Start-Ups and Women in Technology

Linda Abraham, founder comSource
DC Social Media Week Keynote Event
February 20, 2013 

My wife is a program director at the National Center for Biotechnology Information at NIH. We went to the DC Social Media Week Keynote to hear Steve Case, legendary AOL founder, speak on upcoming tech trends. A subject of mutual interest. While Steve was pretty much a bust (he was pushing his current investment companies), we really enjoyed Linda Abraham’s talk on her experience starting up comScore.

Linda began with three tips on running a start-up.

I have always been a believer an organization is only as good as its people. Keep relationships strong. Build personal networks. New to me were Linda’s insights into keeping the “bar high” on who you hire. Her experience showed her a single  A+ employee is worth three A level employees, which in turn are worth NINE B employees. It is best to take the time and effort to find that one outstanding person then quickly build a “just competent” staff.

We all read tons of stuff on building business culture and teams. Linda reiterated most of what you regularly hear, but added two interesting details in making new hires transition better. First,  start with a job description that is what you want the new hire to achieve in the first 60 to 90 days. I personally am sick of the 2-3 page line listings of every imaginable function an HR consultant can think of. Linda’s super practical approach focuses the new hire on what needs to be done NOW. Hey, it is all going to change in six months anyways. Second, have 30-60-90 check-ins with your new employees. Nothing formal, just make the time to have three monthly face-to-face meetings to address concerns, make sure there is a fit, etc. NOTE: Linda firmly believes “people want structure, they want the vision. They don’t want bureaucracy”. 

Frankly, she didn’t get into this much. Linda did suggest awarding employees’ spouses for being extended team members, vital to the overall success of the company.

I have a very personal interest in this subject, being married to a woman biotech executive.  I follow Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s comments and can’t wait for her new book, “Lean In”. Linda followed Sandberg’s concerns and added a few of her own. ComSource findings are that women drive 58% of ecommerce activity, yet women are not entering the ring build careers or start companies in e-commerce. The two observations she stated to the audience that contribute to this gender gap:

Women need to be more comfortable, and self-confident, in not knowing everything there  is to know about the job at hand. No one does. Men seem more comfortable in “winging it”.

Women need to think bigger. Women tend to address the smaller parts, not big thoughts.

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