Day: January 25, 2019

The Predictive Index brings in $50M to help businesses create winning teams

Funding will get you a long way, but people, at the end of the day, are the key to a successful business.

The Predictive Index, which develops behavioral and cognitive employee assessments, has raised a $50 million round of growth-stage capital from venture capital firm General Catalyst to help companies choose the right talent.

Kirk Arnold, an executive-in-residence at General Catalyst and new Predictive Index board member, led the deal for the VC firm, which says the round is the largest first check they’ve ever written a company. Predictive Index declined to disclose the valuation.

The workplace analytics service was founded in 1955, making it just a bit older than your typical growth-stage business. Current chief executive officer Mike Zani (pictured, right) acquired the company in 2014 with Predictive Index president and chairman Daniel Muzquiz (pictured, left). Prior to the acquisition, the pair were clients of the business.

With the infusion of VC funding, Zani said he’ll double employee headcount, create a playbook on how to “successfully design, hire and inspire winning teams” and create a talent optimization industry conference, amongst other big plans.

“Most companies are losing the talent war, and not because of the lack of fight, but rather because strategic talent strategies are non-existent or broken,” Zani told TechCrunch. “The irony is that talent is one of the only lasting differentiators in business today. Most tools in the marketplace help with process or tactical aspects of people and ignore the strategic. At [Predictive Index] we offer the strategic talent discipline, or talent optimization, to the hands of those who want to use talent as a business performance lever.”

Headquartered in Boston, Predictive Index says it counts some 7,000 customers in 142 countries, including Nissan, DocuSign and Blue Cross Blue Shield.

“This year, low unemployment and high turnover will further magnify the importance of talent,” Arnold said in a statement. “Having a talent strategy which aligns and supports business strategy is a requirement for any business to be successful.”

6 Tips for Cleaning Vinyl Siding

Vinyl siding is an affordable, flexible, durable and weatherproof exterior cladding material that needs to be cleaned from time to time. If not properly maintained, it can accumulate a lot of dirt and dust from the environment. Also, mold tends to grow in the vinyl in humid areas, discoloring its appearance.

If the siding has accumulated dirt, dust, pollen or has mold, here are six tips on how to clean vinyl siding:

Wear protective clothing

Always wear protective clothing such as closed shoes, rubber gloves, and safety glasses to protect your foot, hands, and eyes from the cleaning solution and the water.

Remove plants, furniture, and any other objects that can be affected by the cleaning chemicals from the area.

Stay safe

Cover electric sockets with a waterproof material and unplug any electrical devices near the vinyl siding. Also, remove any objects that could obstruct you or injure you during the cleaning process. You don’t want any Tim The Tool Man 911 calls.

Use a soft cloth

Highly granular scrubbing materials such as steel wool or a yard brush should not be used to clean the vinyl as these can cause damages.

When cleaning, use a clean, soft cloth or a long soft bristle brush. We recommend these two cleaning materials because they will not dent, scratch or puncture the siding during the cleaning process.

Punctured vinyl can be challenging to repair since you need to remove other sections of the siding to get to the damaged part. Depending on the damage, you may need to replace the whole piece of the damaged siding during the repair.

Likewise, punctured siding can retain water leading to the growth of mold on the siding. Hence, when washing vinyl, you are advised to use soft cleaning materials to avoid scratching or puncturing it.

Avoid cleaners that contain undiluted chlorine, nail polish remover, and liquid grease remover as they can damage the siding.

Start cleaning at the bottom of the vinyl siding

To ease the cleaning process, divide the portion you want to clean into pieces of five foot by five foot. Then start cleaning at the bottom as you move upwards to prevent streaks from forming on the washed portions.

Once you finish one section, move to the next section and again begin washing from the bottom heading to the uppermost part of the vinyl, repeat this process until you finish.

Thoroughly rinse the residue as you go

If you wait too long before rinsing the residue, the residue might dry on the washed part. With that, you will be required to re-wash the surface again to avoid dirty spots from forming on the vinyl. Wash on a cloudy day to ensure the residue does not dry up too fast.

Start rinsing from the top as you move to the lower parts of the vinyl. Rinse as often as you can.

Use a pressure washer

Depending on the siding installed, you can use a pressure washer. Check the manufacturer’s recommendations first before using a pressure washer.

If the manufacturer has approved the use of a pressure washer, we advise that you spray the stream of water at eye level and keep the stream straight at the siding and not at an angle. This way, water will not find its way to the back side of the siding.

Wash with caution in openings such as doors, windows, and plumbing areas. Always remember to be gentle throughout the cleaning process to avoid causing any damage.

If you follow these six tips, your vinyl will look as good as new once you have finished washing the vinyl siding.

See Also: How To Keep Mold Out of Your Basement

Derek Worchel is a general contractor and realtor in Bellingham Washington. He has done his fair share of vinyl siding installation and cleaning. You can find him at

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Chris Pine and Jimmy Kimmel nerd out over their first ever concerts


What was your first concert? Did one of your parents take you or did you go it alone?

Chris Pine’s a keen Metallica fan, but it wasn’t his first concertHollywood Chris and star of both Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman and I Am the Night, Pine had a delightful nerd-out with Jimmy Kimmel on Friday over music, from their first concerts to Pine’s teenage band in which he rapped Vanilla Ice (and still can).

While Kimmel’s first concert was Sammy Davis Jr. in Vegas, Pine’s first concert was Faith No More, with Kyuss and Babes in Toyland. And although it wasn’t his first concert, Kimmel went to Lionel Richie with his mother.  Read more…

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Theranos documentary review: The Inventor’s horrifying optimism

A blood-splattered Theranos machine nearly pricks an employee struggling to fix it. This gruesome graphical rendering is what you’ll walk away from HBO’s “The Inventor” with. It finally gives a visual to the startup’s laboratory fraud detailed in words by John Carreyrou’s book “Bad Blood”.

