Always acknowledge what you don’t know and know that there are many paths to an end goal, points out Neha Sampat, founder and CEO, Contentstack, a content management company.
Women founders are one of the biggest untapped sources for start-ups in India.
India is the third-largest ecosystem for startups and is expected to be home to more than 150 unicorns by 2025. However, only 7 in 100 Indian entrepreneurs are women.
The path as a female entrepreneur isn’t easy; historically, women struggle to be heard at the table and men tend to secure funding more easily than women, among other challenges. I know we can break through faster when we share our learnings.
That’s why, as a three-time founder and CEO, I wanted to provide some advice to empower prospective female entrepreneurs to realise their full potential.
1. Focus on a problem you can help solve
It’s easy to become obsessed with finding a solution. But solutions evolve and, unless addressed, the underlying problem persists.
Concentrate on solving the issue rather than the remedy.
2. Bet on yourself
Entrepreneurship is similar to poker, except that you are betting on yourself.
While you should listen to others’ advice, you must also trust yourself and follow your instincts to bring your idea to fruition.
3. Be open to the road less traveled
I was a female entrepreneur in male-dominated Silicon Valley, spearheaded a company of engineers without an engineering background, and ran a company for 12 years without traditional funding.
Acknowledge that your road may be the road less traveled and lean into those differences. Focus on what you bring to the table that others don’t.
4. Surround yourself with champions
Put together a ‘personal board of directors’ who will be strong where you are weak, provide wise counsel when you fail, and cheer you on when you succeed.
5. Know what you are looking for in potential investors
Do your due diligence on investors and create a target list of those who share your values, fill knowledge gaps, and are people you want to spend time with. ‘
I suggest pitching from the bottom of your list up so you work through difficult questions by the time you get to your top candidates.
If you know what you want, it also helps to weed out those that may not be a fit more quickly.
6. Find an accelerator or incubator program
Accelerators and incubators are intense, short-term programs in which you work with peers and others more experienced than you on how to build and scale a business.
Topics include fundraising, organisational structure, business model, positioning, and more.
Many are targeted specifically to companies at different stages of development or even focus on women-led companies, so find the right fit for you.
7. Don’t be afraid of feedback that makes you uncomfortable
In 2018, I was selling one company while raising capital for Contentstack.
One investor I respected suggested I needed to prove I can run the standalone company before raising a Series A.
I forced myself to pay attention to this feedback that made me uncomfortable. Instead, we raised $2M in seed capital, preserved equity, and got Contentstack to the next inflection point, with more customers and ultimately a significantly higher valuation.
8. Become rejection-proof
Get comfortable with your idea being rejected over and over in your entrepreneurial journey — especially since a woman’s ideas are 62% less likely to be endorsed in a work environment.
Rejection happens every day — an employee leaves, an investor declines, a potential client goes in another direction. It can be draining.
Celebrate the wins so each one feels twice as good as every loss feels bad, and focus on what you learn from the rejection.
9. Prepare yourself to experience bias (whether intentional or unintentional).
I can’t wait for the day that this isn’t a piece of advice I have to give other women.
Bias is unavoidable and, as such, difficult interactions will be inevitable.
Always acknowledge what you don’t know and know that there are many paths to an end goal. There is rarely a time when one person holds all the keys.
10. Prioritise lifting other women entrepreneurs
When you are in a place to lift up other women, especially female entrepreneurs, do it. And focus on removing obstacles to access, whether it be funding, making beneficial connections, or giving others a platform to share their voice.
Embrace your expertise since it will be your most reliable ally in difficult times.
While there may be roadblocks along your path, you will find a way to prevail in the end.
Women are gifted and capable of handling any situation.
Every idea starts small; but with hard work, commitment, and resilience, you can drive your business to the peak of success.
Best wishes on your entrepreneurial venture.
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