Heidi has achieved success as an entrepreneur, a corporate executive, a corporate director and venture capitalist. She has held positions of leadership within a number of industry organizations, and is a recognized and popular spokesperson for the technology industry and entrepreneurial community.
I took the chance to speak with Heidi while she is in Edinburgh as Entrepreneur in Residence at the Entrepreneurs Club of the University of Edinburgh Business School. I first wanted to know if she had seen any basic difference between budding entrepreneurs here and in the US.
“There is no difference in the raw talent between Silicon Valley and here and in terms of women entrepreneurs the mix is similar to the Valley. For example, I met 40 entrepreneurs last night 10 of whom were women. If anything that is a slightly higher ratio than in Silicon Valley.”
“I see a broader range of entrepreneurs here than I would in Silicon Valley and with more broadly based business ideas. In Silicon Valley I see more ‘hard-core‘ technologists, but that’s not to say I haven’t met women engineers over here too. While I’ve been at the Business School’s Entrepreneurs Club I have been able to offer advice and support to graduates and entrepreneurs in the wider community, not just students.”
We went on to discuss the challenges facing entrepreneurs both here and in the US.
“The big challenge for all entrepreneurs is to find help. The best piece of advice I can give to any one starting out is, don’t be afraid to ask! One difference here is that there isn’t quite the same ecosystem of money and mentors that you find in Silicon Valley for start-ups tap into. It’s a little more difficult to find help and so entrepreneurs here have to be prepared to go out and find the help that they need to make their business a success. ”
“Added to that, people over here are culturally more risk averse. Speaking purely statistically, most start ups will fail, that is a straightforward fact. Over here if you fail that is seen as you having had your shot at success and that you shouldn’t ever dare to try again. In Silicon Valley the culture is different. If people have tried and failed they will then try something different. As a venture capitalist I frequently fund ventures for entrepreneurs that have already had businesses fail. The pattern in Silicon Valley is of several failures before success.”
“This fear of failure also impacts on peoples willingness to ask for help. Some are frightened to ask in case they are turned down. I say to entrepreneurs to just ask. What’s the worst that can happen? The person you go to says no, in which case you move on and ask someone else. It is not the end of the world is someone says no. Business lessons are learned this way.”
” And there are good reasons to fail and bad reasons to fail. A business may fail because a competitor appears from nowhere and does the job better than you. These things happen and that is OK. If I see an entrepreneur who has raised 20 million for a venture that didn’t succeed and is now struggling to raise money for a new venture you do then start to question why the people who were keen to support last time are reluctant this time. Having backed you once vc’s will back you again if the business failed for good reasons and not because you ran the business badly. Entrepreneurs here in the UK are not as emboldened as they are in Silicon Valley. ”
Finally I asked Heidi about the type of entrepreneurs she has met while here in the UK
“This is very interesting. Last night I met a group of entrepreneurs and about half of the people were women aged 40+. These women had had successful careers as consultants, corporate executives, journalists and were looking for different things to do in the second part of their working lives. The situation is similar in the US with women ‘empty nesters‘ who have had a good solid career and who are reevaluating their lives and how they want to spend their time. Often these women will build portfolio careers. I’m a perfect example. Next year I’ll be teaching at Stanford and serving on the boards of at least two public companies.”
“In these challenging times for the economy starting your own business can also be seen as a way of taking control of your own destiny.”
It was really interesting to talk to Heidi about her experiences here and in the US and the overriding message to budding entrepreneurs is BE BOLD and JUST ASK!
Heidi serves as a member of the board of directors of TiVo (NASDAQ:TIVO). Founded in 1997, TiVo Inc. developed the first commercially available digital video recorder (DVR) and has since evolved into the ultimate single solution media center by combining its patented DVR technologies and universal cable box capabilities with the ability to aggregate, search, and deliver millions of pieces of broadband, cable, and broadcast content.
