Date My Wardrobe App Launch (Beta) – 9/10/14 Yep It’s today!

It has been a super fast summer for me. Where did it go?

Lately, I have been gathering my thoughts, deciding what to cover this time and there is so much to share. A lot has happened as far as Date My Wardrobe is concerned. Here it goes!

1 – Date My Wardrobe Mobile App Launch (beta) – September 10 (TODAY IS THE DAY). We are officially launching the app at the Fashion Tech event in NYC on September 10th. Check it out people! Go download it now, create a digital wardrobe. We would love to get feedback.

2- Do you think Date My Wardrobe is the hottest showcasing startup in Boston – Tech Cocktail Vote now – http://tech.co/bostons-hottest-showcasing-startup-poll-2014-09

3 – Date My Wardrobe got selected into the Alpha program at the Web Summit in Dublin, Ireland this year. If you will be around, do stop by. Tweet us at @datemywardrobe or @amrita_ux

What does Date My Wardrobe App do?

For those of you who don’t know what Date My Wardrobe is – It is a peer to peer online marketplace for renting high-end fashion from other users. You can really think of it as AirBnB for fashion.

The app is available on the app store. Go download now! Using your iPhone, users can now:

Create a Digital Wardrobe (it is good to have a virtual wardrobe, can help us organize and make better use of fashion we already own).

Rent from other fashionistas – Like something listed? Contact the owner to check availability and rent it.

You can check out how it works here.

An excellent article written on sharing economy:

Is Owning Overrated? The Rental Economy Rises 

 

Women in tech, a bit about our culture and how we had fun coding:

This summer was the time when we built the Date My Wardrobe mobile app. Thank you to my team for making all this possible. And a huge shout out to Jessica – our software engineering intern over the summer!

First of all, thank you Women Who Code for the Android Dev Conference give away. I was able to send Jessica, our intern to the conference in Boston in May. It was a great experience for her in many ways. However, it gave her a glimpse of what it is like to be a woman in tech. So what if she is young, beautiful, SWE intern attending a tech conference. That does not give any guy the right to come up to her and fix her collar!! Overall, Jessica was really happy that she could attend the conference where she learned a lot. She also said that a few incidents at the conference is preparing her for the real world – how it is like to be a woman in tech!

We had a great time working all day, the whole summer at Babson Hatchery space. What did we do to make our day much more fun (other than changing the design often and coding)? Jessica came up with the idea of cookie Friday’s. Each Friday afternoon, we will drive to a bakery in Wellesley to buy cookies, bring it back to the office and savor every bite after a long week. This was something we both looked forward to each week. I plan to continue with the trend :). We used to have our brainstorming sessions, 1:1’s and some meetings walking around the beautiful Babson campus. And when we really needed a break, we would drive to Quebrada bakery in Wellesley to get coffee and cup cakes. The most fun, exciting and satisfying part of the whole experience for both of us was each time there was a technical issue, Jessica will have no idea how to solve and in a few minutes (sometimes hours for complex issues), she will get it just right! Yep – all by herself and stackoverflow. Jessica, I am so proud of you. Sorry to be picky on the design sometimes J.

I am a woman in tech myself. And I personally care a lot about it. The best moment was on Jessica’s last day when she said that this internship has been the most rewarding experience for her. I am trying to convince Jessica to write a blog about her experience, what she learned so she can encourage other women as well who “think” they have no interest in coding give it a try.

Of course thanks to our other team members for all the support, guidance and taking time out over the weekends to “get things done”.

What else did I do this summer?

Travel:

We did travel a bit – 1-2 day get aways a few times. BUT – every place we went, we worked at some wonderful cafés. No complains. Looking forward to our Ireland trip for sure.

Books I have been reading:

Start something that matters – Blake Mycoskie

In My Shoes – Tamara Mellon (Incredible read – especially for women entrepreneurs)

I keep going back to lean series and the hard thing about hard things – there is something new to learn each time

What is in store for Date My Wardrobe this fall?

We are looking forward to our beta launch, getting feedback from users, building next set of features based on the feedback and our Amsterdam launch in November… and one more thing – “Keep Shipping” J

Most important lessons learned:

  • Apple app review process is random. There are no guarantees that a new version will be approved for the changes made. It can be rejected for a different reason (which you didn’t even touch since last approval). And yes – the review times can be > 1 week. Be prepared. I wasn’t.
  • Team matters a lot! More than you think. Thank you to my wonderful team. So glad we are all together on this!

That’s it for now. On my way to NYC to attend the fashion tech event.

Download the Date My Wardrobe (beta) app fashionistas. We can’t wait to view your digital wardrobe and hear your feedback.

Best feedback gets a $50 Bloomingdales gift card. We will announce the winner on Date My Wardrobe Facebook page and on Twitter. Stay tuned.

Happiness, Life & Entrepreneurship!

“I am the happiest man alive. I have that in me that can convert poverty to riches, adversity to prosperity, and I am more invulnerable than Archilles; Fortune hath not one place to hit me.” ~ Sir Thomas Browne

I ended up watching this talk by Dan Gilbert: The surprising science of happiness http://on.ted.com/fzyp The point is, you can synthesize happiness when you are not satisfied with what you get. I am not saying it is easy. But it is not impossible. It reminds of what Randy Pausch said:

“Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want”.  – Randy Pausch (1960-2008); Prof of CS and HCI at Carnegie Melon University

The Ted talk by Dan Gilbert is about synthesizing happiness in life. How can we  do that? Well, think of it as the experience you get when you don’t get what you want. Or what you really make of the situation when you don’t get what you want. It feels really relevant in life, even more so being an entrepreneur – when rejections become a part of life! One day is awesome because you get selected to pitch at a Techcrunch event or you get into the finals of some startup grandslam. Next day you are low because you get rejected from YC. A lot depends on how you handle such situations…especially rejections or when you don’t get what you want. You can consider a rejection (e.g. from a grad school or an accelerator) as a learning experience and be happy about it that you tried, or you reached the finals but didn’t win. How do I handle rejections? It is hard, but the point is you need to learn from it and move on. It wasn’t easy in the beginning, but you have to.

What I learned from these rejections (as an entrepreneur)?

If you really believe in your idea, just do it (and move on). There is a reason why perseverance is what you hear all the time from mentors, entrepreneurs etc. Learn as much as you can along the way. I have got plenty of feedback since the time I launched my startup. All the advice, guidance, feedback you get, may not make sense the moment you hear it. But keep a note of it. As you grow, you will realize what the feedback you got from a VC, angel or a mentor really meant. In fact, these rejections can make you work harder if you really believe in what you are trying to do. Point is, learn from rejections and just move on!

In the past few months/years, I have attended a number of startup events, conferences etc and here are some of the best take aways:

1. You should be an entrepreneur when you have nothing better to do – Rich Miner (Android founder) at the Cyberposium held at HBS in Nov.

You give up a lot and it requires a lot of energy, passion and hard work. The truth is, the life of an entrepreneur is really really hard, can be lonely at times and mostly stressful. But if you love what you do (more than anything else you could do), these things don’t matter!

2. You don’t have to do everything right nowAnindita Mukherjee (Sr VP and Chief Marketing Officer at Frito Lays N. America).

Stop for a moment and think about it. How much we want to achieve in life. But you don’t have to do everything right now. Have goals, have dates in mind for them. 

3. Seek help, advice, guidance. You can never get enough. Just prioritize and focus on what you need.

4. Stay focused. Distractions are tempting!

5. Work like crazy – but don’t forget your spouse.

6. Breaks are important – you don’t realize it till you are back! Its refreshing.

7. Read, read, read – Learn, learn, learn

8. Being a founder can be lonely sometimes. Be prepared for it! If it gets too bad, get some help.

9. Co founders are extremely important. I would love to say it is my idea, I did it ALL by myself. But the reality is, you are making things worse that way. You need a cofounder!

 

Advise to Women:

1) Learn to Code: It is so satisfying when you are not dependent on anyone to deploy the latest code in prod and test it yourself!

2) Be confident: (fake it till you make it – a hard one for truly honest people but not impossible). Hard one for me too! 

3) Dream Big: Biggest one – You can do much more than you think you can. DREAM BIG and work towards making it a reality. Sometimes its OK to go with your instincts. I did!

 

My fav books on entrepreneurshipMust read for all founders!

1) Screw It, Let’s do it! – Richard Branson

2) The Hard Thing About Hard Things – Building a business when there are no easy answers – Ben Horowitz

3) Start Something That Matters – Blake Mycoskie

3) And of course the lean series!

The first 2 I absolutely love. I go back to them sometimes. Being a first time founder, I wonder out of all these million things I have to do, what is the most important? How should I handle this situation. Who is responsible? What do I do! This book can be your guide. Honestly, life is easy when someone else tells you what to do. Not that easy when you are the boss and you decide every major or minor thing for your startup.

 

My fav blog posts:

Anything from which you learn something that stays with you. This is a good one!

1) Success at work, failure at home

 

My fav Interview/podcasts:

1) D 11 – Elon Musk

And all other Elon Musk interviews…

2) I have learned so much from This Week In Startups. Whenever I am driving, stuck in traffic or go for a long run/walk – this is what I listen to. One of the best out there. Jason is awesome.

3) Startup Grind Podcast

Lastly, enjoy the journey. Do your best to make it a rewarding one for yourself and those you work with!

Happy Thursday!

YCombinator’s Female Founders Conference (Part 2)

Adora Cheung, Co-founder HomejoyAdora Cheung; Founder Homejoy – An online service which allows you to find a background checked, professional cleaner.
Homejoy was founded by brother-sister duo – Aaron & Adora Cheung.

I have heard before that the first 100 days of a startup are very hard. Adora shared the reality. She said, the first 1000 days are like dark ages. Usually there are ups n downs in startups – for us, there were no ups“.

Adora and her brother tried multiple ideas before they settled for Homejoy. She confessed that at times they built the solution before there was a problem. What she realized was that both of tem were really good at executing idea.

Many entrepreneurs come up with ideas for their starups through their personal experience and I really find that fascinating. Some of us do realize the gap in a service and try to fill the gap. What I found interesting about Adora and the way she and her brother came up with their idea about Homejoy. In 2012 Adora was working out of her brothers apt when they came up with the idea for homejoy – looking for professional cleaners. “Whenever there is a marketplace, there is a chicken and egg problem”. What she decided was to solve the problem by learning how to clean herself and understand more in detail the business of cleaning. And yes, she did find a cleaning job. This job made her understand the inefficiencies of cleaning business.

In the end Adora added: “You and I are here because we are just a little nuts enough because we want to build something big and impactful”.

——–
Elli Sharef: Co-founder HireArtElli Sharef Co-funder HireArt HireArt makes the pre screening of job candidates by creating online interviews simulating the real job.

