This December Startup Campus Women interview is with Diana Florescu, an extremely ambitious and strong woman with Romanian origins, currently living in London. Five years ago, when she moved to the UK, she started working with startups and entrepreneurs. She soon decided to ditch the corporate world and run her own company. During her studies, she gained knowledge in digital marketing and did an MSc at UCL about entrepreneurship and how to take your business idea to market. She’s has already been a co-founder and worked in several startups from early-stages to scaleups.
“I joined the first technology startup back in 2015 where I got a flavor of how it is to run a company. Later when I was studying at UCL, I joined a gaming startup and in 2016 I was approached by my first co-founder and established Local Spoon. After my masters, I decided to join Startupbootcamp. They were looking for a Global Marketing Manager so I took on this challenge!“
You mentioned that you were a co-founder at Local Spoon, could you speak about that a little? What was your ambition?
“We had the ambition to reimagine the way we discover and experience our world from restaurants to food markets, events and other tasty experiences. We wanted to save and enrich costumers time, elevate their experience and let them use their reviews and pictures online to make fine dining affordable.
Local Spoon was an exclusive food members club for the digital age where millennials could use their social media influence to unlock unique experiences in return for a membership fee. We’ve worked with giants such as Taste of London and Celebrity Cruise, and in September partnered with London’s first ever brunch festival. Despite all our success, after some time – due to several factors – I decided it was time to move on. “
As you also work with women founders, what would you highlight as their strengths?
“Communication and empathy. This allows them to connect with their stakeholders or investors in a meaningful way, through understanding and acknowledging each person’s unique set of complex needs and emotions. Women tend to have better soft skills then men do and can relate to situations and people easily.
Determination – It’s one thing to have an idea for an enterprise, but as many people reading this will know, making it happen is a very difficult thing and it demands extraordinary energy, self-belief and determination, the courage to risk family and home, and a 24/7 commitment that borders on the obsessive.”
In your opinion do you think that investors take women founders as seriously as they do with men?
“The UK is debunking much of the stigma still surrounding women in tech with a lot more organizations and funds specifically designed to support women and women-founded startups. Gender-equality is imperative for every business; in fact, companies should go beyond gender and look at the whole picture including underrepresented categories of founders such as BAME, founders without a university diploma and of all ages.
Of the women I heard from, many of them who raised capital said they experienced bias—largely on the basis of gender. Sometimes, the source of funding really matters – Venture capital vs Angel investment is a different kettle of fish – and getting in the room with the right investors that truly understand your product is crucial.
Often I found myself walking into rooms of mostly men either fundraising or simply having a business meeting. I thought that my age, the fact that I am a woman would decrease my chances to close a deal. Their reaction did not reflect my fears. They were rather intrigued about the business and my drive to take it to the next level. An experienced investor will not only give you a cash injection but offer to share their expertise. Showcase your commitment. Beyond the financial viability of your product and plan, investors want to see your commitment to the business.”
At Startupbootcamp in what way do you support diversity?
“Startupbootcamp is one of the largest networks of global accelerators with 21 active programs in 17 cities across the world, including London, Amsterdam, Berlin, San Francisco, Dubai, Miami, Mexico City, Melbourne, Shanghai, and many others. 30% of our startups are female-led – a 7% increase from 2017. Together with OneTech, we launched a new programme by Capital Enterprise and JP Morgan Chase Foundation. We have started reviewing and improving our processes to target different communities to increase the diversity of the companies we work with.”
What do you consider as a great accomplishment in your carrier or as a woman?
“My greatest accomplishment is sitting where I am right now. I believe that life is a constant work-in-progress and that all moments, the great huge ones and the small quiet ones, all make-up who I am.
There’re a few good ones I always look back on and smile: winning the Lloyd’s Banking People’s Choice Award with Local Spoon, pitching in front of big corporates such as Tata, PayPal, and many other ventures, or having other startups and young entrepreneurs simply say thank you for mentoring them.
I’m also proud to be a sounding board for our 20+ global marketing teams at Startupbootcamp defining strategies and the way we communicate them to the world. I have a front seat while innovation truly goes global. Just recently we launched our first FinTech program in Cairo to tackle financial exclusion while in Africa we try to address a water challenge, one of the six UN sustainable development goals.”
If you would need to give an advice to a young woman who is planning to launch her own business, what would it be?
“Don’t be humble!
Women sometimes tend to be too self-conscious; they feel reluctant to speak up or to ask for fear of sounding not so knowledgeable. Approach people whom you think are unreachable and be confident in you. I’ve learned to develop my confidence and overcome my negative self-talk and to own my accomplishments over the years.
When you are young and you’re just starting out being taken seriously is a struggle. I built a support network over time and surrounded myself with people that I can trust and I can ask for help when I need it; and because we already discussed failures, failure also should not be viewed as a negative or an excuse for relinquishing your goals.”
So, all you girls out there should get rid of the fear and trust in yourselves and in what you want to achieve. Believe that you are capable of anything with hard work and the right motivation.