Can startups afford to be socially responsible?

In short, YES.

Today I read a post on Gigaom entitled “Can startups afford to be socially responsible?”. You should read the post to get all the facts but the short of it is this; startups can have B Corp. status. To become B Corp certified, companies must achieve 80 out of 200 possible points on a social and environmental assessment. And then there’s the cost of certification.

MetaCert is a socially responsible company due to the fact that we help to protect children from harmful content and some of our technology and resource is dedicated to helping The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) combat online child exploitation. However, I don’t believe we will ever dedicate any time, resource or money to apply for a certificate that says we do the above. We just do it.

We must all be more responsible in business and in society generally.

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Silicon Valley entrepreneurs must now ask where the actual investment is coming from

I’ve been following a story on PandoDaily this week with great interest. It’s about VC’s in Silicon Valley using “scouts” to find and invest in early stage startups. Following some great reporting by Sarah Lacy, Sequoia is the first to step up and admit that they use scouts to help invest in startups that they might not otherwise have access to at such an early stage. They use entrepreneurs who they call “would-be” angels to use their network to source and invest on their behalf.

You wouldn’t be blamed for thinking that this is ok. And for some, it is ok if you don’t care about where the money comes from. Investment is investment, especially if it’s via a trusted proxy. But I personally don’t like it. It’s probably only legal because the final documents highlight who’s really behind the money. It would otherwise be illegal in many countries.

I can’t speak for everyone, but as the founder of a company that is soon to announce investment from 8 angels and counting (counting because we close the round next week and are in discussion with some more awesome investors), and as the co-founder of a non-profit microfinance charity in India, it is absolutely vital that all parties know where the money is coming from. Knowing where money is coming from is one of the most important aspect of an investment – whether you are an entrepreneur in Silicon Valley lucky enough to secure funding for your new tech startup, or if you are a poor entrepreneur living in a slum in India and lucky enough to secure a micro loan to help create new scarves.

Don’t get me wrong. I would love to be lucky enough to have Sequoia invest in MetaCert. But only when our team believes it’s the right time. Bringing VC’s into the fold is determined by chemistry and timing.

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UK Government calls for better porn filters to protect children

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A UK cross-party Parliamentary inquiry into child protection online has renewed calls for the blocking of adult content on the internet.

The Independent Parliamentary Inquiry into Online Child Protection found that children were easily accessing pornography online and said that exposure to it was having a ‘negative impact’ on attitudes towards sex, relationships and body image.

It called on the Government to once again consider a compulsory opt-in scheme for accessing adult content online. The inquiry also recommended that all public Wifi networks should have a �������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������default adult-content bar’.

The UK’s four biggest ISPs, BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin have all signed up to a code of conduct, which puscifer v is for viagra requires new customers to choose if they want adult content filtering on their internet account. TalkTalk was in the media recently for failing to block one of the most widely visited porn sites in the world. This was obviously a problem. But, for me the real problem was the fact that it took TalkTalk weeks to block the site.

Conservative MP and chairwoman of the inquiry Claire Perry said:

While parents should be responsible for their children’s online safety, in practice people find it difficult to put content filters on the plethora of internet-enabled devices in their homes, plus families lack the right information and education on internet safety.

It’s time that Britain’s internet service providers, who make more than £3 billion a year from selling internet access services, took on more of the responsibility to keep children safe, and the Government needs to send a strong message that this is what we all expect.

During the inquiry, MPs heard evidence from ISPs, pornographers and child-protection groups. The final report (direct download of the PDF) documents MetaCert’s contribution. MetaCert provided written evidence alongside organizations such as the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), Facebook, Ofcom and the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children. MetaCert was also involved in private briefing meetings alongside BT, Apple, Sky, Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) and Symantec.

Representing MetaCert, my advice was to encourage the implementation of new and improved family safety controls as planned, but to allow parents to opt-out of pornography rather than force ISPs to block it by default, forcing parents to request access. For me, automatic blocking is just another form of censorship. MetaCert doesn’t have an opinion on what is and what isn’t appropriate for adults. We believe everyone should have the freedom to make up their own mind. What we do believe in however, is “encouraging” industry to make it easier for parents to block pornography to help protect their families from potentially harmful content.

Ms Sanders, Agony Aunt for The Sun newspaper, said that people were now accessing pornography at younger ages:

I am hearing from a 13-year-old girl being pressured into trying a threesome; the mind boggles, really. There is certain behaviour I only used to have bald 40-year-olds asking me about it, now under-16s are thinking about it.

Jerry Barnett, managing director of adult-pornography website Strictly Broadband, said that the adult-entertainment industry would ‘love to see the free material vanish’ and sell pornography ‘at higher prices’, thus making it less accessible to children. I’m unsure about this one – I think it’ll just cut down on piracy.

Kids becoming addicted to porn

I’ve been working in this space for more than 7 years and was still amazed by some statistics that I picked up from the The Telegraph, Calcutta, India (thanks to one of our angel investors who shall remain nameless until you read about it on PandoDaily). According to the Telegraph

Counsellors say that schoolchildren as young as nine or 10 are regularly viewing pornography on the Internet.

Over the mobile phone or in corners of the classroom, they swap stories about the onscreen antics of their porn stars. “They also develop preferences within pornography — young man-older woman, threesomes, bondage or same sex couplings,” says Mumbai counsellor Swati Deepak.

Watching or reading pornography, experts say, is part of growing up. But what worries educationists and parents is that many children are going beyond that; they are getting addicted to porn — which may have serious repercussions.

Take Sushmita’s case. The teenager soon decided to replace what she saw on the screen with real life. She went to bed with a college-going male friend and copied the porn stars she’d been viewing. When she missed her next period, she shared her predicament with the school counsellor. Her mother was called to the school, a hasty abortion followed and there was heartbreak in the household.

