GeekGirl caught up with Anastasia Emmanuel, Director of UK Technology & Design for international crowdfunding site IndieGoGo. You can follow her on at @MiniAnastasia @IndiegogoUK
"I kind of 'fell' into tech"
What is your background?
For as far back as I can remember it’s been startup and tech related in some way but in a variety of roles. For the 5 years prior to joining Indiegogo in October 2013, I worked within media and technology. Until very recently, I was reporting tech news for leading UK technology website Tech City News, where I produced and hosted a weekly tech news video roundup. I’m very passionate about the power of video content for startups, and in the past I have created video series’ for startups, such as Suitcase Startup which showcased the journey of an entrepreneur coming to London to start his business, and the challenges he faced. Previously, I co-managed Newspepper - a new media agency in London working with clients such as BBC, PayPal, CH4, and The Guardian as well as many smaller start-ups. I have also produced content and worked in online marketing, new business, and business development at numerous start-ups, including Publicate which I joined as a cofounder in 2012/2013.
What attracted you to a career working in tech?
I kind of ‘fell’ into tech by accident as I was looking to get some experience in online presenting and joined Newspepper, a video agency that specialized in producing online content for startups and the tech scene. As a result I found myself at technology events every week, from startup events in London to SXSW in Austin, Texas. I was interviewing founders, and learning all about this fascinating industry that moved so fast I could barely keep up…that’s when I fell in love with Tech and it’s been an incredible journey ever since. It’s exciting and inspiring surrounding yourself with people who are trying to break the mold, do something innovative or create products that will make the world a better place.
What has been your proudest achievement?
Last year, I led a guerilla marketing initiative for Indiegogo in the UK. “Go Crowdfund Britain” was a million pound mission to get Britain’s best ideas, coolest inventions, brightest young businesses and the most creative music and arts projects crowdfunded on Indiegogo before the end of 2014. I set off on a nationwide crowdfunding tour visiting 10 UK cities over three weeks, to gather individuals, groups and companies with big ambitions and show them how to crowdfund successfully on Indiegogo. I held masterclasses in each city, met over 26 journalists to help spread the word of crowdfunding as an alternative finance source, and met dozens of previous campaigners and people wanting to launch an Indiegogo campaign. These were an inspiring few weeks and in less than 6 months, Britons from over 15 cities outside London raised over £1.2M for creative projects, tech inventions and great causes. I am very proud of all the successful Brits who brought their ideas to life on Indiegogo.
What has been your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge was also my proudest achievement; the nationwide tour because I embarked on it alone. It was such an amazing few weeks but it was pretty exhausting and challenging at times to keep the energy up. I think I overcame the challenge because of the amazing people I was meeting everyday. There was definitely some perseverance and determination on my end, but being inspired by creatives, entrepreneurs and people changing the world for better, made it easy to keep going!
What skills have been most valuable to you to get to where you are today?
I think the ability to dive in to daunting situations and find some inner confidence in a variety of scenarios. I do a lot of public speaking in my role, which I had barely done before and found intimidating, even though I was comfortable in front of a camera. I always say yes to opportunities that I would probably say no to, if I had a minute to think about it. It’s good to push yourself outside of your comfort zone and prove that you are capable of more than you know. As a woman in tech you have to be confident about your ability and just keep saying YES!
If you could do anything differently what would it be?
The Go Crowdfund Britain Tour; I would definitely have had someone, or in fact a team, on the road with me! I was pretty broken by the end of it, but it was worth it given that we smashed our target to raise over £1M from over 40 campaigns from over 15 cities outside of London
What’s next? Where do you see yourself in five years?
It’s hard to say what I will be doing next year let alone in 5 years to be honest, as things change and develop so quickly. I see myself being a hell of a lot busier at Indiegogo. In the short term, I plan to be spending a lot more time in Europe supporting the incredible products we are seeing. France, Germany, Barcelona and Estonia all have very exciting hardware communities as well as the UK being rife with talent. On a personal note, I enjoy what I do so much that it’s hard to fully know where I will be in 5 years. I imagine I will still be working closely with startups in 5 years, helping them refine their products and raise investment, whether this is within rewards crowdfunding or the wider equity landscape.
