Monthly Archives: December 2017

What Are The Best Customer Success KPIs?

As you can probably imagine, I’m asked all the time what the best Customer Success KPIs are.

What metrics should you use to know if your Customer Success initiative is working.

Here’s the deal. I’m not an analyst… I’m a consultant.

Companies hire me to help them rapidly acquire good-fit customers, keep those customers longer, get them to buy more over that extended lifetime, and get those customers to advocate for them, too.

That’s called Customer Success-driven Growth.

The reality is, though, that every company is at a different stage as a company, with their Customer Success initiative, etc. so wha the “best” metric for one company at one point may not be the best metric for another company (or even the same company) at a different time.

Let’s dig into this, but first I have to address something serious…

Customer Success is NOT a Metric

Recently I saw an article that referred to “Customer Success” as a metric.

Umm… Customer Success is NOT a metric.

For the person who wrote that,… wow… what a fantastic way to diminish the true value of Customer Success. Not sure what they’re trying to do, but that’s garbage.

I really hope this new positioning doesn’t catch on, but it might; a lot of people seem to want to diminish the value of this incredibly important business function.

But I digress.

I look at Customer Success first as an Operating Philosophy… and when operationalized through Customer Success Management, this philosophy becomes a powerful Growth Engine.

If you want a way to ensure you acquire the best customers, keep them longer, have them buy more over that extended lifetime, and to bring in other customers through advocacy – aka Exponential Growth – you cannot look at Customer Success simply as a metric.

Metrics are very important – as I’ll cover below –  but they are just the things you look to ensure Customer Success – and your other valuable business initiatives – are working.

So let’s talk about…

Reality-based Key Performance Indicators

You need to start by determining the Performance upon which you are looking for Key Indicators.

When looking for KPIs to focus on, I take the company’s goals – sometimes even short-term goals, like cash flow or churn – and operationalize around those.

I covered this in a TON of detail in my post on Customer Success Goals: Cohorts, Metrics, and Prioritization.

The reality on the ground often precludes you from focusing on “best practices” and rather on what’s most important now.

But when pressed for the most important Customer Success KPIs are, here’s what I say.

Customer Success KPI Best Practices

In a perfect world, there must be a financial metric, but to ensure we don’t fall into the Account Management trap, that metric should be sanity checked by a customer-centric metric.

That customer-centric metric should be Health Score, Success Vector, Ontrack, etc.

The financial metric should be Net Revenue Retention or NRR.

NRR is simple (in theory).

If you start a month off at $1k in revenue from existing customers, end the month at $1.5k from those customers, you had an NRR of 150%.

But it’s “net” of any revenue you lost in that month when customers left or stayed but paid less for the privilege (discounts, down-sells, etc.).

And it’s “net” of any revenue you gained through up- or cross-sells.

> 100% NRR and you could turn off new customer acquisition and not just continue to exist, but grow. In theory.

< 100% NRR and your company is shrinking. In reality.

The former is preferable.

The post What Are The Best Customer Success KPIs? appeared first on Customer Success-driven Growth.

What Are The Best Customer Success KPIs?

As you can probably imagine, I’m asked all the time what the best Customer Success KPIs are.

What metrics should you use to know if your Customer Success initiative is working.

Here’s the deal. I’m not an analyst… I’m a consultant.

Companies hire me to help them rapidly acquire good-fit customers, keep those customers longer, get them to buy more over that extended lifetime, and get those customers to advocate for them, too.

That’s called Customer Success-driven Growth.

The reality is, though, that every company is at a different stage as a company, with their Customer Success initiative, etc. so wha the “best” metric for one company at one point may not be the best metric for another company (or even the same company) at a different time.

Let’s dig into this, but first I have to address something serious…

Customer Success is NOT a Metric

Recently I saw an article that referred to “Customer Success” as a metric.

Umm… Customer Success is NOT a metric.

For the person who wrote that,… wow… what a fantastic way to diminish the true value of Customer Success. Not sure what they’re trying to do, but that’s garbage.

I really hope this new positioning doesn’t catch on, but it might; a lot of people seem to want to diminish the value of this incredibly important business function.

But I digress.

