01 Mar 2005
Women Entrepreneurs Share Insights at WSA Conferenceby Margie KelleyTopics:
As a first-time entrepreneur, Ana Shukla launched a marketing-automation software company in 1998 with $13.6 million in venture capital. Two years later, she sold the firm, Rubric, Inc., for $366 million.
Securing the venture-capital investment was a major challenge, she told a capacity crowd gathered for the fourteenth annual Dynamic Women in Business Conference in January. Sponsored by the Women’s Student Association, the conference attracted more than 800 women to the HBS campus.
The panel on entrepreneurship at which Shukla spoke was moderated by HBS professor Lynda Applegate. It focused on the unique challenges women face in starting a company, particularly in getting financing and marketing their ideas.
“I was a first-time entrepreneur with an idea and nothing else,” said Shukla, who had a career as a successful software marketing executive. She highlighted that experience, did her homework, and pitched the idea to 200 potential clients. Shukla then sold her vision to potential employees, who would have to come onboard before any real money was committed.
“An entrepreneur is constantly marketing the idea to investors, employees, and customers,” remarked Shukla, who launched a new company, RubiconSoft, following Rubric’s sale in 2000.
Panelist Brigitte Baumann (AMP 154, 1998), founder and CEO of the European angel investing firm Go Beyond Ltd., advised aspiring women entrepreneurs to have a clear vision not only of the business plan but also of how they would run the enterprise.
“Make sure you know who you are and what you believe in, ” she said. “The investors I see want to know how you will run your company.”
Mentors are also critical to entrepreneurial success, according to panelist Karen Kerrigan, president and CEO of Women Entrepreneurs Inc., a nonprofit association that supports women business owners through education, networking, and advocacy.
“Networks are really key,” said Kerrigan. “Find mentors and get involved in as many associations as you can. It really does open up a world of opportunity.”
— Margie Kelley
Class of AMP 154