Highwire Expands to New York

It’s an exciting time for tech in NYC.

Not only are we celebrating Etsy’s recent IPO, but there are many smaller startups doing exciting things in different areas of tech. One of my favorite areas that is thriving in NYC is fintech. For obvious reasons, NYC is well-suited to be the fintech capital of the US and there are many innovative companies here using technology to solve problems for both the institutional and retail/consumer side of the business. From recent IPOs Virtu and OnDeck to the fledgling startups coming out of the FinTech Innovation Lab, you can find fintech startups at all stages of life in NYC.

The thriving fintech scene is one of the many reasons why Highwire is proud to announce the official opening of our NYC office, located in the WeWork NoMad space, alongside many tech startups. While our office may be new, our presence in NYC is not. We have been building our East Coast client base over the last year, with leaders in fintech, enterprise security and retail technology on our client roster, and have now begun expanding our team here as well.

I am very excited to open the NYC office for Highwire, as it allows me to experience the best of both worlds. I like to say that my background makes me ½ Wall Street and ½ Silicon Valley. For the last 7 years, I worked at a corporate communications firm started by ex-Wall Street analysts, where I helped enterprise technology, financial services, and payments companies manage communications around milestone events, including many IPOs. IPOs are an amazing growth milestone and I am proud to have helped so many CEOs and CFOs successfully manage communications on this important day. Prior to my corporate communications work, I was a Vice President at a Silicon Valley PR firm, spending several years in California and NYC offices, working with early Silicon Valley enterprise technology leaders.

Similarly, Highwire NYC combines the best of NYC and Silicon Valley. While we still call some of the most innovative Valley companies our clients, we are proud to support the NYC and broader East Coast tech scene as well.

Tech in NYC is thriving and Highwire is excited to be a part of the growing scene.

Gender and Entrepreneurship at SXSW

Among thousands of people, marketing activations, BBQs and cocktail hours, SXSW 2015 helped promote key discussions on the future of work dynamics and the issue of gender in entrepreneurship. These topics were the subject of thought-provoking conversations throughout sessions and keynotes, one of which – UpGlobal’s panel on Women in Entrepreneurship at Old School on 6th Street – I had the honor of being a part of.

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Joined by my fellow panelists Anjali Kundra (VP and co-founder of Partender), Amy Millman (President, Springboard Enterprises), Kate Shillo (Director, Galvanize Ventures), and moderated by Lisa Brooks (Turnstone), our group had a dynamic discussion in front of an audience of male and female entrepreneurs alike about how to scale a venture while taking gender into consideration. The group was composed of investors, an entrepreneur and marketers. A few key themes emerged:

Mentors
From keynotes by Jack Welch and Gary Vaynerchuk to our Startup Oasis panel, the questions of who serves as professional mentors and why continued to come up. For Jack Welch, he finds mentors from every part of his business life. He mentioned Jeff Bezos, Gary Vaynerchuk and others as people to whom he looks for advice. RZA, of the Wu-Tang Clan, counts Jim Jaramusch and Quentin Tarantino as mentors who taught him about becoming a filmmaker. For many of the women on our UpGlobal panel ¬– including myself – mentors of both genders were found through previous job experiences. Though our backgrounds and mentors differed, one thing on which we all agreed was that it’s the responsibility of the mentee to make mentorship happen. If we want to learn from someone, it’s up to us to ask for advice and forge the relationship.

Is HR The Answer To Address Gender Imbalance At Startups?
HR was a hot-button issue that came up in many sessions and conversations. It was clear that enacting company policies and taking over the duty to ensure a workplace that’s equal for both men and women falls upon an HR person. But when and how this hire is made is subject to broadly differing views. For some, HR should be one of the first hires at a startup, while others think HR is an expensive, non-revenue driving investment. This is particularly true for companies at a critical stage where every contributor makes or breaks the growth trajectory of a company. It’s unclear if there’s a “right” answer to this conundrum, as I’ve seen companies try both ways with success. What is clear is that there is no foolproof way to solve for gender imbalance.

Advice For Female Startup Entrepreneurs
During our panel, Lisa asked each of us the one piece of advice we’d give to other female entrepreneurs. We all noted that conviction and confidence are imperative when we’re presenting our ideas and trying to sell a vision to investors, clients or internal staff. Whether male or female, conviction and confidence are ways to keep ahead in the ultra-competitive startup environment in which we work.

Lastly, kudos to UpGlobal for hosting a rich conversation and event at the Startup Oasis; it helped to bring together entrepreneurs from around the world to have an important discussion on the future of gender in the workplace. Now it will be interesting to see if progress happens, or if we’ll still be having the same conversation on this topic at SXSW 2016.

 

How the startup mindset will transform the 21st century

We walked down the stairs to San Francisco’s Say Space following the crowd of people eager to attend ReadWrite’s first event of the year. The stage was set, beers passed around, and encounters between new and old colleagues filled the night. A buzz could be heard in the air – was it disruption?

