October 27, 2015
Seattle Startup Week is an opportunity for founders and entrepreneurs to connect and learn. Monday October 26, Janis Machala hosted the panel I previewed earlier this week. The discussion focused on stories and practical advice from women who successfully navigated the path from idea to MVP and on through to launch and scale. The discussion was honest and useful for everyone in the room.
Each panelist answered questions about their unique challenges. It was through their challenges each gained an epiphany about the startup world. The serendipity of connection is truly where the magic happens. Adina spoke about her search for a CTO co-founder. She found him through having Japanese tea with friends and sharing her goals and vision.
When the topic of being women entrepreneurs in a male-dominated space came up, Rebecca had the best quote of the panel. She said, “I can’t do anything about being a woman nor do I care to.” She went on to say that being a woman isn’t a problem unless you believe it to be. She never operated from that space, and when she began to realize how much of an issue it was to some people, she embraced the so-called limitation. “Limitations force your brain to think in creative ways,” she said.
The panel discussion turned to practical matters of funding, burn rate, and how and when to take on capital for the business. Each member had different thoughts about when the business needs to take on money and why, but all agreed on one thing: Having enough money to take care of your people is vital for the growth of the business. Rebecca said “Being lean is great, but you need to be prepared to make people comfortable enough to do their jobs.”
Beth’s story was the most interesting of the panel. She had a product on the market for three years with sales and revenue yet no one would invest with her. She said the medical device industry doesn’t have a business model for low-cost equipment. She had great design and product market fit, but investors would use her background as a professor and the fear of regulation to keep from buying in. So she shifted the structure and made a difference in third-world nations.
The topic of family and health came up. Adina and Mary shared their revelations. Adina’s lesson is that it’s possible to raise funding and take care of yourself. She realized the 80-hour work week start-up standard was a myth. She wishes she had realized it sooner for her health. Mary’s lesson was setting work limits for herself so she could spend time with her family. She is happy she set those standards for herself.
Each panelist was in agreement on the importance of defining and sticking to your core values. Rebecca was thankful she had the conversation with her co-founder very early in their relationship. Adina agreed but from a different space. She said she listened to a lot of people early in the process. The sometimes conflicting advice was tough for her to assimilate. She said ” I realized people older than you don’t always know what they are talking about. I thought they would know something about a new company in a new space. They didn’t. If you don’t believe something someone tells you don’t do it. Trust your gut. Don’t give someone else’s advice more weight than your own.”
Janis reinforced this to the group when she said, “Not everyone’s money is green in the way you want it to be green..Believe in what you are doing rather than let your investors whipsaw you into something you don’t want to do.”
Moving forward, each panelist was quick to point out the need for a good team. Without the right co-founders and team members they would not be in their current situations. Adina was very clear on this point. These are people you will spend the majority of your life around. Do you like them and can you carry out your goals with them?
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