Inspirational Woman: Olivia DeRamus | CEO & Founder, Communia

Olivia DeRamus

I’m an American who’s lived in London for six years, and though my professional background is in international development, I started my own tech & media company called Communia back in 2019 and am currently building it as CEO and founder. 

You’re the founder of Communia. Tell us a bit more about this and how it came to be.

Communia is a social network for women designed to help you support others, and yourself. You can make friends, network, and access #MeToo support in a safe space that encourages your authentic, unedited self.

I started the company during a difficult time in my life, back in 2019. Long story short, I was sexually assaulted when I was a first year in university, and though I was found in the right when I reported it to the school, my abuser sued me for defamation, demanding millions of dollars I didn’t have in an attempt to silence me. The lawsuit lasted years, and during that time, I was totally isolated and unable to ask for help without endangering those around me.

Eventually I realized that I had to stop waiting for the courts to protect me and find some other way to start feeling like I had a sense of empowerment again. I thought that if I could facilitate the stories and voices of other women, then I could start to feel like I had a voice again, and maybe solve a lot of the problems that I was facing. Namely, being so isolated, having no way to talk about what I was going through safely, and such a lack of information about what I was going through online. As I worked on first the original editorial site and then the app, I realized more and more that social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram really don’t allow us to have honest and vulnerable conversations – no matter the topic. So we made sure that the Communia app became a space that you could talk about sex, relationships, mental health, work… everything that a woman deals with, so people could access support and conversation for whatever they’re going through, instantly.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

It’s certainly harder to grow a business in any industry that tends to be a boy’s club. It’s difficult to be taken seriously just because I’m a woman, and especially because I’m challenging the way social media apps generally operate (particularly issues around user safety). But I’d much rather take risks in creating positive change than go along with the status quo to make the path a little more comfortable.

What has been your biggest achievement to date? 

Every time I see a woman in need of support, advice, or help – whether it’s to do with a relationship, mental health, #MeToo issues, or any of the other topics we cover on the app – be given such kind and empathetic advice from our community. That’s the biggest accomplishment I’ll ever achieve. Just being able to provide a platform that actually helps others like that, especially as many people really don’t think it’s possible for a social network to be a truly helpful and kind place. You should see some of the comments we get on IG! But we’re proving them wrong every day.

Communia offers users a safe space as a social media. Do you think more and more women are distrusting of social media apps? 

That’s completely accurate! Consumers, especially women, are smart. We can see through the corporate language blowing off the real issues that we’re experiencing on these mainstream social platforms. It really baffles me why these tech companies, with the smartest people at their disposal, are making such obvious mistakes. Users make social media platforms successful, so why is their wellbeing not the #1 priority? I’m really interested in finding ways to care for and reward our users, instead of ignoring them.

What do you think people/companies/governments can do to protect those who use mainstream social media platforms from abuse, trolling, etc?

We did a study a couple of months ago of over 300 women, and the results were very clear cut. Women are telling us that they need tech companies to simply listen, and actually take action on the issues we’ve been very loud about facing. For example, an overwhelming percentage of respondents shared that their reports of abuse/harassment were never followed up on, and if they were, that they weren’t taken seriously or that nothing happened. Tech companies have the resources to take action when abuse happens, they just don’t want to. And though I whole heartedly believe in free speech, there’s a difference between speaking your truth and harming others through your words. There needs to be more regulation of what’s acceptable in our online world, just like our IRL lives are regulated. That’s why I’m excited about the UK’s potential online safety bill, though I do think it doesn’t go as far as it should. Lastly, women need to have more power over their own digital experiences, and I’m proud to say that’s what we’re giving them at Communia, through how we’ve designed the basic user experience. And if our small team can do it, there’s no reason why larger, and vastly more funded social media platforms can’t do it too.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee? 

At first I really wanted to find a mentor in the tech world who was a lot farther along than me, and actually that hasn’t quite happened yet. But my journey building Communia did cause me to realize that the women on your level or just above you have so much to give and teach you. You don’t need to have access to super high flyers to have extremely effective support and mentorship. Turn to those accessible to you and you’ll be surprised by how much you’ll benefit. It’s what a lot of Communia is based on, the concept of horizontal mentorship. That every woman has the power to be someone else’s mentor. As for how I mentor others, I love to do it through the app. People are always asking questions and it’s so easy to lend advice and support in that manner.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be? 

For the legal system not to be swayed by how much money you have access too. There are so many women who have their voices taken away, or dreams and lives crushed because wealthy men have manipulated the courts through their deep pockets. There needs to be serious reform in the law to safeguard vulnerable people against those who use their finances to exploit grey areas and loopholes in the law.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be? 

It’s great to be ambitious, but today’s pervasive ideal of success isn’t going to define the quality of your life. That’s going to be your family, relationships, and friends. Prioritize them both.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?  

Right now I’m focusing on scaling Communia and developing further our digital & IRL products. There’s no end to what you can create through tech, but it’s certainly always a challenge reaching the finish line! Ultimately though, my hope is that we’ll become the ultimate resource for women who are going through, well anything, to come and find the answers they need, a place to express themselves authentically, and access instantaneous community support. I can’t think of anything more worthwhile to work towards.