GDL Presents: Women Techmakers & ClearStreet


[MUSIC PLAYING] MEGAN SMITH: Hello, and welcome
to Women Techmakers. This is a series that we
created for the Google Developer Live channel to
highlight the extraordinary women in our industry who are
making some of the amazing products that we
all use today. We are lucky to have Kim
Polese here with us. And so just quickly, at Google,
I’m a vice president at Google X. I’ve been here for
almost 10 years, worked on lots of different things, led
new business development, did lots of acquisitions, like
Google Earth and Maps and Picasa, and love working
in technology. PAVNI DIWANJI: And I’m
Pavni Diwanji. I’m one of the engineering
directors on Google+. And I’m really happy to be here
interviewing Kim, who I worked with a long,
long time ago. KIM POLESE: Exactly, yes. MEGAN SMITH: Welcome, Kim. KIM POLESE: Thank you. MEGAN SMITH: That’s really– we’re going to get into what
amazing things you’re doing. But that’s really an amazing,
fun moment. Because Kim, you’re
the founding product manager for Java. KIM POLESE: Right. MEGAN SMITH: That’s amazing. And you were in the Java team. PAVNI DIWANJI: I was one
of the engineers for the Java team. MEGAN SMITH: You guys have
to tell us about that. Like how did you– tell us more. KIM POLESE: Well, first
of all, it’s so great to see Pavni. PAVNI DIWANJI: I know. KIM POLESE: It’s actually
been 15 years or so, so here we are reunited. It was an amazing, extraordinary
experience to be on the Java team. It was a very intense
experience. We had some near-death
experiences along the way to getting Java out to the world. But it was incredibly,
incredibly rewarding, because of the people on that team,
the most extraordinary engineers, developers,
technologists that I’ve ever worked with. PAVNI DIWANJI: Kim, you have to
tell us the story of how it was all born and how
Oak became Java. KIM POLESE: Yes, it was– it’s
actually an amazing story. A small team of some of Sun’s
best software engineers wanted to build a software system of
the future, for the future, for a network world which
didn’t yet exist. And Steve Jobs was actually
trying to recruit them away to come to Next to do that. And basically Scott McNealy,
Bill Joy, and a handful of Sun’s executives, founders, said
stay, build it here, and actually spun off a separate
company called First Person to create this software environment
for this network world that didn’t yet exist. I came on as the product
manager at this point. So there was a technology,
but not yet a way to bring out to the world. And we made multiple attempts
at doing that. PAVNI DIWANJI: There were
several misfires. KIM POLESE: Exactly. The Newton, which was the
state-of-the-art when it came to mobile devices, Apple’s
first attempt at the smartphone or smart device. There was the set-top
box market. This was the early interactive
TV trials. Set-top boxes were actually
SGI boxes that cost about $20,000 apiece. So none of this was ready
for prime time. And we were really struggling,
trying to figure out how to get this incredible,
extraordinary software out to the world and make
it ubiquitous, which was the goal. It was ubiquity or go home. And right at this critical
moment when it looked like we were really failing at this,
Mosaic came along. And so we realized, we could
create the world’s first interactive browser and actually
bring interactivity and applications applets into
browsers versus just text, static text. And so that really opened the
floodgates to getting developers to use
this technology. We renamed it Java from Oak. And then everything changed
in one day– March 23, 1995. PAVNI DIWANJI: How did
you convince– I know you were one of the key
people who convinced that we should put out Java free and
not bother to have any constraints on it. Because this is– I think developers would like
to hear what prompted that decision, what drove
that decision. MEGAN SMITH: Because
that’s a very– PAVNI DIWANJI: That
was a key moment. MEGAN SMITH: And it
was when things like that didn’t happen. KIM POLESE: Yes. That’s true. MEGAN SMITH: That’s a very
normal thing now. People like free, and then
there’s some freemium. There’s some other way
that money comes. But that’s a really
extraordinary decision. KIM POLESE: Right. Giving it away free, publishing
the full spec, everything open. The fact that Bill Joy was
involved and was really part of this from the beginning
was critical. Because Bill really understood
the importance– obviously with his background in
bringing UNIX to the world, the importance of open systems
and open software. So he, along with the
core members of the team, went to Scott. And it really didn’t take a lot
of convincing just to get them to say yes, because
they understood. Sun came from that background. The network is the computer,
open systems, UNIX. So it was philosophically
aligned with Sun’s roots. But again, I just really give
a lot of credit to Scott McNealy, Bill Joy, Andy
Bechtolsheim, the core founders of Sun, who shepherded
this project along even when things looked bleak,
