my finance experience and ensuring that my strategic recommendation were backed by data.”
Now, she uses her skill-set to help others achieve the kind of growth that she’s constantly challenged herself to work towards.
“My biggest motivation [through this journey] has been my family,” says Arroyo. “I feel incredibly blessed to be the daughter of immigrant parents who instilled in me work ethic and resilience. While my parents still do not completely understand what I do, they know I work hard and they are my biggest fans. Each education milestone and career progression has been theirs as well. Their American Dream lives in me and owning that, keeps me motivated .”
Growing up in the Latinx culture and within her own family unit can explain in part why Arroyo has felt the desire to pay it forward to other generations by way of her career.
Below she shares advice for Latinxs who are searching for advice on how to land their dream job, how to self-care if you’re in the position of constantly pouring into others, and how to make sure you’re learning the most from your current job.
Vivian Nunez: How has your Latinidad influenced your career?
Election honors Dr. Linda Liau’s contributions to health care and science
Dr. Linda Liau, an internationally renowned neurosurgeon-scientist and chair of the neurosurgery department at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, has been elected by her peers to the National Academy of Medicine, one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine.
Membership honors people who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievements, commitment to service and contributions to the advancement of the medical sciences, health care and public health.
A scientist in UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, Liau has devoted the past 25 years to developing and refining treatment strategies for glioblastoma, the most deadly form of brain tumor. Her research in the early 1990s led to her creating one of the first personalized vaccines, using a patient’s own tumor specimen and white blood cells to activate the immune system to fight off cancer.
“I have always had a huge drive to prove that things that seem impossible can actually be possible someday,” Liau said. “When I first started working on brain tumor immunotherapy, everyone told me that you can’t mount an immune response in the brain. Now we know that’s not true.”
Recognized for her expertise in complicated tumor surgery, Liau attracts patients from around the world and has performed more than 2,000 brain tumor surgeries. Her research has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health for the past two decades, and she has written more than 160 research articles, along with several book chapters and textbooks.
She also is a trailblazer in her specialty: Just 6 percent of licensed neurosurgeons in the U.S. are female, and Liau is only the second woman in the nation — and the first Asian-American woman — to lead an academic department of neurosurgery. As chair, Liau directs a clinical team of more than 60 neurosurgeons, neuroscientists, residents, fellows and other specialists in the UCLA Department of Neurosurgery, one of the world’s foremost centers for neurosurgical research, clinical care and education.
“I thought there might have been more,” Strickland said, reacting to her win. She shares the prize with two other laser physicists.
The 2018 Nobel prize in physics has been awarded to three scientists — including one woman — for advancing the science of lasers and creating extremely useful tools out of laser beams.
The winners include Arthur Ashkin, 96, a retired American physicist who worked Bell Labs; Gerard Mourou, 74, now at the École Polytechnique in France and University of Michigan; and Donna Strickland, 59, now at the University of Waterloo in Canada.
These scientists are responsible for two important inventions. One is laser tweezers, which allow scientists to manipulate microscopic particles (often viruses and bacteria) within a laser beam. The second is a technology that led to the rapid increase of laser beam intensity, which has allowed for myriad laser-based tools, including the beams commonly used in laser eye surgery.
Ashkin, who took half of the $1 million prize, invented the optical (i.e., laser) tweezers in his work with Bell Labs in the 1980s. Mourou and Strickland worked on laser amplification at the University of Rochester, also in the 1980s.
Astonishingly, Strickland is just the third woman to have ever won the Nobel prize in physics. The prize has not been awarded to a woman since 1963 when Maria Goeppert-Mayer won for her work on atomic structure. That was 55 years ago! The only time a woman was awarded the prize before that was in 1903 when Marie Curie won for her work on radioactivity.
During the Nobel Prize press conference Tuesday morning, Strickland was reminded by a reporter she was the just third woman to win, and immediately responded, “Is that all, really? I thought there might have been more.”
She went on: “We need to celebrate women physicists because we’re out there. Hopefully, in time, it will start to move forward at a faster rate.” The Nobel committee has long been criticized for neglecting to honor women (who have been denied prizes, despite being behindsome incredible discoveries in recent decades.)
