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Female founders: Learning to let go when your startup takes off

Happy thoughtful young businesswoman with digital tablet in hand smiling and looking away in front of colleague at background

Article by Sara Teare, co-founder of 1Password

Today, 1Password is one of the world’s most popular password managers, valued at $6.8 billion USD with a global team of more than 800 people.

Yet when the company started out, back in 2005, it was largely run by just four people – the co-founders: myself, my husband Dave, and our friends Roustem and Natalia Karimov. While Dave and Roustem focused on building the product, I became a one-person finance and HR team overseeing all the crucial administrative aspects of managing a dynamic startup.

As the company has evolved, my role has transformed beyond recognition from how it began – especially as I’ve brought in more management, scaled my teams, and learned to delegate. Learning to let go is far from an easy thing to do, especially when you still remember the time when you knew the names of all your employees – plus their partners and their pets too! Here are some of the most important lessons I learned along the way.

Don’t be afraid to loosen the reins

It can be hard when you’re used to wearing 10 different hats and juggling so many projects, but learning to let things go and delegate is an essential skill. Going through that process and giving others the opportunity to lead is scary, but every time you do it, you get better at helping others succeed. People who join your business want it to succeed and grow, so trust in that passion and help them to grow as well.

I knew we’d found the right candidate to bring on as our Chief Financial Officer – Jeannie De Guzman when she asked me point blank during her interview whether I’d actually be able to give things up so she could get things done. She gave me a lot to think about, and I realized that by not letting go, I was holding others back from growing us to where we needed to be. In setting up our hiring process, I knew we were talking to amazingly talented people, and it was time to step back and trust in that process.

Don’t skip the small stuff

Often when you are building things, it’s easy to focus on the big goals and all the pieces that go into that. There are a lot of day-to-day things that need attention too though, and while making sure your filing cabinet of accounts receivable is organized doesn’t seem like fun, it is 100% not a task you want to put off “for tomorrow” because the pile only gets bigger over time!

Plus, as your company grows, you’ll bring in more team members and that means more people getting involved in certain functions of the business. So, the more organized you can be at the beginning – as a small team and as you’re growing – the easier it will be to handover and train new team members to understand, adhere to, and develop the systems and processes that you have put in place.

Step back but avoid becoming distant

My husband and fellow co-founder, Dave, always used to say my role at 1Password was to “keep the trains running on time” – and that certainly has been the case. More recently though, I’ve been able to step back more and more from the ‘station manager’ role to focus on the bigger picture: strategic planning, brand development, and providing advice and insight where needed – all while knowing that the fantastic team we’ve brought together over the last 17 years can more than handle the day-to-day.

My role now centres around ensuring that we stay true to the company’s founding principles amid its rapid expansion, while also playing a key role in our ongoing growth strategy. I don’t have any plans to ever step back from 1Password completely. The company we’ve built, and the incredible community of users and employees that we’ve brought together over the years, mean far too much to me for that. I’ll stick around making trouble for as long as I can!

About the author

Sara TeareIn 1Password’s infancy, Sara Teare made sure that all the legal paperwork was done, taxes were filed, and bills were paid – all so co-founders Dave Teare and Roustem Karimov could focus on the fun side of building a product. When Sara reflects on how 1Password has grown, she’s awed by everything she’s helped build with the support of 1Password’s loyal customers and employees. Working with a team of people who are passionate about what they do drives Sara’s excitement. Now, making it a point to be involved in several projects, Sara gets to keep shaping the exciting future of 1Password as it continues to grow.


Recommended Event: 21/07/2022: Hustle Awards 2022 | Startups Magazine

Hustle Awards

Here to celebrate all the founders, co-founders and team members that have disrupted, impacted and taken a leap of faith with their business.

// THE HUSTLE AWARDS GOT BIGGER AND BETTER!

This is the networking event of the year, bringing the entire tech startup community under one roof to celebrate the very best of the industry.

Taking place at the Steel Yard, London on the 21 July 2022 – this is not to be missed!

Not only can you expect to dance with the creme de la creme of the industry, you’ll also be in for an evening of dazzling technology, world class entertainment and of course delectable food and drink.

