TechInColorMar 20, 2022
Ep. 18: Jenna Golden on Leading Political Sales at Twitter in the 2016 Election
On this episode of TechInColor, we spoke with Jenna Golden, former Head of Political Sales at Twitter and founder of social media consulting firm Golden Strategies. After discovering an initial interest in politics through Model Congress in high school, Jenna decided to pursue politics in college / post-grad. Opting not to work on Capitol Hill, she combined her love of politics with media and technology through advertising for political publications like the National Journal, and later, spearheading Twitter’s political advertising team from 2012 to 2017, including the 2016 presidential election. Since November 2019, Twitter no longer allows political advertising.
Jenna dives into how advertising teams are structured (vertically, with industry experts for each sector), how Twitter firewalled the political ads teams by party and PAC in the 2016 election, and the balance between ethics and hitting revenue goals. She explains how contrary to many large brands, political campaigns only spike every 2-4 years, are cash-strapped, and rely on eliciting specific actions – like collecting emails or fundraising – rather than brand awareness. Despite political ads bringing in the least revenue among ad sectors, Twitter focused on them for their impact in spurring activity, trending posts, and headlines, and allowing smaller campaigns to gain a larger social media footprint.
Jenna then discusses her founder journey building Golden Strategies to help new candidates make the most of their ad budget using social media, and how it helped to “start quietly.. to see if its really what you want” instead of going all-in with a big founding announcement. She advises listeners like us just starting in their careers: always trust your gut, raise your hand when something feels off, and always have something exciting planned in the future to work towards.
Ep. 17: Amy Yin on The Future of Work, Career Pivots, and Building Diverse Community
On this episode of TechInColor, we welcomed Amy Yin, Founder and CEO of OfficeTogether, the company Amy started over the pandemic to help companies transition to hybrid, remote-first work offices. Born and raised in Wisconsin, Amy recounts her journey to becoming an entrepreneur – from switching career paths in college, taking a gap year in Paris to serve as the only engineer at a growing startup, and working as a software engineer and engineering manager for 10 years at Coinbase, Hired, and Facebook. As the founder of Harvard’s Women in Computer Science Organization, Amy describes her passion for building diverse communities in both college and work, and emphasizes that community can be created wherever there is demand. Amy also discusses how being a technical founder helped her start her own company (it made hiring and building the MVP far easier), as well as her strategy for choosing the right company for her (“it’s not about industry, it’s about passion and excitement”). We end the episode with one of the most important insights on our show: the importance of disentangling one's own worth and potential from professional success.
Ep. 16: Anvisha Pai on What Prepared Her to be a Founder & Hiring a Diverse Team
This episode of TechInColor features Anvisha Pai– cofounder and CTO of Dover, an ML platform that helps companies scale and optimize recruiting. Dover has raised a $20 million Series A led by Tiger Global and invested in by Founders Fund, Abstract Ventures and Y Combinator. Tune in to hear Anvisha share her journey from navigating moving to MIT from Mumbai, India where she grew up, all the way to successfully founding multiple companies. She also emphasizes the importance of not expecting to know everything on day 1 – along the way, she learned from likeminded peers and early stage startups where she worked. Now, her hiring philosophy as she builds the recruiting platform Dover revolves around empathy. She explains the “Give and Get” philosophy – recruiting is time-consuming for candidates, and in return, the company should compensate candidates for their time, such as by offering post-interview feedback calls and enough face time with employees. Anvisha also shares some tips on hiring a diverse team with a stronger focus on candidates’ skills rather than their credentials. Listen to learn more about Anvisha, in one of our most insightful interviews yet!
Ep. 15: Jade Huang on Growing a Data-Driven Fashion Company
In this episode, we welcomed Jade Huang, founder and CEO of StyleSage, an AI data analytics company that helps fashion brands like Lululemon and Under Armour make data-driven decisions. Jade discusses challenges she overcame as a first-time founder and shares her insights into how the fashion industry will evolve. Born and raised in Taiwan and Minnesota, Jade studied fashion design at Parsons School of Design before dropping out. Determined to make it in New York, Jade found her way into web design, software development, and product management. After attending business school and learning about how the iconic fashion brand Zara used on-the-ground scouts to determine trends in designs, Jade became passionate about how this process could be automated using the vast amounts of images on social media. Her idea of using data analytics to help fashion brands better understand their market grew into StyleSage.
