Women 3.0: Caterina Fake

Name: Caterina Fake

Short biography: Caterina Fake was born in Pittsburgh in 1969. After attending high school at Choate Rosemary Hall, she attended Smith College and Vassar College, from which she received a bachelor’s degree in English in 1991.1 After graduating, she worked as the Art Director for Salon.com and at Netscape, managing the community forums. In 2002, she and then-husband Stewart Butterfield founded a company called Ludicorp, which developed a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (à la World of Warcraft) called Game Neverending. You might have never heard of it, since the game never launched, but Fake and Butterfield went on to create a Web product I’m sure you’ve heard of: Flickr.

When Yahoo! bought Flickr in 2005, Fake joined the company’s Technology Development group. In 2009, Fake resigned from Yahoo! and co-founded the "recommendation-engine" website Hunch. (Hunch was then bought by Ebay in 2011.) She and Butterfield divorced in 2007; they have one daughter. Fake splits her time between San Francisco and New York City.2

What they do: Currently, Fake is working on a new online venture called Pinwheel. The service allows users to “find and leave notes around the world.” In beta only at the moment, the service came together from a bunch of sources—particularly the ability to add annotations to Flickr photos, social “check-in” services and geocaching. “On Pinwheel, you can follow people–and later businesses, organizations, blogs, etc.,” Fake said in a presentation in March. “There are also sets, or collections of notes by users–’Art, Love and Literature,’ ‘Hotels,’ ‘Shopping,’ and the like. One of the primary uses of mobile media, including Pinwheel, is finding and rating restaurants.”3 (You can request an invite to the beta at pinwheel.com.)

Why they matter: Fake is considered by many to be one of the spearheads of the Web 2.0 movement. Her founding of community-driven Web services like Flickr, Hunch and now Pinwheel attest to a strong belief in the power of the Internet community. She’s also on the board of directors of both Etsy and Creative Commons, which shows that she has a strong belief in the power of creativity and the handmade movement as well.4

She also knows her field. “Technology is changing so rapidly, you're very quickly obsolete.,” she said, in a March 2011 interview.5 “What you thought you were building six months ago is no longer relevant. You have to constantly be alert to what's changing in the world, be able to adapt and not get too attached to what you're building.”

While she’s quite apparently not afraid to take great leaps into the unknown, it’s also nice to see that she’s a pragmatist: “I'm a big risk-taker,” she says, “but when I find a dish I really like at a restaurant, I order the same thing every time. There are restaurants I've been going to for years, and I have no idea what else is on the menu. My life is all about trying new things but sometimes when you find something you really like, why change it?”5

(She's obviously not Fake-ing it. *ba-dum-cha!*)

How they got where they are: Fake is not afraid to take chances, and move on from “sure things”—as proven by her resignation from Yahoo! to become founder of Hunch—which sets a good example for those of us not fully satisfied with our current lots in life. “People tend to be more wary of taking risks the second time around,” she says. “Don't fall into that sophomore slump. If you built a successful company the first time, it's really important not to fall into the trap of resting on your laurels and doing the same thing the next time. It's stepping into the unknown that enables you to create something fresh, new and innovative.”5

References: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

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