Much has been said and written about the lack of women in the tech sector, be it as investors (or associates), founders or in management positions at major companies. Is the problem the old boys network – or that success in technology is seen as a young man’s game? In this series, we speak with some of the top industry women in New York as they discuss the challenges they face, the perceptions that need to be changed and the work that’s being done – or not – to help to promote women in tech.
Today the spotlight is on Beth Temple, founder of bethtemple4u, which was named to emphasize the ‘embedding’ nature of Temple’s approach to building new digital products. Working closely with internal teams to define the product strategy and execute it through build-out, Temple brings clarity, focus and momentum to the daunting task of building new digital products, which she has been doing since 1994. Her clients include Target.com, Limited Too, ordr.in, BespokePost, CBS MarketWatch, HBO, MusicGremlin, Magnify.net, Wells Fargo, Credit Suisse HOLT, and US Bank.
Do you describe yourself as an entrepreneur?
I actually think of myself as a solopreneur – but there is definitely the sense of being entrepreneurial in that pursuit. It takes the same guts to go out on your own as it does to build a company on your own.
What was/is the biggest challenge facing you as a female entrepreneur?
Honestly, I think just finding the gumption to do it. To go out against the work-a-day world and say you are going to do it differently. From the entrepreneurs I’ve mentored over the years, I’ve learned that the hardest thing is to take the leap. This may not be totally female, but women tend to be a bit more conservative when it comes to risk.
What can be done to further promote female entrepreneurship in New York?
This is one area where I think NY has it over Silicon Valley. Not to say that there aren’t plenty of women who are entrepreneurs out in Silicon Valley, but here you find a lot more women entrepreneurs. It helps that it is a business-focused town vs tech-focused – so the entry point is a bit more neutral. I don’t think the issue is promotion as much as it is access. Access to money, access to tech, and access to a wider range of business networks.
Are you involved in any organizations that help to promote female entrepreneurship?
I was an early mentor at WIM (Women Innovate Mobile) and I love how quickly the founders (Kelly Hoey, Deborah Jackson, and Veronika Sonsev) have reached out, embraced and raised the level of exposure of women entrepreneurs. I’m also a mentor at Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator and every class has had a good number of female entrepreneurs. As far as promoting, I think standing up and saying that I am a woman in technology (for over 20 years!) has hopefully had a positive affect.
Do you feel investors have a different mindset when it comes to investing in a woman-run company? For example, does the work/life balance issue come up?
In my experience, I’ve had male founders talk about work/life balances in a VC meeting – granted they were over 35 and had kids. I just don’t think that is only a female issue and I’m not sure it says anything about a VC if it doesn’t come up. Founding a start-up is hard work and it will definitely test your home life. IMHO, you shouldn’t be in a VC meeting talking about that – that’s something for your culture. Where I see a difference for woman-run companies is that they can often be about solving problems for women consumers who have women behaviors that often a full room of male VCs can’t intrinsically understand. I’ve been in a VC meeting where a VC said: ‘I’ve got to tell my wife about this.’ There has to be some awareness of who knows what. And some of that is the entrepreneur picking the right VC who will understand the business. This is true for men-run companies as well.
Do you think that women in top roles at major tech companies are scrutinized more closely than their male counterparts?
I think they make the news because they are women in major tech companies with high-level jobs. I’m not sure it is about scrutiny as much as it is (unfortunately) noticing there is a woman in the job.
Where do you and your company fit into the ecosystem?
As a solopreneur, I have two roles in the digital ecosystem. In my work helping predominantly large companies build new digital products, I’m someone who has built many major platforms and can help companies who are not digitally as experienced be successful in creating engaging and revenue-producing products. As a mentor I enjoy working with and encouraging entrepreneurship. Helping any company grow with fewer downsides and faster upsides is always fun for me.