If you’ve been out and about in Silicon Valley in the last month or so, chances are you’ve heard of “Alpha Girls,” a new book written by journalist Julian Guthrie about four investors who’ve made a big impact on the world of startup investing. The book recognizes them — Theresia Gouw, MJ Elmore, Sonja Hoel Perkins, and Magdalena Yesil — because they are interesting individuals, each with very different upbringings and skill sets and areas of expertise.
But they also succeeded in the venture industry during a time when they were almost always the only woman in the room, or at the conference, or in the middle of a team-building event. Elmore signed on with IVP in 1982, becoming a general partner by age 28. Yesil cofounded the dot com high-flier CyberCash before joining USVP as a partner in 1998. Perkins’s star also rose quickly. By age 29, she was a general partner at Menlo Ventures, staying nearly 22 years before launching her own venture fund. Down the street, Gouw was building a track record at Accel, where she spent 15 years before cofounding her own firm in 2014, Aspect Ventures.
We talked with Guthrie earlier today about these so-called alpha women and how they differ from the many other people who Guthrie has spent time with across her 20-year reporting career with the San Francisco Chronicle, during which time she authored earlier books about Larry Ellison and Peter Diamandis. We asked how much time she spent with each (“I think they were ready to block my calls and texts,” she laughed), and how long she worked on the book, including to write it (roughly two years).
But what we even more wanted to know was whether after working on the book, Guthrie views the venture industry as any more or less welcoming to women than at the outset of her research. “It is not as bad as it’s portrayed, in my opinion,” Guthrie told us. “There are success stories.”
Still, Guthrie noted that each of these investors had to grapple with much that a man might not. Some of these were mundane but constant considerations, including, “Should you take notes or not? When do you speak up? How do you network? Do you go to these boondoggles when it’s all guys?”
Said Guthrie, “Some of these things were shocking to me, coming from my own very gender-neutral experience as a reporter.”
Yet there were other ways they had to alter themselves. She says Elmore quickly learned that if she wore a dress to a board meeting, for example, it would elicit compliments that weren’t necessarily expected, so she soon cut her hair and began wearing suits. Meanwhile, Perkins and Gouw participated in male-dominated events on the theory that you can’t win if you don’t play the game. For Perkins, this meant skiing alongside former Navy Seals when she was still a relative novice on the slopes. For Gouw, it was getting elbowed in the stomach during a competitive game of flag football. It was “not so much about emulating men but steering the spotlight away from their femininity, so it didn’t become a distraction,” Guthrie told us.
Interestingly, one of the more fundamental ways the women seemed to differ from their male colleagues was in their dealings with Guthrie herself, she said. She noted that many of the men she has interviewed — including Ellison, Diamandis, Richard Branson and Elon Musk — have been “happy to talk about their vulnerabilities, because it kind of rounds them out. It softens them in a nice way.” She observed that women who’ve enjoyed success meanwhile have a “much harder time sharing their mistakes, their regrets, their vulnerabilities.” Because women are often provided less room for missteps — or they perceive that they have less room, “I had to tell [the investors] again and again that it was important that we tell the good, bad, and ugly — not because I was seeking scandal but because I wanted these stories to be honest.”
Before we parted ways, we asked Guthrie about women and money, after she volunteered that it’s a “tricky issue for women. If you go after too much, you’re greedy; if you marry someone with money, you’re a gold digger.”
She pointed to a Forbes piece from last summer that called Gouw “America’s richest female venture capitalist.” Gouw apparently felt uneasy about the story and participated in it mostly to draw attention to her work with the advocacy organization she helped cofound, called AllRaise. But as Gouw told Guthrie, it’s had a somewhat surprising impact. “She was a serious player before, but it kind of gave her street cred” with those who pay attention to Forbes’s Midas List and other forms of score-keeping.
It’s a good thing, suggests Guthrie, who has been promoting her book to women in numerous industries, including in homebuilding and law and in medicine. “You see the same barriers across them all,” Guthrie said. “But you’re also seeing these women’s groups and networks becoming more powerful across all these industries, where women are speaking out and creating these sisterhoods.”
They’re agreeing to more hard-earned self-promotion, too. They see it as an increasingly competitive tool, and, as Guthrie puts it, “It’s not boasting when it’s based on fact.”
Pictured above, left to right: Theresia Gouw, Sonja Perkins, MJ Elmore, Magdalena Yesil, and Julian Guthrie.
Galaxy Z Fold 3 S Pen won’t have a dedicated slot
Samsung will be unveiling its most powerful Galaxy in two weeks but that won’t be a smartphone as some might have hoped. Samsung’s most powerful Galaxy phone, however, might come earlier in July but it’s already proving to be a mixed bag. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 will, of course, be interesting because of its expected support for the S Pen but it might not have a silo similar to the Galaxy Note it will replace this year.
