FAVORITE DISH: An authentic burrito from the mission in SF. A SOURCE OF INSPIRATION: Previous company founders I’ve worked for who never gave up their humanity to realize their vision. SOMETHING PEOPLE DON'T USUALLY KNOW ABOUT ME: Despite my typically quiet demeanor, I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie and like to go faaaaaast.
Power in living your truth
LEAVING A LEGACY. Allison Clift-Jenning’s current venture Filament is in the automobile industry, but she didn’t start out that way. She has done custom web app development, email hosting, telemetry software, e-commerce, and data privacy—some as co-founder of a start-up, others as an early employee. But what inspired Filament was her desire to create a start-up that combined her passion for technology and the potential to leave behind a legacy.
The larger a system, the more necessary that it run in a decentralized fashion, according to the complex systems theory, Allison says. For example, neurons work by firing simplistically, but in concert create complex output, such as thought, she explains. Vehicles are increasingly becoming interconnected as well as autonomous. Filament provides a way to account for that decentralization. Filament provides security and data privacy, as well as blockchain capabilities, for the Internet of Things devices for the mobility industry.
Similarly, the world is complex but made up of facets, each with simple rules, and being able to make an impact matters to her, Allison says.
Early in Allison’s career, in her 20s, leaving a legacy had felt less important, and her interest in tech had mostly been self-serving, she notes. But, now in her 40s, Allison thinks more about sustainability and leaving a better world for her two children. Leaving a legacy doesn’t have to be complicated. “It boils down to leaving the world better than you found it. Many people before you paved the way for you; what are you going to do to pave the way for others?”
Other CEO's and CTO's have asked how she is able to find the courage to do that, and that is a welcome sign, Allison says. The fact that others are curious about her journey is a sign that things are changing for the better.
BEYOND FEARS, A BETTER REALITY. Many people in the LGBTQ community find reasons to doubt themselves or unnecessarily hold themselves back, Allison says. She recalls going through a fund raise while she had been transitioning, and a big investor was looking to participate. “I was on hormones and had been medically transitioning for 11 months. My body was starting to change in ways I couldn’t hide anymore. I knew I did not want to risk the company’s future based on any unconscious biases the investors might have if they knew I was transitioning.”
“I was expecting them to say ‘You should have told us this earlier,’ and that they would have turned us down,” Allison says. They did end up remarking that she should have told them sooner, but for reasons she hadn’t expected. “First, he congratulated me, and said this must have been freeing and a difficult choice to make. Next, he said had I told him sooner, I would have been considered in their diversity fund, but since I didn’t, I had been in the fund populated by other white males, and hence the delay.”
Allison acknowledges that more could be done in the investment and tech community to support diverse perspectives. “Not just LGBT, but women and people of color have it harder than cisgender white males too,” she says. It’s an unfortunate situation, but while things are changing, the best thing to do is make sure you have a good support structure. “There are so many ways to find community, and I believe everyone can find some group out there that will be a fit.” She muses that even in motorcycle racing, one of her passions, she and many of her friends were able to find queer motorcycle groups online. Fear is what prevents you from taking that first step, and once you overcome that fear, anything becomes possible.