YC batch: Winter 2012

Advice to founders:

1. Just do it
There will never be a perfect time to do it!

2. Keep trying
It may take time. You must be open to pivoting.

Confidence is very important. This is true especially for female founders. There are 2 aspects. Internal confidence (you should know what you really believe in) and External confidence – you should be externalize what you believe in to your stakeholders. The reality is that men are so good at it!

Elli joked that earlier she thought that men just think (e.g. their idea is great). But then she realized that they actually believe in it. Most women dont because they are much more humble, practical and realistic.

3- Failure
Elli gave the example of HP CEO Meg Whitman. She failed at becoming governor of CA. She had put in her own millions of dollars in the race. Even after this, she became the CEO of HP.

Elli shared her experience about how she felt when they had to raise $ at the end of the YC batch. “I started crying.  I almost gave up. But being able to get back up is very important”.

“Nothing should stop you if you really believe deep down that it will work”.

Final though - “Enjoy the ride!”

YCombinator’s Female Founders Conference (Part1)

My last post was about how I made it to YCombinators first ever female founders conference at the Computer History Museum on March 1st, 2014. Next few posts are going to be more about the best take aways from various talks.

Jessica LivingstonSpeaker: Jessica Livingston (Partner, YCombinator)

The conference took place at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. It is the same place where YC’s demo days happen. The first thing Jessica Livingston mentioned was – in that room there have never been so many females :) at a YC event. Now if you are thinking why not, do your homework on women in tech and entrepreneurship :).

Jessica shared her story about how she quit her corporate job to work on her book Founders at Work – stories of startups early days. In reality, her book wasn’t the only thing she left her job for. She was also planning to start YC with her then boy friend Paul Graham (better known as PG in the YC community). She accepted that it was very hard for her to tell her dad that she was quitting her job to start the firm with her boy friend.

From my own personal experience, one of the hardest thing is to convince your parents when you are quitting your job for a startup or anything as crazy as that. Happened with me too. My mom thought I was totally crazy leaving behind a great job and of course health insurance… to do what – study something called Human Factors in Info Design and to work on something called a startup with the words uncertainty and risk attached to it!

JL accepts that in those days they had no idea how big YC will become. They had no prior startup experience. But they did it. She adds – One of the most important qualifications of founder is that they should have a deep interest in the problem they are trying to solve.

Jessica was the non tech co founder and says that in a startup, if you are the non-tech co-founder your job is to do everything non tech including delivering pizzas.

Jessica Livingston’s advice for founders:

1. Determination
Stick around even when things get tough

2. Withstand Rejection

3. Empathy

4. Make something people want

5.  Focus, Focus, Focus

Advice for Women

1) Do it before having kids – It’s easier to do startup before kids. It is definitely possible. But if you have a choice, it will be a lot easier to do it before kids.

2) Quiet Founder – It’s ok to be the quiet cofounder. By quiet, she was referring to herself. “For the most part I have chosen to be behind the scenes”. You can be the quiet cofounder as long as you get stuff done. However, you will b ignored by people who are used to listen to loud voices. So just prepared to be ignored sometimes.

JL was referring to her own experience when she had announced through YC blog that there will be a female founders conference and Inc. magazine wrote that PG announced the female founders conference.

The truth is, “quietly determined people tend to win”.

Advice to non tech co founder
1) You will have a hard time  finding tech cofounder.

JL: At YC, we have seen lots of female non tech founders n they find it hard to find tech co founders.

Best option/advice – learn to program

2) Start a startup with significant other
If you are married, don’t be afraid to start a startup together.

(From personal experience I can say, this is definitely possible. It is easier to work at 2am with your own husband than with someone else’s. As long as egos can be kept aside, you both believe in the idea and bring something solid to the table, this is the best option).

More on the conference and take aways from remaining talks in my next post. Stay tuned!

How I made it to Female Founders conf @Ycombinator

With Jessica Livingston

With Jesscia Livingston @ Female Founders Conference

I wrote a blog post the day I heard about the YCombinator’s female founders conference. Made me so excited about this conference and that too by YCombinator. The first paragraph in this blog itself shows I was dreaming about attending and that I was going to apply but wasn’t too confident I will get in. But yes, I was dreaming – and it came true. And the credit for that actually goes to a number of people (more to come).

Honestly, I didn’t expect I’d get in. Why? Not because I didn’t think I deserved it. But seriously, what were the chances, it’s YCombinator. I was on my way to India traveling for work. I had a layover in London when I got the email with this subject line “Your invitation to the Female Founders Conference – March 1, 2014″. I was ecstatic and at the same time I was thinking ohhh shiiit! How can I go? I was going to be in India on March 1st, 2014. This was my social media update:

“Just landed in London and got to know got accepted for the female founders conference organized by YCombinator. And guess what, I’m in India. Damnnnnnnn what do I do :(((“

Next few days went by thinking about what should I do. I didn’t have the courage to RSVP “No”. So I said “Yes” even though at that point I had no idea how I will make it. Trust me. It was not about going to Mountain View from Boston, Massachusetts. It was about going there for the conference to be held at the Computer History Museum from 1.30PM – 7PM on March 1st, 2014 … from New Delhi, India.

When you are an entrepreneur, finances are tight. Moreover, I was in India for some work which wasn’t done by that time. So even if I went for the conference, I had to come back. Which made it even a tougher decision. Even after a few days, I knew I was going but didn’t know how I was going to make it.

One day I woke up with the idea of raising $ from family and friends to help me buy the airlines ticket to go from Delhi to San Francisco to attend this conference. I knew it, that was the only way out. I didn’t have much time left. I created a campaign on Go Get Funding. I raised $ through the platform and offline. The encouragement I got from the people who I knew helped me be sure about what I was doing. That’s when I knew I was doing the right thing and that I was going to make it (with no regrets).

Loads more to come about those people I am so grateful to, about the conference (still waiting for the iPad where I took notes which was left behind in Newark during my return, sadly backup was off :() and about my awesome experience attending the conference.

Thanks Jules, Siva, Nancy, Dan, Pavan and many more people whose support & encouragement meant a lot and made this trip really happen.

Thank you!

Techcrunch in Boston… & women in tech

TechCrunchTechcrunch came to Boston … finally. It was the Boston pitch-off event this evening. 130+ startups had applied to pitch at the event. 13-14 companies were selected. Sadly, “Date My Wardrobe” wasn’t :(

I am a female founder from Boston. Someone who loves technology and startups. Who gets excited visiting Silicon Valley on vacation and going to all tech company HQ’s. Trust me – read this blog post.  YCombinator, 500Startups, Techstars all excite me. I crave to meet fellow female founders with whom I can share this passion and excitement. sadly, I don’t come across many in Boston.

I signed up to attend the Boston Techcrunch event a while ago. Got to know about it on Twitter. I am almost an addict! I was very much looking forward to it. On my way to the event, I was excited like a teenager going to a rock concert. Oh yeah!

One of the biggest advantages of attending such events is networking. I met some great entrepreneurs from the Boston startup community. Someone who worked at my former employer, someone I went to grad school with. Others whom I have met at other startup events and have heard some pitch in the past. The vibe was simply awesome. It really felt like heaven for Boston startups.

Overall it was really an awesome event and I cant wait for them to be back in Boston. However, other than the huge disappointment of my startup not being selected to pitch, it was shocking to see the number of female founders pitching at the event. Lately, I have actually started counting the number of female founders pitching at such events. Sadly, it was worse than I had expected. 13/14 founders who pitched this evening were male founders from the Boston Startup community. I am not saying this means that Techcrunch picked the wrong startups or didn’t pick the female founded startups.  It could be a number of factors. It is possible Boston doesn’t have too many female founders (hard to believe) or maybe the ones who applied their ideas were not at par with Techcrunch’s expectations? No idea!

I would like to share with you a few other stats which I came across recently:

1) I am a huge fan of startup podcasts and one of them being 500 startup run by Mark Saldana. I listened to the 500 startup podcast introducing the founders of approximately 30 startups which are a part of batch 007. I kept waiting to hear the 3 minute intro by a female founder. Sadly there were just 4-5 of them out of almost 30. I reached out to Mark Saldana who runs these podcasts. This is what he said: “We have 5 female co-founders this batch – either their co-founders did the interview or they weren’t free (traveling, busy, etc.)”. Mark – the reality is even if they were not available, we have a problem.

2) A few months ago 500 startups did the podcasts from NY (startups from NY). A week long session meant 5 sessions and guess what, 0 female founders. I had reached out to Mark at that time as well. Again, they were not available.

3) I participated in Lean Startup Challenge in Boston (Sep-Oct 2013). The good news is that there were a few women led startups which were part of the challenge (30+) . A few though. And among the top 5, just one female founded startup was there.

4) … I can really go on & on!

And being a female founder under these circumstances is challenging. I would love to see more female CEO’s and learn from their experiences and share mine. We all need to make an effort to change that, support female founders and those in small/big organizations. This is surely not a field just for men but equally for all of us.

I sometimes wonder, how will guys feel if these numbers (no of male and female founders) were reversed? Just imagine!

Accelerators: Biggest value is not money, not pg :) , not investor intros! It is…

It’s been a while I wrote a blog post. Its been a very busy few week – being a part of Lean Startup Challenge here in Boston, developing our MVP, applying to accelerators, attending meetups etc etc.

I attended the Cyberposium – It is student-run conference at Harvard Business School.

WePay founder

WePay founder

The first keynote was by William Clerico (founder WePay). WePay is a way for small businesses to handle payments (including  2-sided marketplace).

A few things about WePay team and how they approached the challenges we face running a startup:

- Competition: Ofcourse one of their competitor is PayPal. So what did they do to pass the message across – “How WePay is better”. Technically, PayPal freezes accounts. So what WePay did was they dropped 600 pounds of ice in front of PayPal conference in 2010. You can read more on that here (You gotta do what you gotta do – to be on techcrunch :))
Boston: The team (founder Bill is from Boston) – Yayyy!!

- Accelerators: They had applied to a few accelerators. Got into one before YC. So guess what they did. They emailed PG t YC and asked if there was any way they could be considered sooner as they hardly any time left to respond to the other accelerator. Guess what, the next thing they knew was they were in SFO at PG’s house for interview. They got in!

- Reaching Cutomers:  They emailed fraternities at Stanford, called people all day – interns.
It is really hard to get first 100 (oh yeah!). You really need to hold their hands and iterate with them

- If you were to do it all over again? Have a small set of uses and make them really really happy! “We (WePay) were all over the place”!

Bottom line: Make your users as happy as possible

- How incubators/accelerators can help you as a startup (audience question):
Bill said: “Biggest value is not money, not pg :) (yikes), not investor intros. Biggest value is the mentality. We were told on day one (at YC) to have as many users as possible in next 12 weeks! You learn from each other push each other!

My First Pitch #startup

September has been an amazingly incredible month for me. It started with speaking at Campus Party Europe in London – where I spoke about “Agile, Lean Startup and Lean UX – how to make it all work together”. You can check the slides here . To celebrate my talk, I spent a few days in the city doing user research for my startup and spending time with friends. Had an amazing time.

