Shaherose Charania – Women 2.0 1 of 2

“Entrepreneurship is a soul journey.” Shaherose is the cofounder of Women 2.0 and Founder Labs mobile app incubator, and a mentor at 500 Startups.

Matthew: Hi, this is Matthew Matthew with We empower entrepreneurs to have a voice and share their story with the world, enabling others to learn about building products and starting companies. So I’m very excited today because I’m here with Shaherose Shaherose, who is the founder of 2.0 and Founder Labs. 2.0 promotes, sponsors, mentors, and encourages in tech entrepreneurship, and Founder Labs is a pre-incubator organization for mobile application ideas. So that said, Shaherose, we’d love for you to give our audience a brief bio.
Shaherose: Sure, a little bit about myself, sure. So, I am originally Canadian, here in Silicon Valley I’ve been here for six years. Mostly worked inside mobile start-ups for the last four or five years and had an amazing time doing it. I was at the ground floor of certain companies that went through acquisition, was at the ground floor of something that just started with an idea, worked directly with founders to build something from an idea to reality, and in the last year and a half kind of took a turn and started to do a little bit more with the entrepreneurship ecosystem. So we’ve been running Women 2.0 for the last five years, but Founder Labs was a thing that I started last year. I thought to myself, “Well, I could start a company, which was the original plan, or I could just enable 5, 10, 15, 20 start-ups in one year.” So I kind of took on that challenge and started Founder Labs last year. As you mentioned, a pre-incubator for new mobile ideas, so basically we think mobile is the future, we want more people to get into it. Not everyone has their founding team, not everyone knows what idea to go after, and so we enable that.
Matthew: So, can you, you know, tell us, you know, what makes Women 2.0 unique, as well as Founder Labs, and who are those services and organizations for and why are you so passionate about being involved with them?
Shaherose: Sure, so Founder… so Women 2.0, to start with that, something we started in 2006 as a side passion, as something we thought that was needed in the market. I had moved here from Canada and was working in start-ups and was always the only female in the room, and was meeting smart women who were also smart in maybe the engineering side, but were sitting inside big corporate tech companies and not thinking about entrepreneurship, and we thought that’s a bit of a shame and we think they should try. And we also saw our guy friends, who we loved hanging out with, but they were funding each other and we thought, “Well, wait a second. Where do we get the funding from, ’cause everyone knows everyone here,” and there was just this lack of role models when you think of, you know, women who are founders. So, we just sort of took it upon ourself to start an organization very organically, very sort of authentically. Did monthly meet-ups, created a community. So what’s unique about our community is it’s just something that just sort of snowballed on its own; we never had an intention of building a big brand that we have today, or a huge 10-, 20-, 30,000-person community. We just wanted to get people together and encourage female founders, so yeah, here we are today, we’re a pretty big organization, more than we ever expected, and now what we do is we focus on aspiring entrepreneurs, so people who think that they wanna start a start-up, by sharing stories, much like FounderLY, on our website about females who have started companies. We do workshops for people to learn how to code, we do networking events called Founder Friday, and a whole bunch of other things that get women just started. And we also work with current founders through Women 2.0; these are basically women who have started something, they’re sitting in the sort of founder’s seat, and we want them to, you know, share their story and get exposure for their start-up. And the last group of people we work with are investors and we want the investors to meet our (unintelligible – 0:03:55.9) so it’s a big cycle of sort of taking someone from just a sort of potential to a current and then pairing them up with investors over time, so that’s Women 2.0. What’s unique about that is we’re starting with the beginning, you know, we’re sort of getting people and transforming raw talent into future entrepreneurs and I think that’s kind of exciting, especially now after five years where we didn’t really know what was going on but now we’re seeing entrepreneurs launch new companies, females, that they were just thinking about before, so sort of the fruits of our labor are happening ’cause not only are they starting they’re getting funding, too, which works (unintelligible – 0:04:33.0) so we’re tracking everyone’s progress. And so, you know, we’re just there for the life cycle of the . And Founder Labs, I mean, unique about that it’s focused on mobile. We try to do diversity, so we would like the group to have at least 50% female. The whole group is half engineers, five designers, five business people, so it’s a nice mix of smart people in a room, but I guess the commonality is they don’t have their team built, they don’t know what their idea is, and so we’re kind of just before they even get into an incubator we’re sort of creating new teams and new ideas.
Matthew: Excellent. And so what are some of the technology and market trends that currently exist, and where do you see things developing in the future for your space?
Shaherose: So that’s a very good question. I think it’s equal for the space of women entrepreneurs and it’s equal for the general space of founders in mobile is that global markets are opening up beyond just the world of, you know, social media and social networking here that people innovate on. Markets are opening up around the world that the mobile phone can access, and what’s ironic about that is often the first person who has a phone in a family is a woman, so for me that’s a trend I’ve been tracking for forever and I think now is a time where entrepreneurs in the Valley can think about that as an opportunity; they can think about mobile services, they can think about mobile technologies, back end, front end, whatever, that actually you’re targeting an entirely different market, and so I encourage that within Founder Labs, I think that there’s opportunity there that is sort of a little bit really early and guess what, if you understand women you… it’s a whole other opportunity as well.
