This post is coauthored with Charu Sharma (@charu1603), startup entrepreneur and author of a forthcoming book on women entrepreneurship.
In light of Women's Day (March 8,2014), we chatted with Julia Hartz of Eventbrite and Daphne Koller of Coursera, two of today's leading women entrepreneurs who kindly shared their wisdom, trials, and triumphs with us.
Julia Hartz, Cofounder and President, Eventbrite, crossed the $1 billion mark in 2013. Fortune magazine recently named Hartz one of the 10 most powerful female entrepreneurs.
Q: How did you build your team?
JH: In the beginning, as a small, bootstrapped startup, it was just the three cofounders for two years. As we grew the team, our mission was to find individuals who were brilliant in areas that the three of us didn't have particular rockstar skills. We grew the team to 15 in one year, and it was a gang of incredibly talented individual contributors. We really had to sell our future vision and the people who joined in the early days had to be a little bit crazy to leave behind whatever sure-thing they had to join our team.
Q: Describe the satisfaction you felt when you first offered a job to someone.
JH: Our first employee outside the founding team was an engineer and his first day coincided with the birth of our first child. So I'll never forget it. Kevin literally had to leave the hospital to go let the employee into our office space.
Q: What advice might you give to entrepreneurs who need venture capital for their start-up, but may not live in a big city or have connections?
JH: First, do everything you can to NOT need venture capital right off the bat. Some businesses inherently need capital to get started but I would argue that many do not. We spent very little cash in the first two years of building Eventbrite and were able to gain our independence as a company before going out to the VC community.
Second, make sure you have confidence in your business whether that be through sheer conviction, traction, results, or team -- all of the above helps -- before you go out to pitch the business to the investment community. Pitching your business to outsiders can be a terrifying experience but it also helps to solidify your beliefs in what you're trying to achieve. Investors will sense any trepidation or uncertainty you may have in your business so make sure the conviction is there.
Q. What advice do you have for women entrepreneurs thinking of starting a family? How do you balance being such a rockstar hustler at work and yet make sure that you are there for your daughters?
JH: There is no one way to get it all done but it is possible -- no question about it. For me and Kevin, it's taken a confluence of factors: priorities, strong partnership, help from our family and childcare providers, and the ability to be flexible in our lives to maintain our sense of balance. Our lives are extremely binary at the moment: our passion is in Eventbrite and our love is in our family. That is how we spend our time, full stop.
Daphne Koller, Cofounder Coursera: Over 21 million users in 190 countries
"We envision a future where everyone has access to a world-class education."
Q: Was it your original vision to change the academic platform to the degree it has changed? Or are you surprised by the impact Coursera is having on higher education and degree status?
DK: We started Coursera with a mission to change education globally, giving anyone in the world access to a great education. We have been humbled by how quickly the company and our network of partner institutions and students have grown, and in these relatively early days we recognize that there is still a long way to go.
We fervently believe that the value of a university degree holds strong. Coursera credentials can be a great a supplement for formal education or an alternative to no education for those who would otherwise not have access. At present most of our students already have some form of higher education credential, but in today's world it is increasingly important for individuals to update their skills -- you might think of the courses as booster shots of education. Some students may want to change career paths while others may want to upgrade their skills in order to do their current job better. Many of our students are simply exploring new courses for personal enrichment.
Our vision from the beginning has been to give everyone who wants it access to a great education. We also want to give universities a platform to experiment and research to develop online education pedagogy, integrate online education into the on-campus learning experience where it makes sense, and reach more students than ever before possible.
Q: How did/do you handle resistance from "old school" professors?
DK: As with all new technologies that have the potential to change industries, MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) have been met with skepticism from some parties in the education world. Our approach is to learn from our critics, taking their concerns into account as we develop our platform, while always staying focused on doing what's best for our students.
Q: What advice do you have for women entrepreneurs thinking of starting a family?
DK: Juggling a career and a family is a challenge for anyone, and even more so (in general) for women. Probably the most important advice to any woman interested in a career is to pick your life partner with care. Having a supportive partner is key to trying to manage the constraints of these two demanding roles.
To date, 1.5 million people have viewed Daphne's TED Talk:
Thank you to these two inspiring women for gracefully sharing their wisdom.