Docker founder launches Dagger, a new DevOps platform

It’s been almost exactly four years since Docker founder Solomon Hykes left the company that kickstarted the container revolution. Docker has gone through its share of ups and downs since then, including selling its enterprise business to Mirantis in 2019, but Hykes, who was long the public face of Docker, mostly stayed on the periphery, with the exception of his participation in a few funding rounds. For a while now, though, he’s been quietly working on his next startup, Dagger, which is launching into public beta today and announcing a $20 million Series A funding round.

The round was led by Redpoint Ventures, with participation from Y Combinator, Nat Friedman (former CEO, GitHub), Brian Stevens (former CTO, Google Cloud and former CTO, Red Hat), Idit Levine (founder and CEO,, Julius Volz (creator of Prometheus), Ellen Pao (former CEO, Reddit) and Daniel Lopez (co-founder, Bitnami). Previously, Dagger raised a $3 million pre-seed and $7 million seed round led by New Wave.

Dagger, which was co-founded by Hykes and his fellow Docker alums Sam Alba and Andrea Luzzardi, aims to build what the team calls a “devops operating system.” Hykes noted how starting this new venture began with the team and not necessarily a product idea. The co-founders went looking for problems they could solve for the developer community and it quickly became clear to them that the DevOps process remains a bottleneck.

“We decided to start from zero and not assume we know anything,” Hykes told me about the process the team used to develop its ideas. “We began this long discovery process to just be a blank slate and listen to people’s problems. And they pulled us very quickly in the direction of CI/CD and automation pipelines. You know, you’ve got dev — and developers are happy and productive. You’ve got ops — things scale, there’s all this cool cloud stuff — and the glue in the middle, the DevOps part, that’s just really complicated. People find a way, but they just don’t like the experience and they all waste time and resources doing it. So we focused on that.”

The team argues that there are a lot of very powerful DevOps tools, but they tend to be very specialized — and as these applications expand in scope, so does the DevOps stack. “There’s no shortage of specialized tools, but then [developers] have to glue them all together — and the glue is the bottleneck. So we’re focusing on replacing the glue with something better,” said Hykes.

Specifically, that means Dagger lets DevOps engineers write their pipelines as declarative models in CUE (which stands for “configure, unify, execute”). With this, engineers can describe their pipelines and connect the different pieces to each other, all in code. Dagger calls these individual pieces “actions” and they, too, are described declaratively.

“The main difference is that it’s basically a real software development experience,” Hykes explained. “So if there’s an action that you like that someone else wrote, you can import it. If you want to look at the source code of that action, you can look at it, it’s in the same language you already know. And that action probably is built by combining smaller and more specialized actions all the way down. So it’s more like regular software.”

To complement the developer experience, the Dagger team is also building what it calls “Dagger Universe,” a curated library of packages that developers can import into their Dagger configurations.

This overall approach also means that potential users can keep their existing CI infrastructure in place. Dagger isn’t meant to be a replacement for the likes of Circle CI or GitLab — it’s basically a layer on top of that.

“It is far too complicated for DevOps teams to manage their infrastructure and deploy software to different clouds, but Dagger has elegantly cracked the code to streamline software supply chain management,” said Erica Brescia of Redpoint Ventures. “By making custom app delivery pipelines portable, the Dagger team has changed the game for building and deploying software.”

Hykes noted that he is taking quite a few learnings from his experience at Docker into building Dagger. Like Docker, Dagger will have an open-source piece to it and while the team is still figuring out the details, it’s going to be a key part of the Dagger ecosystem.

“Dagger is going to be a hybrid platform,” Hykes explained. “So there’s an open source engine, which we’re launching [today], and there will be an optional cloud service that will be very tightly integrated, but still optional. […] Our conclusion from Docker is, if you want a large and thriving developer community, you need a real open source project. It can’t be fake open source. But if you want that community to continue thriving — and if user experience specifically is important — then you need to connect that community to one product vision and not 10,000 different product visions.”

For now, the team is going to focus on this open source engine to see what the community needs and where the pain points are. The managed service will come later. Hykes noted that at Docker, everything happend so quickly and the service became such a foundational technology almost overnight, the company was pulled into too many different directions. With Dagger, he plans to take things slower — and because Dagger doesn’t run the applications itself, he believes that the team will be able to maintain this focus.

“We’re going to do the same thing with commercialization. I think with commercialization, at Docker, we felt like there was a playbook that we were obligated to follow and we didn’t really listen to our community enough,” Hykes said.

Dagger is going to use the new funding to expand its engineering team to build out its product, but the company is also hiring to build out a marketing and developer relations team.