Who has been an inspiration to you and why?
There have been many women, and men, that have inspired me in my career over the years. Not least Indiegogo Founder Danae Ringelmann. Danae was struggling to fund an off-Broadway play when she first realized that finance was ultimately broken. Her struggle to find funding for the project revealed a fundamental flaw in the system: for centuries, access to capital has been controlled by a select few. Danae left her stable job in Wall Street to start Indiegogo with Eric Shell, and Slava Rubin with the mission to democratize access to capital and revolutionize the flow of funding, so that it can reach the ideas that matter and that the world wants. I’m inspired by people who want to improve the world through business and people who are trying to solve actual problems. My parents are entrepreneurs and taught me the value of hard work, resilience and creating something from scratch. They have inspired me since day 1 and are likely the reason I love what I do as an adult.
Which company or product are you excited by right now?
Cocoon raised over $220K via Indiegogo last year for their home security device. The team are all experts in the security field and executed on a great product. They created a fantastic product both in security and design, having won silver at the London Design Awards last year. Since a successful Indiegogo campaign, Cocoon have visited No.10 & the Palace, been named by The Times and Forbes as one of the top startups, opened new offices in Leeds and joined Internet of Things accelerator Breed Reply, raising over £1m investment. The first batch of products will be shipped to Indiegogo contributors this autumn, so watch this space because big things are on the horizon for Cocoon.
Can you recommend any books, classes or apps that have helped you in your career or day-to-day?
Like many women in business, I’ve read Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘Lean In’; it is a must-read for anyone seeking inspiration in what is a male dominated industry. Any gadget or app that makes managing your schedule and day-to-day work life easier is a winner. I use Hootsuite for social media scheduling and Sprout Social for analytics. Google apps are a lifesaver as I can access all my documents on the go, and Mailbox to help avoid inbox hell. Expensify is also a great app to keep track of expenses on the move. Citymapper makes travel a doddle and Uber of course saves me at the end of a busy day.
What are your top three tips you’d share with any women working in or considering a job in tech?
- Forget that you are a woman, it doesn’t matter what your gender is. It’s easy to become obsessed with the fact that you’re the only woman in the room, because you probably will be, but you have to forget it because it won’t get you anywhere. Just focus on doing a good job and proving your worth just as you would do in any industry.
- Be prepared for skepticism, unfortunately this comes with the male-orientated territory. I think many women in tech feel that they have to work harder to prove their worth, but that’s going to stand you in good stead in the long term.
- Most importantly though – do it! Dive right in because I can assure the UK tech scene is fun, rewarding and incredibly exciting right now. Any woman considering a career in technology will not regret it, guaranteed.
What can we do to get more women, and the generations to come, excited about careers in technology?
Really simply I think it’s about empowering girls and women and the only way to do that is through education. At a grass roots level, girls should not be taught to expect barriers to entry into certain industries. Girls can be put off of technology, science and engineering on the basis that these industries are ‘a man’s world’. This may be the case if you purely look at numbers but there are strong, successful women in these fields too, just look at the Miss Possible campaign. It also means that women can make more of an impact in these industries and be a force for good. The gender equality debate is very topical right now but I think it’s unproductive to focus too much on being a ‘women in tech’. Key issues such as salary equality, maternity leave and childcare are not going to be solved with only half of the population talking about them; men need to be part of the conversation too. In addition, I think a common misconception is that technology is not a creative industry, which could not be more wrong!
What is your tech dream? What do you expect we’ll see in 10 years-time?
It sounds kind of cheesy but I genuinely believe in our mission to make it possible for anyone to fund what matters to them, anywhere in the world. I would hope that in 10 years, crowdfunding isn’t an alternative source of finance, but something that is native to our culture. Crowdfunding isn’t a new concept; the base of the Statue of Liberty was crowdfunded through the platform of choice at the time – the newspaper. Joseph Pulitzer decided to launch a fundraising campaign in his newspaper The New York World and raised over $100,000 from 160,000 donors. What Indiegogo did was modernize this form of crowd sourced finance and build a technology platform to enable crowdfunding across the world. I would love to see these technologies used to truly democratize finance for third world nations as much as it is used every day in countries like the US and Europe.