Meet Elise, Garage48 Women Special Mentor

We are doing it again! Garage48 is hosting the women special event in Pärnu on the 10-12th of October, together with TechSisters. Like every time, we are looking for fresh and innovative ideas on how to make the world better, a bit. Take a big and positive step by joining the weekend hackathon in Pärnu, for which the registration is now OPEN! To mentor during the process we have a team of successful women. This week we would like to introduce you Elise Sass, who has long been involved with Garage48 and is the co-founder of Startup Wise Guys.

 Why should women start creating startups and how do startups differ from usual businesses? 
 
Startups are scalable businesses. This is why I don't consider opening a muffin cafeteria a startup - scalable means that you should be able to keep costs low while the revenue grows. With a cafeteria business the costs increase together with the number of clients or locations. If you innovate the muffin business by finding a way how to bake muffins quicker, for example clients make an order through a mobile app and a drone will deliver the orders - then it's a startup and we can talk about scaling the business.  I am not one of those women who says that women should do everything by themselves. I just feel that too many women have been holding themselves back, their participation in startup teams as founders from day 1 should be bigger.   

Pitching and presentation hold a significant part in attracting co-partners, a skilled team and investors. What are the secrets behind a captivating pitch and a solid presentation? 
 
The secret is - "Be yourself"! It doesn't matter if you're pitching to co-founders or investors, you need to present the way you feel comfortable. It still means that you need lots of practice and should be able to deliver a 1 minute or a 5 minute pitch the moment you wake up. I have seen that at Garage48 events so many times - those presenters who feel comfortable on stage from the beginning, don't think they need to practice and they are just "OK, on Sunday evening...", but often those girls or boys who are not used to presenting, who are really anxious and nervous, but spend lots of time practicing -  script, voice, hands, gestures -  they will be excellent. Everybody needs to practice! 
 
Can you name startups that are run by ambitious women and whose team also consists of more women than men?
Well - I am happy to name the startups from last Garage48 Women Special - GoWorkaBit - ambitious team, mostly women who are in lead. If anyone would say that women don't take risks, then they should meet the GoWorkaBit team :) I also admire the Timber Diameter team, though they operate in a "all-men" sector, there are several women in the team -  I would bring out Anna-Greta from the team as a great example of a woman working in tech world but not with tech background, but as a Marketing Manager.  Testlio is another team from Estonia with 2 cofounders  -  Kristel and Marko - which has been through TechStars accelerator, which is one of the best ones in the world. 
 
Behind every great startup there is a great team. How to motivate your team in the start, when building a business is a totally new playfield? 
 
Not every person feels good in a startup -  and it's totally OK. This is why it's good to come to Garage48 event and test yourself, if your eyes still shine after fighting a development bug for 4 hours during the night. Building a startup to a scalable business is quite similar to first 48 hours at a hackathon -  ideas, bugs, things not going according to the plan, team members filling tasks beyond their skills and responsibilities. Instead of saying what it takes to keep a tee together - I could like to say what I have seen in teams who can make it to the top. They never give up -  hard times come, sometimes in weeks you won't see solutions to development problems, agreement from new clients or interest from investors. In this case the best teams just keep on going, they are passionate about their views and ideas - they listen and learn but at the end of the day they make their own decisions.  A diverse team is a good starting point, not only different skills and experience, but also men and women, different backgrounds. I have seen that best friends might not make best teams -  and not because they will start to fight, but because their network is also the same. Team members need to bring in different information and knowledge, only then you can see problems quicker and deal with them before it burns.
Why do you think women are sometimes afraid of creating a startup? 
 
Why people (men and women) are afraid to start their own business? It's a responsibility and risking with everything, even though it has a lot to offer. I don't really think women are afraid to start new things, but I believe many of them have never considered it as a possibility for themselves. So the first step would be to come and join Garage48 and see if the startup bug is contagious ;) 
 
From your everyday work with startups, can you confirm that women are as likely to succeed and kickstart successful startups as men? 
 
Well... the few startups where I have seen women as co-founders seem to be doing even better in average than others! Garage48 Women Special was one of the most successful hackathons and there were 40% of women. 
 
What happens after the Garage48 event? How and where to get further funding to your startup? 


The real work starts after the hackathon. Before all the funding and other things - teams should decide who are the members, who continue and who are not, both decisions are fine. It's important that those who want to continue would be allowed and given support by others. Team should sit down and decide what are the next steps they want to take -  business, product, marketing, sales. Team should look around for possible startup programs that could support them with trainings, network and funding. It's important that team would continue to go to events and build their network in order to grow their business and opportunities, but also spend time on developing the product.  Funding is a 2-sided sword. Of course it's great to get funding and grow fast, but at the same time getting money too soon might decrease the chances for success because of several reasons.  Teams who are bootstrapping are more creative to find solutions to their issues and next plans, funding also brings additional responsibilities and other shareholders around the table who need to agree on next steps.
Contact Elise: @elisesass