Category Archives: Business

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

September 3, 2012 Business, Entrepreneurship, Internet, Startups, Technology, Venture Capital, Women in Business

The topic of the dirth of women in technology has been written about ad nauseum for the past few years.  But that’s a good thing, as bringing the issue to the forefront is finally leading to a good deal of action.  And actions, as we all know, speaks louder than words.

I came across an article on TechCrunch today, entitled “Twitter bets on Girls Who Code,” that literally made my day (and it’s Labor Day so that means a lot!)   Huge props to Reshma Saujani, who founded  the New York-based initiative to help teach girls ages 13-17 how to code so that they can pursue careers in technology and engineering.  The most exciting part is the number of businesses, including Google, GE  and eBay, that are helping to support Girls Who Code.  The big boys are finally stepping up to the plate after acknowledging that women programmers are few and far between, and realizing that they can have an extremely positive impact on their predominantly testosterone tech teams.  Women bring a different perspective and style to the table, and often approach problem analysis, solution discovery, and general communication in ways different than men.  Many studies have proven that teams with a mix of both sexes are often more successful than teams dominated by one sex or the other. Gender diversity, not just ethnic diversity, is important. Period.

Kudos to Twitter for recognizing this.  Twitter is one of GWC’s biggest supporters, having provided both volunteers and financial support to the organization.

GWC

Below are some important stats pulled for the Girls Who Code website:

Today, just 3.6% of Fortune 500 companies are led by women, and less than 10% of venture capital-backed companies have female founders. Yet females use the internet 17% more than their male counterparts and represent the fastest growing demographic online and on mobile, creating more than two-thirds of content on social networking sites. Technology companies with more women on their management teams have a 34% higher return on investment.

The numbers speak for themselves. By 2018, there will be 1.4 million computer science-related job openings, yet U.S. universities are expected to produce enough computer science graduates to fill just 29% of these jobs. And while 57% of bachelor’s degrees are obtained by women, less than 14% of computer science degrees are awarded to women.

Accolades to Girls Who Code for taking action and targeting young women.  I believe making changes at the youth level is key to making progress overall.  I certainly hope to see this organization grow its presence on not just a national scale, but a global one.

This is an exciting time for Women in Tech and Female Founders.  A time where individuals, organizations and businesses are in action mode so that we can start to see the percentages above steadily increase.  Stay tuned for my next post, as I will be creating a list of more folks that are making a significant impact.

 

 

Business Development for Startups – Coloft Academy Workshop

August 26, 2012 Business, Business Development, Entrepreneurship, Sales & Marketing, Startups, Technology, Women in Business

coloft

Last Thursday, I led a workshop on BD for Startups at Coloft as part of their new Coloft Academy initiative. I have spent my career launching and growing businesses, so I was thrilled to be invited to share my learnings with the community.  I had a terrific time and would like to thank all the folks who packed the house to spend 2 hours with me.  I have always loved mentoring young entrepreneurs, and have considered teaching in a more formal way at some point.  I now know that it is something I absolutely want to tackle!

I have received a great deal of positive feedback on the workshop, and lots of requests for my presentation.  Here it is:


Business Development for Startups

Business Development for Startups 101 – Aug 23rd Workshop

August 6, 2012 Business, Business Development, Entrepreneurship, Sales & Marketing, Startups, Technology, Women in Business

I love talking about startups, and I really love talking about all things Business Development.
BD
I am super honored and excited that LA’s Startup Hub, Co-Loft, has invited me to lead a workshop called “Startup BizDev – This is How It’s Done” as part of their new Academy program.  Below is an overview of my August 23rd Workshop:
 

REGISTER HERE!

Are you a Founder and want to earn more about growing your venture via partnerships and alliances? Or are you interested in a job in Business Development at a Tech or Internet company?

We will kick off this session distilling what Business Development actually means at an early stage company, and then we will discuss what it entails as the company grows. We’ll also discuss types of partnerships, as well as provide a framework for evaluating them.

