Entrepreneur and Investor Talks


Success factors for female entrepreneurs

Reena Jadhav moderates a panel of top women execs in Silicon Valley

Innovation series by Reena A Jadhav
November 11, 2014
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At Vator Splash Oakland, Reena Jadhav hosted a panel of leading startup female executives. The panel included Mary Ann Byrnes (CEO of 3 venture backed startups and Harvard Business School graduate), Kristen McDonnell (CEO of venture backed Limelife, and Harvard Business School grad), Carol Carpenter (CMO at Clearslide and Harvard Business School grad), Anne Dwane (Chief Business Officer at Chegg and Harvard Business School grad), and Meera Kaul (Chairperson at The Meera Kaul Foundation).

The panel discussed top issues facing women executives in startups including fundraising, recruiting, scaling profitably, and achieving the elusive work life balance.

With respect to fundraising, Kristen McDonnell stressed the importance of networking and personal relationships. Carol Carpenter, who has been a part of two acquired startups, emphasized having a “game plan” going into a meeting with a potential investor. “Don’t suck the air out of the room”, she advised. Being an investor herself, Meera Kaul, chooses who she invests in based on the entrepreneurs’ conviction and “skin in the game” as well as any customer validation.

Recruiting top performers is critical to any startup success. Kristen McDonnell said she takes her time with the interviews and conducts thorough reference checks before an offer is made. Mary Ann Byrnes believes picking a team of people with diversity of thinking is absolutely key. It is also important to customize a plan for each hiree, regarding the way he/she balances his/her personal life. Carol Carpenter focuses on her own “three Cs-- Competency, Character, and Commitment”. When it comes to retaining recruited employees Meera Kaul bases her selections not necessarily on experience, but amenability to mentoring.

Reena Jadhav asked the panel what contributes to women run startups delivering 35% better investor returns? Kristen McDonnell proposed structuring startup expenses to be variable hence giving more flexibility and overall ROI. Carol Carpenter talked about the team being a key driver and the combination of collaboration and trust leading to higher returns. Anne Dwane said that it’s “not about just doing things right, but doing the right things” in order to increase returns.

Finally the panel shared their insights on achieving the elusive work life balance. Anne Dwane shared that while in the short term such balance can be difficult, in the long-term it is certainly plausible. Kristen McDonnell said that the key to balance is outsourcing anything that doesn’t require personal attention. Mary Ann Byrnes learned that she actually could ask for help, and that it was not a weakness ask, but rather, a strength. When asked what she has learned over the years, Carol Carpenter cited Confucius with the expression, “Want to go fast? Go alone. Want to go far? Go together”.



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Bio: Former venture-backed CEO, now President of M33 Partners, a growth strategy consulting firm, and serves on Boards of Advisors a...
Bio: Reena Jadhav is a 4 time entrepreneur (, Conduit, JobFlash, Riiwards), now working on, start-up Advisor...

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