and then took a risk and let us give it away to the world. PAVNI DIWANJI: I think this
might be a good lead to talk to you little bit about your
journey and what prompted– I was amazed when I learned
that here you are. Java’s really successful. You are at the top
of the hill. Then you decided to kind
of throw it all away and do a start-up. [INTERPOSING VOICES] MEGAN SMITH: So she’s ready
for her next thing. PAVNI DIWANJI: Yeah, I’m like,
what kind of thought process you went through? What was your journey
like in terms of entering the Marimba world? KIM POLESE: It was actually
a very exciting moment. It was sort of the birth of
the internet as we know it today, the commercial
internet. Netscape– Mosaic Communications, it was
called at the time– had just been founded. And we had just released Java. And I started talking with a
few of my colleagues on the Java team, specifically Arthur
van Hoff, Sami Shaio, and Jonathan Payne, three of the
most extraordinary software engineers on the planet. And we started thinking about
what we could bring to the internet now. How could we take Java to the
next level and actually enable businesses to build
enterprise-class applications on this platform? So more than just applets
and browsers. And we realized we could build
a whole software system to enable applications
to be remotely distributed, updated, managed. And that was really radical
stuff to go outside the firewall and do that in a
disconnected use environment. This was all very new. So we got excited about
basically taking Java to the next level. It was also the fact that I
would have the opportunity to work with these three
engineers who– when you get the chance
to work with extraordinary people. And then on top of that, to
found and build a company. I wanted to learn. I wanted to learn
how to do that. I wanted to just sort
of go out there. And even if we crashed and
burned, we would learn a lot. And I realized I couldn’t learn
that anywhere else other than just doing it. So it was kind of the
combination of all those things happening that made it
a no-brainer ultimately. It was hard to leave Sun,
because I loved Sun. I worked at Sun for
seven years. I was so excited about Java
becoming now a key direction for Sun and really shaping
a lot of the strategy going forward. But this was such a unique
opportunity. And these three co-founders
were extraordinary. MEGAN SMITH: It’s an
interesting thing. Sometimes people talk about,
when’s the time to leave, per se, and transition
to new things. And I think one the best things
is when you’re pulled. KIM POLESE: That’s true. MEGAN SMITH: Not
feeling pushed. Like maybe if you’re in a bad
environment, you need to go. But it’s really like being drawn
with your passion into the next thing. Eric Schmidt always says life
is who you travel with. So your point about the
colleagues that you had loved working with that were so
extraordinary and being able to go forward with them into
the next adventure– KIM POLESE: So true. MEGAN SMITH: –which was
actually building on the adventure before, is
a great thing. KIM POLESE: Exactly, yeah. I find that it’s really– I think Eric’s quote
is right on. It’s about who you
travel with. MEGAN SMITH: So Marimba is right
in the middle of the beginning of the web. KIM POLESE: Right. MEGAN SMITH: So I don’t know. I was running Planet Out at
that time, so it was an extraordinary time. Everybody knew each other, and
it was this whole thing with going crazy. Maybe it was the echo chamber,
maybe not, but it was– people were on fire with it,
really passionate about what was happening. Early– what year was Marimba? KIM POLESE: January 1996
we founded the company. MEGAN SMITH: Because in ’96 and
’97, even into ’98, people were building and things
were starting, but it still wasn’t broad. Like ’99 is the Prince song. It was this crazy year. KIM POLESE: It reached
its peak of madness. MEGAN SMITH: I actually know
somebody who took a photograph of every person she
met that year. And it’s like got to be the
story of all these crazy companies that existed and
parties, and there was so much money because the
VCs were in big. KIM POLESE: Exactly. We went from being this
backwater of geeks here in the Valley to suddenly being
the new Hollywood. MEGAN SMITH: Right. KIM POLESE: It was weird. MEGAN SMITH: And then we sort
of went off a cliff. PAVNI DIWANJI: Marimba, I
remember, it was the darling of the press in that two-,
three-year period. KIM POLESE: Yeah, there
weren’t a lot of start-ups at the time. And here we were, four people
coming out of the Java team. Woman CEO, so that was another
element to it. So yeah, the few companies that
were out there got a lot of attention, and we did, too. PAVNI DIWANJI: Tell us a little
bit about your personal journey, like jumping
off this– being on the product management
train to then taking on CEO and taking the
company from nothing to a public company. KIM POLESE: Yes. Actually, being a product
manager was a fabulous background to becoming
a founder and CEO. Because as a product manager,
you have the total scope of responsibility for taking this