Space is limited, so book your ticket early to avoid disappointment.

// ABOUT THE HUSTLE AWARDS

A rigorous and transparent judging process, judged independently by business leaders ensures the Hustle Awards is the most respected awards scheme in the industry.

Our mission is to

// Recognise the achievements and innovation of individuals and companies

// Raise standards across the sector, with a particular focus on diversity, inclusion, and sustainability

// Inspire and celebrate the creative and entrepreneurial journey


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Why not every gender is allowed to fake it till you make it in the tech sector

female leader, women leading the way

Article by Abadesi Osunsade, Acumen Fellow and Founder and CEO of Hustle Crew

Questionable, unethical and, arguably, dangerous behaviour has run rampant in the world of tech start-ups in recent years.

And yet it was the recent trial of Theranos founder, Elizabeth Holmes, that supposedly lifted the lid on the culture of Silicon Valley.

Who is allowed to fake it ‘til they make it?

As the evidence of Holmes’s crimes were laid out during the trial, it seemed the once-heralded entrepreneur had followed the fake it till you make it playbook of so many of her peers, albeit it on a much bigger scale. Indeed, Apple announced its first iPhone before it had figured out how to mass-produce its prototypes, while WeWork’s Adam Neumann and Uber’s Travis Kalanick have, through a blend of bravado, optimism and diversionary tactics, hyped their way to raising over $10 billion for their companies.

And despite this, Holmes is facing up to twenty years in prison while the three companies mentioned above are now worth a combined $3.12 trillion – leading one to question, why are some allowed to fake it while others can’t?

This question was the focus of a recent piece in The New York Times by the former CEO of Reddit, Ellen Pao, which asked why “the boys club” in the tech industry “supports and protects its own – even when the costs are huge” and yet “when the door cracks open ever so slightly to let a woman in, the same rules don’t apply.”

The lack of VC funding for female-founders

It’s easy to see where Pao is coming from given that in the past 18-months a huge number of female founders or c-suite leaders have stepped down, with much of this being driven by a drying up of VC funding. In October, data firm PitchBook reported that VC funding for companies with female founders dropped to $434 million in the third quarter of last years – its lowest level in three years. And before the pandemic, women-only founding teams received just 2.6% of all venture capital invested in start-ups in 2019, with black women receiving less than 0.3% of VC in 2018 and 2019.

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This is despite the proven success of female-founded tech start-ups. A 2018 study by the Boston Consulting Group, Why Women-Owned Start-ups Are a Better Bet, found that for every dollar of investment raised, start-ups with at least one female founder produced 78 cents in revenue, compared to 31 cents generated by all-male run start-ups. Start-ups founded or co-founded by women also performed better over time, generating 10% more in cumulative revenue over five years – $730,000 compared with $662,000 for all-male run start-ups.

The success of female-founded start-ups contrasts with the lack of funding offered by VCs and points to something much bigger and worrying than the usual peaks and troughs of start-ups in Silicon Valley. It reflects the implicit biases we hold against women that we as society often fail to recognise.

The impact of the likeability bias

Women face what’s called a likeability bias: where they face a social penalty when they assert themselves. This is rooted in the historical expectations of how women and men are expected to behave. Society expects men to be assertive so when they take the lead – or to put into context with tech start-ups, are bombastic and full of bravado – it feels natural to us. In contrast, society expects women to be kind and communal, so when they assert themselves, we often react unfavourably or, as shown by the lack of funding given to female-founded start-ups, we ignore them.

This double-bind makes the workplace and entrepreneurialism challenging for women because they have to assert themselves to be seen as effective, but when they do assert themselves, they may be less liked or rejected simply because they do not fit societal expectations of how women should behave. Whereas men do not walk this same tightrope – in fact, men are often rewarded for asserting themselves or, when they do assert themselves and cross the line, such as Neumann and Kalanick’s overinflation of their companies worth, they are not punished in the same way a woman may be.

