If you’re a woman in the tech sector, you’ve probably noticed the field is dominated by men. So what’s it like to be a female entrepreneur in tech and innovating for a predominantly Gen Y consumer population? Every week, I’ll be interviewing a female leader in the startup ecosystem on their experiences, in order to supply some Yoda-like offerings on how to make it as a female entrepreneur.
In this week’s installment, I interviewed Jen Consalvo, a member of the founding team and COO of Tech Cocktail, a tech news blog and media company that celebrates entrepreneurs, emerging technology and innovation, and has an audience that extends across the country. Consalvo is also the founder of Shiny Heart Ventures, a technology startup focused on building community-driven products that remind people of the joys of life.
TNGG: What’s inspired you through your career trajectory in tech?
Jen Consalvo: I was a communications major in college with a passion for visual media and photography. After my undergrad, I saw multimedia picking up and grew intrigued. That inspired me to accept a position at AOL in product development where they were supportive in allowing me to try many different types of roles and even sent me to earn an MBA. When my work increasingly began to involve some pretty substantial interaction with startups in the community to try to bring new technology to AOL, I realized it was the community that was driving me. So that’s when I left AOL and moved on to founding Shiny Heart Ventures, which creates community-powered products and services that remind us of the joys in life. It was a good transition until I partnered with Frank Gruber to really grow Tech Cocktail as a media company, which showcases startups in a variety of communities across the country, writes about them online, produces conferences and more.
TNGG: What was the crucial moment that accelerated your career?
JC: One thing I discovered by working at a large company like AOL for a continuous period of time is that there’s always opportunities to move laterally, but not as many opportunities to move up. I eventually created a strong internal support network of individuals within the company who worked with me and upper management to help me on my trajectory up — everyone needs to find supporters. What they also helped me realize is that you’ve got to be your own biggest cheerleader. You’ve got to be confident, know what makes you noteworthy and speak out about it. They say it’s the squeakiest wheel that gets the grease and that’s especially true when you’re trying to make it as an entrepreneur. Ladies, promote yourselves!
TNGG: What are the qualities that make a successful female entrepreneur?
JC: Persistence. It takes a lot to make it in the startup world and a lot of people do give up. You need to be persistent with your company, your product and especially yourself! Remember that investors don’t just invest in technology, they invest in people.
TNGG: What do you notice about startups begun by Gen Y entrepreneurs? What do you think that says about our generation?
JC: During one interview that we did with Tim O’Reilly, he said something that really resonated with me, which was, “do something that matters.” A lot of startups will evolve around a technology that really functions as a feature – that’s something that we see a lot of at Tech Cocktail. But I also see a lot of entrepreneurs who move from creating a feature to tackling bigger problems in the world; that’s their journey and more and more Gen Y entrepreneurs are making that journey. Everyone has to start somewhere — the important thing is to start.
TNGG: If you could only have one piece of technology with you on a deserted island, what would you choose?
JC: Can I have my Google TV? It’s got just about everything I could possibly need, including the web, TV and apps.