Dear Wearable Companies: Until You Market to Women, You Won’t Get Our Cash

Amy is not impressed.

Amy is not impressed.

Next to virtual reality, wearables are perhaps the most exciting thing happening in tech right now. As an agency we’ve been watching the product and communications strategies of these companies closely. And if there’s one thing that’s certain, it’s—as some might say—we’ve got a long way to go, baby.

Case in point: I’ve had a lot of discussions lately with female friends about wearables. We all have disposable incomes, are tech savvy and health conscious to boot. You’d expect us all to be on the wearable train by now—and in fact, women represent 58 percent of prospective buyers. And yet, neither me or my friends have bought in. Why is that? Here are just a few reasons I’ve heard:

“Ugh, my wrists are too small.”

“They are so bulky—I look like a clown.”

And my personal complaint: I’m fashion conscious and don’t want to wear something on my wrist that says I’m trying to lose weight or aiming to be more connected than I already am. Sure it’s vain, but I have practical demands when it comes to style and I’m not going to apologize. To get me to buy, a wearable has to be a piece of jewelry first—a wearable second.

But wearable companies haven’t done a good job communicating their value proposition to women. Nor have they designed products that address their physical needs and aesthetic desires. In fact, 50 percent of users say how a wearable looks plays a huge factor in whether they’ll make a purchase.

Instead, the market is plagued by stuff that looks like this:

Pebble Smartwatches, which retail for $249. How more square and bulky can you get?

Pebble Smartwatches, which retail for $249. How more square and bulky can you get?

The upcoming Simband from Samsung, which was created for people who enjoy pretending they are in the hospital.

The upcoming Simband from Samsung, which was created for people who enjoy pretending they are in the hospital.

The Jawbone UP, which at $150 resembles a modern-day rubber slap bracelet. Because that went so well last time.

The Jawbone UP, which at $150 resembles a modern-day rubber slap bracelet. Because that went so well last time.

And these are just bracelets—not to mention other types of wearables like sunglasses, necklaces and shoes that could also attract women buyers.

All this brings me to an uncomfortable point: the wearable market today is male-centric—designed mostly by men, and mostly for men. No wonder women aren’t buying.

The one shining light is the recent partnership between designer Tory Burch and Fitbit:

Wait, that’s a Fitbit? My lady friends and I oohed and aahed when we saw this. Why? It doesn’t look like a wearable, might actually fit our wrists and would make our outfits look better vs. worse. Sure it retails for a hefty $195, but then again it’s two useful things in one. Sign me up, Scotty!

And that, wearable companies, is how you double your market share.

So if you’re in wearables and want to be successful (which I imagine you do), for the sake of womankind and your own financial future it’s time to start plotting out how you’ll address your better halves—both through your product’s design and the marketing of it. While you do have to start somewhere and sometimes that means sacrificing style for function, the companies that succeed in this market will be considering these issues from day No. 1.

Because for prospective buyers like me, just having something functional that does cool things will never be enough.

Five VCs Investing to Make Tech Better for Everyone

As we shared last week, the technology industry has certainly seen better days with tales of bad executive behavior plaguing news headlines. And while it’s easy to dwell on the negatives, we think it’s also worth sharing some of the more positive steps people are taking to create a more inclusive and socially conscious tech community. This is in our best interests if we want to bring better ideas to market and ones that matter too, right?

Specifically, here are some VCs we’ve seen proactively moving things in a better direction (since they bankroll the tech community after all). We may not agree with them on everything, but we do think there’s a lot here others can learn from:

Dave McClure, Founding Partner, 500 Startups. McClure’s 500 Startups is an early seed-stage investor and incubator that’s invested in companies like Behance, TaskRabbit and Intercom. They’ve also backed an extraordinary (comparatively) number of female-led start ups—100+ as of early 2014. Earlier this year they also launched what’s called a “Syndicate” on AngelList aimed at funding females: 500 Women. It’s rare to see investors put together this much effort to support women. And, based on its track record, we won’t be surprised to see more women-focused initiatives in 500’s future.

Jason Calacanis, CEO at Inside and angel investor. In addition to being at the helm of a growing mobile news startup, Calacanis has been an outspoken supporter (and first investor) in HandUp, a startup that’s tackling the homeless problem one donation at a time. Calacanis used his network to publicly call upon his peers to invest as well, and tackle an uncomfortable issue that frankly is very far removed from a lot of investors’ daily lives.

 

Hunter Walk, Partner, Homebrew. This January, Hunter published a blog post announcing his seed-stage firm would begin to track the diversity of the people pitching them, including both gender and race. As they say, “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” And while this stops short of direct action, we think it’s a good step by a VC to better understand who they are attracting—and not attracting. As Hunter notes, “We can’t fix bugs in our system unless we have a bug tracker.”

