To Be Or Not To Be A Woman Entrepreneur

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Moving into management takes a shift in thinking, and new ways of finding self-­actualization.

By Gargi Nalawade (Founder & CEO, Sepalz)

Successes such as Instagram has got the whole developer community up in restless excitement. At least two developers approached me the day the Instagram acquisition was announced. And they did their own announcements to me.

“I would like to talk to you about becoming an entrepreneur”, one said. “I would like to know how exactly to become an entrepreneur and understand what it takes” said another.

Looking at Instagram and the 12-person team that made hundreds of millions in a few months is giving them a blood rush. They need to do something, especially being surrounded by the startup frenzy in the Silicon Valley. Many an engineer have I heard around me say, “If we don’t do this, living here in the Silicon Valley, abound with all the ecosystem, the support system, the psychology, the talent – then where else?”

This is the right time, the right economy, the right place and everyone wants a ride on the startup train.

What It Takes

The rosy successes and all – it takes quite a lot to be an entrepreneur. Does it take money? Support? Godfathers? Not at all. All it takes is the belief and passion towards the idea you pick, the smarts to make the right judgement calls, the savvy to assemble a passionate team around you and the grits to slog it out until the cows come home, which may be in a far far future away.

Night and day become one – you have to force yourself to sleep because you are just so excited about the venture you have embarked on and you cant wait to get the first product out into a user’s early hands.

The startup game is a game of speed, calculation and timing the judgement calls you make. What people to hire, who to pick for your founding team, who to partner with, when and how much to take to market, when to raise funds and if you are lucky like Instagram and many others before, when and whether to sell.

The timely judgement calls are what define and shape the trajectory your startup will take. And to be fully alert to make them wisely, you need to live and breathe your vision, your venture every single moment. When there is no night and there is no day, there is no weekday and there is no weekend. Only then can you catch the rising wave and stay ahead of the curve.

The Tug Of Love

What then happens to family, the personal time, the relationships.

“Married to my startup” is a phrase I hear from many an entrepreneur friend, which is a nice joke but behind that lies – for family people, a lot of support, understanding and faith by the family of the entrepreneur. Even though its one person doing the startup, the whole family lives and breathes it too. The emotional intensity of a supportive family adds fuel to the fire and spins an entrepreneur towards succeeding faster. On the reverse end, it strains the relationships and estranges people. It takes a lot of emotional maturity on the part of the entrepreneur and his/her friends and family to bear the brunt of the strain the venture would bring.

Single Or Taken?

There is always a debate between people in relationships and single men and women – as to whether one status is better for entrepreneurship or the other. And more often than not, it turns out to be an argument of the grass is greener on the other side.

And 99% of the times, the people debating this issue are the wannabe entrepreneurs or as they call it these days – wannapreneurs, who are sitting on the fence, pontificating and perhaps telling themselves why they can’t do it. I’ve heard a range of excuses, ahem – reasons as to why they cant. “My wife gave me a deadline and I had to go back to work”, “If only I found a partner with a stable job, then I could take the risk”, “If only I were single like you and could take my own decisions without having a family and a mortgage to support”… and on it goes.

The reality is that I have both single as well as married friends who are entrepreneurs – married with a working spouse as well as married with a stay-at-home spouse. But that hasn’t thwarted their entrepreneurship journeys. Looking at that – it seems its all in the mind.

The Women’s Conundrum

It’s different with women one might say. Wrong! I would retort. So very wrong! Entrepreneurship, if you ask me, is perfect for women – whether single or married, with or without children! And here is why. The initial stages of entrepreneurship are filled with long hours and hard work. No different from joining a new company and having to prove yourself under tight deadlines. But running your startup gives women a chance to control their own lives, their own time and they can pretty much choose when to spend time with children and when to work.

A very dear friend of mine, mother of two kids, is my ultimate role model on the balancing act between motherhood and entrepreneurship. She quite her high-paying corporate job to dive full-time into entrepreneurship. And yet she finds time to drive her kids to afterschool classes, spends time with them laughing over dinner, reading to them before bed. And after the kids go to sleep, starts her midnight shift where she rakes in a focused few hours or work. Her day starts late – at noon sometimes if she has stayed up all night finishing a proposal, or early in the morning with an afternoon siesta if it so demands.

The point is you can have your cake and eat it too! And its even more yummier is you are a woman!

Come hear from the successful women entrepreneurs and venture capitalist Ann Winbald about what goes into becoming an entrepreneur, whether to be or not to be! Eventbrite founder and President Julia Hartz, Placecast founder and President Anne Bezancon and Piazza founder and CEO Pooja Sankar talk to Claudia Fan Munce of the IBM Venture Capital group in the TiE Women Forum this year’s TiECon 2012 (May 18-19, 2012 in Santa Clara, CA).

This post was originally posted at TiECon 2012.

About the guest blogger: Gargi Nalawade is the Founder and CEO of Sepalz, a social intelligence platform (8 patents) for intelligent targeted networking between individuals and businesses. Gargi started her career with a marketing stint, worked for several years as a technical (routing) architect at Cisco and has authored 26 USPTO patents. She blogs at The Social Evolution. Follow her on Twitter at @Astra_9.