Portia Kersten CFO of Skout Shares her Uncommon Secrets

For every 40 male CEO’s that is interviewed, approximately 1 female CEO is interviewed. This is the case regardless of the choice of media, or the media outlet, men are just at the top more frequently than women. Still, this doesn’t stop us for reading about female executives who reach the top of the career charts, perhaps because we see it so rarely. Of those that do make it and are interviewed, we read the compact and contrite answers that sound as though they came out of a scripted success book, “hard work, determination, a belief in self, a great family” on and on so that half way through the article you have no interest in reading the remainder. Not so with Skout’s CFO Portia Kersten. For those who don’t know, Skout is the leading mobile app for meeting new people in the world. Beginning in just 2007, the startup has skyrocketed the success scale and continues to grow. Not only is Portia uncommon being in the Chief Financial Officer’s position, but she specializes in running startups. What’s even more differentiating about Portia is her honesty and her genuine candor.

No place is this more apparent than in an interview she gave to Huffington Post. While she may not be the first women to go from a poor upbringing to the pinnacle of success, she credits her imagination with getting her there. Now perhaps her folks helped her along by not having a television in the house, but irrespectively, she like most successful people grew to love books. She states that growing up reading authors like Charles Dickens helped her to see that it was possible to beat the odds. Apparently her love of literature was fostered at home as her parent’s named her Portia after the character in Shakesphere’s Merchant of Venice.

When confronted with the same question that is posed to all powerful women about a home and work balance, Portia is outright honest and says she doesn’t maintain a delicate balance. On the contrary, her answer is that she’s so busy she only has time for high priority tasks, be it at Skout or at home. She’s even candid about her husband’s description of her mantra, as he relates with rolled eyes, “efficiency in all things.” Not too many women would be comfortable giving such a personal insight to a nationally well-read magazine. She credits the founder of Parenting Magazine, Robin Wolaner, with being her mentor and teaching her how to persevere and push through difficult challenges in her life. When asked what advice she would give other aspiring female CFO’s she’s well-grounded in her answer of “having patience” and exercising logic, politeness and its repetition as the foundations for success. Read more about Portia in her interview with the Huffington Post here.

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SKOUT and SF-Marin Foodbank Partner to Fight Hunger

March 14 marked National Potato Chip Day. For many, that means buying and eating every bag of chips you can possibly get your hands on. But for one progressive company who seeks to make the world a happier more connected place, National Potato Chip Day meant giving back in a really positive way, and using technology to do so. The company’s name is SKOUT, and they used their app and millions of users as an excuse to do something wonderful.

SKOUT was founded in 2007 by Christian Wiklund and Niklas Lindstrom and has since grown to become the largest meet and greet app out there. The app does some pretty amazing things. The travel feature, for example, allows users to find and meet each other even as they traipse around the world. It matches SKOUT users who have similar interests and hobbies, and even allows members to send virtual gifts to one another. The goal of the app is to help people connect safely and easily. The company has separate teen and adult versions, with certain features disabled for the teens so parents can feel more secure if their kids are using the app.

SKOUT is in 16 different languages and 180 different countries. In 2015, the company announced that it had reached more than 10 million members. That makes SKOUT number one for this type of service. Based in San Francisco, SCOUT was funded $22 million in venture capital by Andreessen Horowitz and subsequently became its subsidiary in April of 2012.

On March 14, of this year, in celebration of National Potato Chip Day, SKOUT encouraged members to send virtual bags of potato chips to one another, and for every virtual bag sent, SKOUT made a cash donation to the SF-Marin Foodbank until 20,000 meals could be served! SKOUT gave back, right in the community where they live and work. Considering that in that area one in every four people is at risk for hunger, those 20,000 meals are an excellent and practical way to show gratitude and community support. The company says it is happy to be working with the food bank to help end hunger and contribute to a situation where everyone has enough to eat.


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Cleaning up Your Digital Identity

At one point or another, most people have been warned that what they post on their social media apps can be harmful. These damaging pieces of information can be found by others with a simple Google search, potentially costing people job opportunities or even college admission. Darius Fisher, president of Status Labs, gives internet users some tips to protect themselves from this kind of discrimination.

First, Fisher recommends that users log out of their browsers, clearing their cache and search history. This should give the user insight into what those who Google their name will see. Second, find any posts or pictures that may raise flags for those looking to find out information about you. For most social media apps, there is an option to change the privacy settings, and subsequently hide the damaging information. A more proactive approach is to create new content that will appear on the front page of a Google search such as a personal website or positive social media profiles. Next, be on the watch for websites like PeopleSmart that create digital profiles based on bits and pieces of information they can gather. Most of these sites will remove the information if asked. Lastly, if pictures are posted without the individual’s consent, simply contacting the website administrator could result in them being removed.

Darius Fisher has worked to fix the digital presence of people from all backgrounds and circumstances. His job is to essentially clear the internet of negative references to individuals that may result in tainting the image of the client. However, this does not mean that he has no moral standing. While he does not name names or cite examples, Fisher has rejected clients, refusing to assist in covering up acts that can be construed as morally reprehensible. The bulk of Fisher’s work is necessary due to one sided reporting or poor researching methods. This negligence should not result in tarnishing the names of innocent people. Fisher and his associates at Status Labs work to make sure that everyone gets fair digital representation.

Founded four years ago, Status Labs has grown to over thirty employees in three locations. Currently, Status Labs has over fifteen hundred clients in thirty five countries and has seen excellent growth. An up and coming entrepreneur, Fisher has worked tirelessly to give people the second chance they deserve. Fisher is currently working on expanding his business through digital marketing to reach more people who need second chances.

Flipora Rebrands, launches Rover

Flipora has been steadily rising in the ranks of Silicon Valley start ups for the past couple of years. Initially Flipora had been founded under the name InfoAxe before moving on to Flipora. Then, with their core focus fully refined, the group decided to move to the name Rover. The name change, which comes at a time when the company is pulling in heavy investor interest, looks to target people who make positive connotations to the brand. Rover is a web browsing companion app that will be available across all major web browsing platforms: handheld devices and desktop/laptop computers. Rover seeks to connect users to creative, quality, content without eve rmaking them work for it.

The Rover system works because of the companies vaunted Discovery Engine. The Discovery Engine is an AI based algorithm that runs in the background of your web browsing experience. As you browse the internet, like normal, your search history is uploaded into the cloud. Once in the cloud the data is indexed along with all of the other users who are integrating the system into their browsing experience. Much like Amazon’s “Recommended for users who liked ____”, Rover will churn out content suggestions by pulling data from other users. So if a frequent visitor of a football forum ends up going to a specific niche NFL site, then that suggestion will find its way to the end user.

Rover has already found some huge investments from major players in the tech world. We’ve seen the founder of Google Adsense, executives at Microsoft and Facebook, and even a few other data mining companies get involved. Rover has managed to raise big money recently, in the form of $3 million via capital investments, and the team of developers will look to leverage it into a big expansion into the mobile market. With more people becoming hooked to browsing on their mobile devices, iOS or Android, this expansion could pay big dividends for the still growing company.

Going from Flipora to Rover is a big move for a company that seems to have an acute sense of what their identity is. The initial Flipora system relied on users literally ‘flipping’ through content pages. As we are further removed from physical magazines, this simply was an outdated concept. The Rover system looks to hone in on the idea that there are machines and programs out there to bear the heavy lifting for the users.