Now I’m Really an Entrepreneur

Jun06

I’ve wanted to be an entrepreneur for a long time. Not when I was in university (back then, I wanted to be CEO of a Fortune 500 company), but sometime between graduating and landing my first real job, I realized that I just wasn’t going to be able to make a career out of working for the man. Even after that realization, it’s taken me a long time to get here. As of today, though, I’m really an entrepreneur. And I’m effing excited about it.

(Want to skip to my new venture? It’s called HackerYou. Click here to visit the site, click here to read our press release, and click here to follow us on Twitter.)

When I moved to Toronto in May of 2010 (you know, after living in China for 15 months and then dropping out of grad school), I wanted to join a startup. But, of course, I didn’t know a single person in Toronto’s tech or startup communities, and as a recent grad, I didn’t exactly have people clamouring to hire me…to do anything. I was lucky to land a job through Laura Plant (yes, the one from Ladies Learning Code) and I worked for a year at a big company. And that was enough of that.

Just before I left BigCorp Inc. to join a startup as employee #2, I was in LA for work. And if you’ve heard of Ladies Learning Code, you know the story. I stumbled upon an event via Women 2.0. Run by the PyLadies, it was a workshop designed for women who were beginners to Python but ready to learn, which described me perfectly. It was their first workshop ever, and it was great, and I returned to Toronto and tweeted about how we should have a similar group here. Almost immediately, I started receiving emails from people who were interested in the idea, and when I’d received about a dozen, I planned this event. 85 people registered, there was a great turnout, and as a group we decided to run our first workshop exactly a month later. About 20 people were involved in pulling that first event off – it sold out in a day, and was definitely a success! I was surprised, and really excited.

We started planning workshops every month, and they started selling out faster and faster – like, sell-out-in-five-minutes fast. By the end of 2011, my team (by now, four of us) made the decision to start offering two workshops a month. Now, almost 2000 women (and men) have participated in a Ladies Learning Code workshop. Over 400 developers and designers have signed up to volunteer their time. We run a March Break and summer camp for 9 to 13 year old girls. And just yesterday, we announced that we’re going to be offering a couple workshops in Vancouver this summer.

But although I definitely accept the compliments offered to myself and my team for the job we’ve done in starting and growing Ladies Learning Code, and although I truly appreciate being considered an entrepreneur, I haven’t felt like one. Not until today.

Maybe it’s because Ladies Learning Code is a not-for-profit. Maybe it’s because I got lucky, stumbled onto the idea, and just held on for dear life. Maybe it’s because the point of Ladies Learning Code was never to find a repeatable and scaleable business model (I mean, the thing has a business model, but it sure as hell doesn’t scale. Not easily, anyway.) Maybe it’s a combination of all of those things. It might even just be in my head. But I just haven’t felt like an entrepreneur yet.

Either way, it all changes today. Today is the day that I’m making a specific decision to bring something into this world that wouldn’t exist otherwise. I’m putting my money where my mouth is by making an investment in turning this idea into reality. In line with Steve Blank’s definition of a startup, my purpose now is to find a repeatable and scalable business model. And this time, I want to do something that will have a positive impact and make a profit, because I believe it’s possible to do both.

Want to see what my team and I built? Check it out: http://hackeryou.com. And be sure to follow us on Twitter – we’re @thisishackeryou.

Non-technical? How to Join a Startup in 7 Steps

Sep05

[This post was originally published on TechVibes.com]

So, you want to join a startup?

I know how you feel. After a year in a corporate marketing role at an established international firm, I was really happy – but I also felt like something was missing. I just knew (actually, I’d known it for a while) that startup world is where I belong. In May, I decided to begin looking for my next opportunity, thinking that it would take me at least four months, or even six, to find the type of startup gig I was looking for. To my utter astonishment, my job search ended in less than three weeks when I received a great offer from Pinpoint Social. (I also had a few other opportunities in the pipeline, just in case.) I’ve thought a lot about my job search experience since then, and I think I’ve figured out the seven steps that should be followed for anyone who wants to go from corporate to startup life in less than three weeks. Here they are:

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So, Who Won Startup Weekend Toronto?

Jun06

(Yes, I’m going to tell you who won. But I’m not going to let it ruin this post, for those of you who haven’t heard the news yet.)

I wrote another blog post this morning (well, I aimed for morning…it actually came out in the afternoon) about Startup Weekend Toronto and the progress the teams had made by then. Check it out below!

SPOILER ALERT: Want to know who won? Click here to see who came in third place, here for second, and click here to see who won the grand prize!

Check out the post below – if you have a chance, I highly recommend visiting the websites and landing pages of the other teams that competed. Many of them will continue to work together post-Startup Weekend, so you should sign up now for beta access!

Let me know what you think of the post in the comments section below.

PROGRESS UPDATE @ Startup Weekend Toronto

Written by Heather Payne (@heatherpayne)

Hey everyone! It’s about 1 pm on the third and final day of Startup Weekend Toronto – and the energy here is awesome!

Didn’t make it out to Startup Weekend Toronto? Curious about the progress of our teams after reading this post? Or, maybe you’re at Startup Weekend but are drowning in code and haven’t had the time to take a look around and see what everyone else is up to. Not a problem – we’ve compiled a #SWToronto Progress Update! Check it out below.

In no particular order…

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Report from Startup Weekend Toronto

Jun05

It’s 10:19 pm. I’ve been hanging out in the Burroughes Building (the Startup Weekend Toronto venue) since 9 am. And it’s not like we’ve been taking it easy, either – we’ve been building stuff.

Want to see what I’m working on? Check out www.epicrise.com. Let me know what you think! (Either with a comment below or tweeting me at @heatherpayne.)

We aren’t the only team doing cool stuff this weekend though. This morning, I (co-)wrote a blog post summarizing the 20 ideas that made it through yesterday’s voting process – over 70 ideas were pitched. (Sadly, only 3 of the Top 20 pitches were presented by women…we’ll have to improve that ratio next year!) Although we originally posted the summary on the EpicRise blog, I want to share it with you here. See below!

Startup Weekend Toronto 2011’s 20 Winning Pitches

By Heather Payne and Melissa Crnic

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