Today, I am mainly writing to share my experience pitching to VC’s. From the moment I got the mail that my startup – “Date My Wardrobe” was selected I have constantly been thinking about how to do my best while pitching. Each pitch can be different based on audience. For a founder, nothing can be ore scary than their first pitch to a VC. Obviously I was very excited. All I did the last few days is prepare for the pitch, doing the required research, getting advice and guidance, having those crazy moments when you feel like quitting (“I don’t belong here”) and those moments when you feel on the top of the world (“I totally belong here and deserve it”). And did I mention our startup is a part of Lean Startup Challenge – Class of 2013 in Boston? SO had some great mentor sessions there. But I am no way complaining,

No matter what the results are, I had an excellent time at Creative Convergence Silicon Valley (C2SV) conference in San Jose. C2SC is SXSW of Silicon Valley and this was their first conference. My startup “Date My Wardrobe” was selected along with 3 more startups to VC’s here at the conference. Nat Goldhaber from Claremont Creek Ventures, Dafina Tncheva from US Venture Partners and Sunny Dhillon from Signia ventures were on the panel. Got the feedback I needed to hear. Getting this valuable experience of pitching in front of VC’s is awesome! Date My Wardrobe team made sure I was 100% prepared – hence the pitch deck was very well received.

The secret for practicing for your first pitch?

(a) Yes, I did practice in front of the mirror and had a great time doing that. It really helps. When you are doing all this for your own company, its totally worth it, even if you look like a fool talking to yourself in the mirror.  Surely helped!

(b) Pitched to my team over google hangouts. Got amazing feedback.

(c) What you believe in and your passion is the most important thing and that is what should come across while you pitch.

(d) If you don’t get funded or win doesn’t mean you failed, especially if its your first try. You didn’t actually fail. Getting all the feedback from “real” investors is what will prepare you and your product for your next pitch.

(e) You will get great amount of feedback from everywhere – especially after your pitch. You do not have to implement everything. People might even say this is a terrible idea, don’t do it. Do not get disappointed. Continue with your idea – as long as you believe in it. The day you stop believing in it, these is a problem.

After my pitch, someone from the audience asked me if I am going to take and work on all the feedback I received. Awesome question! Feedback was great. And yes, I will listen to some of the feedback. If you start listening to all the feedback given to you each time, you can go crazy. You will surely get contradictory feedback. I’d say, if you truly believe in something don’t change that piece. Stick to your vision, work hard and you will know what is right and what’s not.

Other than the pitch, another highlight of this conference was a session with Steve Wozniak … I will write more about that in my next blog post.

Until them, live life!

Thrilled to introduce you to… “Date My Wardrobe” !!!

DMWRecently in one of my posts, I had mentioned about quitting my lovely job as a software engineer at a financial services firm in Boston. And how I worked towards my own startup. I feel I have come a long way… and an even longer way is left to go. One of the hardest decisions have been to quit my “lovely” job to do what I wanted to. Since childhood, I have had this attitude – do what I really believe in. It is because of this attitude that I gathered the courage to quit my job and work towards my dreams. The truth is, I hate regrets. Just hate them. Better to try something than not to try ever and regret. I feel this way in every area of my life. Be it relationships or making tough decisions.. I always think if i don’t do this will I regret? And if the answer is yes (and ofcourse if circumstances support), I will just do it! I just hate the word regret. Life is too short to live with regrets. It is sad to see when people don’t want to take a chance to live the life of their dreams. This is one of the things I tell people/friends/family.. mostly women, when they ask me how I did it. I don’t think I have done much but yes, making a decision to quit my job was a big one! Moving away from my comfort zone, paycheck, awesome experience, working hard and feeling good blah blah blah. Tomorrow no matter what happens to my startup, I know I can always go back so there is really nothing to regret. One of my colleagues said to me when I was leaving my job – on my last day which I never forget and I think was absolutely brilliant – “Amrita, when people ask you to come back just say – when things go terribly wrong, I will be back!
So here I am today, after over an year since I left my job, started grad school, traveled a bit, worked as a research associate (Usability consultant), tried to encourage women to live their life (leanIn?) … I would like you to meet my startup – Date My Wardrobe!
I registered my company “Date My Wardrobe” in MA in August 2013. I have been working on it for a few months now. You might be wondering what is “Date My Wardrobe”? In the simplest words, Date My Wardrobe (I call it DMW with love) is AirBnB for wardrobe items (and guess what, it is for all genders). It is a service which will allow you to share your wardrobe items with others. The mission is to help its users get dressed for any occasion in their life and never end up wearing something they are not happy with, settle for less and help them save money by renting instead of owning. Most of you must have heard of the sharing economy? If not, read this amazing article in The Economist here.
There are so many people in this world who have different styles to get dressed, different taste in fashion and some don’t care much about what they wear. Some people may not mind getting help from the other fashionistas they may not even know today? Maybe just rent an outfit from someone for that special date? That is exactly one of the goals of Date My Wardrobe. To help you #getDressed for any  moment in your life, and never get the feeling I wish I could wear that but it’s too expensive or I wish I had that with me right now but I forgot to pack it!
The idea came to me during a trip abroad where I was going out partying with friends. A few hours before the party I realized I didn’t have any decent shoes to go with my dress (are you telling me your don’t forget things when you travel? Oh come on!). At that time I called one of my neighbors to ask if she had something to go with my dress. Unfortunately she didn’t. Then I thought I am sure there are plenty of other women living close by who definitely own what I am looking for. But the issue was  I didn’t know them. This is how I got pregnant with my startup – “Date My Wardrobe”! I ended up buying an expensive pair of shoes (which I have not worn since then)!
Follow Date My Wardrobe:
Today, I shared the video created for the startup. I think it came out to be wonderful. You can check that out here: Date My Wardrobe Video.
Other social media accounts for DMW are:
Like us on Facebook: Facebook DMW
Sign up to get an exclusive invite as soon as we are ready for you: DMW Sign Up
Follow our Google Plus Page: DMW Google Plus
Instagram: DMW Instagram
Twitter rocks too: DMW Twitter
Got feedback?
I would love to hear from you. You can leave a comment on my twitter account – amrita_ux  or shoot me an email: amrita@datemywardrobe.com
DMW_CountdownWhen is the launch?
The service will be launching in US very very soon!

How I ended up … quitting my lovely job… #Startup

Being an entrepreneur is not easy. Wait! Let me take a step back. I never thought I would be one.

Growing up, I wanted to be a doctor. I ended up in undergrad doing my Bachelors in IT. Growing up I always said I wont do my masters. Currently, I am pursuing my second MS degree. Growing up, I always wanted to live my whole life in India. 2013 marks the 10th year since I moved to the US. 3 years ago, I loved my job working as a software engineer in the corporate world – at a financial services firm. But what changed everything? Ofcourse having GC helped (should I thank god for that or US immigration laws that at least made that happen – no matter took forever?). But something else happened as well – In December 2010, I went to Dreamworks Animation Studios in LA. Thanks to my job. You must be wondering why will a financial services firm make a trip to Dreamworks Animation Studios. Well! I got lucky … maybe deserved the trip ;-). That was the first time I ended up seeing something that simply fascinated me, way beyond what I was doing as a software engineer. Something I never did at my job – animation. Phew! Saw a beautiful campus, saw how movies were being made,  met with Ed Leonard (CTO), how their technology team was using cloud computing… and screening of Kung Fu Panda 2 in 3D (which wasn’t out to the public yet).

This trip was one of the best I ever had. Not just in terms of the experience but even the exposure I got to the world outside my little cube. Pretty soon I was sure I wanted to do something more – however, it took me a long time to decide what.

What else inspired me to quit my lovely corporate world job? The startup community. Being a software engineer myself, I was always fascinated with Silicon valley and always thought I will make a visit someday – a visit to all high tech company head quarters. Imagine – that really excited me. And I made that trip finally in early 2013 during a visit to CA for a Women2.0 conference. And simply loved it. You can read my blog on my visit to Silicon valley for tech lovers.

As for being a founder, I spent a lot of time brainstorming ideas. Many of which were being worked on at the same time as I was just thinking about them. Remember, execution is the key? I let it be and continued with my passion to do it someday. I continued doing my research on lean, UX, entrepreneurship, women in tech and being up to date with startup scene, especially in the US (& Europe).

In the mean time, I also joined graduate school for my second masters, created a profile on FoundersDating – a website for meeting your potential co-founder, got a lot of exposure and interest in women in business and technology – which even inspired me more to work harder for what I am passionate about. Did I say I met Sheryl andberg in NYC in April 2013? What an amazing & an inspiring moment it was. You can read more about that experience here – Lean In Part 1 and Lean In Part 2 .

More on that in my next blog post…. coming soon! Happy Friday!!! :-)

LEANUX: Bridging the gap between UX and Developers (UXPABOS13)

Session 2: LEANUX: Bridging the gap between UX and Developers
Andrew Mottaz – CTO/Founder ProtoShare

Protoshare – collaborative web and mobile appl prototyping

:) Fun start – we got some people to admit they still use waterfall :)

Little bad side to compatibility between agile and modern UX
– Developer centric
– minimal requirements
– show what we have got when we are done
– sprints are sealed (Amrita: sometimes not always)

Since in agile, iterations are quick, focussed – and less time for a holistic experience. So its a good idea the UX sprints can be ahead of Dev sprints.

LEANUX in a nutshell:
(1)- Every design is a hypothesis and has to be tested
Good to validate earlier on in the cycle than later.
Who your users are – also starts as a hypothesis

(2)- Focus on shared understanding (rather than giant spec document)
Artifacts that can help yopu create a shared understanding
User stories are first grain of shared understanding.
User stories – verbal, user centered, abstract (broad focus)
shared with everyone – dev, qa, users, analysts, product owners…

Sketches, Wireframes, Prototypes
+ Internal Validation (make user stories visual with sketches …)
+ Walkthroughs and spec meetings
+ Visualizations are far more effective than written specs
[If I cant visualize it, I cant understand it - Einstein]
+ Start low fidelity, evolve to high fidelity as you need to get your point across

Best way to build consensus among team members-
– Talk about it – long meetings if needed
– Trusted authority
– Higher up – risky, difficult

* Have everyone participate in User Testing

How to align developers and UX together:
a – Shadow Sprint (Prototype the backlog) – ie UX sprint is ahead of dev sprint
b – Embedded UX with cross functional team (design and UX professionals in the agile teams) – can be more challenging

* Can have combination of pre sprint and embedded?
* Makes a huge difference when developers involved with UX and UX involved with developer.
* Google: Change blindness gorilla video

Lean UX is user testing:
– You should schedule user testing on a regular basis. Don’t wait!
– 3-5 users every week, month or quarter – but do it.
– Have all team members participate at least once.
– Can use low, med or high fidelity prototype – whatever is appropriate.

