There are two primary challenges facing Australian female tech entrepreneurs: a lack of expertise and a lack of confidence.
Eight years after founding a traditional, offline business model, I decided it was time to explore online, a move that was daunting and exciting. I saw the need for the utilisation of technology in a stagnant market, a fragmented field that could be united and quick to scale by embracing tech.
Tech, at the time, was not something I was extensively experienced in; I’m not an engineer, a developer, or a coder. In the absence of technical understanding, I had to be confident and sought out the expertise of others in this space. I soon found it wasn’t all that scary. THERIGHT.FIT was born and I can now say, I love tech.
In 2013, females made up a mere 19% of Australian tech entrepreneurs, a slight improvement from 16% in 2011. Even as we await the release of the latest figures, there is clearly a need for more women in tech in this country. If we are going to encourage more women to start high-growth technology companies we need to change mentalities around ‘technology’ in order to usher them into this new digital world.
Recently, I spoke on the ‘Top Women in Tech’ panel at PauseFest and shared the stage with Kate McKibbin (Dropdead Gorgeous Daily & Secret Bloggers Business), Julie Stevanja (Stylerunner), Danielle Lewis (Scrunch.com) and Rebecca Derrington (Sourcebottle & The Influencer Hub). Of these women, most are self taught and self-made, having learnt by trial and error and enlisting the help of others to fill knowledge gaps.
The general consensus was that women are primed to lead in this new era of innovation, and that we need to encourage their participation rates. You don’t have to be a ‘geek’ to get started, you just have to back yourself and understand your customer and the industry you want to be in.
These are three of the things I learned at PauseFest:
It’s all about user experience
There’s a lot of terminology that you learn along the way when deciding to launch a tech company. One of the most important of these is user experience (or UX). User experience includes the practical, experiential, affective, meaningful and valuable aspects of the relationship between your customer and product.
My advice is to think about tech as a means or a ‘highway’ to getting your customer to their destination faster and smoother.
The entire business model for THERIGHT.FIT is based on offering a better user experience for our customers – which comprises two very different groups; clients (or the bookers of talent) and talent (model, stylists, photographers, makeup artists). The platform directly connects talent with brands and clients, giving them control over their career or booking, and allows for the entire transaction to take place online. With the concept defined, we have spent countless hours on user testing sessions to ensure we understand their needs and how to meet them. Getting clear on this from the outset is invaluable.
Technology means smarter marketing
We agreed on the panel that marketing is a traditional concept we all understand, but in the world of tech it means something new; tech helps enable marketing to make better, more informed decisions, and track the ROI for any dollar spent.
Julie Stevanja from Stylerunner mentioned that in her business, marketing and technology are highly integrated. “The most effective and scalable marketing is technology related.”
Most recently Stylerunner have finished customising an enterprise class platform, tracking everything for purchases, so they can dynamically merchandise items, segment newsletters and have a better system overall for reaching their consumers.
The power of influence
We cannot talk about technology without social media, which is often driven by social leverage.
Increasingly businesses are using the power of influencers to drive traffic and business. A key take away from the day was that influencers are so much more than their number of followers. Engagement level and suitability for a brand is just as, if not more important, than simple reach. THERIGHT.FIT is all about people, and a great deal of that has to do with social currency. My approach to this is to ensure our influencers have genuine influence in their given field, speak with authenticity and are trusted by their followers.
Danielle Lewis from Scrunch.com said that when selecting influencers to partner with, there are a number of factors to consider including; tone of voice, engagement with fans and location. Most importantly you need to understand ‘what metrics matter for your business’ and remember that number of followers doesn’t equal engagement.
Julie said that Instagram was by far their best channel for engagement, and that success comes from understanding who you are selling to. For Stylerunner, the use of everyday, ‘aspirational’ people has proven to be a winning strategy, with 70% of their content generated by regramming happy customers.
Overall, there are some great business models emerging in tech being founded and driven by women, but there could be many more if the space was more welcoming and women were more encouraged to participate.
Just remember, none of us had what would be commonly referred to as a ‘tech background’ - we simply saw a problem and decided to solve it.