Being a Black female tech entrepreneur continues to be an incredible experience. In the midst of the crazy that is co-founding a company — I’ve been intentional about taking brief moments to reflect, celebrate and share.
Recently, I’ve been spending quite a bit of time thinking about the impact that Black women have made in business and tech both in this country and globally. Far too often, our conversations focus on the missing…rather than the present.
In the 5 years since I’ve been officially venturing — the work of these 14 Black women specifically have continued to inspire me. To them, individually and publicly….I just wanted to say Thank You. …For being visible, for building in public and for daring to dream.
My hope is that we will continue to amplify each other’s work and publicly recognize those who inspire us and blaze a trail.
CEO, Kollective Mobile
Melinda Gates has spent the past 16 years seeding social change through the world’s largest private philanthropy, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. She and her husband have presided over an endowment that has grown to $39.6 billion — and they’ve added Warren Buffett as a third steward. The foundation funds initiatives that aim to enhance healthcare and reduce extreme poverty globally, as well as expand educational opportunities and access to information technology in the United States. But even with such a broad mandate, it can’t do everything.
So Gates is stepping out on her own. Though she’ll continue to work on the foundation, she’s building up a personal office to dedicate resources and attention to an issue of central personal importance: getting more women into tech — and helping them stay there.
I have an ongoing list of tips to help me remember how I want to behave. Any other suggestions? Add in comments or tweet me.
1) Realize that everyone has their own internal challenge with which they are dealing — empathy, kindness, and tolerance will go a long way to smoothing relationships. Patience. Generosity. Compassion.
2) When calling someone for an unscheduled talk, always identify yourself by name, position and organization (or relationship) and ask if now is a good time to speak . Keep calls short. Follow up via e-mail or text message. Reduce endless email loops — put all relevant information into a first e-mail.
3) Always, always say Please and Thank You.
4) Mark down people’s birthdays on the calendar and remember to send them a quick note on their special day.
5) Self-respect. Also, demonstrate respect for others’ bodies, abilities, gifts, and strengths/weaknesses. There is no “better than” or “worse than” — there are definitely people of varying talents — the challenge is in matching the person to the task at hand.
Recently, I have been interviewing several female founders of design and/or technology companies across Europe about their careers and experiences. They have spoken to me about a myriad of issues and obstacles they have encountered along their journeys. Some of these are due to the fact they are women, and some are not. However, there’s one very specific situation that I keep hearing about: when female founders are securing investment for their ventures, they are sometimes presented with an investor who a) questions them about their future family plans, framed as a concern for their company trajectory or b) flat out refuses to invest in that company because of the fact that, since the founder is a woman, she may one day become pregnant. These are not assumptions; pregnancy as disqualification has been readily, verbally admitted by the investors in question.
I was born and raised in a military family. I’ve lived on both US coasts and also on the Mediterranean. As a teenager in Athens, Greece I quickly learned that experiencing a different culture was a fantastic gig for my brain (thanks Mom and Dad).
Being slung around the world in my formative years was not without its own particular conundrums, however awesome my childhood truly was. I became a loyal democrat; I grew to dislike narrow-minded individuals; I knew that white wasn’t the only skin color on the planet; good food meant variety; great conversation meant diversity; and reading books was a means to an end of getting smarter, keeping a good job, and having something to contribute.
So being a snob comes natural to me. And determining where to settle down after college with likeminded snobs became crucial to my future growth and well being.
Hence, I migrated to the Bay Area: A phenomenal package wrapped up in a picturesque landscape that attracts millions of visitors every year. Its natural beauty, liberal politics, entrepreneurial spirit and diversity are well known (I got that from Wikipedia, and it’s true), and so it was easy to call it home.
For a snob like me it was the place to settle down, find a great job and get on with life. In short, I believe the Bay Area saved my life. Initially.
A picture is worth a 1000 words. How true especially when you try to communicate something as sensitive as creating equitable workplaces. What does an equitable workplace look like? I chanced upon this image and knew instantly that this simple image said it all.
