SheStarts in San Francisco

Written by Mary Lieu on the 20th of July, 2017

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This is how it started

Gathered at Yerba Buena Gardens in downtown San Francisco on a sunny day, the SheStarts delegation was a striking group…all twenty-six of us!

Reunited on the other side of the world, there was a buzz of laughter and conversation between the SheStarts founders, team and our partners from ANZ, GSK, MYOB and Vasudhara.

As SheStarts Director Nicola Hazell walked everyone through the week ahead and what we could expect, the excitement in the air was palpable. The next ten days were going to be action-packed, insightful and inspiring.

In the end, it was all that and more.

This trip would not have been possible without Google Australia and Google for Entrepreneurs – thank you for your support in our mission. Now, as the SheStarts web series episodes documenting our time in the USA are being released, here is our sneak peak into SheStarts in San Francisco.

The Golden Gate Bridge.


G’day San Francisco!

Over ten days, we met with numerous players in San Francisco’s startup ecosystem, from startup founders to tech giants, investors, support networks and experts.

We walked around Stanford University, the place where two students named Larry Page and Sergey Brin met and started what would become Google, sat down for dinner with Australian entrepreneurs who moved their startups to the US and got a glimpse into the future at the IBM Watson Experience Center.

We visited Googleplex, Facebook, LinkedIn and Eventbrite to see what it looks like when a startup becomes a tech giant and to hear how they tackled growth, company culture and staying ahead in the market. We heard about Google for Entrepreneurs‘ initiatives to foster and support entrepreneurship globally, and were treated to a presentation from X, Google’s moonshot factory, who are on a mission to change the world with their new inventions and technologies.

And that was all before Wednesday!

SheStarts at Facebook HQ, San Francisco

Checking in! We loved touring the Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park.

A big thank you to the champions and companies that welcomed us to their offices and made it all happen, and of course to all the speakers who shared their learnings and passion with us.

We’re looking at you: Google, Stanford, Facebook, Blackbox, LinkedIn, Springboard, Deb Noller, Aussie Founders Network, Kate Kendall, Galvanize, Silicon Valley Bank, Rocketspace, Aubrey Blanche, Atlassian, Bullpen Capital, Leah Busque, Cisco Meraki, Salesforce, Little Passports, Eventbrite, IBM Watson & Brian Katzman!

We were blown away by each speaker’s honesty on the startup journey and their willingness to share knowledge and collaborate. (And FYI there’ll be more on these insights in our next blog, next week!)

But by the time our trip to the US drew to a close, there were two consistent messages that stood out above the rest…


1. “Don’t give up”

We all know the startup journey is hard. As Claire from vetchat noted, “if you’re looking at the statistics of startups, you would be depressed every day.” A 95% failure rate is hard to swallow, but it’s important to focus on the 5% that do succeed. In San Francisco, we were lucky to meet and spend time with a number of startup founders, all of them at different stages.

Deb Noller, founder & CEO of Switch Automation and a Springboard alumni, and Kate Kendall (founder & CEO of CloudPeeps) sat down with the SheStarts delegation for dinner one evening, along with Vicky Clare, Membership and Events Manager at the Aussie Founders Network.

Sharing their learnings from moving their startups to the US, Deb and Kate spoke about the importance of tapping into networks such as Aussie Founders Network, Springboard, Heads Over Heels and Scale Investors, building an online profile on Twitter through thought leadership, coming to meetings with a specific ask and understanding the different US markets. They also spoke about the importance of being resilient and pushing through the inevitable highs and lows of being an entrepreneur.

“If you’ve got a big idea, don’t give up. It’s important that you believe in yourself, that you believe in your idea and you’ll work it out.” – Deb Noller

This sentiment was echoed by the other entrepreneurs we met in the Bay Area: Leah Busque (founder of TaskRabbit) and Amy Norman (co-founder & co-CEO of Little Passports.)

Invited to an IVY event as guests of Leah, who was the featured speaker for their Entrepreneurship Night, we sat in a theatre alongside hundreds of other local entrepreneurs, to hear about Leah’s startup story. TaskRabbit, a marketplace matching local demand with labour, was founded in 2008 with the vision of ultimately changing the future of work. As Leah took the audience through TaskRabbit’s growth and where the company was going, it was clear that a large part of that success was driven by Leah herself and her unwavering belief in TaskRabbit’s potential.

“You have to rally yourself and your team around your North Star – an aligning purpose” – Leah Busque

And most importantly, don’t give up!


2. The tech industry is ready for change – and it needs to be

When we were at the Googleplex, Sarabeth Craig from Google for Entrepreneurs shared their five key ingredients for a successful startup ecosystem: talent, diversity, culture, capital and a regulatory environment.

We truly believe that innovation can be found everywhere, so it was fantastic to see Google’s commitment to this, with diversity being one of Google for Entrepreneurs’ pillars. Diversity of thought is key to building better products, teams and businesses – and gender is just one aspect of that. There’s a lot of collective work to be done on this front, but one of the things we can do is shine a light on the entrepreneurs that don’t fit the typical stereotype of a tech startup founder – people challenging the norms, just like the amazing women in SheStarts.

This message was echoed during at our visits to Atlassian and Bullpen Capital in San Francisco. Aubrey Blanche, Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Atlassian (and one of our amazing SheStarts advisors) spoke to us about building a new generation of investors.

The time for change is now.

SheStarts on the Google conference bike, San Francisco

Sally, Lucinda, Colette, Carla, Xiao Han & Naomi on the Google conference bike


“We’re really proud to be on this journey with you”

Even before the week had begun, our team here at SheStarts was feeling pretty chuffed to see the founders taking this giant leap into tech heartland. Not only were we inspired by the amazing people we met on the journey, but equally by the incredible group of founders sharing the experience with SheStarts. At every visit, the founders made a lasting impression as they introduced their startups to the leaders of industry, who were blown away by the range of game-changing ideas and passionate founders standing before them.

These entrepreneurs are truly brilliant and we can’t wait to see what’s next.

For more sneak peeks into our time in San Francisco, our partners and founders have written a number of blog posts about their experience – read them here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.

And don’t forget to tune into the final three episodes in the SheStarts web series – the first San Francisco episode is out today.

See you there!


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