Female Leadership

July 2, 2019

The definition of sexual harassment by generation

Times they are a changing. What is considered sexual harassment today vs 20 years ago is rather remarkable. I watched Mad Men, end to end. It did a great job of showing how the women started out as secretaries, under the rule of a man, rewarded for total obedience but slowly began to move in to important roles of their own.

I worked for a year in the City of London, in a financial services firm. It was like Wolf of Wall Street. Yet I watched as some of the admin girls quite liked the flirting. And the men were encouraged to do it. Now 10 years later, we have thankfully progressed and this is no longer appropriate. But for those that worked in finance from the age of 20 and learned this behaviour was normal, now have a hard time understanding what is right and wrong. And some wish it could go back to the old times, where ‘women were less sensitive’.

I did not grow up in times of social media, so to meet a guy, they did have to approach you at the bar. There was no other way. Then calling you and texting you non stop was considered sweet. These days people have swiped and liked and chatted before they even reach a bar.

Recently my Dad and I had a chat about his dear friend, who sadly passed over Easter. He was a well respected doctor and in retirement had joined the CES as a volunteer. He was well liked and one day he was talking with another senior colleague and as she walked away he patted her bottom. A junior colleague saw this and reported him. Yet the senior colleague was not offended in the slightest, in fact she found the whole exchange pleasant.

The CES was forced to explore it. The man felt awful, this is not what he wanted to be known for. The girl was right – as that behaviour is not ideal in work, nor is the dominating nature of the act itself. Yet the ‘victim’ did not even identify as one.

I also have close friends, around the age of 45, that do not understand when I tell them their chat is inappropriate. It’s because it was appropriate 10 years ago. When they were dating the acts of bravado, and heavy drinking showcased their manliness. But now this is seen as disrespectful and by not listening to a woman’s wishes, it’s borderline mistreatment. But it’s easy to see why men find it hard to work out the playing field.

At Travltalk, as a female CEO, I also have to ensure I never intimidate or offend the members of my team. In some ways, being responsible for a team of men, means I have to ensure I also don’t compromise male pride and not act at work like I’m around the brunch table from Sex in the City. As we call men to account for their offensive chat, women also cannot band together and make jokes about a man’s size or package.

I would never do that. I do refer to Travltalk as my baby, but I am starting to move away fro that. It implies a maternal connection, when in fact it is time to hand Travltalk to the world. When Henry, my React Native developer released the Travltalk app through the iOS store, I made a joke that it felt like we were giving birth. I’m confident Henry found that amusing, but I wonder if the role was reversed, how the woman would feel. As the times change and equality becomes a norm in the workplace, I will also be ensuring as a female leader I keep up with what is fair for both sides and practice what I preach.

July 2, 2019

Thinking about starting your own company? Learn to code first!

They say coding is the new literacy and I firmly agree. Whether you’ve read Gravity’s Rainbow twice or keep your daily reading to Twitter drama, there’s no doubt that reading is fundamental. Similarly, you might hate math, but you’ll be eaten alive in business if you can’t tackle a budget.

The same is already being said about understanding code, and it’s getting truer every day. You may not want to be a developer, but as the world becomes a pancake-stack of platforms and interfaces, it’s key to learn about how the infrastructure is built and the common principles that drive the modern world.

When I decided to start a tech business, I already had a practical understanding of digital user experience and project managing web applications. Yet I had never been part of the technical decision-making.

I felt this in the pit of my stomach – one wrong decision could cost me my business. What type of platform would Travltalk be built on? How could I know if our product was being architected properly? There are planty of sharks in the tech world, and people who will charge the earth, but not deliver the product you’re expecting. They can walk away, while you’re left with a buggy prototype that crashes outside of a controlled demo.

I decided to take General Assembly’s Full Stack Web Development course. It was 12 weeks, full time, and I entered not knowing anything about HTML5, CSS, Javascript or Ruby on Rails – let alone how to use the Terminal!

