Opsolutely Gets Acquired
May 17, 2018
For the past few weeks, I’ve been incredibly excited to announce some big news: my startup, Opsolutely, has been acquired! For those of you who don’t know much about what I’ve been doing with my life, I’ve been working on a startup called Opsolutely, which was a platform that aimed to make deploying service-oriented infrastructure easier, more user-friendly, and more collaborative.
So who is the acquirer in what is arguably the most exciting, high-profile acquisition of 2018? A company called Shift, a marketplace for buying and selling used cars. There are a lot of reasons why we chose Shift over other companies, but I’m only going to talk about my two personal reasons for wanting to join this team. First, used cars are a surprisingly exciting business and second, Shift isn’t afraid of women with strong opinions.
Used cars are exciting
When I first heard that Shift was a marketplace for buying and selling used cars, I immediately thought of the Dad from Matilda. While Matilda is one of my favorite childhood movies, it's apparently not an accurate portrayal of the world at large because, as it turns out, used cars are a really interesting industry.
In the United States, most people need a car, from teachers to nurses to construction workers. All that time commuting, road-tripping and traveling to the grocery store adds up, and the average American spends a total of 12 days a year in their car. Additionally, used cars are a much better value than new cars, which is why many people prefer to buy them, but the experience around buying a used car can be pretty terrible.
Why is buying and selling used cars so terrible?
- When selling, pricing your car is really hard
- Meeting with potential buyers is time-consuming and potentially dangerous
- When you’re buying a car, it’s difficult to figure out if the price is fair
- The dealership process is full of inequality. At car dealerships, women are quoted $200 more than men on list prices for cars
- Negotiating for car prices can also hurt people who have less access to information and less time to do research (i.e. people in lower socioeconomic classes with less time and resources).
Shift wants to change that
Shift is using technology not just to make a better car buying experience, but also to disintermediate a lot of the inequality in the car industry. Shift has a unique opportunity to build a product that makes buying and selling used cars more fair and transparent for everyone involved, regardless of gender or socioeconomic class. And you can see Shift’s dedication to equality not just in the product, but also in the way the company treats its employees. For example, almost all of our employees are W-2 employees with benefits, not 1099 contractors, even in jobs where other startups might have gone with contractors to cut costs.
What I wanted out of my next job was to work on a consumer-facing product that might actually make people’s lives better, not just an app for wealthy people living in the tech echo chamber. Shift has three things that make it a particularly compelling place for me to work: an exciting business, a product that could meaningfully impact people all over the country, and a startup that actually operates in line with its values.
Shift isn't afraid of women with strong opinions
As a woman in tech with almost a decade of experience, I have some strong opinions about equality and safety in the workplace. Why am I so passionate about safety in the workplace? Because I've seen what unsafe work environments look like. During our interviews, I didn't hide these opinions or my passion for creating egalitarian work environments. Some companies we met with were apparently quite taken aback. One even gave me the feedback that I came across as "pushy" and "arrogant", which was pretty devastating to hear from the CTO of a unicorn company. I thought I had grown a thicker skin over the years, but after I got off that call I sat on my apartment floor and cried for 30 minutes.
By the time we met with Shift at the end of two weeks of long interviews, I was exhausted and demoralized. However, rather than being rude or condescending, the people I met with at Shift were thoughtful and introspective. They didn’t get insecure or hide behind their good intentions when I asked them really difficult questions about how they would handle challenging situations around management and diversity. Instead of seeing me as pushy and arrogant, Shift saw me as passionate. I can't tell you how relieved I felt that there were people out there who could choose thoughtfulness and kindness over defensiveness and criticism.
One of the things I’ve been struggling with as I become more a more experienced engineer and engineering leader is how to have a voice and be assertive, while at the same time helping people feel welcome and included. Basically, how can I be both powerful and warm? Because when you become more powerful and outspoken as a woman, some people find you more threatening. Rather than being seen as competent and worthy of a promotion, women who assert power can be seen as arrogant, bossy, pushy, and not worthy of leadership roles. It’s no accident that the companies that were most off-put by my opinions were also companies that have no women in leadership positions on their engineering team, and few strong leaders from diverse backgrounds within the company.
Shift still has a ton of work to do and we have our own set of problems (honestly, the chaos is part of what I love about startups). However, not all problems in an organization are equal, and I would rather work with a team that’s willing to answer tough questions, listen to hard feedback, and isn’t afraid of women with strong opinions.