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Female Founders: Dipika Patel and Annelise Osborne of GreatOne On The Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

Women have financial and educational power. We are powerhouses. I encourage women to follow their idea, build, strategize, find allies and build the company. Also, don’t do it alone. Lean on business contacts and professional networks for support and guidance.

As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dipika Patel and Annelise Osborne.

Dipika Patel, founder and managing member of GreatOne, is a veteran hotel operations and real estate executive with over 20 years’ experience developing, managing, and transacting Select Service and Full-Service hotels across the United States. In addition, she spent 14 years on Wall Street with leading banks and private equity firms, including Citigroup, Merrill Lynch, and Bank of America. Dipika is proficient in five languages and has extensive business experience in the Middle East, Asia, Europe and North America. She is the chairwoman of the Patel family office and Patel Foundation.

Annelise Osborne, founding team and board member of GreatOne, is a finance executive with 25 years of experience in capital markets, structured finance, debt ratings, fintech, digital assets, and blockchain. Her experience includes Arca Labs, Moody’s, JLL, WP Carey, Propellr and Metechi. Annelise holds an MBA in Finance from Columbia Business School, a BA in Economics from The College of William and Mary, and has won industry accolades such as the Women of Influence (Innovation) award in 2021.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Dipika: My dad was a great inspiration for me in my early years, particularly his confidence when it came to negotiating and closing deals. Being raised in a business environment and exposed to bankers, vendors and suppliers would end up being a great help in my work life. The roots of my career were planted at university in England, where I was selected to participate in the Jack Welch Six Sigma program. I was fortunate enough to travel to Paris, London and New York, where I got to understand the different divisions of GE Capital. After graduating and earning my Six Sigma black belt certificate, I moved to New York and started my career in financial markets. My Wall Street exposure enabled me to understand the end-to-end banking workflow across fixed income and equities. This capital markets’ expertise encouraged me to open up my own investment firm, Hayden Holdings, where I converted over $250 million in equity capital into real estate deals worth over a billion dollars through acquisition, development, design, construction, asset management and capital management.

Annelise: I love to learn so I’m always looking to challenge myself. I follow new financial structures, new business environments and new technologies. My first job post-college was starting an advertising agency in Ukraine while not speaking the language. That led me to help start the JLL office in Kiev before working in London. After business school, I participated in the early days of mortgage-backed securities, which led to a lower cost of financing and spreading out of risk. I found the new financial structuring fascinating and enjoyed understanding the flow of finance and the risks involved. When I was introduced to blockchain technology, it opened my eyes to a more efficient financial infrastructure and I could see tremendous real-world applications. I assumed other people were already building asset-backed securities on blockchain but with research, that wasn’t the case — so I stepped up.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

Dipika: The business model has evolved over the years. In 2019 we were in Dubai and Abu Dhabi for a conference and it was overwhelming to see so many people from across the globe in the Middle East. The excitement about new markets, products and consumers was palpable, as everyone was looking to redefine the way business had been done for centuries. We strongly believe that the only way to be successful is through consistent and customer-centric innovation, irrespective of the business that we build or invest in.

Annelise: The most interesting part of building GreatOne was the task of gathering the best minds in multiple industries, including hotels and traditional and digital investing. The common thread in all the people we recruited for this effort was the mindset and ambition to create something truly unique and compelling that people in the investment community have not seen before.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Dipika: To Err is Human. I don’t see any mistake as silly or funny. In fact, every mistake teaches me a lesson. In our organization we build a case study around our errors and we ensure that these lessons are passed on to the next generation of employees so that we all learn from each others’ mistakes. We are in the business of investing in people and the future world, so every small mistake that we make in that process has a potentially large cost and impact. We understand that and take on the responsibility to make things right.

Annelise: The funniest mistake to me was my thinking that people would quickly see my vision and buy into it. I am an optimist and don’t always recognize the patience required. That said, the hesitation people had in buying into the vision allowed me to fine-tune my message and communication. The challenge allowed me to better debate the benefits of the new technology. I am reminded that if it was easy, everyone would do it.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Dipika: I am surrounded by great people and wonderful minds. There are numerous people who have traveled with me on my path so far and added their value to make me as well as the business successful. In relation to the digital asset ecosystem that we are building, I am especially grateful to have Lakshmi Narayanan, Annelise, and Kim Diamond as part of the go-getters team.

Annelise: I am thankful for all of my mentors and sponsors that supported me in my career. I believe one’s career is decided when they aren’t in the room, so mentors, sponsors and reputation are very important. I am thankful for my partners — Dipika, Lakshmi and Kim — who all bring different skills to the table. Business doesn’t grow in a vacuum and having my partners to brainstorm, strategize and build has made me stronger.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?

Dipika: I believe the empowerment of women is a cultural challenge more than anything. Even though women are specialists in multitasking and independent thinking when it comes to family and home, on the career front they have been seen and treated as less skilled or reliant in a professional setting. Society has determined that family life takes precedence to the career for women, but when a woman decides to lead no one can stop them. I run my family office and we are fully woman-led and managed. We have invested in more than 50 woman-owned and managed businesses. The women leading these efforts are not only successful, but powerful in their industries.

