By Kate Jackson (Co-Founder & CEO, TableCrowd)
We’re currently fundraising for TableCrowd and as well as looking at UK investors, I wanted to scope out the scene in San Francisco. I tied the trip in with the Women 2.0 Conference which turned out to be a wealth of knowledge, new contacts and inspirational speakers – all jammed into one action packed day. With around 1,000 ladies at the conference, it was a refreshing change from the usual ‘sausage fest’ (sorry, Kara Swisher, I stole your line!).
I could have written a dissertation about the conference but for this post I have picked out 6 things that I will take away that are most relevant for me right now with my startup. And this gives me two ticks based on Duane Forrester’s (one of the speakers from Bing) social media advice – 1) start blogging and 2) incorporate lists into blogs!
1. Michelle Zatlyn (CloudFlare) – “Hold your team accountable”
Michelle explained that she works in 3-week cycles with her team with the super techie support of post-it notes and a white board. Each team member commits to what they will achieve during the period and at Friday afternoon team meetings, each person removes the post-its if they have completed their tasks. Although replicating this exact process wouldn’t work for TableCrowd because we often work remotely, the objectives and the clear benefits from this approach have given me much to think about in how our team works together.
2. Presenters in the pitch competition – Presentation skills
I was bowled over with the high quality presentations – the pitch decks, the delivery and responses to the panel’s questions. In the case of virtually all the speakers, they were clear, precise and didn’t rely on notes. I am currently pitching and demo’ing for TableCrowd and I am a confident and comfortable doing so, but I certainly picked up some tips from the ladies on stage.
3. Paula Long (DataGravity) – “Customers don’t make mistakes, products do”
I know this gem, but the reminder was useful. Sometimes an unusual course of action by a customer can cause an issue with our application or result in that user not doing what they had intended to do. Each and every time this happens, it is important to respond by ensuring that element of the user experience is fixed. It is easy to view this as a one off behaviour, but the chances are that this is just the first time it has been brought to your attention, not the first time it has happened.
4. Jay Jamison (Bluerun Ventures) – “Do you have loyal customers?”
As part of the conference, attendees could register to have lunch with either an investor or an entrepreneur. I opted for the former and joined 8 others and Jay Jamison of Bluerun Ventures for lunch (it reminded me of something… oh that’s right, it was like a TableCrowd lunch). Jay talked at length in response to our questions and gave me his views on TableCrowd raising funds in the US whilst we are not in operation there.
When Jay looks at possible investments, he considers whether the entrepreneur has developed something with a loyal following. To the extent that if they took the product/service away from those users, would they be annoyed/sad and it would have a detrimental effect on their lives. If a customer can ‘take it or leave it’, the entrepreneur should be considering whether there is a real need for the product. With TableCrowd, both user feedback and repeat business suggests that we pass on this test, but it is useful to keep this thought process in mind at every juncture.
5. Paula Long (DataGravity) – “Focus on the elephants in the room, don’t focus on the bunnies”
This is a great way to ensure you have the right priorities. Clearly smaller problems are easier and faster to solve, but it’s the biggies that need your focus. I have always tried to instil into my work method that I start each day with the biggest hardest tasks until they are done. If the smaller tasks for that day get rolled over a day, then so be it!
6. Julie Zhuo & Naomi Gleit (Facebook) – the importance of testing
In the early days of Facebook, Julie and Naomi explained that adding analytics and tracking into their signup process resulted in visibility of not only a host of bugs but also that the email confirmation step caused a 20% drop off in signups. Making a change to this resulted in 9 million more sign ups in that year. We use analytics and we review our users’ behaviour but this highlighted the importance of doing so all the time, for every process on the site. Small changes and tweaks can yield very different results.
Our vision for TableCrowd is to be the market leader in real life social networks and at the Women 2.0 Conference, I met a number of people who could contribute and help with that journey. I’ll leave you with a last one liner from Paul Long – “we weren’t successful until we were” and on that note, I’ll get back to work!
Women 2.0 readers: What were your takeaways from the Women 2.0 Conference? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
About the guest blogger: About the guest blogger: Kate Jackson is the Founder and CEO of ClickTonight and TableCrowd. She is a former commercial lawyer in London who is now an entrepreneur. She loves triathlons, playing cupid and dining out. Follow her on Twitter at @KateJacksonK.