Later, we’ll outline characteristics of a great Business Developer – who you should hire or the skills you need to get hired.

We will conclude the class with a Q&A session.

Specifics include:

  • What are considered Business Development functions at the various stages of a startup
  • Building and growing your company’s ecosystem
  • Types of partnerships
  • Types of deal structures
  • Tips for closing
  • How to evaluate partnerships when resources are limited
  • Potential pitfalls leading to unsuccessful partnerships

I HOPE TO SEE YOU THERE!

“There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”

August 2, 2012 Business, Women in Business

A good friend of mine was at a lunch for Women in Business today in NYC.  The following is a quote she texted me from Clinton’s Secretary of State, Madelaine Albright:  “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”  AMAZING!

I went into “google” mode on Ms. Albright, and got to remembering and further understanding what a BADASS she is.   Albright is a pioneering woman in politics, on both a national and global scale.  No matter your political views, this woman deserves respect for being at the forefront of women’s issues and rights for decades.  Watch this TED video, “On Being a Woman and a Diplomat”, which is a frank and funny Q&A with Pat Mitchell from the Paley Center.  It’s only 13 minutes – Watch It!

 

Marissa Mayer – “Game On”

July 30, 2012 Business, Business Development, Entrepreneurship, Internet, Technology, Uncategorized, Women in Business

I, like most folks, was thrilled to learn that Marissa Mayer was chosen to be the next CEO of Yahoo!  And they chose her knowing she is pregnant. Go Yahoo!   Mayer, only 37,  is the youngest CEO in the Fortune 500. Go Marissa!

If anyone can bring Yahoo! back to prominence, it is Marissa Mayer. She is not only muy inteligente (she is an engineer who holds patents in Artificial Intelligence), she is young, hip, fashionable and feminine . The second half of that sentence may seem silly to point out, and even irrelevant, but it is absolutely NOT.  It is relevant to both  the “what to do with Yahoo!” conversation and the “how do we get more women into technology” discussion.

Let’s start with what to do with Yahoo!

Yahoo! has had 5 CEOs in 5 years.  Holy crap,!!   For years, it  has been a company in turmoil,  struggling with loss of talent and slowed growth.   BUT,  on any given day, Yahoo! has upwards of 20 million article views and, in any give month, 700 million people visit the site.   Though it will be a mighty challenge, the opportunity to reboot Yahoo! is HUGE.  So what should the company do?  I think the answer is to focus on WOMEN.  A nd who better to lead that charge than a pioneering woman in tech like Marissa Mayer?  I had some thoughts about this, and then I came across a spot-on post,  titled “Pink is the New Purple“, by Dave McClure.  Here are some highlights from his post:

“….  what if Marissa used Yahoo as a bully pulpit, to address the needs of a market that is roughly 50% or more of the global internet population? What if Yahoo began acquiring or partnering with properties specifically relevant to women, like Pinterest, ShoeDazzle, Gilt Groupe, BabyCenter, EcoMom, Oprah, ……Martha Stewart (or BritMorin.com),……?”

FashionTech / Fashion 2.0 / Social Commerce (whatever you want to call it) is crushing it right now.  There are tons of new online businesses aimed at girls/women/mothers that are generating a tremendous amount of traffic, revenue and profit.   And if they were not founded by women, they tend to have lots of female employees.  As a whipsmart businesswoman, a self-proclaimed online shop-aholic, and a mommy-to-be, I know Marissa has gotta be all over this.   She has, in fact, angel invested in several of these companies, including OneKingsLane and  Brit Media.  Mayer is the leading “Woman on the Web” right now, and she has a kickass opportunity to partner with kickass businesses for women (that are often by women) and turn Yahoo! into the leading destination for “Women on the Web.”

Now let’s hop from the impact Marissa could have by focusing Yahoo! on women, and discuss the impact she is already having on helping to attract women to the tech industry.

