Much like the tech industry overall, the startup world is not one in which women are heavily represented. Less than one in five startups have a female founder in 2017, and those statistics have remained relatively stagnant since 2012.
This is why it’s more important than ever for today’s ambitious women—like Katy Lynch from Codeverse—to challenge the status quo and show what they’re made of. In this interview, Lynch gives us a glimpse into her own story and shares advice for budding female entrepreneurs.
Laurence Bradford: How did you get into entrepreneurship?
Katy Lynch: I moved to Chicago on my own in 2007. My first experience within the Chicago startup community occurred when I worked for Where I’ve Been, Facebook’s largest travel application, which was founded by my husband, Craig Ulliott. I was tasked with managing all marketing and branding efforts for the company.
At a startup, you quickly learn that everyone moves swiftly and anything can change at a moment’s notice. You have to roll up your sleeves and tackle challenges as they come. There were countless times when I was thrown into big projects without much guidance from the team.
For two years at WIB, I was a sponge, absorbing as much information as I could about every department—tech, product, sales, PR, marketing, and operations. The more I learned about how to run a business, the more excited I got about the possibility of starting my own.
Where I’ve Been was acquired by Tripadvisor in 2010, and so I took the opportunity to spin off and create SocialKaty, a full-service social media marketing agency. I ran the business for four years, until I sold it to award-winning digital agency Manifest. Now, Craig and I, along with third co-founder Dave Arel, have our newest business, Codeverse—state-of-the-art coding studios that teach kids to build games and apps.
Bradford: Have you faced obstacles in your work as an entrepreneur/leader in tech?
Lynch: One of my favorite quotes is by Winston Churchill: “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” The truth is, as an entrepreneur, you are constantly facing hurdles and making mistakes. The most important lesson is to pick yourself up, learn from mistakes, and keep pushing forward!
Being successful requires drive, passion, resilience, and confidence.
Bradford: If you had to attribute one characteristic to your success thus far, what would it be? Why?
Lynch: Persistence. It is one of the most important contributing factors to being successful in life and business.
You do not get anywhere in life by remaining stagnant. People who are persistent are driven by a higher purpose: their mission. They devote their time, effort, and energy to achieving their mission.
For me, personally, teaching a billion kids to code is mine and Craig’s mission.
So, ask yourself: “What is my mission and how will I achieve it?”
Bradford: What advice do you have for other women wanting to start their own company?
Lynch: I have five pieces of advice:
- Entrepreneurship is extremely hard. It takes long hours, dedication, and perseverance while maintaining charisma. Most people shouldn’t do it; it’s dangerous that entrepreneurship has become sexy. There is nothing sexy about it. Entrepreneurship is a constant battle and it changes you, so think long and hard about the commitment before you jump right in.
- Learn every aspect of your business, especially the parts you’re not good at. You do not have to be an expert in all areas, but you must have a good understanding of what is going on within every department of your company, including sales, marketing, tech, product, operations, and finance.
- Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. Hire individuals who are experts in their field. Network with community leaders who you can call or text for perspective, ideas, and feedback.
- Sell sell sell! To be a fantastic business leader, you must know how to sell your mission, your vision, and your values to investors, your community, your employees, and your customers. You must live and breathe your brand every day.
- Trust your gut and take risks. Especially when you’re young. But always admit and learn from your failures. People will follow and respect that.
Bradford: What advice can you offer to women who want to take on leadership roles at their current company, or in their community?
Lynch: Work hard and keep persisting. As Chester Karrass stated, “you don’t get what you deserve. You get what you negotiate.”
If you are at a company that does not value you or your skills, leave. There are plenty of fantastic companies that would love for you to be a part of their team!
If you are interested in getting more involved in your community, show up to events. Network with notable community leaders. Ask how you can get more involved.
Bradford: If you could go back in time and make any changes to your career trajectory, what would you do differently?
Lynch: I would not change a thing about my startup journey. I have learned so much about myself and business, through my successes and my failures. I would not be the person I am today had I not gone through those experiences.
Laurence Bradford is the creator of Learn to Code With Me, a blog and podcast for those wanting to learn tech skills and transition into a new career.