barbara bickham

Barbara Bickham – WIFAX Transcript

Barbara Bickham - WIFAX

Note: This transcript was automatically generated by artificial intelligence (AI) and therefore typos may be present.

Rob McNealy – RobMcNealy.com
Hey folks, Rob McNealy here. And I am real excited to talk to you guys today because we have an amazing guest. Her name is Barbara Bickham and she is an amazing woman. We met here probably about a month ago. And she is the managing partner of the women’s Innovation Fund accelerator, also known as with x. It’s kind of a VC firm. And it focuses on women in tech. And this is one of the things that’s really exciting. Barbara is also the founder and CTO of trailing ventures, which is a blockchain consulting company. So like to welcome to the show. Barbara, how are you today?

Barbara Bickham – WIFAXVC.com
I’m good. Thank you so much. Thank you for having me.

Rob McNealy – RobMcNealy.com 
Hey, you know, I’ve had a lot of good conversations with your last couple weeks and I’m said you need to come on the show because I because I think you have a perspective that I think a lot of people need to hear and I really like what you’re doing and where you’re focusing on you know, tech and bring more women and so look Let’s take a look to take a step back. And, you know, tell me a little bit about your career and how you got into tech.

Barbara Bickham – WIFAXVC.com
All right, well, this is one of the two stories I think you’ll ask me about. The second thing will be how did I get into blockchain? So no, I won’t ask that. You won’t ask them. That’s a famous one as well.

Rob McNealy – RobMcNealy.com
Okay. So it’s always you always have to ask how did you get into bitcoin and I never use that.

Barbara Bickham – WIFAXVC.com
Bitcoin. How do I get into the blockchain space? Exactly? separate question. But how did I become a tech girl tech girl. So um, when I was in high school, I had a project. And it was to make an area of a circle and it was in a computer science class. So my high school had computer science. I went to kind of a private Catholic school, and they had computer science there. And so the, the assignment was to make an area of a circle. And so I did that assignment and I did it in like a week. was to use, we had to print out a flowchart of how we would make the area of a circle. And I did it in Visual Basic. So this is like way back before any super fancy programming languages. So I did that. And I was like, well, this is kind of boring, I need to do more assignments. So what I decided to do was extend my flowchart and do every square error rectangle area of a triangle, because you..

Rob McNealy – RobMcNealy.com
Show off.

