Entrepreneurs: Tip The Scales In Your Favor With These 5 Tips
Recently, SheSays Denver had the opportunity to attend the Women in Cable Telecommunications’ “Tech It Out” conference. The theme was “Creating Bold, Self-Empowered Leaders.” We had the pleasure of interviewing one of the conference panel members, Jennifer Sargent, CEO and Co-Founder of HitFix.
Jennifer was part of the “Trends in Media-Consumer and Technology” panels Tech It Out. She is a frequent mentor to aspiring entrepreneurs, so we figured we’d take advantage of her savvy and share her tips with you:
Find A Mentor
Jennifer has an MBA from Harvard Business School and a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from UVa. Shortly upon graduating from UVa, she ended up getting out of technology. Why? “I wish I would have looked for a female mentor sooner,” she says. “After college, I didn’t have a mentor that stayed in technology, and most of my fellow engineering classmates had gone into different industries.” The lesson here is that entrepreneurs should surround themselves with mentors and advisers early on. It will help them avoid mistakes and give them a sense of community. So rather than perhaps becoming a programmer in Silicon Valley, Jennifer took her career took a different direction.
Be A Survivor: Outwit, Outplay, and Outlast
When men go in to pitch for funding, they often have these “rule the world presentations” (a little unrealistic, in other words). Men often pitch with this ridiculous amount of confidence, and they are okay not being able to back everything up. Women on the other hand, often pitch a more thoughtful, conservative plan because their plans are in fact attainable, and they have the data to back it up. Often, though, the Venture Capitalists want to be a part of the “big idea” — the potential $20 billion companies instead of the smaller, mom and pop companies that are actually going to be profitable.
Don’t Overthink Things
Men have a tendency to follow up on things immediately, even if their answer is half-baked. Women are often more thoughtful in their follow up, resulting in a slower response time. For example, what if a VC asks you to send them three slides after a pitch? A female entrepreneur may be thinking, “I’ll wait until tomorrow morning when I’m back at my desk, and I’m going to prepare three great slides.” But, you may get busy the next day, and your slides don’t get sent until late afternoon. In the meantime, your male counterpart will pick three random slides as he gets on the plane, sending them the same day.
Female entrepreneurs are sometimes slower to respond, and Jennifer speculates that it’s because they want to be more prepared. “I’m not discouraging that,” she says, “but at the same time, I think that women need to be aware of those natural tendencies of wanting to be more prepared and try to work within the environment and constraints they face so they can be competitive.”
Nature Vs. Nurture: Stop And Recognize The Signs
At the Harvard Business School (HBS), class evaluations are done with “The Case Method,” which includes a category for class participation. Everyone in the HBS classes, men and women, has the same qualifications. A few years ago, HBS realized that at the end of a course, the men would often score better than the women even though both genders had the same qualifications going into the course. When they looked more closely, they determined it was because men were more forcefully vocal in class, scoring higher in the “class participation” category. Specifically, the men were pushy about making their comments, even when the professor would say “no more comments.” Women often stopped commenting, respectful of the professor’s wishes. After identifying this trend, HBS asked professors to change how they were engaging students for class participation. Once they made the adjustment, the scores evened out between men and women.
“This example is indicative of the business world,” Jennifer explains. “There are natural tendencies that women have that serve us well in many other parts of life, but when we are in the business world, we need to be conscious of them and make sure they are not holding us back.”
Best advice you’ve received?
Figure out what you want and ask for it. That may be a promotion, a raise, the ability to run a project, or more responsibility than your role currently offers. When it comes to being an entrepreneur, it often boils down to asking for money. Don’t be shy. Ask for the amount of money that you actually need. Jennifer says, “when I mentor people, women in particular, they often haven’t crystallized what they want or they just aren’t asking for it.”
What do you want people to know about HitFix?
HitFix is all about helping consumers discover, talk about, and experience the TV, movie, and pop culture they love. “We want you to be the smartest person in your friend group when it comes to entertainment,” Jennifer says.
Consumers are experiencing something called “content paralysis.” There’s an overwhelming amount of information out there and people are trying to learn how to navigate through this information overload with limited time. “HitFix is a place and a brand that helps consumers cut through the clutter and figure out what movies and shows are worth their time,” says Jennifer. “I’m very excited about this explosion in content. It’s giving consumers more and more access to content, so the need for curation and taste makers has never been higher.”
There’s something to be said about “less is more,” especially when your audience has an attention span of about eight seconds. Jennifer and Hitfix.com have certainly nailed how to break through the clutter. For example, take a look at their “See or Skip” section where they deliver key content in seven seconds and cleverly tack on about eight seconds of advertising. Now that’s what you call a double whammy!