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Theresia Gouw and Jennifer Fonstad, Aspect Ventures. The dearth of women in venture capital is extremely well-documented. So when Gouw and Fonstad launched their own firm in February, the industry took note. And beyond bucking the male domination of VC, we are impressed by how they say they’ll incorporate diversity into the business itself—right from the start. As Gouw told TIME earlier this year, “We are in the business of making money for our investors and our entrepreneurs. Diversity makes a difference for business and the bottom line.”

Are there other VCs doing positive things to support diversity in tech? Give them a shout in the comments!

PR Disaster Timeline: Tech Execs in Trouble (Last 12 Months)

Just how many times have tech companies hit a PR speedbump, not because of their performance as a business, but due to reports of bad personal behavior associated with their top executives? That question came up while we were talking about crisis communication strategies, so our Googling expert Liz started compiling a press archive, which quickly grew and grew (and grew)to the point where we had to confine it to just the last twelve months.

Here’s what we have so far:

  • Peter Shih “10 Things I Hate About You” Post Draws San Francisco’s Ire, Confirms Startup Stereotypes: “Shih, who was last year accepted to the prestigious start-up accelerator Y Combinator, listed his gripes with the city, peppering in healthy doses of misogyny, homophobia and a general disregard for socioeconomic inequality.” (August 2013).
     

  • Business Insider Fires CTO Pax Dickinson Over Offensive Tweets: A day after Valleywag raised a stink over Dickinson’s habit of using Twitter to share his views on feminism, poverty and race relations, he is out of the company. ‘Forced to resign’ is how Daily Intel characterizes it; I’m told he was simply ‘fired.’ (September 2013)
     

  • San Francisco Techie Says “Lower Part of Society” Should Be Segregated: “Greg Gopman, founder of AngelHack, infamously fanned the flames with a Facebook rant about his thoughts of the less fortunate. He wrote: "In downtown SF the degenerates gather like hyenas, spit, urinate, taunt you, sell drugs, get rowdy, they act like they own the center of the city... There is nothing positive gained from having them so close to us." (December 2013)
     

  • Relationship Status: Call My Lawyer: “As he built TechCrunch into a multi-million-dollar empire, blogger-investor Michael Arrington became a one-man nexus of power in Silicon Valley. Now he’s on the defensive, denying accusations that he raped an ex-girlfriend and abused two other women.” (December 2013)
     

  • Uber CEO mocks ‘surge pricing’ complaints on Facebook: “The mess that resulted from Uber’s surge pricing ordinarily would have the average CEO running for the cover under which they’d stay for several days following. But not Kalanick, who posted an angry customer letter to his Facebook page with the comment ‘Get some popcorn and scroll down.’” (December 2013)
     

  • Github Founder Steps Down After Harassment Probe: Tom Preston-Werner—founder of the immensely popular social coding site GitHub and its most prominent executive—has left the company in the wake of widely publicized sexual harassment investigation. In her TechCrunch article, [Julie] Horvath said she was bullied after spurning one GitHubber’s sexual advances, and then harassed by the wife of a company founder, presumably Preston-Werner’s wife, Theresa.” (April 2014)
     

  • RadiumOne CEO Gurbaksh Chahal Says He Didn’t Do It: “RadiumOne CEO Gurbaksh Chahal has been charged with domestic violence117 violent acts during a 30-minute assault on his girlfriend.” (April 2014)
     

  • The Complete Saga (So Far) of PayPal Vs. Former Executive Rakesh Agrawal: “PayPal's new director of strategy Rakesh ‘Rocky’ Agrawal was reportedly at Jazz Fest in New Orleans when he decided to take to Twitter and bash co-workers. He was promptly fired, although Agrawal claims he quit before sending the tweets.” (May 2014)
     

  • Rap Genius Co-Founder Moghadam Fired Over Tasteless Comments on Santa Barbara Shooting: “Mahbod Moghadam has been fired from the annotation service after posting appalling comments on the memoir of mass murderer Elliot Rodger. Moghadam added a tasteless series of comments, including ‘beautifully written’ and also ‘MY GUESS: his sister is smokin hot.’” (May 2014)
     

  • Silicon Valley Tech Execs Behaving Badly: “AOL CEO Tim Armstrong epitomizes the arrogant tech executive... [On a] conference call, Armstrong cited a couple of employees' ‘distressed babies’ as reasons for reducing retirement benefits.” (May 2014)
     

  • Snapchat CEO ‘Mortified’ By Leaked Stanford Frat E-mails: “Chief Executive Officer Evan Spiegel apologized for e-mails he sent during his fraternity days that celebrated getting drunk and convincing sorority women to perform sexual acts.” (May 2014)
     

