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Video Interview with Emily Olson, one of the co-founders of Foodzie , a passionate online community that celebrates good tasting, real food. Foodzie makes it simple for all food-lovers to have a connection to their food. She’s also an alum of the 2008 class of TechStars, an early stage tech incubator program based out of Boulder, CO. Previously to Foodzie, Emily worked for The Fresh Market, the third largest specialty food chain. She saw the flaws in the brick and mortar model for small food companies and believed that a marketplace online gave them the tools they needed to connect directly with customers and share the stories that make them unique. You can find Emily @ her blog This is Me, Em & Twitter @emilyolson
Transcript follows & video above. This is Part II of the interview.
- Do you think that the challenges that women entrepreneurs/startups have historically faced, mean that we will always be under represented sourcing venture? I think about 5 to 8% of venture goes to women startups or have women on their team. So we are under represented & so they have some faced some challenges & I hear that you haven’t which is great. And hopefully that might be what’s coming, what’s happening now, is that it’s much easier for young girls? If you don’t think there’s a problem then you’re probably not going to manifest it, or come across it? But there have been problems in the past for women, so do you think that we will always be underrepresented or is it outside your experience?
Well you know I thought about it a little bit & there is something that is biological about women we bear children, that is a little different than men. Typically because of that there is this span of time where if you want to raise children you should probably. I think of this as an entrepreneur & a woman myself.
You’ve got to juggle two lives?
Yeah if I want to start a family, I’m 26, so I don’t today but eventually I do. I know having been an entrepreneur first that I cannot do this & raise a family. There’s no way! At least so far as it has gone, it is so consuming of my time, I can barely get home to take my dog out to the bathroom & give him a scoop of food. So it would be very challenging for me personally to raise a family the way I wanted & do this. I think for men who want to have families often they have a wife that is playing that role in their lives. They can still maybe have this crazy life & maybe they miss out on some time but they may not be around. And people can make their own decisions. The guy can stay home & the woman can work, I understand those things but I think there is something simply biological about a woman having a child that kind of affects the time frame that we have. I fortunately started a company when I was 24, so pretty young, & companies take a long time to build to be successful, right. So I have another, hopefully 8 years ahead of me doing this. So if you think about the window of time child bearing years, the time you need to start a business to be successful, there’s an interesting dynamic going on. So I think it’s less about ability or traits that a woman has to be an entrepreneur, that there are maybe biological factors that we may put our focus elsewhere for a period of time. And I think that’s ok. It’s kind of a long winded?
No, but actually there’s a lot of truth in that & I guess a lot of women would relate to that. And I guess I would extend it to more than biological, it’s hormonal too? Because we have different hormonal stages in our lives.
I don’t know whether you read the post that Fred Wilson wrote about women in their 40s starting companies & there was like a wave of, after the kids were grown & they start having time again? And they’re in an interesting phase of life where they have a perspective of certain problems that can be solved that other younger generations don’t. There’s a lot of younger entrepreneurs these days & that can be solved. And they need a support system to be able do that. There’s this group of people after they raise their children and I think it’s an interesting thing that women sit on each end of that. But yeah it was an interesting post from him because he clearly sits in the middle of that.
Yes & I would stretch it, I’m 58 & I would actually stretch it into your 50’s. Because once your children are grown & you’re free of that responsibility & you’ve got passion & vision? You can’t keep a good girl down really! So there’s hope for you too, after you have your children?
- How do you feel about incubators? Do you think that is a way that more women could achieve funding?
Yeah I think a program like that! I went through an incubator myself so I think that incubator programs are phenomenal for any entrepreneur and so sort of that foundation! If there’s a group of female entrepreneurs that may be under represented or are not getting the attention because people just typically don’t think of that group of people as entrepreneurs & they need that chance to simply prove themselves. I’m all for that idea of an incubator that would specifically cater to that group. But I think incubators in general are brilliant! Yeah I just think you need that foundation, those connections, you need a lot of things.
And you’re one of those success stories which is great!
Hopefully on our way?