Ep. 14: Genevieve Bellaire on Creating the "Single Sign-on for Adulthood"
This episode we spoke with Genevieve Ryan Bellaire, founder and CEO at Realworld, the “Single Sign-on for Adulthood”. She discusses the process of creating a platform, marketplace, and community to simplify adulthood, and how her winding background in international relations at Princeton, law school and business school at Georgetown, and strategy at Goldman Sachs prepared her perfectly to found this company. The oldest sibling of 3, Genevieve thinks of the Realworld as an older sibling you can go to for help in actionable decisions when navigating adulthood - be it student loans, apartment hunting, or credit cards, among other topics. She tells stories of the early days of Realworld, from building a scrappy MVP to signing on colleges with graduating seniors as their first customers – and the importance of getting feedback and iterating quickly. “We know what the company is like today, and the vision for what it will be 10 years from now. The uncertainty is what’s in the middle.” That’s where she recenters on the biggest question—how can Realworld make new grads’ lives easier?
Ep. 13: Sanchali Pal on Building a Climate-Tech Startup
In this episode, we welcomed Sanchali Pal. Born and raised in Boston and India, Sanchali is founder and CEO of Joro – a platform for collective climate action that is backed by Sequoia and has been profiled in Fast Company, TechCrunch, and more. Joro is a mobile app that assigns a carbon score to users’ credit card purchases, and then helps them develop a climate action plan to reduce their carbon footprint that may include changing habits, buying offsets, or learning more about the climate crisis. Sanchali first became interested in sustainability in undergrad, when she was a sustainability manager for her dining hall at Princeton and saw how much energy could be saved by eating a plant-based diet. After working at Tesla and in social impact at Dalberg, Sanchali started Joro after attending Harvard Business School. Sanchali describes her first time fundraising to venture capitalists in Silicon Valley, the people-related and technical challenges of building an early-stage startup without prior software experience, and the power individual consumers have in combating the climate crisis by contributing to large-scale behavioral changes that influence governments and businesses.
Ep. 12: Ari Melenciano on Building Afrotectopia and Re-Imagining Art x Technology
In this episode, we welcomed Ari Melenciano. Ari is founder of Afrotectopia - a social institution building at the nexus of new media art, design, and technology through a Black and Afrocentric lens. She is also a Creative Technologist at Google’s Creative Lab. Born and raised in Maryland, Ari had always been fascinated by the intersection of art and technology. After experiencing a lack of diversity and community within the field, and decided to create Afrotectopia to build a space that consciously examined race and technology while celebrating Black voices in technology. Ari dives into what goes into designing a community, and how she learned to prioritize members’ needs over what sponsors desired. She speaks on the importance of pursuing genuine artistic passions, and not feeling burdened to always represent her whole community through art related to diversity, though that is something that drives her. Her role at Google, where she works at the intersection of art, design, and technology, combines her passions in a unique way.
Ep. 11: Neha Singh on Building the Future of E-Commerce in VR
In this episode, we welcomed Neha Singh, CEO and Founder of Obsess, an experiential e-commerce platform enabling retailers to create immersive, 3D, 360-degree virtual stores. Obsess’s technology has been used by brands including Ralph Lauren, Dior, and Tommy Hilfiger. Neha became fascinated by the fashion industry and e-commerce as a former Tech Lead at Google, VP of Product and Engineering at a luxury e-commerce startup, and Head of Product at Vogue. After trying on a VR headset, she realized that AR/VR transformed the boring experience of online shopping into an immersive, exciting experience benefiting customers and designers alike. In this episode, Neha discusses how she discovered her interest in AR/VR, how she sees it shaping retail and e-commerce, and tips on building with emerging technologies without a built-in ecosystem of libraries and plugins that help developers. We also discuss what Neha learned when first building Obsess– from simultaneously selling and building the product, to the importance of an iterative product development cycle.