I look at Customer Success first as an Operating Philosophy… and when operationalized through Customer Success Management, this philosophy becomes a powerful Growth Engine.

If you want a way to ensure you acquire the best customers, keep them longer, have them buy more over that extended lifetime, and to bring in other customers through advocacy – aka Exponential Growth – you cannot look at Customer Success simply as a metric.

Metrics are very important – as I’ll cover below –  but they are just the things you look to ensure Customer Success – and your other valuable business initiatives – are working.

So let’s talk about…

Reality-based Key Performance Indicators

You need to start by determining the Performance upon which you are looking for Key Indicators.

When looking for KPIs to focus on, I take the company’s goals – sometimes even short-term goals, like cash flow or churn – and operationalize around those.

I covered this in a TON of detail in my post on Customer Success Goals: Cohorts, Metrics, and Prioritization.

The reality on the ground often precludes you from focusing on “best practices” and rather on what’s most important now.

But when pressed for the most important Customer Success KPIs are, here’s what I say.

Customer Success KPI Best Practices

In a perfect world, there must be a financial metric, but to ensure we don’t fall into the Account Management trap, that metric should be sanity checked by a customer-centric metric.

That customer-centric metric should be Health Score, Success Vector, Ontrack, etc.

The financial metric should be Net Revenue Retention or NRR.

NRR is simple (in theory).

If you start a month off at $1k in revenue from existing customers, end the month at $1.5k from those customers, you had an NRR of 150%.

But it’s “net” of any revenue you lost in that month when customers left or stayed but paid less for the privilege (discounts, down-sells, etc.).

And it’s “net” of any revenue you gained through up- or cross-sells.

> 100% NRR and you could turn off new customer acquisition and not just continue to exist, but grow. In theory.

< 100% NRR and your company is shrinking. In reality.

The former is preferable.

The post What Are The Best Customer Success KPIs? appeared first on Customer Success-driven Growth.

The 1 key thing star founders and CEOs say catapulted their startups into major success

BI Graphics_Success! How I did it_Banner.

Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin, The Skimm

For startups on the path to success, there’s often one key moment or decision that catapults them from obscurity to the big leagues.

This year on Business Insider’s podcast, “Success! How I Did It,” founders of companies such as PayPal, Lyft, and Dropbox shared how they built their companies into massive successes. And while a lot goes into building a company, the leaders we’ve interviewed all had surprising stories.

Sometimes it’s an inspired decision that leads to success; other times it’s luck and timing.

Listen and read below for the key moments that turned Zillow, Tinder, Warby Parker, and others into household names.

If you’re hunting for more career advice, inspiration, and stories of getting to the top, subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Radio Public, or wherever you listen.

Here’s the master class episode in which top founders talk about the moments that changed everything for their companies:

The following interview excerpts have been edited for clarity.

Zillow launched with an innovative feature, the Zestimate. It was the first time anyone could look up the current value of their home, and their friends’ homes. This feature alone got the company a ton of launch press, and a million visitors within its first 24 hours.

Business Insider

Rascoff: We said: “Let’s try to figure out what every house in the country is worth. How do we do that?” Most of this information – bed, bath, square footage, tax assessment, sale history – is available in county courthouses, but we had to go acquire it, digitize it, and then build the data layer, the Zestimate, that sits on top of that.

And when we launched in, I think it was February 2006. We got about a million visitors within the first day. I still don’t think any other service – Snapchat, Facebook, whatever – I don’t think anyone else has had a million users in day one. Because it’s so cool and so innovative to say, “Oh, my god, I can grab my kid’s school roster and I can Zillow everybody at my kid’s school and see what everyone’s house is worth, see what everyone paid for the home.” That was just, like, this, “Oh, my God” kind of thing that launched the company in 2006.

Tinder turned a college student’s birthday with 500 attendees into a “Tinder party.” The students were not allowed to board the party bus until a bouncer made sure they had downloaded Tinder’s app.

Gabriel Olsen/FilmMagic

Rad: Justin’s younger brother was throwing a birthday party for his best friend at USC, and he had a bus going from USC to his parents’ home. The bus was going back and forth, so a total of about 500 students. Justin called me one day and said, “Let’s pay for the bus and call this a Tinder party.” So we paid for the bus and put a bouncer at the door and told every student that they couldn’t walk in unless they downloaded Tinder. You’d literally have to show Tinder on your phone. So about 400 people downloaded Tinder at USC. They went home and opened the app and started matching with each other. It really created a phenomenon within USC.