The documentary that premiered tonight at Sundance Film Festival explores how the move fast and break things ethos of Silicon Valley is “really dangerous when people’s lives are in the balance” as former employee and whistleblower Tyler Shultz says in the film. Theranos promised a medical testing device that made a single drop of blood from your finger more precise than a painful old-school syringe in your vein. What patients ended up using was so inaccurate it put their health in jeopardy.

But perhaps even more frightening is the willingness of Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes to delude herself and everyone around her in service of a seemingly benevolent mission. The documentary captures how good ideas can make people do bad things.

“The Inventor: Out For Blood In Silicon Valley” juxtaposes truthful interviews with the employees who eventually rebelled against Holmes with footage and media appearances of her blatantly lying to the world. It manages to stick to the emotion of the story rather than getting lost in the scientific discrepancies of Theranos’ deception.

The film opens and closes with close-ups of Holmes, demonstrating how the facts change her same gleaming smile and big blue eyes from the face of innovative potential to that of a sociopathic criminal. “I don’t have many secrets” she tells the camera at the start.

Though the film mentions early that her $9 billion-plus valuation company would wind up worth less than zero, it does a keen job of building empathy for her that it can tear down later. You see her tell sob stories of death in the family and repeat her line about building an end to having to say goodbye to loved ones too soon. You hear how she’s terrified of needles and how growing up, “my best friends were books.”

But then cracks start to emerge as old powerful men from professors to former cabinet members faun over Holmes and become enthralled in her cult of personality as validation snowballs. Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney has a knack for creeping dread from his experience making “Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room” and “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief.” He portrays Holmes’ delusions of grandeur with shots of her portrait beside those of Archimedes, Beethoven, and her idol Steve Jobs.

The first red flag comes when Holmes names her initial device Edison after the historic inventor the film assures you was quite a fraud himself. Soon, sources from inside the company relay how the Edison and subsequent Theranos hardware never worked right but that demos were faked for customers and investors. Instead of sticking to a firm timeline, Gibney bounces around to hammer home the emotional arcs of employees from excited to dubious, and of Holmes from confidence to paranoia.

Carreyrou’s “Bad Blood” meticulously chronicled every tiny warning sign that worried Theranos’ staff in order to build a case. But the author’s Wall Street Journal day job bled through, sapping the book of emotion and preventing it from seizing the grandeur of the tale’s climactic moments.

Gibney fills in the blanks with cringe-inducing scenes of Theranos’ faulty hardware. A ‘nanotainer’ of blood rolls off a table and fractures, a biohazard awaiting whoever tries to pick it up. The depiction of working in Theranos’ unregulated laboratory scored the biggest gasps from the Sundance audience. Former employees describe how Theranos recruited drifters they suspected of hepatitis as guinea pigs. Their stale blood evaporates into the air surrounding machines dripping with inky red, covered in broken test tubes. Gibney nails the graphics, zooming in on a needle spraying droplets as a robotic arm sputters through malfunctions. I almost had to look away as the film renders a hand reaching into the machine and only just dodging an erratic syringe.

A still from The Inventor: Out For Blood in Silicon Valley by Alex Gibney, an official selection of the Documentary Premieres program at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Drew Kelly.

At times, Gibney goes a bit too melodramatic. The toy music box twinkling foreshadows a dream becoming a nightmare, but it gets maddening after an hour straight. The pacing feels uneven, sometimes bogged down in Holmes’ personal relationships when later it seems to speed through the company’s collapse.

Though elsewhere, the director harnesses the nervous laughter coping mechanism of the former employees to inject humor into the grim tale. With accuracy so low, Shultz jokes that “if people are testing themselves for syphilis with Theranos, there’s going to be a lot more syphilis in the world.” Visual dramatizations of journalists’ audio recordings of Holmes and the eventual legal disputes bring this evidence to life.

Alex Gibney, director of The Inventor: Out For Blood in Silicon Valley, an official selection of the Documentary Premieres program at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

The most touching scene sees Fortune’s Roger Parloff on the brink of implosion as he grapples with giving Holmes her first magazine cover story — momentum she used to eventually get Theranos’ useless hardware in front of real patients who depended on its results.

The Inventor succeeds at instilling the lesson without getting too preachy. It’s fine to be hopeful, but don’t ignore your concerns no matter how much you want something to be real. It takes an incredibly complex sequence of events and makes it at once gripping and informative. If you haven’t read “Bad Blood” or found it drab, “The Inventor” conveys the gravity of the debacle with a little more flare.

Yet the documentary also gives Holmes a bit too much benefit of the doubt, suggesting that hey, at least she was trying to do good in the world. In the after-film panel, Gibney said “She had a noble vision . . . I think that was part of why she was able to convince so many people and convince herself that what she was doing was great, which allowed her to lie so effectively.” Carreyrou followed up that “she was not intending to perpetrate a long con.”

Yet that’s easier to say for both the director and the author when neither of their works truly investigated the downstream health impacts of Theranos’ false positives and false negatives. If they’d tracked down people who delayed critical treatment or had their lives upended by the fear of a disease they didn’t have, I doubt Holmes would be cut so much slack.

Some degree of ‘Fake it ’til you make it’ might be essential to build hard technology startups. You must make people believe Inc something that doesn’t exist if you’re to pull in the funding and talent necessary to make it a reality. But it’s not just medical, hardware, or “atoms not bits” startups that must be allegiant to the truth. As Facebook and WhatsApps’ role in spreading misinformation that led to mob killings in India and Myanmar proved, having a grand mission doesn’t make you incapable of doing harm. A line must be drawn between optimism and dishonesty before it leads to drawing chalk outlines on the ground.