Boulder is pretty well known for its startup community—particularly in the technology sector. While one might traditionally think of men in this phase of business, there are in fact a number of women in the startup community. They’re doing well—and enjoying it. During Boulder Startup Week I was honored to host a conversation about women and startups to an overflowing audience at The Cup. Our conversation focused on hearing the stories of local women entrepreneurs. Our speakers were: Ingrid Alongi of Quick Left (a web engineering company), Tara Anderson of Quick Left (and formerly of Lijit), Heather Capri and Rachel Ryle of Tweety Got Back, a Twitter theme shoppe. Here is some of the wisdom these entrepreneurs shared.
1. Chemistry first
VC’s and other entrepreneurs such as the women on our panel often stress this point. While your product or service is critical to the success of a business, having strong working relationships, especially in the early stages cannot be overstated. Be careful in your selection of co-founders and who you give equity to in your startup. This will save you emotional hassle and legal headaches later. While Heather & Rachel didn’t realize they had a startup at first they did know that they liked working together and this has contributed to their success.
2. Do it Your Way
It’s tempting to think that there’s one right way to start a business. It’s easy to get lured into thinking that you HAVE to get outside funding or go through a program like TechStars in order to have a viable business. Those are great programs. No question. But they’re limited in number of participants and there are other options that are better for some entrepreneurs and businesses. You need to be clear about what the right option is for the founders as well as for the business model. Slow and steady through bootstrapping can be right for some. Going at a pace that works for you is key. As Ingrid says, “Don’t worry about being the first to launch. It’s what you do after launch that really matters.”
3. Set boundaries
As a startup it’s easy to focus on trying to get in any client at any price. Be selective about who you take as a client. Make sure to set boundaries. Quick Left turned down potential clients that either didn’t fit their vision of their perfect client or when they felt they just couldn’t do justice to the client’s vision. Focusing on the key strengths and service offerings of the business and founders will strengthen your business.
As Tara says, “I love the dudes. It’s just nice to have other women to talk with in the startup world.” For Heather and Rachel, co-founding an organization together gave them built-in support. Whether you are the founder of a Startup or work at one—get to know other women in startups. This kind of support from other women is essential—especially for working in this phase of business.
Other resources for women in startups and tech in the Boulder Community include Startup Women and Girls in Tech. Check them out and get involved. The large audience and rich conversation demonstrated that the conversation about women and startups is important to our community and that there needs to be more. In fact, I’m going to be doing a survey on women and startups in Boulder. If you’d like to participate, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @suzanbond.