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Tips For Entrepreneurs - Lessons Learned From A Female Founder


"I was always destined to become an entrepreneur".

This was the first sentence Niamh Bushnell, Dublin's first Commissioner for Startups, spoke at InspireFest 2015.

She was on stage to give tips to potential startup founders in Dublin who may be struggling to get their idea off the ground. Bushnell told the, predominantly female, audience that she was enterprising from a young age, persuading an Italian man to drive herself and her friend the length of Italy, for free, when she was just 18 years old. 

Since then Bushnell has worked for Enterprise Ireland, has become an Angel Investor, and has set up two companies of her own while living in New York city, the first of which sadly failed.

She shared 10 lessons she has learned over her career thus far, from communication challenges and picking the right co-founders to the issue of becoming too emotionally involved in your idea. Below are her tips for anyone looking to start their own business

Lesson 1: Don't lost track of the market.

You have a great idea - brilliant. But as your idea, and product or service develops, be sure not to lose track of which direction the market is going. Will your idea still be relevant is 6 months? Are you keeping up-to-date with your competitors? One of the most important things to know when starting your own business is to never lose track of the market.

Lesson 2: Being busy doesn't mean you're being productive.

Anyone can make themselves busy, but not everyone can be consistently productive. Make sure you are spending your time working on the right things, the things that are most important to your business taking off.Start with spending time doing the things you love then try to get the more difficult tasks done when you are feeling more motivated.

Lesson 3: Choose everything carefully.

When starting your first business, it is imperative to choose every small element of it with extreme care. Consider your phone providers as much as your investors, be as picky when choosing internet services as you are with choosing talent.

Lesson 4: There are no shortcuts.

You need to tell yourself this again and again because taking shortcuts will only end in a lot more work further down the line or in some instances, ultimate failure. Everything takes time and everything needs to be done properly. Taking shortcuts with your startup is a BIG no-no.

Lesson 5: Tech is challenging.

If you have tech in your product but are not a techie yourself, you will need to learn to be an excellent listener. If you're co-founder is good at the tech side, and your're not, you will need to find clear ways to communicate to ensure you both understand the direction you wish to take your product.

Lesson 6: Successful businesses LOVE numbers.

It's all about the numbers, both at the beginning of your journey and cone your business is established. Investors want to know numbers: How many customers do you have? How many are you retaining? How big is the market? How much profit are you making? Always keep track of the numbers for everything, no matter how small.

Lesson 7: Know both your macros and micro market.

This is about knowing what people are up to in the 'virtual town hall'. Knowing your market isn't just about keeping an eye on your competitors and your sector, it's about understanding and being aware of the bigger picture. Watch the news, read newspapers, subscribe to tech blogs and stay up to date on everything and anything that could potentially affect your business.

Lesson 8: REALLY like your co-founder.

Some people say you should never go into business with friends. While that isn't exclusively true, you do need to be VERY careful with who you decide to start your business with. You have to really like them. You need to like them so much that you would willingly invite them over for dinner every night of the week. If you don't get on with your co-founder, your business is doomed to fail from the get-go.

Lesson 9: Beware of 'good enough'.

This is about focusing on a problem that does not need to be fixed. If the general public feel the product or service they currently use is 'goof enough' that there is probably no real need for a new one. Don't try to create a market where one does one already exist.

Lesson 10: Avoid all the 'startup hype'.

It is so easy. especially here in Dublin, to get sucked in by the hype that surrounds the startup sector. Everyone wants in and some people have even become serial startup founders, jumping form one startup incubator to the next. Just because there is funding available and a great selection of accelerator programmes does not mean they will take you to the next milestone. Your're idea and features need to be killer and you need to work harder than you have ever done before in order to get it off the ground. 


An Interview With The UK's Top Women in Tech - #ChangeTheRatio

To celebrate International Women’s Day last Sunday, we talked to the women taking the UK tech scene by storm. These women are heading up some of the biggest technology companies in London, running extremely successful websites that help female entrepreneurs and are founding some of the the most successful up and coming start-ups across the UK.

We got in touch to find out how they initially became involved in the technology sector, their opinions on the gender gap and what their secret to success is. One thing all of these women have in common is that they are all fearless and they will never put a limit on what they believe they can achieve in life.


Jennifer Arcuri, Founder of InnoTech Summit

Jennifer Arcuri

Jennifer Arcuri is an american entrepreneur based out of London. Arcuri is founder of new video tech social network ‘Playbox Ltd’. She is best known for founding The InnoTech Summit, an event which brings together entrepreneurs, investors and policy makers, with the aim of stimulating the growth of tech clusters around the world and encouraging the tech education of future generations. 