Immediately after that, every afternoon the whole team would leave the office, get in a car, and we would drive by every fraternity and sorority in Los Angeles, then San Diego, then Orange County, and every school we could cover.

In the beginning of January we had about 20,000 users, and at the end of January we had 500,000 users, all organic. The growth curve was unimaginable. It was pretty amazing.

TheSkimm was featured on ‘Today’ after the founders send a blind email to Hoda Kotb, and actually got a response.

Courtesy of theSkimm

Weisberg: We emailed every news anchor out there. We were like, “We’re former NBC-ers, thought you would love this, thought you would appreciate the need that we’re solving.” Hoda Kotb responded, and she said, “I’ll check it out!” We didn’t know her. We followed up with her two more times, but got no response. Day four of us in business, she said we were one of her favorite things – on air – and it totally changed our life.

We went from, at that point, let’s say, under 1,000 users to thousands. All of a sudden, we had geographic diversity. And all of a sudden, we had huge pockets of the country paying attention to what we were doing.

Shontell: Wow. What does a Hoda bump do to your newsletter subscribers?

Zakin: It crashed our site. It crashed our email inbox. We got a few thousand people from it. It was life-changing.


See the rest of the story at Business Insider

You Can’t Solve Upstream Problems Down Stream

When it comes to Customer Success, I’ve seen a lot of things.

I’ve seen what works (and what works REALLY works… it’s amazing).

Unfortunately, I’ve also seen what doesn’t work. A lot.

In 2017 I heard “Customer Success doesn’t work” way more than I ever expected.

The main reason I saw for Customer Success “not working” wasn’t org structure, comp plans, operations, wrong CSMs, etc.

No, the main problem wasn’t a CSM Org problem at all.

It actually starts further upstream.

You Can’t Solve Upstream Problems Down Stream

The biggest contributor to churn is the acquisition of bad-fit customers.

The biggest drag on growth I see is trying to make bad-fit customers successful.

A huge drag on per unit margin is investing resources in bad-fit customers.

Bad-fit customers are those customers that lack Success Potential.

But this is…

Not a Customer Success Issue

This is a company issue.

This is a growth velocity issue.

This is a Customer Lifetime Value issue.

This is a CAC efficiency issue.

This is a company valuation issue.

This is a CRITICAL issue.

This is all about..

Downstream Failure

When a company knowingly acquires bad-fit customers – customers without Success Potential – they set up everyone downstream for failure.

Yes, Customer Success Management is setup for failure.

But let’s get real… nobody cares about that (yet).

(un)Luckily, there’s more.

Onboarding, training, pro services, support… anyone else that works directly with customers is also setup for failure.

But so is product, marketing, and… sales.

Bad-fit customers can wrongly influence direction (since what we’re doing “isn’t working”), but there’s something else.

But it’s a cycle as…

Downstream Failure Creates Upstream Problems

Those customers that churn out (or otherwise stop doing business with you) create negative market sentiment and this makes it harder for the next sale to happen.

So it actually hurts sales.

Oh, and you’re setting your customers up for failure.

Stop knowingly acquiring bad-fit customers.

It won’t end well for ANYONE.

The post You Can’t Solve Upstream Problems Down Stream appeared first on Customer Success-driven Growth.

GamesBeat reporter Stephanie Chan’s best indie games of 2017


It’s been painful for me to choose the “best” indie games I’ve played this year, mostly because calling something the “best” is a somewhat nebulous concept to begin with. So I’ve chosen a handful that have stuck with me. They’re ones that I think about from time to time for various reasons, whether it’s because of the ideas they explored, or because of the sheer visual spectacle, or because of an incredible soundtrack with hooks that sink in and don’t let go.

Indie games excel at presenting short experiences packed with emotional meaning. Sometimes they’re raw autobiographical tales that elicit a wince of sympathy and feel borderline voyeuristic to play. Or they explore mechanics that seem wacky on paper but end up being tons of fun when put to the test with a gamepad or mouse and keyboard. Others offer tiny glimpses into another world or perspective – like MadameBerry’s 3am, which is about making a cup of tea during the stillness of the deep night, or Coyan Cardenas’s peaceful farm game Where the Goats Are about the coming apocalypse.