Report finds going remote made workplaces more hostile for already marginalized groups

The last year wasn’t an easy one for just about anybody, but a new report from Project Include shows that the shift to remote work affected some groups more negatively than others. Unsurprisingly, it was people already struggling against harassment and bias, particularly women of color and those identifying as LGBTQ, who saw the biggest jumps in those behaviors.

The report is based on a survey of about 2,800 people and interviews with tech workers and subject matter experts in numerous countries and industries. There’s not a lot of good news in it, but why should there be? Sadly, the unprecedented confluence of multiple disasters in 2020 has spawned another, quieter disaster in working conditions.

Remote work has changed how people interact, and the result of that has been, among other things, significant increases to gender- and race-based harassment. Over a quarter of those surveyed reported an increase in harassment and workplace hostility — and of those experiencing increases, 98 percent were women or nonbinary and 99 percent were non-white.

Trans people were much more likely to experience harassment and hostility, as were were all black respondents, especially women and nonbinary people. Asian, Latinx, and multiracial respondents also reported more.

Graphs illustrating the numbers of various demographics experiencing harassment.

Image Credits: Project Include

The switch to remote productivity and communication seems to have made this harassment difficult to avoid. An increase in reliance on 1:1 communication via chat, email, and video calls meant working directly with harassers was inescapable and difficult to report. “Respondents noted that individual harassers would follow them across online spaces to where they were,” the report adds.

People with mental health conditions, particularly those with PTSD, were twice as likely to report experiencing harassment than those without.

Changes to expectations and tools meant big increases to anxiety and drops in work-life balance. Nearly two thirds of respondents reported being expected to work longer days, and more than half said they felt pressure (or were plainly expected) to be online outside of official working hours. 10 percent said managers were checking in daily, and 5 percent reported two or more times per day. Others complained about surveillance software like keystroke and screen monitoring.

Workers with disabilities found that companies often chose productivity and collaboration tools that had inadequate accessibility features — for example, Zoom calls without automatic captioning that required lip-reading to keep up.

As for reporting harassment, most said they did not do so because they didn’t trust their HR department or company at large to handle the complaints properly or respond fairly. One person even reported that it was a person within HR itself that was harassing them. Less than half of respondents said they trusted their company to respond to these issues properly; about a third said they did not trust the company to do so; about the same number said their workplace doesn’t even have the tools to intervene or solve any issue they might bring up.

These and more statistics are available in the report, which goes into detail on a number of other issues and behaviors, as well as making a number of suggestions as to what companies can do to step up. Of course if your company has waited until now to take action, that’s a problem right there. But in general the idea is to actually listen to workers, hold leadership accountable, and take actions with measurable impact like no-meeting days and generous time-off policies.

Most of all, don’t expect things to just “go back to normal.” CEO of Vaya Consulting Nicole Sanchez puts it best as quoted in the report:

Most companies are not ready to bring people back together physically, even electively. People at the executive level are going to be shocked to find out that what they’re actually dealing with is a whole lot of live active trauma. A lot of companies that go back and try and make it like it was before will wonder, ‘why aren’t these pieces fitting together anymore?’ And the answer, I hope, that we get collective agreement on is: Those pieces never fit together. They just fit together for you. Now, you’re seeing all the seams and all of the vulnerabilities, and now you have to reinvent your company.

The authors of the report include Ellen Pao of Project Include itself, Yang Hong of Shoshin Insights, and Caroline Sinders of Convocation Design + Research.

Ellen Pao calls out Twitter’s ‘public town square’ model as flawed

Project Include CEO Ellen Pao, who has been working to foster diversity, inclusion and ethics in the tech industry, called out Twitter’s “public square” model as flawed — and a decision that indicates a lack of ethical consideration, on Twitter’s part.

The topic of Twitter came up on a panel at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2019 this morning, when Pao was asked her opinion as to whether Twitter should make exceptions to its platform rules for public figures — like President Trump, for example.

She said doesn’t believe that it should. And not just because the decision in and of itself raises ethical questions, but because of how these decisions can ultimately shape the direction of Twitter’s platform as a whole.

“I think it’s a question of ethics to break these exceptions — because you want to drive this growth that you want to use to fuel your stock price and to fuel recruiting, and to fuel this capitalism — that’s driving all sorts of decisions without thinking about the long-term direction of where your platform is going,” Pao explained.

She also questioned whether Twitter has been successful in creating an online version of the public town square, which is how Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has repeatedly described the social media platform.

“Jack talks about this public square, where you have this digital version of the public square. But people aren’t screaming at you on the public square, they’re not calling you racist things, they’re not throwing pictures of like horrible things…I don’t want to be in a public square like that,” Pao said. “And I don’t want to have a public square that’s digital create these horrible events in real life,” she added.

On Twitter (or really, on social media in general) the hateful words and sentiments can often spill over into real-world action.