At this particular ReadWriteMix event, PayPal’s President, David Marcus, participated in a fireside chat with ReadWrite editor-in-chief, Owen Thomas, with the goal of decoding the future of money in our ever mobile-forward world. Discussing the evolution of the payment industry, David Marcus spoke of a surge of digital capabilities, predicting that four years from now in highly populated metro areas like San Francisco and New York City, you won’t have to carry a wallet because everything would be digital. The mobile revolution we are experiencing now allows for a new wave of currency, or money 3.0.

The very thought of technology allowing for physical money to be rendered useless is fascinating, but it begs an even grander question: If that is possible, then what else will be transformed by technology innovations? With talk of autonomous vehicles, smart homes, and the growth of the sharing economy, it looks like we are entering a new innovation cycle in what has been called the second machine age.

At Highwire, we believe that the startup mentality is what makes all these innovations possible.

Throughout our history we see innovation cycles brought about by small groups of people who dared to try something different. Henry Ford and the combustion vehicle, Bill Gates and the World Wide Web, Steve Jobs and the iPhone. All of these innovations were brought to life by the startup mentality that dares to build for the future instead of optimizing for the day to day.

Be it a startup or publicly traded company, the startup mentality is what will propel a company to success. The startup mentality has built innovative solutions to common problems. Feeling sick? Working from home has never been easier thanks to Blue Jeans Network. Going away for the weekend? Companies like Piper can let you monitor your home from your smartphone. Snapchat and Twilio are changing the way we communicate while digital healthcare startups like Fitbit and Blue Goji are changing the way we monitor and evaluate our health.

The startup mentality will usher in this second machine age by reimagining the world and putting a new spin on old notions of technology. That is what will transform the 21st century.

Stephanie Hernandez is an intern at Highwire PR in San Francisco

Highwire takes on Chicago Ideas Week

Chicago. We’re known as the “Windy City,” home to deep-dish pizza, the cursed Cubs, thick accents (“Da Bears” anyone?), cold winters and tireless work ethic. The Chicago of today is born from a hard working, Midwestern “no quit” attitude, striving to be a center of culture, business and knowledge. This is certainly the case for innovation across industries in this city, including business, technology, education, medicine, science, and more.

Chicago Ideas Week (CIW) is proof of this, bringing together hundreds of the world’s brightest thought leaders during a week-long extravaganza of informational sessions, classes and over 200 world-renowned speakers such as Dr. Buzz Aldrin, Cameron & Tyler Winklevoss, and Eric Lefkofsky (CIW co-chairman and Groupon CEO).

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Two of the sessions we attended in particular stood out. Here is a quick recap of some takeaways that we believe are valuable across all aspects of work and personal life:

“Entrepreneurship: How I did it” A session with Eric Lefkofsky, Slava Rubin, and Scott Case

Eric Lefkofsky kicked this session off by stating, “Entrepreneurs are the backbone of the country,” and he could not have been more spot-on. At the core, entrepreneurs have a fire in their belly that not only moves them into action, but also sparks a desire to innovate in the people around them.

Lefkofsky is well known for his success leading Chicago’s fastest growing start-up, Groupon, but his experience building other companies has not always been such a walk in the park. In fact, he says that three out of four of VC backed companies end in failure, and the great entrepreneurs are defined by how they respond to failure.

Co-founder & CEO of Indiegogo.com, Slava Rubin, echoed Lefkofsky’s statement by saying, “It’s not always about the idea, it’s about the execution and hustle.” A focus on action has propelled so many entrepreneurs and business leaders to be as successful as they are. An idea for a company or product might not always stand out from the beginning but you will never know the full potential of an idea until you pour everything into bringing it to fruition.

During the evening session, we heard from Scott Case, Co-founder of Priceline.com who shared his belief that one key ingredient necessary for a great company is a strong network and community.

“Scientific Breakthroughs: Infinite Possibilities” A panel presented by the University of Illinois

This session may have had “scientific” in the title, but the talks provided valuable advice around leadership, creativity, teamwork, problem solving and how to truly be an innovator.

Breakthroughs don’t have to be monumental in size to make a huge impact –the seemingly mundane everyday breakthroughs from everyday people are what advance us culturally, scientifically, technologically and entrepreneurially. Even the smallest idea can morph into one that changes lives. Releasing fear of failure and embracing the idea of a broader definition of what a breakthrough is – a changing, living idea – is fundamental to success.

So overall, what did we learn? We learned that Chicago is magnetic, pulling in an incredible crowd of leaders, speakers, innovators and attendees from all over the globe. The city is embracing innovation, as evidenced by events like this one. Chicago leaders from all walks of life are encouraging entrepreneurs to take charge and establish a new creative, idea-driven community. We learned a great deal from attending Chicago Ideas Week and are anxious to begin applying the lessons learned to both our professional and personal lives. We’re excited for the future of our great city, and can’t wait to see what it holds for us.