We Get Real AF

Ep 86: Tech 101 with Sophia Matveeva, Founder of Tech for Non-Techies

August 17, 2021 Vanessa Alava & Sue Robinson Season 2 Episode 86
We Get Real AF
Ep 86: Tech 101 with Sophia Matveeva, Founder of Tech for Non-Techies
Show Notes Transcript

Sophia Matveeva talks about the importance of breaking down tech jargon for the non-technical professional and why the A in STEAM matters. 

Find Sophia Matveeva Online:

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Referenced:

Tech for Non-Techies Podcast

Tech for Non-Techies

General Magic Documentary

We Get Real AF Podcast Credits:

Producers & Hosts: Vanessa Alava & Sue Robinson

Vanessa Alava

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Sue Robinson

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Audio Producer/Editor: Sam Mclean  

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Technical Director: Mitchell Machado

LinkedIn   Reset Gaming

Audio Music Track Title: Beatles Unite

Artist: Rachel K. Collier

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Intro Voice-Over Artist: Veronica Horta

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Cover Artwork Photo Credit: Alice Moore 

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Sue Robinson  

Welcome back friends to the we get real AF podcast. I'm Sue Robinson.

 

Vanessa Alava  

And I'm Vanessa Alava. Be sure to find @wegetrealaf across all social channels. And please take a quick moment to subscribe, rate and comment on the show.

 

Sue Robinson  

Today we are diving into how non-technical business founders can understand and navigate the technology aspects of your business. Our guest is Sophia Matveeva. The founder of the tech for non-techies education community, Sophia learned firsthand the challenges and non-technical founder faces when she started NT, a retail tech platform that connects consumers stylists and brands. Her company went on to win App of the day by Mashable and Grazia named NT, one of the world's best fashion technology startups. But it also showed Sophia the need for better support for non-technical founders. So she found a tech for non techies. Sophia has contributed to the Financial Times The Guardian and Forbes on entrepreneurship and technology. And she has guest lectured at Chicago Booth and London Business School. She is also a fellow podcaster. And we're delighted to have her join us today on we get real if welcome Sophia, welcome.

 

Sophia Matveeva 

Thank you so much, ladies, I'm so excited to be here. I'm a big fan of your work. And I just love how you are showcasing inspiring interesting women in in this industry and, and also sharing some really useful career tips. So thank you very much.

 

Sue Robinson  

Thank you for the kind words, we're excited to have you here. And before we dive in, we would love for you to share with our listeners how they can find you and tech for non techies online.

 

Sophia Matveeva 

Excellent. So if you if the listeners are interested in discovering another podcast, there is the tech for techies podcast, which is available on Apple or on Spotify. We also have a bunch of free learning on the tech one on techies Instagram, or literally just tech for non techies.co. You can find us on Facebook, or you can just tweet at me I'm fairly active on Twitter @SophiaMatveeva. 

 

Sue Robinson  

Awesome. We are really excited to speak with you - Because I know for myself and Vanessa, you probably would agree with this. I don't consider ourselves hardcore technologists. However, we are entrepreneurs. And we are very much involved in the technology space. and I know that that is sort of your journey a bit as well Sophia that you were entrepreneurial first, and then became a technology expert by necessity. So tell us a little bit about that journey. Because I think that will feed into explaining tech for non techies and the need that you're filling.

 

