Sonya Davis, CEO of Neqtr (USA)

SonyaI just returned from 7 weeks at Founders Space – an entrepreneurial accelerator program in the tech hub of San Francisco.

Think of it as bootcamp for entrepreneurs. Imagine founders, developers, investors and mentors all in one space, exchanging ideas and challenging one another. The end result has been a mix of inspiration, collaboration and several sleepless nights, turning dreams and ambitions into business projections and investor pitches.

Android Developer, Amy Fan, and I attended most of the program, with iOS Developer Wolfgang attending the last week and assisting in demo day. Each day was like a day in the School for Startups, with hands-on courses taught by business mentors from different backgrounds.

It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t supposed to be. We got grilled when our pitches fell short and when there were holes in our logic. But we came away stronger and more prepared than ever. And we made invaluable connections with other founders in the program that will fuel our successes to come.

Here are the top lessons we learned in order to be successful entrepreneurs:

1. Working around fellow founders is mandatory to successfully execute a startup.

It breeds creativity and an ongoing support system from other founders who understand our struggles. And at Founders Space, help was happily exchanged whether it was for a deck, pitch, financials, and even refining or expanding the company vision. I got to do the same for them.

2. Learning from mentors one-on-one is gold.

Having access to mentors is a luxury many entrepreneurs don’t have. But at Founders Space, having access to a network or mentors greatly helped us realize what we needed to work on and how to make it better. They are now connections that can help us moving forward.

3. Numbers matter, memorize them.

As a founder, I must have my financial projections memorized during pitching. I can speak about Neqtr even in my sleep. But when I’m standing in front of a room of people and start getting grilled about projections, there is no room for uncertainty. Those experiences built character, and now I’m totally on it.

4. That being a good leader is key.

It’s more than managing the team and coming up with good ideas. It’s ensuring everything is being properly executed. It’s also key to manage expectations and make sure they are clear in the beginning instead of being reactive. I want my team to feel supported, but I also trust them to take initiative to run with things if I can’t be there to give input.
It takes a lot to be a founder and not everyone is cut out for it.

Because of what I learned in the program, I’m more certain than ever that this is my calling. The hustle is on! Neqtr is totally unique and something people get behind. Being CEO may sound glamorous, but it’s difficult, unstable and comes with a ton of uncertainty.

5. It’s ok to fail, but fail fast.

As a founder you’re constantly reminded that only a small fraction of startups become successful. This doesn’t only pertain to big failures like the whole company going down, but little failures. I find it’s best if you’re going to fail, to fail fast and think of a new plan, especially around launch. For example, if you test out a marketing tactic, be ready to assess it and go onto the next tactic if your approach isn’t working. Be smart, but also be gutsy and take risks.

6. I’m generally one of the only female tech founders in any given room.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that more women need to join the tech world. I’m ok with being in the minority for the most part, but I also want to be taken seriously. I’ve achieved more than a lot of people in a short amount of time. I find that several men try and baby me or make condescending comments or even sexist feedback – sometimes in front of rooms of people. I have to let these things roll off my back. Women are joining this world, and you’ve got to keep up!

We’ve left the accelerator on a fast track – we improved our strategy and refined our pitch. We are thinking big, but chunking it down and celebrating little wins. Each week has milestones attached, and we all have to work hard and fast to achieve those milestones. It’s time to hustle and keep our chins up!

Sonya Davis
CEO of Neqtr

Comments & Advice:
  1. Kameel shieban says:

    Can some one help please on how sell my idea to investors !!!the udea is stopping all credit or debit cards thieft to zero .Billions to be saved and billions more to be made .once the idea is heard and software reveal .. Jaw dropping will begin ..
    Thank you