The double standard that exists for women in the tech world must be addressed and this is something we are attempting to do at Hustle Crew, and Acumen Academy is seeking to build the leadership that can make this change happen. The status quo cannot continue – because, as Pao correctly points out, it was sexist for Holmes to be held “accountable for alleged serious wrongdoing and not hold any array of men accountable for reports of wrongdoing or bad judgement.” There must be consistency across the board and either no one or everyone should be allowed to follow the fake it ‘til you make it mindset.


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A Need for Speed and Valuation Madness | Adventures of a Unicorn

desk-with-laptopIt is a truth universally acknowledged that speed kills, particularly in start-up land. Every new tech business is obsessed with the maximum addressable market and getting the “hockey stick” of hyper growth.

For most immature and cash-strapped businesses, understandably, the quicker they can scale, the better, and ideally aided by VC/PE funding. Timing can be live or die.

Interestingly, numerous fintech businesses that are not revenue generating or have a large client bank with non-viable account levels, have achieved eye-watering sale prices. It can be postulated that some of the tech industry valuations defy logic. Great for founders, not so hot for hype-driven investors.

It is therefore interesting to reflect on the speed of adoption, and the journey to becoming a dominant technology. Previously, there was much talk around the “first mover advantage”, where being the first business to dominate a niche was usually the victor. Interestingly, technology businesses tell a more subtle story, with good examples being Microsoft coming up with a tablet a full decade before the iPad which ultimately triumphed; and Friendster (amongst others) beating Facebook as first to the lucrative party that is social media.

Crypto is a particularly interesting case study in adoption vs value, and a quick google search will reveal as many evangelical fans as doom mongering naysayers. However, it is a fact crypto currency cannot exist if the local currencies are effective.

The most interesting tech businesses drive innovation and delivers something the world does not yet know it needs, thus making the market. Annoyingly, the word disruptive has been often overused. Uber did not invent cab rides, any more than eBay did not invent e-commerce, nor Airbnb the holiday let. They simply provide a better more fit-for-purpose version. Crucially, they provided the right product, in the right place, at the right time. Certainly, recent economic events suggest that the global financial infrastructure is not up to scratch, and the major crypto coins have recovered harder and faster than traditional assets.

What is more interesting is whether crypto is in its “iPhone moment” where it reaches the tipping point to become the dominant technology. Indeed, the attention from hedge fund managers, asset managers and tier one banks, who are finally taking it seriously as an asset class, would suggest so.

We must acknowledge there have been some heinously bad ideas in the crypto industry, toxic coins, poorly executed exchanges, and bizarre hybrid financial instruments. Crypto suffers, rightly, from an image crisis and increasing interest from regulatory bodies should provide a much needed clear out, particularly in the privacy tokens arena.

Bitcoin’s investment cycle to date has been complex; the major returns running to thousands of per cent, seen in late 2017 early 2018, were a quick burst bubble, motivated by hype rather than solid fundamentals. At one point during these heady times, Ripple’s co-founder, was richer, on paper than the founders of Google and Facebook. Hindsight is a beautiful thing!

The further bitcoin deviates from standard asset classes, and it is widely held to now be decoupled from traditional markets, the harder it is to analyse. Like the dot-com boom of the noughties, the previous explosive growth was based on irrational speculative values, but what it has achieved is to lay the groundwork for “2nd Wave” businesses. Interestingly, in the previous internet mobile tech boom, this created some of the most valuable companies in history. The second crypto wave, the evidence suggests, is here.

Adventures of a Unicorn is a business blog written by Katharine Wooller, Managing Director, UK & Eire, Dacxi.com. It documents the daily life of tech start-up in hypergrowth.

Katharine WoollerAbout the author

Katharine Wooller is managing director, UK and Eire, Dacxi – a digital crypto fintech platform specialising in bringing cryptocurrency to the ‘crowd’.

Katharine Wooller has had a long UK fintech career, as Investment Director at industry leading peer-to-peer lender, and in senior roles at a specialist investment banking SAAS supporting tier one banks, asset managers and hedge funds.  More recently she has held advisory roles for blockchain businesses and is currently MD for a retail crypto exchange. She leads the Women Who Crypto initiative.

 

 


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