Scalus, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based maker of workflow and collaboration software, was born out of necessity, says founder and CEO, Kristen Koh Goldstein, a former investment analyst turned entrepreneur. We recently caught up with her to learn more.
With Scalus and a company you founded previously, BackOps, you seem to have developed a passion and expertise around building software and networks for remote workers — how did that all come to be?
It’s fueled from a place of personal experience. After 9/11, I left Wall Street to learn operational finance and accounting at startups. Then life happened. I became a mom. And I learned firsthand the challenges of being a mom and a professional. So I started BackOps, a back office service employing skilled moms who work from home between school dropoff and pickup. The business grew quickly, doubling revenue every year for four years, so we ended up needing to develop software to clear the hurdles to scaling our business and Scalus was born.
Our corporate mission is to prove that the future of work includes workplace flexibility for all. Our social mission is to get a million parents back to work by empowering them to be productive at work and engaged at home.
Speaking of remote workers, some of them are likely to be on contract. Have you been following the contractor versus full-employee debate as it relates to the on-demand sector? Any reactions?
The labor laws haven’t caught up with the changing face of the workforce. The Millennial generation approaches employment differently than its predecessors. Companies look more like Hollywood productions or real estate development projects. The line between “internal” and “external” becomes much more blurred in this environment, where contractors can often have the same longevity and close working relationships as internal employees, especially across departments.
Philosophically, I believe it’s important to make a commitment to people who commit to you. At BackOps, where I’m the chairwoman, my perspective has always been that unless you have an active income source elsewhere (you’re working for others), you are an employee of the company, even if just part-time on a temporary basis.
What’s your point of view on the increased attention paid to having more women in VC and investing roles in the Valley? Are there more women quietly doing this than we know about, or is it still pretty dismal? If so, what can change it quickly?
In angel investing, there have always been a lot of women funding and supporting early-stage companies. Shawn Byers, a prolific investor in female-led companies, is probably the only member of her family [which includes her husband, Brook Byers of Kleiner Perkins and their sons Blake Byers of Google Ventures and Chad Byers of Susa Ventures] who you haven’t heard about. I think it’s quite possible that Shawn may end up backing just as many startups as Brook, Blake, and Chad. Full disclosure: Blake Byers is our biggest champion at Google Ventures, so we’re a big fan of the whole Byers clan.
I am thrilled that trailblazers, including Helena Morrissey and Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, are pushing forward the discussion about getting more women in the boardroom, which is a positive change toward getting more women in VC. I am also so grateful to the countless women quietly working behind the scenes, including Aileen Lee. Hopefully, more companies, especially startups where like-think reigns, will start diversifying their boards, which will increase the demand for female VCs, who will in turn invest in a broader range of founders who will seek diverse boards.
You’re an active angel and seed investor but keep a relatively low profile. Is that on purpose or all part of the plan?
It’s on purpose. I have been listening, learning, and waiting for the remote worker movement to come center stage. When the time is right to talk about what it means to empower everyone across an organization to determine the way that they work, you’ll hear a lot more from me.