lump of technology and making it a success in the market. MEGAN SMITH: At Google, we
almost think of it as mini CEO, so it’s funny
you said that. KIM POLESE: That’s exactly
right, exactly right. So my time at Sun was the
foundation for learning on the job to become a CEO. And Sun was kind of
a sink-or-swim environment, as you know. PAVNI DIWANJI: Yes, I do. KIM POLESE: You had to figure
stuff out on your own. And that’s what you have
to do as a CEO. So the other part of this was,
it was important to me to have the support of my co-founders
in being the CEO, and know that I was the right CEO for
that point in the company, and that I could mature along
as the company grew. And so I always sort of kept in
mind how I was maturing as the company grew as well. Am I still the right CEO
for the company? And I think that’s an
important thing any founder should do. MEGAN SMITH: That’s a
really interesting– so I was talking with my friend Mary Lou Jepsen recently. And when we were actually– this
was when we were all– we go to this great thing called
Silicon Valley Goes to the UK, which Kim and I go to, where
we’re talking to entrepreneurs. And Mary Lou drew this
triangle, this– it’s going to be
hard on camera. I don’t know if you guys can see
it– but a small triangle that said– I think it was maybe the CEO
of Adobe who told her this. When we’re in– she actually drew it up here. She said when you’re in a
start-up, you start small. And then you imagine that it’s
going to grow like this. And so the people who start
the company are somehow in charge of everybody forever. But she just said that’s
not what happens. What happens is the start-up
people are the start-up people. And actually, if you think of it
more like– this is kind of a messy drawing. But here’s the triangle here. This is the starting
group, and then the company grows out. And some of the team is
qualified or wants to go up like an Amazon. Jeff Bezos stays in the CEO, or
Larry and Sergey go up, and different people. And some people don’t. And some people actually love
the beginning, and they go to the next thing. It’s sort of very interesting. So as you were saying, here
you felt like, OK, I’m qualified to get to
the beginning. But then, am I learning enough
to keep staying in this leadership state and
keep doing that? And having also the trust
of your team is to learn as you guys go. KIM POLESE: Exactly. And what I also realized along
the way is, well, most CEOs have to do it. Everyone has to be a first-time
CEO, right? So everyone is figuring it out,
really, as they go along. And that confidence thing
was a really important breakthrough for me, realizing
wow, I can do this. Everyone else is figuring
it out as they go, too. So Jeff Bezos and Bill
Gates and everybody. PAVNI DIWANJI: It would be great
if you talk a little bit about the challenging or
the do-or-die moments through this journey. I’m sure there are
a bunch of them. MEGAN SMITH: Like in the very
early days, you have some funding, but you’ve got
to make payroll, those kinds of things. But also getting out there and
getting public, and some of the challenges with that. And then you guys eventually
were acquired, and some of those faces, and then grew. It continued to grow within. KIM POLESE: Right. MEGAN SMITH: And that stuff. KIM POLESE: So early days, we
actually were getting a lot of immediate offers for funding,
for venture funding. We were getting calls from VCs
because we were so high profile coming out
of the Java team. And it was sort of all this excitement about these start-ups. We didn’t want to take
funding, actually. We wanted to build a product and
get some users, and then once we had something we felt
confident we could take to market, then go out and start
to talk to investors. And that turned out to be a
really good thing, for a variety of reasons. For focus– basically for nine months, the
four of us were in this little tiny space that we rented. And my three co-founders
were cranking away. And I was building the business
plan and figuring out how to take this technology and
make it into a product. And those nine months were so
valuable because We built a really strong product that today
is still the foundation of this product line at BMC,
which was the acquirer. My three co-founders
built an amazing product during that time. And as we know, the smaller
the team, oftentimes, the better the code and
the product. And we also were able to focus
on getting user feedback. So we did that. And then, once we went out and
got funding, of course, we built value. So we were able to retain more
equity in the company as the four co-founders. So then we were able
to go out and talk to the venture community. And Kleiner Perkins funded
the company. We were part of the Java
fund, and we had great investors in them. So we had a wonderful
launching. And then we were into
the madness of the whole internet craze. And one thing that I found
challenging was realizing that what the outside world perceives
you do or are is not necessarily true. In other words, you can’t
control, oftentimes, perception. Because here we were, this
