No Regrets, Just Lessons Learned From This Female Co-Founder
April 21, 2019 .3 min read
Picture this. You're in the room filled with investors, and they ask you two very real and possible questions:
How big can your idea get?
What happens if your vision is wrong?
The first question lets you promote your view of a world transformed by your work. The second makes you lean back in your chair, take a defensive pose, and think about all the ways you can fail.
In a recent Harvard study, women were known to get far more of question number two, the "preventative" questions and men get more of the "promotional" questions.
Generally speaking, women entrepreneurs have to constantly defend their views, while men just get to run with their ideas. Reading that study was like reading a diary I didn’t even know I had written. It didn’t make me angry (well, maybe a little), but it motivated me (a lot!). Not only did it motivate me to be better, but it motivated me to work harder, and recognize these pervasive biases and do everything I can to pave over them with my vision.
I know my vision can outshine the challenge.
Running a high growth FinTech company, I am learning to take a pro-active approach and answer "prevention" questions with "promotion" answers, transforming challenges into opportunities.
Now, here are three quick lessons I’ve learned so far in my journey. They’ve served me well, and I hope they help you!
Lesson One: Stay Centered and Patient
Ignore that monthly Techcrunch story about the Stanford dropout that raised $10M with a pitch deck written on a paper plate.
The media often paints entrepreneurship as a straight line between idea, execution, and success.
Right now, in your mind, take a huge plate of spaghetti and spin it around a fork for a minute.
You'll notice that as you're spinning your fork, you're building a tangle of lines that overlap and intersect to where you can’t tell where one starts and another begins again. That’s a typical journey of entrepreneurship, a twisted web of an idea, effort, failure, feedback, and pursuit.
The journey is hard.
What no one talks about is how long it can take, how tedious the process can be, and how debilitating it often is. If anything, after hearing a couple of dozens no's you start questioning the validity of your idea along with your own sanity. It rattles your confidence, the imposter syndrome clouds your consciousness and you start asking yourself "WHY?"
Always follow your own compass and be patient, the world and investors may not see your vision yet, but with your conviction and confidence, they will soon.
Lesson Two: Be Authentic; Tell A Story, Your Story
Starting and running a company is like raising a child - it takes a village. You need help. You have to ask for money, for support, for people to take a leap of faith and work on your vision with you. To get these people, investors, employees, and customers on board, not only do you have to have a story but it needs to be authentic and hold meaning to your audience.
It’s hard, but I’ll let you in on a secret. People know when you’re trying too hard or when you’re full of hot air.
Be authentic. Be you and you’ll be miles ahead of many others.
Storytelling was never my “thing," I’m an introvert. English is my second language and Excel is my favorite tool to play with. But over time I discovered the power of storytelling, how much fun it can be, and the impact it can have on the trajectory of your life and business.
Lesson Three: Find Your “Angels"
The last, and probably the most important thing that helps me on this journey is my group of “angels" - other female founders that walk the same twisted path of entrepreneurship.
The most important person in this group is Cat Berman, my co-founder, my friend, my role model, and my mentor. These angels are also close friends pursuing their passions and on a similar journey. A few angels can provide a place without judgment, lots of compassion, and a safe space to vent and share a genuine sense of joy with each other.
So my message to you: challenge yourself and shoot for the sky!
Yuliya Tarasava is the COO and Co-founder of CNote, an impact investing platform delivering competitive returns by investing in women, minorities and low-income communities across America. She’s an experienced financial professional who has built financial products and services on three continents and co-managed risk for a $10 billion dollar portfolio.