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“Your Biggest Champions Will be Other Entrepreneurs” 5 Leadership Lessons with Katy Lynch

By Yitzi Weiner and Marco Derhy

When you become an entrepreneur, you experience a shift in your mindset. You will only want to surround yourself with positive people who understand you, your profession, and the trials and tribulations of what it means to be a business owner. As you become more successful as a startup founder, it becomes harder to relate to those who are not business owners. This is a tough pill to swallow initially (because you want your friends and family to be as passionate as you are about your business!), but the reality is that you will receive more support, guidance, and feedback from individuals who are on the same startup journey as you.
I had the pleasure to interview Katy Lynch. Katy is the Co-Founder of Codeverse, the world’s first fully interactive coding school and educational tech platform that teaches kids to code. Codeverse is built with intuitive tools to make learning code approachable and fun, and most of all, rewarding. The self-guided curriculum is designed for learners as young as 6 and introduces all the foundations of computer programming while incorporating common core subjects including art, history, science, and math. Their mission: Teach a billion kids to code.

What is your backstory?

I moved to Chicago from the U.K ten years ago. In 2008, I landed my first startup gig, working for Facebook’s largest travel application, called Where I’ve Been (which was founded by my now husband, Craig Ulliott.) For two years, I single handedly managed their online community, helping them grow from zero to almost 10 million active members. Where I’ve Been eventually sold to Tripadvisor in 2010, and I decided that I wanted to help other startups, like WIB, with their social media strategy full time. So, I spun off and started SocialKaty, a full service social media marketing agency in August 2010. I ran SocialKaty for 4 years until it was acquired by Manifest in July 2014 — exactly a week before my 30th birthday! After the acquisition, I left Manifest to become the CEO of Techweek, the nation’s largest traveling technology festival. Interestingly, it was while I was running Techweek that I came up with the idea to launch Codeverse. The idea came from a documentary I saw, called “Code: Debugging the Gender Gap”, which focuses on the lack of women and minorities in STEM fields. After viewing the documentary, Craig and I did a ton of research, over the course of two years, on the various camps, schools, tools, apps, games and resources that exist today to teach young children how to code. In July 2017, we officially opened the doors to our beautiful, state-of-the-art coding studio in Chicago!

Which person or which company do you most admire and why?

Elon Musk. He is an inspiration to me for various reasons. He’s a self-made billionaire, intellectually curious, a huge risk-taker, and a total badass! What he has done with PayPal, SpaceX, The Boring Company, SolarCity, and Tesla is absolute genius. He is disrupting multiple industries at once with his innovative ideas, and truly is a great role model for any aspiring or serial entrepreneur.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I’ve been in the tech community for almost 10 years, and everything I have done has led to Codeverse. This is mine and Craig’s legacy company. Our mission is to “teach a billion kids to code”, and we’re making sure that we bring the Codeverse experience to kids in underrepresented communities. In fact, we’re actively working with AfterSchool AllStars Chicago, Boys & Girls Clubs Chicago, Little Village Academy, and other organizations to make sure that all kids are equipped with the 21st century skills they need to succeed in this digital day and age.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started?

You’ll fail a lot, and that’s OK — You’ll constantly make mistakes as a startup founder. What determines your fate is how you handle these mistakes. My biggest advice is to learn from your mistakes, pick yourself back up, and swiftly move on.

Ultimately, it takes passion, perseverance, and a willingness to work really hard every day to be successful.

It’ll change your life — The media glamorizes entrepreneurship, making it sound easy, sexy, and fun. But, it’s actually quite the opposite. Entrepreneurship is extremely difficult and rips you out of your comfort zone. It challenges you, and forces you to make hard, life-altering decisions. You will experience the highest highs (as you become successful and celebrate “wins” with your team) and the lowest lows (as you make countless mistakes) and you will quickly learn to adapt to the good and bad situations that happen on a daily basis.

Take risks and trust your gut — This is so important, When you are young, you can afford to take a lot of risks. When I was much younger, I used to double-guess myself, or take too much time making decisions. I’d say “no” to great opportunities because I felt that I wasn’t qualified enough to do the job. I lacked confidence.

Say yes to interesting opportunities. Be inquisitive and open-minded. Challenge people and ideas.

Stop thinking about what you want to do. Take action and actually do it!

Your biggest champions will be other entrepreneurs — When you become an entrepreneur, you experience a shift in your mindset. You will only want to surround yourself with positive people who understand you, your profession, and the trials and tribulations of what it means to be a business owner.

As you become more successful as a startup founder, it becomes harder to relate to those who are not business owners. This is a tough pill to swallow initially (because you want your friends and family to be as passionate as you are about your business!), but the reality is that you will receive more support, guidance, and feedback from individuals who are on the same startup journey as you.

Learn every aspect of your business — You don’t have to be an expert, but you do need to have a general understanding of what is happening in each department. Learn about the technology you use, your product, the financials, your marketing strategy, your PR efforts, and sales.