Caroline Woodhouse is all too familiar with the rollercoaster journey entrepreneurs experience when trying to build a successful startup.
When Woodhouse quit her job as an office manager to start an event aggregator app, Where4Events, little did she know the path it would take her on.
Her first two developers delivered an underwhelming product with chronic glitches and bugs, and she ended up taking her third developer to court after he claimed the idea and all associated IP, and refused to hand over the back end data.
After winning the case, Woodhouse relaunched Where4Events in 2014, this time getting it off the ground.
“If I had a dollar for all the lessons I learnt in those first two years, I would be a billionaire,” says Woodhouse.
“Everyone told me to just pack it in and cut my losses, but I had invested so much of myself into the concept, probably to my detriment; I couldn’t just walk away.
“I kept with it and today Where4Events is the only events App that can stream data from all four of the major ticket sellers in Australia.”
Where4Events streamlines over 80,000 events from Australia’s leading ticketing systems like Hoyts, Ticketmaster, ATDW and Oztix.
Since then Woodhouse has also developed NetCABS, an web-based booking taxi app launching later this year.
“It has not been an easy journey by any means,” she says.
“Most people in the tech world didn’t want to know me when I first started out, so I knew I would need the help of some mentors if I was going to navigate through the world of start-ups.
“Through Linkedin, I started approaching CEOs and managing directors, and through perseverance I was able to set up meetings with them directly, whereas when I had called their offices I was never able to get past their receptionist.
“I am now lucky enough to call some of these people my mentors and close friends, so it just shows how determination and grit can most definitely pay off.”
Woodhouse shared with Business Insider the lessons she’s learned as a female entrepreneur in the Australian tech industry, which she hopes will serve as guidance for others starting out.
Here they are.
1. Be prepared to work twice as hard
As a female tech CEO, I believe women need to work nearly twice as hard to get noticed than a male in the same role.
The tech world is an industry dominated by males, so women don’t always get taken seriously. Some of the developers I approached with my App concept were wary of working with me. It’s disappointing, and I’m sure this will change as more women enter the field, but for now, we have to persist and get on with the job.
2. Surround yourself with a team of mentors
I have learnt that asking for help is certainly not a sign of weakness; in fact it is one of the keys to succeeding in business.
When I started out I didn’t know anybody in the industry. I decided to approach CEOs and Managing Directors through LinkedIn and set up some meetings to ask for advice. The invention of social media has certainly made it easier for people like me to access high-profile contacts. I wouldn’t be where I am today without making those approaches to ask for guidance.
Today, I am incredibly lucky to count some of these contacts as mentors and friends; the strategy has well and truly paid off.
3. Go straight to the top
Whenever I ran into issues with purchasing web domains or securing Twitter handles that were already taken, rather than waste my time trying to contact the support team knowing that my request would go unanswered. I would go straight to the top, contacting the Australian CEO or managing director via Linkedin.
I cannot tell you how many times I have managed to achieve the impossible by going straight to the top.
4. Invest in legal advice
Trust me, get a good Intellectual Property (IP) lawyer. If your business is in technology or involves IP make sure you invest in a specialised IP lawyer.
At a minimum you need to make sure you own your IP, source code, business and domain names, and any associated trademarks. Many developers will try to package these up under their ownership, which can prove disastrous if you ever part ways or need access to source files.
A statement of works document is not legally binding, so you need to invest in a legally binding document to protect yourself and your IP.
5. Be prepared for setbacks
Working in the tech world is far from rosy at times. In my first two years I had two developers produce subpar work, I had to fight to protect my IP and I’ve lost money on legal fees.
But I’m still here and I’m still moving forward, always looking at the bigger picture. It may sound cliché but to survive in this industry you have to grind your teeth, take stock, learn from your mistakes, seek out advice, work hard and overcome your challenges, because in the end, persistence pays off and then it’s all worth it.