One week into Women 2.0 Labs (Summer 2010 Edition) with four more weeks to go. Women 2.0 Labs will launch five startups on August 5th, 2010 at Women 2.0 Labs Final Demo Night. Here is the story from one of the startup teams in Labs:
Rebecca Woodcock's Story
Silicon Valley is the place for entrepreneurs. The entire ecosystem is set up for startup building, everywhere you meet someone starting or funding a company, and there is such a pay-it-forward mentality to help new entrepreneurs. It was time to take my shot.
The idea has been formulating for a while, but my lack of technical expertise has stifled me from pursuing product development. I had perviously been a part of the Founder Institute, a program to train individuals to be world class CEOs, as part of their inaugural class. Most of the participants had a technical background and therefore did not need any guidance on product development. I would recommend the Founder Institute to anyone thinking of building a company, as it is a continuous relationship and mentorship after the program. During this time, I formulated my idea for a company. Essentially I got my inspiration from boyfriend at the time, who suddenly developed epilepsy during our relationship, and it was very difficult to track what was happening and how the cost of healthcare was changing. It was a frightening and stressful time. This is how Cake Health began.
The company moved forward, yet the product lagged. It can be terribly intimidating for someone to have a conversation with an engineer when you have no idea what qualifications you are looking for or how to ask for what you want, in technical terms.
Here is where Women 2.0 Labs stepped in.
First day at the Labs was similar to the first day of school. True Ventures was kind enough to lend their offices at Pier 38 for cowering, so this will be considered our home for the next few weeks. Even though everyone was unsure and nervous, the energy of having so many visionaries and entrepreneurs in one room was infectious. It was refreshing to see a number of men had joined the program, since diversity in any situation provides a richer experience. Most people arrived not knowing what they would work on, but just wanted to be a part of something. Those who came with an idea and a vision, like myself, were given the opportunity to pitch to the rest of the group. Each team is to have a minimum of one business person (myself), a designer and two engineers. All who are willing, will continue beyond the program.
I feel so fortunate to have had some strong people want to join the project I proposed. Adrien Arculeo (engineer), Renuka Wariyar (engineer), and Sarah Kling (designer), complete the group. And not only a strong team, but we seem to have gelled on a personal level, as well. This is most important since we will most definitely be going through some struggles and conflict over the next few weeks. If we approach the situation with a camaraderie, respect, and maybe most importantly a sense of humor, we may avoid killing each other. All of our goal is to build an amazing product worthy of being proud of.
The first day after team formation, we had Steve Blank (author of Four Steps to the Epiphany) and Ann Miura-Ko (Partner at Floodgate) speaking about business fundamentals. This leveled the playing field for everyone, especially so that teams can start on equal footing with engineers and business people. Many of the topics were second nature for me after working in corporate strategy for so long, yet I forget what is not common knowledge for other fields. Anne and Steve started us all off on the right page.
As someone who carries a full time job, and supports myself in every aspect of daily life, I certainly have fears about being able to survive with running a startup. Currently I have a full time job at a large market research firm, and am working nights and weekends to work on the startup. The exhaustion is intense, yet the feeling of motivation and determination is nothing I've ever felt before. There is something that hits you, that you've always heard about from other entrepreneurs, that changes your whole life and way of physically dealing with things. The stress suddenly becomes unreal and not like any other stress that you would ever feel. Finally, it's the entrepreneurship high. On one of our first days, Steve Blank came to speak to us, and he said that the moment entrepreneurs remember the most is at the very start, where the excitement is highest, where the possibilities are endless. So remember this moment in time, and the goal is to keep that feeling as the company grows, although this is nearly impossible. This is every entrepreneurs goal.
At the moment, the excitement of the team is high. We have high hopes for what we will accomplish in 5 weeks. Inevitably, we will reach a moment where we will face discouragement, as most do, and wonder if we can pull through. We will not be the only one. My own personal goal is to have the product fly once the 5 weeks are over, at least into alpha testing, and I hope the rest of the people on the team will be excited enough to want to continue.
At the end of the 5 weeks, we'll post an update as to what we are doing, how our team has developed, what we have learned, and where we are going from that point on.
Sarah Kling's Story
Rebecca's story above resonates very strongly with me - the sentiments she expresses make me really just want to say "ditto" to just about everything she has expressed. The main difference in my story and my journey to land here starts at my reason for coming here. But first, a little about me: I founded and still lead a successful User Experience Design consultancy called UEVision. We focus on providing product design and strategy services for high tech companies. We've designed and developed everything from consumer educational products (LeapFrog) to healthcare portals (Blue Shield of California) to IT security software (Oracle), with just about everything in between.
My business has been going strong for over 5 years and my team and I have had the wonderful opportunity to work on many different products with many different companies, from up-a-coming startups such as Groupon to large industry leaders such as Oracle and Fujitsu. I've learned a great deal about many aspects of business and product design and development as a result of this exposure and I wouldn't trade it for anything.
However, I came to realize recently that after 5 years of designing, developing and then turning products over to their rightful "owners" at the end of each product engagement that something was missing. I really long for a "product of my own" to see through from start to finish; I want to be there at the very beginning and shut the lights off at the very end (if it comes to that). I look forward to making the opportunity for myself to apply the skills that my 12+ years of experience in this industry have given me, and to creating a great product that customers not only want and need, but find intuitive to use.
My 5 weeks in the Women 2.0 Labs will not only give me a taste of that, but it will no doubt set me on a course that will open many doors that my consulting practice would not have opened for me. I'm very excited about everything about the Labs experience so far - the people, the program, and the organization behind this make it a rare and excellent opportunity to try something exciting and new and -- let's be honest -- a little bit scary, too. My team and I are ready to take this all on together, though, so that makes it all the easier to plunge ahead.
From the Cake Health team:
Want to be part of our beta test? Be a part of our 5 week (and beyond...) development and help us out by testing our product. Request a beta invite and we will email you when we have something ready for you to try out. Go to www.cakehealth.com.
Will you help us in our development? We will either personally call you to ask you your opinion or send you a survey to help guide what we are working on. Help us build what you need the first time. Plus, we're giving away a $50 gift card to one lucky survey taker. It could be you. Take our survey here.