“I don’t think that’s an ethical decision. I don’t think that’s a values-driven decision. I don’t think that’s creating a good public square, I don’t think that’s doing a service for your users who are from the groups that are being hated on,” Pao said. “I think you really have to think about your whole community. You have to think about the types of conversations you want to have.”

She clarified that it’s not about censoring speech, but the challenges in creating a place where people can actually engage in conversations — even those in which they disagree, and even those where there may be conflict.

Twitter’s failure has been not understanding where free speech ends and moderation begins. And this is not a problem unique to its platform. All of social media is struggling with this same issue.

In Pao’s mind, it’s a question of where meaningful conversation ends and outright harassment begins.

“Using the F-word, and the C-word, and the N-word? That’s not a conversation, right? That’s not an exchange of ideas,” she said. “I don’t think people think enough about what they want their platforms to be, what they want the platforms to encourage.”

Hear about being ethical in tech with Ellen Pao, Tracy Chou and Harry Glaser

Running an ethical tech company is underrated. From fostering a diverse and inclusive company to examining your technology’s impact on society, it all comes down to ethics.

Ellen Pao, who previously served as CEO at Reddit and sued her former employer Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers for gender discrimination, has made it her life’s work to foster diversity, inclusion and ethics in the tech industry.

The same goes for Tracy Chou, who first hit the spotlight when she provoked tech companies to release their data around employee demographics by setting up a database to track such information in 2013. Now, Chou, who is also a co-founder at Project Include, is focused on tackling the problem of online abuse and harassment at her startup, Block Party.

Through Chou and Pao’s work at Project Include, the two have worked with a number of startups that wish to foster diversity and inclusion at their own startups. Sisense, a business intelligence platform led by Harry Glaser, is one of those startups.

While the diversity and inclusion movement has made some gains in the last few years, it has still suffered severe setbacks. On one hand, tech employees are recognizing their immense power when they speak up and organize. On the other hand, those accused of sexual harassment and misconduct are too often facing too few consequences. Meanwhile, people of color and women still receive too little venture funding, and tech companies are inching along at a glacial pace toward diverse representation and inclusion.

Tech workers at Salesforce, Microsoft and Amazon have spoken out against their employers for having contracts with military and government agencies, and Twitter and Facebook continue to thrive as platforms where harassment and abuse is prevalent. Meanwhile, gig economy workers for the likes of Instacart, DoorDash, Uber and Lyft have also organized around low wages, wage theft and lack of benefits.

Clearly, there’s still a lot of work to be done. At TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco, you’ll hear from Pao, Chou and Glaser about how they grapple with ethics, and how focusing on diversity can positively impact a company’s bottom line.

Still need tickets? Head over here.

Startups Weekly: The scooter cash desert

Hello and welcome back to Startups Weekly, a newsletter published every Saturday that dives into the week’s noteworthy venture capital deals, funds and trends. Before I dive into this week’s topic, let’s catch up a bit. Last week, I noted my key takeaways from Recode + Vox’s Code Conference. Before that, I explored the bull versus bear arguments in regards to Peloton’s upcoming IPO.

Remember, you can send me tips, suggestions and feedback to or on Twitter @KateClarkTweets. If you don’t subscribe to Startups Weekly yet, you can do that hereNow, for some quick thoughts on what I’ll call the scooter funding desert. For months, electric scooter businesses were securing large rounds at even larger valuations. So much so that the venture capital funding extravaganza in e-scooters defined Silicon Valley in 2018.

But it’s 2019, and times have changed. In an effort to keep myself from falling into a scooter rabbit hole, I’ll just say this: raising capital is no longer a piece of cake for scooter companies. E-scooter companies have matured some and investors are more aware of the steep costs of building and scaling these hardware-heavy businesses.

Scoot, which recently sold to Bird, was unable to raise additional capital making an exit to Bird its only viable option, sources tell TechCrunch. Bird paid less than $25 million for Scoot, a significant decrease from Scoot’s most recent private valuation of $71 million.

A recent report from The Information suggests both Lime and Bird, the leaders in the U.S., may run out of cash if they don’t raise again soon. “Lime has raised a total of more than $1 billion in the last two years, and over the past eight months it has shuffled its executive team and put a deeper focus on how to squeeze more money out of each scooter ride. The company ran through its cash quickly last year, including a $23 million loss in one month, before raising $310 million mostly from existing investors in February,” The Information’s Cory Weinberg wrote.

Bird, for its part, is running on less than $100 million and is expected to raise again this summer.

Bird may be in a better position to secure fresh funds. The company enters VC deal talks hot off the heels of its acquisition of Scoot, which gives it access to San Francisco, a coveted market in the scooter universe. Lime, for its part, is said to be struggling. The company enters deal talks amid a number of personnel shake-ups. Multiple policy leaders at the business, including chief programs officer Scott Kubly, recently stepped down, as did Lime co-founder and CEO Toby Sun. 

