Last week, we announced the finalists of our Female Founders Competition after months of planning, collecting applications (which exceeded our goal by 2x!), and undertaking the incredibly difficult task of picking the 10 finalists. The entire process has been an exciting blur. In pausing to reflect, I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to spend 36 hours in San Francisco with these amazing women and their teams. It was such a joy to turn the numbers and words on their application pages into real relationships.
On Tuesday evening, finalists arrived to our reception from various locations across Europe, North America and Israel, feeling a bit nervous but excited. By Wednesday evening, after a full day of programming and pitches, it was incredible to see that this group had truly become a cohesive community.
In the end, we will pick only two winners in which to invest; however, this in no way should diminish the determination of the other eight finalists, or the several hundred applicant companies. After all, it’s up to them to persevere and build a great business.
In my portfolio development role at M12, I work closely with entrepreneurs to help them both build internal partnerships with Microsoft, and pursue external customer sales opportunities. As such, I’ve had the honor of working closely with two of the winners of our last competition, Innvoate.AI: Maria Luisa Pineda, CEO and co-founder of Envisagenics, and Eyal Feder, CEO and co-founder of ZenCity. I’m happy to share that both have seen great successes thus far with Microsoft and our customers.
Collaborating with and observing these leaders over time, there are a few shared attributes that stand out, and while the first two may seem obvious, the third truly sets them apart from the noise:
1) Incredible determination to build a great business and solve big problems
2) Relentless perseverance to create opportunities when others cannot see the path
3) Kindness and respect for others in every situation
It’s All in Your State of Mind. These words are scribed on the chalkboard I read every day when I enter and leave my home. I’ve seen various versions of the full poem over the years, attributed to a variety of authors including Walter Wintle. Below is the version to which I ascribe, from a piece of paper my father passed to me printed in the 1980s. These words have served as my north star, especially since his passing from cancer. I hope they can offer some inspiration to every entrepreneur, but especially to the incredible women who applied to our Female Founders Competition.
State of Mind*
If you think you are beaten, you are.
If you think you dare not, you don’t.
If you like to win, but don’t think you can,
It’s almost a cinch that you won’t.
If you think you’ll lose, you’ve lost.
For out in the world you’ll find
Success begins with your will;
It is all in your state of mind.
Think big and your deed will grow;
Think small and you fall behind.
Think that you can, and you will;
It’s all in your state of mind.
If you think you’re out-classed, you are.
You’ve got to think high to rise.
You’ve got to be sure of yourself
Before you can win the prize.
Life’s battles don’t always go
To the strongest or fastest man.
But sooner or later the one who wins
Is the one that thinks that he can.