It’s encouraging to see more indie games on consoles like the Nintendo Switch. I hope more people will give them a try, stay open-minded, and embrace them for their capability to exhibit lovable weirdness, evoke genuine emotion, and make you think.

10. Tiny Echo

Developer: Might and Delight

Publisher: Might and Delight

Platform: PC

Tiny Echo is a surreal point-and-click adventure where you deliver mail to otherworldly creatures – or rather, to the shadows of otherworldly creatures. It’s dreamlike in both its beautiful art as well as the logic of the place. One of the puzzles, for instance, involve lighting up a creature with fireflies.

It exudes tranquility, but you also get the sense that some tragedy has happened before you arrived. It’s a wordless journey through a fantastical place that’s peppered with little moments of emotion.You see some creatures hiding their children under their cloaks to protect them from the rain. When you encounter a critter who’s crying in the corner, the protagonist Emi will crouch down and weep alongside them.

9. A Mortician’s Tale

Developer: Laundry Bear Games

Publisher: Laundry Bear Games

Platform: PC, Mac

A Mortician’s Tale has a cute, pastel look to it, but the subject it explores can be considered to be quite grim. As the title implies, you play as a mortician and every day, you have to prepare someone’s body for funeral rites. Depending on your personal views and experience with death, it can be an uncomfortable experience.

I’d never heard of death positivity before I played the game. The concept is to not fear death, to be more open about talking about it and the grief you experience when a loved one passes away. A Mortician’s Tale introduced ideas like eco-friendly funeral homes that don’t use chemicals, as well as caring for a deceased loved one at home rather than leaving the task to a stranger. Laundry Bear Games does a great job at de-stigmatizing and demystifying death as it gently eases you into the conversation.

8. Localhost

Developer: Aether Interactive

Publisher: Aether Interactive

Platform: PC, Mac, Linux

I still can’t believe that Localhost is a result of Twine, an open-source piece of software that’s designers often use for text-based interactive fiction. It supports HTML5, Javascript, and CSS, and most Twine games end up looking like interactive websites. However, it’s incredible what some folks do with it. Pippin Barr’s Burnt Matches, for instance, is bewildering and gives you a sense of exploring a desolate world. And I have a real soft spot for comedy games like Porpentine’s cheeky Porpentine Charity Heartscape’s Red Lobster Fanfic.

Aether Interactive’s games all look like they’re running on retro hardware. Both Localhost and the studio’s previous title, the excellent Forgotten, use eye-searing neon colors like fuchsia and cyan. It’s a fantastic fit for a game set in a futuristic dystopian world.

Localhost explores morality when interfacing with artificial intelligence. You’re tasked with wiping four hard drives, each containing an AI personality that pleads their case to continue living. Even more gruesome is that you must access them by plugging them into what’s essentially an android corpse. Even though your job is clear, the decisions you’ll have to make are not. For instance, one of the AI recognizes the body, and it claims that it was in love with the personality that used to occupy it. Another claims to be formerly human. It’s the kind of game that raises a lot of questions, and none of them have simple answers.

7. Little Red Lie

Developer: Will O’Neill

Publisher: Will O’Neill

Platform: PC

Little Red Lie struck uncomfortably close to home. Developer Will O’Neill is an expert at delving into complex human emotions and the ugliness that can sometimes come from them. His previous game, Actual Sunlight, is a bleak examination of depression and its effects. And Little Red Lie unpacks the complicated relationships in one family, and the delusions of grandeur and happiness in another.

The main conceit is that every falsehood appears as red text. Some of these phrases are heartbreaking because of the underlying despair as they perpetuate unhealthy fictions. You play as various characters, and you get an intimate look at the ways they deceive themselves as well as the way they perceive the world. Even though one of the characters is despicable, you come away at the end with some manner of sympathy for them. It’s an incredible investigation of topics such as financial debt and its social stigma, relationships and the feasibility of actual happiness, and the ramifications of power.

