Kelly Hoey co-founded Women Innovate Mobile after leaving the legal world where she was a corporate attorney. Today Kelly is a sought after strategist, speaker, startup advisor and board member. Whether or not you’re interested in, or even understand the tech world that is growing around us, Kelly’s words on following your passion, intuition and changing a negative focus into a positive one are bound to resonate with you.
When did you first realise that you had a passion for technology, and how did that blossom into a career?
I have a passion for making things happen by igniting ideas, leveraging opportunities and tapping into networks and communities of interest. The emerging technology and startup eco-system is the perfect environment for me to be working in. My career started in 1991 in law and I intentionally avoided technology because at that time, those skills in the corporate office environment were associated with administrative tasks. My career in tech blossomed in 2012 when I turned my focus to angel investing and co-founded a startup accelerator focused on investing in early-stage mobile ventures founded by women. Part of the reason why I believe my career in tech has taken off is (a) my clear understanding of how and when I can guide entrepreneurs on their ventures and (b) my strong advocacy for women in tech by focusing on the product(s) they are creating and their expertise. It also helps that my actions (investing in and mentoring startups) match my words (in the media or as a speaker, moderator and panelist).
Can you tell us a little about your motivations behind founding Women Innovate Mobile
The reason for founding a startup accelerator focused on funding early stage mobile ventures with diverse founding teams was mission driven investment. Female founded companies are undervalued and overlooked by the investment community. Female founded companies are more capital efficient and produce higher returns. As an early stage investor, who wouldn’t seek those investment advantages in the market?
It was evident to me from my entry into the startup community that access to networks to influence and introductions to key stakeholders would make or break a new venture. Ideas are nothing without a network. This is where the mission part of WIM comes in for me. Women and minorities are generally speaking outside and lacking access to these key relationships. Accelerators provide access to key networks through mentorship and investor introductions as well as educational and marketing programming.
You were a driver behind the Google+ Hangout on Air Series #womenwhotech and the “Meet The Innovators” Apple speaker series. How did these incredible programs come about and what were your personal highlights along the way?
I coalesced a community behind WIM which was more interested in hearing about the products and companies women were creating versus simply continuing the conversation on why there are so few women in tech. I’m not saying the women in tech conversation (hiring, retaining, promoting) is not important but it was not the conversation we were having as part of the marketing strategy I created for WIM.
A key recommendation of most studies on how we get more women into STEM is more mentors and role models. The #womenwhotech series in particular was born out of that undisputed ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ finding. However, when you look around and see panels of women in technology, they are often discussing the problems and challenges. Who wants to go into a career that is constantly presented in a negative light?
The Meet The Innovators series collaboration with the Apple Store in SoHo (NYC) came about as a result of an introduction from a developer at Apple who recommended that the events marketing team speak with me about the programming I was creating for the accelerator. My approach – talking about the issues and challenges of launching a startup – was attracting an engaged, diverse cross-section of the emerging tech community, so Apple invited me to bring those conversations into the store.
Highlights? I’ve had the chance to interview data scientist Hilary Mason on four occasions and I’ve riffed on creativity as well as company culture with Tina Roth Eisenberg, @swissmiss. I’ve moderated Meet The Innovators panels in New York, London, Chicago and San Francisco. I assembled a panel of venture capitalists that was comprised only of women and we did not discuss work-life balance, maternity leave or gender, the conversation was expertise-focused on these VCs invest. All of the Meet The Innovators are available on iTunes and I’m very proud of all the conversations I had a part in creating.
What do you think are the current barriers preventing more women from working in tech today?
Tech is not fulfilling its promise of being a meritocracy. Tech was supposed to be different and instead it exhibits the same faults and warts of other economic verticals in recruiting, hiring and promoting women and minorities. I won’t even step into the GamerGate, internet trolls and other sexist harassment horrors faced by women in tech. When an industry is continually presented in a very negative light, is it any wonder that it does not appeal as a career choice to a large number of women in spite of the great opportunities the sector offers?
If you had any advice for your 18-year old self, what would it be?
Stay curious. Don’t be afraid of failing or looking foolish and definitely, stop worrying about “succeeding” before you’ve turned 30. And learn to code.
Kelly Hoey is a strategist, CMO and public speaker.