• Quick Chat with Scalus Founder and CEO Kristen Koh Goldstein

    uploads-23183691-ad7c-48c2-a2a6-a02ac1de0b85-_MG_6508-retouched-3By Semil Shah

    Scalus, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based maker of workflow and collaboration software, was born out of necessity, says founder and CEO, Kristen Koh Goldstein, a former investment analyst turned entrepreneur. We recently caught up with her to learn more.

    With Scalus and a company you founded previously, BackOps, you seem to have developed a passion and expertise around building software and networks for remote workers — how did that all come to be?

    It’s fueled from a place of personal experience. After 9/11, I left Wall Street to learn operational finance and accounting at startups. Then life happened. I became a mom.  And I learned firsthand the challenges of being a mom and a professional. So I started BackOps, a back office service employing skilled moms who work from home between school dropoff and pickup.  The business grew quickly, doubling revenue every year for four years, so we ended up needing to develop software to clear the hurdles to scaling our business and Scalus was born.

    Our corporate mission is to prove that the future of work includes workplace flexibility for all.  Our social mission is to get a million parents back to work by empowering them to be productive at work and engaged at home.

    Speaking of remote workers, some of them are likely to be on contract. Have you been following the contractor versus full-employee debate as it relates to the on-demand sector? Any reactions?  

    The labor laws haven’t caught up with the changing face of the workforce. The Millennial generation approaches employment differently than its predecessors. Companies look more like Hollywood productions or real estate development projects. The line between “internal” and “external” becomes much more blurred in this environment, where contractors can often have the same longevity and close working relationships as internal employees, especially across departments.

    Philosophically, I believe it’s important to make a commitment to people who commit to you.  At BackOps, where I’m the chairwoman, my perspective has always been that unless you have an active income source elsewhere (you’re working for others), you are an employee of the company, even if just part-time on a temporary basis.

    What’s your point of view on the increased attention paid to having more women in VC and investing roles in the Valley? Are there more women quietly doing this than we know about, or is it still pretty dismal? If so, what can change it quickly?

    In angel investing, there have always been a lot of women funding and supporting early-stage companies. Shawn Byers, a prolific investor in female-led companies, is probably the only member of her family [which includes her husband, Brook Byers of Kleiner Perkins and their sons Blake Byers of Google Ventures and Chad Byers of Susa Ventures] who you haven’t heard about.  I think it’s quite possible that Shawn may end up backing just as many startups as Brook, Blake, and Chad. Full disclosure: Blake Byers is our biggest champion at Google Ventures, so we’re a big fan of the whole Byers clan.

    I am thrilled that trailblazers, including Helena Morrissey and Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, are pushing forward the discussion about getting more women in the boardroom, which is a positive change toward getting more women in VC. I am also so grateful to the countless women quietly working behind the scenes, including Aileen Lee. Hopefully, more companies, especially startups where like-think reigns, will start diversifying their boards, which will increase the demand for female VCs, who will in turn invest in a broader range of founders who will seek diverse boards.

    You’re an active angel and seed investor but keep a relatively low profile. Is that on purpose or all part of the plan?

    It’s on purpose. I have been listening, learning, and waiting for the remote worker movement to come center stage. When the time is right to talk about what it means to empower everyone across an organization to determine the way that they work, you’ll hear a lot more from me.

  • A Global VC on Outsiders’ View of the U.S. Right Now: “Speechless”

    027-20120712-KS026-Edit-2-324x324Mathias Schilling is the cofounder and managing partner of e.ventures, an early-stage venture firm that invests out of dedicated funds in five geographies: the U.S., Russia, Germany, Asia, and Brazil. The vantage point gives Schilling a unique perspective on how the world sees the U.S. debt crisis. During a quick chat yesterday, he told me his partners are, in a word, “confused.” We also talked about what he’s seeing around the globe.

    You have these dedicated funds where you share carry. Do you sign off on deals as individual firms?

    We look at every region very locally, but we [employ] different structures for different deals. Sometimes, we’ll have an investment committee where I’ll participate in the decision-making. Sometimes, we don’t get involved at all. Our mantra is to keep local teams to two to three partners so we can make decisions quickly.

    Last year, you and Redpoint Ventures joined forces for your Brazil-focused venture fund, raising $130 million. What are you seeing there in late 2013?

    Brazil has had many lost decades, including after 2000. So many basic [online] categories still haven’t been created and funded. There’s also a lack of capital, and entrepreneurship culture, and there’s a difficult regulatory environment. But I’m very positive on Brazil. We’re not only seeing copycats, which obviously makes sense, as large categories need to be created; we’re also seeing a lot of very high quality entrepreneurs. We’ve [backed]10 companies in the last 18 months or so, in e-commerce, financial services, advertising, travel.

    Right now, it’s cooled off on a macro level, in terms of investors going there, because if you aren’t local and make a commitment to stay, it’s very difficult. It puts us in a good position there.

    What can you share about the other markets you’ve entered?

    Japan is an interesting market. It’s traditionally been a tough venture market – people are very hierarchical and risk averse, which is also true of Brazil and, to some extent, Germany. But on the mobile side, we’re seeing a lot of advanced things happening. Half of Android’s revenue is coming from apps being made in Japan and South Korea.

    Berlin is building great critical mass; it’s cheap, exciting, and innovative. Russia is more technology driven, with a lot of very strong engineering. But it lacks general management skills.

    Each is distinct, but I believe you have to go into these markets and build a commitment there and stay for the long run, because I don’t think you can stop the trend. We are globalizing.

    Is entrepreneurship as widely celebrated in other parts of the world?

    I think it’s cool to be an entrepreneur in most countries at this point. Everyone knows some fantastic success story of some guy who really did it. And some of these people really had to pull through to be the first [success story], so they’re great role models.

    Culturally and psychologically, people don’t want to work for big companies anymore.

    I gather the rest of the world is very concerned by the U.S. government right now. What are you hearing from your far-flung partners about this mess?

    I think people are speechless. Honestly, they’re shrugging their shoulders. They don’t get what’s happening and why. And to some extent, it is a bigger deal elsewhere than it is here. They think it will be resolved. It has to be resolved.

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