I’d wager that both Bird and Lime will announce mega rounds in the next few months, but at much smaller valuation step-ups than we’ve seen in the past, perhaps even at a flat valuation. It’s worth noting, however, that e-scooters are still exploding around the world. India’s Bounce, for example, closed on $72 million this week to scale its scooter rental business.

On to other news…

Workplace Messaging App Slack Listed On New York Stock Exchange

Slack’s big listing: It happened. Slack became a public company this week after completing a direct listing. The workplace communication software juggernaut debuted on the New York Stock Exchange up 48% Thursday, at $38.50 per share, after reports emerged Wednesday night that the business had agreed to a reference price of $26 per share. Slack, founded in 2009 as Tiny Speck, closed up 48.5% Thursday at $38.62 per share. The stock had climbed as high as $42 in intraday trading. Slack’s market cap now sits well above $20 billion, or nearly three times its most recent private valuation of $7 billion.

Facebook’s new cryptocurrency: Explained

I know, I know, Facebook isn’t a startup, but Facebook’s attempts to create a new global financial system are worth learning about. TechCrunch’s Josh Constine wrote 4,000 words to help you understand the ins and outs of the new cryptocurrency, called Libra, which will let you buy things or send money to people with nearly zero fees.

The future of diversity and inclusion in tech

Here’s my must-read of the week. TechCrunch’s Megan Rose Dickey wrote what is perhaps the most comprehensive story on the state of D&I in tech today. She interviewed many leaders in the space, including Arlan Hamilton, Ellen Pao, Freada Kapor Klein and more, to provide a realistic rundown of the progress we’ve made in making the tech industry more inclusive — and what’s left to accomplish.

Is seed investing still a local business?

According to CB Insights, the number of seed-stage funding deals in the U.S. declined for the fourth straight year in 2018, continuing a trend that has seen the number of deals steadily drop, while the average size of deals increased. It’s safe to say this is the new normal. Yet, there continues to be a huge surplus of available capital and there are more funds out there than ever before. Here are three things entrepreneurs must remember when investors come calling from abroad.

Startup Capital

Meero raises $230M for its on-demand photo business
Postman raises $50M to grow its API development platform
Navigator, the new project from the creators of Mailbox, launches with $12M
Nigerian motorcycle transit startup raises $7M
Humanising Autonomy pulls in $5M to help self-driving cars keep an eye on pedestrians
Armoire gets $4M to become the everyday Rent the Runway
Probably Genetic lands VC backing to launch D2C genetic testing business

An illustration shows a man exhaling smoke from an electronic cigarette in Washington, DC on October 2, 2018.

Juul’s conundrum

San Francisco is getting closer to banning the sale of e-cigarettes in the city in a bid to prevent minors from accessing them. The city’s Board of Supervisors voted unanimously this week to approve two proposals: legislation that would ban the sale or delivery of e-cigarettes in San Francisco and a separate proposal that would prohibit the sale, manufacturing and distribution of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, on property owned or managed by the city. It seems designed to take aim at Juul, since the company’s headquarters are in city-owned buildings at San Francisco’s Pier 70. Juul has already started lobbying to stop the ban.

Extra Crunch

If you’ve been unsure whether to sign up for TechCrunch’s awesome new subscription service, now is the time. Through next Friday, it’s only $2 a month for two months. Seems like a no-brainer. Sign up here. Here are some of my personal favorite EC pieces of the week:

The VCs behind Libra, Facebook’s new cryptocurrency

If you enjoy this newsletter, be sure to check out TechCrunch’s venture-focused podcast, Equity. In this week’s episode, available here, TechCrunch editor Danny Crichton and I discuss Facebook’s cryptocurrency, the scooter funding desert and more. You can subscribe to Equity here or wherever else you listen to podcasts.

A diversity and inclusion playbook

You’d be hard-pressed to find a tech company that said it wished it had waited longer to implement on diversity and inclusion efforts. The examples of tech companies “doing it right” in this industry are few and far between, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying. And for those that want to try, there’s a clear playbook to follow.

Where tech companies seem to go wrong is around implementing one-off initiatives such as unconscious bias training, employee resource groups or hiring a head of diversity and inclusion. Alone, these initiatives are not effective. But implementing those together, along with other initiatives, can create lasting change inside tech companies.

More than 10 years ago, Freada Kapor Klein, co-founder of Kapor Capital and the Kapor Center for Social Impact, published her groundbreaking book, “Giving Notice,” about the hidden biases people face in the workplace. In it, Kapor Klein laid out five key strategies as part of a comprehensive approach to addressing inclusion within tech companies. In order for it to be effective, companies must implement every single initiative.

