What better way to spend Valentine's Day than by learning from successful, powerful women?
Women 2.0's "The Next Billion" conference gathered over a thousand women and men (yes, some of them dared to join the mostly female crowd, such as Andreessen Horowitz’s Scott Kupor and surprise guest John Farmer from the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy).
It's safe to say it was a success, mostly because of the quality of the content and the speakers. At the end of the day, we almost felt as if our brains were about to explode, but in the sense that we got so much encouragement and advice, at some point some of us just wanted to drop everything and go create a startup to change the world.
In case you missed it, Examiner.com compiled a list of the conference's highlights and best tips. (Content is available on Women 2.0's website.)
- All Things D's Kara Swisher should emcee everything, always. She opened up with "my life is a sausage fest", and reminded the audience that qualified women should be on boards, and should be top executives. She shared anecdotes of top male executives who went to her for advice on how to find these women (sad but true) and urged women to keep on creating startups.
- Women are the next billion dollar market. TRUSTe's Fran Maier, also co-founder of Match.com, reminded us that women represent 75% of the buying power, so around 5 trillion dollars in purchasing power. As women founders, we have the advantage to understand what these consumers want and need, so it's time to go after that market. It was also very refreshing to hear her stress on the importance of helping each other out: women are too often told that they are in competition, while men help each other climb the ladder. Time we do the same. (Check out Fran's video interview above.)
- "Never let someone telling you you're crazy get you down. In fact, it probably means you're on the right track", said Rashmi Sinha, founder of SlideShare, now acquired by LinkedIn. All the women on the disruption panel had the same experience: smart people telling them their idea would never work. Fortunately, that only made them want to prove those guys wrong.
- Being an entrepreneur and a mom is possible. "Work/life balance is a myth", said LUMOback CEO Monisha Perkash, for whom convergence of the two made everything a lot easier. Not working so hard on separating her job from her family life helped her achieve balance.
- 3 tips stood out of Paula Long's amazing speech (founder of EqualLogic, which exited to Dell for 1.375 billion.) "Should you build something just because you can?", "customers don't make mistakes, products do" and "if your engineers think they're the center of the universe, get out. Marketing matters". All three reflect a common problem in the Valley bubble. First, that technology for the sake of it, (or just for money) is a good thing. Sometimes, we don't need another Instagram or another Pinterest just because someone can build it. Second, customers are not "dumb", and users are people with real problems that you are here to solve. Third, marketing is not "that thing women do", while (mostly male) engineers create the good stuff. Marketing is vital to a company's success. (Lauren Bacon wrote a great article about that.)
- A simple design change can make a ton of difference. Julie Zhuo and Naomi Gleit from Facebook shared that redesigning Facebook's registration page, which simplified it tremendously, brought 9 million more registrations.
- John Farmer from the White House just appearing on stage as a last minute surprise guest, telling women to apply to the "Presidential Innovation Fellows" program. Get on it ladies!
- Lynda Weinman, co-founder of lynda.com, is amazing. But we already knew that. She proved once again that if you're changing people's lives, then it's going to work out and you will succeed (without even needing investors' money FYI, they raised 103 million dollars in a single round for the first time after 18 years).
- Lastly, the very, very talented teams from all around the world, who took part in the startup pitch competition, really raised the bar. The winner, Angaza design, founded by CEO Lesley Marincola, aims to change the world with "pay as you go solar" in East Africa. Check out her video interview here.
- The advice that kept coming back: trust and believe in yourself. As women we are often taught that we shouldn't want more, and we bust our asses because we feel what we do is never enough. Well, that tendency to overwork ourselves may come in handy when we create the next billion dollar companies.