- Do you have any tips for women who are currently sourcing venture?
I guess I would say try to go as long as you can without raising venture to try & find that product market fit. Because you start with an idea, then you build something, you test it, you put it out there, you get customer feedback. There’s all these cycles of getting to the thing! I think if you can go through that without the pressure of investors and other people. That pressure makes it a little bit difficult to go through those cycles. If you can do it?
So run lean for as long as you can?
Yeah it’s an attractive thing to raise money, clearly. People do it at all different cycles & different stages of their business. You know it’s a very personal thing, when you need it, when you’ve made that connection. But I guess I would say in the ideal world that go as long as you can testing your idea of the product or whatever that business idea is, with your customers until you get as close as you can to that product market fit so that when those investors are putting in their money in something a little more certain. I think it’s better for them & better for you!
And easier to sell too, I would imagine?
Yeah I think that a little bit of money certainly is a part of getting through that early phase. You need it for exploration & testing & a lot of early stage investors know that. But if you need a little bit of money try to work with angels. I think the mind set of an angel investor is different than venture capital. They’re often in it just because they’re passionate about entrepreneurship, because they want to help & they want to be involved rather than they’re working to get a return for somebody else.
- Well you’ve obviously had very positive experiences with venture capital so this may not apply to you? Would you like to see changes in the venture capital community that could support women startups & if so what are your ideas? You’ve mentioned about having an incubator that would be supportive of women.
Yeah I think having an incubator would be great. I think women who have had success or are entrepreneurs too (& I’ve thought about connecting with other female entrepreneurs & doing this) inviting any other female who wants to start a business to come & chat & be able to get advice or have some role models to help encourage people to go do it! I think it’s the foundation of helping an entrepreneur, of any gender. And then like what we talked about before, I think maybe there’s a few things that maybe some women may need a little bit of coaching on to show that you don’t need to hold back & you can hang.
And talking to another women helps, is also a big piece, isn’t it?
I think so. I’d forgotten that that matters because I had an early foundation that was pretty solid for me. So I’ve never felt that I was inadequate or was disadvantaged but if there is a woman who is kind of hesitating because of that, then I think that having a solid group of women who can show that it is totally possible is a great thing!
And they may see this video, & that would encourage them too?
- You are a non-technical CoFounder, do you believe that it is easier for technical women founders to achieve venture funding than non-technical? If so what are your reasons for this?
I’ll go back to that it’s just about the team, to be honest! I think if you’re technical then you’re going to need a great business cofounder, whether it’s a she or a he. I think female technical cofounders are probably more rare. But I really think that it comes back to the team because you can be a female technical cofounder & not have that other piece of your team & not have what you need to have that base foundation. Or vice versa with the female business side. So I think it comes down to the team.
So what you’re saying is that as long as someone is technical on the founding team that it doesn’t matter whether you technical or non-technical woman founder?
And that’s talking about again the tech business that I’m in.
Yes & that’s mainly the focus that we have.
- Could you list some of the advantages of gender diversity in a startup as obviously you have yourself & 2 male cofounders? Are there any disadvantages?
I absolutely believe that a balanced workplace is one where you have all kinds of different interests, all kinds of different talents & different genders. People just bring different things to the table & I think gender is just one of those traits that when you have a good mix, you get a good balance. We have 2 male cofounders & we actually have more women in the company than men which maybe serves us actually well to have a little more female heavy because our customer base is more female heavy. I still think you need some balance, you need gender diversity but maybe also the skills necessary for your specific industry or business maybe dependent on what your business is. And understanding who your customer is?
That’s a really good point & as a summary you would say that it’s helpful to have any sort of difference brought to the table.
Oh yeah, that’s our world right! If you can be the best representation of outside of the office, outside of the business you have a more open perspective on things.
I think there’s been some studies done recently that show that mixtures of gender or gender diversity actually create much more productive teams.
Yeah I wouldn’t be surprised.
Thank you so much Emily. It’s been a total delight meeting you & hearing your opinions about this. Thank you.
It was fun!