In my third week I had built a responsive tic-tac-toe game, and created logic to program the application to deliver feedback depending on user input. By the sixth week I rebuilt Twitter from scratch, following Michael Hartl’s tutorial. It took 8 hours. After building a Backbone app in the ninth week, I truly understood the power of a front-end framework.

For my final project, I rebuilt Airbnb from scratch, with full functionality, and customised it to be AirChef – a platform where chefs could offer to cook at private dinner parties. The ‘hosts’ would advertise the gig, and chefs could apply, with the hosts selecting their preferred cook for their event.

I stopped coding, but now had a lot more answers than when I started. My new understanding of platforms, and how web and mobile worked, gave me a new respect for different programming languages, cloud infrastructure, how front-end and back end frameworks interact, and the time required to complete tasks.

Now I was able to plan effectively around my developers. By pushing features that were already compatible with the framework, we could move quickly. Without knowing how to code, I could have easily sunk tens of thousands into non-trivial features rather than low-hanging fruit. It’s not the developer’s role to shape the product. That has to come from the product owner.

The 12 week course cost me $12,000, but it’s paid back tenfold by saving me from poor technical decisions. As a start up, you’ll receive all types of advice, but at the end of the day, you are the person accountable. By learning to code, you arm yourself with valuable artillery. The sooner you equip yourself with this knowledge, the stronger you will become.

July 2, 2019

Should female entrepreneurs have to care what they wear?

I had been going to a series of investor evenings organised by a firm in the city. Their draw was to choose a high end location – like the Athenaeum Club in Pall Mall, and then invite a group of high net worth individuals and Startups that want to pitch the room. Despite the classy location, I didn’t dress up – in fact I went in jeans and a blouse usually to ensure I didn’t send the wrong signal to a room full of men.

I found these evenings particularly difficult as a woman – I was usually one of three women, both of which usually turned out to be admin assistants, amongst 100 men – of varying ages, all of whom were drinking and pretending to be investors – although some actually were not. Further the pitch game – of me talking about my app – Tinder for Travel but without the dating – got a bit ridiculous as did the misogynistic chat from ‘would be investors’, as more drinks were consumed. The number of times I asked have you heard of Tinder – and the responses I got back – including married men are hard to describe. All I will say is in that environment I had to drop that part of my elevator pitch.

Even though I didn’t like the climate, there were not that many pitch events with HNW individuals in London and I felt like if I didn’t go I would miss out on observing other Startups and where I sat in the race.

It’s worth noting here, in 2019, the London Startup scene is still behind Silicon Valley and the US in the sense of reducing the fanfare with pitching – something I find interesting – but none the less – it was the afternoon and I was getting ready to go to the event. Suddenly an email came through:

The club has just informed us about their strict dress code. 

  • Men are required to wear jackets and ties. 
  • Women are required to dress formally. 
  • No trainers or jeans.  

We must all dress to kill. Please pass on this message. 

I found this quite inappropriate. Having been to 3 of these events already, I knew it would be all men. I would be the only one in a dress. It annoyed me, but in response, I dressed to kill. I put on a very demure dress, high heels, earrings, nice makeup and put my hair up. I arrived and men fell all over me. They treated me delicately and every single on complimented me on my appearance. I hated every minute. But I noticed dressing in this manner elicited a totally different response. The patronising was less, but I was seen more as a little girl. I actually preferred it when the drunk guys tried to show off and I was in jeans – because I could handle that in my own skin.

I found it completely unfair that how I dressed and what I wore affected how men responded to me approaching them to pitch and the time they gave me.

As a female, it’s just a fact, we do have to put more effort in to our appearance than men. Makeup, hair, bras, underwear – the list goes on. Well we have the right not to, but as you can see above, I have learned the hard way many times that image matters. I try to be honest and authentic in business and as such, I attempted to trade on intelligence alone. I didn’t put on makeup, I wore jeans – and I still do – and didn’t ever think to brush my hair.

