Flashback to 1995. Marc Andreessen, a recent University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana graduate and cofounder of the startup Netscape, was committed to providing access to the internet for the common person. Netscape launched the Mosaic web browser, which opened up internet access to people outside of the defense, scientific research and academic communities.
During that era, very few people understood what havoc was about to be unleashed by connecting company networks to the internet. My startup, Raptor Systems, was one of the very first commercial cybersecurity vendors. As the company’s chief marketing officer, I was tasked with educating the market on inherent risks, while positioning Raptor as the vendor of choice for early adopters in this nascent market.
Entrepreneurship is the equivalent of running a marathon at the speed of the 100-yard dash with high hurdles everywhere along the track. To call it challenging is an understatement of epic proportions. For every gushing article celebrating the successes of the next generation of entrepreneurs, those few companies who successfully raise money on Shark Tank, or even the endless stream of coverage documenting the breathtaking success of the chosen few (Google, Netflix, Uber, Airbnb, WhatsApp, Snapchat and Dropbox), there are countless other companies that never achieve lift-off despite heroic efforts, or that crash and burn after early success. For every Facebook, there are ten thousand failures.
If you were to judge what is happening with gender discrimination and sexual harassment for female founders and entrepreneurs based on what you’ve read in the news, or have seen the many disheartening research studies and articles about the lack of diversity in Silicon Valley, you’d be likely to have drawn a cynical conclusion.