Anne Ravanona is founder and CEO of Global Invest Her, a platform that aims to demystify the funding process and support female entrepreneurs as they seek early seed funding.
Anne Ravanona has more than 20 years’ experience in management consulting and global business development and she also founded the Women Entrepreneurs Network in Paris.
In your opinion, which areas of technology hold the greatest scope for opportunities?
I love the power of tech to create more equality in the world and to disrupt very old industries. I like the idea of Facebook bringing free Wi-Fi to Africa and what biotech firms are doing to reduce the invasiveness of certain procedures, reducing healthcare bills, as well as recovery time. I am fascinated to watch where artificial technology is going and would love to see even more content housed in the cloud, with increased security. I would like to see a way for the world’s un-banked to use technology to have safe access to money in the future, even if that is virtual money, and see all the developing countries catch up with us and have access to fast Wi-Fi and smartphones to create a more level playing field for all and unleash global creativity.
Are good entrepreneurs born or can they be made?
I think that most great entrepreneurs definitely show signs from a very early age that they wanted to lead, change the world and make things better. I consciously wanted to be an entrepreneur since I was 17 and, indeed, did many entrepreneurial things already as a child. During the first part of my career, many of my roles were entrepreneurial, where I had to create new markets, set up subsidiaries, create innovative solutions or be the first at something. When I think back to all the great entrepreneurs I have interviewed for my Trailblazing Women series on the Huffington Post, there are common traits they all have: tenacity, courage, a huge work ethic, focus, people skills, organisational skills, leadership skills and a vision that inspires others.
Can good entrepreneurs be made? I don’t think so. You can go through an accelerator programme, follow the process, but at the end of the day, if you don’t have tenacity, work ethic, passion and the ability to get up from hard knocks, you’ll never make it. It’s the toughest job there is, apart from being a parent!
What are the qualities of a good founder?
To me, a good founder is someone who is passionate about what they are doing and why they are doing it and who focuses on the five Ps: problem, people, process, performance and persistence.
- Problem: The founder and their team needs to work hard to define the problem they are really trying to solve (this is much harder than you think). Once you have defined the problem, the founder must be laser focused on who has the problem, why it’s important to solve it, and what are the key pain points to be solved. Then, your whole focus is on coming up with the right solution to that problem, while being flexible enough to do the sixth P – pivot – when necessary. When I started Global Invest Her, I thought my definition of the problem to solve was easy. The more I dug into it, the harder it became to define, so do spend time upfront on this and get feedback from customers, other entrepreneurs and players in the ecosystem to help you refine it.
- People: You cannot build a company and solve the big problem without great people on your team: employees, business partners, strategic partners, advisers, investors and your family and friends.
- Process: A good founder starts to build processes and policies from the minute they start their company. Processes on how to research your market and listen to your customers, run experiments, hire and fire people, manage your accounts, develop your people and choose your partners. The sooner you start to put processes in place, the better shape your start-up will be in to welcome more people and grow faster as you scale.
- Performance: Know what your key business and people KPIs are and, if you are not sure, get help to identify the right ones for your business. Regularly measure your personal performance and team’s performance against those business KPIs and if there is a performance issue with someone on your team deal with it immediately. If the fit is really not there, then part ways in the most professional way possible, but don’t let it drag on. Don’t be afraid to hire more talented and intelligent people than you.
- Persistence: To be an entrepreneur, you have to be extremely persistent and stick to your end goal no matter what.
What does a successful entrepreneur need to do every day?
- Look after yourself and your health – make sure you get plenty of sleep, good food and some exercise. If you don’t look after your health, your whole company will suffer when you need to take time out and your decision making can become blurred. Being an entrepreneur is one of the hardest jobs there is and you can be so switched on 24/7 if you are not careful.
- Believe in yourself at all times. Even when the going gets tough and you seem to be taking hits from all sides – cash flow, team, investor, pitching, product, tech problems and the list goes on – remember that “this too will pass”. Remember those times when you really succeeded and use that energy to see you through the rough times. Believe in yourself and others will believe in you. If you don’t, they won’t – it’s that simple.