Annelise: I don’t know one answer, as everyone has a unique set of circumstances. I believe that a strong network is important to both encourage, strategize and financially support the founder through the first year or years prior to generating revenue. Financial and strategic backers are important. I believe seeing other women succeeding and surrounding oneself with like-minded people makes a positive difference.

Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?

Dipika: We are a woman-owned and managed family office, and more than 50% of our portfolio companies are woman-owned, woman-promoted, woman-managed or woman-focused. Individually every woman can be a great force in helping other women to achieve their independence and financial freedom and that’s what I do. When our country sees the first woman president, it will be a big moment.

Annelise: Investors are fiduciaries and fiduciaries rely on trust. Trust is built on relationships. Relationships grow by sharing interests and spending time together. As it turns out, most investors are male and socialize with people like them, who also generally happen to be male. How many women were invited on the last company golf trip or to the last networking dinner? I think the root cause here is ingrained. People complain there aren’t women in the pipeline and yet, there are, but people don’t seem to be looking very far.

I believe there is unconscious bias that plays a large part in business decisions. Unconscious bias is difficult to fix but very important to address. I think companies, managers and teams need to make an effort to invite women to networking opportunities. I think all slates for new job opportunities need to be diverse which can be implemented by HR. I believe women should be invited to participate on industry panels that aren’t about “Women in the Workplace” but are about substantive topics. One woman on a panel is still only 20–25% representation of the panel.

This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be useful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?

Dipika: Building an organization is all about people management. Launching a product is all about understanding people’s requirements. Who can be better than a woman in understanding and managing people? For so many women, this is a true strength, and one that every founder should possess.

Annelise: According to Catalyst, Inc., women “direct 83% of all consumption in the United States in buying power and influence.” In 2021, 59.5% of college students were women. Women account for 52% of management, professional and related occupations and 29% of CEOs. In 2022, women accounted for 29% of corporate board seats. However, according to Bloomberg, female founders account for a mere 2% of venture capital funding.

A study done by FirstRound shares that in their portfolios, female-founded companies performed 63% better than the male-founded companies.

Women have financial and educational power. We are powerhouses. I encourage women to follow their idea, build, strategize, find allies and build the company. Also, don’t do it alone. Lean on business contacts and professional networks for support and guidance.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?

Dipika: Founders have to sacrifice some things to achieve other things but this should not be a deterrent.

Annelise: I have heard that one can’t be a founder if one has a family. That isn’t true. I have three teenage boys and two dogs. I focus on time management, prioritization, juggling and being present when I am with my kids. I do have to let go of having everything ‘perfect’ but everything flows.

Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder and what type of person should perhaps seek a “regular job” as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?

Dipika: Founders are not born, they are made. Everyone can be a founder. Even if someone is holding a regular job, to be successful in a specific role they need to think like an “intrapreneur“ rather than being an entrepreneur. But similar skills are needed.

Annelise: Everyone brings something different to the table with respect to skills and ambitions. Not everyone wants to manage people or run a company or start a company from scratch. I think founders need to be ambitious and, more than anything, have conviction to believe in themselves through thick and thin. The ability to see a way around obstacles is very helpful as is the ability to perform the job of the receptionist, the sales person, and the CEO simultaneously.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

Dipika:

  1. 90% is planning and 10% is execution
  2. People make everything
  3. Profit is the byproduct of good work
  4. You don’t need to know everything before you start
  5. Great ideas and solutions come from unexpected sources

I learned all this in the process. If I had known and practiced these five lessons, I might have saved time and resources.

Annelise

  1. Every overnight success takes seven years
  2. Persistence is key
  3. Making money is not as easy as it looks
  4. Build a plan and goals, and revisit and revise them often
  5. Network, we can learn from other’s mistakes and advice

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

Dipika: We are a mission-driven family office. Everything we do is driven by a larger purpose to have a positive impact on the world.

Annelise: I believe in developing the next generation of leaders through education and mentorship. I enjoy guest lecturing at universities and industry functions and have taken on many mentees over the years. I have taught Junior Achievement and I support educational charities. I have provided interview skills and donated clothing to charities that provide women with interview suits.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Dipika: I have three things that are close to my heart and I want to do everything that’s possible from my side to impact them: solving the housing problem in America; building attainable healthcare for everyone; and creating a better financial individual independency.

Annelise: Thank you for the kind words. The movement I want to inspire is mentorship and support circles. We can help people we know with training, advice and inspirational words. My movement is to spread positive gossip, saying good things about people which makes us look stronger and inspires confidence for all. My goal would be to help people find jobs which allow for financial security.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Dipika: Warren Buffett. I love his investment philosophies. I have been following him since my childhood days. Or Mark Cuban. I love his focus on diversification and entrepreneurial support.

Annelise: I am very interested in what is next and I would welcome understanding finance and banking in the metaverse, so Jamie Dimon from JPMorgan would be an amazing opportunity. Also, I am inspired by Tim Cook of Apple who was named “The World’s Most Influential CEO”. I would love the opportunity to hear how he finds his vision and his views on ethics in technology. My first computer was an Apple IIe.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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