Andrew Thomas is the co-founder of SkyBell Video Doorbell, a smart home security company making homes and neighborhoods safer with a video doorbell that lets users answer their door from a smartphone. Andrew is an IoT expert and rising star in the ranks of the smart home entrepreneurs. Follow Andrew on Twitter: @apthomas.
There's proof in the data. According to Bloomberg and research by Lesa Mitchell and Professor Vivek Wadhwa, women-led high-tech startups are more capital efficient, achieve 35 percent higher return on investment, and generate 12 percent higher revenue than male-owned companies when venture-backed. Despite these facts, women receive less venture funding and hold fewer C-level positions and fewer partner seats at VCs than men.
This is changing for the better. From Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook) to Sophia Amarosa (Founder of NastyGal), women are leading and inspiring a new generation of entrepreneurs and leaders. My grandmother was a ceiling-buster at GE and became one of the first women managers at the iconic company. My mother blazed a trail for women during her career in technology and telecommunication. They've inspired me to follow in their footsteps and contribute to the voice for gender equality by celebrating and highlighting highly successful female founders, CEOs and investors.
I have interviewed six all-star female entrepreneurs to learn how they achieved their success and share valuable advice. The key takeaways are as follows.
Don't Be Afraid to Take Chances
Payal Kadakia, the co-founder and CEO of ClassPass, started more than a few companies before founding the highly successful fitness membership company that has raised over $84 million to date in less than three years. "Don't be afraid to fail. Oftentimes success is on the other side of failure. I had to get it wrong a handful of times before I got it right, but I learned from those mistakes and built a better business because of it."
Kadakia took a chance that resulted in massive success. She said that has been the hardest part of her journey. "I had to have the team pivot the business model, since at the time things were actually working. But I knew it was the right decision because we weren't fulfilling our mission and I had to anticipate the longer-term vision. Luckily that decision has paid off."
Go Beyond Data
After a highly successful career in investment banking, Nicole Shariat Farb tapped into her passion for creativity and founded Darby Smart, an online platform connecting designers of DIY fashion and home items with consumers. As CEO of this online platform, Nicole knows the value of data. Yet she attributes her success to finding ways to delight customers through creativity.
"Blend creativity and analytics. Data is incredibly powerful. It helps us make decisions every day [and] bring customized website experiences to individuals. But creativity can be equally powerful. Think of ways to delight your users. Bring magic to their lives. The data won't show you how to do this. Your creative instinct will. What the data has shown us, is that over the long term, a focus on delighting our users has helped Darby Smart build a brand that customers identify with, love and are loyal to."
I asked Shariat Farb for one quick thing a reader can do to become a better founder. She said: "Give someone on your team one of the things you own. It empowers them. It creates room for you to be more strategic. It will help your company grow."
Know Your "Why"
Danae Ringelmann co-founded Indiegogo with a mission to make raising money easier and to empower others to change the world. Since 2008, Indiegogo has helped raise over $800 million for campaigns around the world while eliminating the red tape that makes raising money so difficult.
When you understand the difficulties and complexities that Ringelmann overcame while building a global fundraising platform, it's no surprise that her advice for entrepreneurs relates to a strong sense of purpose. "The only thing that can be certain about entrepreneurship is why you're taking the journey to begin with. So make sure it's clear. Know your "why,"and thenlove it and embrace it. Wake up every morning repeating it. For when you meet what feels like an insurmountable challenge, your "why" will somehow guide you around and through them."
Hustle, Hustle, Hustle
Success as an entrepreneur is never as glamorous as we read about in the news or see in film. Jenny Fielding, Managing Director at Techstars and a successful entrepreneur, shared insight into her journey while starting Switch-Mobile, a mobile VOIP company that was acquired in 2009.
"I started my company in NYC in 2006, when the startup landscape was bleak there. And as a result, I had to learn everything the hard way and make up my own rules. I made every mistake in the book running my startup. However, I wouldn't give up. I put my head down and worked myself to the bone."
Stay Focused on You
Competitors. Hype. Perception. For entrepreneurs, the path is filled with distractions that can keep you from focusing on what really matters: your business.
Nina Ojeda, CEO and founder of The Avenue West, highlights how important focusing on yourself can be. "Don't compete with anyone but yourself. I see too many founders get tripped up by competitors. The moment you start focusing on someone else, you've taken your eye off the ball. That doesn't ever end in your favor."
While it's easy to get distracted, Ojeda offers this advice: "It's so easy to be swept away in the startup world. The grass is always greener. The fact is, all of those founders are going through the same things you are."
Done Is Better Than Perfect
Entrepreneurs like to cite the aphorism that "Perfect is the enemy of good." Yet few of us actually follow it. Shama Hyder, founder and CEO of The Marketing Zen Group, is proof that big things can come from small, consistent progression. "Be an editor at heart. You will never get it perfect, so make progress your goal."
Hyder built her success on treating others well and maintain good relationships. "Always treat your employees, vendors, and customers with the utmost respect. Even if a relationship doesn't pan out, don't burn bridges."
Don't Lose Yourself in Your Company
"Every day is challenging, but I'd say the hardest part was emotionally overcoming my first major failure when my sports company didn't reach the vision I had for it. I lost my personal identity in my professional one. It took me a long time to realize that success is the person who takes action and executes."
My mother and grandmother set an example for me to support those who deserve equality. Women have proven their abilities in the startup world yet continue to fight for equal treatment across the board. Changing the paradigm requires more dialogue (and in this case, recognition and exposure). The women in this article leave us with actionable advice we can benefit from right now. We can all become better leaders when we put their advice into action.