This approach, which is applicable to this day, entails instituting policies practices and principles; implementing formal and informal problem-solving procedures; devising customized training based on organizational needs; ask more specific questions on employee surveys and break down data demographically; and ensure accountability from the top.

Policies, practices and principles

Getting a seat at the VC table

We are witnessing the greatest paradigm shift in power since the advent of the venture capital industry. Since taking my first VC role in 2012, I’ve seen more change in the past year than all other years combined.

Six years after Ellen Pao’s landmark gender discrimination case against Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Mary Meeker announced her departure to start a new fund with three other KPCB investors. Arlan Hamilton from Backstage Capital graced the cover of Fast Company with the caption “Venture Catalyst.” AllRaise’s circulation of a growing list of job postings is regularly hitting the inboxes of female investment talent climbing the check-writing ranks. To quote Seth Godin, “When you put the right idea into the world, people can’t unsee it.”

What does it mean to have a seat at the table, and how many of us have needed to bring our own chairs rather than wait for someone to offer us one?

Here are a few reflections on what having a seat at the investors’ table means to me:

Representation is a competitive advantage.

Venture has operated in many ways like a club since its inception, where deals are shared within small, private circles, often comprised of people with more in common than not. When investment decisions are made by people who are not representative of our population — instead representative of the interests of a very small percentage of the population (in ethnicity, culture, education, and socioeconomic status) — our economy suffers. In other words, fewer wants and needs are addressed by the goods and services in the market, creating less economic prosperity as a whole.

According to the NVCA and Pitchbook, the total investment into venture-backed companies reached $57 billion in just the first half of 2018. To put this into context, $57 billion is more than 114 countries can claim in GDP. Given just how much money is invested — an increasing figure each year as more venture money appears from new participants — we should be concerned that just 9% of U.S. VCs are women despite comprising 50.8% of the U.S. population and driving 70-80% of all consumer purchasing.

#ANGELS and Carta exposed a staggering new statistic that just 9% of company equity is held by women, despite women comprising 33% of the founder and employee workforce.

The private and public markets are waking up to the realization that representation matters. A 2015 McKinsey study found that “companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.” I’m in constant communication with a wide range of investors from established firms to new ones, and the feedback is overwhelmingly positive — having an investment team more representative of the population generates better deal flow. I have this conversation on a biweekly basis and know that the next generation of investors is watching to see what established VC firms are doing to remain competitive.

So, you ask, what’s next for venture capital?

Assimilation is a thing of the past.

I tried to blend in as much as possible when I first entered the venture world, not wanting to draw attention to the fact that I came from a very different background than the people I was interacting with. I didn’t know what ski week was, my parents didn’t belong to private clubs, and Ivy League schools were a distant concept. Yet, I found common ground with my new social circle because they were, in many respects, regular people with “access” broadly defined as the primary differentiator.

Fast forward to today, I see the greatest opportunity for those who are boldly unique. A seat at the table means I can be myself and draw upon my unique experiences to make decisions and support my portfolio companies in a way that only I can. Our industry thrives when contrarian views are developed over time and implemented without compromise. Conformity is the main villain when we decide to settle for the familiar, ultimately generating stagnant venture returns. After all, venture capital is, by definition, meant to be a high-risk asset class.

Safe environments matter. Full stop.

Having a seat at the table means I get to draw the line when male investors, entrepreneurs, and other industry voices choose to transgress or act inappropriately. I feel safe in assuming the male leadership I choose to invest in will have a lower probability of ruining their company due to issues with workplace culture and sexual abuse allegations.

As we witness one industry giant topple after another, spanning film and media, consumer brands, and investors, it has become increasingly apparent that poor judgment calls and mistreatment of talent will no longer be swept under the rug. I occasionally have meetings with entrepreneurs and fellow investors where you could say my “stranger danger” alarms are triggered by off-color comments and malapropos gestures. These are the instances where I will choose to avoid a situation or pass on a business opportunity that could, in time, become a ticking time bomb and, long-term, a poor investment.

There are no more rules.

A close friend in VC often states, “The new rule is: there are no rules.” This means new people arriving to the table, chair in hand, to direct investment decisions, whether top-down as a company builder or bottoms-up as a content creator and micro-influencer. No rules means new faces showing up as limited partners in VC funds, and new managers of VC funds sharing their own unique stories of building their less-conventional careers. No rules also means that VC firms are going to look, act, and feel different, throwing out convention in favor of creativity and inclusivity.

Build it and they will come.