Or take the case of Vikas, a 14-year-old who has been hooked on porn sites for two years. He also logs on to a chat site, where he poses as an older man and engages in sex talk with other men. But Vikas felt threatened some weeks ago when one of the men he chats with began stalking

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“I get an average of a case a fortnight of adolescents addicted to porn,” says Dr Raj Brahmabhatt, sexologist and marriage counsellor, Mumbai. “Many of them are seventh and eighth standard boys, from some of Mumbai’s top schools.”

With the proliferation of tablets such as iPads and mobile phones such as the iPhone, Online Family Safety is a growing concern. Industry must act because most parents aren’t even aware of the dangerous. Take the iPad and iPhone for example, they have absolutely no parental controls. It’s time industry made serious improvements to family safety controls.

The problem with existing solutions:

  1. Existing family safety controls mainly use keyword checking. You only have to change Google SafeSearch setting to strict to see that it blocks every result for ‘porn’ – including family safety sites that provide advice on the subject.
  2. A quick look at the AVG Family Safety browser for the iPad ($19.99 annual subscription) demonstrates that old methods and technologies are still in play also – a search for “hardcore����� blocks all search results even though, not one pornographic websites appears in the first page of Google���s search results.
  3. Microsoft IE Content Advisor uses a system that was created during the mid 90’s called PICS. It is estimated that there are fewer than 15,000 websites that have self-labeled with PICS. It is technically no pharmacy online longer possible to label a site with PICS as the organization responsible for it, has changed direction http://icra.org and it was formally replaced as a W3C Recommendation with a new method called POWDER (declaration: which I helped to instigate some years ago)
  4. Most ISPs don’t have family safety controls at all.
  5. Family safety on mobile is “all or nothing” and again, is based on keyword checking. There is no way to block pornography only, on any mobile carrier.

You can download the report here (direct download)

If you want to ensure that embarassing sites don’t appear on your screen when a colleague sends you an email with a suspicious link, or if you want to protect young kids from pornography, download one of these two browser extensions for Firefox and Chrome. They are free, easy to use and block more pornography than any other software application on the market. They each block more than 605 million pages of porn.


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Chrome extension that blocks over half a billion pages of pornography

Today MetaCert released the first build of its family safe browser extension for Chrome. It’s an early release, but it rocks! It blocks more than half a billion pages of pornography. That’s more than any other software application on the market.

Unlike Google SafeSearch and other applications, MetaSurf doesn’t block sites that it shouldn’t by using outdated methods such as keyword checking. It only blocks pages that have been indexed by MetaCert – with more pages being indexed every day. Check out the live counter at http://metasurf.net

Check out the extension and leave a great rating score if you like it.

Please be aware that it is impossible to stop users from disabling Chrome extensions. So we highly recommend using this extension if you want to block pornography for yourself, or for young children who are http://genericviagraonline-tabs.com/ not likely to change the settings on your browser when your back is turned.

Download the Chrome extension now!


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Why I don’t think you need a coder as a cofounder

I read a post on TechCrunch today where the author claims that you can’t start a new company unless you can write code. I disagree.

I started my tech career as a computer operator at a bank and later worked at AOL during the mid 90’s where I built my first website in 1996 as the first Technical Account Manager in Europe – my team helped to launch technologies and clients such as AIM, 56K modem speed, Internet Radio, Games, integrate browsers and more. I also built some very complex applications using one of the first ecollaborative technologies in a RAD environment when ecollaboration was a new term in 1999.  Yet, I write this post as a non-coding founder as I don’t have the ability to write a single line of code that’s meaningful to our company. I designed this blog by editing the CSS but that’s the extent of my code writing (exactly, that’s not writing code). Since then, my career has led me down a fantastic path, made up of both technical and non-technical roles across the Internet and mobile industries and later, the mobile web. I’m one of the seven original founders of the W3C Mobile Web Initiative and helped to write some of the compliance specification, yet I don’t posses the ability to write the code for a site that would work on both desktop and mobile browsers.

TechCrunch and many bloggers and indeed investors, believe that you must have a cofounder who can write code. This isn’t true. However, as a founder, you must posses the following:

  1. Ability to hire the best coder possible
  2. Ability to motivate the coder so they can work to the best of their ability
  3. Ability to ensure that the coder is motivated and working in a comfortable environment
  4. Ability to measure the performance of the coder, helping them to understand and take advantage of their strengths and feel ok telling you their weaknesses so you can support them
  5. Have a backup plan to ensure that another coder can take over should the original coder leave the project at a moments notice to ensure continuity of product development
  6. Ability to hire the best coder possible to take over when point 5 comes into play

My most recent experience with MetaCert is relevant too as we are closing a series A round and our investors see the strength of the team, yet the founder doesn’t have the ability to write code. At MetaCert our main coder Kamrul, sadly left us after 5 years of R&D. Everything was backed up and well documented. As a result, there was minimal disruption to the development of our crawling and labeling platform when we hired Paraschos, another awesome coder. What happens if Paraschos leaves? Hopefully he won’t. But if he does, everything is well documented so we would hire another coder to take over. After writing this post I will revisit point 3 to ‘help’ ensure Parschos stays with us until we’ve managed to launch our kids browser for the iPad and beyond.

Giving a title of cofounder to a coder just because you think it’s necessary is all about ego. A non-founding coder run over by a bus as TechCrunch puts it, is equally damaging to a company than if the coder was a founder – it makes absolutely no difference.

Note: if you don’t notice at least one typo you’ll know I’ve hired a ghost writer 🙂

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