Hardly a day goes by that I don’t come across an article that discusses the lack of women in technology.  Marissa was already a stand-out role model for this cause.  Now, as the youngest CEO in the Fortune 500, she is even more prominent.  And she is definitely not shy about using her status as a platform for encouraging young women to get into technology. Below is one of numerous quotes from Marissa on this topic.

‎”One of the things I care a lot about is helping to… show girls that you can be feminine, you can like the things that girls like, but you can also be really good at technology.”

Marissa Mayer is a hip and fashionable female that young women can relate to.  With women now making up over 50% of undergraduates,  lots of young girls will now look at Marissa and her accomplishments, and be more inclined to study math, science, and programming in pursuit of a powerhouse career in tech.

Go Marissa!

Hopefully Marissa is reading this (ahahahaha!), or, more likely, Dave McClure’s blog.  Ms. Mayer – you are the right woman, at the right time, and the right place to have a powerful impact on women (students, consumers, employees, founders) all over this world.  C’mon sista, you got this!  Us women are watching you eagerly!

 

 

Female Investors – “Ladies, we got this!”

July 26, 2012 Business, Entrepreneurship, Startups, Uncategorized, Venture Capital, Women in Business

Per usual these days, much is being written about the lack of women in tech and the difficulty for women to get funded. The always honest and entertaining Dave McClure (his 500 Startups blog is a must read) had some hard-hitting words this week in an article titled “Women in Tech: Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is.” While I don’t agree with the entire piece, and the problem is much bigger than the lack of female investors, I do give kudos to Dave’s new project, Women Investors NOW.  WIN challenges women to publicly commit to invest a total of $15,000 in three start-ups over the next year. Per Dave, “I’d like to CHALLENGE every woman in tech who’s a) got a nice care, b) owns a nice house, or c) is making over $125K a year to start thinking of themselves as the next Ron Conway or Esther Dyson in the making and commit to investing in startups…”

I often talk (and write here) about the need for women to help women. And this is a GREAT way to do it. Once I get a few months of my new gig behind me (more on that soon!), I am totally up for this challenge – and I hope you are too.  Click here to learn more about the WIN Challenge.  Personally, I plan to be a force in the LA Angel Investing community.  There are definitely not enough women funding and advising companies in Silicon Beach.  Yet, there are a ton of  successful entrepreneurial women here.

Speaking of kickass chicks, I am adding Kirsten Green to my list.  Her female-only VC, Forerunner Ventures, announced is raised $40 million today.  How do you like that, Mr. McClure!  I had not heard of Forerunner before, but they already have a stellar portfolio that focuses on consumer facing ventures that are predominantly in the digital commerce space.  They have funded a number of companies I love, including Warby Parker, Birchbox and Chloe + Isabel.  Also, I went into online stalker mode on Kirsten and discovered she is married and has a kid.   This might upset all the authors/bloggers who took part in the “Women Can’t Have It All” meme a few weeks back.

 

Female Powerhouses – Sheryl Sandberg & Oprah

September 14, 2011 Books, Entrepreneurship, Startups, Women in Business

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, has emerged as a tremendous inspiration to female executives and working mothers everywhere. As a woman in the tech startup space, I admire her greatly. I don’t agree with everything she says, but I love that she says it – as she sees it. She is a no bullshit kinda chick who is also very witty and fun. Sheryl throws a monthly dinner at her home to bring women in business together. I have been wanting to emulate this in LA (lots of amazing female tech founders and business executives here in LaLaLand!) for a while now, and my first event, called LA Women Rising, is happening this Monday. So excited!!!  (a recap to come of course)  If you are new to the fabulosity that is Mrs. Sandberg, read this New Yorker article title, ” A Woman’s Place: Can Sheryl Sandberg upend Silicon Valley’s male-dominated culture?”   Also, check out her TED talk, “Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders.

