Tenni Theurer

Inspirational Woman: Tenni Theurer | Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer, Spring Free EV

Tenni Theurer

Tenni Theurer leads product expansion efforts as Chief Product Officer of Spring Free EV, a financial technology company built to accelerate the adoption of EVs opening the doors to hassle-free financing for all.

Theurer has 20+ years of leadership experience in tech, media, telecom and fintech, and previously served as GM and VP of Product at Yahoo, where she managed 130+ person teams and $1.6B/year businesses with over 300+ MAUs. Tenni also served as Sr Business Leader at Visa and launched their first digital wallet solution from conception to market with 50+ participating issuers and 35+ merchant partners.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I am an outdoor lover with a deep passion for creating climate solutions. During the pandemic, my family and I visited nine national parks in a travel trailer. On one of our journeys, we were forced to reroute to escape wildfires and smoke. For the first time in my life, I witnessed some of the devastating results of climate change. I knew I wanted to do everything in my power to protect our beautiful planet, which was a part of the catalyst behind my joining Spring Free EV.

As Chief Product Officer and co-founder of Spring Free EV, I lead product expansion efforts. Spring Free EV is a financial technology company built to make EVs accessible for everyone through flexible financing. We are accelerating adoption of EVs with a goal of reducing one gigaton of carbon emissions by 2030.

Coming into my role, I bring 20+ years of leadership experience in tech, media, telecom and fintech. I previously served as GM and VP of Product at Yahoo, where I managed 130+ person teams and $1.6B/year businesses with over 300+ MAUs. I also served as Senior Business Leader at Visa and launched their first digital wallet solution from conception to market with 50+ participating issuers and 35+ merchant partners. 

One of my goals now is to make EVs accessible beyond the top 1% of earners. To make that happen, most recently at Spring Free EV, we launched a new product called the “Free EV” that brings the upfront costs of EVs down to $0. This is an industry-first product aimed at helping high-mileage drivers — think ride-hailing and last-mile delivery drivers — who are the backbone of the American economy make the switch to electric.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Life has gifted me many surprises, and my career path has certainly been full of them. When I was studying computer science at UC San Diego, I never thought I would one day be leading a fintech startup. While I was focused on computer science in school, I always remained curious, and curiosity eventually led me to manage teams at Yahoo and drive innovation at Visa. One thing I promised myself was that with any twist and turn in my career, I would always remain humble and try to help those around me.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

Absolutely. Fresh out of college, I got a painful, though essential, lesson in failure. After graduation, I was lucky enough to be fielding a few different job offers. I ultimately chose the riskiest option, and after only a few months in the role, a large group of employees and myself were called into a room and laid off. Getting fired from my first job stung, and it was scary. How am I going to pay rent? What do I tell my family? However, being laid-off taught me a crucial skill: resilience. Getting knocked down did not mean I couldn’t get back up.

I got up, brushed myself off, and explored my options.

Challenges often help you find a few important things: the strength within yourself to lead to new opportunities and the network of support you have around you who is willing to help.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Helping to co-found the Spring Free EV team has been among the most rewarding, important achievements of my career to date. According to the EPA, road transportation is one of the largest contributors to global CO2 emissions. Despite widespread interest in EVs to curb climate change, cost remains a critical barrier to sales – particularly the higher upfront cost of driving an EV, which is a deterrent for most people. We aim to break down those barriers and make EVs widely accessible. I am so happy to be a part of something that is so much bigger than myself and critical to the survival of our natural earth.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success? 

The main trait I would highlight is soliciting frequent feedback.

Do not wait for a quarterly or yearly review to talk about expectations for your role.

Asking for continuous feedback helps you quickly improve and empowers you to set new goals. I have had over a dozen managers, mentors and coaches throughout my career, and I learned invaluable lessons from each of them. They taught me valuable lessons like slowing down to avoid mistakes and how to lead and manage high performers. I also learned to play to my strengths to be more effective and successful and to identify the pitfalls of being too collaborative. Over the years, I have found ways to keep in touch with many of them and know that they are only a few keystrokes away when I need them. Take the time to cultivate and develop the relationship, and it will pay dividends down the road.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

The technology world is full of flashy successes, and I think it is important to remain humble and stay focused in the midst of that. Avoid being swept up in the daily grind by simply focusing on how each day impacts your overall career. I have spent over 20 years in Silicon Valley working on technology products, and every day I still jot down notes, ideas, and learnings in my notebook. On a day-to-day basis, my notebook helps me stay organized and focused in the present moment. Longer-term, my notebooks help me reflect, learn and draw upon my experiences. At the end of each day, write out a few things you accomplished that you were proud of, or things you need to work on, to connect your experiences.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

A former colleague of mine at Yahoo turned out to be one of my biggest supporters. She was direct, honest, and extremely passionate about women in tech. At the time, I wasn’t aware of all her efforts to advocate for me in the background. One day when I was promoted to Vice President, I found out how much she had worked to champion my success. When I went to thank her, she told me that the way to repay her is to make sure I used my new position to pay it forward for other women. That simple request has stuck with me ever since.

To this day, I continue to look for opportunities to “pay it forward” and make the same request to others.

As women in the tech space, we should take every opportunity to lift each other up and celebrate each other’s wins. When we empower other women around us, we create more opportunities for other women to join us in the tech community.

What do you think companies can do to support the progress of the careers of women working in technology?

It is crucially important to the success of any company to hire great women. Developing any new technology requires a diverse network of people who care about a common goal and are dedicated to the work being done. Once you have those women around you, do everything you can to value, honor, and respect their work and contributions. At Spring Free EV, we do everything in our power to find and hire great women and support them once they are on our team. If you are interested in applying, we would love to hear from you here.

There are currently only 21 percent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

I have dedicated a lot of time to developing mentor/mentee business relationships throughout my career.

I think the more women that take the time to mentor and build up others in the tech industry, the more interest and success we will see in the next generation joining us in creating the great innovations that will power the future.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, e.g. Podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc?

My top three podcasts to listen to for inspiration and education are: