Valentine’s Day with a bunch of kick ass women in tech in SF? Sign me up!
On Thursday, I went to the Women 2.0 Conference at the Westin St. Francis in Union Square in San Francisco. Not only did I want to attend to support some of our amazing Charter Members (like Shaherose Charania, Sukhinder Singh Cassidy , Michelle Zatlyn) and several Canadians in tech on stage, but the whole idea behind Women 2.0 is bottom line awesome.
Women 2.0 was founded by Shaherose Charania and Angie Chang in San Francisco in 2006 and has developed into a media company offering content, community and conferences for aspiring and current women innovators in technology. Their mission is to increase the number of female founders of technology startups with inspiration, information and education through their platform.
One thing to note: Although this is a conference in support of women in tech (and there were indeed hundreds of us there!), this is a quality conference that is beneficial to anyone in the tech world, regardless of gender or location. There were many local women and men from the Silicon Valley community present, as well as a bunch of techies representing countries like Australia, Brazil, and Canada too!
Women 2.0 did a phenomenal job of live streaming their presentations for anyone to see, as well as providing live blogging capturing the key bits of information that you should know about. You can peruse through that wealth of information here (and I suggest you do – it’s great!), but I’m here to share with you some things I’ve learned. I have condensed my experience into the top 4 things that really stood out for me at the Women 2.0 conference:
1- Women are the market
Fran Meier, President/Founder/Chair of TRUSTe and Co-Founder Match.com, shared this idea with us early on in the day. She revealed that women today are dominating many of the social networks, and as most of us already know, women are 60% of the graduates at universities. Plus, women have 75% of purchasing power! So why aren’t there more women in the top positions at these companies whose user base is majority female? Kara Swisher emphasized that it should start at the startup level, as in there needs to be more iconic women founders. After experiencing the energy and enthusiasm in the room on Thursday, I have faith that there will continue to be more soon. There were close to 1000 women entrepreneurs, executives, engineers, VCs, etc at this conference all showing that there are so many kick ass ladies in tech.
2- Leaders in the company should reflect your customer base
This point is closely tied to #1. People on your founding team and board are critical members of your company. They must reflect the people who use your product. If not, it will be hard for you to fully understand what the customer needs, wants, struggles with, etc. For example, if your users are 60-70% women and your company is solely run by men, then you should think about adding some key women to your team.
3- Remove the micro and macro barriers
Two great ladies from Facebook, Julia Zhao and Naomi Gleit, shared with us their experience in building this social network up to one billion users. One reason they got there? They removed several of the barriers that prevented people from signing up. Facebook went from allowing just college students to sign up and then expanding to high school students to eventually anyone. It also went from being exclusively computer based to having the option of a mobile only experience (for those without computer access) today. But the story of their sign up page was the most fascinating to me: they found that breaking up the registration requirements into sections (over a few short pages) created a flow leading to so many more users...9 million per year, in fact. Charter Member Michelle Zatlyn also emphasized this point in the story of her company’s success. It takes an average of 4 minutes and 48 seconds to sign up on CloudFlare. Their competitors on the other hand? Takes nearly two weeks. You need to lower the barriers that prevent your users/potential customers from signing up. It's simple: you make it easier, they’ll come runnin'!
4- SEO is key
Another Canadian, Duane Forrester (Senior Product Manager at Bing), mentioned that 80% of internet sessions today start with a search. That’s huge! So if you haven’t already, you need to get on improving your SEO. Luckily Duane laid out some of his top tips for us, but the ones that stood out for me were:
-Have analytics for your website so you can learn what the data means to you – this is pretty standard. Make sure you establish what your base line is, so that you can identify your growth easily.
-If you really “wow” your customers, they will talk about you and that will amplify your company. Another speaker at the conference, Paula Long (founder of EqualLogic and CEO of DataGravity), stated that if you’re not worrying about making your customers happy, then you’re not worrying about the right thing. EqualLogic had a 98% customer satisfaction rating when they were building the company. The result? A successful company that was acquired for just over $1 billion in 2007.
Duane's presentation slides were very thorough on this topic, and once the presentation is uploaded online you should definitely check it out.
If you missed this great conference and you want to read/watch more, then head over to the Women 2.0 site where you can catch up on it all. Thanks to Women 2.0 for putting on an amazing event, and a special thanks to Charter Members Shaherose Charania, Michelle Zatlyn and Sukhinder Singh Cassidy for sharing your insight with all of us at the conference!