How did you first get involved in the technology sector? 

“I first got involved with technology just after YouTube was born when I became obsessed with the way video content and video distribution changed through the advent of technology. As a film student, I was particularly interested in the way tech splintered the distribution channels of content.”

Do you think the ratio is closing between Men and Women working in the technology scene?

“Yes- but just like most things, I believe women like to take their time to come into a sector. There needs to be less worries about women coming in and more of a focus on how much more can be accomplished and productive when there are women present. I am a woman in tech constantly obtaining new skills and I do hope to inspire other fellow women to join in on the excitement of the industry.”

How does a women succeed in a sector previously dominated by men? 

“I am often quoted as being fearless, with the lack of fear in "moving mountains."  Success is defined  by not being afraid of look at  every situation and  - to "#OwnIt" ... When we are at peace with our abilities, anything is possible.”


Nathalie Gaveau, Founder of Shopcade and PriceMinister

Nathalie Gaveau OF sHOPCADE

Nathalie Gaveau is best known as the women who sold her firm, online shopping site PriceMinister, for 200 million euro. She sold it and then she moved straight on to another project, because that is what successful women in tech are all about. Her current venture, Shopcade, is a leading fashion-focused social commerce application where you can discover new products, list what you want and get exclusive personalized deal alerts and rewards.

How did you first get involved in the technology sector? 

“After studying business, I cofounded what became one of the top e-commerce players in France with my school alumni. I wish I had known more about technology, code & web design during my studies. I got very passionate about innovation and learnt a lot while working in the tech sector, which is a fascinating industry.”  

Do you think the ratio is closing between men and women working in the tech sector?

“I have no numbers but I think more and more women get into technology and it’s only going to be more mainstream and open. Frankly, it’s about having a good balance. Some sectors are too female dominated and some are very male. Success is probably to be well balanced.”

How does a women succeed in a sector previously dominated by men? 

“Business success is driven by the execution of great products that match clients’ needs, and the ability to scale a business model. It has nothing to do with gender so women can succeed similarly to men. They just have to understand the sector, start projects and work with both men and women, with no preconceived ideas."


Cindy Gallop, Advertising Consultant, Speaker and Founder

Cindy Gallop

Cindy Gallop is an English advertising consultant, founder and former chair of the US branch of advertising firm Bartle Bogle Hegarty, and founder of the IfWeRanTheWorld and MakeLoveNotPorn companies.Gallop has talked at some of the biggest technology conferences around the world and her 2009 Ted Talk on ‘Make Love Not Porn’ was one for the most talked about presentations at the 2009 TED Conference. She has now has turned her illustrious advertising career into a lifelong pursuit of changing the world, her way — one daring project after another.

How did you first get involved in the technology sector? 

“I was monitoring what was happening in tech to see what could be applied in advertising, back in the late 90s when I started up BBH's (Bartle Bogle Hegarty advertising firm) New York office. “

Do you think the ratio is closing between men and women working in the tech sector?

“Not yet, but I think the desire to #changetheratio is finally tangibly there for both women and right-minded men working in the tech/startup scene.”

How does a women succeed in a sector dominated by men? 

“A woman succeeds in a sector dominated by men by focusing on her own definition of success and achieving that, and not giving a damn what anyone else thinks.

My definition of success is living the life you want and doing the work you want to do, in a way that creates and leaves lasting benefit in the world, and makes a lot of money in the process. I emphasize that last part, because we don't get taken seriously as women, until we get taken seriously financially. I believe the future of business is doing good and making money simultaneously, and I'm out to do that with both my startups, IfWeRanTheWorld and MakeLoveNotPorn.”


Lora Schellenberg, Co-Managing Director of Girls in Tech


Lora Schellenberg

Lora Schellenberg is Co-Managing Director of Girls in Tech, London which aims to support and raise the visibility of women in technology & entrepreneurship through monthly events and mentor-ship schemes. Schellenberg is also the Co-Founder of UK Startup Jobs, a job board and career advice website for those who want to work in start-ups.

How did you first get involved in the technology sector? 

"Completely by accident! I was looking for a job in healthcare (because I studied health administration) and found one at a health tech startup through volunteering at the Health 2.0 Europe conference. "

Do you think the ratio is closing between Men and Women working in the tech sector?