Barbara Bickham – WIFAXVC.com
…which one do you want to do. And then you could kind of click and say I want to do rectangle number four, and then it would do the do the flowchart and say, if it’s a rectangle, then compute the, you know, enter in the number and then you entered in the number and then it computed it. So that that didn’t take me too long. But that’s kind of how I fell in love with computers. So then after that I got into Berkeley, I still don’t know how that happened. It’s kind of a mystery, one of those life mysteries, because I didn’t really apply. So I’m trying to figure out how that happened. Maybe that was just on their radar, something that happens I guess, and go They’re not my computer science degree. I have a Bachelors of Arts. So it’s interesting because at Berkeley to get the bachelors of science you have to get into engineering school. And then the engineering school maybe you took all that Kimmy II, me physically and I didn’t want to take all that was it. I just wanted my lovely computers, I don’t need to have an engineering degree and a computer science degree. So I just took the CS part. So I went there, and then I got my first job. So after I got my first job, when I got it, they were like, Hey, we want you to create this program out of nothing. Here’s a blank paper. We want you to do this translating program, and we don’t care how you write it. We just want you to do it. Not when are you sure cuz I literally just graduated from school. Um, I don’t know, I don’t really have any experience writing code or doing this yet. So no, you went to Berkeley. You should printed out. So that became one of their biggest products It was called. It was called a story geometry note. So what we did was is we converted something from editors page planner, this is prior to the fancy internet, you had to actually print out paper, as like newspaper, the newspaper business is very different than it was back then. But this was one of the first computerized ways to actually print newspapers on the computer. So we had this ad makeup station, and then we had the ability to enter in stories. This thing kind of filled in the parts on the paper. If you had if you saw like ads in the corner, I was just like, here’s an ad or you saw like a small story in the corners like, here’s like Joe’s little commentary, that’s that was that was what that particular software did. It helped find kind of where to fill in pieces of paper. So that was my first job. After that I had a very traditional career, a lot of architecting and designing systems, a lot of managing people and and about 15 years into my career, I had an opportunity to start a company. So I started a company called tech deny what tection. I was originally. This is like story of pivots, what tech and I was originally it was supposed to be the ability to do wireless roaming across multiple networks. So Wi Fi network and cellular network. Those were the two back in the day that you were going to roam across. So I figured out how to do that. And I did all these surveys I did all this consumer asking and you know, focus groups and things that you do now in the Lean Startup method. And what happened was people found out I was in the wireless business, I’m in LA, and this is Hollywood. And I was talking to some of my entertainment friends and they said, Hey, can you put that American Idol stop avoiding and pulling in my show? I went Hmm. Yeah, I think I could do that. I knew all the people. So I pivoted, I completely pivoted my company to do that. And, and tech denies actually one of the wireless pioneers in the United States, we kind of brought the wireless into mass adoption. So we helped a lot with shortcodes. So when you texthelp 212345, that’s partially my fault, QR codes, partially my fault. So I work with a lot of the technology to kind of create the mass adoption. Um, so that’s what tech Gemini was. During the time of running that company. I had somebody come to me and go, Hey, I have an angel group. Would you like to run an angel group? And I said, Hmm, well, yeah, that could be interesting. Let me do that, too. So while I was running my company, tech tonight, I was also running this angel group. And so I ran a group called the pcn LA and I had about 400 angels in there and This was during 2008 2007 2008 2009. We all know what happened in there were a few less angels in 2009. And my angels were very great because they said, you know, a bar, we love you, but we’re kind of a little less angels now, right now in this moment. So I was like, okay, so I shut that down and then obviously had this. But then I found an opportunity to work with a private merchant bank, that kind of shut down. And so then I went back to my coding roots. So I went to work for a European company. I was the lone American in the European company. So I had workers in Europe and workers in India, so I was alone American. So that was also very interesting, because during that time, I had a lot of work to do, because you’re working from nine to 11. Because you have the Indian part, the British part, when you talk to them, when do they talk to you, you know, it’s like a lot of coordinating in that. So I did that, for about four years, and in that company, I actually won them an award. So they had something called AI hub IoT. They were an Internet of Things company. And I wrote, they had a contract for the government to deploy internet of things into various colleges and companies. So their first deployment, they needed a REST API and they didn’t have one. So the auditor came because we were being checked by the government. And they said, Well, look, in order for you guys to get your check. You have to have this stuff done. This was in August, and it was the stuff was due in October. So how many months is that? August, September, October, bam, okay. They’re like okay, Mark, who’s gonna write this and then my Maya, my colleague and kind of boss at the time, he’s like, all right, I said, You don’t you don’t have time right that you know, you’re Not gonna write that. So I’ll write it. And then the person I was supposed to write it didn’t didn’t want to write it either. So I said, Well, I’m not even supposed to be on this project, honestly. So I’ll just read it. So two months later, REST API comes out. We win a Gartner cool vendor award. We, the deployment was flawless. I think they found one problem in it, and I fixed it. And it was a very minor problem. Cuz somebody actually put in like, 26,000 requests in a minute. And I was like, well, that’s not good. I’ll wait limit this. And it but it didn’t fall over. So that was that was a claim to fame. So after that kind of ended, that was 2014 2015 popped out of the hole. I said, Well, you know what? I can’t be a VP of engineering anymore. I might as well now be a CTO. So I popped down and said, Hey, everybody, I’m a CTO now. And it’s funny. I went to start networking back and some of my groups and everyone’s like, I don’t You know, hey, they’re like, hey, Bob, what are you up to? I said, Well, I’m doing the CTO thing and they went, you know how to code. Why? Because when you have the CEO moniker, which I had at Tec nine, and these other things, like they don’t think you are, you came from a computer background, they had no clue. So you know, of course, I’m not going to have you know, technical person on myself, I have SEO, because I want you to take me as that. So that’s why I trailing I have CTO as my moniker. I am the CEO as well. But it’s like I want to meet make it clear, like I’m very technical. So you’re talking to a tech, the technical person, as well as trailing like that. So that so now, so like I became a CTO, and that kind of goes into trailing. So trailing is my blockchain advisory company, we kind of put companies on blockchains. We actually work with AI, AR and IoT. We work with all the emerging tech actually. So we have companies innovate on those areas. Um, what about trailing I mean, you know, we have private clients, I think trail is gonna morph a little bit. Because, you know, a lot of people need other types of technical help and strategic level technical help. And the other hand, I wear it with x, and we’ll talk about how that trajectory came as well. Um, I can help apply some of that into startups and I had been doing that prior to starting with x the fund, I’d always help companies raise money I’d always help companies with their pitches, I’d always help companies with their business strategy. How do you make revenues How do you make money What is your monetization because as a technical person, you have to understand like how is that now going to be implemented into your software? Now you can just do stripe easy, but what if you want to put something else in their cryptocurrency or what if you want to do PayPal or what if you want to do Braintree or Amazon or, or other, you know, other payment mechanisms. So you just got to be at work normal b2b, and then I don’t have to worry about it, you’re going to do a traditional, like, send an invoice. But even that can be done by a computer now. So the question becomes, from a, from a technical side, what do we need to put in here? To make it monetizable? What are the revenue models that impact the technology? And then how can we make that scale? So a lot of people never understood this, like, why is this important? It’s important because how are we making money here? You’re not gonna you know, if you’re gonna kind of give up things for free. Nowadays, you have to look at the scale of that what that has to be million people, 2 million people for it to be interesting for anybody. Whereas if you have, you know, 10,000 good people paying you every month, that’s a good thing. So you have to look at it that way. I think.

Rob McNealy – RobMcNealy.com
I think one of the things you’re touching on is common in tech is where you have developer led projects. Purchase versus like an entrepreneur lead project, where they kind of see different things, a lot of tech people, you know, they just want to build. But, you know, I always come at things, and I’m not a developer. But what I always kind of see is, you know, find a customer first and then build a solution to their problem and do that first. And I find when I started looking at businesses from that perspective, instead of just building something I had in my head. Now that can work but you know, you got to do a lot of diligence validation before you move forward on that. But I think, you know, there are a lot of developer led projects that don’t understand revenue, don’t understand business development and markets and things like that. And I think that’s important that you as a VC understand the tech side really heavily. But you also understand, you know, the business side, you’re like the Lee Iacocca of tech, right?

Barbara Bickham – WIFAXVC.com
Because Lee Iacocca was so awesome.

Rob McNealy – RobMcNealy.com
Well, you know, a lot of people don’t understand that he, you know, he was heavily involved with Product Development and Engineering. And I think he actually had was an engineer at one point. And then that’s when he developed them, you know, the marketing for developed the Mustang project and then later, you know, went to Chrysler and built all those products but he was one of those rare people that can make that transition from the tech side to the actual business and leadership side, because that’s rare. And and it’s interesting that you..

