Much has been said and written about the lack of women in the tech sector. 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 we hear from Anna Curran, organizer, facilitator, mentor extraordinaire, and Founder and CEO of Cookbook Create, a site that allows you to turn your recipes into a printed cookbook, then to share them or keep them private.
What was/is the biggest challenge facing you as a female entrepreneur?
No matter who you are, if you are an entrepreneur, ever day brings with it a new set of challenges. First time entrepreneurs have this idea that there is one big challenge, and when they conquer it, the rest will fall into place. This is simply not true. You will hear them say things like , “once I have my product up,…” or “once I find a CTO,…” or “when I raise my round,…” And the truth is that once they do any one of those things, that’s when the real work begins and then there is a whole new set of new challenges.
What can be done to further promote female entrepreneurship in New York?
Tina Fey said it best, “when you realize that you are the only woman at the table, it’s your job to bring along another woman.” It’s a simple but profound statement.
I also like the make-your-own-table strategy. I’ve made a conscious effort to connect women in the space who are doing cool things. Quarterly, I’ll host a female CEO breakfast or a casual happy hour for women who work in food & technology. Individually, we all can connect others with opportunities that promote women to positions of leadership and economic opportunity. I’ve been fortunate to have friends who have recommended me for some truly great opportunities.
What is being done that you like presently?
New York is such a great place to be a female entrepreneur, because there are so many fantastic programs. Forgive me. This is going to be a long list because there are so many who are doing cool things.
1. WIM (Women Innovate Mobile)
2. Pipeline Fellowship
3. The Li.st
4. Women2.0 Pitch NYC Conference
5. Girls Who Code
6. NY Tech Women
8. 40:20 Vision
9. Women Entrepreneurs Festival
10. Camp Campbell
And more so many more… seriously, there are so many amazing things happening here in New York. It’s hard to keep up with all of it. We Work Labs is an incredibly female-friendly coworking space. There, I have made several incredibly helpful business contacts, and have been constantly wowed by how supportive and wiling to help the WeWork community is– which shows the great leadership of Matt Shampine and Jesse Middelton and the great community managers they have at 175 Varick, like Adam Wacenske.
Are you involved in any organizations that help to promote female entrepreneurship? Or, do you do anything personally to help promote women in technology?
I spend my volunteer time as a Mentor at WIM, Entrepreneurs Roundtable, and as a facilitator for Startup Weekend. This past year Caroline Waxler recruited me to curate the food and technology programming for Internet Week, which was so much fun. At our panel on advertising I had our speakers slip in Don Draper quotes and challenged the audience to see if they could guess them.
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
Forget work life balance, I believe in focus. Working smart is great. So is living smart. I don’t believe in working until you exhaust yourself. Both work and life should fill your cup. If not, you are doing it wrong. Investors get this, no matter the gender of the founder that they are investing in.
Do you think that women in top roles at major tech companies are scrutinized more closely than are their male counterparts?
I’m not sure, but I do think, in many ways women are more interesting than men. People tend to talk about things that are more interesting, so maybe that’s why it seems women leaders are being scrutinized so much.
Where do you and your company fit into the ecosystem?
Cookbook Create is a site where anyone can publish their own print-on-demand cookbook with the recipe that matter to them. We’d like to inspire entrepreneurs to found companies that are solving different problems. As a sole founder, I rely on the community for support. Some times I feel like the first half of my day is spent doing favors for other entrepreneurs, and the second half of my day is asking for favors. I feel lucky to be part of such a generous community.