* Biggest lie in corporate America is Phase 2 :-)

Great session – was good to hear peoples challenges and experiences in the agile teams – specifically to do with UX and development

Office hours with Sheryl Sandberg – Lean In (Part 1/2)

WithSherylI came across Office Hours with Sheryl Sandberg (event) after I joined Levo League a few months ago. The moment I got the email, I signed up and decided to visit NYC for a day for office hours. I was scheduled to attend a session with Sheryl Sandberg organized by undergraduate women in Harvard University the next day but still decided to go to NY. And I am so glad I did. You know why? I was able to get her book signed and also, take a picture with her. It was one of the most memorable moments of my life. She was so kind. She signed the book and agreed to take a picture. Never thought I will ever meet her in person.

I started reading Lean In a few days ago and I must say, the stats about women in the corporate world given gives me shivers and my reaction to most of these stats make me say out loud “Oh My God”! Having worked in the corporate world myself, I can very well associate with things Sheryl talks about in the book including sitting at the table, women under estimating themselves etc. I 100% agree that for things to change for women, such a “Lean In” moment was important from someone like Sheryl Sandberg who truly believes in this. And I am so fortunate to actually hear her speak. As always, I decided to share with you all what I learned from the session. Some things you might have already heard and some you may not have. So here it goes.

My first reaction when I saw her enter the stage was – OMG, I cant believe this is happening. Thanks to Levo League to make it happen. She started by asking who all have said to someone in their life that they want to be CEO. Whoever did say these words, must stand up.
A very few people stood up and I was one of them. Honestly, I didn’t realize this was true till I looked around.


Seeing so few women stand up, Sheryl said next time she wants to see more to stand up. The listed 3 reasons why so many women do not want to be CEO’s:

Issue # 1 : Women under estimate their own success.
Issue # 2 : It’s embarrassing to say u want to be CEO 

  • Women are not as ambitious to lead as the men.
  • Girls are called bossy but boys are not.
  • As men become more successful and powerful they are more liked. It is the opposite for women.

A piece of advice – You don’t have to be a senior to interrupt a conversation where women are pushed back. You can say I want to hear what she has to say.

Issue # 3: Because you want to be a good parent. You are not sure if you can do both – i.e. be a good parent and excel at your workplace (be a CEO)

  • Being a parent is imp. But do not leave before you leave.
  • Get a job you love, ask for promotion then you can have child care or you can manage your own schedule.

SherylA piece of Advice for women – date anyone (commitment phobic, bad guys) but don’t marry them.
One day, the sexiest thing in the world will be men doing laundry!

Kunal Modi (a student at HBS) wrote an article – “It’s time for men to lean in”. Sheryl says that this is the kind of leaning in we need

At one point Sheryl was very emotional and was almost in tears. She said that she is emotional about this topic and if you hear her speak, you will know what this means.
More to come in Part 2 of Office Hours with Sheryl Sandberg and also main points from her talk at Harvard University (Sander’s Theatre) on 4th April.

Role of Prototyping in Lean UX

LEAN STARTUP + UX = LEAN UX

Being a software engineer with agile background, having read Lean Startup and a UX student, I was curious to get into the details of Lean UX the very first time I read an article on the topic. I wanted to meet at the junction where various lean concepts meet (such as Lean Startup, Lean UX). I also realized as I did the research that this (hot) topic is going to help me as I work on a startup (on the side) – applying Lean startup principles to the field of UX (or how UX applies to startups).

Lean UX is a process of incorporating lean thinking in the world of UX. In other words, it is a way to describe how Lean Startup principles apply in a design context. According to Jeff Gothelf, lean principles apply to Lean UX in three ways. First, it helps remove waste from the UX design process. Second, it brings together cross-functional units such as software engineering, interaction designers, product management, quality assurance engineers etc. And third, team focuses on the whole design process and experiment with the product to make sure it meets the goals (Gothelf, 2013).

There are three foundations of Lean UX described below:

  1. Design Thinking:

“Design thinking is a discipline that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity”

- Tim Brown (CEO, IDEO)

Design thinking basically involves working towards the product goal by ideation, prototyping and implementation.

  1. Agile Software Development: there are a number of agile methodology principles that applies to Lean UX such as team collaboration (including the customer), frequent changes based on customer feedback, iterative cycle. Agile development methodology helps achieve the design thinking by an iterative approach towards delivering the product.
  2. Lean Startup Principles – Feedback loop is one of the core principles of Lean startup method.

Build (the product) – Measure (the Data) – Learn (new ideas)” (Ries, 2012)

This involves turning ideas into products, get feedback from customers and learn if pivoting is needed or not. You can start by creating the Minimum Viable Product (MVP), which basically is that version of the product that is built following the feedback loop and that requires least amount of effort and development time. It may not even involve coding. Prototyping is a big piece for building the MVP. In design terms, the same feedback loop can be thought of as “ThinkMakeCheck” feedback loop (Sharon, 2012). In this case, the new ideas are not just based on the feedback from the customer but also the thoughts/ideas of the designer involved.

Prototyping allows the designer to build the experience for the product being built by putting in minimum amount of effort and iterate based on feedback. This involves the most critical part of the experience for the customer.

It is extremely important to choose the right tool for prototyping based on what is to be learned from the MVP. A few of the tools that can be used for prototyping the MVP are as follows:

  1. Paper Prototype (low fidelity)
  2. Clickable wireframes (low fidelity) – OmniGraffle, MS Visio
  3. Mid fidelity prototypes – Axure RP, Adobe Illustrator
  4. High Fidelity – Code

Conclusion

Prototyping plays a major role in the Lean UX process and helps validate the design assumptions/changes made. Early prototypes can be considered to be the minimum viable products in Lean Startup terminology. These prototypes are used by the team/designer to get feedback from users. These are modified based on that feedback as well as the designer’s own thoughts/ideas.

You can read more about Agile methodology by clicking here.

My experience at Boston Service Jam 2013

I have been thinking of participating in Startup weekend/servicejam and other weekend long ideation events and finally did. The weekend of March 1-3,  Global Service Jam was held all over the world, in over 120 cities around the world.

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I participated in the Boston Service Jam. It all started on Friday evening at Essential Inc. An amazing office on the 6th floor on Stuart Street in Boston, the evening started with introductions, wine, chilling followed by overview of the Service Design and the famous revealing of the theme – which all of us were waiting for. You can check the video here. This time the theme was “Grow^”.

We also formed groups and started off with the Marshmallow Challenge. I was doing the Marshmallow Challenge for the 3rd time and did realize it did help the team with collaboration and creativity in terms of how best to make the tallest standing structure made of spaghetti with Marshmallow on the top.

The same evening after the theme was revealed, we started brainstorming ideas related to the theme. The facilitators Gretchen, Gina and Jessamyn did an amazing job throughout the Boston Service Jam. There were about 15 participants. Everyone thought of whatever came to their mind regarding grow (the theme). Loads of ideas were put up on the board and then we all got together and got a chance to pick one idea and put it up on the board for selection.

Before we left for the day (around 9PM), we had a pretty good idea of our topic and the teams.

My initial idea was something for women in the world who get sexually harassed. Maybe something that women could carry with them all the time and can be used to raise an alarm easily if something happens. All this came to my mind because of the 2 year old girl who was raped in New Delhi in December 2012. Over the past few years I have started to feel very strongly for women who need to stand up for themselves, get the opportunities they deserve. Even if my initial idea didn’t work at this service jam, thought of other things that would help women support other women :).

Day 2: Boston Service Jam (Saturday)

My mind was racing too fast that night. Thinking of ideas, what we could do over the weekend and will be useful. I have always wanted to start something of my own and one of the ideas on my mind has been of a shoe share service. Saturday morning after having my cup of coffee at “Thinking Cup” in Boston, I went over to Boston Hostel – where we were to spend Saturday/Sunday of the Service Jam. That morning we formed our groups, exchanged our thoughts and ideas again and decided to move forward with Shoe Share Service design. Yayyy my idea was selected :-).

Here is an initial prototype of a shoe we stared off with. Thanks to Jessamyn for help :).

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We did interviews with women on the streets, Boston Common, Public Garden (and of course not everyone wanted to talk to us). We asked them of what they thought of a shoe share service. Aah, this experience made me appreciate and respect the people who are on the streets doing a survey and need a little time from us much more.

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In the afternoon, we started thinking of the presentation we had to do on Sunday afternoon. We decided to do a skit and also had to upload a presentation online. We worked together on getting prototypes ready (such as shoe box, sanitizer to clean the shoes, one of us trying on shoes and a dress etc). Here are a few of the pictures from the afternoon running around:

 

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Doesn’t this look like Service Jam’s being a lot of fun :-). For us, yeah it was!

Day 3: Boston Service Jam (Sunday)

The team was working on Saturday night to finalize the presentation, fixing wireframes, making the shoe box etc. Sunday morning was full of finalizing the work we had to submit online and writing the script for our play. Everything was done on time and we presented that afternoon.

One of the best things about the service jam was actually working on something I have been thinking about for a while. Getting to know new people, service design experience and yes, something to add to your resume/portfolio.

You can check more details on Boston Service Jam at this location: http://bostonservicejam.wordpress.com/

What is Persona and how to create one!

What is a Persona?

Persona development is a design technique used to personify important user characteristics for product design and marketing. Personas can help define the product by replacing the abstract user with vibrant presence of a specific user who becomes a part of the design process. In general, designers have a vague, contradictory sense about their users. Many times they end up basing scenarios based on users similar to themselves. Development teams need to understand the target users and focus on them. Hence it becomes very important to base the development of personas on ethnography to include more detailed user characteristics. In addition, information to develop personas can also be derived from market research, usability tests and instrumented prototype. These details make the personas more memorable and bring the persona (character) to life.

The information gathered from the personas can be shared with broad range of people including designers, developers, testers, writers, managers and others. It acts as a shared basis of communication between all team members. Personas once created can help tell the story of the product that is being built such as who will use it, when and why. This way it becomes easier to justify the design decisions.

Following is a checklist, which can be used while developing personas for a project and how these can be used in the design process:

Personas based on Real People

Personas must be based on real people, prospective user of the product. You may start with one person and keep adding characteristics of other similar stakeholders. Personas do not cover each and every perceivable user.

Objective

Develop personas for well-defined objective, which specifies the context in which personas will be used and the user population that they represent. In addition, defining the domain in which the intended persona applies, we can create personas that directly impact product decisions related to that space. For example, for a mobile product, we should not assume web personas would work as is.

What to Include

Be sure to add personal details such as name, photo, age, gender, location, profession, personality and other goal and behavior (e.g. tools used, websites visited) related information about the user. You can include the key motivations of the user for using the product. You can include quotations from real users who are similar to the persona. Include details that can differentiate one persona from another such as technology preferences, personality traits and goal in relation to life and to the product.

