Andrèz Coco is the founder and CEO of Knowlly which is a solution that makes it easier and faster for solar installers to help households adopt solar. Andrèz has experience in human centred design with some of the biggest brands and has worked in various locations around the world.
Read Andrèz story about being inspired in the USA to find her own voice, strength and pace.
As a startup founder, you juggle many different aspects of your business, and in the beginning, you’re the only one working on things. In the lead up to going to the USA with SheStarts, I was so busy working on my startup it felt like I wasn’t going as prepared I would like.
I did have some clear intentions – I wanted to build my overseas network and learn as much as possible from the people I was about to meet. That definitely happened.
I underestimated how much I would learn about myself and my journey of finding my voice and strength to have an impact on this world.
I came into the SheStarts accelerator with nothing but a big problem statement and a vision. I believe that it should be easy and engaging for every home to adopt a sustainable solution like solar. I am passionate about human centred design, about people, about making things enjoyable and accessible.
That’s why a young industry like solar needs a company like Knowlly to help connect people and put them at the centre of the solar experience.
Finding my own voice
When I started with SheStarts, I had no prototype, no extensive network or even clarity of exactly how I wanted to solve this problem. I just knew it had to be done and this felt like the perfect time for me to step up and do it.
It was scary to try find my unique voice in the world of sustainability among engineers, environmentalists and advocates in energy sector. There are many experts that have been in the industry for a long time and have deep knowledge and experience in this field. So after my first period of discovery, I became somewhat disillusioned thinking that I had to become more like them in order to be successful in this space.
My experience in the USA showed how my unique voice is an asset.
Here are examples of the reminders and learnings I had:
- Laura Williams at LinkedIn made an impact on me with this statement: “Don’t be afraid to be the alien, to be the odd one. It will set you apart and help you excel.”
- Sallie Krawcheck from Ellevest was so focused on her goal of helping women improve their financial situations, that she did thorough research and had over a thousand conversations with women to figure out what would motivate them to invest.
- Matt Brimer, co-founder of General Assembly and Daybreaker, stated, “You have to really believe in your business before it catches fire and others totally see the value.” This got me thinking, how can other people believe in what I stand for if I don’t stick to what I believe in?
- Nisha Dua from BBG ventures made a great point: “Investors will use their mandate (their idea of where they want to invest in) as an excuse if they don’t want to invest in you. This can just be because what you present doesn’t align with their personal perspectives.”
I realised, it is not only about my voice, it’s also about finding the voice of my customer and how to make sure I align the two. It was Aravind Krishnaswamy, a lead engineer at Google Photos, who reminded me of this.
“Have a strong intuition… Don’t lose intuition over data. Understand what customers say, what they don’t say, and what they are going to value. Then use data to validate it.” – Aravind Krishnaswamy, Engineering Director at Google Photos
Finding my strengths
Starting a business is intense. There are so many moments I have felt vulnerable and doubted if my passion and skills are good enough.
For me, this had less to do with insecurity and more with the fact that in an environment like this your are aiming for the stars, all day, everyday.
This meant that there perhaps I didn’t have more moments where I was looking back and see how far I already had come and how some of the things I had already implemented in my business were making a difference.
Samantha Katz, CEO & co-founder Left Tackle Capital, said:
“The greatest joy I receive is from helping others.” – Samantha Katz, founder of Left Tackle Capital
It sounds so simple right? But if that is what your business revolves around, it is something you should hero and display as your passion and your strength.
Sometimes you need a hand helping you find your strengths and your passion. Derek Handley from Human Ventures explained how they invest in people to help find their true reason of existence, and they then turn that passion into their mission running a business.
Finding my pace
In startups, it takes focus and resilience to find an innovative solution and solve a big problem, but it also takes time. This is why I really believe it is so important for every founder to find their own pace.
We’ve had so many uplifting and inspiring sessions and often came back to this statement from SheStarts Director, Nicola Hazell:
“This journey is a marathon, it’s not a sprint. Even though you might have periods of short sprints within the journey.” – Nicola Hazell, SheStarts Director
Not everybody’s journey is the same. It takes time to understand what it is your solving, for who and to build the relationships with your customers.
The GM of Cisco Meraki Tom Nightingale mentioned this when he said: “Listen to your customer and your employees relentlessly! Especially the non vocal group.”
Also Lizzy Wilmarth (a woman in tech in SF) explained how she takes her time to find her own way in getting to know the different people in the ecosystem she works in which is a traditionally male dominated role:
“I spend my time bringing people together and building community.”
What this says to me is, don’t try to rush things. Keep the pace but also take the right amount of time to get to know your customers, and your market.
In the USA, we met some inspiring individuals and listening to each of their stories allowed me to feel more grounded in my voice, my strengths and my pace. I’m still refining these things but I keep them top of mind when planning my day as it helps inform me what I should be focusing on next.
Since we got back from our trip, I have been able to make a bunch of progress, establishing a new product build I’m testing in the market, signing a pilot customer and speaking with more customers more frequently. The marathon continues, and I can’t wait to see what the next six months will hold.
The 2018 SheStarts cohort traveled to America in June to learn more about going global. Now the founders have officially graduated! Read more about their graduation or follow us on social media to hear what they’re up to next.