Looking for Purpose? Become a Foster Parent

by francine Hardaway on February 1, 2016

More than twenty years ago my husband, the late Gerold Allen Kaplan, and I became foster parents. We had never planned to do that. He was a radiologist and I was an entrepreneur. Our own children were grown. We were hella busy.

But I had been mentoring a girl in 8th grade at an inner city school, and I became involved with her dysfunctional family. I saw the impact the family had on her (she got pregnant right after 8th grade, dropped out of school, and ran away), so when her younger brother, then 10, begged me to mentor him and told me he wanted to go to school, I said yes and became involved with him and his younger sister and brother, 8 and 6.

Child Protective Services finally removed the kids from their birth family after the father committed suicide and the mother, a drug addict, became unable to care for the children properly. These kids never had any food in the refrigerator, were evicted almost monthly, and had all their possessions stolen from them by their mother so she could buy drugs. And yet, they didn’t want to leave their circumstances.

The children were taken to a group home, where my husband and I visited them. We were stunned by the conditions there ( one worker sat on my daughter to make her behave) and we knew we had to do something. But as a licensed physician, my husband knew we couldn’t just take the kids into our home without permission to give them medical care or even drive them in a car or represent them at school.

So Child Protective Services recommended that we become foster parents, and God bless him, my husband agreed to do it with me. Let me just summarize by saying it wasn’t a piece of cake. We were upper middle class, knew nothing about drugs, attachment disorder, learning disabilities, and how the foster care system worked. We disagreed with many of the practices the foster care system demanded of us. Our foster parenting and their adjustment to the “normal” world was a long, sad story, very troubling for me, and I wrote a book about it about half way through my experiences, at the time I felt most like I had failed them. The book is, although twelve years old, still selling on Amazon.

I’ll spare you the heartache, which is all chronicled in the book. But twenty years later, our three foster children and their older sister are tax-paying citizens, crime-free, drug-free, and better parents than their own by orders of magnitude.

How do I know? because I am the grandmother to five wonderful kids you’ve seen me talk about on Facebook: Parker, Princess Paige, Adyn, Hudson and Jax, all the children of MY former foster kids. More than twenty years later, they (and indeed we) are still a family, bound by our mutual love. You might say we bonded.

I am writing this because today I attended the adoption hearing for a little boy who was adopted out of the foster care system by a friend of mine (who will write her own narrative about this) and her awesome husband. At the age of twelve, this boy may not know yet that he has hit the lottery with this wonderful new family, but I know it.

This woman, whom I met through social media years ago and who has become a real friend, will embrace this boy in the way he deserves to be embraced, and guide him to the life he deserves. She and her husband are incredible. And I will stand behind her in any way I can. Through my own experience I found out that there are far more bad parents than there are bad kids. Children all start in neutral, and with even decent parenting, they can be stars.

Very few people have the courage to become foster parents, and even fewer have the courage to adopt. Yet for those who do, the experience can be transformative. As I found out, there is nothing more worthwhile than paving the road to the future for a child. In my own case, parenting and then foster parenting outrank every business and academic success I’ve ever had, and with the next generation continue to bestow the gift of purpose and meaning on my life.

So is it any wonder that I cried when the judge said this was the happiest court on the happiest day and allowed us all to take pictures with the little boy in the judge’s chair? I wish all kids at risk had a happy ending like this one.


When You Go to Work at a Startup, Read its Financials

by francine Hardaway on December 29, 2015

It’s not only unicorns that could be in trouble next year. Any startup whose runway is shorter than its path to profitability will likely die. The never-acknowledged truth that working at a startup, even a well-funded one, in Silicon Valley is risky will be outed.

I’m always amazed at how little the entrepreneurs we’ve been coaching for almost two decades know about financial statements. The weeks we go over the financial part of starting and growing a business in our entrepreneurship programs are notoriously under-attended (to be understated about it). No one seems to be interested in learning what it takes to run a sustainable business from a financial perspective.

Funding makes that worse, because now these entrepreneurs can really sweep finances under the rug. Just this week on TWIST I heard Tim Draper and Jason Calacanis laugh about entrepreneurs who suddenly call their VCs and say “I’ve got to raise money fast,” after a long silence. When Draper asks them how much runway they have left, they often reply, “none.”