Basis

Personas must be based on research conducted including people interviewed, field studies, focus groups and market research. If no research is done, personas can be based on people you know. This needs to be revised frequently as more knowledge is gathered.

Media

Personas can be developed in various types of media – best suited to the needs such as posters, websites, cardboards.

Revise

Personas can be revised every few years (as the need arises and product direction changes).

Number of personas

The number of personas created must be kept to a manageable 3-6, depending on the breadth of the product use. The more personas there are, the more number of users demands your product is trying to meet.

Differentiators

Each persona must have at least one differentiating factor from each other. These differentiating factors should be edge cases but common enough.

What to Exclude

Avoid including any information in the personas that is not relevant to the product for which personas are being built. For example, unless the product is related to sporting goods, you don’t want to understand the sporting activities the user likes.

When to build personas

Personas can be built at different stages during the design phase. Ideally, they are developed after the user research is done. If needed, the personas can be modified at different stages in the design process along with the design idea.

Once developed, personas once ready can be introduced to all team members in a kick off meeting. As for the application of the personas, following are the areas where they can be effectively used:

  • Since the personas provide a clear and detailed view of the end user needs, personas can help to inform any decision taken about the products (used by those personas).
  • Once the product opportunities are identified based on user needs, personas can be used for further exploration and evaluation on what the users want. For instance, by understanding what a mobile app is currently offering and comparing that with user needs, personas can be used to come up with the features to fill the gap.
  • When designing a product, personas can be used to prioritize the product for the right target audience. Personas can help bring insights into the target users the product must be optimized for.
  • Personas can be used in improving the design of the product. For instance, the designers can form scenarios for the use cases for each persona and sketching information architecture and navigation solutions for each scenario. This is an iterative process where each scenario provides more information leading to changes in proposed IA and navigation.
  • Personas can also be used to organize content and functionality on a webpage.

 

Conclusion

For a product design, personas are ideally created at the early stages of design that can provide details about the users and their behavior. This helps with the overall design approach. Personas, if developed and applied the correct way encourages team members to align all design efforts with user goals in mind throughout the design phase.

TECHNOLOGY PANEL – 22nd Annual Dynamic Women in Business Conference at HBS

Being a software engineer by profession, I couldn’t miss out on the technology panel at the conference this morning. (Its like a chocoholic eating a non-chocolate dessert – regretting later :) ). Yes, I am in love with technology and cant deceive it ever!

PANEL 1: TECHNOLOGY

TechPanelJulia Austin (VP, Innovation, VMWare) @austinfish

Julia started coding when she was 8.
She has an undergraduate degree in Art.
Julia said that women often try to synch their resumes with the job requirements. And men don’t do that. They may look at a few requirements but not all.
Julia’s advice:
– Women should go for it (even if not all points are checked).
– On Innovation: Julia shares that it is important to empower people to innovate. At VMWare, there is an annual innovation event. It is a big challenge to pick the right ideas. At the same time it is important to say when something cant be done. VMWare also has a venture program internally.
Carrie Householder
Senior Manager of Retail and Product Management, MyHabit (Amazon) @myhabit
Don’t be intimidated and just try out things!
Her advice:
– On keeping up with innovation , she recommends constantly ask questions. You need to keep learning. Everyone around is moving at speed of light. See what technologies are out there and what can be applied to achieve your business goals.

Kimber Lockhart
Director Engineering, Box @BoxHQ, @kimber_lockhart
Sold first company Increo to Box in 2009. She led a team of software engineers 20 years older than her, have a high count of women in the engineering team and thinks that there should be a mix.
Kimber said that the biggest thing to tell venture community was that she dropped out of school (graduate).
Kimber went to Stanford for computer science (undergrad). While there, she got a venture meeting and didn’t know what to wear. Ended up wearing T-shirt, blazer and jeans.
Her advice:
– The point is that it doesn’t matter what you wear as long as you are true to yourself.
– On Innovation – Most of the team members have been entrepreneurs. Most in them are in their 20’s. Box has hackathons (overnight). The goal is to ship something (maybe not externally). Ship it to a point that you can show the whole company. It has been a very successful idea

Julia White
GM, Office Div Technical Marketing, Microsoft @JulWhite
Julia went to Stanford.  She started her career at Intuit. She shared her experience of just falling in love with technology. She calls it a random exposure J.
She went to Harvard Business School for her MBA. After graduating, she went back to the technology sector because of her love and passion for technology.
Julia started with Microsoft 12 years ago and thought that when it gets boring and not challenging she would leave. She is still there.
Her advice:
– Lean in even if it looks scary and hard. Believe in yourself have an open mind.
– For someone who has only been in technology, business school is helpful.
You form a great network in B school. You meet different people and get perspective.
– Julia also feels that OB class is very important.
– Think of what are the 10 ways you will get disrupted and do that yourself
When Microsoft ships something, we think of what will disrupt that and work on it.
The bigger you get, bigger risks you have to take.
Julia continues to say that if you stand still, someone else will disrupt you.
It is important to undermine yourself everyday.

Next post is going to be the takeaway from the ENTREPRENEURSHIP PANEL!

22nd Annual Dynamic Women in Business Conference at HBS – Keynote

Today I attended the 22nd annual Dynamic Women in Business Conference at Harvard Business School, organized by HBSWSA (Women’s Students Association). This was my second. After attending the conference the first time in 2012, my thinking, outlook towards career had changed tremendously (for good). Today again, I am back inspired.

I hope to share the main take away from the conference with you. You never know, what strikes who and when. I attended the Technology, Entrepreneurship and Social Media Panels.

The theme for this conference was Redefine Success. The point is that it is OK to redefine success with time.

Sheila-keynoteThe morning keynote speaker was Sheila Marcelo (@SMarcelo), who is the Founder and CEO of care.com.  Care.com (@CareDotCom) is the largest online care destination in the world with 7 million members in more than 15 countries.

Sheila shared her experience when she found the 1st job out of school. She had an infant at that time and didn’t mention that during the interviews. In her mind, being a mom could be looked as not hard working or dedicated, you may not get a great project.

This is what happens if you are a mother interviewing for a leadership consulting position. However, when a young man with an infant at home looks for a job, it wont be thought of the same way.

Sheila says that she was always worried about perception and ended up leaving the job within oe year. She felt she wants true to herself.

Sheila gave the example of Marissa Mayer (CEO, Yahoo). She was pregnant when she became the CEO at yahoo. There was a lot of discussion in the press. Sheila asked, would it  be same issue if a mans wife was pregnant?

Sheila shared the following list of questions which she considers often:

Question 1: What is it that really drives me at the core?

When she pitched her care idea to a friend – she said after all the education (HBS), you are going to start a baby sitting website?

Question 2: What is holding you back?

Research shows women lack confidence. There are two things we consider. Perfection and perception.

Sheila shares an experience on perception. One day her sister said to her that people don’t think about you more than one nanosecond. And that’s when she realized that we shouldn’t worry about the perception.

Why do women always think they are not ready for a promotion?

What is it that holds us back? It is the notion or definition of perfection . That is that we need to be successful

Question 3: What choices am I making in life?

What you decide to do is it for the right reasons?

At one point, Sheila’s job was in NY but she was living in MA. She used to commute between BY and MA. One day she asked herself, when my family is happy in Boston, why am I doing this? Am I doing this for myself?

Question 4: Imagine yourself when will u achieve success? Visualize success and think who are you with?

Sheila defines success as work-life integration (its never perfect).

In the next section, I will cover the major take aways from the Technology panel.

Michelle Zatlyn (Co-Founder & Head of User Experience, CloudFlare)-Women 2.0 Conference

This is my second post and one of my favorite sessions from the conference. Michelle Zatlyn (@Zatlyn) shared her experience about CloudFlare, things they would do again and things they would do differently.

CASE STUDY: Scaling A Company From Founding Team To A Billion Views A Day

Michelle Zatlyn (Co-Founder & Head of User Experience, CloudFlare)

MichelleHow one non-technical co-founder of a technical company grew with the business to now serve a billion views a day at CloudFlare.

About CloudFlare: Make faster for visitors, always online no matter how much traffic

CloudFlare protects and accelerates any website online. Once your website is a part of the CloudFlare community, its web traffic is routed through our intelligent global network. We automatically optimize the delivery of your web pages so your visitors get the fastest page load times and best performance.

How CloudFlare did it?

There is no silver bullet.

4 essential criteria you need to ask yourself:

  1. Are you going after the big market? Is it going to impact a hundred million people? Big idea is easier than a small idea. Either way, it will be same amount of work.
  2. Quality of people matter more than quantity of people you hire. You dont need managers at an early stage. You need people who are willing to work really hard.
  3. Execution – Get things done faster than incumbents.
  4. Ease of Use – is the new killer feature. It takes less than 5 minutes to sign up with CloudFlare. (Not to forget Michelle is the head of UX at CloudFlare). In response to one of the questions I asked her on twitter about how important is UX for CloudFlare, here is her response:           40% of our original team spent the first several months focused exclusively on UX. We care a lot.

5 things CloudFlare would do again:

  1. Choose partners wisely. At CloudFlare we have a technology genius, big vision strategy co founder and me (get things done). Cover with your cofounders as much as you can cover. You need different people than yourself. You need different people to cover as much surface area as possible with little overlap. this overlap refers to the shared ambition of cofounders and partners.
  2. Hold team accountable. At CloudFlare we had meeting every Friday at 5pm. It’s like a standup. At the meeting everyone team members goes over what they did. We had post its on the board with task for each team member. At the end of 3 weeks, there is a clean white board. You can do lean, agile, scrum, anything that works for you.
  3. Get to your own office early. It will impact the culture.
  4. Build a voice. Once the product is ready, start writing about it. Share it on Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit, Huffington post, women2.0, YCombinator, Google, anywhere you can. CloudFlare was interviewed by Huffington Post and that article helped them spread the word.
  5. Document your growing company – Startups change so fast that it is hard to keep track of everything. Take lots of pictures, keep a diary.

About the team, Michelle says “nothing motivates a team than a deadline that you can’t change”.

4 things CloudFlare would do differently

  1. Big Vision Communication. Frequent big vision communication share it again and again and again.
  2. Be smart with personal security. We started when we were students. Keep passwords secure. <Check news – CF hacked)?
  3. Buy your own domain name. Don’t let anyone else take over.
  4. Document the adventure at each step: Take photos often. It’s very important. It’s an adventure that changes over time.

From experience, Michelle also mention that great ideas seem crazy when you start. People said CloudFlare would never work. Sometimes you just have to trust yourself and go for it.

Q n A Round:

Q – You have a great education. You think that is very important.

A – I had a great MBA experience. Some people hate it. The person behind it matters, not MBA. If you think you can do without it, do it.

