The BusinessMakers Radio Show

Episode #221: Flashback - Women 2.0

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Russ: This is The BusinessMakers Show heard here and online at thebusinessmakers.com. And now its time for the Aflac BusinessMakers Flashback brought to you by Aflac, ask about it at work. And for this mornings flashback we are going to roll back two week to when I was in San Francisco and had the opportunity to meet and talk with 2 of the 4 co-founders of Women 2.0 that's Shaherose Charania and Angie Chang, it's a great discussion. Check this out. Well let's start Shaherose with you. Why don't you explain to our listeners, what is Women 2.0?

Shaherose: So Women 2.0 is an organization that supports founders of new startups, people with new ideas where we find the founders have at least one female in the founding team. So we do workshops, we do networking events; we do an annual startup competition, anything to catalyze entrepreneurship.

Russ: Sounds pretty cool. Angie, how long as Women 2.0 been in existence?

Angie: So we started in early 2006 with the rise of the web 2.0 movement so we named ourselves Women 2.0 as the women in the web 2.0 movement. And we started with just a conference in April 2006 and afterwards everyone asked us when is the next event? When is the next event? So we kept putting them on every month. We've grown in our membership and also in the scope of our events from monthly meet-ups in my house in Palo Alto, wine and cheese events to 200 person pitch events and in the Microsoft offices in San Francisco. It's kind of grown organically and we just kinda talk to our audience and see what they would like from us to help them grow their businesses and grow their women-founded businesses.

Russ: Okay. So when you did this first event back in the very beginning how many people showed up at that event?

Angie: We had about 100 people ranging from venture capitalists to women in startups who were thinking about starting their own startup. So we've grown in our base. We have a lot of developers and had a lot of marketing people, a lot of product managers and a lot of just ideas people, people who make things happen.

Russ: Okay, pretty close

Shaherose: And we've now reached a mailing list over 10,000 people, not just in the bay area but around the world.

Russ: In the very beginning did you have a vision that it was gonna turn into this or was it just

Angie: Absolutely not. One of our co-founders was working at LinkedIn so early on we got on the LinkedIn groups and now we can see we have one of the largest networking groups on LinkedIn. You can find us there as well.

Russ: Okay.

Shaherose: Yeah, truth is we still continue to keep our jobs day in and day out and we do Women 2.0 out of passion, sort of as a side-gig as they say in Silicon Valley. And no, the four of us did not know each other. The four of us did know we would still be working on this today. We had no plan so what happened is after the first event, few weeks later the Santa Clara County gave us a call and said, "Hey, we'd like you to come to this women's leadership breakfast." And we looked at each other and said, "At 6:00 in the morning in San Jose? Are you kidding me?" So we showed up and by the end of that event in front of 500 other women we actually got an award for supporting women's entrepreneurship and it was signed by members of Congress. So we basically walked out of the event and said, "Okay, so now what?" We kind of decided to formalize the organization and are now today what we didn't expect and hopefully we're making a difference.

Russ: Okay, that sounds real cool. Now you mentioned the four of you. Who are the other two founders?

Shaherose: So the other two founders, their names are Shivani and Wen-Wen and Shivani does all of our finances and Wen-Wen is actually right now pursuing her MBA.

Russ: Okay. So you mentioned finances, is this a charitable nonprofit organization?

Shaherose: Absolutely not. We toyed with the idea back and forth. We said we're doing public good, we're a social venture, so in the end we've decided to become an incorporated company and we're essentially a startup that supports startups. We do everything low cost. We have an open source model when it comes to our membership and in the end we just broke even last year so we did lose a little bit of money to start but now we're doing okay. So we're looking forward to growing the organization and really running it like a real business.

Russ: Okay, now tell me what this means, open source membership?

Shaherose: So essentially organizations that are member based require an up-front cost, kind of like when you buy your Microsoft software. You know us being in Silicon Valley we're very open source in that way that there's a big open source community and you sort of use things for free and then you pay maybe for the services if you needed help. So that's how we started off and also to gain traction. Why should we charge someone for something they've never tried? Why should we charge someone for something they don't know what they want? So Women 2.0 grew out of something that we thought we needed, so for us because we all wanted to start our own startups. So if we wanna start startups we really don't have money. So looking at our target audience, we don't charge members for membership, but it's a pay as you go model.

Russ: So they pay when come to an event or use the Women 2.0 organization for something.

Shaherose: Exactly.

Russ: Okay. You mentioned that both of you actually have careers outside of this. Angie, what do you do for your day job?

Angie: So right now I am a product manager at Venture Beat, which is a technology blog on innovation in the Silicon Valley. We cover deals, acquisitions, innovation, general news for forward-thinking executives. It's at venturebeat.com.

Russ: Okay, and what do you do Shaherose?

Shaherose: So I consult with various startups in the mobile and VOIP space so I've worked in various startups here in Silicon Valley and work for one right now that not too long ago got bought by British Telecom and also work with a few other startups in the early side that don't even exist right now.

Russ: Okay, we are out of time for our radio broadcast portion, but to hear the continuation of this discussion with Shaherose Charania and Angie, the Women 2.0 founders. But obviously there is more, so go to thebusinessmakers.com and look for the Aflac BusinessMakers Flashback and click on the WebXtra continuation of this discussion. And that wraps up this Aflac BusinessMakers Flashback brought to you by Aflac, ask about it at work. You're listening to The BusinessMakers Show heard here and online at thebusinessmakers.com.