I always used to think a person should be able to wear what they like. Steve Jobs famously wore only one thing so he could spend time elsewhere. I see his point, but he’s not making much of an effort. There is a difference between effort and expectation. I might not expect a guy to dress nicely when I go out with him, but if he does, I really appreciate the effort. It’s those small things that matter.

Part of being a founder is living your idea and your company. Your image is symbiotically linked to your Startup brand. Given I don’t want to feel like I have to dress up, but I also respect I want to look presentable, I spent some time struggling with what image I wanted to project to the world. I get nervous in front of cameras still and while I have presented in many boardrooms, when many eyes watch you in a pitch – I used to cringe if I thought about how I looked.

Over time, I’ve learned to accept myself, and be myself and realise – if I feel uncomfortable – I’m in the wrong place – I stopped going to those evenings and realised I wouldn’t find the right investors there anyway. But I did learn what to avoid!

I no longer begrudge that I have to take more care in my appearance than men. Quite simply at this stage of the game, it doesn’t matter. Ultimately – if you expect someone to invest in you and believe you can inspire others, make an effort and prove that’s the case. This goes for both men and women.  

July 2, 2019

How to gain respect as a female in tech

Female Entrepreneur was created as a shout-out for women in tech – because while the wage gap is closing and women’s representation in STEM and popular culture has been on the rise, there’s still a strange and perverse myth that women cannot be technical. How many times have you seen people assume that the female engineer or product lead in the room is the girl from marketing?

As women in tech, it’s often worth stating your tech credentials upfront. Rather than introduce yourself by summarising your past positions, discuss the technical nature of those positions and what you are responsible for and therefore implicitly understand. It immediately establishes your place in the room.

Will this rub some people the wrong way? Probably. Is it hard for your male colleagues to understand how often this happens? Definitely. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve seen disappointment or confusion when talking to a prospective investor when they learn that there’s no man they can talk about tech or money with, once the outreach or elevator pitch is over.

Every woman in tech has her share of horror stories and failing fast. For me it was the time that I almost had my app stolen. Planes, who had built Travltalk with me, were starting to expand, and I needed to find investment to keep Travltalk going beyond our London micro-launch. In the meantime I was approached by an development agency offering me their services to maintain the app.

I moved my entire tech stack over, sad to say goodbye to Planes, but excited to work with a new agency who claimed to have experience in React Native. Over the next six weeks, they took control of my product, assigned me a project manager to deal with my requests, and laughed when I went to them with questions. (As it turns out, they also had zero React Native experience.)

After six weeks, I grabbed my laptop, buzzed their downstairs office, walked in and asked the project manager to promptly sign all the admins over for my app and remove their access. Surprise! As it turns out, I did understand how the platform worked – and that’s what saved me. I’m not sure whether a guy would have gotten the same treatment (hard to A/B test that sort of thing!) but it was pretty clear they had underestimated me.

Don’t let it happen to you. Don’t be afraid to rustle some feathers. Put your credentials on the table and make sure everyone knows that you’re a true digital pioneer.

July 2, 2019

To incubate or not to incubate? That is the question!

I did not incubate Travltalk. I’ve also had no formal guidance or advice on which decisions I should make, platforms to use, scaling our resource or linked to our media and marketing.

Madness? Probably. On the other hand, I worked at a global media agency running brands like Intel, Canon, HTC Vive, and Universal Pictures – covering the entire channel marketing mix within the countries of UK and Australia. Budgets ranged from £150,000 to £10 million, and I was ultimately accountable for all of it.

This experience gave me insight in to what it took to be a global brand – the standard consumers expect, the importance of safe data collection, a dedicated team, and most of all caring about your customers. Within my role, I learned a lot about paid, owned, and earned media, the London and Sydney agency landscapes across media, PR, and creative. I also saw a lot of marketing failures, each of which was educational in its own way.

