At a recent Startup Weekend event, an impromptu gathering with young women in tech brought up some interesting questions.
My e-mail marketing company, VerticalResponse, recently partnered with Startup Weekend, an amazing event where entrepreneurs get a little over two days to come up with an idea, pitch it to a crowd and work on one of about 20 ideas selected by their peers. Participants choose whether or not they want to participate on any of the 20 teams and they start to solidify the idea of a product. Most of the products are technology based and many are online solutions for businesses or consumers. At the end of the weekend, the teams present their new products to three judges, who select an event winner.
I was lucky enough to be on the judging panel for the Startup Weekend here in Palo Alto, Calif., where about 150 designers, developers and marketers participated. It was an amazing experience.
I got to the event on a Sunday evening for the judging and Go Go Mongo creator Ahmed Siddiqui, who was running the event, greeted me. He wanted to know if I could meet with the women across all of the teams for a quick sit-down so they could ask me questions about being a woman in tech. I had no idea what I was in for, but about a dozen women soon gathered around me, all very sharp.
Two very pertinent questions that were asked:
How can I find a technical partner since I'm more on the product marketing side?
Good question. I had a great idea with VerticalResponse, but I don't have a technical background so I can really relate! I was lucky in that I knew two tech folks whom I trusted and that I could rely upon. So, in taking that approach, I simply said that we have to reach out to our networks. We must have conversations with people we trust, and we have to reach out on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to pose the question to your friends and followers to further the reach. Finding someone you've got a link to could be a great way to start a business relationship.
What were your biggest hurdles being a woman in tech?
My answer? Frankly, our level of confidence. Going into a VC meeting to ask for money? A guy can sound really confident about how he's going to get from zero to 60 in four seconds, more so than a woman. It's just a fact. We need to trust our gut and be confident in our decisions right from the start.
So, if you are a woman in tech, check out a Startup Weekend near you – they have events all around the world – to meet some incredibly fun, creative and likeminded people. Also, make sure to reach out to your social networks. You never know who in those networks might just be the technical ticket to your startup extravaganza!
JANINE POPICK is the CEO and founder of VerticalResponse (a Deluxe company), a leading provider of self-service email and event marketing, online surveys, social media, and direct mail solutions. The company was ranked No. 2,802 on the 2012 Inc. 5000. @janinepopick