"Absolutely, Because of the incredible awareness efforts of organisations like the one I co-lead in London, Girls in Tech, as well as others like Geek Girl Meetup, Stemettes, Ada’s List, Women Who Code, Code First: Girls and so many more!"

How does a women succeed in a sector previously dominated by men? 

"Don’t focus on it being a male-dominated industry. Channel your inner confidence (even if it feels like you’re faking it sometimes!). You’ll find success by doing what you do best and just getting on with it. Success is following your passion and finding happiness in how you spend your life."


Vanessa Vallely, Founder of ‘WeAreTheCity’

Vanessa Vallely

Vanessa Vallely is the founder of leading Women’s network, job board and website ‘WeAreTheCity’. Vallely is also the co-founder of the UK wide diversity network, The Network of Networks (TNON) which includes the heads of women’s networks from 90 FTSE firms. 

1. How did you first get involved in the technology sector? 

"When I left school in 1988 it was the only real skill I had.  In my last year of school computers had just been introduced and they were mostly being used to support existing exams.  I played on a game called “L” which consisted of a series of mathematical challenges whereby you would win keys which gave you access to different parts of the programme.  Conquering this programme contributed heavily towards the Maths GCSE within my school.    I was hooked and there followed a 25 year in Technology.  Ironically, my school Technology GSCE result was an F, however I did get a C in Maths!"

2. Do you think the ratio is closing between Men and Women working in the tech/start-up scene?  

"Given the events we run at WeAreTheCity, I am seeing more and more women in corporate technology roles. However, there are still not enough girls coming through the pipeline to sustain the shortage of technologists we face in the future.  The biggest issue is the technology curriculum at schools,  it just isn't appealing for girls.  Throwing girls in to coding is not the answer. There are so many different roles in Technology, therefore we need to think about how we raise awareness of all the different career paths that can be taken. " 

"I think existing female technologists also need to play their part in terms of sharing their experience and guiding younger generations.   There are so many organisations where you can volunteer and inspire the next generation, for example Stemettes, a  wonderful organisation that inspires girls to pursue STEM careers."

3. How does a women succeed in a sector previously dominated by men? 

"I never saw my gender as a barrier early on in my career, however as my career progressed I became acutely aware that there were less and less women around me.   The numbers of female CTO’s and CIO’s has improved, however there needs to be an equal representation of both men and women at the top of our industries. I truly believe that  women who hold senior technology roles have a responsibility to inspire other females technologists to pursue their true potential, be it my mentoring, sponsoring or just by sharing stories about their career paths."

"In terms of success, everyone's definition is different and mine changes daily.  Sometimes my definition of success is merely to clear my in box!"

Erika Brodnock, Founder and CEO of Karisma Kidz

erika-brodnock

Erika Brodnock is an extremely busy woman. Mother of 5 children, she spent 14 years working in the area of education and performance improvement as a parenting support officer and coach. More recently she founder her own company, Karisma Kids, a site which aims to teach children social and emotional skills through a mix of physical toys and digital games and helps kids to deal with stress.

1. How did you first get involved in the technology sector? 

"In a world that is becoming increasingly digital, I decided that I wanted to create something that met children where they spend most of their time now-a-days (in front  of a screen) and offered a way for them to learn the emotional intelligence and social skills they need for a happy and successful future. Technology for me is an involving symbolism of things we once thought to be impossible becoming the norm so I decided if it could work for connectivity online why not for teaching children the skills they need to connect off line too."

2. Do you think the ratio is closing between Men and Women working in the tech/start-up scene?

We have a long way to go before we see equality in the tech scene, but there are far more women in tech now than ever before and that is a welcome step in the right direction for me.

We're using the Karisma Kidz characters to open girls up to the possibilities of a future in technology as early as possible so I'm hoping that in years to come the equality of ratios we now aspire to will become a tangible reality. 

3. How does a women succeed in a sector previously dominated by men? 

"I think the easiest way to success is to be determined to succeed. I think that women hear no more regularly than their male counterparts in this industry, however my choice is not to focus my time and energy on those that say no. I'd much rather keep searching for and focusing energy on those who are willing and able to say yes.

Success is relative to the person with a goal in mind. My vision is to give every child an equal opportunity to be successful using superhero characters and the technology we have at our disposal. Ultimate success will be seeing that vision become a reality. That said, I celebrate the steps I take in getting there - from the email from a parent saying my app has made a difference in their home, to winning an award to a feature on the news or in a blog post like this. It's a privilege to be able to do what I love to do, help others and make a change to the society we live in."