This was one of my favorite sessions. Michelle did a wonderful  job of going over what worked, what didnt work for them at CloudFlare. This doesn’t mean that everyone runs into the same obstacles but we can learn from each other’s experiences as well.

Women 2.0 Conference – Fran Maier Keynote

Did I mention I did finally go to the Women 2.0 Conference in SFO on Feb 14th, 2013. It was an amazing experience. I made the trip slightly longer so I could make my OOOLLLDDD dream of visiting software companies headquarters come true… which I finally did after ages. I will have a blog on the company visits sometime soon. Before that, wanted to get started on my notes which are fresh from the conference. And there is something to learn from each of these sessions.

MORNING KEYNOTE: Building Trust Online & Offline (Stories From The Trenches)

Fran Maier (Founding Team, Match.com; Founder & Chair of the Board, TRUSTe)

Serial entrepreneur Fran Maier is reknown for her ability to build customer trust online.

Twitter: @franmaier

A few lessons:
Fran Maier

Lesson 1- Embrace the female consumer

Women dominate the social web. Women are shoppers and buyers. In other words, women are the consumers, so why not go after them?

Lesson 2 – Go Get Her
– Not just target women, understand them. It really doesn’t have to be pink always.
Ex Dell did it, made pink laptops. Maybe it works for teenagers.
– Listen and learn, respect their time and needs, earn trust.

Lesson 3 – She’s Going Mobile
Women are more social on mobile which represent opportunities!!!
Lesson4 – She’s Global
The female consumer is everywhere.

Lesson 5 – She’s You
– Women who you are targeting are very much you
– “Women are only 8% of venture-backed founders, 11% of VC partners, 15% of angel investors and 9% of women on boards.”
I found this article by Jules Pieri (Founder Daily Grommet) on Women 2.0 website. Only 4-9% of VC goes to women-led founders. Really???
Men usually recruit other men they know. Women should start doing that and support each other.
– Go after women’s market, help other women, give and get (men do that), do that with one another and even with men.
– Find male champions. Right now you have to find them. Maybe not in a few years from now when women will be at the top everywhere. Invest in yourself.
- Don’t fail to ask for help!
In the end during Q n A, Fran said that – “I feel I sold match.com way to early for way to little”. One of the reasons for that was that she didnt ask for help!

In the next blog post, I will cover notes from Michelle Zatlyn (@Zatlyn), which was one of my fav sessions at the conference. Michelle is the co-founder of CloudFlare.

My take on Lean Startup, UX or Customer Dev

Yesterday while browsing through the tweets, I came across the following from @Lauraklein

@Laurakleinz: I’m curious whether people feel like they would benefit from coaching in Lean Startup, UX, or customer development. Thoughts? (Link)

I thought about it for a moment and here was my response:

@AllThingsAmrita: being a software engineer and now a UX student, I feel all are important in different ways.

I just wanted to expand on that.

The three areas (UX, LS, CD) came to me in this order : Customer Development > Lean > UX. And I think that did help me understand it better.

After my Masters in IT, I started working as a software engineer in 2005. Then, UX was picking up but not where I was working. I always had interest in design and UX but never took it that seriously until recently. I did years of agile software development before I came across the Lean Startup concepts. I read Lean startup and do agree with most of the concepts given. And I do wonder (now being a UX student) – what the overlap is between those concepts and UX. I believe there is and am still exploring the close to perfect answer to that question.

Here is my initial take to your question and why I feel all are important (and is up to individuals interests):

Customer Dev and Lean Startup: Being a software engineer (with agile experience) with interest in entrepreneurship, I could understand the concepts in Lean startup – minimum viable product, validated learning, build-measure-learn etc. However, these concepts might be difficult to learn for someone who comes from a different background (say sales).

Design and UX: I moved from being a full time SWE to a UX student. And while doing the usability tests with clients I came to realize the importance of UX even more and it all made sense to me. The mistake we made in the past (before lean/agile were big) were the assumptions – and that they are true – till the full product is ready for use and we get feedback.

All these concepts work best when applied together the right way.

Today, there are many SWE’s who dont understand lean or UX. There are many UX professional who may not understand customer development as much. Nothing wrong with that. Understanding all the concepts is definitely of added advantage but you dont have to be the master in all. As for what coaching to go for, it depends on individuals background and interests.

In the end, I have one question which I am still trying to find the right answer to. When I think of it, I feel yes and no (to the following question):

Question -Is agile the right thing to do as you get feedback from the customer during usability tests? I wonder if that is what Eric Ries meant in the Lean Startup about iterative cycles?

Massachusetts Conference for Women – Part III

It took me a while to get to the final part of my blog on the biggest women’s conference in the US as I am on vacation :-). This morning was a perfect time to finish it up and review my notes from the day. So here it goes:

I have been following Arianna Huffington on Twitter (@ariannahuff) and had read a lot about her. She is a Greek-American author with a heavy (Greekish??) accent:). Honestly after seeing her on that day, I was very impressed by this powerful lady. One funny (and honest) remark which she kept on repeating was the importance of sleep, which sounded too good to be true.
Arianna
Arianna divided her speech into 3 sections – Personal, Professional and hybrid of the two. I will be writing mainly about the first two which I could relate to quite a bit.
On the personal front, she said that “Marriage comes and goes but divorce is forever” – speaking about the divorce section in the Huffington Post.
On Success, Arianna shared her mothers words that “Failure is not opposite of success it’s the stepping stone to success“.
The theme of the conference was “IMAGINE”. On that she said that  “When we have the power to imagine why not imagine the best”. Which I believe in totally. I always thought of dream the same way. Unless you dream, how will it come true???
Arianna came across as a very powerful, balanced, strong and a positive women. On other learnings from life she said “Heart break can be beginning of another chapter not end of life“.
On the Professional front, Arianna added that  we need to “Redefine what success is as women”. We end up following the male definition of success.
It is very important that we work hard with less stress. It’s essential for health. It is extremely important to reduce stress in our lives. Can you agree more. This is something we all know but refuse to actually follow. Sometimes hearing from others (especially someone like Arianna), you start taking it more seriously. I believe that this is something we all need to add to our daily discipline.
And the best part was her key to stress reduction was “SLEEP”. Arianna couldnt stress more on the word SLEEP!!! She said:
“HOW TO SLEEP YOUR WAY TO THE TOP”
We are not lacking smart leaders. We lack wisdom. It depends on how well you are connected to your surroundings, your intuition.booksigning
Another funny one – Just imagine, if Lehman brothers was brothers n sisters :-).
Arianna also insisted that “The best plans don’t come when you are exhausted”
There are actually 2 nap rooms in the Huffington Office.  She continues to say that if we don’t learn to disconnect from technology and connect with ourselves we are all fried. We all need to disconnect from screens at least an hour before sleeping and please don’t keep devices next to you when you sleep.

Massachusetts Conference for Women – Part II

In part 1 blog of the conference, I had covered few of the remarkable women including Marian Heard,  Charlotte Beers and Marla Capozzi

In part II, I am going to cover a few more speakers from whom I was really inspired. The first one is Dr. Brene Brown (@BreneBrown) whose Ted Talk “Power of Vulnerability” became extremely popular. It is definitely a must watch. She is also the author of the book “Daring Greatly” – which I havent read yet but is in my to read books on goodreads.com.

Dr Brene BrownDr Brown never expected her Ted Talk to become so famous and she adds, “I didn’t want anything that comes by stepping into your power. The moment you step in to your power you open yourself into all kinds of stuff. After that Ted talk- she says she felt grief because she didn’t want to step on that power.

Dr. Brown also talked about the most important qualities of women as described by most people include – nice, quiet, modest, use all available resources for appearence. This is extremely sad. In her book daring greatly, Dr. Brown talks about the vision of daring greatly and to embrace vulnerability. She adds, vulnerability is not weakness. She referred to the following quote by Theodore Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; . . . who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” —Theodore Roosevelt

Dr. Brown adds that most of us are afraid and brave at the same time. This is very unlike the way many of us  are raised which is kind of binary. Either we are brave or we are afraid. We are all afraid and brave at the same time and we dont get to choose either.

Lastly, Dr. Brown also added that we need 1-2 people in our lives who love us but not despite our vulnerabilities and imperfection but because of them.

There were many breakout sessions. One of my favorites was with Whitney Johnson (@johnsonwhitney). She is the president and co-founder of Clayton Christensen’s investment firm Rose Park Advisors (Disruptive Innovation Fund), and author of “Dare, Dream, Do: Remarkable Things Happen When You Dare to Dream”.

Whitney JohnsonThe breakout session with her was about “Disruptive Innovation (of you)”. She talked about her own experience and her personal perspective on disruptive innovation. She had started her career years ago as a secretary and then moved to becoming an investment banker. She wanted to publish a book as well but it didn’t happen then. And 7 years ago, she herself left the Wall Street high paying job to do something she wanted.

“Baby boomers change 11 jobs on an average”, she adds. According to her, career change has become increasingly common. Disruptive innovation is kind of low end new market innovation. If you are not happy at your job, you need to disrupt. Disrupting on a regular basis is good.(But if you are reaching the C suite, of course you dont have to :-)).

Whitney Johnson left Wall Street in 2005 to spend more time with her children. Whenever she asked people what their dream was, many people didn’t have one. She continues to say that dreaming and disrupting is possible. People need to Dare to Dream!

“Within your heart keep one still secret spot where dreams can go” – Louise Driscoll
She went over various rules for disruption:
Rule no 1 of disruption: target a need that can be met more effectively
Rule no 2 of disruption: Identify your disruptive strengths
Rule no 3 of disruption: Step back or sideways in order to grow
Rule no 4 of disruption: let your strategy emerge
To do a disruptive course we should be willing to pivot and accept that we won’t see the end from beginning. Personal disruption does feel scary. “If you do feel scary and lonely, you are probably on the right track”.

There is a poem called Journey by  Mary Oliver:

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Whitney Johnson also talked about how important it is to dream because if we do, our children will.

This breakout session was definitely my favorite as I was able to relate to so many things she talked about. I heard that voice within me and went with my instincts that I wanted to do something more than a job in the corporate world. I did listen to that voice even though it took a long time to take the step of quitting my job. There are times when I feel that I am crazy to leave all that behind to listen to this voice, to want to do something more, to make a difference, maybe to disrupt. I gathered the courage to ask the speaker a question – if these feelings I am getting are normal. This is what she had to say:

“You are on the right track. But on the lower side of the crest. You won’t regret”.

Importance of Mentors: Whitney Johnson adds that mentors can come in any form – people, movies, books etc and you may not even know they are your mentors.

Part III of the Mass women blog will cover Arianna Huffington.

 

Mass Conference for Women 2012 – Part I

I would like to start by saying that this year Mass Conference for Women became the largest women’s conference in the United States.

I got to know about this conference on Twitter and got the tickets soon after. I expected it to be similar to he annual Harvard Business School’s Women in Business conference and yes – it didn’t disappoint me.