Sophia Matveeva 

Absolutely. So I started working on an idea for a tech enabled business when I was doing my MBA at Chicago Booth. And what MBAs are so good at is essentially they teach you a lot of fitness girls, and they inspire you. But they're really bad in general at teaching you the basics of technology. That I think because a lot of business schools, you know, even the top ones, I think they're still preparing you to work in consulting and in banking. And so when you learn about tech, you learn about the strategy of technology companies, but you don't learn basic concepts like what is a tech stack? What is an API. And so when I started working on this technique, tech enabled business, and essentially I ended up raising some money and hiring a product team, which you know, I basically did lots of mistakes, lots of errors. I ended up in a situation where essentially, I was the boss. And you know, when you're running a startup, as you know, you are already operating with so much uncertainty. But then when you're also working with developers, they literally speak a different language. They say a word that I did not understand. And I would literally ask them what they meant. And they would explain jargon with jargon, which really didn't help. And so obviously, I wanted to look like I was in charge and I knew what I was doing. So I would kind of nod along cleverly. And then I would secretly Google firms, but again, a lot of the YouTube Yours, they are made by developers for developers. And so literally, you just end up getting more and more confused. And I find that also, in Silicon Valley parlance, non-technical founders are kind of seen as second class citizens. And often there seems to be this idea that if you're non-technical, you're basically the support staff, to the smart Chief Technology Officer. And honestly, I do think that there is a gender lens to it. Because often, there is a kind of, you know, the, the woman is the non-technical founder, and she's doing Oh, the marketing, and then there's the adult supervision in the form of a CTO. And, you know, first of all, that's not really a world that I want to live in. But I do think that subconsciously, a lot of us absorb that. And I certainly absorb that. And if you even even if you look at Facebook, whatever you think about Facebook ethically, if you actually look at them, so there's Mark Zuckerberg, the genius developer, supported by Sheryl Sandberg, yes, Sheryl Sandberg has, you know, made billions. But still, she is the business support staff to the genius techie. And I think what definitely, as a non-technical founder, when I came out of business school, even when I already was working with developers, you end up having a very large knowledge gap. And you don't know how to fill that gap. And if you actually just listen to what mainly the tech bros out of Silicon Valley with the Chinese, they would say, you need to learn to code because unless you know how to code, basically, what are you doing here? But realistically, as you ladies know, when you're running a business, tell me when are you also going to fit in a coding course. And if you're going to be taking coding course, what coding languages are going to learn? Are you going to learn? How do you know how to choose when when you don't know what you don't know? It's very, very difficult. And so essentially, I ended up having to learn on the job. And as I was learning on the job, I started writing for Forbes, about my startup journey. And I thought, Oh, well, I don't really know what I'm supposed to do as a non-technical founder. But by using Forbes, I can basically get a bunch of free consulting from all these smart, non-technical founders who have succeeded. Because you know, me just a random person, if I just write to fame, successful people, like they, they're not going to care. But if I wrote to them and say, I would like to interview Forbes about your success, basically, everyone said, Yes. And so I wrote this article, the first one in the non-technical founder series was called what non-technical founders really need to know about tech. And the thing is, I was doing it for me, because I was a non-technical founder, I had already raised money, and I had a team and I was like, What am I supposed to do? As the boss, you're not supposed to admit that. Like, you don't even know how to kind of set a goal, because I knew how to set business goals. But I also had to set goals for the product team. And I had no idea how to do that. So I knew that, you know, we needed to raise money, I knew how to set a revenue goal, but you can't give a revenue goal to a developer. That's not what they do. So essentially, as I started interviewing more and more successful, non-technical founders, and I, basically, I became better at my job, and became better at translating business needs into technology strategy, and kind of understanding how the two of them fit together. And as a result, my work got better. But also, those articles became very successful. And I saw that there are lots of other people essentially, like me, people who have a professional background, people who every generally feel, not very stupid, but when we when it comes to technology, who kind of feel like we've just discovered fire, then there's, there's kind of a lot of shame. I think there's a lot of shame, especially in the technology industry, which I do think women tend to overcompensate for. And think Well, okay, I'm non-technical, I don't know enough stuff. So let me go and take all of these courses and ever haven't taken all of the courses and learned all the things that I'm not good enough. And so if you add the non-technical in tech plus, woman, I do think you end up with a bit of a recipe for for overwork and learning a lot of things that that essentially you don't know. And tech for non techies was really born out of my own experience of working with a product team and creating a tech enabled business. Again, it's I think, a media parlance, which essentially tells you that you're basically not that great unless you have the adult, usually male supervision of a technical co-founder.

 

Vanessa Alava  

Well, Sophia, I just gotta say, hearing you speak. We relate to you There are so many synergies because the We get real AF podcast was born out of a desire for us to educate ourselves on technology, science, what's out there that we don't already know, we had this foray into immersive tech because of the company, at which we worked did a lot of amazing things in virtual reality and augmented reality. And we wanted to not only amplify the voices of women, but learn from these women, have relatable conversations really break down this jargon, when you said explain jargon, with jargon, that happens all too often. And so many people can relate to the uh, uh, yeah, I get it. Save that, go Google it when I leave this conversation. And it's it's hard. And we need to be more transparent about that. And I get the whole saving your own face in a way of like, okay, yeah, I understand what you're saying. And I don't want to appear to be ignorant in a workplace because you don't want to lose that person's confidence in running into your point your own business. So completely relatable. And just, I love what you're doing. Because again, we feel that, and that's why we were doing this podcast.

 

Sue Robinson  

Absolutely. And you know, we talk a lot about the benefits of being vulnerable on the show, but there's a negative kind of vulnerability I feel that women face and founders in depth and Founder World in trying to get investment dollars and trying to hire a team and getting taken seriously. And so we're kind of put into a corner where we do risk the chance of looking stupid. Yeah, you know, we're judged more harshly. And so I, you know, kudos to you for starting this for acknowledging it for bringing it out into the light of day. And also, I love what you did, because it's sort of analogous to what Vanessa and I did, in that you, you wrote for Forbes to get the intelligence and then knowledge from your guests so that you could, you know, apply that to your own business that's really scrappy. 

 

Vanessa Alava

It is.