enterprise software company, and the outside world
wanted us to be a dot-com consumer company. MEGAN SMITH: That’s the stuff
that’s on the cover of– KIM POLESE: Exactly. That’s the sexy stuff. So there was this thing
called push. There was a company called
PointCast, which was doing something pretty revolutionary,
which was sending, basically, broadcasts
of content, like sports scores, weather, that kind of
thing, to your screensaver. And this was on all the
screensavers of all the CEOs all over the Valley. And everyone was trying
to figure out what this thing was. Well, we kind of got lumped
into, oh, you must be a push company, but we were
very different. We were selling to Fortune
1,000, Fortune 500 companies who wanted to deploy
enterprise-class applications across the internet. So that became really
challenging. And I finally realized
at a certain point, I can’t control this. All we can do is
really execute. We’ve built a great product. We have a great team. We just have to build and
scale this thing. And eventually, people will
realize what we do. And that took longer than I
thought, that realizing part. The building part didn’t
actually take longer than I thought. It happened a lot faster because
there was so much demand from business for this
software to run an internet set of applications. PAVNI DIWANJI: Did you have
challenges when you tried to take what Marimba had produced
and tried to sell it in this traditional enterprise? How did they look at
you as a woman CEO coming in from the Valley? KIM POLESE: I’d never
thought about that. You know how it is? You just don’t think about the
fact that you’re a woman. You’re just doing your job. One thing that actually worked
very well is, I hired the West Coast Regional Sales
Manager for Tivoli. Tivoli was an IBM company that
basically was the last century version, or last-generation of
systems management software. We were next-generation systems
management software. So he knew how to sell against
our competitors, who were the incumbents. And so that allowed us to
get off the ground. We went from $0 to $10 million
in the first year and kept doubling revenue
year over year. So we ended up burning very
little cash, ultimately using very little of money we raised,
because we were already successful out of the
gate, because there was a market that we could
sell into as the next-generation software. So it actually worked
very well. It’s just the outside world
perceived that we were this consumer company. And then there was this whole
myth that developed around, well, they were a consumer
company, but they failed at that. So then they had to totally
regroup and start all over again, which was fine. It doesn’t matter what the world
thinks as long as you know that you’re building
something of quality, and people are getting
value out of it. And our customers were. MEGAN SMITH: So a bunch of
different directions. So maybe we should jump into, at
that same time, you started to get very active– or the Valley– you’re sort of tracked
as the internet came. Here in Silicon Valley, we
started to engage with Washington. KIM POLESE: Yes. MEGAN SMITH: We started to
understand that technology policy was really important. And a lot of it wasn’t
being informed by the industry creators. And you were one of the
champions of doing that. So can you talk a little bit
about those days at the time, and what were the few
issues that really kind of woke us up. KIM POLESE: Yes, absolutely. Yeah, I got a call from John
Doerr in ’96, early ’96. Do you want to go
to Washington to meet with Al Gore? And this was right at the
beginning of the Valley’s engagement, as you
were saying, in the political process. What really tipped it off,
sort of instigated that engagement in the mid ’90s was
securities litigation. There was a lot of basically
frivolous lawsuit filings going on. Basically every company in
the Valley was being hit by these lawsuits. And so we realized, we have
to be at the table. If you’re not at the table,
you’re on the menu, and that’s basically what was happening. And so there was a much broader
set of issues beyond securities litigation. So that included getting
broadband network deployed, figuring out encryption, policy
around encryption, ultimately later privacy. And it’s not always fun engaging
in the sort of down-and-dirty political process
of negotiating and– PAVNI DIWANJI: But
it’s necessary. KIM POLESE: –and compromising, but it’s necessary. And it’s actually really
interesting stuff when you get to the policy side because you
can craft policies that really drive growth, economic growth. And policymakers– senators, members of Congress–
have 1,000 different issues they’re dealing
with, and they don’t always know stuff you
assume they know. So you have to be there having
that conversation. And it just takes continual
presence and engagement. And I actually have
grown to love it. MEGAN SMITH: And you’ve
done a fair amount. So you guys went out and you
met with Gore, with Vice President Gore at the time. And then was TechNet
existing yet? Or was– KIM POLESE: It was really
