In the run up to International Women’s Day, it was only too fitting that a few of us Fireflies attended an event hosted by Women of Wearables, a leading global organisation supporting women and diversity, to find out what it’s really like being a woman starting her own tech business.
Four formidable female founders, all in the health- and wellbeing-tech space, took part in a very honest and open panel discussion to share their personal experiences:
The discussions were so relatable, and my colleague Charlotte even admitted to falling in love (professionally, of course) with one of the panellists.
The insight and advice shared can be applied in many different scenarios – it wasn’t just for entrepreneurs or women. So, if you’re like us and enjoy feeding your mind, here’s our key takeaways:
Remember, tech is just the enabler
Contrary to what you may think, the technology is far from the be all and end all. Everyone on the panel unanimously agreed that you mustn’t focus in on the technology itself but start with the problem you’re looking to solve. The technology is just bridging the gap between a need and a service. You need to know what you wish to build before you can then find people who can help you build it.
You will also have to adapt and change the technology as your business grows and evolves, learning through experimenting what does and doesn’t work. But make sure your overall purpose and goal is super clear – and always keep this front of mind.
Don’t fall into the trap of self-doubt
Asked if she could remove one barrier to make her business more successful, Kim’s candid answer was herself! Always pretending that her business was just some small thing she was working on, she was afraid to admit she really wanted it to be a huge success – but that held her back.
For all the panellists, they struggled to identify as women in tech and Kim’s thoughts are far from uncommon. Karen added that more needs to be done to help instil more self-belief in women from a young age. It has to start with education, as well as addressing health issues – both mental and physical – that’s how to help women thrive. Sometimes these problems could be solved or alleviated with something as easy as a simple phone call, but we need to grant that quick access for women.
Share the burden
We all know the phrase no (wo) man is an island, and this couldn’t hold truer than these tech entrepreneurs. You can’t do it on your own (you will just burn out) and building a strong team is key. Electra made the great point that delegating to colleagues and letting them make mistakes is a learning curve for both of you.
For Kim, taking on an advisor was a gamechanger– they were instrumental in helping her to vet investors, set up and prepare for meetings, continuously guiding her through this unknown process. Also tap into that hive mind and try to find business mentors who are from very different fields with varying expertise. As Electra said: never be afraid of being the least knowledgeable person in the room – that’s how you learn!
It also doesn’t have to be experts that you turn to but can be your own family. Kim brought along her husband to an investor meeting (and he was fantastic), and Sam involves her son in helping with her business’ photography. When dedicating so much time to a new venture, there can be associated guilt of the effect on family life but getting them to be a part of it means they will not only be a huge help and support but also excited and fully on board too.
Help others speak up
As well as your supporters, build up your advocates. Sam explained that with her particular product, women were reluctant to speak up about there being a problem – they were just grateful to have anything at all. Through working with those women who did believe in it, she was able to tease out voices of those women who were shy and less confident.
Here, social media was an important and powerful tool for showing there is a choice. You do not have to just settle. Often people do not know there are other possibilities out there or feel that they can pursue them, but advocates are a great means to build up both awareness and confidence.
Most importantly of all: Start now. It’s never going to be perfect and the stars won’t suddenly magically align. And that can be anything – a business, a project or pivoting your strategy. It isn’t easy but take that first step – even if that is just writing your idea down. Once you do, never give up. If you are sure that what you want to do is really needed (and be truly honest with yourself about that), be tenacious. As these women showed, you will start to see the results. Afterall, if you don’t do it, who will?