Female Founders 2017: Day 2
Day 2 in Silicon Valley on the Mayor’s tour, and the flame inside us all that flickers ‘BELIEVE’, suddenly flared. As Phil Knight, the founder of Nike said, "belief is irresistible".
In Silicon Valley, ‘belief’ is actualised more than anywhere on earth. Meeting the founders and senior management teams of Box, Square, Kiva, Bebo and Slack, what struck me is that companies in the Valley put changing the world first, profits second. And when belief is mission-driven, it is unstoppable.
As Julie Hanna (President Obama’s Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship) said, “solving problems of consequence in the world gives you a running start on scaling. If you have a mission or a purpose AND it’s universal, you WILL scale.”
The threads of belief were woven throughout the day. Square CFO Sarah Friar and General Counsel Hilary Smith, advised us to "set-up a culture driven by the voice of the customer." Never have I seen a company that has so artfully choreographed its values, culture and execution as well as Square. It’s like watching a start-up ballet.
The larger than life, yet boyishly charming CEO of Box, Aaron Levie talked about getting into an 'operational rhythm’, a kind of gravity free zone where belief, work ethic and execution intersect. He let us inside his head, to raid his personal library for all the business books he has learned from. I am going to post him some cookbooks, to shake up his library, and his learning, a little bit.
Sometimes in the UK, it’s hard to be a believer. The weather, combined with a healthy British scepticism, keep us rooted. It’s so much easier to be a believer when the sun is shining 24/7, and the wind is blowing Elon Musk stardust off the San Francisco Bridge. But belief is fundamental to being an entrepreneur and we must never forget it.
Oh, and believe this - in the half a dozen meetings, with the biggest betting believers in Silicon Valley, most of the leaders we met were women. Belief is intoxicating.
Thank you Deputy Mayor Rajesh Agrawal, Sherry Coutu, and Janet Coyle for organising this unbelievable trip.