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In this interview with noted Social Evangelist Sandy Carter, we talk about why women entrepreneurs matter so much, and what they need to succeed.
As General Manager at IBM Entrepreneurs, and a leading Social Evangelist in the global world of start-ups, Sandy Carter is a fantastic role model for women who aspire to make it big.
Nor are those the only hats she wears. The author of 3 books, including “Get Bold,” Sandy is also a committed advocate for the growth of women as entrepreneurs, and for women entrepreneurs to receive the full access they need to all resources for their growth.
She serves on the board of Girls in Tech, WITI (Women in Technology International), and on the Advisory Board of Women of the Channel (WOTC) West.
Sandy Carter will soon be meeting Women’s Web readers who are business owners, at an exclusive high tea and networking event in Mumbai. Prior to what we believe will be a very purposeful event, I had the opportunity to interview Sandy – it was a very candid discussion on how business is changing, what start-ups and SMEs need to be prepared for, and most importantly, how women entrepreneurs are changing the game, for themselves and the ecosystem around them.
As a firm believer in the power of women owned businesses, we began by talking of her upcoming trip to India, and what she was looking forward to experience, with women entrepreneurs in India.
Sandy kicked off our conversation by talking about the power of diversity to create great ideas. As she says, “Studies have shown that diverse groups are more innovative than groups of people who are all the same. Women entrepreneurs are a big part of creating more diverse teams and companies. However, we need to do more to enable women entrepreneurs in India to activate such companies, and lead the ‘start-up nation’ that India is aspiring to become.”
I asked her if she believed women still have some way to go to get there, or whether they are already a big part of this charge.
She reflected that while women are already leading in many cases, both in India and elsewhere, there are certainly some inhibitors to this. For instance, research shows that women led businesses are 15% more profitable than those led by their male counterparts, but 40% less likely to get funded!
She added, “There is also the question of how many women are founding businesses. Only 14% of founders today are women, but women founders bring in so much diversity and innovation. As part of my visit to India, I am looking to encourage more women to take that step, but also encourage more VCs and investors to step up and take calculated business risks.”
We then spoke on what is personally a pet peeve for me – the commonly held perception that women are not “serious” about business or technology.
Sandy’s sage advice is that part of it is ensuring that we stay focused on the business numbers. (As she mentioned earlier on, if women led businesses are 14% more profitable than those of their male counterparts, that number says a lot!)
She added, “I am evangelizing some of those numbers to VCs and angels. So part of this is educating people about the facts: What is the ROI of a woman entrepreneur? If we understand that, there is no reason for us to not invest in women, and I don’t say this lightly.
Investing in women as entrepreneurs, and investing in products that benefit women and girls, is the future. This is a very powerful message to take to the marketplace.”
Given her role at IBM Entrepreneurs, I was curious at to why SMEs and start-ups matter to an industry giant like IBM. Was it all about the bottomline, or was there more to it?
When I put this question to Sandy, she emphasized the importance of the ecosystem and learning from it, in a cloud based world. As she elaborated on it, “Many developers still work in traditional large enterprises such as banks and in global integrators, but their sheer numbers don’t outweigh their influence. Today developers working in start-ups and SMEs have a great impact too on the ecosystem, in terms of the languages and design methodologies they adopt.
For IBM, we have always been a forward thinking company and believe that it is important to build that next generation of technologies; so while we help start-ups to go to market or coach them with other tools that they need, we also create feedback loops to help us learn from them. I believe that all great partnerships are built on such win-win relationships.”
Sandy Carter has written extensively about social influence, and so I asked for her thoughts on building social influence in an authentic manner.
She says, “I believe that if you look at what is happening today around the world, but especially in India (which is a very ‘social nation’), people are looking at what others say about the things they want to buy. Smart companies will leverage what others are saying about you, and especially what influencers are saying.
This means it is important to understand influencers in an authentic way, that relates to your business. Studies show that when an influencer for your industry writes about you, the ROI is 11 times higher than that of a banner ad. It is important to understand who they are (and there are tools today to help us do this), engage with them in an authentic way and recruit them. To do this, you always have to have a win-win situation and offer them something of value. For instance at IBM, we leverage influencers at important conferences, but we enable them to get access to valuable information that is of use to them.”
In her view, businesses that are thinking ahead of business as social, definitely need to be prepared for using video much better, and in particular, real time video.
She believes that, overall, using and combining technology with data to create more meaningful messages is going to be very important. Increasingly, Cognitive and artificial Intelligence tools are going to be available to help us do that.
Entrepreneurs, even those who are not technologists, will therefore need to have a combination of understanding technology (even if they don’t need to code), and the know-how of how to use it.
We ended our conversation on a high note, with Sandy telling me, “I am so excited about coming to India! You have the talent, the energy, the passion – you feel it when you step out here. You have Startup 3.0 coming up here, and it feels great to be a part of that.”
As an entrepreneur myself, I came away from the call enthused by the warmth as well as energy she brought to the cause of start-ups in India and in particular, women led businesses.
If you are a woman passionate about growing your business, join us at Women Rock! Paper Scissors, where you will have the opportunity to be part of a small group that meets Sandy Carter (and other successful women) in person.
We will be talking about the future of our businesses in a highly social world, and preparing to meet those challenges in a dynamic fashion.
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