Arlan Hamilton of Backstage Capital said it best during her 36|86 AMA in Nashville with The JumpFund: “We will make our own club!” I nearly fell out of my seat applauding, laughing, and cheering. My own interpretation of this statement has to do with the can-do energy that is showing up in venture. In 2018, we are no longer waiting for someone to save a seat for us at the table or invite us into the room at all. We are showing up with our own chairs, building new tables, and creating new spaces and environments that foster the exchanging of ideas and deal docs.

Early in 2018, I set out to learn more about the startup and venture capital landscape in my new home city of Nashville, Tennessee, and in the broader surrounding geography of the Southeastern U.S. I quickly found that the entrepreneurs and investors I met were surprised by me — a relatively young, half-Mexican, female face did not immediately trigger the words ‘venture’ and ‘capital’.

Questions followed, such as, “How did you end up in venture capital?” and statements like, “People must tell you all of the time that you don’t look like the typical VC.” A few minutes into the conversation and those questions and statements dissipate, though I knew there must be a broader local community sharing my interests and lack of conformity in physical appearance and style. So, I set out and launched ModernCapital to make the venture capital industry more accessible to new talent. Our team of 4 (3 venture fellows plus myself) is 100% female and 50% Latina. As we spend more time digging into the entrepreneurial landscape of our region, more entrepreneurs and future investors from a wide range of backgrounds are contacting us wanting to join the community we are building.

Considering just how much has changed in the dialogue around venture capital and where the greatest next investment opportunities will arise, I am confident this is only the beginning.

Ellen Pao memoir adaptation among 7 new Shonda Rhimes projects for Netflix

When Shonda Rhimes left ABC last August for Netflix, both she and the studio kept a tight lid on their plans. We could only imagine where the twists and turns that her future stories would take us. Well, now we know.

This week, Rhimes’s production company Shondaland and Netflix announced seven projects that she will make for the streaming platform with her production partner Betsy Beers who also made the move to Netflix. The projects tell stories of women of color, talented kids, important and routinely overlooked American history, fancy English relationships and pre-2017 White House doings.

Ellen Pao’s memoir Reset, published last fall, details her life and career, which includes the gender discrimination lawsuit she brought against her former employer Kleiner Perkins in 2015. Even though she lost the suit, Pao felt the battle was worth it, saying at the time: “If I’ve helped to level the playing field for women and minorities in venture capital, then the battle was worth it.” She continues to work for inclusion in tech as founder and CEO of Project Include, an organization dedicated to making careers in tech accessible to everyone.

Julia Quinn’s best-selling Bridgerton series of novels will jump off the page and onto our screens, because we all need to be flies on the proverbial walls of “the wealthy, sexual, painful, funny and sometimes lonely lives in London’s high society marriage mart.” Mmhmm. Scandal writer Chris Van Dusen will be responsible for the adaptation.

The Warmth of Other Suns,” published in 2010 by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Isabel Wilkerson, tells the story of the African-American migration out of the South between 1916-1970. According to her website, Wilkerson interviewed more than 1,200 people and uncovered archival works over 15 years in order to bring these stories to light. Actor, solo performer, playwright and professor Anna Deavere Smith is signed on to adapt the piece for a viewing audience.

And for some more history, “Pico & Sepulveda” is set in the 1840s when California wasn’t quite California yet. According to Netflix, it will track “the end of an idyllic ear there as American forces threaten brutality and war at the border to claim the breathtaking land for its own.”

The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House” is a non-fiction tale told by Kate Andersen Brower that details the relationship between White House staffers and First Families in an upstairs/downstairs kind of way. The book was published in the spring of 2016 so, well, you know.

Debbie Allen’s Hot Chocolate Nutcracker, an award-winning reimagining of the Tchaikovsky ballet, will get the documentary treatment by Shondaland and Netflix, behind-the-scenes style.

“Sunshine Scouts” will be a half-hour dark comedy that follows a group of teenage girls who survived an apocalyptic-level disaster while they were at sleep-away camp.

These seven projects join the previously announced adaptation of a New York Magazine article about how Anna Delvey duped people out of hundreds of thousands of dollars by posing as a German heiress. Rhimes is set to write this one.

If you want to hear Rhimes talk about her move to Netflix, you’re in luck, because she was the first guest of TechCrunch Mixtape (formerly CTRL+T), my podcast with senior reporter Megan Rose Dickey. Check it out below.

The 2017 TechCrunch Include Progress Report

This is the second annual TechCrunch Include Progress Report. Covering diversity and inclusion in the tech industry cannot be done in a vacuum. As aspects of identity are intersectional, so too should be the way in which media approaches its coverage of the tech industry. With each passing year, companies big and small release diversity data, highlighting the need for more inclusive hiring. As a media company, it is our job to report these stories through a diversity and inclusion lens. You can track our coverage here.