The day started with the registrations and  exhibits. I didn’t spend much time at the exhibits as I ended up spending time reading more about the speakers.

Exhibits

The morning keynote started with opening remarks by Marian Heard – who is the Mass conference for women board member and president and CEO, Oxen Hill Partners. She was such an amazing public speaker. No wonde her company specializes in leadership development programs. It was a perfect start to the conference.

The next speaker was Charlotte Beers. My first reaction was what a powerful lady. She was so enthusiastic during the keynote. She is a highly successful women in the field of advertising and marketing. She also held a position reporting to Secretary of State Colin Powell. She was also called the most powerful women in advertising and the Queen of Madison Avenue. She has also been on the covers of Fortune magazine and Business Week magazine – being featured as the most powerful women in America.

She is the author of the book I’d rather be in charge . I havent read it yet but plan to:).

Charlotte said that she actually wanted the title to read I’d rather have you be in charge. She also joked that a man said have title as “I’d rather be on top”. No one including her was surprised that such a remark came from a man :).

She said that there is a rumor women don’t make great bosses. She continued on to say that one way to fix retrain them.

CharlotteOther take aways from her keynote: Following things are really important in life.
1. Personal clarity – about yourself. You need to get better everyday. You need to know who you are as a person. Think how much power you have when you can define who you are. We as managers when discussing who to promote your work is a short discussion. More talk is about who you are.

2. Memorability – golden rule of communication – not what you say but what they hear. You should get the response you wish to evoke.
3. Persuasion

Master art of communication in such a way that you are absolutely going to be heard. In every communication I do (email etc), I  strive for that.

You are women of power… You are going to make decisions… You have to be a powerful communicator!

From personal experience she says that women need to unite and make sure that men will not diminish us.

She was at a stage in her life where she decided to quit her job and then she heard someone say that Charlotte is fearless. That stopped her from quitting her job. She decided to stay and rebuild the agency. She made a vow to find who Charlotte was other than her resume. That is why she says knowing yourself is really important.

Drop modesty – one of those womanly words.

Marla Capozzi

One of the women dedicated to Innovation, Marla is a senior expert and leader, McKinsey & Company’s Global Innovation Practice. She is also member of board of trustees of Babson College.

She said tell Sheryl Sandberg:  “Yes Sheryl Sandberg, we are ambitious”

marlaOne of the things we all have in common all of us are entrepreneurs. In order to realize that, we must follow these steps:
– We start with premise of who am I. What do I stand for and what am I passionate about.
– Look at your expertise
– Who do I know. Who is in my network?
These points can drive entrepreneurship of any kind.

Next post will include notes from sessions with:

- Dr. Brene Brown – she is a research professor, University of Houston Graduate School of Social Work and NYT #1 bestselling author.

- Whitney Johnson – She is the president and co-founder of Clayton Christensen’s investment firm Rose Park Advisors (Disruptive Innovation Fund), and author of “Dare, Dream, Do: Remarkable Things Happen When You Dare to Dream”.

Interview an Entrepreneur – Jules Pieri (of Daily Grommet)

Jules Pieri (Co-founder and CEO, Daily Grommet)

Interview Date: September 14, 2012

Daily Grommet

                                           Jules at her office in Lexington, MA

Jules Pieri grew up in Detroit, Michigan. She got her BFA from University of Michigan in industrial design, graphic design and French.  Jules started her career as an industrial designer for three big computer and telecom equipment companies. Later in her career, she worked at two other startups and eventually launched her own in 2008; in her own words: “There is a big difference in joining one and starting one”. After working for a few years as an industrial designer, she decided to go to Harvard University for MBA. She felt combining her industrial design experience with a management degree would be a great combination. She graduated from Harvard in 1986.

In 1986, Jules joined the startup Design Continuum (now Continuum) as Vice President. Continuum is similar to IDEO where the primary service is product innovation consulting. Jules brought in a lot of business for them and helped change the course of the company. She saw the company evolve from a start-up to one of the ten largest product design and engineering-consulting firms in the US. In 1992, she joined Stride Rite/Keds as Vice President of Strategic Planning. Before joining Ziggs in 2006 as President and COO, Jules worked at a number of other organizations. Ziggs was a professional networking platform. Its competitor was LinkedIn which emerged as the leader. Jules describes the rationale for joining Ziggs as: “I joined because social media is really interesting to me, those were the early days of social media”.

As for doing a startup, Jules says it was very helpful to come from her kind of background and upbringing. She knew from a very young age that it was up to her to do what she wanted. She continues to say, “My family didn’t have the resources to save me if I screwed up. They didn’t have the pattern of success and expectations. It was a blank sheet in front of me because they didn’t have much expectation. Knowing there were no constraints, there were no role models for me.” Her upbringing, background, the fearless attitude and her experience at school and two startups has a lot to do with the launch of her own – “Daily Grommet”.

What is Daily Grommet?

Jules Pieri started her venture named “Daily Grommet” in 2008. Daily Grommet is a marketplace of fresh new product discoveries. Daily Grommet helps people launch new, innovative products into the marketplace. It is a marketing platform that enables innovation. Jules describes Daily Grommet’s vision as: “We take undiscovered products and help them succeed. Best products don’t always win, that is the hard-core reality. It’s almost parallel to how Oprah made books popular. She had 2 things, which are really important – she had trust and audience. Daily Grommet utilizes the same concept for products and companies.”

Jules mentions that she never wanted to be a CEO but always wanted to be involved with creation of new products. Her motivation lies in enabling other people to succeed. She says, “These are the people who solve problems differently and for them the hardest part is gaining customers”. And that is exactly what Daily Grommet helps them with. She continues to say, “We betted on something that was never going to end. That is Human innovation and human creativity”.

Who are the Customers?

Just like any business, customers are extremely important for Daily Grommet. But that is not all Daily Grommet needs. They need customers as well as the manufacturers (partners). Jules says, “Model like this is chicken and egg thing. It is a marketplace. Daily grommet needs both the manufacturers (partners) as well as customers. If we don’t have manufacturing partners we won’t have customer. If we don’t have audience, having partners wont help”.

The typical Daily Grommet’s customer is controlling the household spend. The typical customer profile is 35-55 year old age range and mostly women. They usually control 70% of the economy.

What were the challenges?

When asked how she survived in the competing market place, Jules explains: “My team was tough. Huge tenacity, belief, commitment, passion, endurance were all contributing factors. Sheer mental, physical, mental and emotional stamina were extremely important. It was very hard in 2008 for any startup to survive with the market crash. More experienced entrepreneurs took a break from what they were doing as they knew how hard it would be. I didn’t quit. It was really hard”. Access to capital in 2008 was impossible due to the market conditions. Venture capitalists were terrified. They preferred to put dollars in saving companies that they had already invested in. As a result it was hard for anyone who was just getting started to finance their venture. Consumer world was exploding. A lot of deals businesses were starting up at the same time such as Groupon. Daily Grommet wasn’t like any of that.

Jules attributes her entrepreneurship mindset to some of the elements in her upbringing. She says, “As a kid everything was new in my life. I was the first person to go to college in my family. Elementary school gave special opportunities. I was the first girl in Detroit to wear pants to school. That is because I liked change. This is what an entrepreneur also does. Entrepreneurs like change“.

Jules continues to say: “A lot of startups apply ideas from something that exists and come up with another idea after modifying the original. However, when the idea is original, many times you will think this is not going to work. Especially when you don’t have concrete evidence that it’s going to work. That way it is hard but you need to believe in yourself. A lot of people have made huge sacrifices for this business. We always had angel financing but had to be stretched thinly for so long“.

What is Citizens Commerce

USA Patent and Trademark Office have patented “Citizens Commerce”. It is the term used at Daily Grommet to describe what happens there on a daily basis. The basic idea is to give people the launch and marketing platform so the companies and products can succeed, gain audience and trust.  The products and companies get surfaced and supported.

Jules says that she could imagine social media coming together to help people fund projects and products. And that is what Daily Grommet does by creating a launch and marketing platform so those companies can succeed and gain audience and trust.

These days, you can figure out how to create a great and better product cheaper and faster because of technology. But distribution is the hard part. Wjat is difficult is to get these products to stores and into peoples hands. In US and most of western economy, retail format is consolidated to larger chain stores. Business model doesn’t support diversity of products. For the sake of efficiency they need fewer vendors and fewer products. So taking a risk on an unknown company or product is hard for them and doesn’t fit their business model“.

That is the problem that Daily Grommet fixes. “When Daily Grommet launches a product, within 24 hours they know if it can be successful in the larger market place. If people have a winning product, retailers don’t tell anyone. Daily Grommet tells people”. Daily Grommet is responsible for taking that information to the media and explain why this product is worth considering. This shortens the time cycle to success. A few of the best sellers at Daily Grommet can be found here.

Strategy to Find Great Products

At Daily Grommet, there are hundred’s of ideas that come in every week. Out of these, Daily Grommet usually picks five products (a week). The team then tests these products. There are two very important things that Daily Grommet looks for. First, if the product is a discovery. Daily Grommet team researches to see if this company is something worth knowing about. Following are some of the criteria taken into consideration while evaluating a company or a product:

  • Is it innovative on technical basis or is it an invention?
  • Does it solve a problem?
  • Is it a green product?
  • Is it domestically manufactured?
  • Is it a new business model?

The answer to these questions can be the reasons why the product might be worth discovering and newsworthy. For Daily Grommet, this is half the battle won. The second most important thing that Daily Grommet looks for to accept the product is make sure that the company is who it claims to be. It is important to confirm that the story they are telling is true.

For Jules, Daily Grommet’s most valuable asset is Trust, for the business. “People trust us”, she adds.

When asked if she could do things all over again, would she do everything the same way or do something different? She said maybe she would have waited another year or two to start. As stated earlier, Daily Grommet was launched in 2008, which was one of the worst times to launch a startup. She says, it is paying off now. Daily Grommet has over a thousand partners. The team got a lot of experience and learned a lot. But if they had waited, Daily Grommet wont be having what they have now – thousands of partners and the experience.

When asked about the difficulties she faced launching Daily Grommet in 2008, she says that she didn’t anticipate how the psychology of the crash would hit the investors. She was naïve and she moved forward with the launch.

Who is the Competition?

Jules doesn’t believe that there is any direct competition for Daily Grommet. No one has anything along the same lines. However, great journalist curate products and tell great stories about products and companies. Jules describes this to be somewhat a competition as journalists market the products through their articles.

For others who are trying to do similar thing by enabling innovation, Daily Grommet can be compared to Kickstarter and Pinterest. It is similar to Kickstarter because they are enabling innovation by creating new funding resources. Whereas Daily Grommet enables innovation by picking up where the innovators left off. Daily Grommet creates business model around getting new companies get awareness and distribution. Both Daily Grommet and Kickstarter are trying to enable innovation. Pinterest is relevant because they do social curation. Pinterest does it in a more narrow way than Daily Grommet.

