September 12, 2010
Unless you’ve been under a rock, you’ve probably noticed some, er, heat in the media about women, or the lack thereof, in the technology space and specifically in the tech-speaker circuit. So today, it’s with great pleasure we get to introduce you to Allyson Kapin, founder of Women Who Tech – a group that not only brings together amazing women in the tech space, but has a long term goal to:
…create a database of women technology experts to be used as a resource for the media and tech conference organizers. This database will not only provide a strong network of women in the technology sector but support the creative talents and energies of women who thrive in this arena.
Allyson was gracious enough to answer some questions about her role as an entrepreneur and organizer of the upcoming Women Who Tech Telesummit.
JC: You are a founding partner of a company that helps non-profits (RAD Campaign) as well as a founder of Women Who Tech. You operate with an entrepreneurial mindset. What prompted you to work for yourself – and what drives you and keeps you motivated?
AK: I have always been pretty independent, so going out and starting a firm was a natural path. I started Rad Campaign in particular because I’m an activist at heart that uses technology to transform the world and inspire change (that’s part of our tagline for WWT too). Rad Campaign feeds my desire to work on some of the biggest issues facing our world and to leverage technology to help mobilize people and foster change.
JC: As an entrepreneur, what have been some of your biggest challenges?
AK: I feel like I have been incredibly lucky as an entrepreneur. I get to work with some of the most talented people on some incredibly inspiring issues. We strategically built the firm to ensure that we as the founding partners (the other partner at Rad Campaign is my husband Jared Seltzer) be heavily involved with our clients projects. We don’t come in for the big sell and then pass it off to young staffers to take over. At the same time, because of our hands-on approach, it can limit how many clients we can take on at a time so we have to turn away business, which I hate to do. That’s been a challenge but on the other hand, we have grown in this economy. I think it’s because of our hands on approach that we have built several long-term relationships with our clients and why we have grown into one of top web firms that works with the nonprofit and political campaign sectors.
The other challenge that I personally face as an entrepreneur is that running your own firm requires long hours and you definitely sacrifice some of your personal life. I aspire to have a better work/life balance.
JC: You’ve become somewhat of a spokesperson for women getting more respect and attention in the tech sector. TECH cocktail has many female readers – what advice would you give them about getting more attention?
AK: If you want to get on the speaking circuit, start promoting yourself. Research conferences that you would like to speak at and create a calendar for panel submission deadlines. And most importantly follow through and submit to those conferences.
Start networking with people you want to know. Don’t be timid. Attend industry events and introduce yourself. Get involved in volunteer opportunities. Many high profile events/conferences have committees that you can volunteer for and if I was looking to break in, that would be one place to start.
Show your expertise, but don’t be obnoxious about it. You need to be able to draw the line between self-confidence and being a cocky bastard which can turn people off. BTW, this is a topic that we will be discussing during the panel Self Promotion: Is This Really a Rant About Gender? with Clay Shirky who wrote the widely debated blog post “A Rant About Women” as well as Mary Hodder, and Lynne D. Johnson at the Women Who Tech TeleSummit on September 15th. I will be moderating the panel.
JC: You have the 3rd annual Women Who Tech TeleSummit coming up soon. Can you give me a few practical tips attendees were able to walk away with in the past?
AK: Sure. Promoting yourself and your skills is critical. Don’t take rejection so personally. Reframe your thinking and redirect that negative energy into submitting even more panel submissions, developing a better product, launching a new startup, and networking with even more VC’s (if getting VC money is your ultimate goal). Failure is not a bad thing. You learn from failure.
JC: This year’s event has a great lineup – what sessions are you most excited about this year and which do you recommend to our readers?
AK: To be honest, I’m so excited about all of the sessions – I curated most of the program this year and I’m psyched about each one of the panels for different reasons. If you are interested in Launching a Startup, then you will definitely want to hear Rashmi Sinha, Co-Founder of SlideShare, Amra Tareen, Founder of AllVoices.com and a former partner at an established VC firm, Lisa Gansky, Investor and author of The Mesh and Geoff Livingston of Zoetica Media, LLC talk about what it really takes to launch a startup and how to deal with risk. If you have been following the latest women in tech debate (Tech Crunch, WSJ, and Fast Company articles), then you won’t want to miss the Female Ferocity fireside chats with Cathy Brooks, Heather Harde, CEO of Tech Crunch, Genevieve Bell of Intel and Elisa Camahort Page, Co-Founder of BlogHer.
JC: Aside from the annual telesummits, do you have a bigger vision for Women Who Tech? And are there any other ways for women to participate or get involved with your mission?
AK: Right now our main focus is the annual Women Who Tech TeleSummit, which brings together talented and renowned women breaking new ground in technology who use their tech savvy skills to transform the world and inspire change. Following the TeleSummits, we host after parties in DC, NYC, and San Francisco so people can network in person.
JC: Any final advice for women who are thinking about starting up their own businesses?
AK: Just Do It! Seriously, if you are a passionate about an idea you have for a startup and you have done your research and business planning, (a financial cushion helps too) go for it. What’s the worst that can happen? You learn from failure and go out and get a job until your next startup idea comes along. That doesn’t sound so terrible to me.
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