I started my career after studying at university for 7 years and then travelling to over 80 countries. It was the study, the travel and the career, that gave me the confidence to incubate myself. However without my network and prior understanding of the market landscape – across mobile, web and travel – I’d be flying blind.

That is where an incubator comes in. They exist to help people with brilliant ideas understand the business landscape they will operate in. If you’re just leaving high school, join an incubator. If you’re just leaving uni, join an incubator. If you’ve established a career but don’t feel like you know enough about startups, join an incubator. It’s an incredible education and you’ll build the connections you need to succeed.

But if you’re an experienced sole founder with a good understanding of your target audience – because you are one of them, or have worked in the industry for years? If you can build a product to a standard you know is acceptable without an incubator? GO FOR IT. The paperwork, events, and lessons will slow you down. Instead go to meetups and read blogs. Dive into Stack Overflow, LinkedIn, and Medium. Everything you need to know to get to pitch stage with an MVP can be found online.

I always believed accelerators and incubators were the link to investors. I feared that without a name behind me, I would have a harder time getting attention. But I learned that if you have passion and understand how your product can fit a major market opportunity, that’s what captures the attention of investors. Being represented by an incubator might have led to a few introductions – but cost me equity points in the process.

If you do want to join an incubator, choose carefully. A lot of incubators are startup owners who didn’t quite make it. Or they are well-meaning people who have stagnated in their own careers and want to ‘help’ startups. In many cases their senior positions have left them out of touch with the market.

Understand how an incubator will foster your vision rather than forward their own reputation by leveraging yours. Ask upfront how they connect you with investors and what they teach beyond what you can find online. Is coursework based on practical outcomes and what do they guarantee after you leave? For the time and equity you spend with them, will you come out the other side the first-class startup you wouldn’t have been without their help? Or are you comfortable making your own decisions until you’re ready to pitch for investment?

Even if pitching isn’t your thing – you can always find someone who will join you – you’ll have more leverage at that point as your product will be ready. It’s not difficult to find people in the startup ecosystem who are genuine and quite enjoy business development. That’s how I got into VR – essentially doing business development for Start VR in the UK market and getting our value proposition in front of my network.

Finally, the people who know you are the most likely to give you helpful feedback. It’s great to leverage your network, whereas an incubator uses a network of their own. As an alternative, consider joining a WeWork – I started at Old St. and found the energy of buzzing startups and the events they held could replace the need for inclusion that an incubator fulfills for lonely startup founders.

There is no one right way. But if you know your market better than anyone, don’t pay experts to tell you what you already know. You’ll come out disappointed, with 3-6 months evaporated.

July 2, 2019

The importance of failing fast

I became a true entrepreneur at the age of 36, after a lifetime of trial and error. Those failures are the best education I ever had.

When I first started working at an agency in London, I took every small pitch seriously, as though the contents of the slides I had created were gospel – after all I’d spent hours designing them to illustrate the user journey. I’ll never forget the day we presented to a large client and the idea was just swiped off the table by my account director and we moved on.

It was at that point I learned slides don’t mean much. To bring an idea to life you have to activate, inspire, and lead. But sometimes you have to let your ideas go. If others don’t believe in the initial premise, it will be hard to find supporters.

That’s the beauty of failing fast. As a CEO of a growing company, I have to make quick decisions. But the benefit (and downside) of having control over your company is that the buck stops with you. It’s impossible to know everything. The whole idea behind startups is that they are test beds, and the aim is to fail as quickly as possible, without spending too much cash before you realise you’re wrong.

It might sound strange to encourage failure. But success is really just the sum of all the lessons you have learned – if you’ve been listening. When I hire a new person, I have criteria that I have found is vital, because in the past I’ve had to let others go. When I get a sales pitch, it’s the money I spent poorly on media that prevents me from making the same mistake twice.

With a startup, you let go of perfection. It takes a while, because startups have to be a lot more agile while still being accountable. All bases must be covered. Reputations are built around how we solve problems as they arise – to maintain growth and longevity.

