It’s hard to believe that Women 2.0 is now more than 7 years old. In just a few short years, the concept has evolved from a ‘women in tech’ conference to a networking lifeline for female entrepreneurs from all over the world. The company has grown to feature a blog network, regular conferences, pitch events, monthly meet-ups, investor hangouts, and weekly live broadcasts. It’s the reason why so many female entrepreneurs feel empowered to pursue their dreams.
How did this media empire come to be? What role did online content play in bringing entrepreneurs together? Learn from the co-founder herself — now director of growth at Hackbright Academy, a coding school for women — Angie Chang.
1. Then and Now: a 7-Year Review
Clarity: What inspired you to co-found Women 2.0? How did you grow the organization to what it has become today?
I’ve always made websites — starting in high school for my sister’s KEY Club (where she was president), then again in college for various student groups on the UC Berkeley campus, and again for friends when they organized conferences in the Silicon Valley.
Going to these startup and tech conferences and seeing pictures from them made me realize that I was often one of the three girls in a room of 97 guys. I looked for groups of women that wanted to start a startup, but only found barriers – there were groups for women with over $1M in revenue a year, but not for the self-starters like myself.
This was 2006. With enough asking around, I was connected with a few like-minded women who agreed we should find the other women in the Silicon Valley interested in connecting women in technology, business and entreprenuership. We were going to call it the “Women 2.0 Conference,” and it was held at AOL in 2006.
Over one hundred people showed up to that conference, and seven years later, over a thousand people showed up to the annual Women 2.0 Conference. The Women 2.0 2014 Conference is a production much fancier and larger than we could have imagined in 2006.
My co-founder and CEO Shaherose Charania drove the business side of the media company that we would incorporate as Women 2.0, and I grew the brand and website as editor-in-chief. I was writing multiple articles a day for Women 2.0, ForbesWoman and Huffington Post and realized I was becoming a journalist / blogger. But I had imposter syndrome when people recognized me as a member of the press and had trouble getting excited redeeming press passes to conferences.
So I was excited to bring on real journalists, bloggers and social media hires to Women 2.0 and leave the mature 7-year old organization to work on changing the ratio of women in engineering at Hackbright Academy, where I joined as a Director of Growth.
2. Taking Action on Analysis
Clarity: Why are you passionate about the topic of women in tech? At what point did you realize that the timing was right to start doing something about it? What have you learned?
I saw the imbalance in gender in my industry in 2006, the first year I started working. I was at Y Combinator’s Startup School in 2006 and looked around Stanford’s auditorium and spied only a handful of women in the audience. I wondered why more women weren’t starting startups, and I wanted more women to be interested in building growth companies with me.
I wanted to make a Yelp for beauty products, because nobody in the Web 2.0 space was tackling the female market. Starting Women 2.0 was popularizing entrepreneurship among women — we were making the early-stage women entrepreneurs we knew into role models, and followed the successes of women like Caterina Fake and Marissa Mayer. Today, we have Lean In, Levo League, The Daily Muse, Jezebel, Model View Culture and a ton more women-minded publications for the next generation of tech-savvy women leaders.
I learned that it’s good to be early, and lead the pack. I also acknowledge now the power of having a good public relations person on the early team. Look at the successes of GoldieBlox, Girls Who Code, Samasource and LearnVest —these female-founded companies receive national coverage on television and are featured in magazines regularly.
3. On Funding & Resource Management
Clarity: How did you initially fund Women 2.0? How were you able to accelerate the organization’s growth into a viable business model?
Moonlighting is what kept Women 2.0 going for the first five years. It was our passion project — we worked on it nights and weekends happily, and went full-time when the time was ripe. I went full-time on Women 2.0 when our conference goal went from 400 attendees to 1000+ attendees.
It was a very timely move, as I had to work overtime to ensure that all marketing and content went smoothly for the next few quarters. I loved every minute of it — the work was very fulfilling, and people often commented that Women 2.0 appeared to have a bustling editorial team of contributing writers — when really I was the only editor and writer, managing contributions from our community of aspiring and emerging entrepreneurs.
4. On Building a Community
Clarity: What are your most valuable lessons for building a community online (and in person)?
We realized early on that entrepreneurship is about people — not her company or her product or her skills. We all switch jobs and learn new skills — we are capable of stepping up to new ambitious dreams. We dared women of all ages and backgrounds to dream, to be aspirational, to want to launch a venture-fundable growth startup.
We utilized every channel from Twitter to Facebook, Pinterest to Instagram, to connect with women everywhere. We also started collecting email addresses from day one of Women 2.0, and I ran our successful email marketing campaigns for 7 years. I am a big proponent of email over social media for actual sales conversion.
5. Becoming an Influencer
Clarity: You’ve been successful in becoming an influencer among communities of women entrepreneurs. What steps would you recommend that women take to become influencers too?
My favorite influencers write blogs, not just funny 140-character tweets. And remember, you will be creating a body of work in your lifetime, so don’t stress about your imperfect blog post or one confusing paragraph in your article — just hit publish.
You’ll go back and edit your blog post, and as friends send you critiques, you’ll refresh your blog post some more. And then you’ll write another one next week, and another blog post the week after that. You’ll find out what you’re good at writing about, what interests you, and what works in terms of getting traction.
Reach out to people, show them your blog and talk to them. Take the advice of people you respect, stay in touch with them (you don’t have to be best friends that catch up every weekend, but try to touch base at least once a year by email), and build your network of like-minded people around your vision.
Angie Chang co-founded Women 2.0. Her experiences include:
- Running growth at Hackbright Academy, a school that teaches women in San Francisco how to code.
- Starting Bay Area Girl Geek Dinners to network women in technology.
- Holding positions in product management and web/UI production at various Silicon Valley startups.