6. Detention

Developer: Red Candle Games

Publisher: Red Candle Games

Platform: PC, Mac, Linux, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch

Detention‘s aesthetic is stunning, inspired by newsprint, old photographs, and New Wave cinema. It’s set in 1960s Taiwan during a period of martial law. After fleeing mainland China during the Chinese Communist Revolution, the relocated government was paranoid about sympathizers of communism and tightly restricted freedom of speech.

It’s a horror game, so much of the environment is bleak. That makes the occasional deep hues of color stand out that much more, and some of the surreal imagery in the latter half of the game are truly visually spectacular. The most impressive thing to me was that – even with all these ghosts and folkloric ghouls floating around – the scariest thing about the whole game is that it’s based on events that may have truly happened.

5. Gorogoa

Developer: Jason Roberts

Publisher: Annapurna Interactive

Platform: PC, iOS, Android, Nintendo Switch

Gorogoa weaves together a story and puzzles, and what results is a tight, cohesive exploration of an enigmatic world that feels real, even though we get a little slice of it. The mechanics of manipulating tiles and changing perspectives make you feel clever, and the nameless protagonist’s quest for meaning feels central to the task at hand.

Jason Roberts’ world is rich with detail yet elusive at the same time. It’s a satisfying puzzle game that’s elegant, and even though everything fits together perfectly, it still leaves you with a sense of mystery.

4. Bury me, my Love

Developer: The Pixel Hunt, Figs

Publisher: Playdius Entertainment

Platform: iOS, Android

Bury me, my Love takes its name from a Syrian phrase that’s approximately translates to “Take care, and don’t even think about dying before I do.” It’s a way to say farewell to a loved one, and it’s something you can imagine the characters in this game saying to each other before they part ways, forced to separate because of the Syria’s civil war.

In Bury Me, My Love, you play as Majd, whose wife, Nour, is immigrating to Germany to settle down first before you join her in the future. It’s a mobile game that makes excellent use of the medium – it looks like an instant messaging app, as it’s the only way for the two of them to communicate.

New pieces of the story are revealed to you via push notifications, as though Nour were really texting you from afar. A lot of things can go wrong on the journey to safety, and even the moments of levity make you feel awful because you know that both characters are still in danger. It’s a tense game, made more so because it’s based on the real experiences of Syrian refugees.

3. Everything Is Going to Be OK

Developer: Nathalie Lawhead

Publisher: Nathalie Lawhead

Platform: PC

Everything Is Going to Be OK is abstract, painfully relatable, adorable, and grim. It’s an interactive zine that encapsulates so many different life experiences, and it’s an intensely personal exploration of some of the issues and ideas that developer Nathalie Lawhead has grappled with at different points in her life. It’s darkly comedic, but also ultimately optimistic. And you should play, like, right now.

2. What Remains of Edith Finch

Developer: Giant Sparrow

Publisher: Annapurna Interactive

Platform: PC, Mac, Xbox One, PlayStation 4

What Remains of Edith Finch is a slow burn. It retells the story of a cursed family death by death, and with each new tale, we fill in the gaps of what exactly this curse meant. Everyone dealt with it differently. Walter retreated into fear, while Edith Jr.’s mother reacted with anger and decisive action.

The writing in What Remains of Edith Finch is terrific – a beautiful narrative with fantastic voice acting. But more than that, the mechanics in each story reflect what’s happening. In one, you sit on a swing hanging from a tree and move your legs back and forth, pushing it higher into the air. In another, you use the right stick to control a tiny fantasy character and the left stick to control Lewis Finch as he gradually loses himself in his imagination.

Paying attention to details really adds an extra bit of heartbreak – like in Sam and Calvin’s room, you can see their heights marked on their bedroom door every year. Calvin’s height reaches that of a grown man; Sam’s stops short, as he passed away when he was young. What Remains of Edith Finch is cinematic, and it hits all the emotional beats hard.

1. Night in the Woods

Developer: Infinite Fall

Publisher: Finji

Platform: PC, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, Xbox One, PlayStation 4

Night in the Woods‘s Kickstarter campaign ended four years ago, and when I finally got my backer key in January, I experienced a tumult of emotions. Even though Infinite Fall had released fantastic companion games like Longest Night and Lost Constellation in the intervening years, I worried about being disappointed. Would this game be everything I thought it was going to be? The answer: Yes.

