In its eighth edition, the startup magazine, the Hundert, presents 100 successful female founders from 40 European countries. Genna Elvin, Co-founder of startup TaDaweb is one of the 100!
Being a woman at the top of a technology company can be hugely challenging because it breaks with the current status quo.
What does this selection means to you?
I am really honoured to be involved in the Hundert release. Above all, I am more proud of Hundert for taking such a great initiative in highlighting female founders as they are true assets to managements teams.
How did you come up with your startup idea?
My startup is based on years and years of research by my co-Founder, Francois Gaspard. In 2011, once we had a nice MVP, we used our networks and experience to test the market and decided that it was the right time to incorporate what is now TaDaweb. We knew that a good technology didn’t automatically mean a good business, so the biggest challenge for us was ensuring that we had the corporate strategy planned out well. Looking back, we have no regrets!
As a woman, what challenges have you overcome?
Being a woman at the top of a technology company can be hugely challenging because it breaks with the current status quo. The biggest challenge I constantly face is having to prove myself and my abilities in order to gain credibility, when maybe for one of my male counterparts that process is a given. However, I have learnt to use that to my advantage and surprisingly, once that “approval” phase is complete, I can often walk away with more respect than some of the “guys.”
The biggest challenge I have overcome in running my company is deciding to start a family, two concepts for which rarely go hand in hand. Women have a lot of added pressure in this respect, as society has shifted to empower women to work as much as men, but the expectations to raise children and “keep house” are still quite stagnant. I am definitely the type of person that will throw into the deep end then learn to swim, which has been very true to raising my now 3 year old while at the same time running a company, both of which doing amazingly well.
Would you say it is more difficult to start a start-up when you are a woman?
Tough question. I would like to say no, but I think that wouldn’t be true. The thing is, as women we are instinctively apposed to a number of characteristics it takes to start and run a company, for example we tend to be more risk averse, we often struggle to ask for money and we aren’t always the best at “selling ourselves and our abilities.” These are all factors crucial to starting and funding a startup. On the contrary however, (most) knowledgeable investors love to see women on management, and understand the value that they bring to a company which has been proven over an over again across a number of metrics.
I think there is definitely a place for women to unite together to learn […] I think having more positive female role models will definitely help the situation.
What are the pieces of advice you would deliver to women who’d like to turn their ideas into business?
I don’t think my answer would change if the word “women” was present or not. I think the tip points to start a company remain the same for anyone. Before you start a business you need to test the market. The quickest route to failure is not having a sustainable or scalable product market fit. Once you have determined that your idea has the potential to alleviate significant pain in the market, or create enough valuable with a “vitamin” there should be no stopping you. Building a network is also a very important component in the early days. It is then more than ever when you need people who really know how to build and grow a company as your advisors. I think for women we are lucky in this respect, as I have found that over and over again there is a feeling of empowerment when women get together. I have found that most of us just want to help each other and so the track to getting to really top players can sometimes be shorter.
To you, why do women gather in associations together?
I think it’s the same for any social grouping: similarities bring people together. Being a female founder is quite unique so there aren’t many of us. By being able to meet up together and share our experiences it is an awesome way for us to learn from each other. The learnings might be based around things that have failed, or things that have succeeded, both equally as valuable. I think there is definitely a place for women to unite together to learn, but I also equally believe in associations between males and females, based purely around business. It’s finding that balance that is important in order to open your eyes to all the possibilities and gain knowledge.
What should be done in Luxembourg, and in a more extensive way in Europe, to foster female entrepreneurship?
The one message I constantly express when asked this question is that it needs to change at an education level. I myself have recently created a scholarship at my old high school in New Zealand to help a young female in the area of business, science or technology at university. With regard to encouraging women later, I think there needs to be more understanding and appreciation for mums in technology. Motherhood is one of the most incredible teachers and brings with it an amazing skill set that can be very valuable for a company. Instead of keeping mums at home or punishing them for starting a family, we need to try and find innovative ways to get them into creative corporate environments, if they choose to do so. Lastly, I think having more positive female role models will definitely help the situation.