After co-founding the successful tech startup Revel Systems, raising over $115 million, and being bought out by a private equity firm, Lisa Falzone could easily retire young and relax. However, with her passion for entrepreneurship and building things, she wouldn't be out of the game for long.
Not long after selling Revel, Falzone was also expecting her first child. During this time, she discovered not only was she still passionate about developing new technology, but she wanted to create technology that could protect life.
And then the school shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018.
Like much of America, Falzone felt that legislators were too slow to take action.
"Becoming a mother has something to do with it," Falzone explains. "All these innocent kids are being killed at school, Congress isn't doing anything... and even if Congress does pass some kind of gun control law, there are more than 350 million guns in this country."
So Falzone combined her tech-entrepreneurial experience with her desire to prevent crime, co-founding Athena Security, the first camera surveillance system to use computer vision to spot guns instantly and alert police.
"I didn't want to have to worry about my daughter when she walks down the street or goes to school," Falzone said. "What if we lived in a world where parents didn't have to worry about those things? That's what I wanted to do with Athena Security."
Falzone leveraged her experience as a new mom as inspiration to propel her business forward and found these 3 parallels between motherhood and business building:
1. Have a clear and compelling mission
Being a new parent means reevaluating what is important, what you believe in, and what you will make sure your child learns. You are now responsible for nurturing human life and guiding them with the right values.
You're also probably meeting other parents on the playground or at school that have their own sets of values and beliefs and their own ideas of raising their children.
Falzone says values are just as important in developing a company as they are in parenthood. You need to be sure of your mission so that everyone is on the same page and able to help the company grow, as well as be better equipped to take on the competition.
For Falzone, social responsibility was an important value in founding Athena Security.
"Athena was super mission-driven from day one," she said. "We wanted to do something that was good for the world and that was socially responsible."
In today's age, surveillance and privacy are hotly debated topics, especially when it comes to artificial intelligence. Falzone explains that Athena Security aims to protect people from crime without violating their privacy by only focusing on identifying weapons, saying, "Object detection just detects objects. We don't track individuals. We're all about safety. We're not about interrogating people's lives."
Values are the building blocks that allow a child to grow into a successful person and a startup to grow into a thriving and trusted business.
2. It takes a village
You may have heard the phrase, "it takes a village" in the context of raising children, but the same idea applies when growing a company, especially a startup.
Whereas partners, grandparents, babysitters, and doctors are critical to the health of an infant and the sanity of the parent, so too are a company's team members to an infant business and CEO. Falzone has built a team for Athena Security made up of a world-class CTO, co-founder Chris Ciabarra, a diligent head of sales and a vast network of hands-on Angel investors.
"Building a team is everything," Falzone says. "It's all about finding the right people at different stages that are good for your business at that time."
Building businesses and raising children are not one-person jobs, they require the work of cohesive teams.
3. Perfection is paralysis
Parents of newborns will know striving for perfection is futile and often impossible. Similarly, anyone who has been a startup founder tends to quickly realize you can't survive if you waste time obsessing about trying to do things perfectly, and that perfect rarely exists.
Falzone shares this advice: "If you're striving for perfection you're never going to launch. Get rid of the perfectionist mindset. Speed is crucial!"
Ultimately when it comes to parenthood or being a CEO of an infant company, it comes down to you. Whether or not your child or company is successful depends on you and the support system you build to help it grow.