Womenwork organised a closed session for Women in Tech about personal boards and scaling Tech businesses. Our speaker was none other than Shivani Siroya, founder of Tala and Moderated by Asha Mweru. We were hosted at Capital Club, Westlands.
The session started with networking where ladies talked about their businesses, as they enjoyed the canapés and cocktails.
Key learnings that I grasped:
- Start small. Tala started with around 100 users. Through this pilot they were able to; test their assumptions, test the business model, optimise the feedback loop, look for data patterns. It’s also important to be grounded in the reality of what is working at that current moment, and how to grow those numbers forward.
- There are small wins during the journey. One has to be really passionate about what problem one wants to solve. This acts as the fuel to your journey. Being an analyst, she is very often comforted by the numbers. They help her test the assumptions of the decisions she makes.
- When building teams; Create a process on how to recruit. This means, create an outline of the role, responsibilities and position in the firm. What Objectives do you want them to achieve, this helps with individual alignment of KPIs. What core competencies should they exhibit for them to fit in the role? Who do you want to hire in terms of character? Create a roadmap of achievement for them that they can achieve within 60-90days. Create a work environment that spurs individual success.
- Mmmmh what about products? In your market, who are your competitors? Think about it this way, what kind of products would they bring in and as a result reduce your profit margins? Work on product optimisation. What kind of value do your products bring to society? Be clear.
- When to expand/scale? If you are to move to another country, ensure that the business model is optimised and is serving your business. Optimised feedback loop to enable you to know what is not working, and how do you make it better. Look for countries that have the kind of similarities as the one you are in, and which when introduced, you have fewer entry barriers into the market.
- As a leader; You need to be able to see the bigger picture. Break it down to 90days. What do you want to achieve in 90days? Cascade that down to your employees. Daily, review what you are grateful for. What worked today, what didn’t, how do you make it better tomorrow? This defines your action plan for the next day. As a leader, be unafraid and humble in asking questions.
- Personal advisory board: It’s more coaching than mentorship. It increases self-accountability, discipline and consistency. How do you create one? Create a mix of people who know you and those who don’t know you very well. This cancels out any biases. Look for individuals who can help add value such as time, opening doors/networks, skills
Investors; At the beginning, you need a bigger funnel of who to talk to. But as you progress the funnel gets smaller and you become clear on the kind of investors you want onboard. Different metrics apply at different stages.
If you are starting up, apply for grants and fellowships. Building a technology-based firm is not easy. Look for applications where you can leverage on Money and infrastructure. Google, Amazon, IBM, Oracle have credits for startups for their platforms. The metrics vary such as female founder, a registered company outside of the US, infrastructure-based etc. You can redeem infrastructure credits. They come in handy. (There is one currently being run by Oracle for Startups, do contact Elly for more details for the African region)
When building a tech team; ensure your mission is aligned. Diversity of skills is critical within the team( in this case, at onset having someone who has worked on large data sets, developed and optimised different algorithmic models was key). What value do you promise to them as a retainer? (in her case, promise to work on large, diverse and challenging data sets to achieve great impact) Lastly, a great organizational culture that sets the employees for success.
In the beginning, question is, to partner or not partner? As co-directors of an organisation, it’ imperative you establish a working relationship while creating personal boards. Create a vesting schedule with milestones, assign responsibilities for each founder/partner. Evaluate periodically and revise