I went to a unique women-only meet-up, or gathering of like-goaled individuals to swap ideas and network in what I call “VC country” – Menlo Park, California — the other day.
Venture capitalists like it because it’s close to both Stanford University and all of those hungry b-school grads who usually have the same three goals:
1. Change the world.
2. IPO or get acquired.
3. Make a boat load of cash.
Because VCs like the area, it’s a popular place to start a business, especially one focusing on technology due to it being on the north end of the Silicon Valley. The ecosystem here supports starting companies.
The fairly new meet-up group called Women Startup Lab (http://www.meetup.com/WomenStartupLab/) was founded by Ari Horie. Ari and I used to work at IBM together. Now we’ve both jumped into the entrepreneur pool. A whopping 300 people joined Ari’s group on-line in just 12 weeks. This shows there is a need for more groups that support women entrepreneurs.
Getting together with other women takes some of the gender-related issues away from the meeting. You don’t have to wonder, did he like or not like my idea because I’m a woman?
And because 80%+ new businesses fail, it’s wise to get as much advice as possible from successful entrepreneurs so you can increase your chances of being in the 20 percent.
This particular meet-up was pretty informal yet there was a motivational speaker. It was Gina Bianchini, founder of Ning (http://www.ning.com/) which sold for $150 million. But like any good Stanford Graduate School of Business alumnus, she’s already focused on starting her next company, Mightybell https://mightybell.com/. You can follow it on Twitter, at yes, you guessed it! @Mightybell
Bianchini had a frank discussion with about 35 women including me the other day about what it’s like for a woman to start a company. Some of her points indicated there are some challenges being a woman but they can be overcome. I left some of the more “honest” advice out of this blog post out of courtesy to Gina.
I actually thought that her general business advice was excellent and could apply to any start-up but she meant it for “women-only” due to the venue.
Here are the tips:
1. Five great contacts can help you get going. You don’t need to network or friend hundreds of people to accomplish your goal. Be careful how much time you spend networking at conferences. My friend and fellow Saratogan, Bob Karr, CEO of LinkSV (www.LinkSV.com) says it’s 10 people.
2. Keep a razor sharp focus on your goal and stick to the most important tasks only.
3. Market, market, market. If you are not spending 90 % of your time doing marketing and sales, something is wrong.
4. Take up space. When you are sitting at a table or presenting, spread out your arms and walk around the room. Women tend to cower and shrink at a table.
5. Don’t apologize so much. This tip is geared towards women and actually came from an entrepreneur from Australia during discussion time and Gina agreed with it.
It was nice to have a unique venue where women’s issues were discussed and to hear tips from a female who has already succeeded in a still predominantly male-run technology business world.
On a final note, kudos to the more forward-thinking companies like HP, IBM, and Yahoo. All three have women running the show.
Here’s a reminder about who I am in case you don’t want to click through to another page on this website to find out:
I’m the President of Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC http://www.michellemcintyrecommunications.com, a high tech public relations consulting firm based in Saratoga, California, a director with the Silicon Valley International Association of Business Communicators, an executive board member with the Sixth District Santa Clara County PTA, and a Boy Scout merit badge counselor for communications, public speaking and journalism. I’m also on the Advisory Board of a hot start-up called Fondu Software Inc. which helps companies form more profitable relationships with their channel partners. I have won 10 awards for outstanding results during my two decade career at IBM and three other public relations firms including Global Fluency where I was employee of the year in 1992. You could follow my tweets at @FromMichelle.