It’s due to a series of ‘failures’ that I see the world differently today and am less surprised when things don’t go the way I had planned. A marriage breakdown, moving back to London from Sydney with no cash, getting fired from a big job, and above all taking risks, gave me the ability to bootstrap a startup with £2000 in the bank.

Failure is the cost of a good education – ironically one you’re unlikely to get from studying. The good news is failure is accessible to all of us, and while it’s not free, you choose how much you pay. Once you realise something isn’t working, iterate and move on to save cash for other mistakes.

Without failure there cannot be success. Never lose sight of your goals, but pay attention to what made you miss them. Stay in the game and never make the same mistake twice. You can do it!

July 2, 2019

How the rise of Airbnb killed the hostel culture – and how Travltalk is bringing it back

At Travltalk we describe ourselves as Tinder for travel without the f*%ing (or the Netflix and chill, if you like that better). It’s always good for a laugh in an elevator pitch, but today I’d like to dig into what it really means.

Since its launch, people have found Tinder useful to connect to people nearby in new locations. However, as it turned out, these people rarely wanted to date each other. (There’s a reason why “Tindr is just for making bad puns” is one of the community’s biggest in-jokes.)

Having been to 80 countries, I’ve experienced first-hand how alternative travel is driven by word-of-mouth. The information you only tended to hear when you were in a hostel common room or listening to the story second-hand when you met another traveller on a tour group. Secret destinations and hidden getaways that most tourists would never hear about.

As Airbnb became more popular, people left hostel commons rooms, but the desire to learn about the hidden gems never disappeared. But social media isn’t designed to make these types of connections easy. Facebook is for existing or new friends. Instagram is your channel to the world. Twitter is a lot of noise unless you have time to research. Dating only lets you create one profile – based mainly on appearance – but fails to contextualise interest.

Right now there are 300 million millennials travelling the world, with more joining the adventure every day. Yet there’s still no way for travellers to connect before they arrive in a destination – or once they’re there, if they are not in the same physical location.

This is why we built Travltalk – so travellers can share their travelling identities, their nationality, where they are going, and their next trip (the golden questions you first ask a traveller when you meet them on the road). We did it in a way that we’re all used to – swiping. With Travltalk you can can create postcards of travel activities where you’d like to meet up or split the cost. You can also dictate the time and dates you’re in town when you create your postcards.

It also makes it easy for backpackers to buy and sell things when moving on or arriving in a new place. One person’s trash is always another person’s treasure, especially when you’re on the road.

Our app is free to download and use – forever. Our premium service lets you see postcards in other countries and connect with travellers who will be in town at the same time, before you land.

These are still very early days, as we did a micro-launch in London back in June 2018 and are just starting to build our global user base. We’ve seen downloads exploding across multiple countries and our official launch in London was a smash hit. It’s an incredible feeling to see Travltalk improving travel for people, and helping them sell things and meet lifelong friends.

If you have checked out our app, let us know. We love feedback and want to ensure we can make Travltalk the best app out there for those looking to connect with like-minded travellers in this beautiful world of ours.

July 2, 2019

How I became an entrepreneur…

Every tech startup founder has their story – the common thread is that there’s no simple or direct path to being an entrepreneur. Here’s how I went from working fast food in Adelaide to launching a mobile app in London, and what I learned along the way. (Buckle up, there will be lots of failing fast!)

I grew up near the beach in Adelaide and got my first computer at age 8, playing text adventure games. I studied the old-fashioned way, which I guess gave me a love of history and literature. It was a school report on South America at the age of 10 that made me realise there was a big wide world out there and I wanted to travel it.

But I had no money. My parents were like everyone else. I worked a succession of jobs – McDonalds, the local supermarket, a suit rental company, National Australia Bank. The supermarket especially was tiring and thankless work, but it gave me a lifelong respect for the value of money, and for the people who help us access fresh food.