Why laser physics is worthy of a Nobel Prize
The Nobel prizes award discoveries and inventions that lead to the betterment of humanity. Strickland, and co-inventor Gerard Mourou, did just that. After lasers, which are focused beams of light, were first invented in the 1960s, the power and intensity they could reach quickly plateaued. That’s where Strickland and Mourou came in.
Digitally savvy women are helping to close the gender gap in the workplace.
And digital fluency, the extent to which people embrace and use digital technologies to become more knowledgeable, connected and effective, plays a key role in helping women achieve gender equality and level the playing field.
A new research report from Accenture—Getting to Equal: How Digital is Helping Close the Gender Gap at Work—provides empirical proof that women are using digital skills to gain an edge in preparing for work, finding work and advancing at work. The report provides ample evidence that digital fluency acts as an accelerant at every stage of a woman’s career—a powerful one in both education and employment and an increasingly important factor for advancing into the ranks of leadership.
If governments and businesses can double the pace at which women become digitally fluent, gender equality could be achieved in 25 years in developed nations, versus 50 years at the current pace. Gender equality in the workplace could be achieved in 45 years in developing nations, versus 85 years at the current pace.
“Women represent an untapped talent pool that can help fill the gap between the skills needed to stay competitive and the talent available,” said Pierre Nanterme, Accenture’s chairman and chief executive officer. “There is a clear opportunity for governments and businesses to collaborate on efforts that will empower more women with digital skills—and accelerate gender equality in the workforce.”
Although digital fluency clearly helps women train for and gain employment, the relationship between digital fluency and women’s advancement is not as significant. This is expected to change as more millennial women and digital natives move into management; the research found that in the United States, six in 10 millennial women surveyed aspire to be in leadership positions.
While the research determined that digital fluency is having a positive impact on pay for both men and women, the gap in pay between genders is still not closing. Men are, by far, the dominant earners by household across all three generations—Millennials, Gen X, and Baby Boomers.
“There are many ways to narrow the gender gap in the workplace, but digital is a very promising avenue,” said Julie Sweet, Accenture’s group chief executive for North America. “This is a powerful message for all women and girls. Continuously developing and growing your ability to use digital technologies, both at home and in the workplace, has a clear and positive effect at every stage of your career. And it provides a distinct advantage, as businesses and governments seek to fill the jobs that support today’s growing economy.”
Backstage in the greenroom of the podcast festival where she’s scheduled to appear, Arlan Hamilton is quietly singing the lyrics to Janet Jackson’s “Control.” She’d like to walk on stage as the song plays, but the festival crew has copyright concerns. So instead, she is shimmying offstage in her chair, half-humming the chorus under her breath: “I’m in control / Never gonna stop / Control / To get what I want / Control / I like to have a lot.”
Like everything Hamilton does, the song request is equal parts self-aware and unapologetic. Hamilton knows that she stands out—she is the only black, queer woman to have ever built a venture capital firm from scratch. She also knows that she has a reputation for being direct, particularly when it comes to Silicon Valley biases, and how her own story is portrayed. (Indeed, the song is a jab at Gimlet Media, the podcast festival hosts, who devoted an entire episode of their StartUp series on her to what they saw as her sometimes counterproductive need for control.) But Hamilton exudes calm, even as she attempts, through her L.A.-based firm, Backstage Capital, the near impossible task of disrupting the way that venture investors pick winners and create wealth.
“It was crazy to me that 90% of venture funding was going to white men, when that is not how innovation, intelligence, and drive is dispersed in the real world,” she tells me. “I had no background in finance, but I just saw it as a problem. Maybe it’s because I was coming from such a different place that I could recognize it.”
Three years ago, the then 34-year-old Hamilton arrived in Silicon Valley with no college degree, no network, no money, and a singular focus: to invest in underrepresented founders by becoming a venture capitalist. The story of how the former music-tour manager studied up on investing from her home in Pearland, Texas, and pushed her way into the rarified world of venture capital, scoring investments from the likes of Marc Andreessen and Chris Sacca, has become legendary in the industry. After making contact with Y Combinator president Sam Altman, she bought a one-way ticket to San Francisco. For months she stalked investors by day and slept on the floor of the San Francisco airport at night. She was broke. Finally, in September 2015, she got her first check, for $25,000, from Bay Area angel investor Susan Kimberlin, who believed in Hamilton’s vision that the Valley’s lack of diversity wasn’t a talent-pipeline problem as much as a resources problem: Diverse entrepreneurs needed money. With Kimberlin’s endorsement, Hamilton created Backstage Capital and began investing. Other funding soon followed, from backers including Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield and Box CEO Aaron Levie. This past June, Hamilton announced that Backstage had exhausted its first three seed funds, doling out between $25,000 and $100,000 to 100 startups in everything from beauty products to business analytics. And at all 100, at least one founder is a woman, person of color, or someone who identifies as LGBTQ.
