6 months ago on this day, I launched a company that many people told me would fail.
56% of women leave tech by mid-career, most commonly citing an unfriendly team culture. My idea was to take a hugely unpopular business model (recruitment and staffing) and use it for good (connecting gender underrepresented technologists to truly inclusive companies, then following up with 6 months of goal-setting and mentor-matching).
As of our launch on January 26th, we had no clients, no investors, and no traction. Now we’re working with hundreds of developers, 11 companies nationwide and just brought on a third team member.
Here’s the thing-- Though I was a “solo founder,” I never could have done this alone.
I’ve had a powerful community of mentors, connectors and supporters. And you should too. If your dream is to succeed in startups or even launch your own company, I highly suggest you get involved with these organizations:
Venture for America
What they do: It’s like Teach for America but for startups.
My experience: For the first 6 weeks, Fellows receive training from professionals at companies like McKinsey and IDEO. Then we move all across the US to work in vetted startups. Over the course of the next two years, we learn from the Founders we work for and potentially launch our own companies.
VFA held our hands through our first bumbling attempts at startups and crowdfunding campaigns. Most of our projects would ultimately fail. But we learned. As our ideas got less terrible, we gained eligibility to their incubator program and pitches to investors. The program earned so much attention, award-winning filmmakers made a documentary called Generation Startup about the experience.*
Best way they can help you: It would be impossible to count the ways in which VFA made my entrepreneurial journey possible. However, most noteworthy of all, our first Flock clients came to us through the VFA Alumni network. It’s tough convincing someone to pay you when you have no track record of success. But VFA Alumni have already spent 2 years in stressful environments relying on each other for support, advice and positive peer-pressure. We come out strong for each other when we need to.
Girl Develop It
What they do: Provide affordable and judgement-free classes for women to learn to web and software development.
My experience: GDI did not teach the first coding class I took, but a GDI Instructor did teach the first class I took that was comprehensible-- and, more importantly, welcoming. It was the gateway drug that got me into software development. Since then, my local GDI chapter has partnered with Flock on tons of occasions, from job fairs to hack nights. The Denver Chapter Leader, Cara Jo Miller, is the best event organizer I’ve ever worked with.
Best way they can help you: Learn to code. You may not be the CTO or even a developer at your startup. It will still help. In an industry where women are underestimated every day, I’d have an even harder time without that background.
Women Who Startup
What they do: Connect a global network of female entrepreneurs and innovators.
My experience: Before launching a company I attended a couple of their meetup events where they interview current female founders. It’s refreshing to see people who look like you in the role you’re aspiring to get to.
Lizelle Van Vuuren, the Founder and CEO, is a legend in the Denver area. She seems to have limitless energy. I reached out to her in January and asked if she’d help us promote our launch event: A job fair and fundraiser for local women in tech non-profits. Several social media posts from her later, I think she brought literally half the party.
Best way they can help you: Join their new web platform! You can ask questions of other entrepreneurs about anything and everything in a supportive environment.
Best way they can help you: Startup Founders have the chance to pitch at LWT summits for investment and feedback! You can also post jobs through their new hiring platform, include.io.
What they do: Bring entrepreneurs, local leaders, and startup community members together over five days for panels, workshops and networking.
My experience: I’ve been to a lot of startup conferences. Startup Week events have been a standout. Here are some highlights:
Best way they can help you: Meet everyone. Meet investors, meet clients, meet employees. Super successful people attend these in order to give back.
What they do: While most known for their coding bootcamps, Galvanize also has coworking space and community events for entrepreneurs.
My experience: The Galvanize Boulder team went above and beyond to help. They organized lunch and learns. They personally introduced me to leaders in the area. They sent me insider-only applications for startup incubators. They even occasionally waived the fee for using their event space as a way of supporting our cause.
Best way they can help you: Sign up for all of the 1-on-1 mentor sessions they organize with local entrepreneurs. These are people who have already been through the ringer and have knowledgeable feedback.
...And Many More.
Of course, there are tons of other people and organizations that helped or encouraged Flock along the way, including but not limited to:
What about you? Which organizations have helped your company launch? What should other people know about?
*Full disclosure: I’m in the movie.
About our blog:
This blog (like Flock) was formed to amplify the voices of underrepresented technologists and help all of us fly higher together.