Category Archives: Community Crafting

Why James Watt Totally Rocked

Sometimes I think about the kinds of wildly awesome engineers that bootstrapped humanity out of the simple life of the countryside, through the industrial revolution (and all engine revolutions that drove it), to now.  Of the bunch, James Watt sounds pretty awesome:

(historical “facts” via Wikipedia[1])

Watt was an enthusiastic inventor, with a fertile imagination that sometimes got in the way of finishing his works, because he could always see “just one more improvement”. He was skilled with his hands, and was also able to perform systematic scientific measurements that could quantify the improvements he made and produce a greater understanding of the phenomenon he was working with.

Watt was a gentleman, greatly respected by other prominent men of the Industrial Revolution. He was an important member of the Lunar Society, and was a much sought after conversationalist and companion, always interested in expanding his horizons. He was a rather poor businessman, and especially hated bargaining and negotiating terms with those who sought to utilize the steam engine. Until he retired, he was always much concerned about his financial affairs, and was something of a worrier. His personal relationships with his friends and partners were always congenial and long-lasting.


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Things that can be Fixed: Why Women Start Fewer Startups than Men

For the last few months I’ve been asking why women start fewer startups than men [1] (especially in the tech sector), and what can be done about it.

I’ve uncovered two key points on the issue so far:

+ There’s a drop off in gender ratio for admission numbers for women into graduate school for Masters & PhD degrees.

Why is that?  It would seem that perhaps women are being systemically discouraged from applying to graduate school, or that graduate school admissions processes are still biased against admitting women (or a little of both).  Either of those are harder to track down or prove than the data showing that the drop off occurs (academically known as Leaky Pipeline Theory).  Many startups (especially in the tech sector) come out of the creative froth of graduate schools, so this is a problematic starting point.

+ There’s also appears to be some sort of venture capital gender gap[2].  Perhaps this is further evidence of a social bias against women founding startups, or, it’s been suggested, perhaps women who do start businesses don’t think big enough.

I think both of these are approachable problems whose root causes could be determined by further research.

note: Some people proffer evolutionary psychology/childhood socialization theories, and while they might be factors, I mostly am not interested in them as I don’t see them as things that can be changed on a practical timescale.  Additionally, I think these points are places to work from, and would have a larger immediate impact.

[1] Study: Men Twice as Likely to Start Businessess (

[2] Women Entrepreneurs Face Venture Capital Gender Gap (

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