At RGAX we believe women can offer a valuable perspective to the field of technology and more specifically, insurtech. That’s why we’re proud supporters of Quesnay’s Female Founders in InsurTech competition. Every founders' journey is different and we are excited to feature Amy Thomson, founder of Moody month app, as a guest on the RGAX blog, to share the lessons she's learned as an entrepreneur.
There’s never been a better time to be a female founder in technology. The world is not perfect, but we’re doing and accomplishing things our mothers and grandmothers could never have dreamed of. Nevertheless, the ranks of founders are not yet filled with women, so our support of each other is essential. I wanted to share my own story, as well as some of the things I’ve learned along the way, in the hopes that it will help other female founders pursue their dreams as well.
The Price of Success
Ironically, my story starts out like the quintessential success story. At twenty-three, I founded a London-based marketing agency called Seen to help major brands understand new mediums and channels. I was helping organizations like Nike, Microsoft, and RBS reach out to a younger audience, especially millennial women, in new ways.
I was young and ambitious, and I threw myself into my role completely, travelling all over the world. But, since I was young, I also felt like maybe I had something to prove. I worked almost twenty-four hours a day to deliver for my clients. I knew I also needed to take care of my health, so I worked out – a lot.
From the outside, I looked like I had it all together, but inside I was scared. Despite my best efforts, my health had started to decline. I even stopped menstruating. In fact, I didn’t have a period for eighteen months. I spent a year going to doctors and specialists to try to figure out what was happening to me.
None of the doctors ever mentioned stress as a possible cause. If they had, I’m not sure I would have believed them. Yes, I was working around the clock and spent a lot of time in airplanes, but that wasn’t anything compared to all the women working multiple jobs while taking care of their family. How could the stresses of my life possibly compare to theirs?
Finally I met a naturopath who gave me the bottom line. I had to figure out a way to destress to get my body back on track. Short side note – this woman eventually became a cofounder in my new business. It’s good to have someone who will tell you the truth even when you don’t want to hear it.
Democratizing Women’s Health
Throughout my ordeal, it also occurred to me that I had an incredible advantage. I could spend several thousand pounds a year for health experts to tell me to do some yoga and drink green tea. The average woman can’t afford to see a specialist even if they could find time in their schedule. As I kept searching for my own answers, that thought stuck with me.
Eventually, I sold Seen to pursue what had become my passion: democratizing the science of women’s health. My idea was to build technology to help women track and understand their body’s cycles better. I also wanted to bring specialists into the project to give women access to personalized advice and guidance they couldn’t afford otherwise.
But I also learned an important lesson at Seen. I needed to follow my own path, even when it diverged from the path followed by other successful technology entrepreneurs. This path was laid out by men and for men. I’m not saying this path was designed to purposefully keep women from achieving their dreams of entrepreneurship; but what I am saying is that it’s not always aligned to the way women are wired, both mentally and physically, and the realities of the lives we lead.
I’d say this is probably even more true in technology than it is in other sectors (as men make up the majority of entrepreneurs in this space). But if technology can’t allow us the freedom to forge our own path, what can?
The Path Less Traveled
In essence, to successfully create a product for women, I wanted it – at least for the most part – to be created by women. After all, you wouldn’t expect a running shoe to be designed by someone who has never jogged a step in their life. Why would you expect a women’s health app to be designed by someone who has never spent one moment as a woman?
Currently, the engineering team is entirely made up of women, but it’s more than that. We’ve built a culture that reflects the needs of our team. For example, working moms are challenged by the very idea of a 5-day, 9-5 work week, especially if it involves a commute that requires them to spend an hour or more per day traveling to and from the office. Even before the COVID pandemic, we designed our business to allow employees to work remotely and with the flexibility they need to care for themselves and their families. A lot of people look at our work environment and assume it takes us longer to get things done or that we’re unpredictable. I’m happy to say we’ve never missed a milestone.
As it turns out, when you give women the freedom to thrive, they often show their gratitude by investing more of themselves into the work they do. You can pay people to be experts, but if they don’t trust that you have their best interests at heart, it’s hard to build a loyal and dedicated workforce. I don’t know that they value it more than men, but I can unequivocally say from my personal experience that women respond well to a working environment that respects them for who they are.
Finding Your Network
Whenever anyone asks me what my advice is for other female entrepreneurs, I usually tell them they need to find their network, but even this, I look at a little differently than other entrepreneurs do.
The first step is to know yourself – your strengths and your weaknesses. This will allow you to make connections with people who complement what you have to offer. All people like to be around people who are like them, but for a female entrepreneur, this can be dangerous. We can end up building a network of other women who simply echo our own thoughts or companies that are very lopsided.
The second step is to become someone with whom others want to network. Read voraciously in your chosen field. Be an expert on how your product is going to disrupt the market and change people’s lives. In some fields, you can gather almost PhD-level knowledge without ever stepping foot inside a classroom. If you become known as the go-to source for information, you’ll be in a position of authority and strength, and others will naturally want to network with you.
The third step is to choose investors wisely. If you have a vision and you’re reasonably decent at articulating it, you shouldn’t have to sink your life savings into your new venture. But one of the things I’ve learned the hard way is that not all investors are equal. Some are just interested in incorporating your voice to show they are supporting female founders, but they’re not all that interested in your vision, your business, or even you personally. It’s important to identify people who will be there for you in the good times and the bad, offering more than just a fresh influx of cash.
To find the right investors, ask other entrepreneurs in your network who they’re working with and whether they’d recommend them. You can even ask your current investors for additional recommendations. Opportunities to get your name out there, such as Quesnay’s Female Founders in Technology competition, can help you attract investors and build your network. Doing your due diligence and choosing the right investors can add stability to your organization, and that’s incredibly important for any startup.
The fourth and final step may be one of the most important and yet the most difficult for us as women. That is to not take it personally when people don’t want to network with you. Your knowledge and the opportunity you represent isn’t going to appeal to everyone. Some people may just not be interested. Others seem to be born incurious. That’s OK though because those aren’t the people you’re going to want to work with anyway.
I want to thank RGAX for providing space on their blog for my voice to be heard. They are an organization that is incredibly supportive of female founders in insurtech and the advancement of female leaders within their organization as well. Their support of Quesnay’s Female Founders in Technology, a program focused on propelling female entrepreneurship, is just one example of the great work they do.