Barbara Bickham – WIFAXVC.com
I’ve always, I’ve always been interested in business and always said, I wouldn’t have a company even when I was young, a young person I you know, like the technology thing just kind of fell like it just kind of fell into and actually it just became my thing that I’m naturally was excellent to do. And I was blessed to find that very early. But I was always interested in fascinated by business and in from a technology side from a technical person side if you think about systems and how systems work, and how things flow like business is like an ultimate kind. systems level view of life because it’s kind of like how do these things work? What happens if you have to pivot? You know, we have the global pandemic, because I do call it the global pandemic, you know, how you know, all systems are shifting. So how do you strategically pivot or move that or change it and I think like my natural ability to architect and design systems, is is is kind of utilized when you look at things from a business perspective and go Okay, you can architect and design things in your business just like you would from a software or product side as well in my mind. So to me, there’s kind of, you know, it’s not really that different that different, but I agree with you. I think sometimes, you know, tech people are very tech heavy business people are very business heavy, but that’s why you need those alliances. That’s why you really need kind of to build an advisory board, a mastermind, you know, have other people kind of around you and and so you can get the advice of Look, this, you know, I’m building this like, Is there a market for this? Do I have competition? No, I don’t have any competition. You always have competition the way you the way it’s done now is competition. So, no. Hey. So I mean, you know that this is why bringing the business people in the 10 people together is very powerful.

Rob McNealy – RobMcNealy.com
I think so as well. So you you I won’t ask that one question. But you are involved in emerging technologies.

Barbara Bickham – WIFAXVC.com
I am I’m in all of them, actually.

Rob McNealy – RobMcNealy.com
So why focus on the emerging technologies versus more traditional programming and, you know, consulting models?

Barbara Bickham – WIFAXVC.com

In the emerging tech world, Well, okay, let’s take it pre pandemic, and then post pandemic. So if you look at what’s happened before, the global pandemic, what what was what what shifts were going on, you know, we’re, we’re in the US here, so I don’t know how how Global your your podcast as well. But the thing about it is if you think about it, we were talking about like voting. There’s a lot of conversations around voting. So why is voting not on some emerging tech platform where you could validate who you are, you have a slate of people, and then you go, Okay, I vote for this slate of people or whatever you check 1111 on a computer, on your phone, wherever, and then you submit it and you know, it’s you because they validated it was you, huh? Okay, does that sound technically, that’s not a hard problem to solve. But it’s some of this is really political will. So now if you look at post pandemic, we I know many countries that that stimulus. Now I also know many countries were clearly more prepared for stimulus than United States. So if you think about that distribution of money, or distribution period, it could be distribution of food. We have no shortage of those Toilet paper. Why was that? We had shortages of other things. Why was that these are distribution problems. If you look at that, like some of this could have been tracked and traced on these emerging tax and AI could have told you like, hey, you’re running out of toilet paper, and you only have like two weeks of toilet paper in the pipe, you might need to go order 15 or 20 weeks of toilet paper. Now, the AI also could have said the global supply of toilet paper is only five weeks. So for everyone on the planet, it’s only five weeks of toilet paper, something could have told us that. But um, you know, if you would have done a more traditional system, how would you have found that out? Who are you going to call? Who do you want to call you back? How are you going to know? It’s all centralized? So the one with all the toilet paper and we had people that did this, oh, I bought all this hand sanitizer and I bought all this stuff. We had people that were hoarding, so if you’re hoarding they were already mad asks, Who are you gonna? How are we going to find that out? It was going to be impossible. That’s why I work in the emerging tech field to actually solve problems at scale. Because all these things are going to be all infrastructure. AI is already pretty ubiquitous. People ask me about it all the time. What about AI? You know, if you go to McDonald’s, or Starbucks, I don’t know if you ever go to McDonald’s. I don’t really go there. But I found this out. Like when you go to most of these restaurants now and you order, you’re really talking to an AI, you’re not talking to a person. And then you’re talking to the AI and then sometimes they go, Oh, hold on, and then you hear a person interrupt. That is the AI has said, Hey, I don’t understand their order. I don’t understand something and then the person interrupts. So AI is very ubiquitous when you call the bank, which is annoying, or anything now the electric car, anything, if you call anything I called the phone week. That’s an AI. The AI is like, I don’t understand, I don’t understand. I’m like person 000 can I get to a person? No, it won’t let you. Yes. It’s like Hello, hello. So I mean, if you think about these emerging texts, it, they’re going to be all infrastructure. And so why don’t you want to be in kind of the next generation of what’s happening? Because, you know, post pandemic has proven a lot of things, what’s really going to be necessary and what is not and what skill sets are going to be necessary and what is not. I think that is whole other conversation.

Rob McNealy – RobMcNealy.com

That’s like a whole other conversation.

Barbara Bickham – WIFAXVC.com

Yeah, I think politics is a big deal. And I think that that definitely permeates, you know, a lot of different things. And I mean, we could unpack you know, things like the global pandemic and from the political side of it, which it’s been politicized and poison throughout, you know, all levels of Government and, and stuff and, and my wife’s a medical doctor who, you know, works kind of with the federal government. And so trust me, I we view the pandemic probably differently than a lot of people do. But we definitely are concerned and it definitely is a problem. And, and it’s a problem that’s solvable. And, and, you know, it’s like we we seem to the United States, it’s like, we certainly have had a hard time, you know, coming together as a people, I think that’s part of the problem is that you look at the countries that have done the best at like New Zealand, which is virus free now, or Sweden and the Netherlands.