Complementing our editorial coverage is a series of annual events produced by our outstanding events team. Our editorial and events teams work hard together throughout the year to bring you the most unique tech events that give startups from around the world a chance to pitch judges from the most prestigious venture capital firms. In 2017, TechCrunch added to its slate of global events, bringing together startup founders, developers, scientists and technologists. From our Disrupts, Hardware Battlefield at CES, and the Crunchies to our inaugural Sessions and Battlefield X events, we set out to ensure that we had a diverse roster of speakers, judges and contestants.

The importance of diversity and inclusion in the tech industry has generated much attention since we published our last Include Program progress report. At TechCrunch, we understand the importance of diversity, and it begins with hiring. In keeping with our commitments in the core principles and mission for Include 2016, we assembled the following progress report on our initiatives, staff and workplace culture.

As in 2016, our methodology for collecting data on our event participants evolved. To date, we have tracked the gender and racial breakdown of our speakers, judges and Battlefield contestants through observed traits. In 2018, we will be implementing the use of anonymous, self-reporting surveys for all onstage participants in our events.

TechCrunch Events


In 2017, we hosted our TechCrunch Disrupt events in New York, San Francisco and Berlin. We continue to make strides in ensuring diverse attendance numbers in all facets of participation, from speakers, judges, Battlefield contestants, and nonprofit groups. We also host groups of underserved and underrepresented students from local schools, sourced via local groups and representatives.

For all Disrupt events, we offered a Battlefield Scholarship Fund, which we piloted in 2016, to offset the costs of participating in the program. Tickets to Disrupt have been and will always be free for Battlefield participants. Five teams applied and received financial support ranging from $200 to $7,000, which they used to cover airfare, housing and other associated costs.

Finally, to mark the start of TechCrunch Disrupt, TechCrunch parters with organizations to host the Women in Tech(Crunch) event. This is a private event specifically for female speakers, female judges, Battlefield female founders and the TechCrunch editorial team. In addition to our Women in Tech(Crunch) event in each city, we also hosted Women of Disrupt Breakfasts, all of which included programming.

Disrupt New York

The number of women who appeared onstage at Disrupt New York in May 2017 improved over the prior year, with an increase in judges (6 percent) and Battlefield founders (8 percent). However, we saw 8 percent fewer female speakers. We made gains with racial diversity onstage in 2017, as well. Speakers (5 percent) and Battlefield founders (18 percent) saw increases, but we had about 4 percent fewer judges who were people of color.

We hosted 100 female founders, investors and TechCrunch staff at the Women in Tech(Crunch) event in partnership with General Catalyst . And with Live a Moment, we hosted 80 attendees at the Women of Disrupt Breakfast.

Our efforts to ensure attendance from all groups included providing five free Startup Alley tables to nonprofits selected from a pool of over 30 applicants through an open application process announced on TechCrunch. In addition, we provided a 90 percent discount on Disrupt tickets for students.




Disrupt San Francisco

Disrupt San Francisco 2017 in September would be the last time we decided to hold this event at one of the piers off the San Francisco Bay. This year, Disrupt SF will be held at Moscone West, the sheer size of which will require us to step up our inclusion efforts.

In 2017, we saw an improvement over 2016 with female representation onstage, with speakers increasing 12 percent and judges increasing 13 percent. However, female representation on the Battlefield founder front decreased almost 6 percent.

To help introduce students from underserved communities, we hosted 86 middle and high school students from Dev Mission, Bishop O’Dowd High School, Hack the Hood, Founders Bootcamp and Albany High School. Student groups were selected from an applicant pool of over 35 student groups through an open application process announced on TechCrunch.

We partnered with Greylock Partners to host 165 attendees for Women in Tech(Crunch). And for our Women of Disrupt Breakfast, Silicon Valley Editor Connie Loizos moderated a conversation with female founders from Away and Science Exchange and discover Alice, an artificial intelligence platform for women. We partnered with Intuit for this event that held 120 attendees.

We also offered the same student ticket discount and free Startup Alley tables to nonprofits as we had in prior years; this year we expanded on that effort.



Disrupt Berlin

Disrupt returned to Berlin in December 2017 after three years in London. We saw a 14 percent increase in female judges on stage over 2016. But female speakers and Battlefield founders decreased year-over-year by about 3 percent and 12 percent, respectively.

As part of our inclusion efforts, we hosted 32 refugees learning at the ReDI School of Digital Integration. They brought a group of 30 students who had the opportunity to explore Startup Alley, listen to our speakers on the main stage and have an intimate conversation with Slack co-founder, Cal Henderson. We also supported some of the Battlefield companies with our scholarship fund and continued the student ticket discounts.

Factory Berlin helped us host 65 attendees at our Women in Tech(Crunch) event. In addition, we hosted 80 attendees at the Women of Disrupt Breakfast.