“Equality” is about giving everyone the same thing. All of them have the opportunity to watch the game. But “Equity” is about fairness and ensuring that all of them have access to the same opportunity.
We must first ensure Equity before we enjoy Equality. The difference matters!
What is the difference? Are we really asking for something special at the expense of our male colleagues?
The mission of the Community Café in St. Petersburg, Florida, is to cultivate a welcoming, comfortable, and safe space that becomes a home away from home, and as owner Mandy Keyes explains, “our prime objective is to bring the community together. Hence the name, Community Cafe :)”
This community center is open daily and late nights, and has something for everyone including gluten-free, vegetarian and veg-friendly options. Popular on the menu is the portabella quesadilla, the pesto tofu panini with seared tofu, zucchini, red peppers, red onions and feta, Mandy’s Wrap with fresh spinach, tomatoes, and shredded carrots with feta cheese and avocado spread, and Christine’s Sandwich: a classic chicken salad sandwich with whole chunks of chicken, apples, dried cranberries, grapes and walnuts on toasted sourdough.
First launched through a community-funded campaign on Indiegogo, about 4 years ago, the cafe has grown to be a valued community space and comfortable place for lunch or dinner, serving alcoholic beverages, and coffee
It has been suggested to me, repeatedly, that if I were only “more positive”, that somehow, magically, my startup 32ATPs could raise funding. However, I am hoping that the below analysis of my experience, as I reflect back on the past few years, from a place of debt, depression, and despair, will convince you otherwise.
Apparently, because I am not 100% “positive” all the time, the universe is preventing my startup from raising funds. I have discovered that magical thinking is frequently applied to female-founded startups. Undoubtedly, there will be comments on this piece, “well, it’s her fault for wasting the time to complain. Shouldn’t she be out asking for funding RIGHT NOW instead of wasting time complaining?!”
Why am I crippled with debt, and in the depths of despair? Why did I recently have to choose between paying my attorney and fixing the timing belt on my 13 year-old Honda Civic? How is that that a technology that holds so much promise, that I have scrimped, saved, sacrificed, and practically given my fist born child for, languishing in the valley of death?
Storytelling — it seems to be one of the hottest buzzwords today. Everyone says that you must be a good storyteller — but does anyone really know what that means?
This week I was tagged as a recommended resource on a startup forum where someone was seeking help with an investor deck. One of the commenters adamantly insisted that it was something a Founder can do on their own. I was thrilled when Omer Perchik, CEO and Founder of Any.do, who has raised several million dollars and grown a very successful company chimed in and said:
You’ve heard the age-old adage, “Taking money from a VC is like getting married.” It’s true. The average company exit — whether it is through an acquisition or an IPO — will occur within 8 years of starting a company. Based on a 2009 Census study, marriage exits (more commonly referred to as divorces) typically occur within 8 years of walking down the aisle.
Courting investors bears similarities to courting a mate.
Let Them Come to You
Who knew one simple Medium post could ignite such a profound movement?#iLookLikeAnEngineer is now being spread globally in over 50 countries. It has received over 170,000 tweets and has been covered in countless news outlets. In addition to an influx of incredibly heart-warming and positive support, many people have reached out to me for advice on how I learned how to code without a formal college education. I wanted the opportunity to give everyone an illustrative and thoughtful response, so that is now my intention with this Medium post. I am most familiar with web application development, so that is what this will be covering.
There is a lot of coverage of the companies that have reached valuations of over a billion dollars. Many of these companies were not always fast growing businesses.
At Shasta Ventures, we focus on investing at the early stage, so we studied 32 high value consumer companies to see what they looked like around their Series A. Our research included 25 billion dollar companies (as measured by $1 billion+ last round valuations, acquisition prices, or public market caps) and 7 high-flying private companies with billion dollar potential. Nikhil and I looked at startups across a range of sizes and sectors, considering their funding history, user traction, growth, monetization, network effects, regulatory hurdles, market dynamics, and team characteristics.
We found a number of key traits in common, and most of them may surprise you. Let’s take a look.