A Vision in Eye Care Innovation


eyefocus logo

Globally 280M people are visually impaired… 80% of eye disease can be cured.

Refraining from (*too many) eye-related puns, the scope of vision healthcare enormous and something that technology startups are well-poised to take advantage of.

What strikes me most about the eye care space is that it not only has huge commercial upside, but most of the potential market exist in third world countries. Traditionally out of sight, out of mind this offers a decidedly social focus to any startup choosing to solve these problems. Think charity:water for instance. In a world where everyone is creating a buzzy messaging service or vapid dating app, it would be refreshing to see truly innovative, successful, and altruistic products exist.

Cue EyeFocus, a freshly launched accelerator in Berlin, which is laser focused on this substantial market. The team is currently accepting startup applications for the first cohort, beginning in February. Should you know any healthcare startups which have set their sights on eye care, or a qualified program manager, reach out. They’ll be watching for you.

Because I believe in giving back, I’ve joined EyeFocus as a mentor and I’m looking forward to getting to know startups in this space. They have so much to offer this global economy.

…and because I simply can’t resist, I’ll just leave this here for you:


*Pun/idiom count: 8

Ello, A Case Study In App Adoption By The Gay Community


Screen Shot 2014-09-25 at 9.10.05 PM

The great gay Facebook exodus begins

Ello launched in March to a whisper and now suddenly finds itself experiencing incredible growth. It is the first time where my non-tech “normal” friends had heard of a startup prior to me. I find the critical mass surrounding it fascinating, but unsurprising.

The gay community has long felt undermined by Facebook, first with the exclusion of non-gender-specific pronouns and now with the removal of accounts using stage names, primarily those of fabulous drag queens. In their eyes, Ello gives them the freedom to be themselves in a way they aren’t currently finding on Facebook.

I live in the Castro, San Francisco and have many, many LGBTQI friends. Chatting with one of my queer-identified housemates tonight about Ello, I mentioned how it was experiencing an insane amount of sign-ups. Her response: “The queers will mobilize.”

Sound familiar? It bears repeating: if you want your product to get adopted quickly, focus on the gay community. And prepare your servers.

Shhhhhh, I’ve Got a Secret. Wanna Hear It?

reviews, thoughts

Secret App

Personally, after a rough couple of months, I’ve felt less compelled to spew my thoughts, location, pictures and whatnot out there into the ether. I deleted Facebook and Foursquare off of my phone, only use Twitter during the work week, and post to Instagram significantly less than I did much of last year. Following a sense that I wanted to circle the proverbial wagons a bit I backed off.

Perhaps this is the type of sentiment which makes Secret such a compelling new toy to play with. Is anonymity the new black?

Over the last couple of days I’ve engaged with Secret out of curiosity, and have some philosophical thoughts about the app itself as well as those of us who are posting on it. Please bear with me.

You’re Only As Sick As Your Secrets

A teacher has told me that I’m only as sick as my secrets, so I really shouldn’t have any. The idea behind it is that secrets can build resentment, which is pretty much like drinking poison and hoping someone else dies. In order to stay healthy, secrets need to come out. Some do this in therapy, some through 12-step programs, some rely on exceptional friends and loved ones to bounce things off of. Secret fills an interesting void in this respect, one that hasn’t existed online successfully.

Sure, anonymity exists, but it is traditionally one-sided. Formspring comes to mind, where the person answering questions was not shielded but the questioners were. One can have private accounts on Twitter and Facebook, but in theory everyone interacting with you is tied to an actual person. Secret keeps everyone anonymous and therefore (in theory) gives valuable space for thoughts to tumble out that one might not feel safe sharing otherwise, and room for support from friends who are also on the service.


Anonymity is a Trippy Thing

That being said, trolls exist everywhere, including in people’s friend circles. I’ve observed people in my network post things about infidelity that could easily be tracked back, commenters become venomous on threads, and people overall not behaving very friendly to each other. It is just as disheartening as it sounds.

Counter to that, most of what I’ve seen on the service is people crying for help with anxiety or depression, moving through heart break, professing love for their partner, or lamenting unrequited love. These are all incredibly challenging things to discuss with anyone, but my hope is that Secret shows these friends or friends of friends how much support they can get, which would encourage them to get the help they deserve or to walk through challenging situations.

What is fascinating to me is how one is perceived on the service. I posted something about trying to move through a broken heart (refer to first paragraph) and got some support, but people assumed I was a guy. I think this says more about society than it does me, but I’ll keep my political opinions to a minimum in this post.


Too Good To Be True?

I often use the saying “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” and this applies to Secret in a major way. The service will get hacked, simply because of the nature of the product itself. It is juicy. Curiosity about who is posting what will not be enough for some, so it is just a matter of time. To be safe, I’m not posting anything too racy.

The app is beautiful, well executed and an interesting concept. I’m curious about how it will evolve and if it will maintain the “masquerade ball” feel that the founders envision. My phone book is filled with decidedly late adopters, but the number of connections I have on the service grows daily. This bodes well for Secret, hopefully they’ll continue to promote the good so the circle of confidants can grow.

