“Block After Block” ~ Matt & Kim
A ridiculously fun and young video for an equally fun song…makes me miss NYC in so many ways.
Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to pick Joanne Wilson’s brain about women in the tech industry and her advice for those of us that want to become more involved in entrepreneurial endeavors inside and outside of tech.
Wilson is also known as Gotham Gal and is an active investor in the startup world.
Sal Christ: How and when did you get involved with tech and entrepreneurship?
Joanne Wilson: I’ve been involved with the tech industry since 1996, so it was the beginnings of the internet industry. I was involved in a startup at that time and I got out because the bubble burst and I had kids and I decided it was time to shift to another gear. Then I started blogging—figuring I have to keep connected somehow. I was starting to watch the beginnings of web 2.0 and I saw some business that were really interesting, businesses that I wanted to be a part of and so I started getting involved. A lot of women started contacting me—maybe because I write and what I write about—and I sort of ended up falling into it. It was something that I was really passionate about.
SC: What kind of advice would you give to people like myself? I mean, I’m in my late twenties and kind of just got into this over the last couple of years.
JW: Well, I think one of the things that’s important is if you’re entrepreneurial and you have a great idea, go for it. Follow it, right? I think there’s all different ways you can work in the internet industry and I also think my best advice to anyone who’s young is follow your passion. You only go around once—you can never get that time back. Don’t do something you don’t like.
SC: Makes a lot of sense. In terms of school classes and anything that might make someone better at what they do in terms of entrepreneurship, what would you recommend?
JW: I think that the key to any great career in anything is learning a bunch of things. Going through a bunch of different paths because all of those will at one point connect together. I mean, I certainly took a lot of economics and marketing courses, but those were things I was passionate about, right? I think that if you find that the one thing that really rocks your boat is accounting, right, take a lot of accounting classes and then you’ll go into a startup understanding how that applies to certain situations.
SC: What would you recommend that women look for in mentors and finding mentors?
JW: I would say to you look up tech meet-ups. See who the startups are around the tech industry and start going to those events. You’ll actually start to figure out who the players are, who’s coming up with great things, what kinds of companies are out there. It’s a very embracive industry—people want to talk and connect about what they’re doing and how they think they’re going to affect the world. Before you know it, you’ll know what’s going on in the industry in your particular city.
SC: For you, since you’ve been involved in entrepreneurship and angel investing, what’s been the biggest take home for you? Or the biggest lesson you’ve learned over the last couple of years?
JW: When you have something in your gut and you know, stick with it. Sometimes I’ve done things and I’ve stopped myself, “You know, this is probably not a good idea,” and then I do it anyway and then I’m like, “I was right. I should’ve listened to myself.” But I think there’s something to be said for instinct. I also think the mistakes I’ve made, I’ve learned from because they’ve made me better at what I do.
SC: Yeah? Have there been any big mistakes that you’ve learned more from than others or has it just been along the way they all have balanced each other out?
JW: They all kind of balance each other out. I think I have a really good instinct about people and I think that’s the key to investing because you’re really investing in the person. You’re investing in the idea, too.
SC: Have you run into any struggles in terms of your gender or have you found that things have been a little bit more open?
JW: I haven’t, per se. Certainly I have over my career, but I kind of have that personality where I’ll plow right through it. I have met plenty of women that have been harassed or haven’t been taken seriously. A lot of the companies that women come up with that I have seen—it’s different by country because I find that many countries, Israel is a perfect example, women are building technology companies.
JW: Here, they’re using the internet as a platform. Many of those companies, perhaps, fill voids in their lives and many men, unfortunately, control—the reality is that they control the majority of the purse strings. I think they look at the business plans and say, “I don’t get it. How can I put money into something I couldn’t understand?” I think that’s where some of the issues come up. That’s why I’m thrilled to be able to invest in some of these women who—all of them, as far as I can see to date—have scaled their business and some are taking in secondary money, some of them are looking like they’re going to hit a huge run out of the ballpark, right? So, the next round will not be a big deal—they’ve already proved their model. I think because of the internet, because of handheld phones, because of the way the world is today gives us the ability to run your life in a virtual world that for women who are interested in having family and being part of the community and also working to expand their minds, there is the ability for everyone, in some respects, to be entrepreneurial.
JW: That is what is really changing the way we live and the tools have given us that ability. I think that we’re in this really interesting time, especially for women. It’s easier for women to be home, to raise their family, get in, get out at very different levels while still maintaining their independence and their identity and being able to continue to work. That’s very powerful.
Two weeks ago I got a call from my doctor, who I’d gone to see the day before because I’d been feeling worn out and was losing weight, and wasn’t sure why.
He was brief: “Amit, you’ve got Acute Leukemia. You need to enter treatment right away.”
I was terrified. I packed a backpack full of clothes, went to the hospital as he’d instructed, and had transfusions through the night to allow me to take a flight home at 7am the next day. I Googled acute leukemia as I lay in my hospital bed, learning that if it hadn’t been caught, I’d have died within weeks.
I have a couple more months of chemo to go, then the next step is a bone marrow transplant. As Jay and Tony describe below, minorities are severely underrepresented in the bone marrow pool, and I need help.
A few ways to help:
- If you’re South Asian, get a free test by mail. You rub your cheeks with a cotton swab and mail it back. It’s easy.
- If you’re in NYC, you can go to this event my friends are putting on.
- If you know any South Asians (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives, or Sri Lanka), please point ‘em to the links above. Thank you.
My friend Amit Gupta founded my favorite photography site Photojojo. A few weeks ago, he was diagnosed with leukemia. Amit is one of the nicest, most genuine, most creative people you could ever meet. Prior to founding the awesome Photojojo, he also co-founded Jelly in 2006 in NYC, a coworking community, that’s now spread to 60 cities across the world and helped spark the coworking revolution. It looks like Amit will need a bone marrow transplant quite soon. We can help him with that.
Unlike blood transfusions, finding a genetic match for bone marrow that his body will accept is no easy task. The national bone marrow registry has 9.5 million records on file, yet the chances of someone from South Asian descent of finding a match are only 1 in 20,000.
This is where we come in. We’re going to destroy those odds.
How? By finding and registering as many people of South Asian descent as we possibly can.
Tests are easy– a simple swab of the cheek. If you’re a match, the donation involves an outpatient procedure. It’s not fun, but it’s not dangerous either. And doing it could save a life.
We are encouraging anyone of South Asian descent to take a test to see if you’re a match.
We’ll have test kits on hand at the party, as well as music, booze, and maybe even a photo booth. It will, for the first time, combine a House 2.0-style party with a New Work City-style party, and if you’ve ever been to either, you know they are always something special.
Please spread the word and please do everything you can to help Amit beat leukemia. He’s a superstar.
Much thanks to Tony and pals for organizing this event, and EVERYONE who’s been tweeting and reblogging.
Please help get the word out any way you can. My life quite literally depends on it.