  • NextDoor CEO Nirav Tolia Pleads No Contest to Reduced Charge in Hit and Run:Tolia, who runs neighborhood social network Nextdoor, was charged with a not-so-neighborly felony hit and run last month after he merged suddenly into another lane on 101 just south of San Francisco and caused a woman to lose control of her car and spin into the center median, injuring her hand and neck.” (June 2014)
     

  • The Truth About Tinder and Women is Even Worse Than You Think: “"As Tinder has gained more and more notoriety, there have been numerous examples of [co-founders] Rad and Mateen’s poor judgment—more of them Mateen’s. Last summer, I noticed that both had posted a screenshot of a new Urban Dictionary term, 'Tinderslut,' to their Instagram feeds... [And a] photo of an overweight black man looking joyful on President Obama’s reelection night—Mateen joked in a caption that he was happy about '4 more years of food stamp' [sic]." (July 2014)
     

  • CEO of StartUp Urban Airship Leaves Company After Being Accused of Sexually Assaulting His Ex-Girlfriend. “Portland police have been quietly investigating Urban Airship co-founder and CEO Scott Kveton for the alleged sexual assault of a former girlfriend, reports The Oregonian.” (July 2014)

That’s fourteen in twelve months, and it’s very likely we missed some. (If we did, please let us know in Comments or to us on Twitter, and we’ll update.) We don’t mean to dwell on the negative, however—next week, Amy will highlight some great VCs doing their best to set a far better example.

Update, July 17: Via Twitter, VentureBeat's Dylan Tweney suggests another addition to this list: "Vinod Khosla's 'get off my public beach' court battle." (Read about that one on VentureBeat here.)

4 Lessons from 6 Months at theMIX: What to Learn from Your First Job in Tech Communications

In my first six months at theMIX agency, I’ve grown my experience in everything I could get my hands on: Event organization, executive speaking programs, business planning, content marketing, thought leadership brainstorming, product launch strategy, media pitching, and so many other tasks. This is my first full-time job in tech communications, and with so many new grads joining the industry this Summer, I want to highlight some key lessons I’ve learned that I’m certain will prove invaluable for my career progression. If you’re also hoping to work in marketing and communications in the technology/startup world, they’ll probably help you too:

Don’t Let Youth & Inexperience Silence You: Research, Learn, Speak Up

I graduated from college two years ago, and I’m the youngest member of the tMa team. At first, being the most inexperienced member of the team felt a little intimidating. I was cautious and quiet at work. Very quickly, I realized I had to prove myself. That meant doing a lot of research and reading up on technology, but more on that later. Even without a long background in the industry, however, I realized it’s still important to speak up about an app or website related to a client, especially if you’ve had first hand experience with it. Many products in tech are targeted at young consumers, so your youthful perspective is often an advantage—when something looks off, speak up! You may catch something your more experienced colleagues may miss.

Learn to Conduct Research

Research has been key to the success I’ve had at tMa. I start my mornings perusing the Internet for relevant tech news for each of our clients (check out my earlier post on searching in Google here) and can honestly say it’s made my work life so much easier. I’ve even suggested it to other friends who work in different industries and are just starting new jobs, and it has done wonders for them as well. It will build up your confidence level when talking about a client or project, and often brings out useful new knowledge for them too.

Build Genuine Relationships

Just as important to get right in tech communications: Relationships. I am always impressed by how many people our CEO Vanessa Camones has built relationships with over her long career, as a genuine friend. And that right there is the key: No one likes feeling used or taken advantage of, especially in the professional world. Go to as many events as you can, remember your business cards, perfect your handshake and smile—but always be real.

In Tech Communications, Bigger Isn’t Always Better

When it came time to apply for jobs, I saw a trend among emerging among my peers-- they were flocking towards large global agencies and competing for a dwindling number of positions. I was there too, certain that I would beat them out-- until I decided my path needed to be different. While the global agency route may be right for some PR graduates, don’t be discouraged if it’s not the path you find yourself on. You can make just as big a splash, if not a bigger one, at a smaller agency where you are more than just a number. Like I said before, at theMIX I’ve been able to grow my experience in everything I could get my hands on, and I can’t imagine that being possible at a larger agency. On the other hand, if you know that you’re the type of person who needs extensive training periods and thrives in a more corporate environment, fight for those spots, prove that you’re worth it.

Going back to research for one last point: Before you accept a new job, research any company that makes you an offer thoroughly—present and past employees and clients, office culture, etc. are extremely important. Large or small, you want to work at a place that encourages you to grow, learn, and foster the relationships you need for a long-term career. Trust me on this one: I speak from experience.