Last night I felt really inadequate! In May 2013 I was privileged to be invited on a Study Tour to Silicon Valley with 9 other Australian businesswomen (and one very brave host) hosted by the fantastic team at the Commonwealth Bank’s Women In Focus.
While I’d been there before, this trip was one of those life-changing and unique experiences. Not only did 11 high achieving women get along like a house on fire (unique in itself) but we become a bonded band of “silicon sistas” who shared the very real ups and downs of life as an entrepreneur – and, of course, got the once-in-a-lifetime experience of seeing the inside running of some of the Valley’s biggest businesses.
Three of us stayed for a few days afterwards to get the lay of the land in respect to launching our businesses in the US. After each day of meetings we’d congregate on the floor of my hotel room, Room 339, and work together on pitch decks, presentations and business plans. And we talked about how great it was to be able to collaborate and share resources with other like-minded people. Those sessions were gold.
We joked that, once we’d all “made it” we’d launch a co-working space (working title: Room 339) to help other women in startups to benefit, like we had, from collaboration.
Last night, one of the three of us, the fantastic Catriona Wallace, made that idea a reality with the launch of her women’s co-working space, “The Ventura”, in Sydney. With a vision of collaboration and with plans for more centres around the world and with a focus on including areas where women lack these resources, such as in regional areas and areas where there are disadvantaged communities.
Catriona’s energy, passion and ability to run 3 businesses and 3 charities – as well as raising 2 young children and 3 older ones as a single mother – continues to amaze me. And makes me feel totally inadequate as I struggle to balance time with one fast-moving start-up and time with my loved ones.
Each week, on more than one occasion, we get asked about how our business started. It started from one idea – and one conversation in a car between Alli and me that went “wouldn’t you think that if a dating site can match hair and eye colour, a job site could match the days and hours you want to work”. The Ventura came from a similar conversation on the floor of Room 339, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could create this type of collaboration for all women in startups”.
We now have Workible (now much more than a matching site due to more of those “what if” conversations) and the women’s start up community have the first (and I’m sure not the last) “The Ventura”.
Never doubt that those “what ifs” can turn into great things. They can, and they do – every day. In fact, it’s the only place they come from, so never be afraid to dream, question and create. It can be the start of some amazing innovation – and the ride of your life.