My Comment On The Matter: #hackdisrupt


Today marked the culmination of a lot of hard work put into the TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon. By all appearances it was the most successful one we’d ever produced: 800+ attendees, 40+ sponsors, 264 hacks submitted, 1,000+ attendees for the presentations. A rather large accomplishment by an incredibly dedicated team of event staff and TechCrunch writers and editors.

But all of that has been unfortunately overshadowed by a particularly tasteless, sexist, and horribly offensive app that wheedled their way on stage under a false hack name. The app they demoed was incredibly offensive to women and rightly angered a lot of people, of all genders. I was shocked at what happened on stage, worked to help address it in real time and have been thinking about the aftermath all day.

Here’s what I find most upsetting about my reaction: even though I was appalled, I wasn’t surprised. And that is society’s challenge. Somehow, even though I know what occurred on our stage was unconscionable, it felt almost commonplace to me because of how women are viewed overall. It is horrifying to admit that, especially in a public forum.

Lean In. Change the ratio. No more Miss Representation. Women deserve better. WE deserve better. It can be better. From the outburst I saw online today in the wake of the tasteless demo, women are not in the minority when it comes to outrage in the face of harassment and sexism. Which I appreciate, but it can grow.

Luckily, the brightest part in my day occurred shortly after the tasteless demo took place: a brilliant, charismatic, energetic and incredibly brave nine-year-old girl pitched her hack project to our judges and an audience of 1,100. That is what makes me feel more confident in the future of women in the United States, so I want to say “thank you” to her and her father who encouraged her to participate. She is our unbelievably bright future and I’m grateful to have met her.

We can change, we must change. Encourage it everywhere you go.

hamlet, self-acceptance and personal brand building


This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!

–Polonius, ‘Hamlet’ by William Shakespeare

A blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then, as the New York Times proved when they ran this piece on successful women in Silicon Valley who also care about fashion. Long have I judged myself for my innate interest obsession with all things stylish, fearing that if I cared as much as I do then I wouldn’t be taken seriously as a professional.

It appeared extreme at the time: I could either be stylish or I could be successful. No middle ground.

As I’ve matured, I’ve come to realize is that my style is as much a part of my brand (if you will) as my profession is. It is just one of the many components used to build the whole person that is me, and embracing that is an enormous part of living in self-acceptance. So then I continue to wear bright colors with abandon (pants in particular), delight in fabrics, accessorize rather than exercise, adore footwear, all the while loving tech and my hobbies; thriving in my occupation and personal life at the same time.

A multi-faceted Leslie is who I am and acceptance of that is key to my success as a human being. To my own self, I am true.


want app adoption? focus on the gays.


Gay Mobile Social Network Hornet Is Fabulous: Rakes In 150K Users With 150% MOM Growth

Honestly though.

Most mobile developers and entrepreneurs are looking to figure out a way to on-board “normals”, but if they really want to have their app adopted (and potentially make money) focus on the gay community. Just make sure your servers are ready for the onslaught.

a handy, dandy guide to dating in the digital age


Note: This post is a slight departure from the traditional high-minded chit-chat about mobile apps and technology startups…

Dating? Oy. Dating in the digital age? Yikes.

We live our lives online. We’ve adapted to publishing our every thought, concern, anecdote, humorous aside, EVERYTHING in public. Twitter, Facebook, Path…  you name it, we belong to it and if you’re like me, you tend to forget that there are people out there actively listening. Until that one time you happen to post something that could be slightly misconstrued and interpreted by a member of the opposite sex (or same sex if that is your jam) as “Hey! I’m single! Ask me out!”

…I apparently tweet out a variation of this every few months.

Anyway, this has happened to me several times: once a surprisingly happy experience that resulted in dating for a few months, once in an ambiguous “Did what I think happened just happen? No, thank you!” occurrence and most recently in an awkward please-make-it-stop spectacle.

“I’m glad I’m not a lady.” –dude who felt sorry for women as a result of these stories

Some gentle guidance seems to be necessary based on my experience, so I offer to you the Leslie Pro Tips for Dating in the Digital Age:

FIRST: Don’t ask someone out publicly. As in on your Twitter feed. (DM, while not ideal, is acceptable.) Don’t ever do this, no matter how long you’ve followed her and how fascinating you might think she is. It puts both of you in an uncomfortable position. You having a public trail of your inquiry. Her either ignoring you (not nice) or publicly saying no thank you (bitchy).

SECOND: Don’t tweet out to your followers requesting reasons why this woman (who, keep in mind, has not responded to your first solicitation) should accompany you to dinner. Just don’t. While nice, the inundation of kind words about you and why she should think you’re a catch are not necessary. In my case they only make me want to back away slowly. I mean, full disclosure: I like to be chased, but come on! It is too much.

