“I don’t gamble, but I was willing to bet on myself,” is what Liz Derr, CEO of Simularity, said about her decision to launch her startup company. For women entrepreneurs, every day is entrepreneurship day. For everyone else, November 19 is a day dedicated to celebrate and support women entrepreneurs worldwide.
We had the chance to have a one-on-one with Liz about her Big Data/Analytics startup, what inspired and equipped her to become an entrepreneur and her experiences as a female startup founder in a landscape still predominated by men.
What motivated you to take the first steps to start your business?
The first step I took is finding a problem worth solving. The founding idea behind Similarity is, the more information you have, the better the recommendation you can make. Similar to gift giving—the more I know somebody the better gift I can pick out for them.
What’s something you learned bringing your idea to life?
One of the lessons of being an entrepreneur is that your first idea is almost never the one that turns into your product. There’s a lot of market research, trial and error, pivots, and trying to find product market fit. It can take a while.
What are some of the challenges you meet as a woman in a male-dominated tech world?
In some cultures, being a woman in a room full of men and interrupting to state one’s opinion and disagreement can be surprising in the best case and offensive in the worst. I am quite sure that I have offended a handful of people who do not expect women to speak up, but it hasn’t changed the way I behave.
What motivates you to keep going?
Most startups fail because people give up. I just decided not to give up unless it was absolutely obvious that I shouldn’t be doing this. We continued to get feedback and support at the right time and kept trying until we found a good place to sell our technology and a good application for it.
What prepared you to be in the technology industry?
Key to my success was competing horses. When I was growing up, there wasn’t a lot of opportunities for girls to compete seriously—that’s something that men get all the time. Learning how to compete, having confidence and not thinking the world is going to fall apart when you lose, it was a great environment to learn how to work in the technology industry, which is very, very competitive.
Did you have a role model growing up?
Besides my parents, my role model was a fictional one. It was Macgyver (laughs). He had a broad technical background and was able to solve any problem. I love problem solving and as an entrepreneur that’s a pretty important quality.
What’s the number one advice you have for up and coming entrepreneurs?
Talk to everybody. It’s amazing how expanding your network and talking to people you don’t think can help you can lead to good connections and that in turn can lead to a big sale.
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Tags: AI, analytics, Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Cisco EIR, IoT, Simularity, startups