Heidi is also a director of Yellow Media Inc. (TSX:YLO), Canada�s #1 Internet company through its network of companies that include Yellow Pages Group, Trader Corporation and Canpages. Yellow Media Inc. owns and operates some of Canada�s leading properties and publications including Yellow PagesTM directories, YellowPages.caTM, Canada411.caTM, AutoTrader.caTM, CanadianDriver.com, RedFlagDeals.com, and LesPAC.com. Its online destinations reach over 11.5M unique visitors monthly and its mobile applications for finding local businesses, deals and vehicles have been downloaded over 2M times. Yellow Media Inc. is also a leader in national digital advertising through Mediative, a digital advertising and marketing solutions provider to national agencies and advertisers.
She was (from 1999 to 2007) a Managing Director of Mobius Venture Capital, a technology venture fund with $2 billion under management. In this capacity, Heidi served on the Boards of Directors of over twenty private and public companies. Heidi was also elected to the Board of Directors of the National Venture Capital Association � the largest venture capital trade association in the world � in which capacity she served from 2003 to 2007. During this time, Heidi served on the Executive Committee, chaired the annual conference, chaired the Public Outreach committee, and chaired the NVCA�s initiative on national competitiveness. She also served on the board of Great Plains Software (was NASDAQ:GPSI) from 1997 until its acquisition by Microsoft in 2001, and also served as a Public Governor of the Pacific Exchange from 1996 to 2000.
From 1996 to 1997, as Vice President of World Wide Developer Relations for Apple Computer, Heidi was responsible for building and maintaining relationships between Apple and its developers worldwide. She and her 300-person team served as the primary contact point for major partners such as Microsoft, Lotus and Adobe, as well as 12,000 other firms, emerging and established, which provided products for the Apple Macintosh.
From 1983 to 1996, Roizen was co-founder and CEO of T/Maker Company, a developer and publisher of personal computer software, including WriteNowTM and ClickArt®. Her principal functions at T/Maker included strategic planning, product planning and acquisitions, partnerships, fundraising, recruiting and directing the senior management team. T/Maker was acquired by Deluxe Corporation in 1994, at which time Heidi also became responsible for the management of T/Maker under the Deluxe corporate entity. Roizen was also elected to the Board of Directors of the Software Publishers Association (SPA) — the largest software trade association in the world at that time � where she served as a director for eight years, including serving as the SPA�s President from 1988 to 1990.
Heidi has been active in numerous charitable organizations, educational institutions and nonprofit entities. She currently serves as the Co-Chair of the Stanford Graduate School of Business Women on Boards Initiative. She is a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Center for Women in Information Technology, and of Springboard Enterprises. She was for many years a board member of the SDForum, the largest association of independent software development professionals in the country. She is a past board member of the Stanford Alumni Association, and also served on its Trustee Nominating Committee for five years. She also served on the Board of Advisors for Stanford�s Department of Humanities and Sciences. She is a frequent guest speaker at business schools across the country, and is the subject of case studies authored by both the Harvard and Stanford Business Schools. Roizen has been named to numerous �top� lists, including the �Top 50 Women in Tech� by Corporate Board Member Magazine.
In September of 2008, Roizen was named the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs and Executives 2008 Annual Achievement Award Recipient. Roizen is also the creator of SkinnySongs, which she launched in January of 2008. SkinnySongs introduced the first-ever collection of radio-hit-quality music in which the lyrics are specifically designed to motivate people to reach their weight and fitness goals. Roizen conceived the idea, wrote all the lyrics, and recruited music industry veterans David Malloy and George Daly to bring the project to life. Roizen and SkinnySongs have been featured widely, including appearances on The Martha Stewart Show, CBS Early Morning, Oprah and Friends Radio and CNN. SkinnySongs is available on Amazon and iTunes.
Roizen holds an undergraduate degree from Stanford University (1980) and an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business (1983). Heidi can be contacted via http://www.heidiroizen.com/