The November meeting of Women in Telecoms & Technology (WiTT) celebrated women entrepreneurs in tech with a panel discussion among leading women who have founded, grown, sold, and promoted businesses in the tech sector. Our women entrepreneurs event was timed to take place during Global Entrepreneurship Week, which runs from 17-23 November 2013. We were also pleased to partner with BCSwomen for this event.
Our fantastic line-up of panelists included:
- Karen Hanton, Founder and Chairman of Toptable (acquired by OpenTable), and currently an Investment Partner at ProfoundersCapital and investor in JustAddRed;
- Elizabetta Camilleri, Founder and CEO of SalesGossip, a daily style destination for more than 600,000 UK shoppers; and
- Dr. Jennifer Sheridan, CEO and Founder, Togeva, a highly-skilled mobile development company.
Audrey Mandela, WiTT Chair and co-founder of Multimap.com, chaired the panel.
The event was kindly sponsored by Google at Google Campus.
Each panel member briefly described her business and her journey to becoming a successful entrepreneur and this was then followed by an extensive and highly informative Q&A which provided honest and practical advice and experiences.
Key lessons and tips included:
- Face up to the facts; Karen explained to us that she made a bad decision to try to go international. She admitted that she knew it wasn’t going well but took a long time to recognize it and do something. She should have cut it much earlier.
- Hire experts and recognize that the business needs different people and skills as it grows. Be prepared to put the business needs above those of employees if the requirements change and let people go if they are no longer suitable.
- The start-up environment is tough – if you make a bad hire recognize this as early as possible and try to sort it out within three months.
- Get a good mentor – Jennifer explained that she had been fortunate to secure the support of Judith Milne from the Department of Trade and Industry. She told us that this had helped her with her self-esteem and confidence.
- Elizabetta explained that finding the right partner had been crucial for her. She used speed dating techniques, contacts and networking to find the right person.
- All three panelists agreed that although your emphasis as a young business and as an entrepreneur should be on scaling up, you should not feel bad if your business doesn’t scale as long as you are achieving your own ambitions.
- Don’t stop asking questions, you won’t have all the answers and need to reach out.
- Don’t abuse people’s time; show that you have done something but don’t be afraid to ask anyone anything.
- We explored the issues of being a woman entrepreneur. All three panellists felt that they had not been specifically discriminated against and highlighted the advantages of being a woman. However, they did recognize the difficulties of getting backing from the VC market, which is very male dominated and not well tuned to female values. Jennifer mentioned how important it is not to have a chip on your shoulder and all agreed that this was true but there were still barriers to overcome.
- All three panellists emphasized the need to be on top of the numbers in a growing business and to be very comfortable explaining these to others. It is crucial to keep a very close eye on financial indicators and to understand what the key drivers are and how they translate into the P&L and Balance Sheet. Karen mentioned that planning is important but that detailed planning for 3-5 years out is unrealistic in a young business although defining key goals is important. Jennifer advised a young business to keep it simple and to use visualization tools to assist in monitoring key drivers and progress. All agreed that it is important to understand how to monetize a good idea, particularly in a world where such a lot is given away for free.