By this time I was at University studying Commerce. We took the subject Information Systems and the conversation about input, processing, storage and output perplexed me, but I liked when we applied it to Excel and Access.

I studied marketing and then law. After the end of a 5-year high school romance, I decided to plan my first trip away. It would be a two-month Winter Wonderland Contiki trip around Europe with my sister. The secrets will remain from that trip, but it was the first time I’d been away from my home town, and I realised how little I knew about the world, and made myself a promise to see more.

After finishing Uni, I went on to travel over 50 countries alone. Just myself and a backpack. I started out pretty gormless, and quickly adapted. In a foreign environment, with no protection or local understanding, you hone your instincts and do what you can to blend into your environment. For safety, but more poetically to connect with those around you. Travelling the world taught me how to interact, listen, learn and most importantly how all sorts of economies worked.

I certainly understood how to make money last longer than normal and along the way I met truly inspirational people that would go on to become successful business people. This was the spell travel put me under – I wanted to meet all sorts of people and understand their backgrounds. It was like an ethnography of life. I researched and collected data and came out with lifelong friends as I went.

I had explored so many corners of the Earth, I became fluent in Spanish after living in Argentina for 6 months and internship work or relationships had taken me to Poland, Israel, India and Colombia. After 3 years travelling on $10 a day, I grew tired of life on the road and also met a Colombian man while on an internship in Chennai, India.

It was inevitable that  I would fall for a foreigner, since I barely saw Australians at all anymore. We had a fairy-tale year together, got married in Adelaide in front of 80 of my friends at a backyard wedding, and moved to London with plans to start a new life.

We arrived in January 2009 – the height of the global financial crash. A Uni friend from Adelaide hired me as a financial adviser in the City of London – a rather tough gig. I’d been living in hippie pants and off $10 a day in hostels. I was now surrounded by extreme wealth and I wore a suit with Havaianas for 5 months on the tube, because I wasn’t ready to let the good times go (although looking back I must have appeared ridiculous)!

It was a boiler-room-style role, and I had to cold call city bankers and lawyers if I wanted to make any money. It was here, safe to say I learned how to tame dragons. I was one of 4 female financial advisers in a room full of 80, and I was fresh meat, but after 6 months I topped the company. (I can also say Wolf on Wall Street is more a documentary than a film.)

Given I had a law and commerce degree, I thought I should look beyond advisory and move in to marketing, which I had a passion for. A year after I had started, I resigned. I was on a commission structure so by that evening I was unemployed. Another leap into the unknown.

Although the city still severely needs an equality shakeup, I’ve also met great people here. My boss, who had originally hired me, is the one that introduced me to my seed investors for Travltalk.

My husband worked as a developer in a media agency. I didn’t know what an agency did, but I was curious. A friend I’d met travelling in Laos was working for a PR company that supported film releases, so I tagged along and offered my services for free and observed what she did. My husband and I helped with the website and film release. By now it was 2010 and brands were paying attention to Facebook. (Of course at this stage Facebook wasn’t making any money; people loved the platform, but were laughing at their business model.)

I’ll always be grateful to 1000heads, who gave me my first big break at 27. After I pulled together a great presentation that sealed the deal, they trained me in client management and social media, and I worked on the Nokia account. I won accounts, flew to Helsinki to help develop their global social media strategy and learned a lot about mobile platforms. I also watched the decline of a giant – when I started everyone loved their Nokia phones, it was their first mobile phone – but suddenly Apple took over. I watched with sadness as a company with good people fell apart because they didn’t pivot fast enough.

I moved on to OMD UK, as I had the chance to work on the Intel Consumer and Enterprise account. I had to educate CIOs and CTOs on big data siloes, cloud infrastructure, and processing power – finally my first year at Uni was making sense. But here I learned how to harness publishers and partners to create meaningful content – a CIO will not click on a banner ad to upgrade a server, but they will read a useful branded, free whitepaper.

