A founding partner of a venture capital firm offers her advice.
By Pocket Sun (Founding Partner, SoGal Ventures)
This post originally appeared on Medium.
What is the most important advice for a female entrepreneur?
1. Know who you are and understand your self-worth
Many women have identity issues, self-image issues and confidence issues. Understand where you come from and be proud of it, because that’s what makes you who you are today. Cliché, right? But are you doing it? You really don’t have to be like anyone else — those seats are already taken. One mistake I made was that I underestimated my potential — because I was “just” an international student from China who was a big FOB (fresh off the boat) — and did not discover my true power for a long, long time.
When I finally realized how huge of a value I can create, and how big of an impact I can make in the world, I felt invincible. I felt transformed. I felt powerful. That was the first time I was able to take on a mission that’s bigger than myself.
2. Do not wait to start your business
The only way to do it is to do it.
“I don’t have enough experience,” or “I’m too young for this,” or “I don’t have money to start my business” are BS. You are just as ready as you ever will be. The earlier, the better. Why? Because the two most precious elements for an entrepreneur are TIME and FOCUS.
Now is the youngest you will ever be. Now is when you have the most TIME left, which gives you more room to make mistakes, improve, and go out there again with a FOCUS. That’s a luxury in entrepreneurship!
Many women make up excuses to convince themselves not to start until a certain age (or in a million years). If you know you are going to become an entrepreneur, you might as well start today. Just do something. Create a website, write a blog post, tell your friends what you plan to do, and get their honest feedback. You have a huge advantage when you start young! People want to help you. They want to see you succeed. You don’t have much to lose (at least not as much as you would in 10 years). Start in college! Ideally you should become a serial entrepreneur before you graduate.
3. Be your own hero
I mean it. You may have a role model or two, and that’s great. Actually I feel that women need role models much more than men do. Possibly because a lot of successful people happen to be male (but remember, we are already making progress to change that). Women, on the other hand, do not have as many heroes to look up to. Thus, we almost have a hard time imagining our success without seeing other women already up there. The mindset is often times like this: “If she did it, I might be able to do it too!”
Stop it! Be the pioneer. Be the person others can look up to. Stop looking for a hero somewhere else. It's in you.
Where are you? What have you done? What do you look like? Who are you working with? How much money are you making?
The more specific, the better. Remember: You CAN and WILL invent that reality. Don’t be afraid to redefine yourself because that’s the very important first step to your dream life. The moment you empower yourself with the magical methodology, you will experience change right away. (I can write another blog post about this too if anyone wants to read it. Respond or recommend this post so I know :)
What are the post important qualities to be an entrepreneur?
Choose something you love. I am so motivated by what I do that I cannot stay in bed in the morning. Even when my eyes are closed, I am always thinking about people that I want to meet, partnerships I want to build, and things I need to complete. And I feel happy about it!
Throughout all aspects of being an entrepreneur, whether its team collaboration, investor relations, public image, or business development, being able to communicate effectively is extremely important for you to succeed.
Entrepreneurs need to have an all-in mindset. Only when you are truly committed, can you build a genuine following (customers, team, investors, and fans). Put yourself in the investor’s shoes — would you rather invest in someone whose whole life is on the line for her business, or someone who is hesitant to quit their day job? Therefore, it’s important to think about how you can demonstrate to investors, partners, and other stakeholders that you fully believe in your business.
My fellow USC alum Aaron Levie (CEO of Box.com) once said that a constant, relentless execution mode is the most critical element to success. I totally agree. Be ready to sleep much less, work day and night, and lose the work-life balance.
Ideas are almost worthless; execution is king. So stop worrying about others stealing your idea and work hard on it instead!
What is the most important job of a CEO?
Build rapport. Build rapport. Build rapport.
That’s all there is. Why? Because it sets the foundation for everything.
The merit of it is three-fold.
First, if you can build rapport, you will attract the best talent. Remember, it’s all about the team? Well it’s true. Make yourself a person that people want to work for.
Second, if you can build rapport, you will get enough money to keep the business running. I don’t need to tell you how important fundraising is. Certainly, getting venture capital should not be the center of your business, but your business can’t run very well if you are out of money. Become a person that people believe in so much that they want to put money behind you.
Third, if you can build rapport, you will be able to sell your product or services to customers. Anyone throwing money at you, or considering doing so, will want to know what your unit economics of customer acquisition are. What’s your customer acquisition cost (CAC), cost per acquisition (CPA), and customer lifetime value (CLV or CLTV)? Beyond all of this, are you able to tell the story so that people immediately realize how great your product/service is?
Confidence, storytelling and resonatability (I just invented this word) are key in building rapport. Start working on that charisma and rock that boardroom, even if it’s all male. (SoGal Ventures is trying to change that!)
About the guest blogger: Pocket Sun is a Founding Partner of SoGal Ventures, the first female-led, cross-border venture capital firm. Previously, she founded SoGal, a global platform for diverse entrepreneurs and investors in 20+ countries. She created and scaled a series of conferences for entrepreneurship, technology, diversity and female empowerment. Recently, she also helped found Trojan Venture Group, the first USC alumni angel investor network. Follow her on Twitter at @pocketysun.