I was 33 years old, tired of that glass ceiling that a foreign woman, who is brave enough to be adventurous and speaks her mind, often faces abroad. I and you are trapped in the comfort of recurring paychecks. Don’t get me wrong, corporate jobs are great to gather experience and save money. But at some point in your life, you will most probably hit a road-end and then 10 years go by circling around and outside that boardroom.
The reason most of us are outside is because the TABLE ON THE TOP allows only a handful of women. The chances of career progression and growth are slim as the time goes by.
This is my story of building a tech startup as a non-experienced CEO. I am nobody today but I intend to simply share for those who might appreciate. So, if you are driven to build your own empire. Do it anyway. You’ll get the hang of it.
So, 33 years old, July 2020, last year in the middle of pandemic lockdown. I was sleepless for days and when I was awake I was constantly thinking about PLATONIC (at that time I didn’t have a name). I was reading articles, attending online events, listening to startup podcasts, cold messaging on LinkedIn to meet other founders who were coming out of accelerator programs, and talking to people, just anyone I could. I was wide-eyed. I recall a few people calling me “very intense”. To be honest, I felt offended at that time but now that I look back I wouldn’t recommend you starting unless that’s how committed you are.
Starting up is a lot of headwinds. In the initial days, you will have difficulty convincing people to see things the same way.
1. My advice is to “focus on the problem.”
People feel connected and heard when you understand their problem, so instead of your solution/idea, engage with users early and deep dive into the problem statement. How does it affect them, how do they emotionally feel, what would their ideal alternative look like, and so on. Read more on customer development interviews to get this right! Medium is a great source for that.
2. Be truthful to yourself: Why are you doing this? What is your purpose? Don’t rush into this process!
The next thing I was smart to do, was finding mentors, thankfully i came across Mentoring club. In the early days, I spoke with Peter Berg on technology and his startup experience. Monique Zytnik on improving my communication and leadership skills. Pavlo Voznenko (who runs a massive facebook group of developers) on hiring a developer as a technical illiterate 😂 . I also speak regularly with my previous managers/mentors like wybo wijnbergen & Christian Schultz. An old colleague turned friend Shashank Randev who cosmically turned out to be an early-stage VC in India. I received from all of them selfless and precious advice.
But, Monique brought me to this realization that before moving forward I need to look back and understand the why! “What will get me out of bed every day to enjoy this unpredictable journey that i wish to embark”. This is very potent, your purpose and the purpose your vision will be built on.
I will share one more thing.
3. Be a contrarian. What do I mean by that?
So, people get used to things done a certain way. There are playbooks, checklists and manuals on how to build a successful startup. There are defined paths for example- have an idea, find a co-founder, pitch to an accelerator, demo-day, launch, raise funds, do things fast and make mistakes. I think differently, maybe not unique but I like to believe that “things can be done differently”. Different paths can lead to success and you need to find yours. Every founder’s journey is unique and so don’t be afraid to try things that have not been done in the same manner before. And if you ever get pushback or criticism, thank them for their honesty but you don’t have to stop being creative to the world.
Oh, last one but not least. Opportunities are not coming to you sitting at home. Go out there and meet people because that’s where the real life is.
And so is that DOOR of possibilities!
Conquer the world, Stay Authentic and Do You.