Rob McNealy – RobMcNealy.com
Where they, they’ve come together, and they viewed it, you know, as they viewed it as the country versus the virus. And here, it’s the one side of the political aisle versus the other end versus the virus. So, and that’s the problem. And I think ultimately, you know, if from I think those of us who think in terms of actual solving problems and not all of it sticks. It’s hard for us to like, you know, you know, it’s a head scratcher. It’s definitely head scratcher. Um, okay, let’s, let’s pivot a little bit. Let’s talk a bit about with accent and what you’re doing with your accelerator with women in tech. What’s that all about?

Barbara Bickham – WIFAXVC.com 
Alright, so let me with x it you know, it’s called the women’s Innovation Fund accelerator. So the women portion of with x is that we like gender balanced sea level. So we like an equal amount of men and women, you can have a few more women than men. We do have a few people that are all women. But that’s where we do have one set that’s all man that’s like super rare. We usually don’t take those people. I kind of knew that person. So they they got in, but we like the balance. And I’ll tell you why in a minute, the innovation emerging tech and sustainability so we do the blockchain, ai AR IoT and they will also help the companies become sustainable companies because we believe those are Your next set of consumers, you know, a lot of younger people younger than us, I think, like the sustainability aspect. They like that you’re corporately responsible, environmentally responsible, socially responsible. So we kind of help the companies become that in the accelerator. We’re fun. We’re opportunities on impact fund. So we’re very localized. We’re about creating jobs giving opportunity to underserved, underrepresented people. That could be women that could be black and brown. It could be any income underrepresented people, and then we’re an accelerator. So our celebrator does two things. We help your company become fundable and we make you sustainable. So our fungibility quotient is we run this thing called the due diligence intensive. So I have a very rigorous due diligence package, and it’s six weeks. So we go through this checklist which is six pages. the back part What I have to do is a lot more pages. If you’re a blockchain company, it’s even extra pages. It’s like it goes between 28 and 35 pages that I have to do to, to validate like your real company, this is a real thing. You know, you get feedback on that. And then it’s two weeks of sustainability. So they get one year sustainability plan, which we track internal to our fund. So that’s what’s very different about our fund. You know, we’re not really a traditional, I mean, we are a venture fund or traditional and that way, you know, we like the traditional venture returns, but we’re also very community oriented or socially oriented. We like to work with people that want to scale big, global or global reach as well. We have partners in Korea, my other stuff, people on our board that help us get over into Asia and Korea. So, you know, we’re, we’re knocking that around. So that’s, that’s us in a nutshell. So we we absolutely feel the need to support women in STEM and steam. I mean, I’ve been in STEM and steam my whole life. It’s important, even not from a technological side to be in it, because most companies are tech enabled. But you need somebody that understands that like, Hey, are you going to be Facebook? Where you need heavy tech? Are you going to be something else where it’s tech enabled? So you know, there’s that as well. And then how are you you know, then you have your business wrappings as well. How are you going to monetize? How are you going to get customers how are you going to grow? How are you going to pivot? How you gonna? Yeah, so there’s a lot a lot to business and a lot to run your fund. Because then we have our portfolio construction how are we how are we getting everyone to play together? Then you have your you know, co investors and you have your your investors as many things running apart.

Rob McNealy – RobMcNealy.com
I can imagine. How many portfolio companies do you have now?

Barbara Bickham – WIFAXVC.com
So we have we have four portfolio companies that we put powder into. And we have about we’ve done 17 companies in acceleration.

Rob McNealy – RobMcNealy.com
Wow. That’s, that’s good. I’m sorry. You focus mainly with your accelerator on seed stage. Are you looking? How many stages Do you want to go to? And are you looking to grow your fund as well to later stage kind of companies?

Barbara Bickham – WIFAXVC.com
You know what, I think we’re probably like late seed early series. So that’s kind of where we want to play. Um, I think leader leader stage there are a lot of people that, you know, now you’re competing with like Andreessen Horowitz is and you know, like earliest bond and many you know, you’re dealing with like, a lot of other more mature funds at that stage. I still think that for women, there is a gap between seed and be like seed and be so We are in our fun we are doing follow on money. So like if you get an A and we do the A with someone, then we’re willing to do the be and be a part of that. And then I think if you get at that level, so we’re talking about 50 6070, hundred million dollar revenue level ish, then you know, you should be able to get either out or kind of, you know, up to the next levels. The other thing that we that we do here is we, we have something called a capital stack program, and we’re testing it on ourselves versus not ourselves, but on some of the portfolio companies. And what that is, is we look at how do you exit and then roll back. So what do we need to do to potentially get you to exit because the IPO market is frothy, like private companies are taking longer and longer to come out nine years, 10 years, 12 years, you know, that’s a long time if you’re sitting there at the seat or a level, that’s a long time to wait. So we say, Okay, how can we configure it so that you can potentially, you know, be attractive for an exit, which could be an acquisition, you’re acquiring, they’re acquiring. So that’s that’s how we see we see exits as well. So that’s that’s kind of how we were working. So far. It’s working well.

Rob McNealy – RobMcNealy.com
So if you had a project that wanted to come to you, but they don’t have a woman, do you have people in a stable that you can put on teams?

Barbara Bickham – WIFAXVC.com 28:28
Yes, we absolutely do. It depends on what they what the configuration is. But yes, we can put women on teams. Absolutely.

