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Transcript follows & interview above.
Pemo: Cindy lovely to meet you in person.
Lovely to meet you in person as well Pemo.
Pemo: I was wondering if you could tell me how the startup scene is going for women in New York. I know that you’re the heart & life of that & thought you might be able to give us some feedback about that. I know its booming in New York at the moment?
Obviously I’m biased because I’m based in New York. But I have to say: a) the tech startup scene in New York is absolutely booming & b) it is particularly booming in terms of the number of female startup founders & entrepreneurs who are getting businesses off the ground there. I think that’s fantastic, both because obviously for all of us as women entrepreneurs it’s terrific to have the solidarity & the camaraderie of a lot of us doing the same thing. But I also think that’s brilliant for the New York tech scene because it means that there is true diversity & creativity & innovation coming in from different perspectives in a way that the historically male dominated tech startup scene hasn’t seen. I think that can only be good for innovation & the New York tech scene generally.
Pemo: Fabulous, fabulous. I was wondering if you’d share a little bit about your personal journey trying to get funding for your startups. I know you’ve got the 2 startups IfWeRanTheWorld & MakeLoveNotPorn. Could you give us some feedback about what’s happening about the funding piece there?
An area that I particularly like to focus in on in terms of how I help other women entrepreneurs is the whole area of money & funding. I do that because I have to say to women regularly, we don’t get taken seriously until we get taken seriously financially. So a) it’s absolutely fine to focus in on money, finding it, making it & b) it’s enormously important that female tech entrepreneurs go after funding with the same ferocity & single mindedness that men do. Now that being said, I represent the double whammy of unfundability – I’m female & I’m older! So I won’t pretend that it’s not extremely difficult to find funding for female startup founders. It took me 3 years to get IfWeRanTheWorld funded. It’s taken a year to get MakeLoveNotPorn.tv funded & so I’m very conflicted in this area. On the one hand, I would love to see female tech founders raise the same kinds of rounds of funding that male run tech startups are. I would love to see female tech founders make huge exits. I would love to see a female tech billionaire topple Mark & Steve & Larry & Sergey from the top of the Vanity Fair New Establishment List. But on the other hand the very realistic advice that I now always give to female entrepreneurs is: actually it can be so difficult to find funding, if at all possible boot strap your idea, get it out there. Get it out there as minimum viable product, get it into the market place, get it gaining traction. a)you’ll find it a great deal easier to get funded when you have something out there with proof of concept & b) if you’ve designed your startup around a business model designed to generate revenue from day 1 then with any luck you won’t need funding. And actually that is much more the desirable scenario to be in. So as I said on the one hand I would love to see women gaining much more ground because the tech funding bubble is completely passing us by as witnessed all over the media stories. The talk about the tech bubble & the ridiculous amounts of money being thrown at startups, all of the examples are always male founders universally. But on the other hand what that actually means is that it’s a lot more realistic for female tech startup founders to actually find a way to bootstrap & get out there & with any luck to find a different way to make your startup viable & pay for itself.
Pemo: So what I’m hearing is don’t allow anything to hold you back, do whatever you can to get your idea & startup tangible & earning revenue.
Absolutely the only person to make things happen for you is you! Because it’s a fact of life that female founders face many more obstacles than men, the playing field is not level, actually know that & grit your teeth & make your startup happen off your own resources, your own initiative & your own creativity as much as you possibly can.
Pemo: You’re a fabulous speaker Cindy. You have a fan in me! I wondered if you’ve got any tips for women who are pitching to any sort of investor?
I think that the best piece of advice that I can give any female startup founder pitching to any investor is: Do whatever it takes to not give a shit when you walk into the room! What I mean by that is (I gave a talk this past Spring @MIT to the Graduate Women’s Association on “Empowerment: Power & How to Find it in Places You Don’t Expect”. One of the things I talked about was the power of not caring. The power of not caring in a good way in dating, in life & in business. What I mean by what I’ve just said is that the single most paralyzing dynamic in business is Fear. Too many women when they walk into pitch to a vc, when they get up in public & speak to a large audience, particularly of techies & therefore male dominated is they feel fear. They feel nervousness, they feel insecurity & that has a very dampening effect on their ability to be compelling & articulate & powerful in public. So when I say the most important thing is you don’t give a shit what anybody thinks: get yourself into a mindset where you don’t really care what your audience thinks. What that means is always give yourself options. If you’re pitching to vcs, have lined up so many meetings that you go “Well if they don’t like me & this doesn’t go well, I don’t care because I’ve got all these others lined up. So I won’t go “OMG so much hangs on this meeting, OMG everything matters so much, I’m going to be paralyzed with nerves & I can’t speak!” because that’s what happens otherwise. Equally when you get up in public, on a stage in front of an audience don’t really care what they think. Go I’m going to have a good time because I’m talking about my startup or I’m talking about my program or I’m talking about something that I love doing. I will enjoy talking about that & I really don’t care what this audience thinks of that. That’s the single best thing you can do to make yourself a good speaker & a good pitcher!
Pemo: Sounds like great advice. Thank you so much Cindy.
I also filmed her talk @WITI Summit “The No-Hour Workweek – How to Redesign Your Work to Fit Your Life, Not the Other Way Round”. What can I say she’s fabulous & continues to inspire us! Thanks Cindy.