at the founding moment in the 90s. John Chambers, John Doerr,
small group, got it off the ground. MEGAN SMITH: And they’re
still going strong. KIM POLESE: Very much, yeah. MEGAN SMITH: And are you still
involved with them? KIM POLESE: Yes, yes. I’m on the executive council. And it’s a unique organization
in that it’s direct CEO engagement, a lot of policy
organizations, or advocacy organizations, or government
affairs folks who are critical as part of the process,
but not CEOs. And this organization is very
much the CEOs engaged in the conversation at the table. MEGAN SMITH: Very cool. I think we have a screenshot
of TechNet. Yes, no, maybe? We could kind of show quickly
just so people see it. But– KIM POLESE: This whole SOPA,
PIPA, for example– MEGAN SMITH: Was one of the
most recent issues. But I think it’s so important
to not only have the conversation, but also have an
organization like TechNet where we can be a resource
to policymakers– KIM POLESE: Right, exactly. MEGAN SMITH: –and available
to them. KIM POLESE: And bipartisan,
nonpartisan. The point is to move the
conversation along and figure out solutions rather than
getting stuck in these polarized political
dog fights. MEGAN SMITH: Right. Thanks for your work there. KIM POLESE: Happy to serve. MEGAN SMITH: We need you. PAVNI DIWANJI: Do you want
to– maybe we can talk a little bit more on Marimba and
how you kind of maneuvered the public waters and how the
company got acquired. I think a lot of entrepreneurs
in the audience or who are viewing would like to
know, like, when do you make the decision? Do you keep going, or do you
just say, that’s it, the price is right, or the
time is right? MEGAN SMITH: And also an
interesting thing, having worked on lots of acquisitions
at Google, it’s our incredible engineers like Pavni and others
have invented a lot of stuff here. But actually, probably, if you
look at our portfolio of products, I don’t know if it’s
half, but a very large number of them were made by people
who invented them here, including Larry and Sergey in
the beginning with search, and then a lot of stuff through
incredible acquisitions where teams came in and then
built from there. And it was really great
to hear that BMC is going forward. So they’re sort of like– the point of we’re building this
thing, but is it actually better leverage at some point
to jump in with someone else and then build even bigger? I think in some ways the Keyhole
team always talks about that with Google Earth,
like, what we were able to achieve together was something
that neither of us would have been able to do apart. KIM POLESE: Right, right. It’s always a difficult decision
about whether and when to sell. For us, we were from the
beginning a successful enterprise software company. We were able to get to
profitability, actually, shortly after we went public,
which was quite unusual at the time. MEGAN SMITH: Which was
certainly incredibly revolutionary at the time People
would say, we’re a pre-revenue company. And you’re like, well, what’s
your revenue plan? They’re like, well,
I don’t know. We’ll figure it out later. KIM POLESE: We were going around
$50 million in revenue at the time. MEGAN SMITH: Wow. KIM POLESE: And basically
the bubble burst. And there was this very weird
period, which, now I’ve lived through a couple– several cycles. But at this time, it was
basically a lot of Sandhill Road, frankly. Conventional wisdom was saying
enterprise software is dead. Search is dead. Advertising is dead. It was– everyone went mad. MEGAN SMITH: I used to joke that
they were saying this is dead, but they were
doing it on email. [LAUGHTER] MEGAN SMITH: The internet’s
dead. We’re all clicking,
surfing around. It was that we were sort of way
out ahead of ourselves in a lot of ways. But actually, what’s so
interesting, having been in those moments, is they play
out at some point. Maybe in a different form, but
many of the ideas happen. KIM POLESE: Exactly. So the entrepreneurs and the
founders and the developers, of course, weren’t paying
attention to all those pronouncements. They were just getting down to
the work of building software and continuing to build
the company, which is what we were doing. So we had a lot of customers who
were really depending on the software for a lot of their
foundational internet business apps. We didn’t really miss a beat. What happened was the world
around us went crazy, and our stock price plummeted. And at one point, the stock was
worth less than the cash we had in the bank. We had $60 million in the bank,
and the stock was worth like $42 million. And we had no debt. So that was how crazy
things had gone. But basically, we
hung in there. And that’s a lesson that I’ve
learned again and again, is persistence, not giving up, even
when everyone around you saying, you’re crazy,
give it up. PAVNI DIWANJI: I think it’s
a necessary gene for entrepreneurs. KIM POLESE: Absolutely. PAVNI DIWANJI: Or else
you do not survive. KIM POLESE: Yes. MEGAN SMITH: Encourage. You now, somebody announces
something that’s exactly what you’re doing. You’re like, oh no, but then