Rob McNealy – RobMcNealy.com 
So I really like what you’re doing and it’s kind of funny. My wife and I are big believers in STEM, and we actually homeschool our kids. And we have two we have two daughters and the reason we homeschool primarily, it’s not for religious reasons, which is pretty common among homeschoolers, but we want to ensure that our daughters and our sons but all our kids, got a really strong STEM education. So My oldest daughter is 17. And she’s going toward Chem engineering. But she’s already she’s finishing up her sophomore year college at 17. And so, yeah, so she’s doing that. And so she’s doing all but it’s interesting because all our kids are a couple years ahead of where they would be in public school. It’s just homeschool is just so much more efficient at getting kids through. And we found that stem is, you know, it’s one of the things that I’m concerned about the United States long term is culturally, we don’t value education as a country anymore. And I’m not sure we did for a long time either. But I think that I think we’re beginning to become less competitive as a country going forward. And, and a lot of that stem and I think a lot of the problems you’re seeing with all the people, you know, you see a lot of people like boomers and millennials that are struggling. And a lot of that goes back to, I think, a bad education model that we have in the United States. And in in I’m not trying to get political right. But…

Barbara Bickham – WIFAXVC.com 30:04
This is just factual. I mean, we’re talking about facts here. This is not a political statement, I mean, education that cuts across everything, and everyone, actually.

Rob McNealy – RobMcNealy.com
And what about one of the things that I see as a problem with education, and I think this affects girls too. So I think this is important is that we don’t focus on in the United States in our public school systems pretty much anywhere. We do not focus on science and education. And we don’t, we don’t train kids to mastery. We just push them through the system. And one of the things that we do different with our education, our values, we tell our kids look, it takes as long as it takes for you to master this however, you don’t go to the next level until you master it. We will give you all the tools that you need, including hiring tutors, or what have you, to get you to that mastery, but we don’t let our kids go to the next level of what others, whatever…

Barbara Bickham – WIFAXVC.com
Whatever it may be…

Rob McNealy – RobMcNealy.com
Unless they’re mastering it. Meaning that they basically get an A, you know? And when I tell people this that are my friends that have their kids a post with a like, Wow, that’s so mean that’s so hard. And I’m like, why would you progress, somebody who’s failing at something or just mediocre at something, because things only typically get harder as you go forward. And if you’re not having a good grasp of basics, you’re going to struggle. And and so it’s interesting and it’s interesting the United States on top of that with public school, you have so many people because of the way we do student loans and stuff that they had a lot of bad advice given to kids I think is like they take on so much debt…

Barbara Bickham – WIFAXVC.com 31:37
and a ton of debt…

Rob McNealy – RobMcNealy.com
…a ton of debt, but…

Barbara Bickham – WIFAXVC.com 31:40
…and no marketable skills…

Rob McNealy – RobMcNealy.com
…but they take on a lot of debt for no ROI. And so it’s interesting. So I mean, we’ve had a lot of a lot of arguments and time and and discussions, especially with my older kid. But she came around eventually, but we said look, if we’re going to pay for education now I think paying for an education is part of being a good parent, I think it’s I think we owe that. Now, that doesn’t mean that doesn’t have to be a college degree, but we think that you’re gonna move forward. You know, your kid has to have enough life skills to be independent at 18. Like they know how to drive a car, they know how to change tire, they know how to, like, do laundry could buy all those things in work and make money and make good business decisions, a good buying decision. I mean, we we have a very holistic approach, unlike an 18 my kids need to do these things. Because those things are important. And, and so I think what’s happened is you have all these people that for so long, they just like, Oh, I’m gonna go spend 100 grand to get this education that starting pay is like $16 an hour. And my one daughter, you know, she’s had she’s had to work hard to get where she’s getting with her grades in school because you know, stem is hard, okay, you have to do four levels of calculus for an engineering degree. Yeah, and what we said is, but I said it and right now it’s like, it’s kind of a joke. I have an MBA. And I also wanted to learn to be a welder. Because I like to make metal art. That’s my hobby. And last summer a year ago, I graduated from a year and a half long, full blown welding program. I’m a certified welder. I went to school full time for a year and a half to become a hobby welder is kind of funny, but I’m a full welder. And, and it was hard actually, because I’m not I don’t have great hand eye coordination, but but I learned to weld and it’s interesting because I got to be around a lot of kids or half my age. I was like, oldest guy in my class. I was older my instructor and you know, but a lot of these guys are blue collar kids, but these kids are coming out of welding school. They could do so it was a nighttime program four nights a week, right. So blue collar blue collar is again, I but I respect people that work with their hands. But the interesting thing is this this program from start Finished was less than over a year and a half and you paid it in payments $6,000. So, that’s the cost of vacation. Oh, maybe 6500 by the time you buy your welding helmet and all the gear, but it was about six grand is what it was. And you could work during the day. It was designed for people that had a day job. So you’re 18 years old. By the time you’re 19 you can have the certification, have a skill, don’t have to not work while you’re going to school because you can go at night. Now, here’s the interesting. They’re so desperate for welders in the United States right now. This this was interesting, and I was shocked. They had major corporations that are major industrial corporations coming to our welding program, trying to recruit us halfway through to start work bring the day starting at $30,000 a year, you know, or more up to 4030 to 40 K so like 15 to $20 an hour plus full benefits 401k Matching healthcare, you name it. I mean, all major typical corporate Pac benefits packages, vacation vacation, boot allowance, you name it, and I’m just like, oh my god. So, so think so think about this. And I tried to explain this to my kid when she’s like, wanting to look at a different lessor major that didn’t have a good ROI. And I said, Look, you know, we can pay whatever it’s going to be for you to go to the college and get this degree 30 $40,000 whatever it ends up being. And then you make 40 grand a year with this type of major that she was interested in and I said, Look, that’s not worth the money. I would rather you go to welding school. Or, you know, they they’re posting at the school for electronics technicians for a two year degree to be just an electronic repair started at 56,000 a year with a two year basically an associate degree from a community college people were starting. The local rail yard is starting It people at 35,000 a year with no experience to work in the rail industry. And you know, these are more hands on blue collar jobs. But…

