Developing true resilience is vital for female tech entrepreneurs, in order to overcome the many daily obstacles they face.
Erika Trautman, co founder and chief executive of interactive video platform Rapt Media, knows the importance of resilience all too well – having developed her own business in a tough climate with female CEOs – and has shared with me four very reliable steps for success.
She tells me that developing and maintaining internal resilience is “incredibly important” for women in the tech start-up scene and beyond, given the unspoken bias that is ever present. “ In an industry that often relies on pattern matching to try to predict success, there can be a bit of an uphill battle when dealing with others inside the start-up ecosystem . We are still early on in establishing the pattern of successful female CEOs,” she says.
“There will be major ups and downs. Maintaining your internal resilience is incredibly important.”
Here are her four tips for women in tech who want true entrepreneurial resilience:
1. See The Difference As Advantage
Trautman was determined for the fact she was a female co-founder not to be an obstacle, and she took this fact a step further, making it an advantage.
“Well before my co-founder and I gave ourselves titles, designated specific roles or hired team members, we made a strategic decision for me to present to investors, speak to the press and act as the face of the company. We thought my gender would make our company memorable and we might gain some extra exposure, and that turned out to be true.”
Trautman – whose background is in directing video – took well to the role, so well in fact that it made sense for her to become chief executive when it was time to name one.
She has subsequently developed a business that is well-known within emerging video technology, selling to companies including HBO, Philips and Maybelline in order to substantially bolster ‘stickability’ on their websites (interactive videos with selectable story paths are a far more active experience). She has also shared the stage at conferences with high-profile business women including Sheryl Sandberg.
2. Capitalize On Luck And Smart Decisions
A balance of both and good fortune and clever decisions are essential to success, Trautman says, adding that these factors equally apply to men.
“Luck, hard work, good timing, smart decisions, confidence and optimism (sometimes totally unsubstantiated), passion, listening to the market, tenacity, and building a strong team are absolutely the most important components, regardless of gender.”
Her co-founder at Rapt Media, established in 2011, was Cameron McCaddon, and in recent years they made the rather brave decision to move away from Silicon Valley, which turned out to be very smart. “We sold our California house and moved to Boulder, Colorado, where we could live much more cheaply,” she says, adding that the down payment from the move enabled them to further fund the company. “Boulder is obviously a smaller community than the Valley, but it is very strong and collaborative.”
3. Be Yourself
Trautman says that when becoming chief executive, she studied other CEOs “for examples of how to behave”. Then she found there was a better way.
“While I learned a lot from those mentors on how to think about business decisions, I found that I failed when I try to imitate them directly. I needed to take what I observed and internalize it in a way that was true to who I was. Once I figured that out, I found everything got easier.”
4. Just Go For It
Trautman says there are two clear actions that she advises women in technology to take, if they are looking to start a company.
“First, just go do it. Starting is the biggest, hardest step, she says. “After that, it’s a matter of sticking with it, learning as you go, and staying confident.”
Author: Leo King
Leo is an experienced journalist covering business, tech and social issues for Forbes, the Financial Times, The Times, and beyond. He is also a content marketing expert and work with numerous FTSE 100 and NYSE listed businesses. He teaches companies how to maximize their public relations at PowerPRProgram.com.