time plays out, and you go into competition. It’s like, it’s fine. KIM POLESE: Things work out. MEGAN SMITH: Staying
at the table. KIM POLESE: Yeah, as long as
you know you’re building something of value that
the world needs, just keep doing it. So that’s what we kept doing. And so eventually, the
market recovered. Our stock price recovered. We had started a relationship
already with BMC, a partnership. It turned out that they were
really a very good fit for us in terms of distribution
channel, a way to get a lot more volume in the market. So the acquisition turned
out very well, I think, for everybody. And in fact, the core team– there was a core team that
remained, in fact. Several employees are still at
BMC, as far as I know, one of whom became the CTO of BMC. So it ended up being a
great acquisition, I think, for them. MEGAN SMITH: In both
directions. KIM POLESE: In both
directions. MEGAN SMITH: That’s good. PAVNI DIWANJI: So after that,
I’m sure you had a choice, like, having taken a company
from nothing to a successful public company. So what made you plunge
into the start-up world all over again? You wanted to do it
all over again? KIM POLESE: I guess I’m
officially a serial entrepreneur. I confess. I just love founding and
building companies. I love being on a mission
with smart people out to change the world. I mean, I think there’s just
nothing more exhilarating professionally or in
life in general. And so this was SpikeSource. It was the next company I did. This was an open source company
that was focused basically on helping businesses
and people use open source software much
more easily. So we were automating the
management of open source stacks, application stacks. And the open source business
was an interesting one as a market, a challenging one, and
particularly during the economic times, ultimately,
that we all lived through. But the company that we built
was very powerful. And ultimately now, we’re seeing
all around us, this automation of open source
software and stack management. We were a cloud company, of
course, before people were talking about cloud
and all of that. And this has been kind of a
persistent theme for me. I started my career, actually,
in artificial intelligence and expert systems software back
when that was hot. And then it sort of went
through its cycles. And now, of course, AI
is everywhere, but no one calls it AI. We get excited about things. We get ahead of ourselves. But we, as entrepreneurs and
founders, keep building. And eventually, the
world needs it. And so that’s what happened
with SpikeSource. I just love that process. PAVNI DIWANJI: A lot of the
audience today is going to be developers primarily. So maybe you can spend a little
bit of time on your learnings around open source
software and developer community, like your tenure
at SpikeSource. KIM POLESE: Yes. Well, one of the things that I
just find so rewarding and exciting is the fact that open
source has really unleashed this army of software
developers globally. And back when I was growing up
in the software world at Sun, working for Eric Schmidt,
actually, who was running a software product division at
that time, software systems were closed. And it was very difficult to
get access to software. It was expensive. And everything changed when
the internet came along. We’ve seen such an incredible
explosion of creativity. The developers were the ones
that really made Java successful. They built the applets. There wasn’t any kind of
marketing campaign. There was no marketing
campaign. It was the developers
who did it. And it’s the developers who
are changing the world. And open source is really
enabling that. So I’m thrilled, as a software
geek from way back, to see what’s happened. MEGAN SMITH: It’s
sort of the– like Wikipedia, the creativity
kind of opens up. KIM POLESE: Yeah. MEGAN SMITH: I was lucky to
work with General Magic really, really early on. And Andy Rubin was there,
who’s the Android lead. And we were working
on, whatever, these little devices. But they were this big. One time the Motorola CEO
sent us an actual brick in the mail. [LAUGHTER] MEGAN SMITH: But we were even
before open source. So we thought that we needed an
alliance, very much in an ’80s model, the way that Apple
or Microsoft and developer communities– but it was much more
controlled. KIM POLESE: Very much so. MEGAN SMITH: And then Andy, of
course, went on to do Danger and Sidekick. And I think in that case,
he also faced– these are getting smaller. And Sidekick was awesome. But still, the closed nature of
the way that the carriers were treating the app
store equivalent. Like it was in their version
in their way. You had to talk to them. They would bless it. Maybe they would brand it. Much tighter controlled network
side, so even the devices were trying
to open up. And so in some ways, I think
Android is his– it’s their time to watch the movie, and
to act in the movie, and to drive that and sort of– KIM POLESE: It’s cool. MEGAN SMITH: It’s cool to see
how open source in all forms and what he learned and what you
learned came full circle to really allow for the surface