Ep. 10: Soraya Darabi on What It Takes to Raise a Fund & Counseling Startups as a Past Founder
This episode, we had the honor of welcoming Soraya Darabi, founder and General Partner at TMV, an early-stage venture firm investing in purposeful startups reimagining the future. She shares her wisdom on taking the leap to found her own companies, and needing to ask hard questions to determine when it’s time to move on to new opportunities – like understanding whether you’re a generalist who thrives in early stage companies, or a specialist who prefers to dive deep into a particular problem space. She shares how she drew on experience as a founder to raise a VC fund, and how there’s many similarities between the two experiences. We also heard a deep cut on what to look for in counsel from an investor – like hiring assistance, references, growth marketing, and help raising capital, among other guidance. “Startups are Sisyphean - there is an endless amount of work to do,” she says, “At TMV, we want to roll up our sleeves and be a part of that work.”
Additionally, she talks about the difficulties of raising a fund as a diverse female founder, where it takes at minimum 6 months longer to raise despite realized track records in investing because of biases in the industry. Now, she’s committed to helping female venture fund raisers by fostering a community of trailblazers that the next generation can learn from.
Ep. 9: Madison Maxey on E-Textiles & The Future of Wearable Technology
In this episode, we welcomed Madison Maxey, CEO and Founder of LOOMIA. LOOMIA is a B2B technology company serving Fortune 500 brands that designs and manufactures electronic textiles, which are fabrics that incorporate electronics and circuitry. After dropping out of Parsons School of Design, Maddy became the first fashion designer to win a $100,000 Thiel Fellowship, and discovered her passion for e-textiles. Since then, she has developed prototypes and workshops for companies like North Face, Google, and Adidas, and even created an LED Matrix dress in partnership with Google and luxury fashion designer Zac Posen that was shown at New York Fashion Week. Now at LOOMIA, Maddy drives innovation and product development. In this episode, Maddy discusses her initial challenges founding LOOMIA (such as the importance of customer feedback before building the product), how e-textiles play into the future of wearable tech, how Maddy’s unconventional path has helped her better understand herself and her long-term goals, and how books can help maker-minded startup founders develop the business fundamentals of their early-stage venture.
Ep. 8: Sarah LaFleur on Building a Brand
In this episode, we talk to Sarah LaFleur about her career path from Bain to nonprofits, to a short stint in private equity, to founding M.M. LaFleur, a brand for luxury women’s working clothes. She shares her biggest career challenges and how she overcame them– in fundraising, growing the company, building the team, and the effects of macro current events. LaFleur also discusses her philosophy for leaving jobs that don’t foster personal growth, what culture fit really means, and the impact of her multinational upbringing across Tokyo, Taiwan, and D.C. She highlights the significance of diversity behind the investing table as investors begin understanding the importance of companies solving women's issues.
Ep. 7: Anne Solmssen on Iterating A Product & Serving as CTO of a Growing Startup
On this episode, we welcomed Anne Solmssen, CTO at Ethena – a startup that provides personalized, digestible harassment prevention training for modern teams. Ethena’s platform is deployed at notable companies including Netflix, Figma, and Zendesk, and uses humor and a micro-learning approach to make compliance training feel engaging and relevant. A New York City native, Anne first became interested in computer science after her high school teacher, Mr. Campbell, encouraged her to take his course after seeing no freshman girls enrolled in computer science. Now as CTO of Ethena, Anne leads the technical team and product development process. Anne discusses the hypothesis-driven product development cycle that made Ethena the novel, well-loved product it is today, the importance of getting customer feedback and hiring great talent, and how she is leading Ethena in changing the conversation around harassment training.
Ep. 6: Aagya Mathur and Manan Mehta on Choosing the Right Problem to Solve, How to Start A Fund, and their Investor-Founder Partnership
On this episode of TechInColor, we interviewed Aagya Mathur, CEO and co-founder of Aavia, a hormone health brand, and Manan Mehta, a founding partner at Unshackled Ventures, an early stage VC fund for immigrant-founded startups, including Aavia. Aagya discusses the importance of developing strong founder-problem fit, switching from studying neuroscience as a pre-med in college to business, and how overcoming cultural stigmas around discussing feminine health empowered her to pursue her business even more deeply.
