Since launching Startup Asia Women late last year, I made it my mission to be a role model for corporate women to startup or be a champion for startups.
I am bent on doing this because I find myself being in the best of both worlds – lending the lens of corporate to startups and looking at daily problems and world issues with a startup attitude.
I would like to encourage more women to join me in a journey that has fascinated me for the last nine months. It’s like I had never been at corporate despite leaving behind a rather eventful corporate career which involved transitioning from mainframes to minis, PCs to laptops, analog to broadband, dotcom to smart mobile, and working in Europe and Asia.
The Language Of Startups
I have always found the best way to understand paradigm shifts is through the language used. It very much sets the tone for individual mindsets, how people relate to each other and how it impacts the development of the industry. After all, it is no surprise that corporates are desperately finding ways to understand and leverage startups to help them with their own innovation push.
Learning the language and mindset of startups was initially bumpy for me despite my record experience with technological breakthroughs. My first embarrassing startup moment was when I went around asking startup founders if they were “profitable”. I received blank stares back and realized quickly I was asking the wrong question.
When I decided to move back to Singapore from Hong Kong, I wanted to do something purposeful but was starting from ground zero, having been away from my home country for so long.
In September 2016, I stumbled upon the first Slush event in Singapore. It simply bowled me over, and inspired me to give startups a real shot. When I realized that many entrepreneurs had little prior business or corporate experience, I knew there was value in the corporate insights I had to share.
And it was through conversations that I learned the fastest about the language used. I pushed myself to put myself out there so that I could figure out what I felt was a startup maze. It can be daunting, and I could have thrown my hands up and said “this is not for me”.
Platform For Dialogue
Because I didn’t want the stimulating conversations with the founders to stop, I decided to create a platform – or better still, a destination – where people knew they could go to continue the dialogue. I took a quick scan of the environment and realized there was a lack of women-centricity around startups, hence the birth of Startup Asia Women.
Starting from a selfish need of wanting to be in the know (one of the five mottos our community is built upon), I created events around acquiring knowledge in vertical themes (crowdfunding, social impact, subscriptions business models, etc). When I realized they could benefit the men as well, I decided to open the events to them. However, the ultimate beneficiary of support would primarily be women.
It is clear that women need more support in starting up – we are fewer in numbers, fewer in tech and perhaps lack the “bro code” mentality of collaborating.
I am a strong proponent that women in advanced cities, such as Singapore and Hong Kong, are more privileged and get support from both the male and female sides of the camp. Female founders who have created a following or have garnered some achievements – and this includes women VCs – would want to do the right thing to show support to other women.
Male founders are barking up the trend of diversity and gender equality. With so much rallying around personal branding in the startup arena, male founders and investors who are vocal about supporting female initiatives do set themselves apart.
Helping And Sharing
It has been a pretty steep learning curve these past months, with many hours spent in networking and being active in working with other communities, meeting both male and female founders and VCs one-on-one. In other words, working with the ecosystem.
The engine that makes startups so exhilarating is that you help others as others have helped you. There is an openness of sharing – unlike corporates where information is to be treated with strict confidence, privy only to the top.
Another mindset change that helped me grow was that the more you share, the more you will be receiving; therefore the more you are saving yourself time and effort. Learn from others and allow them to help you.
While it may be true that not everyone is cut-out to be a startup founder, joining a startup or building a career in startups could bring such agility that can’t be learnt at large corporates, or from textbooks.
About The Author
Christina Teo is founder of the Startup Asia Women community aimed at supporting women running and/or working at startups, or aspiring to do so. She has more than 25 years of P/L management and regional market experience in technology and mobile, was the first general manager of Yahoo! Singapore and launched the first windows smartphone branded O2 across Asia Pacific. She has worked for tech companies such as Acer, IBM, DEC, and 3Com in Europe and Asia. Her last corporate stint after pursuing her masters in psychology in New York was as CMO of HK CSL. She will launch her startup by the end of this year. www.startupasiawomen.com