As for Oprah, I will admit here that I participated in her Eckhart Tolle “A New Earth” online classes, and they truly helped me improve myself and my life. Probably gonna sound like “O” here, but I am all about becoming the best person I can be – and Oprah has been an amazing personal and spiritual growth “coach” for me. As a high-energy, uber-passionate worker bee living in NYC at the time of the classes, I had some major “Aha moments” re: the importance of awareness and how to “breathe” and be present.  In startupland, speed is everything. Being 100 steps ahead of the game is crucial to success, and can lend itself to focusing on the destination rather than journey.  I, as we all are, am a work in progress, and Oprah has been instrumental to that progress.  Oprah and her show have elevated the world by influencing countless individuals to empower themselves and live their most authentic life (not to mention read books, volunteer/donate to worthy causes, and know what to buy for Christmas). And, of course, it probably goes without saying that I also am obsessed with “THE Oprah” because she is a fierce businesswoman, entrepreneur and mogul.

BTW Oprah is doing new online “life classes” starting in October.  Highly Recommend! http://www.oprah.com/own/About-Oprahs-Lifeclass

Both these women are beyond authentic and inspirational. Watch this and see for yourself:

Watch live streaming video from facebookguests at livestream.com
biz2beach

Biz2Beach 2011

September 8, 2011 Business, Company Culture, Entrepreneurship, Startups

I recently had the honor of participating in the inaugural Biz2Beach event held by Callfire, a kickass Silicon Beach cloud telephony company.  The event was dubbed as an “unconference”, and it made for a terrific experience.  In lieu of having a speaker or panel of speakers talk at an audience, discussion leaders sat at round tables with no more than 10 attendees.  There were 8 tables/topics and attendees were able to rotate to 4 tables.  It was more like a co-working, ideas-sharing day for all kinds of entrepreneurial folks.  The event ended with an amazing meal atop the Huntley Hotel at sunset.  Kudos to Kim Kohatsu and all the Callfire folks for pulling of such an unique and worthwhile day!

Below is an interview with yours truly, published by TalkTech Communications (thanks Rebekah Iliff), about my startup life and the importance of people to the success of any business.  Not gonna lie – I don’t mind being called a Startup Rockstar.

Robyn Ward has been consulting, advising, and working at early-stage Tech/Internet businesses in LA and NYC for over a decade. Most recently, she was VP Business Development at fast-growing LA startup, Docstoc. Currently she works for BetterWorks, where she is known as the “Startup Rockstar,” responsible for business development and sales.

At the upcoming Biz2Beach event hosted by CallFire, Robyn will speak about fostering a positive and productive work environment for employees, including the BetterWorks next-generation platform that makes it easy and affordable for SMBs to recognize, reward and motivate talent.

I sat down with Robyn to find out a little bit more about BetterWorks, but also learn what she believes is important for finding success in the startup and small business environment. Needless to say, I now understand where her nickname comes from….total, and utter…Rockstar.

RI: What is the background of BetterWorks, how did the idea get started, who are the key players, etc?

RW: BetterWorks was founded by Paige Craig, Zao Yang, and George Ishii, who combined their experience in consulting (investing in and advising) over 50 startups, and SMBs. Paige was a prolific Angel investor, Zao was one of the founders of Farmville, and George had extensive experience, from his early days of PayPal, of making simple UIs focused on user-friendliness. Pulling from these various experiences they identified the need for an easy, affordable solution for the “smaller guy” to recognize and reward employees. Now at over 30 employees, I can say that the “secret sauce” of BetterWorks is how we hire and engage talent. So we literally walk the talk. This is my 5th startup and I can honestly say we have the most cohesive team and culture, it’s truly remarkable.

RI: What is your role there? Give me your day to day?

RW: My main focus during the first 5 months was on the company’s launch stage – how do we best position and differentiate ourselves, marketing and sales, understanding what is resonating and fine tuning the pitch. I was also responsible for signing on alpha clients, relaying to product team what can be fixed, and what to add. I now spend the lion’s share of my time figuring out partnerships and alliances.

RI: What are some of the challenges you face as a startup and small biz?

