There are always debates raging in social media channels about the dearth of women tech entrepreneurs and the lack of women-helmed companies getting funded and even the lack of representation of women as keynoters at top tech, business and venture events.
Some of the comments in the debate point a finger at women as standing in their own ways when it comes to starting high-growth tech businesses, going after venture capital, or putting themselves out there to speak. This line of conversation creates anger and defensiveness, especially among women.
But the truth is women do stand in their own way. Not every woman, not in every situation, but even I find myself doing this despite my business experience and successes.
As I start a new venture, I am battling tidal waves of fear and am practically paralyzed. Writing this post is one way I’m working to shake the negativity and push forward.
What are my fears?
1. Fear that I don’t know what I’m doing. This is not true and intellectually I know it. But emotionally it is eating me up. I’m working on my 5th business now. Each previous business was successful in its own right. One of them - Conversify - is still going strong under the management of two talented and capable business partners. I made mistakes along the way but with each new business, I made better and better choices (case in point, said business partners). I have a good track record. But as I start my new venture - a mobile apps company focused on the women’s and children’s market called Mediaegg - I am worried that I have no earthly idea what I’m doing. It isn’t true, but it creates a fog of apprehension that should not be there. Next Step: Get over it. Push past the fear.
2. Fear of going after funding. I see several funds that would be a perfect fit for my company such as the Kleiner, Perkins iFund Initiative as well as seed funding for women-helmed companies. But I’m scared to death. I’ve been on the venture capital rounds before with my first company Cybergrrl, Inc. It was a horrible experience in many ways - especially as I met with a lot of men who were very condescending to me for starting a women-oriented Internet company and often ignored me to defer questions and comments to my male business partner. Granted, that was in the 1990s, but I think I’m gun shy. Plus, I’ve always had a dyslexia with numbers so have a difficult time articulating financials. Next step: Find someone who is comfortable with financials to help me articulate the business proposition.
3. Fear of getting big. Yes, I fear big success and fear having employees. I am more comfortable having a 6-figure consultancy like I had for several years because it was just me, and I could handle that. But each time I grow a company to the point that it needs more people, I’m filled with terror. I love the people who join my company, but I know that managing people is not my strong point. And then there’s the issue of finding that sweet spot between running a fast-growing business and keeping up with marriage and offspring that feels like an impossible feat. Next step: Find someone else who believes in the company vision and is willing to share the burden and manage others.
4. Fear of asking for help. This is a doozy. I hate asking for advice or favors or help, and this fear has plagued me all my life. I think it goes back to a self-esteem issue: I don’t feel worthy of receiving someone’s valuable time, advice or assistance. I’m afraid to be perceived as taking advantage of someone else. I am afraid to be a burden to others. I feel awful if I cannot reciprocate in-kind and am taking “something for nothing.” Next step: Get over it. Just ask. The worst that can happen is someone says No. If they say yes, then it is up to them to make sure they feel good about the interaction.
I’ve been putting out seeds of information about my new venture mostly to push myself into doing it. Otherwise, I would just fall back on my freelance writing, a little consulting, and just call it good. But it wouldn’t be good enough. I have these ideas for mobile apps specifically for women and even some for kids inspired by my own 4-year-old daughter. I know I don’t have to sit around and wait for someone else to develop them. I have a great developer on board, a strong network to tap into for advice (see Fear #4), and just got my Apple Developer account. We’re almost done creating an iPhone app for our first client, and it is looking great.
I know I can do this. But I’m shaking in my shoes.
What were your business fears, and how did you overcome them? Or have you?
photo by kajrdj