THIRD: If your first few overtures have not been reciprocated, move on. Please? For everyone’s sake. Don’t @-reply her again over the following days with more reasons why she should go to dinner with you. This is when it starts to get creepy and you move firmly into 0% chance of date, 100% chance of being blocked land. No one wants that. We want to keep everyone’s dignity intact.

Lest we think I’m unfairly picking on anyone with this post, I surveyed my girlfriends to learn of their most disconcerting online experiences. Trust me, these types of things happen more than you’d think.

One friend has stopped posting to Twitter in real-time after a male acquaintance began appearing at her location as he “happened to be in the neighborhood.” Once or twice is a coincidence, but as it was happening so frequently it (rightly) freaked her out. As a result she’s checking in on Foursquare less and is tentative about social platforms in general where before she was an early-adopter.

Another girlfriend has a random person she went on one date with over two years ago consistently show up in her LinkedIn “Who’s Viewed Your Profile” section. Enough to make her wary and be grateful she’s not more active in other social media arenas.

In an attempt to tie this back to tech in some way, we’re stuck with these social mediums for now: Twitter, Highlight, Foursquare and the like. As has been mulled over before, if these companies want to survive women need to adopt them. If we’re barraged with unwanted advances, we won’t feel safe. If we don’t feel safe, we won’t use that technology. Refer to my post on Highlight for more thoughts on this. Something to keep in mind: “Just because you can [use these venues to ask a girl out], doesn’t mean that you should.”

Is this post harsh? Possibly. Will it result in a dating dry spell for me? Perhaps. It is a risk I’m willing to take because here’s the thing: how are men going to learn what works and what doesn’t if no one provides a little instruction? It is like that episode of Sex and the City that was so revolutionary for women. “Stop being weird online, you’re terrifying her!” is the new “He’s just not that into you.” I think it will totally work.

Oh, and I saved you the comments on how bitchy and pretentious this post is by tagging it appropriately. You’re welcome!


investigating the app graveyard phenomenon


Last week I backed up my iPhone and for whatever reason, iTunes decided to reinstall every app that I had ever downloaded and previously deleted from my device. It was quite the blast from the past, seeing all of my discarded interests reappear — jarring and slightly sad.

I’d had such high hopes for some of them, some didn’t suit my style, and some seemed to require more effort than I cared to put forth. It was almost like sifting through memories of old relationships, if I get slightly theatrical about it.

Perhaps you are different, but I regularly trim the overgrowth of apps on my phone. In what I’m sure isn’t a coincidence, lately a few of the folks I follow on Twitter have been talking about paring down the number of apps they maintain on their devices. As I respect these people greatly and have been doing the same, I began to consider my own current consumption and pruning habits.

What makes me decide to move on from an app so decisively that I delete it entirely? A few things come to mind.


Relevancy is key and must be one of the main things that keeps mobile app entrepreneurs up at night. If your app isn’t relevant then it has no traction. Unfortunately nothing stays relevant all the time. At one point I downloaded media apps with gusto: CNN, NPR, NBC News, SF Weekly to name a few. I was going to read the news, dammit. But then they sat idle, taking up valuable space on my device. And it occurred to me that I get all of the news I’m interested in from Twitter! Why keep these specific apps when one will do? The choice was clear: delete.

The big guys like the news outlet apps above give me no gut wrenching sensation when I cut them out. The mobile app startups do. I hem and haw because I feel an affinity for those setting out and doing something new, even more so when I respect the hell out of their investors. In some cases I know the entrepreneur behind the product, so it becomes more personal. However, if the app isn’t relevant for me anymore I can make the choice to do what’s best for me and my iPhone memory.

Life Direction

“The only constant is change.” –Heraclitus

A subset of relevancy. True in life, this applies to mobile consumption too. Things just change; sometimes for what initially appears to be no good reason. “Oooooh! I really LOVE the Nike+ running app!” becomes something different in no time if it starts to affect my mental health. As in life where relationships falter, where yoga doesn’t seem as appealing anymore, where I’m suddenly over a restaurant I enjoyed yesterday, etc., etc., ad infinitum, a question like “Do I absolutely need this clunky DeYoung Museum app all the time?” periodically surfaces. Sometimes I’m ready to let go when that directional shift occurs, sometimes I hang on. But the question does eventually come and preferences change.

“Spring Cleaning”

Sometimes it just feels good to delete stuff. How many people have I talked to who after completing a major Twitter or Facebook friend overhaul say “It felt so good!” The last grooming of my apps included not just deleting but also sorting my most used into folders and finally putting it all on my home screen. It has been a few weeks and periodically I forget where I’ve filed an app but when I went through that exercise I felt like I was accomplishing something. If I can’t recall the last time I launched a particular app, then it swiftly gets the axe when I’m in this mode. I am a Type A, do-er after all.

Since I’m a curious person, I thought I’d ask: how do you decide when to delete an app off your phone? Do you delete them at all? Are you as philosophical about it as I am (…apparently)? Tell me, tell me!

Image via iPhone How To