I'm a young, Latina CEO with a non-technical background and tomorrow I present Revolar, a company I have poured 3 years of my heart and soul into, in front of an audience of 1000 and that includes some of the leading minds in technology.
For those of you who don’t know, Techstars is harder to get into than Harvard. They accept about 1% of applicants and have their pick of the top startups around the world.
So yes, when we got in I was incredibly intimidated. I'd heard rumors that accelerators were only for the "frat-tastic" startups, for those willing to put their physical and mental health on the line in order to succeed. I was anxious that despite all my hard work I would not be enough.
Since joining, I'm frequently asked questions around the following themes: What is it like to be a woman in tech? What is it like to be a minority in tech? How's Techstars been for you?
So here are my answers. Disclaimer: I do not speak for all women. I do not speak for all Latinos. Because, you know, we are all individuals.
Imagine you are 11-year-old Hermione Granger. You don't know that you're living in the muggle world because you don't even know that witches and wizards exist. Then, on your birthday, you receive a letter of acceptance into Hogwarts and your eyes are opened to the Magical Wizarding World.
Going through Techstars is the closest I will ever come to feeling like Hermione when she found out the Wizarding world existed—and that she gets to be a part of it. I discovered a world I didn't know was real. A world in which my dreams come true and I get to work somewhere where I have rich and interesting conversations that challenge and stimulate me intellectually.
At Techstars, we create magic.
People worry I work too much, but how can I stop when magic is unfolding before my very eyes? Like Hermione, I feel like I have a lifetime of catching up to do in a world that is constantly evolving. Like magic, the work we do takes discipline and perseverance.
Also, like the houses in Harry Potter, each company has its own personality and culture. Getting to interact with all the other CEOs and teams has been one of the best parts of the experience. It's wondrous to see how CEOs are all so different and yet they are the perfect person to carry their vision and mission. Their passion for their teams and products are unmatched.
WHY DOES THIS MATTER?
For those of you who haven't considered a career in tech or who think, "oh this isn't for me," or, "I'm nervous I won't fit it in…"
Technology is literally the future. If you want a say in shaping the future, SPEAK UP and GET INVOLVED!
I know that the inner Hermione in me is guilty of thinking I have to be perfect and that I have to have all the answers now. But the great thing is that I don't. People are willing to help you and guide you in the right direction. Just be sure to ask nicely, research them in advance so they can tell you put effort in, listen to them and then follow up. However, there is one thing you must be in order to succeed here- insanely passionate, to the point of obsession, with what you are doing and why you are doing it.
SO WHY TECHSTARS?
If you're like me, you want to be the best. To be the best, you've gotta learn from the best and that's Techstars. But my appreciation for the Techstars program stems from the following:
- They let us ask questions without making us feel stupid. Being new, it's scary to ask for help, so it’s nice knowing that you can text David Cohen (yes, the David Cohen) a question about your next raise. Even though you’re terrified that your question sounds dumb, David will answer with words of support and a great answer. I'm so grateful for David and everyone else who has helped us—this includes Revolar's technical talent for letting me ask as many questions as I want with the knowledge that I'm in a safe space.
- My mentors taught me how to negotiate effectively. One of the hardest parts of being a first-time CEO is learning how to speak to investors—who, by the way, are still people. Shout out to Ed Roberto, Dave Jilk, and Nicole Glaros who would role play those interactions with me so I could learn how to best present the incredible opportunity that is Revolar. As my mother always said, half the present is the presentation, and nowhere else has this been more true.
- They help us embrace that starting a company means an endless string of uncomfortable conversations. Emotional intelligence is crucial to keeping yourself and your team on track when things are stressful. Our managing directors Zach and Natty and our program manager Julie excelled at guiding us through these moments. They call it intellectual honesty but really what they are teaching us is how to tackle problems in smart and open ways. I know the stress involved with needing to do something completely right the first time. It's ok, they're here to help.
- This is a group that knows diversity in tech is important and is committed to making it a reality. If you missed it, read more about this here.
Thank you my wonderful Revolar team for an incredible summer. We did it!
- Jackie, Founder & CEO