June 22, 2015

Women In Tech: Advice and Inspiration from Leaders in Boston Tech and Venture

A couple weeks ago I wrote a piece on the topic of Women In Tech – a growing subject across the technology and venture capital worlds.

The piece was a call, of sorts, to focus more effort on highlighting and acknowledging the female success stories that surround us. Across our ecosystem there are women founders, investors and leaders who have done, and are doing, incredible things. 

An entrepreneurial journey is riddled with difficulty and barriers and while it’s important for aspiring entrepreneurs to realize the path is not a simple one, I feel it’s more important for them to realize that whatever idea he or she may have can become a reality. Many have traveled the road you soon plan to embark on. Know who they are, speak to them, learn from them, and most of all, be inspired by them. 

In an effort to focus on the good, rather than burn energy on the negative, specifically around the topic of women in tech and venture, I’ve asked our region’s female leaders to offer up some advice and words of inspiration to those who are venturing into the world of entrepreneurship. 

It’s time we show off the rockstar women in Boston, and beyond, that have been making waves in our ecosystem for years. It’s time to shine a light on the women that are in line to lead the way as the next influencers in Boston – gender aside. 

For any young aspiring women entrepreneurs out there thinking about starting a company or getting into venture capital, I want to introduce you to several women who once were in the same position you find yourself in now. They flew in the face of the “it can’t be done for women” rhetoric and broke through barriers to create amazing companies and become leaders in their fields. 

I asked each to offer up some advice for those seeking a touch of inspiration.

Diane Hessan

Why have a job when you can have an adventure?  Although it feels risky to work in a startup or to start a new company, the worst thing that happens is that it doesn’t work and you go do something else.  The best thing that can happen is that you are doing work you love with people you love and you get to build something amazing.  Jump in!  The water’s warm!  And, if you aren’t ready to start your own company, join someone else’s and give yourself a chance to experience the thrill and fun — and the ups of downs — of working in an entrepreneurial environment.

- Diane Hessan – CEO, Startup Institute


Rebecca Palm CoPatient

I have two pieces of advice for anyone aspiring to be an entrepreneur- First, don't ever be afraid to ask for what you want. We tend to feel like we need to be prepared, crossing our t’s and dotting our i’s. If you wait around for the perfect moment, it won’t come. Go get it! Secondly- stop apologizing. Making mistakes is part of the process and every mistake will help you to grow. 

- Rebecca Palm – Co-Founder, CoPatient


Devon McDonald OpenView Ventures

Don’t be intimidated. You might be the only woman or one of just a handful of women in the room, but you’re there for a reason. You impressed the right people and they want to hear what you have to say. Set the tone early on by participating frequently, speaking up and making meaningful contributions. Regardless of gender, if you prove you’re a valuable asset with sound advice, coworkers and managers alike will have no choice but to take you seriously. And, if you keep it up, people will eventually seek out your opinion. 

- Devon McDonald – Partner, OpenView Venture Partners


Woman or man, your career is going to give you back exactly what you put into it.  If you choose to be great, you will be great, but you have to work hard for that.  If you go into every day with a willingness to help, a positive mindset and integrity, good things will happen. Say yes to opportunity, raise your hand and volunteer, take challenges. People respect and want to work with people that react to situations evenly and with kindness.  You have the opportunity to lead by example here, bring solutions not problems, and show what great is.

Zoe Anetakis - Executive Director, TUGG


Jean Hammond Investor. LearnLaunch

I find entrepreneurs are inspiring when they bringing people and resources to a startup to solve a problem.  There are two things that you as an entrepreneur need to consider as you communicate your ideas to investors and others that want to get involved.  

First, why does it matter? Try to tell about the pain in dollar terms, so business people can understand the value of your solution being in the market.  Second, who cares?  If at all possible talk about your traction and market acceptance in human terms. 

The trick is to make those statements very real.   For example, you could say – “The lack of an XYY product is costing the ABC market over $1/2 billion and the last time I talked to the VP of Q at Company C, she said we will buy 400 of these products to solve the problem.

Jean Hammond - Co-Founder LearnLaunch and Angel Investor in Launchpad, Hub and Co-Founder / Investor Golden Seeds Boston Forum


Josh Boyle is Director of Community & Marketing, VentureFizz.  You can follow him on Twitter @jb_sid
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