How is it Rewarding?

A reward for Daily Grommet is when they hear back from their partners telling them how much Daily Grommet has changed their business“.

She also attends a number of seminars a speaker at schools describing what Daily Grommet does. She says “When I go to schools, I find it very energizing to see that people understand what we do”.

General Comments

Daily Grommet was launched in 2008, the same year as the last market crash when the dow slumped over 750 pts. It has been fours years since then and Daily Grommet has survived and is growing.

Amrita: It was really inspiring to see Jules talk about her experience when Daily Grommet was launched. No doubt it was one of the hardest times to launch a business. But her dedication and strong will made her move forward. 

Jules loves to “Live life without regrets”. This attitude made her take the step to launch despite the circumstances. She says that she trusted her instincts. When choices she made didn’t work out, she knew her instincts were telling her otherwise. And last but not the least, she adds “timing and luck are bigger factors than I knew”.

In September, 2012 Daily Grommet announced Series B funding led by Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten (who had also invested in Pinterest just a few months earlier). Rakuten tag line for its US business says: “Buy from People, not the Internet”. Which goes so well with what Daily Grommet does.

In 2012, Jules was also appointed to work with faculty and students at Harvard Business School in research and mentoring capacity for the academic year 2012-2013.

Amrita: Thank You Jules for taking out time for this interview and for the wonderful inspiration you have been and will be for all Women in Business.

Women 2.0 Founder Friday – Boston Launch Update

Women 2.0 Founder Friday – Boston Launch

Before any updates, for those of you who dont know:

Women 2.0 (www.women2.com) is:

“A media company offering content, community and conferences for aspiring and current women innovators in technology. Our mission is to increase the number of female founders of technology startups with inspiration, information and education through our platform”.

Founder Friday is a Women 2.0 networking event to promote the creation of new networks among aspiring entrepreneurs, current entrepreneurs and investors in innovative cities around the world.

Founder Friday Boston launch was today. I happened to come across this event through twitter and immediately signed up a few weeks ago. Just got back completely inspired and motivated after this event. Not just by the speakers but by the crowd. How many young, motivated women were present doing something great in their own field including someone trying to start up a business in Accent Reduction, 2 people I met left their jobs in the same co. i worked and have started up their own business.. one as recently as 4 months ago. It was overall an awesome experience. And yes, did I mention there was good food and drinks :).

Started off with an hour of networking. The weather wasnt great in Boston today but still a lot of people showed up. The event was on the 10th floor at the Microsoft Nerd Center – a beautiful location.

There was an introduction by Sepi Nasiri, VP at Women 2.0. The event was sponsored by L’Oreal WOmen in Digital. Coming from a technology background, I was very impressed and excited:). A few things Sepi said which I could relate to and liked were that Women 2.0 is created by women for women. Women 2.0 has events in a number of cities across the US. Then there was a special intro by Rachel Weiss (L’Oreal USA, Women in Digital). She talked about L’Oreal) and L’Oreals Next Lab which are corporate grants to women led and co-led companies to develop innovative technology initiatives in partnership with L’Oreal USA. They also provide mentorship and guidance to Next Lab partners. Rachel mentioned that at each networking event she tries to build one new relationship and one new idea. She talked about how women are moving ahead in MObil and Big data. Then they introduced other women in business and gave the crowd a chance to ask questions.

First was Beth Marcus – CEO, Founder Playrific. She has had a number of startups. She talked about her experience starting her first company. SHe is on her 5th startup as a founder. She said she was an accidental entrepreneur. She started the business in the basement in her lexington home years ago. Her first funding was form an angel investor. Inc. magazine did a story for her business and wondered if they could go back to the Lexington house basement just for some pictures :). She ran the co. for 7.5 years. Her first co. built high end controllers, exoskeleton controllers for robots in space for NASA. WOW!!! One of the lessons she learned was “Persistence is the consistent factor in every entrepreneur“. The company was sold to MS in 1996. There have been 4 other startups.

Question from the crowd – Hardest thing? Hw to balance life and work?

Beth Answer – Get priorities right. For me my daughter was the first priority and then the company. Other hard things were there – it is never easy to raise capital. Being an entrepreneur is easier than being a mom. I was prepared to be an entrepreneur than have a child. “My daughter is my best startup“.

Next speaker – Rudina Seseri, Partner, Fairhaven Capital

Been in business for 6 years. It is a very interesting time for women right now with so much support.
Question – What I would love to see in a startup?
1- think big ideas n believe in yor own potential
2- make every mistake but don’t make it twice
3- don’t underestimate marketing
Product won’t speak for itself. Marketing is important.
“And don’t assume because we share gender I will invest in you”.

There are other people I met at the event who either are planing on having their own startup or are already working towards it. One example : bowanddrape.com – go check it out for yourself.

Women2.0 Founder Friday – Boston Launch and more…

A lot has happened in the past few weeks in my life related to encouraging women step up and take charge. #1 –  I was able to reach out to a few successful women in business for an interview. This started off as an assignment for my entrepreneurship class but soon after the first interview while I was walking back to my car, I thought … why not  do this not just for my assignment but to motivate myself & other women, meeting these wonderful inspiring women who didnt give up when everything looked impossible, who went on to become successful WOMEN IN BUSINESS. On top of it, I got involved with Graduate women’s leadership organization at my grad school … which meant more responsibilities and more people to motivate and encourage. More on the interviews soon to come… but today…

I am attending the Women 2.0 Founder Friday Boston launch in Cambridge. Its going to be awesome. Looking forward to sharing my experience from the  event with all Women in business :)

Stay Tuned!!!

Poster – Paula Scher

One of the assignments in the “Introduction to Graphic Design” class was to create a few posters copying the style of different artists. I did research on a number of artists and “Paula Scher” is one of the four.

While I was looking at the work of various designers, I realized there were very few women designers out there. I read her book “Make it Bigger” where she talks about corporate life and her time working on record covers. I also watched her video on Ted which I found to be very interesting.

Following is a small glimpse of my work (poster) which I created which is similar to the one created by Paula Scher – “Best of Jazz” in 1979.

My Work:

Paula Scher

I have lost many near and dear ones to this deadly disease and know many survivors. For the past decade, this topic has impacted me immensely. I created this poster for awareness and importance of cancer screenings, providing websites for finding more information. I copied the style of Paula Scher for a poster she had created for…

Her Work:

Best Of Jazz - 1979

A few things about Paula Scher:

  • Principal in the international design consultancy Pentagram
  • Frequent design contributor to The New York Times, GQ and other publications
  • BFA from the Tyler School of Art and a Doctor of Fine Arts Honoris Causa from the Corcoran College of Art and Design.
  • Teaching career includes over two decades at the School of Visual Arts, along with positions at the Cooper Union, Yale University and the Tyler School of Art
  • Member of the Alliance Graphique Internationale
  • Work is represented in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art and the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, New York; the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.; the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich; the Denver Art Museum; and the Bibliothèque nationale de France and the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris

Awards:

1996 Beacon Award for integrated corporate design strategy
1998 named to the Art Directors Club Hall of Fame
2000 Chrysler Award for Innovation in Design
2001 profession’s highest honor, the AIGA Medal, in recognition of her distinguished achievements and contributions to the field

Other work by Paula Scher:

Map Paintings with deliberate misspellings

Her books I read as part of my research: Make it Bigger.

Ted Talk – Paula Scher

Her Clients:

Citibank, Tiffany & Co, The New York Times Magazine, Perry Ellis, Bloomberg, Target, Jazz at Lincoln Center, The Detroit Symphony Orchestra, The New Jersey Performing Arts Center, The New 42nd Street, The New York Botanical Garden, and The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.

Sources:

http://www.identityworks.com/forum/logo-design/what-they-dont-teach-you-about-identity-design-in-design-schools/
http://vimeo.com/channels/gdtv#23079048
http://pentagram.com/en/new/2009/01/new-work-new-york-philharmonic.php
http://www.nysocialdiary.com/node/3217 http://aigany.org/index.php/blog/article/paula_scher_maps/

(Indian) Women in tech/entrepreneurship…

I read this article a few days ago on Techcrunch about a women conference being organized by YC. It brought a huge smile. I started dreaming I will be there… Yeah why not! :-) At least gonna try. Was tempted to write a post on one of my fav topics, which I deeply care about – Women in tech.

Women in Tech… actually Indian Women in Tech

For those of you who don’t know me, I am a software engineer by profession. I was bitten by the entrepreneurship bug a few years ago when I decided to quit my awesome job to go back to grad school again and work on an idea I was passionate about. Finally, from the list of ideas I jotted down on my cell over the years, I stuck to one!

My first real exposure to women in tech problem was when I heard Sheryl Sandberg’s Ted Talk in 2010 and a lot of what she said I could relate to and it stayed with me. Before that, ignorance was a bliss (kinda)! The stats given in her book bought goosebumps.

I have read quite a bit on the topic, done crazy amount of research, got involved with many women in tech organizations, attended many conferences including Women 2.0 and Harvard Business School Women in Business conference etc. The more I learned about it, the more I cared.

I am an Indian female, who worked as a software engineer in Boston for years. I had some amazing people (male/female) who supported me throughout. Of course there were instances where I did feel left out or wondered whats wrong, why not me. But am more appreciative about the support I got. However, one thing I did feel while I was working – for myself and for other (Indian) women in the workplace. Things are as it is hard for women, sometimes even more harder for Indian women.

Why is it hard for Indian women? Sometimes they need to lean in by working even harder. The things I list here are not pointing to any one. It is based on my observation, my experience and my conversation with fellow Indian colleagues and friends.

A) Indian Culture: Is it the Indian culture? Women should not be the ones excelling at work – surpassing their spouses? So taking the initiative, just doing something crazy (e.g. quit your job to do what you are passionate about)

B) Dream Big: They don’t dream big. While growing up, they are not taught they can achieve anything. Achieve anything could mean different things for different people. So they settle with whatever they get or what “they think” is best for them. Of course they work hard. They do it all. What they don’t know is they can do more. Where is the exposure???

C) Role Models: They didn’t have role models while growing up in India. And then if they move to the US, what to expect? Life cant be smooth or like a bed of roses or the way it is in India (mostly easy, living with parents).

I will be traveling to India soon. I was thinking  if there are any startup events I can attend. And the first thing that came to my mind was – startup events where women are welcome, feel comfortable and are not the odd ones out? I didnt have much expectations when I started searching. The first article I came across was: 13 IT startups to look forward to in 2014

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/tech/slideshow/startupsfor2014/Zoom/itslideshow/29499414.cms

Did you notice anything?

And that brings me to the point – we are working hard in the US to encourage more women to be in tech and entrepreneurship. I really wonder how hard it will be in India! 

I cant wait to experience the startup scene in India, meet women entrepreneurs, hear their experience and learn from them!

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