Barbara Bickham – WIFAXVC.com
I mean, these are all you know, these are all interesting things because you still need some tech, you know, technical ability, you still need to do math, you can’t eld just wherever you are, you’ll need some type of creativity and thinking, you know, like, you’re still gonna have to measure so you’re gonna have to know some math, you know, I’m saying like, so, you know, because we’re talking about STEM and steam. And I think from, from a technology perspective, no matter what it is, you have to have that you may not have to have the science unless you want to do that heavy science like biology or you know, your soil. The problem for COVID-19 you’re trying to make a vaccine. You clearly need science for that. But the you know, the technology in the math part, I mean, as long as you’re a lifelong learner and you’re really good at what you do, and you really understand how systems work and things work. I mean, I don’t believe you have to have a traditional education. I mean, back in the day, we had to have a traditional education because we didn’t have the choice to do a traditional, you know, non traditional, we can go on, you know, now, if you think about it, even prior to everything happening, you could go online and learn anything. Like they have you to me, they had one, yeah, the Khan Academy, they had it they had, you know, like Berkeley and Stanford and all the other people that opened kind of opened up their, their edX platform, and you could go on to anything, so and you could learn anything. Um, so it’s not necessarily about where you learn it. It’s about are you learning? And then how do you then apply it? And I agree with you on mastery, because in this computer science world that I’ve been in a long time, mastery is important, because you could really, you know, I worked for a pacemaker company and That was interesting. But you don’t master have any mastery of what’s going on there, you’re going to kill somebody. So, you know, there are things where if you don’t have mastery, it can really hurt people in a bad way, in a negative way. And so I like what you said about that. And I think that we have gotten away from from that mastery and you know, even in your own craft, are you a master in your own craft, but if you think about education, which kind of started this conversation off, education, it has gotten completely, it’s completely failed. I’ve met multiple people from multiple colleges trying to get a job in the computer world, and they had peace and freedom degree. I don’t even know what that is like, what was the peace and freedom? Like and I don’t know how that relates to computers. And I don’t you know, yeah, you got a degree from Berkeley, but that’s a worthless piece of paper. So I really like you spent a lot of money on Nothing. And now you have to go get some PhD and peace and freedom. I don’t even know how that works or what you’re gonna do. But it’s kind of like, Did you not? Did you not think of this? Did your parents not have a conversation with you? Were you being rebellious and said, I’m gonna go get a piece of freedom degree and they said no, you should really be this Oh, like, you know that and then like did the school counselor really like say hey this is a good idea yeah you’re down for peace and freedom, like it doesn’t make some of these actual offerings of degrees make no sense.

Rob McNealy – RobMcNealy.com
And you’re getting a lot done I guess that was my my long winded tale is that you can get a very worthwhile high ROI education making good money without having to take off anytime and with at 19 years old you have you can make enough money with no debt so you can work your way through like a, I guess, a whole lot of different type of you know…

Barbara Bickham – WIFAXVC.com
It could be many things.

Rob McNealy – RobMcNealy.com
You know, the lot of things and not have any debt and have be completely self sustainable by the time you’re 20, where you’re if you’re making 40 grand a year and you’re 20, you can easily live on your own. If you bail, if you have decent money management skills in Utah, you can you could run your own apartment, have a new car, and live on that. And, and so, and what I see right now is so many people are in debt for these degrees that have no skills, there’s no ROI. And it’s like it came down to me it’s like it seems like no one had no parent had that conversation about does this conversation to take five years of your life to get this degree where you can’t work and I’m like, okay, we can go to welding school at night and never take off and lose any opportunity cost for working for five years. Work your way through pay as you go. And now you’re self sufficient in 19. But then, you know, and I was talking to like even in welding, that there’s a track to be a weld inspector and then an expert with other things and you can be a welding engineer. They do have bachelor’s degrees in it. Welding engineer so if you decide to keep going, so you can be an entrepreneur welders, like if you bought if you are an entrepreneur welder can make 60-80 bucks an hour if you have a weld shop and then if you are a mobile welder where you

Barbara Bickham – WIFAXVC.com
I mean there’s many different things, there’s all sorts, this is the business side of your actual like creativity. So like I kind of took my tech side and began, you know, in and created a business around that and saying with a fund I mean a fund is kind of like a business on steroids but still a business still need ROI. You still have to answer investors, you still have to make you know, decisions, you still have strategy slam, you know, a lot of things to do…

Rob McNealy – RobMcNealy.com
But it opens the door to make it so young people have a way to have a very successful life at a young age and still have lots of options. And no one talks about that, you know,

Barbara Bickham – WIFAXVC.com
You know who is actually very famous for this is Mike Rowe?

Rob McNealy – RobMcNealy.com
Yes, Dirty jobs.