I cut my career teeth on social, as Twitter and Facebook were expanding and watched as they grew and the tactics they used, because the numbers never lie – and then revenue follows.

I love networking, but the dining and drinking seemed to be pulling me away from my desire to learn and further my career. So my husband and I decided to move to Australia with a view of doing what you do at age 32.

Coming back to Australia slowed everything down. We rented a nice townhouse in Surry Hills and I got a job easily at MediaCom, running Universal Pictures and Canon Photography. My husband got a job with a Sydney startup. I had no idea what was coming, but leaving London revealed that I was not content in my life, or in my marriage. Everyone thought we were doing fine, and it seemed like there was never a good time to say otherwise.

The idea of Travltalk, literally came to me when I was sitting under a tree. I know it sounds cliché, but it did. The afternoon sunlight was shining down and I realised there was no reliable platform out there for travel. This was the root of Travltalk (or Travlyfe as we called it then).

I quit my job at MediaCom, moved to a few different agencies and realised I wanted to challenge myself. I went with some friends and my husband to Thailand – to my happy place. I had first been there in 2007, when it was a few dusty huts on the beach, then back in 2013 to see it had been built in to a hippy village for rock climbers with huts further back in the jungle.

It was now 2015. We sailed in on the boat – it’s not accessible by car – only to see smoke. In fact the hippy village had been burned down to make way for a resort. We still had a good time, but over 8 years, my happy place had been built and burned down. Everything evolves over time and you have to appreciate that places can rise and fall depending on higher forces – it’s not about beauty but money.

I returned to work and quit my six-figure job a week later – as I told the Huffington Post at the time, it felt like a rebirth. It was time to do my own thing. I spoke to my husband and asked in we could live on one salary – and he agreed. He was also going to be the person who was developing the platform.

So here’s actually where I became an entrepreneur. I was entrepreneurial – but I didn’t know the first thing about startups. I read and read and got all the online advice from Silicon Valley. I went to pitch events, meetups and realised you need to know how to code to have a startup.

I had created the business plan, pitch deck, done the branding and we had the wireframes for the website. Things on the development side were moving slowly. I was getting down, he was coming home from work later and later. (It was certainly my first mistake in startups – working with your partner and also having them responsible for the product.) I decided to take the General Assembly full stack coding course so I could help out.

Without this course, I don’t think I would have been able to run a technical startup. I came out the other side, three months later, and my marriage broke down. Just as I thought we were ready to take on the world, it turned out my husband had not been building much, and my first rejection from YCombinator dropped into my inbox.

I was now 33, divorced and jobless, with no startup and a high rent. I stayed afloat by becoming an Airbnb superhost until my lease was up. After 8 years of marriage, I decided to travel in the Balkans to find myself again; I had come very close to having children, but now I was 33 and single again. The world used Tinder and dated in a way that felt unfamiliar.

It was at that point I got into virtual reality – a new startup from Sydney wanted me to expand their business in London, using my media network. I was fascinated by VR and saw it as a great opportunity. Later I went to HTC Vive – a dream come true, since I couldn’t afford to build a startup of my own, but instead would be leading the marketing charge to build the Vive brand in the EMEA market. We were a startup in an enterprise organisation. (Later I would work at Leap Motion as their London program manager.)

A month before I started at HTC, my design agency Spruce had kicked off the building of the Travltalk prototype. It was after leaving Leap Motion that I became a total entrepreneur. I didn’t work elsewhere. I didn’t go out, I lived the brand, made documents, counted every penny – because I lived off £2,000 a month and my rent was £1000. I took a loan from my pre-seed investor to cover my position for 3 months, until I planned to have the new React Native product live in June, which would allow me to raise seed capital.

In September I raised £150,000. The rest is still history in the making. What I’ve learned over the last several years is that to be an entrepreneur you don’t need any one thing, but you take a collection of everything you have ever been exposed to and piece it together. At 36, I’m just getting started.

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