- Do the right things and do things right. When you are the captain of the ship, the spotlight is always on you and you need to be able to focus on the long-term vision as well as the daily execution. But don’t hit yourself over the head if you don’t finish your mile-long to-do list! Keep moving forward, step-by-step.
‘Look after yourself and your health – make sure you get plenty of sleep, good food and some exercise’
– ANNE RAVANONA, GLOBAL INVEST HER
What resources and tools are an absolute must for your arsenal?
- Mind maps: I’m a huge mind-mapper as I’m very visual. I take copious notes in mind maps and that helps me capture and retain a lot of information (check out Tony Buzan for more information on mind-mapping). I’ve been using mind maps since my college days and use them every day.
- Evernote: I use Evernote to capture all my notes about different topics and have tons of notebooks on everything I’m working on. I love that it synchronises across all my devices and that I can even take photos of my business cards to automatically create contact sheets for every new person I meet (and I meet a lot of people every year!). You can add photos, audio notes, present your notes in presentation mode and even do chats with team members – it’s a great tool.
- Twitter: I stay connected to the business world, share key messages and do a lot of market research using Twitter. You’ll never hear about what I had for breakfast, though I do love sharing tweets from other people/products to share knowledge quickly. I am hooked!
- Slack: We use Slack with our team to communicate with our close team of partners in Argentina, the US, Ireland and France. It’s a great way to declutter each other’s email boxes and share relevant information with the right people, instead of mass CCing, like on email. I also like the way new team members can catch up quickly on the history of a project or things we are working on by reading through the feeds and the search engine is great.
- Skype: Indispensable for all those global phone calls!
- Citymapper: Just discovered this great app to help me navigate major cities when I am on my travels. It’s great for telling you which metro/bus/roads to take to get to your destination the fastest. Vote for Dublin so that it gets mapped soon; we’re currently No 3 on the wait list!
- My iPhone: My husband kept telling me to upgrade to the iPhone 6s plus, given how much I use my phone for work and life, so I finally made the switch and now wonder how I managed on my 5s before! I was at the Paris MacWorld Conference when Steve Jobs introduced the first iPhone and have been hooked ever since.
How do you assemble a good team?
First, decide what culture you want to create at your company and what are your company values – what you really stand for. Then look at what you are building (product or service) and decide what the key roles are, by order of urgency, and what are the key tasks that need doing. Then decide on the person scope, including not only past experience and education, but how they fit into and embody your corporate culture. Use your network to find good people and always do reference checks. Finding the right people, developing them and creating an environment for them to succeed is the hardest and most rewarding thing about business and can make or break your company.
‘A big mistake I particularly see women entrepreneurs making is not asking for enough money when they are raising funds’
– ANNE RAVANONA, GLOBAL INVEST HER
What is the critical ingredient to start-up success?
A real problem worth solving, a huge market opportunity, a great team, the right resources (including cash in the bank), a strong brand and focusing on the customer. Also, grit, hard work and being in the game for the long haul, timing and good luck.
What are the biggest mistakes that founders make?
Doing the opposite to the five Ps I mentioned earlier! One of the biggest mistakes is not finding the right team, running out of money and giving up too soon. A big mistake I particularly see women entrepreneurs making is not asking for enough money when they are raising funds.
Who is your business hero and why?
A role model who really inspires me is Richard Branson for his endless creativity, empathy, immense business intuition and tenacity. I love the way he acknowledges failures publicly, learns from them and moves on to create something exceptional. Michelle Mone also inspires me as a self-starting woman entrepreneur. Despite many personal and professional setbacks, she has always risen from the ashes like a phoenix and I admire that.
What’s the No 1 piece of advice you have for entrepreneurs?
Believe in yourself and go for it! You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Women Invent is Silicon Republic’s campaign to champion the role of women in science, technology, engineering and maths. It has been running since March 2013, and is kindly supported by Intel, Open Eir (formerly Eircom Wholesale), Fidelity Investments, Accenture and CoderDojo.