Advice for Female Founders
from Policy Genius.com 1/16 enhanced by Peter/CXO Wiz4biz
Recently, a group of smart, successful female Founders & CEOs gathered on the 15th floor of the NY Times building in NYC for “10 Things every Female CEO should know”. Here’s a list of some of the best advice for startups from the evening.
#1 Be honest about your Strengths (& weaknesses) Sara Potler LaHayne (Founder and CEO, Move This World) says you have to embrace the “vulnerability in leadership” and admit your shortcomings to yourself, so that you can then be honest with your mentors & advisors and get the help you need. “They’re very eager to say, ‘Look I’ve been through this challenge before,’” LaHayne says. “You don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time.”
#2 Don’t be Gollum. Kathryn Minshew (Founder & CEO, The Muse) says to be careful about falling too in love with an idea. “I often think when you have an idea you end up like Gollum in Lord of the Rings,” she said. “You sit in the corner and polish it. You don’t really want anyone to see it because they might say it’s ugly. And often it is ugly. But if it’s something of value, you need enough people to agree with you. (ie, Would they buy it?)
#3 Use the “Test quickly, Fail fast” approach. One company was moving so fast last year that at one point they ended up with a 100% return rate. “And it took us about 4 weeks to get that feedback cycle, so by the time that they got that feedback, they had 4 more weeks of 100% return rate that shipped . Then they over-compensated by implementing such a rigorous Quality process that a few months last year, they didn’t ship a single product. Find a happy middle ground and stick to it.
#4 Don’t waste $$ on Development, if you can find a cheaper way. Jennifer Fitzgerald (Co-Founder & CEO, PolicyGenius) advises that you stick with low-fidelity prototypes – if they’re working for you – even if they’re not pretty. “At first, my co-founder and I relied on Excel spreadsheets & PowerPoint presentations to test early versions of our quoting algorithm with users. They got the job done, they didn’t cost us anything, and they were tools we already knew how to use from our days as consultants.”
#5 You’re the Expert. Mary Kopczynski (Founder & CEO, 8of9) says it’s easy to fall into the trap of waiting for someone else to anoint you an expert in your field. You’re already an expert or you wouldn’t be in this business, so be brave, step up, and say “Yes” the next time your PR person tells you about a new opportunity. “You find it getting easier, and then the bar gets higher, and you find yourself doing things that months ago you would have never imagined you could do.”
#6 Watch out for the “Credibility Gap”. Don’t pitch to investors too early in the life of your company, because it can be hard to shake first impressions. “Wait until you’re ready to go in with the pitch and the personality that they’ll be judging you on for the next 3 to 5 years of your life.”. “I think what happens when you’re a female founder, even if you have a great vision, a great product, good traction, you still face a bit of a credibility gap – particularly with the bigger institutional guys. Once we switched tack and started pitching people with whom I didn’t have a credibility gap—angels who knew me, we raised our seed round easily.”
#7 Don’t give up !!! A few hours before the panel started, Minshew announced that The Muse had just raised $10 million for its Series A round. But it took hard work & perseverance to reach that point – including a period where she attended networking events every night for the free food & paid her one employee from her personal bank account. She was also turned down by 148 investors in a row, before one said yes. “
Comments: Do you have any other Advice for Female Founders?