Last night, female CEO's got real on the struggles of creating, running and scaling companies. While they share many of the same challenges of their male counterparts, it's refreshing and inspiring to hear the tales from a woman's perspective, one that is usually missing in Silicon Valley.
The panel could have gone on for hours but unfortunately they only had one to shed their knowledge and give advice. Here are my key takeaways:
- Don't start a venture backed company because you want freedom. While being your own boss is pretty awesome, once you've raised money, you end up having numerous bosses that all have different agendas. There are many ways to build a company, VC is only one option. Learn what they are and the pro's and con's of each. Silicon Valley puts far too much emphasis on how much $ companies have raised and not enough on how successful they actually are.
- Make sure to separate your own identify from your company. You and your company are not the same entity and believing so will create a lot of emotional turmoil. Have your own separate life. Also, have a therapist and speak to them once a week.
- 2 perspectives on age:
- If you start building companies young (in your 20's), freeze your eggs now because it will consume your life for many years to come
- Monisha didn't start down the entrepreneurial path until she had had her first child. Pointed out that there really is no right time to start. You're never too early or too late to become a founder
- Be super strategic when comes to raising a venture round if choose to do so. Don't play the numbers game and meet with 100+ VCs assuming at least a few will give you money. Take the time to truly understand how VC works, who has invested in what companies, who needs to deploy money, who needs a company like yours in their portfolio, etc. Talk to as many founders as you can and get their advice. Tailor your pitches carefully and target specific people. That's the best way to go about fundraising.
- Find advisors who have already done what you're trying to do. Carve out one hour every week to soak in their knowledge and ask questions. Give them equity, salary, whatever - just make sure you get consistent time with them. It's far easier to for someone to tell you what they know than for you to have to learn it all yourself.
I could go on but what's above stuck out the most to me. Everyone on the panel agreed that starting a company and being a CEO is immensely difficult. You will be tested, challenged and forced to question everything you thought you knew about yourself, your capabilities and your company. But just like anything else in life, it's usually the things that you fight the hardest that, in the end, you find the most fulfilling.