Imagine being the early employee of a company whose founder doesn’t even know how much money’s left until there isn’t any? These poor young people get recruited using sophisticated recruiting platforms designed to attract the best and the brightest, and the currency to do that in Silicon Valley is equity. But equity, my young friends, is even more volatile than bitcoin.

I’ll tell you a little story from my own experience. When Intel bought my business they offered me a sum of money and equity. The equity had a one year cliff and vested completely after five years. My strike price was$61. It was Intel’s most profitable year ever.

But I hated working at Intel, and after the one year, I was out the door. I left four years worth of equity on the table to become an entrepreneur again. I’m sure people thought I was nuts.

But soon after I left, my stock went under water. Even at a big company. Had I stayed, my stock would have been worth next to nothing.

So here’s my rant: no one should go to work for a startup unless he or she knows how to read a profit and loss statement or a cash flow statement at the very least. Same with the founder and the executive team. I don’t care if you know all about preferences, dilutions, and all that other high finance crap, if you can’t balance a checkbook at the end of the day it will all turn to dust.

And if you are a founder and don’t share your financials with your employees, you are little more than a slaveowner, no matter how good a cheerleader you are for the company. Ultimately, you’re a guy/gal paying low wages and asking people to work on the come. All your employees should know where the company stands at any given time.

If nothing else, that allows them to help you if you need faster turnarounds or more sales.

That’s why I wonder whether Uber, still in volatile startup mode, should be doing a naming deal with the Warriors. Two years and two dozen lost local legislative battles later, the Warriors could end up with a stadium that has no name. Uber has no way of predicting how much cash it will have three years from now.


WordPress’s New Calypso App for Mac

November 29, 2015

Being me, I downloaded WordPress’s new Calypso app (available for now only in Mac desktop version) after I heard Matt Mullenweg talk about it on The Gillmor Gang. My original idea was to start a new blog, because I redirected the old Stealthmode blog, which has been on WordPress.org for a decade, to Medium recently, […]

Read the full article →

Ask Your Mother: for Lena Dunham

September 30, 2015

I graduated from Cornell in 1962, before Roe v. Wade. I got a posh but poorly paying job at the Macmillan Company on downtown Fifth Avenue. It was my first full time job, and I was a novice at everything from work ethic to women’s place in society. In theory, I was a copywriter, writing […]

Read the full article →

Too Many Cooks in the Adtech Kitchen

September 25, 2015

 I’ve been a marketer for longer than I care to divulge. I’ve been active on behalf of one of my clients, ZEDO, in the IAB and the Online Trust Association for years. What I see is that although the media industry has many organizations that come together to discuss challenges, and many working groups (the […]

Read the full article →

Chris Stiffler’s Vision Lives

September 14, 2015

My friends Vera Kozyr and Igor Mikhnenko of NotAnotherOne stopped in Half Moon Bay to see me on their way to Shenzhen, where they’re going to select a manufacturer for their latest product, the Atmotube. Their last wearable product, GERO, which I helped them launch at CES, was the technology behind a device to monitor […]

Read the full article →

Former GoDaddyites Next Adventure: Sourcely

September 7, 2015

The proliferation of smart phones and the one-to-two-year upgrade cycle means there will be an awful lot of discarded phones, and many broken ones. Small businesses have sprung up everywhere to repair cracked screens, water damage, and other defects. The supply chain for the growing “recommerce” industry has, until recently, been business to consumer, as […]

Read the full article →

Facebook and the Big Dream

September 7, 2015

Facebook passed the billion user a day mark recently, prompting some pundits to talk about how it was a walled garden that was focused on owning the internet, and others (in Russia) to talk about it as an evil force. Not for me. Let me tell you why. In 1998 I met an Apple alum […]

Read the full article →

If You Think Zirtual Was a One-Off, Think Again

August 12, 2015

The disingenuousness of the Silicon Valley culture is revealed in the collapse of virtual assistant service Zirtual this week. Read this from the founder and this from Paul Carr for the background. Several common Silicon Valley myths caused this: 1)An inexperienced entrepreneur can make it big in an ecosystem like Silicon Valley without help 2)Users are […]

Read the full article →

Dog at Large

August 9, 2015

I have three rescue dogs. They are all trained as service dogs under the international Public Access and AKC Canine Good Citizen training programs. Training them involves doing the same thing with them day after day so they get the picture of what’s required. So I’ve come up with two awards programs: Dog at Large […]

Read the full article →