area of the world’s creativity to act in concert– KIM POLESE: Exactly. MEGAN SMITH: –with
open standards. It’s an amazing innovation. In a lot of ways, I think the
21st century is very much about openness. KIM POLESE: Absolutely. MEGAN SMITH: And it’s
interesting with your government work in that as we
see government transparency come forward, or even
lightweight things in the early ’90s where open source
comes, so does truth and reconciliation in South Africa
as South Africa transitions, and this idea of openness
and more. KIM POLESE: Right. MEGAN SMITH: It’s an
extraordinary thing. KIM POLESE: It is. It’s changing the world in
amazingly profound ways. And what’s great is being able
to participate in that, both in big companies and
also start-ups. Software developers are
changing the world. That’s basically the
bottom line. MEGAN SMITH: And those
who team up. Let’s talk about ClearStreet,
because that’s a real change idea, which is incredibly
exciting. And I think maybe borne out of
the ideas of Occupy Wall Street and unfairness and
how do we help people– say more about what you’re
thinking with that. KIM POLESE: So I think everyone
knows, there’s a huge problem with debt. And in fact, something like 43%
of American households are 90 days away from being
in poverty, from going off a cliff. People just don’t
have savings. And now the credit card debt
is a trillion, a massive, massive problem people
are facing. And the solutions today– payday lenders, just the kind
of options that exist are really bad. So we started looking at
the power of social. How could we use the power of
people helping each other both on the savings side and also on
the buying everyday items side to build assets and
to get out of debt? And we started looking at
something called rotational credit, which has existed
for centuries. It’s very prevalent all over
the world, particularly in immigrant communities or in
under-banked communities, where people don’t have access
to traditional banks. And small groups of people
agreeing to get together, say, once a week or once
a month save a certain amount of money. And then once a week, if they’re
doing it on a weekly basis, one person goes home with
all of the contributions from that week. And so it’s a way of getting
access to lump sums of cash. And the social contract that
exists between people, kind of Weight Watchers style, when
people know they’ve got some pressure from their friends
to follow through on their commitment, they do. MEGAN SMITH: Professor Eunice
did some of that with microloans around each person
getting a loan and having support from each other, and a
little pressure, a little peer pressure to help you
get through that. KIM POLESE: Yeah. So its that kind of
foundational idea. And we’re taking that. We’re putting basically a social
and mobile later on that, so it’s easy to start
your own savings circle. And then we’re accelerating it
with merchant-funded rewards earned from everyday spending. So it’s kind of this idea of
loyalty, building merchant loyalty and earning rewards
savings, which go directly into your savings circle. Earn $1 off that item. That $1 goes in your savings
circle rather than disappearing in your pocket. MEGAN SMITH: Is this–
is that– KIM POLESE: So that’s
the basic idea. And it’s based on stuff that’s
been proven to work, this idea of saving circle or
rotational credit. Matched savings– so we’re basically taking the
merchant reward and creating, essentially, a form of
matched savings. So that kind of acceleration of
one’s own savings habits. And then prize link savings is
another thing that’s been proven to work. People, if they know that
there’s an incentive, like to win an iPad or something like
that, they will adopt good behavior or better behavior, for
example, take a financial literacy quiz, or adhere to a
savings goal or what have you, based on an incentive like
a prize, winning a prize. So we’re taking these kind of
concepts around behavioral economics that have actually
been proven to work in practice and putting technology
around it and creating a solution. The focus is on helping people
get faster access to cash so they can pay off debts and then
build long-term savings. And there’s a whole movement
across this country right now around asset building. And there’s also a whole new
generation of entrepreneurs who are building new kind of
financial services companies that are about making profits
and creating a success financially and also ensuring
that people get ahead financially instead of getting
further and further in debt. MEGAN SMITH: Using our tools to
help make a difference in this area, because it’s
hitting everyone. KIM POLESE: Right. PAVNI DIWANJI: And maybe you
can talk a little bit about what’s next for ClearStreet. Are you planning to do
internationally, go international? Are you just going to
be focused locally? KIM POLESE: So we’re starting
some small pilots locally here, but ultimately, this is
something that works globally. And it’s a solution that’s
ubiquitously used today in an analog world. And so our goal is ultimately
