This interview is part of a series on Trailblazing Women role models (Entrepreneurs and Leaders) from around the world and first appeared on Global Invest Her. You have to see what you can be.
"I'm excited for you. If you are reading this, you are a trailblazing woman yourself, leading the way to make a global change and have impact. I hope you'll come away with great insights about the journey ahead."
Tiffany Pham is the Founder & CEO of Mogul, an award-winning worldwide platform connecting women to trending content, including stories, products, and jobs that are personalized to their interests. Reaching 18 million women per week across 196 countries and 30,470 cities worldwide, Mogul was named one of the Top NYC Startups to Watch in 2015 by Entrepreneur Magazine, one of the Best Websites for Finding Top Talent in 2015 by Inc. Magazine, one of the Top Websites for Marketing Your Company Online in 2015 by Forbes, and has been honored and recognized by Bustle, Huffington Post, and Harvard Business School.
Tiffany was named one of Forbes "30 Under 30" in Media, Business Insider "30 Most Important Women Under 30" in Technology, ELLE Magazine "30 Women Under 30 Who Are Changing the World," the Recipient of the Cadillac "IVY Innovator" Award, and a Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards Fellow. She has spoken at the United Nations, Microsoft, Bloomberg, AOL, Prudential, Harvard Business School, Wharton Business School, Scripps Research Institute, Northeastern, Columbia, and in Panama and Dubai.
Visit her website at onmogul.com and follow her on Twitter @tifftpham or @onMogul and on Instagram @tifftpham
Who is your role model as an entrepreneur?
My grandmother is my role model. She worked diligently to provide information access in Asia to those around her who needed it. It was her efforts to help inform everyday citizens of the possibilities that existed outside of their towns that really inspired me.
My grandmother was very inspirational and when she passed away when I was fourteen, I promised to her and to myself that I would follow in her footsteps. Ultimately, Mogul is an extension of her legacy. Everyday I think of her and am motivated to carry out that vision that she started long ago.
As a young girl, I used to think about how I could create positive impact in the world. And ultimately, I realized that, by following in my grandmother's footsteps and carrying forward our family legacy of providing information access to the world, I could in fact create the most immediate, impactful change to especially help those in need such as women.
What is your greatest achievement to date?
For me, it is creating Mogul because it was a 15-year journey towards this moment. Everything I did along the way was towards this goal. To finally have built a foundation for creating global impact through Mogul has been an amazing feeling. Developing software to enable the women around the world to share their unique insights, stories, opinions, ideas, and advice, and thereby watching women enhance all aspects of their life as they use the platform is what inspires me and keeps me going every single day.
Mogul emerged organically. Prior to launching a company, knowing that I wanted to learn as much as possible about every facet of the industry. I took on three jobs simultaneously: I handled strategic initiatives within CBS, launched a new venture with the Beijing government, and also produced award-winning feature films and documentaries.
While in these roles, I started receiving hundreds of letters from young women asking for advice about what I was reading everyday, what I was viewing, and what resources I could send them that they should be accessing daily as well. As I was writing back to these hundreds of letters every single week, I started to realize that this would be a powerful way to help women around the world, to provide them with a platform to share information: their insights from the ground level, their careers, their journeys, their lives. From that information exchange, they could gain access to more knowledge from each other and become that much stronger, that much better - the best versions of themselves: moguls.
What has been your biggest challenge as a woman entrepreneur?
Scaling the infrastructure for Mogul proved challenging because I had to essentially implement a world-class team retroactively in order to support the rapid external growth of the company. Upon launch we reached a million users, and I never had that sort of expectation. I thought that for two years, we might be a one-person team, working out of my bedroom in New York. All of a sudden, we grew to such greater heights than I could have ever expected. I had to implement operations and processes that would support that external growth and all of our users.
I therefore think ultimately my biggest challenge is to remember to set high expectations and to know that with all of my hard work, dedication and motivation, I can achieve what is impossible.
Now, as a team we actually set "impossible" goals and retroactively think about how to achieve them. In fact, most things turn out to be quite possible.
What in your opinion is the key to your company's success?
