Girls in Tech at Social Media Week #smwsg

Today was so inspiring, I felt that I was being at TEDx all over again. A great panel of young entrepreneurial women. Here are the take aways.

Problems/Issues

When they launched their own start ups, the panelists said that they encountered a few issues:

Communication and knowing what communication style you need to have: the problem raises when you have to explain your ideas to your team and they may not understand what you’re trying to say as they are not the innovator, they don’t necessarily understand your vision or philosophy.

Another issue raised was trying to attract talent in start ups. It’s easy when you’re an established company like Microsoft because you can attract great talent with a good salary, perks, etc but when you’re a startup, it’s more difficult. Not everyone is willing to bet on a startup and give up on those perks.

You also need to be able to cover all the basics as you’re on your own – whether it is marketing, business, HR, finance, etc. You cannot rely on a team that is in a different department as you would have done in a big company.

Process of building a startup

To build your startup, you need to look at your problem, and really understand your customers, what they want and build solutions around the problem you’re trying to solve. One panelist advised not to waste time doing a business plan, because it takes months and it’s better to test your assumptions rather than build an elaborate business plan that is not practical.

Entrepreuneurship is a tough journey and if you have an exit option, then you are not an entrepreuneur. Money shouldn’t be your incentive to start your own company, but solving a problem should be.

Advice

– Build a network of people you respect and who can mentor you.
– Be prepared at all times to walk away: whether it is in front of a client if the personality doesn’t fit or if he/she doesn’t accept your price, or if the person you’re hiring is not the right fit.
– Don’t think of mentors as just being business-oriented: don’t do anything on your own, tap into your support network for every area of your life.
– Assess every advice you receive and take a step back and decide.
– Always be cautious: are your mentors here for the right reasons? As a panelist mentioned, if your mentor wants to be on your board, just say no.

On work/life balance

As Sheryl Sandberg said in her TED talk, you need a strong partner. Make sure you have a supportive partner who understands what you do.

Organize your schedule to “plan” for your work/life balance.

Finally, know what’s important to you and what’s important to the people who are important to you. One panelist mentioned that she almost left the workforce thinking that her children wanted her to, even though they only wanted her to be happy and be there when they needed her.

One advice from each panelist

– Learn how to say no
– Prioritize: don’t try to do too many things
– Find the good idea and follow it
– Follow your dreams and do what you love
– Be the change you want to be

Personal conclusions

The panel was so eye-opening. The more startup stories I hear, the more I know this is the kind of environment I want to join. The panelists were amazing and so brave to have started on their exciting journey with or without funding.

The startups covered were: PlayMoolah (Audrey Tan), SG Entrepreneurs (Gwendolyn Regina), Splaype (Meri Rosich), GOODSTUPH (Pat Law) and Girls In Tech (Adriana Gascoigne). Jessica Tan was also on the panel, as MD of Microsoft Singapore.