I wanted to write this for some time. Just got around to it 18 months on…
Ashley Sumner, the C.E.O. of Quilt, announced she was striking gender from her bio.
She ran home, sat sweatily at her computer, banged out a few words and overlaid them on a photograph of herself. “I am a female founder,” she typed, then dramatically crossing out the word “female” and adding a caption that read in part: “putting my gender in front of what I am belittles what I’ve accomplished.”
The LinkedIn crowd went wild. But… TBH, startups have no time for this.
Having mentored my share of start-ups (the minority being winners), I’ve come to realize that the most important factor in determining success is not where the talent behind a tech-enhanced product or service comes from, but the quality of the tech talent itself. Setting aside the instance where Founders have exitted are likely to do it again, among any other first-timer in today’s globalized world, the best and brightest ideas can come from anywhere, regardless of gender, race, geography, age, or any other criteria. This is why I believe that limiting oneself to only supporting companies based on arbitrary characteristics is not only archaic, but it also decreases the chances of discovering truly groundbreaking ideas and missing out on potentially profitable opportunities.
In my experience, the most successful investments have been those in which I’ve backed talented individuals who have an innovative idea and the drive to turn it into a successful business. Whether they come from Silicon Valley, New York, or Timbuktu, the key to success lies in their ability to create and execute on a vision.
Take, for example, the case of a company I mentored a few years ago, founded by a older man from rural Iowa. At the time, he was just starting his entrepreneurial journey and had a simple idea for using technology to improve the efficiency of grocery promotions. He had industry experience and connections, and a talent and passion for technology, but had never led a large software team. Today, that company is a global leader in its space having sold to Dunn-Humby (TESCO), and I’m proud to have been a part of its early success.
Of course, it’s not always easy to identify great tech talent, regardless of where it comes from. There are a multitude of factors that can impact the success of a tech-enhanced product or service, and it’s essential to have a deep understanding of the market and the technology landscape to make informed decisions. However, by focusing on the talent behind the idea and disregarding irrelevant qualifiers, you increase your chances of finding and investing in truly game-changing companies. Taking a more open-minded approach also has broader implications for the tech industry as a whole. By providing opportunities for people from all walks of life to succeed, regardless of their background, you can help to create a more inclusive and diverse tech ecosystem. This not only has the potential to drive innovation and increase creativity, but it also sends a powerful message about the importance of embracing diversity and breaking down barriers.
I believe that the key to success lies in finding and supporting talented individuals with innovative ideas, regardless of where they come from. By focusing on talent, rather than arbitrary qualifiers, we can help to create a more inclusive and diverse tech industry and increase our chances of discovering truly groundbreaking ideas. So, the next time you’re considering an opportunity, remember: the best ideas will win, regardless of where they come from, what their gender, race, or favorite team. All you need to do is be open-minded and willing to support them.
And have good timing.
And be a little lucky.