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Pick a New Frontier, Ride a Wave of New Money-Making Technology
The reason for picking a new frontier is clear. The distance from the bottom to the top is shorter by far. Today, although new fields continue to emerge, "more than 30% of new women-owned businesses are in the technology field” (according to Cate Muther, founder of Three Guineas Fund, which invests in economic opportunities for women and girls). Technology overlays every business and can make a business more frictionless, faster, better, and less expensive to run. New technology creates wealth, sometimes almost overnight.
Be an early adopter. Spot a new technology you think will change “business as usual” and therefore become very profitable. In 1994, before Netscape’s public beta, the author bootstrapped an Internet business by starting small with little cash, protected the downside, and avoided “crashing and burning” so I could create the ability to persist. My web site—the first on the Net to focus on gender equity—was part of a proposed billion-dollar “roll-up” of Internet companies by a NY Stock Exchange company that imploded during the dot-com crash, when Nasdaq lost 95% of its value. Now, having dodged the silver bullet, my site is part of the thriving dot-com resurgence.
Spot a new niche within a hot new field, one that enables and/or supports a new function for that field. Mena Trott was doing design work in San Francisco in the spring of 2001, when she began a quirky weblog called Dollarshort. When the small web design studio Mena and her husband worked for closed its doors, they decided to develop their own weblogging tool, and they launched Six Apart, a company producing Movable Type and Typepad blog software with vastly increased interactivity. Six Apart now has offices on 3 continents.
Recognize that new technology spawns new needs to fully capture its value. Look around the corner and think out of the box to figure out what would make this new technology more useful to the consumer. Isabel Maxwell, daughter of the late British tycoon Robert Maxwell, is a serial entrepreneur. In 1992, after a career in television and cinema, Maxwell founded The McKinley Group and developed Magellan, the world’s first Internet search engine, which was sold to Excite in 1996. Today, she advises venture capital funds with an eye on new markets in India and China.
Capitalize on new technology that creates such rapid growth that companies need help using it. Become the one to support their vision. Ellen Hancock was executive vice-president of R&D and Chief Technology Officer for Apple, who went on to even bigger and better things. As chairman/CEO of Exodus Communications, she has built her company’s market value to billion and its web hosting capability to #1. Exodus now manages websites for Yahoo, eBay, Priceline.com, and Merrill Lynch.
Innovate different ways new technology will be used to drive productivity and profitability. Carol Bartz is chairman, president, and CEO of Autodesk Inc., the world's leading supplier of design software and one of the biggest PC software companies in the world. Bartz has been named one of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women (by Forbes, in 2004), one of the100 Most Influential Women in Business (by The San Francisco Business Times, in 2004), and is on the Women in Technology List (of Business Week, in 2004). Autodesk first revolutionized the software industry with the AutoCAD® product, which introduced drafting on a PC and paved the way for Autodesk technology products in industries such as building, infrastructure, manufacturing, media and entertainment, and wireless data. Since Bartz took the helm in 1992, the company has diversified its product line and grown revenues from 5 million to 2 million in FY04. The company employs more than 3,500 people, including 880 at its headquarters, and it sells products in more than 160 countries.
Keep in mind that even big companies need to learn to use new technology. Again, be the one to teach them how. Angelika P. Coghlan founded Catwalk Consulting, a Chicago-area business with .2 million in annual revenues. Catwalk is a technology consulting firm that provides a link between business and technology by helping its clients reduce their operating costs, increase their customer base, and implement eBusiness solutions.
Look for gaps in the market and fill them. Renee Courington founded All Covered in 1997 when she saw that small companies—whether in remote, rural towns or in the heart of the Silicon Valley—were having trouble finding reliable computer and network support. So she set about building an IT outsourcing company. All Covered currently serves more than 2,500 clients and supports more than 60,000 computer systems nationwide with more than 200 technical consultants in 24 major metropolitan areas across the U.S.
Recognize that new technology enables new forms of marketing. The speed of the Internet enables “last-minute” marketing; be the one to capture that market. Michelle Peluso founded and ran the leading online last-minute travel Web site (Site59), which was acquired by Travelocity in March 2002. She was named president and CEO of Travelocity in December 2003. Using new technology to create a product and sales strategy is the first step. Then you must put all your efforts into implementing your strategy. Donna Dubinsky, the CEO of Handspring (which makes a hand-sized personal digital assistant that flips open into a cellular phone) says building a business is "10% strategy and 90% implementation. I don't think you can succeed if you have a great strategy and lousy implementation." Her co-founder Jeff Hawkins is the "visionary" at Handspring, but Dubinsky makes the trains run on time
About the Author: Gretchen Glassock is President/CEO of AdvancingWomen.com, ranked by Google as number 1 on in its category, the first website to help women break through the “glass ceiling”, providing career strategy , tools, resources, products and services to support women's career, business and leadership goals, and work-life balance issues; featuring our targeted job board at careers.advancingwomen.com for employers seeking highly qualified candidates and diversity candidates seeking executive careers.