Women In Business

Female founders shouldn’t fear being ‘different’

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Female founders should never be afraid of being the only person in the room who thinks a certain way. 

My friend Carey Lohrenz was the first female F-14 fighter pilot and one of her observations that I’ve noticed to be very true as well, is that a man will often put his hand in the air for a job even if he’s not qualified. According to a Hewlett Packard report, men will apply for a job if they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them. As women, we often try to de-risk situations but as a founder, I’ve learned that in order to be successful we need to be willing to take risks.

Don’t be afraid to think differently

My best advice to female founders and leaders is to never be afraid of being the only person in the room who thinks a certain way. I’ve experienced this many times throughout my career and used this to better the business. When I became a CEO for the very first time, I took the helm of a company that was failing. The company had been founded and funded on a single product. That product was failing to gain commercial ground and I knew there was no market for this product. So I needed to craft a new mission and vision for the company. I did this by taking a very different approach to our competitors. It was very risky, we were betting the company on a vision to create a single platform in a market where everyone else was creating point solutions.

Be willing to take risks

20 years ago no one would have ever thought that we would willing (and frequently) taking rides from strangers, yet now with Uber we all do. Or take Airbnb for example – when the founders first began presenting their idea to a very experienced investor, he told them ‘that’s a horrible idea, does anyone actually do this?’. At the time, the founders’ idea of people renting out their private rooms and homes sounded crazy but it was a risk that paid off.

Look for problems to solve

When I founded Oink (previously named Virtual Piggy) my co-founder and I both had children who were entering the tween/teen ages and we were shocked at how difficult it was for this age group to make payments with most families resorting to relying on cash. We saw this problem which led us to a crazy idea… lets put the two things that people care about the most – their money and their children into one solution. Could we create a platform that would allow parents to give their children a controlled way of spending both in-store and online

Believe in your “Crazy” idea

As a serial entrepreneur, I often find that I’m either the only one, or one of a very small group who sees things a certain way. There is never any shortage of conservative thinkers trying to tell you that your idea is too risky. This is where many women give in to the majority opinion and try to de-risk their ideas. This compromise often leads to a middle of the road approach, which is never able to really take off and cause disruptive change. When we launched Pod, we faced similar reactions as the Airbnb founders from some older professionals. I was told many times, “Jo, nobody actually wants to meet in person.” It’s always important to listen to opinions, learn and grow; but I know we are onto something with Pod.

About Dr. Jo Webber

Dr. Jo Webber is CEO & Founder of Pod, the social networking platform that puts people on the map - helping them connect based on common interests and location. Jo brings a wealth of executive and software product experience having served as the chief executive office for multiple private and public software companies in the fintech, cybersecurity and scientific software markets. Jo is the Chairman of the Board for the Los Angeles-based Saas company Edlio and also serves on a non-profit board. Prior to Pod, Jo founded the youth digital payment B-C startup, Oink. Jo has served as a Board Director for Maxwell Systems and Octagon Research Solutions, which was acquired by Accenture in 2012. Earlier in her career Jo was CEO and Board Director for Energy Solutions International and InnaPhase (Thermo Fisher). Jo is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, a Chartered Chemist and is also the author of seven patents in payment technology. Jo was also the recipient of the Woman of the Year in Technology award in 2014 from the International Business Awards group. She graduated from Nottingham Trent University with a BS in Chemistry and a PhD in Quantum Physics. Jo is a firm believer that the role of software is to take complex processes and make them simple. Originally from London, Jo currently lives in Greater Los Angeles area.

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