"Better late than never" could be the motto of feminism. "Equality now" is catchier, but perpetually untrue. "Better late than never" has an optimism, even in the face of considerable obstacles, and a gratitude for the accomplishments that are being made.
Nearly two weeks ago, Startup Grind Vancouver hosted its first event with a female speaker: Meredith Powell.
Her pedigree as a feminist entrepreneur is unparalleled. As the cofounder and executive director of The Next Big Thing, founder of the Founders Collective, and a board member of RAW Beauty Talks, she's one of the most prolific members of the community. She was interviewed by Erin Shaw, host of Shaw TV's West Coast Style. The event was hosted at Mobify's Yaletown office rather than Invoke—the size of the crowd alone demanded the switch.
The discussion covered a wide breadth of subjects. Powell's career necessitates it; from her early days as an English major to her time working with late director Robert Altman to her return to Vancouver into the world of fashion entrepreneurship, the conversation veered through the worlds of Lego, film industry infrastructure, and MTV.
The conversation's tone was the definition of tough love. Powell's journey, as told by her, was harrowing. But she would emphasize that anyone who's considering entrepreneurship should expect a hard road.
“Investors see thousands of deals, and their perspective can be some of the most valuable you can get. They will be brutal," she said. "But there is no room for an ego in entrepreneurship. Confidence? Yes. Ambition? Absolutely. Leave ego at the door, or else you won't make it."
"As an entrepreneur, you will have to pick yourself up over and over and over. So how you brush yourself off and invest yourself in something new? That's the most valuable skill you can develop," she continued. "Even as an employee, that's a skill you can use.”
The advice she offered was appropriate to the season: the audience was mostly past the age of graduation ceremonies, but no one is too old to be told to trust their instincts. Or to make your own definition of success, or to have confidence and curiosity and creativity.
“If I can keep those three things in my life,” Powell says, “I can feel successful. I didn't know that at eighteen, but I know that today.”
The world isn't quite where she would like it, but Powell remains determined.
“I just came back from a conference in Vegas, and there were only ten women in the room," she said. "[But] that doesn't threaten me anymore. If anything, it raises the bar, and I feel the forward momentum to be even stronger, to network and make my point heard.”
Powell's outlook was rosy at the night's end.
“I think the startup ecosystem has grown in a huge way," she affirmed. "Today, there's so much more happening. The catalyst for change can be as simple as one event or two events—this event right here could have a huge umbrella positive effect."
"If you keep the conversation going and keep the women engaged, there's no limit," Powell offered. "My number one goal for women leaving here? The ones who are already started, I hope they have a little more inspiration to keep on. And to have a new peer group, to share how exciting it all is.”
Hopefully Startup Grind Vancouver will take the night's momentum and have it carry through. The next event is June 11 and will feature Greg Smith at Espresso Capital.