to have this be a global solution and product service. MEGAN SMITH: They’re
giving us a signal. We’ve got a little
bit more time. I wanted to know about your
dancing a little bit. You’re an amazing dancer. Say a little bit. PAVNI DIWANJI: I think a better
way to ask the question is, how do you balance– [LAUGHTER] KIM POLESE: I grew up dancing. I grew up here in
the Bay Area. I discovered ballet
when I was 14. I just never stopped dancing. And it’s always kept me sane. What’s great about dance, any
form of dance, is that it takes total focus. You can’t just zone out and run
on a stationary or cycle a stationary bike. You have to actually be
memorizing choreography. You have to be thinking about
every movement of your body, and position the arms,
and so forth. And it’s also incredibly
physically demanding. It kicks your butt. And so that’s been
this wonderful– really literally– balance in my
life, and a counterpoint to a very intense professional
life. And for me, what I’ve realized
is that everyone needs something that they’re
passionate about outside of what you do every day,
especially if you’re in a very intense work environment. And dance has been
that for me. MEGAN SMITH: It’s interesting,
just because getting– doing exercise– and most of the tech
companies have workout places, et cetera. But to think about that a little
bit differently, as you have, which is take something
that you’ve been passionate about as a young person and are
exceptionally great at, because I know your dancing,
and to keep that going as a parallel track for the classic
like, let me go run on the treadmill, which is also good. But it’s a really different
way of approaching it. KIM POLESE: Yes. MEGAN SMITH: I just thought it
was a very interesting thing. PAVNI DIWANJI: I have
one question in the same train of thought. What advice do you have for
young women out there? I saw your Forbes rebuttal
and loved it– bashing through the
stereotypes– and you standing up while
everyone was watching. So what advice would you give to
our young women developers who are either entering tech
or have just entered tech? KIM POLESE: Go for it. You’re better than you
think you are. And the opportunities
are just infinite– the opportunity to found a
company, to build a company, to lead a project, to
change the world. And we need more women
technologists and women in general, women leaders
doing that. MEGAN SMITH: Kim and I were
just in England for the Silicon Valley Comes
to the UK. And we were at Bletchley Park,
which is– and we have these books, which is the amazing
place where they cracked the Enigma codes during
World War II. And what was so interesting to
learn about this extraordinary place and the work that was
done– and really the founding of the modern computer
industry was there. Alan Turing was there– was that it was half women
and half men, and such an amazingly diverse group. KIM POLESE: Exactly. MEGAN SMITH: And so
we were lucky to meet some of the veterans. And they were totally
passionate, women and men in their nineties. KIM POLESE: Yes. MEGAN SMITH: Awesome. KIM POLESE: So inspirational. MEGAN SMITH: And I think
sometimes people don’t realize the kinds of teams we’re in. They think somebody’s coding
all alone or something. But it’s really– the tech industry is amazing. We hope that more people, young
men and young women, will join us. KIM POLESE: Yeah, absolutely. In fact, you’re right. I think people don’t realize how
social it is, the process of creating and building
technology. It’s very much about teams and
interactions of teams. And the importance of diversity
in really bringing all different views and
approaches is so critical and often overlooked. And it’s actually one of things
I love about Google is that you guys have really
prioritized that from the beginning. And Bletchley Park is definitely
worth a visit if you’re ever in the UK. MEGAN SMITH: 45 minutes of
train ride from London. Last question– heroes. KIM POLESE: Heroes. I would have to say my mom. I had an amazing mom. She grew up in a farm
in Denmark. World War II, the Nazis occupied
the farm, and kind of a very interesting beginning. And she just decided to leave
the farm, go travel the world, never went back. She was the only one of
her family not to. She had this attitude of– she was so positive and very
realistic about life, but also that perspective of never
give up– persistence. Keep at it. And she did against various
obstacles along the way, and she never lost her positive
attitude. And she was also incredibly
social person, very generous. Anyway, I’d have to see
my mom, hands down. MEGAN SMITH: Awesome. Thanks, Kim, for being here. KIM POLESE: My pleasure. MEGAN SMITH: Thanks to everybody
who joined us. And congrats on ClearStreet. I think it’s really
significant in your amazing history. Thanks for sharing with us. KIM POLESE: Thank you. It’s really an honor
to be here. Thank you both. PAVNI DIWANJI: It’s
great to catch up. MEGAN SMITH: Yeah. KIM POLESE: Exactly. MEGAN SMITH: Reunite, reunite. That’s awesome. [MUSIC PLAYING]

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