“Connect the unconnected and impact people in a positive way.”
In 2001 when tech wasn’t a hot option for business school students, Shaherose made it one for herself. Her drive has taken her from a student in British Columbia interested in tech to a 2x Silicon Valley founder who’s launched 10 technology products, seen $100M+ raised for her network’s startups, worked with the biggest names in tech, and had worldwide impact. Want to know how?
• “Try, and if you fail just try again.”
• “Between intuition and data, new ideas emerge.”
In this episode, we talk about:
- [02:04]What I view as her superpower, the mindset that empowered to go from being a student in British Columbia interested in tech, to a 2x Silicon Valley founder with deep entrepreneurial and product wisdom
- [16:09]How she learned product management on the job before it was a career well defined in industry
- [20:27] How startups should leverage data and intuition to make decisions and succeed amid uncertainty
- [25:47] How to build lasting, incredibly valuable relationships instead of just ‘networking’
- [32:49]The uncommon advice she gives to new grads on where to start a career in tech, how to choose opportunities, and what advice not to take
And a ton more.
Shaherose reached over 1 million technology influencers and entrepreneurs to advance women-led startups as the CEO & co-founder of Women 2.0, the first for-profit content, community and events company for women in technology and of Founder Labs, the industry’s first “Lean Startup bootcamp” under the mentorship of Eric Ries, Steve Blank and Ann Miura-Ko. The top 30 pre-seed startups from the Women 2.0 and Founder Labs network have raised over $120M (and counting…).
Through her work, she’s opened up opportunities for top VCs including Sequoia Capital, Andreesen-Horowitz, Google Ventures, and Y-Combinator to connect with the diverse founders in her network. She also established business partnerships with technology companies including Google, Lyft, Microsoft, MasterCard, Salesforce and others.
She started her career off working at 3 venture-backed startups as a Product Manager and Marketing lead at Sequoia funded JAJAH (acquired by Telefonica), Talenthouse and Ribbit (acquired by British Telecom).
Shaherose is currently ‘on assignment’ as an Innovation Fellow at the Nike Accelerator and is an Advisor for Republic.co, an AngelList sister company. You can say hi to her online as @shaherose on Twitter.
Coming to Silicon Valley? Start with a job at a well-respected company
“If you’re coming to the valley and you’re new, the best thing you’re going to do is take a job first. Take a job at a respected company with smart people. A brand name company, whether it’s Google or Facebook or LinkedIn or Medium, or whatever company you admire. Even if you want to start a company, even if you want to be an investor, whatever your goal is, landing first at a well-known company here will serve you well.
It’ll integrate you into the minds and the network of Silicon Valley immediately. The people you work with, the people you report to, the people that report to you, will be an awesome and exciting network.
The other thing it’ll do is set you up for whatever it is you want to do. Let’s say one day you do want to start a company, now you’ve learned let’s say the ropes of product management, or the ropes of engineering, or the ropes of biz dev at a scaled company, and to aspire to build the company with all that learning. Whatever it is you want to do, I think landing here and joining a well a well-respected company will accelerate where you want to go. And remembering that nothing is forever, right? Going there for two years, or three years, five years, whatever it is that’s right for you.
From there you can pursue the goal and I think that was one thing I wish I had done. I went straight into startups. And that’s great. But startups are chaos. Do you learn how to scale? Do you learn the good habits of — whether it’s product management, marketing, engineering, or business? Maybe you don’t. Because you are running against time, you’re running against running out of money. All these things are happening at once. That prioritizing. Learning sometimes ends up being mostly execution. So that’s my one piece of advice in terms of ignoring advice.”
Building a network: real networking is exchanging value and building trust
Networking — networking for networking’s sake — just creates noise. You make a new connection at an event, you find them on LinkedIn, and there’s no value created. People think Silicon Valley is about this superficial idea of networking. That is false.
It’s about meeting someone who you can give value to. You give feedback on their product because you’re a product manager, and that person is a designer and they give feedback on your product’s user experience. Or one person is an investor and they give feedback on your pitch.
What can you exchange to build a sense of trust? It starts with equal exchange, and supporting each other. It leads to building trust. When trust is built, the real value starts to be created. You realize, “I remember meeting that designer who had great feedback on my product’s user experience — I need to hire someone like that”, “I know someone who’s hiring”, or “I want to start a company with someone like that.” These moments where value can be created come because, over time, trust has been built.
I have probably hired half of my friend circle at any point in my career, and they have also hired me. Some of us have tried to start companies together. Some of us invest together. This sense of trust is critical, primarily in the startup environment, because there’s so much risk.
Focus on five people that you admire, five people you want to hire one day or work with. Become friends. Help each other and guide each other. Bring each other up. The more you can diversify that group, the better. You have diverse perspectives and different networks that they bring to the table.
That’s the essence of Silicon Valley.
How do you become deliberate? Find purpose in your story
“[…] Both that book and that story gave me a vision to move towards. I always would say, I’m here on this earth and my purpose really is to connect the unconnected and impact people in positive ways. And so I sought that out, and I sought out jobs in Silicon Valley startups in Silicon Valley, started a company in Silicon Valley that really fit into that vision. And I think that’s how you become deliberate. You find a purpose in a story that resonates with your values, resonates with the change that you want to see in the world, and it inspires you in good times and in hard times. I just told myself that story. I don’t know where it evolved from. But it just felt right. If I had limited time on this earth, it felt like it was worth my time. And it felt like I would grow from it. I would I would learn from it too. It would give back to me in some way.
With that story is how I made decisions. If I moved to Silicon Valley and met a company but it didn’t fit into this idea of impacting people, connecting people, or connecting things, this theme I kept telling myself, it was a hard no. And that became a way to be deliberate. It became a way to be focused, and it became a way to know that there’s something you haven’t yet achieved and you’re still trying to get there.
It made life less about a job and more about a mission and a purpose. It made it a lot more fulfilling and meaningful for me. Wherever that came from — it was like not one aha moment — it was little things. Reading this book. Hearing the story of this founder. Learning about companies like Google and eBay, and seeing that thread, that same story. It just felt right.”
- The Cluetrain Manifesto by Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls, and David Weinberger.
- Women2.0, one of the leading brands for women in tech and startups, with community-based media as their backdrop.
- Founder Labs, the accelerator Shaherose founded & launched.
- The Lean Startup’s site. The book here.
- Republic, an equity crowdfunding platform and sister company to AngelList, CoinList, and ProductHunt.
- TED talk by Iqbal Quadir, the founder of GrameenPhone.