Hardware Battlefield at CES

In January 2017, we once again hosted a Hardware Battlefield at CES. Female representation for speakers, judges and Battlefield founders were down slightly from 2016. By contrast, for the first time in a Hardware Battlefield, minority founders were represented equally, with 50 percent.



Battlefield X

Building off of the overwhelming success of Disrupt Battlefield, we decided to spin it out into its own event and give it a new name: Battlefield X. In 2017, we sent teams to Africa and Australia with the intent to showcase startups doing amazing work in their respective corners of the globe.

Battlefield Africa

For the competition in Nairobi in October, we specifically looked for companies targeting social good, productivity and utility, and gaming and entertainment. Sub-Saharan African startups are helping unleash the region’s potential, from last-mile technologies that deliver edtech, agtech, and medtech to remote areas, to mobile-based fintech innovations that ease financial transactions and lending in bustling cities.



Battlefield Australia

To bring Battlefield to Australia in October 2017, TechCrunch partnered with the ELEVACAO Foundation, whose mission to empower women tech entrepreneurs globally aligns with TechCrunch’s Include program to encourage more diversity in tech. We are also joining forces with Founders for Founders, a group dedicated to supporting tech entrepreneurs across Australia, and Hoist, which is promoting innovation through collaboration between entrepreneurs and corporates.





Last year we debuted Sessions, our new one-day events that dive deep on a single topic, bringing together experts in the field and those interested in the theme.

With these events, we intend to drop the barrier between speaker and attendee to allow for plenty of interaction with networking time and a big reception at the end of each day. Our very first event was Sessions: Justice in June followed by Sessions: Robotics in July.

Sessions: Justice

During the one-day event in June around diversity, inclusion and justice in tech, we heard from social justice activist DeRay Mckesson, Uber Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion Bernard Coleman, Salesforce Chief Equality Officer Tony Prophet, Safety Pin Box co-founder Leslie Mac, The Last Mile co-founder Chris Redlitz, Cryptoharlem founder Matt Mitchell and others.

TechCrunch Sessions: Justice was the most racially inclusive event we’ve ever put on. That said, we could’ve done better with getting more Latinx speakers on stage. In addition, we collected statistics about gender and sexual orientation.





Sessions: Robotics

Our aim with this one-day event, which was hosted at MIT in July, was to bring together the key players in robotics. MIT CSAIL, iRobot, CyPhy, DARPA and Mass Robotics were represented. As you can see from the data below, we need to ensure higher numbers of women and people of color are represented.




The 10th anniversary of the Crunchies was also the last. In 2017 we renewed our intention to showcase and reward the diversity across Silicon Valley and beyond. We gave Project Include the second-ever TechCrunch Include Award. The goal of Project Include is to make the the conversation a lot easier to have. Led by Erica Joy Baker, bethanye McKinney Blount, Tracy Chou, Laura I. Gómez, Y-Vonne Hutchinson, Freada Kapor Klein, Ellen Pao and Susan Wu, Project Include provides tools for tech CEOs to help foster working environments of inclusion for underrepresented groups.



Include Office Hours

Launched in 2014, TechCrunch’s Include program applies resources uniquely available to TechCrunch, including our editorial and events platforms, to create access and opportunity for underserved and underrepresented founders.

TechCrunch Include Office Hours are a part of this effort. The program, which launched in October 2015, Each month, TechCrunch partners with a VC in New York or San Francisco to host private 20-minute sessions that are valuable opportunities for entrepreneurs to gain key insights and advice from seasoned investors.

In 2017, we hosted eight Office Hours in San Francisco and New York. There were 317 total applications that resulted in 78 founders having meetings totaling 26 hours. The following firms participated:

  • Betaworks Ventures
  • BCV & Matrix
  • Flybridge
  • General Catalyst
  • Canaan Partners
  • Intel Capital
  • Greylock Partners
  • Cavalry Ventures

TechCrunch Staff/Culture

Beginning last year, TechCrunch made it a priority to improve our recruiting and hiring in order to make our workplace more diverse, and we will continue to do so.

With respect to gender representation, TechCrunch is ahead of typical tech companies. Compared to internet-based media companies, however, the TechCrunch editorial staff is in the range of most other publications, with women holding about 27 percent of newsroom jobs. This is far from where we aim to be. We have the most work to do, however, in the area of racial diversity, where we are over 80 percent white on the editorial staff and 78 white percent across all company departments.

As the issue of diversity and inclusion in tech continues to command conversations all over Silicon Valley and beyond, it will remain at the forefront of our coverage and around the world at our events.

With contributions from Alexandra Ames, director of marketing, and Neesha Tambe, Battlefield and Crunch Match manager.