Barbara Bickham – WIFAXVC.com
The Dirty Jobs. Yeah, he’s very, very good. Famous for, you know, hey, if you’re a welder, if you’re a plumber, if you’re, you know, the railroad guy, I mean sanitation, I mean, and they make decent money, they make decent money. I’m like 19 year old you make 40 or 50 grand. I mean, that’s, that’s decent money.

Rob McNealy – RobMcNealy.com
It’s in Utah. That’s amazing money. And so..

Barbara Bickham – WIFAXVC.com
You know, money in general. I mean, if you even in LA that’s decent money. That’s above what everyone else making..

Rob McNealy – RobMcNealy.com
And you want to hear somehting interesting, it’s like there was like one girl in my welding program and like she was recruited out like twice there would be the guys because because just like any other Corporation right now if you’re a woman or a minority, they do have preferential hiring because they’re trying to fill slots was well, all these big companies, right? They want minorities, they want women, they can’t get them to apply. And it was just really,

Barbara Bickham – WIFAXVC.com
I think you know, back to the education piece. I think that’s partially education as well because One of my very good friends has a daughter. She has two daughters. And they decided she decided that her daughter needed to be opted out of math. And I said, Don’t let them record that on her record. Don’t do that. Because then you’ll always be labeled as you can’t do math. Right. I said, well get her a tutor. I said, we’ll have some other people tutor. I said, don’t have her labeled as that. But I think that this happens a lot. Where girls are discouraged from doing the math and the science and the hard thing and encouraged even still to this day, because this is not you know, this, she’s, she’s out of college, but it still was in the last I’d say, five or six years, which isn’t so long ago, where girls are discouraged and and it’s crazy. It’s crazy. I mean, we have to as women and moms and aunts and grandmas and all those things have to have to stand them in Look, we cannot allow our girls younger girls to go through all these same things. We went through a we’re the pioneers, so we’re going to try and pave away and make it easier for them. And so this is why with x kind of exists, and this is why we’re doing the balance. We’re doing the balance because we said, Look, women are, you know, the statistics are there 2% funding all women insane. And you know, underrepresented founders, even less insane. So, you know, we’re not as representative in all the tech spaces in the stem and steam insane. That’s why we’re doing the innovation. That’s why we do the emerging tech is so that we can we can be a part of the next generation economy. And then you know, like, just like welders. I mean, you’re going to need engineers, you’re going to need scientists, you’re going to need you know, you’re going to need a welder to build the quantum computer. So I mean, Hey, you got to have that happening. And the drones You need the water to build the drones. But then you need somebody to call the drones and program the drums. So there’s, you know, there’s all these things that can be going on, in, in synergy and in an ecosystem way that all these things can play together. But then who’s looking at that? who’s thinking about that? I mean, we’re talking about it now. And we’re thinking about it clearly. But why are we so highly strategic things that you have to be thinking about? And so we talked about on our phone, we were trying to create the next generation workforce, which is all the stem and steam all these advanced tech because this is this is only going to come further and further and we’re concerned about AI replacing us, well, what are these people gonna do? Well, they can well, they can do other things. You know, there’s other things you can do and then they can be a part of the ecosystem. But then we can also train them to create the AI is create the data for the eyes, maintain the eyes. You know, there’s a lot of things you can train people to do next generation workforce next generation entrepreneur. So we’re trying to Get the next set of people to create the next set of companies, whatever those are, and then we’re trying to do the next generation investor. So if you’re not powdering, the people that are going to invest in the next set of people, because they’re successful, then what are you doing?

Rob McNealy – RobMcNealy.com
No idea. I think what I what I’d like to see is, you know, we create more role models, you know, about women and girls getting stem now, I think, you know, a lot of this and I think you probably know this too. There’s a lot of cultural bias against women being successful and independent in certain certain, you know, circles. Certain religions in certain cultures are very male dominated, and, you know, even the state I live in, in Utah, there’s still the man is in charge. And, and I can get into different you know, I could call out lots of different groups, but a lot of Orthodox groups don’t want women learning anything. And I think so there is a there are a lot of other cultural things that I think keep girls from learning things and discouraging and all I can say is I like to see more role models about what you’re doing. And I mean I’m living it with my own kids I want my girls to not say I think to me I want my kids to be absolutely successful and I want my kids to never have to be dependent or stuck in a situation where they can’t make a living on themselves so they want to be a stay at home mom with an engineering degree. That’s great. That’s a choice I mean, even when my wife laughter will medical school my wife we had to stay home for a couple of years before she went on to her career after she graduated from medical school because we had a sick one of our kids was very sick and and so but to me, I had no less respect for my wife and you know when she was you know being a stay at home mom and and we changed our life based on that and so to me, that’s how I view it is I want my kids to be have more options in life and and even think about like this right as a father and you have kids right? You know, you want the best for your kid right? In and to me. Let’s just be honest. Right on son who is a good earner and successful has a much better chance at having, let’s just say for lack of a better word, options when it comes to finding a spouse or a wife or you know, what have you going forward? Because they’re about they’re more attractive person, a better earner in the society is more likely to have more options. And, and I think it’s the same with a girl, you know, and to me, it’s like, you know, there’s some guys that don’t, you know, they’re still some caveman kind of guys that don’t want a smart wife, I disagree. I would I married up I’m first to say I was blessed, and I’m married way out of my league. And and you know, it’s been very good for us in. And I think I’ve learned a lot from my wife and I have a different perspective. So I’m more of a hands on problem solver. So my wife and I really balanced. We just had our 20th anniversary, too. So it’s working out so far. Thank you. And so and so to me, it’s like I just want those options and I wish that there were more role models out there showing that you know…

