When in doubt, go against the Flow!

When in doubt, go against the Flow!

Written by Charu Sharma

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GoAgainsttheFlow is a book, documentary film and Huffington Post interview series- is a movement to empower 1 million young women by the end of 2016 to build their own startup companies and further create jobs for the global economy. Our champions include LinkedIn, Unruly, Women Who Code, Wasabi Ventures and Thoughtworks to name a few. Tomorrow, we're launching our book GO AGAINST THE FLOW: Women, Entrepreneurship & Success in London at Unruly HQ with London's 60 most inspirational female powerhouses such as Sarah Wood, Diana Paredes, Kate Tancred, Cristiana Camisotti, Emily Forbes, Jo York, Kara Shurmantine, Karen Winton, Valeria Leonardi, and Elena Corchero. RSVP here.

So, what's my story, how did Go Against the Flow come about and why are we dedicated to exposing more young women about entrepreneurship? I'm glad you asked! 🙂

I come from a middle class, conservative background where I lived in a 10 X 12 sq ft room in Mumbai with my whole family until I was 16 years old, where taking risks was apparently a privilege that only the rich could afford, and where several of my relatives still wish for a son and not a daughter.

I came to the U.S. on a scholarship, built two award-winning companies from my college dorm room and got recruited by LinkedIn. In the process, I realized that some extremely smart young women around me were limited to seeking traditional career options because of inaction, imposter syndrome, very little exposure to the entrepreneurial path and lack of access to the right female mentors who they could personally relate to. To help solve this, I brought together audacious female entrepreneurs from around the world and we launched the Go Against the Flow movement- through our book, documentary film and Huffington Post interview series- to inspire other millennial women to build their own startup companies and further create economic opportunities. Specifically, the goal is to economically empower one million millennial women by end of 2016, and our movement is championed by LinkedIn, Women Who Code, Wasabi Ventures, Unruly and Thoughtworks among others.

All this happened in the last three years, and of course, I give luck too much credit when doing interviews to try to come across as humble. Honestly, I think I succeeded in my pursuits because I determined my priorities and I made some very risky choices to do justice to my priorities.

I gave up a cozy internship to start my first company in a city where I knew absolute no one. I turned a job interview failure into a business idea and created my second company to connect job seekers to industry experts to practice mock interviews in real time. It took two years and twenty something rejections to find a publisher for my first book. When Arianna Huffington declined my invite to write a chapter in my book, I turned that into an opportunity to start blogging on HuffPo. The documentary film ended up needing 1.5 more years than planned and all my life savings to produce. I could have saved all that money for graduate school, to buy a car, or take my parents on a trip abroad, but I put all my eggs in one basket.

Hackbright Academy listed my film under 'top 5 films to watch for women in tech and entrepreneurship', I ran a very successful kickstarter campaign to fundraise for post-production, got picked up by a film distributor and premiered our film at 32 LinkedIn offices worldwide. While keeping a full-time job and trying to get my books published, I spent every weeknight and weekend for several months to learn coding to build a web app I was passionate about.

Nobody has actively ever deprived me of an opportunity because I'm a woman, but a 33 year old white male from USA did just comment the below after reading one of my blogs.

I think many women who advocate for inequalty are unattractive and unfeminine and perhaps they seek positions in society as a way of compensation. The most beautiful and lovable women aren’t ceos or presidents or in business; they are women who did not need society or a position in society or validation.

Of course, women have more opportunities in general today than they did 30 years ago, but we still have a long way to go!

As Ilene Lang of Catalyst told us, There is a lot of pressure on a woman to behave in ways that are less aggressive, less ambitious and less leader-like. Everyone loves a supportive woman!

Nobody goes to work thinking that they'd discriminate against a woman that day, but biased decisions are made either way and shape the society we live in. As Mariam Naficy of Minted puts it, having a more balanced gender ratio in the pool of decision makers and creators of technology will enable a more balanced point of view in product, design and business. For instance, the infamous glass staircase in Apple stores would never be see through if a woman had designed it. Women wear skirts, too; get it?

When I was a junior in college, I read an insightful blog by the founder of a startup based in San Francisco, and sent him a cold email requesting a meeting. He agreed! As we sat sipping tea in the Samovar Tea Lounge, at one point I mentioned that I was “still figuring things out, and just being open to opportunities." He stopped, and surprised me with an earnestness that has stuck with me since. “Entrepreneurs go against the flow,” he said, politely yet with a tinge of frustration.

Although he deflated my self-esteem, I walked out with a lesson that changed my career trajectory and life.

“Entrepreneurs don’t go with the flow!”

Meredith Perry walked in her college classroom with a dead laptop and no charger, and wondered that if we can use internet on our devices wirelessly, why can’t we charge our devices wirelessly?! Brilliant, right? Though, she didn’t just wonder this and move on. She didn’t ask, “Can I do this?” She asked, “How can I do this?” She didn’t even have an engineering background, but she did have Google! Of course, there were naysayers. At first, experts and investors deemed Meredith’s idea impossible, but she chose to be disagreeable. Despite all the naysaying, she hustled, researched online, and put together a prototype by collaborating with people who could dare to be innovative. Through persistence, and by earning supporters in entrepreneurial people, Meredith found investors in Andreessen Horowitz, Peter Thiel, and Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer. This is how innovation happens.

Our generation has the incredible privilege and powerful resources to leverage technology to solve challenging problems, to make the world a healthier, happier, more connected, and more productive place.

Our book aims to educate every budding entrepreneur on doing startups right — from getting started on concept, building technology, hiring, getting funded and scaling, to finally dealing with failure and work-life balance. The list of contributors includes Harvard MBA’s, a college dropout/Thiel Fellow, several Forbes 30 under 30 title holders, million dollar startups and pioneers in technology. These women started companies from scratch, scaled their organizations to span across several continents, raised millions of dollars, faced failure but came out victorious and loved every minute of the challenge. These inspirational, gritty, audacious and passionate women, in spite of naysayers or failures, have chosen to create their own flow and act on their ideas and convictions. Their stories are inspirational for anyone wanting to start their own business.

30 years ago, not just any 22-year-old could be an entrepreneur, but times have changed! The next time you wish there was an app to find a parking spot, or to make your crush fall in love with you, or that there was a system to allow everyone to go to college despite their financial circumstances, act on it. Be an entrepreneur.

Go Against the Flow!

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