It is 100% hands-down our strong, amazing team. We have a deep passion for enabling women around the world to connect, share information, and access knowledge from one another. Every single one of our team members is an all-star individually in their own right, and our united efforts have led to immense global impact on women worldwide. That even goes for our interns, several of whom graduated early from college in order to work at Mogul full-time as soon as possible.
If you could do one thing differently, what would it be?
As I mentioned earlier, I would have set higher expectations for Mogul and myself. When Mogul first launched, I did not have the confidence to know that our greatest hopes could be achieved. But now, as we develop new products and new features within Mogul, I now have higher expectations. We work alongside our users, incorporating feedback to ensure their success.
It is valuable to rapidly prototype by issuing out new features and then iterating over time to perfection. That's something you have to consistently remind yourself about because as you continue, you're going to become a bigger, more recognizable brand. You may start to lose that little bit of start-up backbone because you think there are so many eyeballs on you. So as long as you can maintain that iterative mentality, knowing that it's better to issue out that 'imperfect' product, you'll be able to reach that best version much faster.
When I look at why tech start-ups such as Mogul are able to disrupt older, traditional media companies, it's because those particular companies had to establish standards for themselves that were so difficult to maintain, and they lost their innovative practices. At Mogul, we will always aim to maintain that start-up DNA and mentality.
What would you say to others to encourage them to become entrepreneurs?
From a technology standpoint, listen to your own ideas and insights, but also listen to feedback from others. You don't have to follow every piece of advice, but do listen. That is the concept behind Mogul, after all: express your ideas and insights while listening to others and bring all of that information back to yourself. Then you can execute on that collective knowledge.
Quickly prototype, rapidly iterate, and as you finally launch your start-up, be resilient and move beyond any no's you may receive because you are going to get a lot of them. Just keep going until you get to the yes's. After all, most of these no's are not even no's, they are actually 'not right now's' until they become yes's.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I think my team would describe me as a very collaborative leader, one that's there to support them every step of the way. My leadership style is centered on empowering each member of our team, entrusting them with their various responsibilities, guiding them and letting them grow on their own to achieve the milestones they have set out to achieve. I do this by establishing goals with them through discussion and agreement, and then the organization as whole enables and supports them as they try to reach those goals through their own strategies. I ensure that all of these strategies and goals are aligned towards the ultimate vision for Mogul.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I think back to my high school days, and I remember moments in which I wondered how I might ever follow in my grandmother's footsteps. At that time, I didn't have the confidence I have today.
When I look back to my younger self, I would tell myself to be confident first and foremost, to believe in myself, before anyone else because if I believe in myself, then others will too. And ultimately, this confidence and belief in myself would enable me to enable other women around the world.
It's about believing in your goals and what you are passionate about, and from that, others will become passionate about it too.
What would you like to achieve in the next 5 years?
Over the next five years, we aim for Mogul to become the leading digital hub for women around the world, providing them with a platform and community to gain access to knowledge from each other and ultimately become the best versions of themselves, 'moguls."
To achieve this, we will continue to expand in the ways in which we are currently creating impact: not only in terms of information sharing, but also in terms of economic opportunity and educational advancement. For example, we currently enable users who are small business owners to come onto our platform and gain even more of an audience for their products and online shops; we will therefore continue to strengthen the tools provided to promote such products. We also enable users to discover and apply for jobs through the platform; we will thus continue to enhance the ways in which we match users to such opportunities and thereby accelerate the rate at which women are placed into top leadership positions. And in terms of education, we will continue to strengthen the educational aspects of our platform, via the Mogul Courses, which we developed to help the 62 million girls around the world who are literally prevented from entering schools and thus not getting access to an education. Our Mogul Global Ambassadors, the most passionate users on our platform who are leading Mogul's mission to enable women worldwide, are helping us to impact girls' education by selecting the recipients of our Courses globally.
3 key words to describe yourself?
- Accelerate your career and entrepreneurial aspirations, and improve all aspects of your life with full access to 10 award-winning Courses,
- one-on-one private advice available 24/7,
- and the best tips and hacks delivered daily to your inbox.
Photo Credit : Christopher Willits.
Watch Anne Ravanona's TEDx talk on Investing in Women Entrepreneurs.
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