Before Caroline Woodhouse became a successful entrepreneur and startup founder, and before she was recognised by Telstra’s Business Women’s Awards, she didn’t really know much about tech.
“When I initially founded Where4Events I was actually not tech-savvy at all,” Woodhouse tells StartupSmart.
“I learnt a lot about the tech and online industry on the job, and I made it a mission to up-skill myself in certain areas to ensure that I was capable and qualified to manage and lead a successful tech company.”
After growing up in show business and touring the world with artists, Woodhouse decided to launch Where4Events, an aggregator site that now streamlines over 80,000 events from ticketing systems like Ticketmaster and Oztix.
She is also on the brink of launching a vehicle dispatch app Oiii as managing director of NetCABS.
“It just goes to show that you don’t have to be a tech engineer or coder to succeed in the tech industry, you just have to start somewhere and follow a passion,” she says.
Woodhouse says she has learnt five key lessons in her startup journey as a female entrepreneur.
1. You have to work twice as hard
Today’s tech industry is a man’s world and women have to go the extra mile to be taken seriously, Woodhouse says.
“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,” she says.
“Some of the developers I approached with my app concept were wary of working with me.”
While this is disappointing, she says the only way things will change is by more women entering the field.
“For now, we have to persist and get on with the job,” Woodhouse says.
2. The right mentors are key
When Woodhouse started out, she didn’t know anyone in the tech industry so she reached out to though leaders through social media, seeking mentoring and support.
“I decided to approach CEOs and managing directors through LinkedIn and set up some meetings to ask for advice,” she says.
Many of these people are now her friends and mentors.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without making those approaches to ask for guidance,” she says.
“Asking for help is certainly not a sign of weakness – in fact it is one of the keys to succeeding in business.”
3. Go straight to the top
When running into issues with purchasing web domains or securing Twitter handles, Woodhouse would skip the support team and escalate her request to the head of an organisation.
By contacting a chief executive or managing director through LinkedIn she could ensure her requests did not go unanswered.
“I cannot tell you how many times I have managed to achieve the impossible by going straight to the top,” Woodhouse says.
4. Invest in legal advice
Woodhouse says it’s crucial to invest in a specialist lawyer to protect your idea and establish the necessary frameworks to secure your growth.
“At a minimum you need to make sure you own your IP, source code, business and domain names, and any associated trademarks,” she says.
“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.”
To ensure the founder owns the intellectual property in any IT venture, Woodhouse recommends getting a master services agreement and sub-process agreements within this.
“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,” she says.
5. Be prepared for setbacks
Working in the tech world is challenging and Woodhouse says she had to deal with poor quality work by developers, IP ownership challenges and expensive legal battles very early on in her business journey.
“But I’m still here and I’m still moving forward, always looking at the bigger picture,” she says.
“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.”