• Women 2.0 HowTo Conference San Francisco, September 30 - October 1, 2014

Advice From Los Angeles-Based Female Founders Of Tech Startups

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“Doing startups rewards doing high quality work instantly. If you can build/design a good site or product, you’ll get attention right away,” said Holden Steinberg, co-founder of PageWoo.

By Kevin Winston (Founder & CEO, Digital LA)

From Westwood in California – “Perfect your pitch PPT,” “find mentors and investors” and “assemble a rock star team,” said panelists on our Digital LA female founders panel.

Our panel is the first-ever panel in LA featuring all women founders of tech companies. Most played major roles in our recent Silicon Beach Fest and had been featured in the Forbes article Female Founders of Silicon Beach.

Your Startup Pitch:

  • Your Idea: Your startup idea should solve a problem and make money
  • Your Pitch Deck: PowerPoint should be 10-15 pages, including your idea, description, revenue model, competitors, customer acquisition, marketing strategy, and founder bios. “Your investment deck is the first thing,” said Joselle Ho, Miso Media.
  • Your Demo: Your demo should always be ready to go – make sure it works!
  • If your initial idea doesn’t get traction (investors/customers), be flexible, change, pivot, and do something new. Most of the panelists’ companies companies are slight shifts from their initial idea. “You’re going to have to constantly change to be successful,” said Amanda MacNaughton of PromoJam.

Your Startup Team:

  • Find good people who are passionate about your startup
  • Get your tech together. Build your site in a language that makes sense for your product with available developers u will find. It helps to have a tech co-founder to help you build a scalable product. Avoid outsourcing to a developer who may disappear or get busy with other projects.
  • Keep the right people on your team and kick off the bad eggs because they will bring down your team. “Hire slow and fire quick,” said Heather Mason of A Caspian Production.

Get Mentors, Investors and Customers:

  • Find a mentor to give you advice on your product and pitch, and introduce you to potential investors
  • After you meet with a mentor, if they don’t follow up in a few days with an email or meeting intro to one of their friends to help, that’s a sign they don’t fully believe in or support your idea. Improve your pitch and try meeting with them again, or move on to find another mentor.
  • Consider joining an accelerator to help meet mentors. Holden Steinberg, whose company PageWoo joined StartEngine, has met dozens of valuable mentors who’ve given important advice.
  • “Take smart money” said Amanda MacNaughton of PromoJam, She found an investor who focuses on female-founded startups for some initial investment
  • Reach out to investors who are interested in your industry. Do your research to see who’s investing in what (industry, level of funding, etc.)
  • Get your advisors to invest. That’s proof they really believe in you
  • Get customers fast to fine-tune your product and show investors you have customers.
  • Get a key well-known significant industry player to use your product event if means giving it away at a deep discount or free, so you can tell potential investors: “Well so-and-so uses us / is a customer / client.”

On The Women Issue:

  • Being a women is an advantage in tech because you get noticed more, said many panelists. “Plus there’s no line for the women’s bathroom at tech conferences,” joked one of the panelists.
  • “It’s super cool to be in tech right now as a woman,” Holden said. “It’s awesome.” She said doing startups rewards doing high quality work instantly. If you can build/design a good site or product, you’ll get attention right away.
  • While there are fewer female developers, organizations like Sophia Viklund’s PyLadies, a group for female Python developers, helps with support and networking.
  • Just go start your company. Sometimes the only thing holding you back is you.
  • If you encounter “boys network” or “cigar syndrome” in VC board rooms, just do your best pitch and move on. You have a company to build, so don’t get wrapped up in things you can’t control. If you have a male co-founder or president, bring them into meetings with potential bias. “Sometimes my male co-founder can get doors open, and then I close the deal,” said Elizabeth Stewart of the Hub LA.

Follow The Panelists:

  • Holden Steinberg, @PageWoo, Co-Founder @holdicon
  • Amanda MacNaughton, @PromoJam. @AmandaMalia
  • Sophia Viklund, BackCode, Founder. @BackCode
  • Heather Mason, A Caspian Production, Owner. @ACaspian
  • Elizabeth Stewart, Hub LA, Co-founder/CEO. @thehubla @elizinLA
  • Joselle Ho, Miso Media, Co-Founder. @joselleho @misomedia
  • Babette Pepaj, BakeSpace, Founder and CEO. @BakeSpace @CookbookCafe

Follow The Co-Moderators:

  • Kevin Winston, Digital LA, founder @DigitalLA @kevinwinston
  • Shira Lazar, What’s Trending, host and creator @whatstrending @shiralazar

Attendee Tweet-Notes Via @DigitalLAff:

  • RT @DigitalLA Startup steps: 1) Good PPT w how u make $ 2) Find a lead, mentor, support 3) Get someone significant to use your product #digitallaff
  • RT @searchkidd #digitallaff panel-7 women, 7 stories & 7 “kick ass” companies, Pagewoo, Miso Media, Caspian, Promojam, Backcode, The Hub, Bakespace. Cool!
  • RT @suzywillow @amandamalia “Take smart money. Investors that challenge you, inspire you, & help you build strategic relationships” #digitallaff
  • RT @annieholly: learning so much from amazingly smart women at #digitallaff Female Founders Panel – absolutely love it!!
  • RT @kateshaw27 One trend being heard from these successful women is that plan B is often superior and more successful than plan A #digitallaff
  • RT @stevens1 #digitallaff female founder advice: raising money is horrible, like a date not calling back @PageWoo @holdicon
  • RT @searchkidd #digitallaff “have a viable product that can make money”- “a VC is serious when he/she introduces you to a interested friend”= Panel advice!
  • RT @greatdawnini If investor introduces you to friends or advisors they are serious. Otherwise #moveon #digitallaff
  • RT @suzywillow: @acaspian “Hire slow, fire fast.” Simple. As. That. #digitallaff #entrepreneurship
  • RT @lindanicolai @ACaspian I LOVE YOU “If you suck at hiring get out if it!” Let a pro take over #recruiting. #DigitalLAFF @DIGITALLA #FemaleFounders
  • RT @suzywillow: Girl power. @DigitalLA Female Founders.Treasure chest of of experience in #tech and #LIFE #digitallaff
  • RT @kateshaw27 food for thought & motivation for us to innovate: “what can we do to establish LA as an even stronger more notable tech city?” #DigitalLAff
  • RT @girlyantics Huge THANK YOU to Kevin @digitalLA for bringing together such inspiring women for the Female Founders Panel. An LA first! #digitalLAff
  • RT @BrianAllman @dig italLA #digitallaFF, nice work on event last night; strong content, interesting panel. thx.

This post was originally posted at Digital LA.

About the guest blogger: Kevin Winston is Founder of Digital LA, the Los Angeles-based networking group of professionals in digital entertainment. Digital LA recently spearheaded the Silicon Beach Fest. Previously, Kevin worked at Fox Interactive Media, MySpace and IGN. Prior to that, he was at Sony Pictures Digital Entertainment and McKinsey. Kevin holds an undergraduate degree from Yale Universityand a master’s degree from Harvard University. Follow him on Twitter at @kevinwinston.