I love everything about Night in the Woods – ominous dream sequences filled with deep indigo blues and sinister reds, casual references to fluid sexuality, random minigames, barely contained anger and melancholy. I still listen to the soundtrack at least every other week.

Its landscape is familiar to me, speckled with dead malls and blown-out junkyards as well as marvelously rich and beautiful trees in the fall. The characters’ friendships feel real – some are defined with easy acceptance, and others by simmering resentment, the kind that arises when you’re stuck with someone and you can’t get out. This is the kind of game I wanted to play when I was a little queer girl growing up in Ohio.

You play as college drop-out Mae, who returns to her hometown Possum Springs and in no time finds an arm on the ground. Something sinister is afoot, compounded by her eerie dreams that leave her restless and confused.

The hints at cosmic horror are intriguing, but what brings Night in the Woods alive is the town. It’s got countless secrets: side characters who each have their own stories and personal struggles; and minigames, like building robots or doing crime. No matter how flippant or comedic the characters are, you feel that there’s a deep throbbing wound at the center of this place. It’s an incredible adventure, and I can’t wait to check out the Weird Autumn “director’s cut” edition that just came out.

The PC Gaming channel is presented by Intel®‘s Game Dev program.

Heartland Tech Weekly: Our top stories from 2017


Happy Holidays! Given that it’s a slow news week, I’m going to take this week’s newsletter to highlight some of my favorite stories we’ve published in the Heartland Tech section this year, in addition to some of the best stories we published this week.

This story on 5 U.S. cities Amazon should consider for HQ2 was our most-viewed one on the Heartland Tech channel this year. The cities were: Austin, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Columbus, and Salt Lake City. If I had to write the list over again, I probably would have added a Southern city, such as Atlanta or Dallas, to the mix. It’s worth noting as the Amazon HQ2 decision draws closer that some of the most critical resources that the ecommerce giant will be looking for in its second headquarters include: available real estate, access to plenty of tech talent, and, of course, generous tax subsidies.

I also covered an eye-opening study from the Economic Innovation Group, which found that nearly 3 in 4 jobs go to the top 40 percent of communities in the U.S. I highly suggest reading the study if you haven’t to understand how large the gap between economically prosperous and economically distressed communities in the U.S. is becoming. It’s a topic that we’ll be discussing at VentureBeat’s inaugural BLUEPRINT event, which will take place March 5-7 in Reno, Nevada. If you’re interested in joining the discussion, you can request your invite here.

One of our guest writers, Dustin McKissen, wrote about an early stage fund for rural startups launched by the state of Colorado and how it can serve as a model for the nation. As McKissen wrote, this fund “sends an important message to rural residents, who feel increasingly feel left behind by a rapidly changing economy.”

Finally, Byron Auguste and Yolanda Townsend, from a nonprofit called Opportunity at Work, discussed how Heartland startups can help ease the talent scarcity in their city by considering more applicants from non-traditional backgrounds. Their premise is simple: If you can do the job, you should get the job.

I’m looking forward to telling more stories about the Heartland in 2018. As always, please send news tips or feedback to me via email, and please remember to share these #HeartlandTech stories on TwitterLinkedIn, and Facebook.

Thanks for reading,

Anna Hensel

Heartland Tech Reporter

Please enjoy this video from CNBC, “New tax plan could accelerate Californians leaving the state

From the Heartland Tech Channel

3 disruptive industries that will thrive in the southern U.S. next year

GUEST: In the U.S., the Southeast’s tech ecosystem is traditionally strong in a few defined sectors: Fintech, SaaS, and health IT are among the industries thriving in terms of successful exits, high-growth companies, and venture dollars. But just as the broader tech scene is constantly changing, new industries will emerge and pick up steam in the […]

Read the full story

Over the holidays, Bay Area transplants should check out the tech industry in their hometown

GUEST: I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for 11 years before moving to London for three, but my wife and I grew up in the Midwest, which meant annual trips home for the holidays. Our nights were usually packed with family events or reconnecting with old friends, but our days were relatively free. In […]

Read the full story

The wolf of Main Street: Loup Ventures’ Gene Munster on the Midwest, AI, and Apple