Manan shares his journey of attempting to start a company with an immigrant co-founder and how the barriers to being sponsored for a work visa made it impossible. He realized that though many immigrants are inherently risk-takers and entrepreneurial, they are often restricted from pursuing their own ventures due to visa issues. He explains how he built Unshackled from the ground up as a solution to this problem, while including incredible stories of startups in his portfolio.
Listen in to learn from them both and hear their founder-investor relationship in action!
Ep. 5: Alexandra Zatarain on Finding Cofounders, First Jobs, and Building a Brand
In this episode, we welcomed Alexandra Zatarain, Co-Founder and VP of Brand and Marketing at Eight Sleep -- a sleep fitness company that develops advanced smart mattresses to help people sleep better. Sleep is an often overlooked aspect of health, and Eight Sleep aims to transform our perceptions of it the way companies like Fitbit have transformed fitness. Born and raised in Tijuana, Mexico, Alex immigrated to New York City after college, and took the leap to co-found Eight Sleep after realizing technology’s potential to improve health by improving our sleep. Alex discusses the importance of finding the right co-founders with aligned intentions and how being an entrepreneur involves handling novel situations that you can only conquer by doing, with the support of those who have been in your shoes. She also remarks on how the day-to-day challenges of running a startup go far beyond the IPOs and fundraising stories we often read about. And of course, we touch on her tips for engaging in a healthier sleep routine.
Ep. 4: Ablorde Ashigbi on Building a Startup
On this episode, we welcomed Ablorde Ashigbi, founder and CEO of 4Degrees, a platform that aims to equalize opportunity by using technology to improve relationship management. Ablorde is passionate about economic development, a former college athlete, and got the idea for 4Degrees while working in venture capital, after starting his career in consulting at Bain and Company. We discuss Ablorde’s path from entering college as a prospective lawyer to founding a tech startup, his regret-minimization framework for taking risks, one of his favorite quotes (“To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift”), and how Ablorde’s early passions for social justice and economic development have become his north star.
Ep. 3: Sarah Kunst on Breaking Into VC
On this episode, we welcomed Sarah Kunst, founder and managing director of Cleo Capital. After starting her career in advertising and startups, Sarah founded a fitness-tech company and later her own fund, for which she raised the second-largest first-time fund by a Black woman VC, ever. We discuss Sarah’s experience with fundraising and overcoming biases, her framework for prioritizing personal passion over checking boxes, how growing up in Michigan affected her investment philosophy, and her advice for breaking into venture capital. Listen in to Sarah’s unique perspective on building lasting professional relationships, balancing financial security and taking risks, how she continues to combine work and advocacy.
Ep. 2: Amy Sun on Finding Courage to Forge Your Own Path
On this episode of TechInColor, we welcome Amy Sun, startup founder and former Partner at Sequoia Capital. A native Bostonian, avid painter, and economics major in college, Amy was an early employee at Uber and the first woman on Sequoia’s growth team. Amy reflects on her unique path from starting out in growth marketing and moving into product management, venture capital, and entrepreneurship. We discuss her choice to pursue a career in tech versus finance, her investing philosophy, and Asian-American identity. Hear Amy’s stories of being in college when the first iPhone came out, founding a company during a pandemic, and how she follows her own path by diving into unexpected opportunities and prioritizing potential for growth!
Ep. 1: Ime Archibong on Finding Your North Star
On this episode of TechInColor, we welcome Ime Archibong, Head of New Product Experimentation at Facebook. The son of Nigerian immigrants, Ime discusses his unique journey from being interested in technology to leading a portfolio of diverse entrepreneurial teams focused on rapid product experimentation. Previously, Ime was Vice President of Facebook’s Platform Partnerships team, which managed Facebook’s relationships with companies like Spotify and Netflix. Hear Ime’s firsthand account about the tradeoffs of working at big companies vs. startups, the importance of role models and mentors, the advice he would have given his younger self, and how he discovered and pursued his passion of serving others with technology!
Ep. 0: Who We Are
Welcome to TechInColor, a podcast spotlighting the journeys and experiences of diverse leaders in tech and business. Brought to you by the Harvard Computer Society -- check us out at techincolor.xyz!