Now Hamilton is gearing up for Backstage’s next chapter, a $36 million fund dedicated exclusively to black women founders, a demographic that’s glaringly absent in Silicon Valley: Just three dozen black women entrepreneurs, nationwide, have raised more than $1 million in venture funding. Hamilton calls her latest initiative the “It’s about damn time fund.” Her first two $1 million investments, to be announced before the end of the year, will go to existing Backstage portfolio companies. And that’s just the start. This spring, Hamilton will launch the Backstage Accelerator to foster early-stage startups with locations slated for L.A., Philadelphia, and London. She’s also laying the groundwork for a $100 million fund to provide underrepresented founders with even larger checks.
Every nascent VC is under pressure to demonstrate success—Hamilton even more so. Those in Silicon Valley who believe that the next Facebook will be created by a woman or person of color are watching her portfolio closely. Others view Backstage with more skepticism, seeing her funds as relatively inexpensive ways for investors to appear committed to diversity without having to do the hard work internally.
Hamilton shrugs it off. In an industry where privilege begets privilege—and at a time when racial justice in this country seems precarious, at best—she is claiming her seat at the table. “How much of a fist in the air would it be to just be obnoxiously wealthy as a gay black woman?” she wonders. “And [how powerful] to be able to help other people do the same?”
Shirley Chen’s list of experiences is as diverse as it is impressive: she spent her childhood on China’s national gymnastics team, studied biochemical engineering at Columbia University, interned at Chanel, Bergdorf Goodman, and Vogue, and worked as a media and retail consultant at McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm.
Chen never imagined her resume would include founding a company. But when a former Vogue colleague tapped her on the shoulder to run the marketing and business development for luxury goods brand Moda Operandi, a seed was planted. Chen was tasked with driving customer acquisition with a specific focus on digital e-commerce, and that’s where she spotted a gap in the market.
Companies were so focused on the traffic from traditional platforms like Google and Facebook that they were missing a valuable source of customer acquisition—online content. When consumers wanted to find the trendiest swimsuit, most effective blackout curtains, or best-priced coffee maker, they looked for the answer in online magazines and blogs. The problem with that was two-fold. On the one hand, thanks to an aging internet, many older links on publishers’ pages are dead, leading consumers to 404 pages. On the other, many publishers were using hardcoded, static links to Amazon product pages (some 650 million times per month), meaning consumers didn’t have the opportunity to consider purchasing from other retailers, even if Amazon didn’t have the best price. In either case, it was a lose-lose-lose situation for consumers, advertisers, and publishers alike.
Chen devised a solution with Narrativ, a tech company that’s using AI to #EndThe404 and build a better internet for shoppers by making sure that every time they click on a product link on a publisher’s site, it will lead not just to an active page, but to the retailers with the best price.
“We built a SmartLink technology that repaired broken links online, and we democratized that pipeline that was being hard credited to Amazon through content,” Chen explained. “The mission is to improve the consumer shopping experience and build a better research experience as well when it comes to buying products.”
The results so far have been stellar. In the year since their launch out of stealth mode, Narrativ has raised over $3.5 million in venture capital, rewired more than one billion links, and impacted more than 200 million internet users each month. Narrativ, who has also partnered with notable brands like Dermstore, Ulta Beauty, and New York Magazine, is set to deliver more than $600 million in advertiser value in 2018, and has earned a nod from the World Economic Forum as a Technology Pioneer.
Chen stands at the helm of it all, CEO of a game-changing tech company she was once almost too afraid to build. She recalls the nervousness she felt when the idea first came to her. She approached two former employers to build it, but both declined. That’s when Chen’s mentor, head of McKinsey’s North America Media spoke the words that fired her up: “Why don’t you build this thing on your own? I think you’re being a real coward.” She knew that he spoke not to discourage her, but to push her to make a move.
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