Matthew: So we’ve covered your background and an overview of the market. Can you speak a little bit about your cofounders—how’d you meet them, what qualities and skills were you looking for, and how’d you know that they would make good cofounders?
Shaherose: Sure. I had no idea. (laughs) So when it came to… I mean, I’ve had cofounders throughout my, I guess, history here, for the Women 2.0 cofounders (unintelligible – 0:06:43.0) we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. We were just four women, we actually met through a friend of ours who some of the people who are watching this video would know his name, Noah Kagan. He had met me randomly, I had just moved to the Bay Area, he said, “Ah, I know these girls, you should meet them,” and I thought OK, whatever. And we met and it was an OK meeting; let’s just say we had no idea that we were gonna work together for the next five years (laughs) and we realized that we all were passionate about the same kind of thing when it came to getting, you know, diversity into the founder force of Silicon Valley and we all had a unique set of skills. None of us would overlap on our skills, you know, I was the talker, I was the sort of, you know, organizer/leader, you know, we had a person who was really, really good at finance, one who was really good at sort of the community building aspect of it and we had all different skills, so it was nice because we fell into our own roles really quickly. With some founders that I’ve worked with on other tech companies, it’s funny, I feel like I just, I like do haphazard about them, you know, like I’d been working with them in another start-up and I knew what it was like so that was good enough sort of experience to say I want to do something with you again, and so I think now I reflect on what I’m looking for a little bit more, but I think at the time I wasn’t doing that (laughs) it was just sort of very opportunistic.
Matthew: From idea to product launch, how long did it take and when did you actually launch?
Shaherose: For Women 2.0 if it was, you know, a new video product or whatever we would just put it out, we didn’t wait, and then we just poof! and there, so it could be weeks, literally, you know, where we would just come up with an idea and launch it. When we talk about the concept of Founder Labs, we put it together I think in a month or two and went OK, let’s just put it up. And, you know, we changed so much, you know, our model has changed, we’re, you know, all grown up in some ways, and so I think it’s… there’s no real timeframe, it’s just more about just starting with something, putting it out in the world, and then changing it as you get feedback from your audience. When we look at the ideas that come in Founder Labs, the program’s only five weeks and it’s four people on a team and they pick an idea, then they have five weeks to put out a prototype, and they do it. Do they keep the prototype the same, you know, months later? No, but they got something out of it, so we’re all about rapid prototyping and moving fast.
Matthew: And are there any unique metrics or social proof about Women 2.0 and Founder Labs that you’d like to share with our audience?
Shaherose: Sure. It’s… I think the last two years has been telling of the work that we’ve done, where we’ve seen, I don’t know, maybe 10, 20, 30 companies that we had touched, whether we put them through one of our programs or, you know, we had helped them find a cofounder, or we introduced them to an investor, they are now happening, you know, they’re… a couple are in this building, right. We saw them three years ago and they said, “Oh, we wanna do this idea” and we said, “OK, we’re gonna help you,” so we helped all of these entrepreneurs, whether some of them were really hands-on helping, some of them were just sort of on the side, and the social proof is that they’re now succeeding, you know, they’ve gotten funding, we’ve got a couple companies that are just rocketing and so we’re excited about all the companies that I could give you a long list of them, and so, you know, we’re profiling them as much as we can on our website. And so with Founder Labs, too, it’s the same thing—we went from a team that, for example, they just came up with an idea. Five weeks later they have a team with a prototype and after that, three months later they’re funded, and so that’s the kind of flow we’re seeing. Things are happening fast, faster than I think in the past, and yeah, just to say that these are a part of our portfolio is… it’s exciting.
Matthew: And how do… if one was interested in being involved in Founder Labs, how would they go about that?
Shaherose: Yeah, so Founder Labs we run three sessions a year of the pre-incubator, it’s a five-week program at New York and San Francisco and they just have to apply online. It’s a very, very competitive process. It’s all about you when you apply, so you’re applying and going through typical on an application process but we wanna understand who you are or what your raw skills are and it’s not so much about your idea. Your idea is awesome, I’m sure it is, but it’s all about who you are and what you’re bringing to the table, and so you just have to apply online and our next session starts May 21st in New York and so that’s already closed up. The next one is in August in San Francisco here at True Ventures, so we usually work in early stage venture capital firms to just sort of be in that environment and so yeah, just apply online, And to get involved in Women 2.0 they should just go to the website and sign up for the new start.
Matthew: We know founders face unique challenges when they decide to launch a start-up. What was the hardest part about starting Women 2.0 or Founder Labs, and how’d you overcome the obstacle?
Shaherose: I think it’s interesting to say that it’s more about just the uncertainty of what’s next, you know, like what if it doesn’t work out, where do I go, you know? (laughs) And so I think I went through that process at the beginning when I decided that I would go full time on Founder Labs in October. I thought, well, if it doesn’t work out then it’s OK, you know? Like, I had to convince myself of that and it didn’t take too much, but there is that hesitation, I think, to take that leap. I think other people go through other, you know, decision-making processes, but for me it was just like, well, if not then what? (laughs) And I think I’ve still got the answer still, right, I’m still writing it. We’ll see where it goes, but it’s exciting to have taken the leap. I’m the kind of person who can’t work for people, so I’ve always kind of wanted to, you know, be my own boss, and so I think the alternative keeps me awake (laughs) enough to…


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