By Poornima Vijayashanker (Founder & CEO, BizeeBee)
I’ve had the good fortunate to steal a few plays from the founder’s playbook and wanted to share them in the hopes of shedding some light into what it takes to be a founder.
Lesson #1 — Be a party crasher!
When I first moved to the Bay Area, I thought I needed to be invited to the startup scene. Then I realized that my invite wasn’t lost in the mail or spam filter. I had to get out there, meet people and learn about the scene. I’ve seen too many girls, including myself, ask for permission instead of just showing up and participating.
What is the worst that can happen? You can get rejected. Getting rejected is just a test of evaluating how badly you want in.
I knew I wanted to join Mint about 9 months before I actually joined, which is why I came up with the name and brainstormed ideas with Aaron. I made it very clear from day 1 that I was passionate about it. But the timing wasn’t right: I had students loans, a car loan, rent, not much of a safety net, and didn’t know much about web development. I didn’t give up on my quest to get in. I built up a safety net, learned new technologies, and convinced Aaron to let me come on board as a contractor. You can read the rest of the story here.
Dirty little valley secret: it doesn’t matter if you’re a girl or a boy, everyone is invited to the party if you can code, because you’re worth you’re weight in gold… or in this case up’ing the valuation of a round.
Lesson #2 — Effortless perfection.
Confidence is what makes things looks easy. I haven’t heard of a single first-time male entrepreneur say, “I just got here and an investor handed me a check.”
The reason it seems effortless is because people fixate on the positive outcomes: “We just got funded!” “We just got acquired!” “We just got a millions users!” There is no “we just”. There’s we struggled for months or years, had a lot of problems, but managed to wade through them all to come out on top, because we wanted it so badly!
Here’s the process: You come, you get your bearings, you meet people, and you start to make incremental progress.
The other important thing to note is that while founders are amazing folks, they’re just one or two people, ultimately its a team that makes things happen. Putting the team together, keeping everyone aligned, and working towards a common goal is the hard part that no one ever sees.
Dirty little valley secret: There is no perfection, only perseverance.
Lesson #3 — Be fearless.
When I talk to females who want to start a company, too many times I hear, “But I don’t know how-to X.” What I hear from their male counterpart is, “I’ll figure it out!” or “Who do I meet to learn about Y?”
There is an age old question in the valley, “Why aren’t there more female tech founders?” It’s not because girls can’t code, because there are boys who can’t code that are starting companies — believe me, I’ve met them and been asked to join their startup as a “technical co-founder”.
I recently asked a successful founder if he ever had a moment when he knew he was going to fail, and his retort was, “I had a vision, and I wanted to make it happen.”
Dirty little valley secret: Boys are scared too, but they don’t fixate, they charge ahead.
Whether you’re a boy or a girl, being a founder is hard! Fortunately we each have support systems like Women 2.0. Use your support system, stop making excuses for being a girl, learn the plays, and make progress each day!
About the guest blogger: Poornima Vijayashanker is Founder & CEO of BizeeBee. Prior to that, she was at Mint where she began as employee #3 in 2006, and stayed through the startup’s acquisition by Intuit for $170M in 2010. Prior to Mint, she was in the Master’s degree program for computer science at Stanford University but dropped out to join Mint. Poornima holds a double degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering and Computer Science from Duke University. Poornima blogs on Femgineer.com and is a competitive yoga. Follow her on Twitter at @poornima.