RW: One of biggest challenges is hiring the right team and keeping the right team. Regardless of the recession, it’s still a hot market for startups and tech.  This is one of the things the BetterWorks Perks platform is built to address. It’s not about an idea, it’s about execution (human capital); managing growth plus hiring really good people that fit the culture. For many new startups, another challenge is knowing how to “get out there” and tell the right message so that the brand looks unified and “buttoned up.”

RI: What do you find inspiring?

RW: I come from a small biz background, so I know what we are doing is helping people, so I am inspired daily by BetterWorks and the stellar team. In general, the entrepreneurial environment is inspiring to me; I’m not an artist, a cook, or a fashion designer…but I know how to put together a company. Another thing is this whole shift towards “social innovation” and all of these inspiring platforms that are popping up built to create social change. I’m so excited to be a part of this shift and to be involved in the startup world here in LA…there is so much going on!

RI: On that note, what excites you about the LA tech scene?

RW: The thing I love about the LA tech scene is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. There are so many industries in LA. Obviously, Hollywood is a leading industry and the one that LA is most well known for, but there are so many others that are innovating left and right; automotive, green tech, energy, B2B platforms.

What I think is fun about the LA tech scene is the surfer-come-CEO…waltzing into his Venice office fresh from a jaunt in the ocean. Second to that is the CEO in dreadlocks. I mean, it’s just so cool and fun…people obviously embrace the “Silicon Beach” culture.

RI: Thoughts on females in tech?

RW: Well, I’m on the business side of tech and not a female technologist per se, but I think that encouraging more girls to explore science and math early on would be beneficial…and this is an issue that women and men together need to address.

In general, as far as women in business goes, I would like to see more constructive relationships built between women. We need to come together and work diligently to redefine our roles in business, but also support each other in what we are doing. It’s also important that we take the mentorship of young women seriously. This is an extremely important step, but we need to stop talking about it and do it.

RI: What are a few of the topics you’ll be covering at Biz2Beach?

RW: I’m going to focus on the importance of people – instead of talking about technology, my role is to talk about how to build and maintain teams and culture …recognizing and appreciating your folks. So, I will encourage attendees to answer questions like: What is our culture? How are we rewarding? How are we communicating to people that we value them? What are the little things we do in between and how do we let them know they are the most important thing and are the biggest assets?

RI: Ok I have to know; iPhone, Android or Blackberry? Hmm?

RW: I will NOT lose my personal Blackberry. BetterWorks paid for my iPhone, so I carry it, but hate it. I do love my iPad, though. I carry it with me for demos.

Follow Robyn on Twitter: @rmward
Follow BetterWorks on Twitter: @betterworks

Oops…I Did It Again

September 5, 2011 Business, Startups, Venture Capital

OOPS….I did it again. I promised myself, and you, that I would begin blogging in a semi-regular fashion. I started this blog the week I started Docstoc – then InterWebs silence for over a year. Then, I got back on the blogwagon right about the time we started BetterWorks. And it happened again. Building a business is exhausting and if/when one has some personal time, blogwriting is not the first activity that comes to mind. Regardless, I have had so many amazing experiences helping launch this company, I regret not having taken time to share. I will do my best going forward to do so.

As I left off with a “stayed tuned” to learn more about my new BetterWorks adventure, I will pick back up with a killer video that does an amazing job, way better than words, at explaining our Perks Platform.

BetterWorks – Make Work Rewarding from BetterWorks on Vimeo.

Feels pretty great to be working in sync with such a kick-ass team, helmed by Paige Craig, Zao Yang and George “Mitsubishi” Ishii, to execute on such an impactful vision:  “to make work rewarding.”

We have been executing at the speed of light, and lots of folks (customers, vendors, investors, press peeps) have taken notice.  Check out this awesome Forbes coverage announcing our funding by stellar San Fran Venture Capital firm Redpoint Ventures.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevenbertoni/2011/08/01/betterworks-valued-at-nearly-100-million-after-redpoint-investment/

GO Team BetterWorks – Aka Team Banana, Team Kicking Ass and Taking Names, Team HoneyBadger and Team Amaze Balls!!!