This is a guest post from SheStarts founder, Laura Simmons. Laura has been working as an Occupational Therapist (OT) for 5+ years, and she is the founder and CEO of Theratrak – a digital platform where therapist can empower their clients to track their therapy from home.
Here Laura outlines her top lesson from the trip: making the most of your support network. Read more about the seven groups of people who have inspired and worked with Laura on the USA Delegation.
When I began my startup journey, it felt like the first day of high school all over again.
I didn’t feel like a founder yet, I felt like a small fish in a huge ocean.
This feeling of inadequacy can be really overwhelming and daunting if you aren’t surrounded by an incredible team of cheerleaders.
From Occupational Therapist, To Tech Startup Founder
When the SheStarts accelerator program first started, I had a lot of self-doubt and would often undermine my experience as an OT and the value I bring as a startup founder.
Also, it was never my intention to start a tech company. The idea for Theratrak started as an idea to write a book. Then I realised how tech would enable me to engage and reach more people to have a global impact.
It was tricky to shift my perspective to really embody my expertise and the contribution I can make.
Engage with your Ecosystem & Utilise Organic Connections
The turning point for realising my value was on the Shestarts USA Delegation. I finally realised how much I know. My experience in the USA showed me not how I need to fit into the startup ecosystem, but how I can link existing startup communities with my own ecosystem.
I’ve worked as an OT for almost six years now and I’ve been in the world of OT ten years if you include study and work experience. I’m only now beginning to realise the value of the organic connections I’ve made over the past decade, including mentors and fellow OT’s, who have incredible knowledge and insights about our industry.
It’s shown me the importance of reaching out to people.
The Power of Support
In the USA, we met inspiring people who were passionate about what they’re doing, and why they were doing it. And their passion for our ideas continuously surprised me.
Some supporters came from the same industry and while others didn’t, the one thing all of them echoed was the power of their ecosystem and asking for help.
Below are just some of the people we met on the USA Delegation that had a positive impact on me and encouraged me to reach out to my (and their) networks:
1. Laura Williams, City Programs at Linkedin
Besides from having the same first-name, I really enjoyed Laura’s passion and insight around working in the tech industry for the first time.
Laura spoke about how she consciously integrated her prior knowledge and experience into her current community leadership role at LinkedIn. The way Laura described integrating her non-tech experience was inspiring because it helped me to realise that I don’t have to wear two hats and be two different people.
I can be a tech founder, who is also an Occupational Therapist – and I need to integrate my roles and experiences to make my startup successful.
2. Raji Ambikairajah, CEO of Folo & SheStarts Advisor
Raji accompanied us on the Delegation and her generosity with time and knowledge was humbling. In just one session, Raji helped me to better understand my startup’s potential roadmap.
During a feedback session, Raji also encouraged us to think more strategically about the relationships we’re building. Raji suggested we think about what we can give or what we can add to other’s interests. Ensuring we’re giving as well as receiving creates further good connections as people will know how what we can offer.
3. Adi Abili, Managing Director of Accelerators at Angel Hack
With Adi, you can tell instantly that she is in the startup world for genuine reasons. I was struck by her kindness and patience with all of the founders – she spent a lot of time with us work-shopping our startups.
Adi has this efficient process where she works with you to problem solve, ask questions and quickly understand each founders and startups – and then she uses her skills to mentor, ask the right questions, and gets you to build on their idea further. She’s phenomenal and helped all of us to think bigger and more linearly!
4. Meredith Finn, Vice President of Salesforce Ventures
Meredith went above and beyond to help us expand our network in the USA. She spent a lot of time with us and connected us to other inspiring women and investors.
On our first day in New York at Salesforce, Meredith held a conversation with Sallie Krawcheck where we learned a lot about how these women value hard work and let their outcomes speak for themselves after going ahead and getting great work done.
At Salesforce in San Francisco, SheStarts Director, Nicola Hazell facilitated a panel of expert female social impact investors where they shared insights about the differences between startups and investment in Australia and the USA.
Meredith also created space for us to test-run our pitches in front of investors. It was an invaluable experience and we all received valuable feedback which has helped to improve our pitches and our startups.
5. The Team at Austrade & The Australian Landing Pad
AusTrade and The Landing Pad were very helpful with tips to navigate startup communities in the USA. Their teams facilitated connections to some really incredible industry leaders that are advising us on the next phase of our startups.
It reminded me that rather than trying to start a new community, we need to connect with people who are already doing similar things. They’re out there and they often want to help.
6. Samantha Katz, co-founder & CEO of Left Tackle Capital
We met Samantha at her family-run business, the New York Distillery where she is the Director of Community Engagement. I found Samantha particularly inspiring as she was dynamic, passionate and she juggles many priorities with grace. Samantha also has experience working on Wall Street and she recently co-founded a VC firm focused on women supporting other women.
Samantha used her time with us really effectively after sharing her story, she listened to each of ours and tried to connect us with those in her network who can help our startups.
Samantha had a clear passion for working to change problems from the inside. Working in the healthcare industry, she gave me hope that we can change businesses, industries and social constructs when we aim to spark change positively from the inside.
7. My fellow SheStarts Founders
Since the trip to the USA, the SheStarts cohort 2 of founders have worked together to create an even stronger support network. We all have different problems to solve but we often come across the same issues or have advice that might help one another.
I feel like I have another set of friends who I can relate to and lean on. They understand and can empathise with the stress and fun that founder life brings!
This friendship reminded me how it’s important to connect with people on similar missions so you can celebrate and commiserate with them as they will more likely understand where you’re coming from.
It’s All About the Journey & Who’s With You
The biggest learning for me after returning from the USA is to reach out even further to my ecosystem bring them on the Theratrak journey.
With Theratrak, we’re trying to digitise the health system from the inside out, and health tech needs to be built by the people that use it. My biggest focus to is to make sure that I am listening and tapping into this ecosystem to build the most user-friendly product possible.
I am so grateful for this experience because I don’t know how Theratrak would have started without this sort of a kick start with the SheStarts program.
The support network on this crazy startup journey never ceases to amaze me.
It has been such an empowering experience to be constantly surrounded by people who want to see you succeed and are willing to share every shred of wisdom to get you there.
If you need help, ask. And if you can help, offer it.
Laura Simmons is the CEO and founder of Theratrak which is a digital platform that allows therapists to capture and digitise meaningful information from therapy sessions then use this data to prescribe customised therapy programs for children. We are building a digital platform that allows clients to be able to access all of their therapy home program information in one place to be able to feel empowered to take charge of their child’s healthcare. This platform also enables therapists who wouldn’t normally work side by side to treat in a more holistic approach.