Barbara Bickham – WIFAXVC.com 49:00
I think girls have a lot more options. And just to you know, since I’m kind of in this, you know, in that space in the space of diversity in the space of diversity inclusion in the space of women. I mean, I’ve talked to many women, globally, like worldwide. And I think that the women are changing it for the women. And so I agree with you culturally, there’s still some, you know, things. And when we talk about things in a systemic way, when I say that this is systemic, it’s complacency. It’s the fact that you’re allowing it to go on and on and on and on continuously until the end of talk that’s that’s to me, was this something systemic is it’s not, you know, that it’s a system and it’s against, you know, the systemic part is complacency, the fact that no one does anything, everyone knows, no one says anything, no one does anything that creates problems that creates a systemic problem, period, whatever, whatever you want to label the problem at But I say that to say this, I think that, you know, globally women are really moving forward in many aspects, and it’s just not seen. And I think like, do you have, you know, role models are powerful and they’re important, but you have to ask yourself, like, Who are these role models? So like, when I saw the Hidden Figures, I actually knew the somebody who was related to to one of the Hidden Figures, but like, Who knew about that, like, I didn’t know, like, so the other the other part of it is, is to surface these people. And these pioneers and these women that have done so many things, and and show like, hey, that you have no limitation, like in like, I’ve never felt like personally I’ve ever had a limitation as to what I could do or not do. And I think sometimes we put limitations on ourselves, but I’ve never felt that my parents never told me like, hey, you’re limited because of XYZ, ABC like that. That was never a conversation in the household. don’t have that conversation with my son. He say, Man, you got unlimited what have you, Mom, I was afraid. I said, I don’t know why I mean, I didn’t do this, this this, this so like, what what made you think I was going to be different? Um, so I think like really, it’s a it’s your mindset and your limiting of yourself in the end. And you know, I have friends with lots of daughters and I said they, you know, they can be Unlimited, but really it’s a factor of the parents. I think your daughters will be unlimited because you guys you know, if from from our conversation, you’re very supportive, very loving, you know, they’re gonna see like, what is a real family? What is a mom and a dad? How does that really work? And I think like they’re gonna have no limitations, because part of it is just being clear on yourself and not being afraid of your capability. I think a lot of women are afraid of capability. I hear about this imposter syndrome. People said, if you have that, I’m like, No, no, that is like, you just do it. I’m an entrepreneur in the end like, I mean, you Gotta get over stuff like stuff happens, you fail, you know, things happen you failed stuff doesn’t work out. Okay, next. That’s that’s entrepreneurial difference in my mind.

Rob McNealy – RobMcNealy.com
But I also think that’s part of the problem with our country with entrepreneurs and it’s even worse in places like Europe where they really don’t like entrepreneurs, which is interesting. Yes, I always tell I think we need to know man, we gotta have another conversation actually.

Barbara Bickham – WIFAXVC.com
Awesome. We will, no worries.

Rob McNealy – RobMcNealy.com
But I definitely think that we don’t even at least with to public schools, we don’t teach things that are important like financial literacy or entrepreneurship. And I think part of the problem is that you have teachers that are financially illiterate and they’re not entrepreneurs so they don’t understand those things even with my welding program. I know I keep going back to that but it was I learned a lot I actually learned a lot.

Barbara Bickham – WIFAXVC.com
I’m gonna I’m gonna counteract your your your point there because I have been in some schools and schools are starting it depends on where you are. And it really depends on the superintendent or like really the head top person in the school, because I’m in a couple of school districts where they were really trying to teach the kids entrepreneurship, expose them to entrepreneurship. A few years ago, I was mentoring some kids 2010 I was mentoring some kids and man, kids, kids have some amazing ideas. And they tell you like, Hey, I’m going to babysit. And then I’m going to hire my friends to babysit. And I said, well, is this just you gonna be babysitting? No, and I’m gonna charge this and then I’m gonna only take so many babies. And I was like, wow, these kids have so many. But I mean, or like somebody was trying to sell candy or canvas because they had this candy because their parents were making this can’t. I mean, it’s amazing. Kids haveamazing ideas. The thing that we need to do as adults is go, Well, look, these are amazing ideas and support them in their ideas, because they’re already afraid because you’re like a dis adult and they think, oh, you’re this adult and they’ve not gonna take me seriously. But it doesn’t mean you’re not serious. It just means that maybe you A little bit of boost and a little bit of confidence boosting like, Hey, this is just as good as ideas anybody else that the real question is, what are you gonna do about it now?

Rob McNealy – RobMcNealy.com
They’re gonna call you. Barbara where can people find out more about you?

Barbara Bickham – WIFAXVC.com
Ah, so you can find out more about me on a couple of places. If you go to WWW dot with facts VC wi FX DC calm. That’s one place. That’s sort of fun. And then if you want to know about trailing you go to www. Trailing tra Li n com. That’s my blockchain advisory. Find out plenty about me there. All my social media is there. So I’m on all the social media, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, I’m on everything.

Rob McNealy – RobMcNealy.com
Barbara, I’ve had a really good time today and I do appreciate you coming on the show. Hey, folks, is Rob McNealy make sure you check it out. Check us out on the web at RobMcNealy.com and hit that subscribe button and we’ll catch next time.

Episode Links

Audio Interview
Video Interview
Interview Transcript

Barbara Bickham – WIFAX

Barbara Bickham talks with Rob McNealy about her women focused startup accelerator-WIFAX, emerging technology and entrepreneurship.