The story will almost be like the Galaxy S21 Ultra, the first in the Galaxy S series to support the Wacom-powered Samsung stylus. It didn’t have a slot inside the phone to stash the S Pen inside and had to be bought separately. Samsung recommended some cases for making sure the S Pen didn’t get lost, something it will reportedly do with the Galaxy Z Fold 3.
According to the report hailing from South Korea, Samsung was still trying to make room for the S Pen inside the Galaxy Z Fold 3 until last month. It finally decided against it for two reasons. One is to ensure that the foldable phone will be as water and dust resistant as possible. This is definitely critical considering how the first Galaxy Fold easily broke when the minutest of particles entered its hinges.
The other reason might come as a disappointment, though, as Samsung reportedly ran out of space for the S Pen silo inside the phone. That’s despite rumors that the Galaxy Z Fold 3 will have a smaller battery and a smaller internal screen than its predecessor. Hopefully, we’ll find out the reason for that in three months.
Samsung will reportedly offer a specialized case for keeping the S Pen, which would probably be a good idea anyway to protect the Galaxy Z Fold 3. That said, it might also ruin the otherwise luxurious appearance of the Galaxy Z Fold 3, at least based on renders, but it at least gives people the option of how they want to use the device.
Chrome 90 makes HTTPS the default, brings AV1 codec for video chats
The Web has definitely become a very different place compared to just a few years ago. Security has always been a consideration but never has it been more critical than these days when more people work at home with less than secure Internet connections. That same change in work situations has bumped up the need for WebRTC, a technology that already existed long before video conferencing was hip. Addressing both those concerns, Google is releasing Chrome 90 in an attempt to make working for home more secure and less stressful.
Google has been crusading around HTTPS or HTTP Secure even before the current pandemic hit. Using its clout as the maker of the world’s most used web browser (something that raises anticompetitive red flags), Google has been pushing site owners to use HTTPS by favoring the encrypted connection when using Chrome. As of Chrome 90, any address entered into the browser’s address bar will automatically default to HTTPS unless you specify the protocol explicitly or are working on localhost.
Beyond just being more secure, Google argues that this change of default behavior also has improvements in web page loading speed. That’s because many sites redirect HTTP to HTTPS, which takes up some time. Connecting to HTTPS directly can save a few seconds that eventually add up.
Chrome 90 also brings the AV1 encoder to the desktop web browser, the same codec used by Netflix for better video compression on mobile. In this case, however, AV1 is being used to optimize WebRTC or the Web Real-Time Communication technology which is used for video chats using web browsers like Chrome.
The latest version of Chrome also brings user-visible changes, particularly to the Reading List feature and searching in Tab Groups. What may be its most controversial change, however, is related to Google’s Privacy Sandbox, particularly the much-criticized FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts) experiment to replace third-party tracking cookies.
Lenovo Legion Phone Duel 2 teardown reveals beautiful complexity
Some smartphones are getting more interesting again after the market has seemingly plateaued in design and innovation. Leave it to gaming smartphones, however, to really take the cake when it comes to pushing the envelope not just in terms of performance but also in design. After the very first ASUS ROG Phone, it is perhaps Lenovo’s latest Legion Phone Duel 2 that has the most peculiar quirks and features. And while it didn’t survive the durability test, JerryRigEverything’s teardown reveals just how unique the phone is on the inside.
The Legion Phone Duel 2 is already unique on the outside due to a design that is intended for horizontal (landscape) use. The front-facing camera hides in a popup mechanism off to the side and the rear cameras are located in the middle, safe from fingers when playing games. Unfortunately, that unique design, including the three-part segments of the backplate, makes traditional teardown processes almost impossible.
Fortunately, YouTuber Zack Nelson did break the phone apart into three so he was able to skip that and get to the meaty parts almost immediately. The one bump on that journey was the central glass back which, unfortunately, cracked during attempts to slice off the adhesive underneath. Once the backs, yes plural, have been removed, the phone reveals an internal design that may have never been used in any phone, other than the first Lenovo Legion phone, of course.
The inside of the Legion Phone Duel 2 is filled with cables connecting eight different pressure-sensitive areas that can be used for gaming controls, including two beneath the screen. It is also filled with a variety of cooling systems, such as the two fans and a large duct system that carries air between the two fans. It is really impressive that every inch of the phone is crammed with features, including that popup camera step motor that Nelson notes to actually be the most boring part of the phone.
Sadly, all that may have resulted in a structural design that turned out to be more fragile than the most premium-looking high-end phone. Disaster is easy enough to prevent with a case but, when accidents do happen, the Lenovo Legion Phone Duel 2’s design may not make repairs that easy or, more importantly, affordable.
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