“Pink Companies,” Proving Yourself, and More: Interview with Women 2.0

June 26, 2012

1:00 pm

Media company and female entrepreneurship champion Women 2.0 is calling for applications for its November 2012 PITCH NYC Conference. Startups with less than $1 million in funding and at least one female founder can apply, and the top 10 will pitch at the conference. The winner gets $25,000, plus a finalist interview for TechStars NYC’s Winter 2013 class.

This is the first New York event for PITCH, which has run for 5 years in Silicon Valley. Women 2.0 is teaming up with Ellas 2.0 to bring in startups from Latin America, and around the world.

Women 2.0 cofounder and CEO Shaherose Charania is also the head of Founder Labs and a mentor at 500 Startups. Following our popular post on “Femanomics: 105 Women in Venture Capital and Angel Investment,” we interviewed Charania on how women are making strides in tech. She talks about working your ass off, “pink companies,” and more:

Shaherose Charania of Women 2.0

Tech Cocktail: What’s been your personal experience as a woman in startups?

Shaherose Charania: Always positive – no one’s going to mess with me, come on!

But truly, in the first startup that I worked at, there was challenge. But it’s about how you carry yourself and how you manage the situation, to be honest. I came with no startup experience, no product experience, and left the startup as the product director within a year and a half. So I really worked hard in an environment where I was pretty much the only woman who wasn’t an intern and wasn’t the front desk lady. I came in as a consultant and became a full team member and was able to have a role that was integral where, being the product director, I was working with the head of engineering and our lead designer, and it was all guys.

But I had to prove it. Particularly the technical folks were like, “Who the hell is she? Why is she leading the product? Why is she telling me what to do?” So it was hard – it wasn’t just about being a woman, it was that I was also a first-timer in the industry, and I worked my ass off to prove to everyone that I could do it…

Tech Cocktail: Do you have any tips for women in a similar situation?

Charania: Yeah, just keep your head up. There’s no need to push back; push forward. Because you can do anything, and that’s the truth. You can have whatever role you want, you can produce what you want as long as you put your mind to it…

It’s not that easy (it’s never easy) but if you set your sights and feet ahead – 10 years, 10 feet – you can do it. So I think the most important thing I would say is know what you want: have your vision, have your goals. And you’ll do things that are focused to getting there.

Tech Cocktail: What are some misconceptions about women in tech? 

Charania: That we’re not technical, that we start “pink companies” [companies that are focused on fashion, food, etc.] and all that kind of stuff, when really that’s far from the truth. There’s just a misconception that women can even do startups. And there’s no need for that discussion anymore – I think that was an old discussion. I think the misconceptions, to be honest, are mostly fading away, and people are just excited to see what women can build.

Tech Cocktail: What questions are you tired of hearing about women entrepreneurs? 

Charania: I’m tired of people complaining about not enough women in tech. Yeah, sure, it’s not a parity situation, but give it time and give it some energy and it’ll be fine. More and more women are getting funded, more and more women are making headlines, and we’re seeing it. So there’s not much more to talk about other than promoting them and getting them to continue to grow and succeed.

Tech Cocktail: What are some remaining challenges for female founders? 

Charania: The only thing would be people who are stuck in their own head, be they other entrepreneurs, be they investors. If they’re stuck in their own head about what they think, there’s nothing we can do about it. And that kind of discrimination is in any industry, and towards any minority. So whether you’re a person of color or a woman, you will probably deal with people with a narrow view of the world, and there’s not much you can do about that, other than be your awesome self.

Connect with Women 2.0 through local Founder Fridays, and apply for PITCH NYC by August 31. 

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact kira@tech.co.

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