Many VC firms pride themselves on being based in Silicon Valley, where the action is. The region may attract top talent and create an undeniably powerful network effect, but the Heartland has its fair share of innovative startups and funding. After working for 21 years as a research analyst at Piper Jaffray, Gene Munster decided […]

Read the full story

Heartland Tech’s 2018 predictions: Seed capital, apprenticeships, and HQ2 publicity stunts

OPINION: In 2017, there seemed to be an uptick in tech companies looking to connect with the Heartland. Following the 2016 U.S. presidential election, “coastal elites” were left wondering why their perspective on the issues facing America was so different from that of the rest of the country. It wasn’t surprising that tech leaders in Silicon […]

Read the full story

Beyond VB

Are VCs toxic? Not in the Midwest

Eric Paley of Founder Collective recently argued in TechCrunch that “VC kills more startups than slow customer adoption, technical debt and co-founder infighting – combined.” (via Lewis & Clark Ventures)

Read the full story

Chicago Tech raised $113M in December

Chicago-area tech and startup companies received at least $113 million in venture capital funding in December as the year comes to a close. (via Chicago Inno)

Read the full story

This policy helped build Missouri’s innovation districts, and it might be going away

Three years ago, I took a risk and started a marketing and public relations consulting company. Starting my own firm meant giving up a steady paycheck, which was something that I (and most other people) take very seriously. (via Silicon Prairie News)

Read the full story

CubeMonk lauded at forefront of disruptive blockchain cryptocurrency revolution

Momentum is building for Kansas City-based CubeMonk – and the blockchain cryptography platform behind it is poised to go further than most people can even imagine, said Todd Haselhorst. (via Startland News)

Read the full story

Britain is having trouble recruiting new spies because Facebook and Google pay ‘five times more’

spying surveillanceREUTERS/Aly Song

  • GCHQ, one of the UK’s spy agencies, is having trouble hiring new talent because big tech firms can pay up to five times more.
  • As the threat from foreign hackers ramps up, the agency needs more cyber specialists to counteract attacks on the government and critical infrastructure.
  • The agency fell short of its recruitment targets by 22% in 2016, but said the problem could partly be solved by speeding up its vetting process.

The UK’s surveillance agency, GCHQ, is having trouble recruiting new spies, because current and potential spooks want to take better-paid jobs at big tech firms such as Apple, Google, and Facebook.

We first saw the news via Quartz.

A December report from the government’s security services watchdog, the Intelligence and Security Committee, cited GCHQ representatives who said big tech firms could offer “four or five times more” for cyber and security specialists than the agency could.

The news is troubling, as the report acknowledges that the threat from foreign hackers is growing. This year alone, there were attacks on MPs from hackers who tried to guess their email passwords, and the devastating WannaCry attack which almost crippled the NHS

GCHQ, a domestic agency which is responsible for surveillance, also said it would speed up the vetting process to try and address its backlog of potential recruits.

Here’s what the report from the watchdog said:

“[The] continued expansion of cyber-related work is dependent on the Government’s ability to recruit and retain cyber specialists. GCHQ previously told us that it struggles to attract and retain a suitable and sufficient cadre of in-house technical specialists because it inevitably has to compete with big technology companies which are able to pay significantly more. In 2013, we were told that GCHQ had implemented more flexible reward packages for technical specialists. Now this has had time to become established, we questioned whether it was having the desired effect. GCHQ informed us that ‘[this] has worked up to a point. It stemmed the flow of people going out in particular areas at particular stages of their career’ but that ‘we do lose people for salaries. We couldn’t possibly compete with four, five times what they are getting from us.'”

GCHQ reported a 22% shortfall in recruitment for 2015 going into 2016, but said it would boost the number of people vetting new spies. It had 51 in June 2016, and aims to have 110 by 2018. The agency wants to increase its headcount by 14% over the next four years, aiming for a total of 6,639 staff by March 2020.

It isn’t news that big tech firms hire spies, though the reasons why vary from cybersecurity to actual spying on competitors. An explosive legal letter recently claimed that ride-hailing firm Uber hired former CIA operatives to dig out competitor trade secrets and eavesdrop on private WhatsApp conversations.

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