 

Sophia Matveeva 

I keep on doing that with my podcast. So on the on the tech non techies podcast, I often speak to other non-technical founders. And so I'm learning from them. But also, what's interesting is that I'm seeing a lot of the same problems, because you know, most most of these problems have been solved by summary before. So most of these problems are not really that difficult to solve. And so it's good, it's good to see patterns of different people solving the same problems successfully. And also, I do think that the inspiration aspect is also really, really important. So if you just, if you don't make an effort, it's very easy to literally just read TechCrunch. And I think for me, I don't know, TechCrunch is kind of as depressing as Instagram. You know, when you look at Instagram, and you're like, oh, everybody's living in this amazing life. And then it's like, we're surrounded by like, KitKat wrappers. Like, yeah, yeah. Definitely. Yeah, enjoy drawstring pants. So TechCrunch would also have you believe that like, there are these founders who kind of like, they just graduated over, you know, they probably haven't graduated, they were studying computer science at Stanford, then they rolled out, they rolled out of that they had an idea, they got millions. And then like, wash, everything is great. And then you're like, well, if that's not me, you kind of feel like a loser. And it's very easy to fall into that belief. And so what I really want to show people on tech, non techies, and also to be fair, still show myself that, like, tell a different story. Tell a story of people who don't have technical background, and actually are quite proud of who they are. So are not just, you know, non techies and Turco kind of hiding and trying to compensate. But people who say, like, for example, Kyle Charlo, who is the founder of Classpass. So she created Classpass, because her background is in dancing. She was a dancer, and she wanted to get to dance studios, and she didn't know how to get to them. So she is she was having trouble booking dance studios. And because of that she's created a you know, a great business, which Yes, is technology enabled. But it comes from the need of a dancer. It comes from a you have a busy woman also trying to find a workout. And I think the more non-technical founders we have coming into the fray and the more people with different needs that we have kind of creating solutions. I think, basically the better off we'll be because otherwise we'll just have a bunch of tech dude creating solutions for a bunch of tech dudes, which is why there were so many laundry app delivered like laundry delivery services and like food deliveries because like they want to do their own washing up and they can't cook. I can do both. Like those are not my problems. I have other problems. Those that they don't know how to solve. 

 

Vanessa Alava 

Well, that's a good segue into right brain thinking versus left brain thinking, and bringing both of these groups of people together to your point to create better products, more innovative products, things that relate to more than just one group of people being the bros, the brogrammers, the, brovelopers, etc.

 

Sophia Matveeva 

Exactly what if you actually think about what is a product, a product is always a solution to somebody's problem. So for example, here, I have a glass. And the reason why I have a glass is because I'm going to get thirsty. And so I want to solve my problem of being thirsty. I'm not sitting there thinking, Oh, I really want to use a glass, like, maybe some people do that. But I, you know, they're really weird. Most people want to have a vessel so they could get a liquid into their mouth. So this is how essentially, if you start thinking about product that way, then you can actually understand a lot of the I think diversity issues in how tech companies get funded, and how tech companies also get built. Because tech bros, you know, they're going to have different problems that I do. And so they and they're not going to experience you know, for example, let's look again, at pile Charla building Classpass. She had a different problem, because she was a busy woman who wanted to find a dance class. So she, she created a solution to that problem. But if you have a bunch of people who never experienced the problems that women experienced, because they're not women, or never experienced the problems, that people have different different ethnicities experience, because they're white, and they've never been racially profiled, then how can we expect the people who never experienced these problems, to create solutions for problems that they didn't even know exist? Exactly. And just product No, basically technical product development, just to people who think the same people from the same background. Lots of solutions are not going to be created, which is not, you know, it's not just an ethical thing. It's also money thing like there's, you know, like, I'm a woman, I have disposable income, I'm willing to pay, like, I buy things. That, yeah, you buy things. So the more kind of variety and interesting and beautiful things that there are for me to buy an experienced like, the more the economy will be stimulated to.

 

Sue Robinson  

Exactly innovation doesn't come from an echo chamber. And I think that that's just the thing we always try to reinforce and remind people about here on the podcast, and I love the glass example. That's a really good relatable example that anybody can, think about the solution to the problem, after you've established what the problem is that you're trying to solve. Talk to us a bit about tech for non techies, the actual community, the platform, what kinds of things can people find when they go there?

 

Sophia Matveeva 

So it's really it's really interesting, I, I'm quite in awe of the people that we have in our current cohort. So there is there are two courses that I teach right now. One is aimed at non-technical founders. So is that you called introduction to tech for non-technical founders. And then there's another course, which is aimed at leaders in companies, so companies that are going through digital transformation called How to speak tech. So how does big tech leaders, so right now in our non-technical founders cost, there is somebody who is doing her MBA full time at Harvard Business School. There's another person who is currently doing an MBA at Oxford University. And there are a couple of Chicago Booth grads, which really is making me think about what the hell are business schools doing? Because you know, I do not believe that if you say, for example, I paid $180,000 for my MBA, I do not think it is fair, that somebody who has paid like $200,000 in somebody who's paying like 200 grand to Harvard should also be paying me. On top of that, take my course. So the reason why I'm giving you this example is that the people who are coming to TechCrunch are techies, the people who are learning, they're the community. These are very ambitious people, but also these are very high quality people. So you know, these are people who are highly educated, they're people who are already successful in their careers. And the reason why I want people to see it that is that I think it's important to understand that not understanding technology and not knowing technology, basics. It's not about not being experienced. It's not about not being smart. It's literally just not having learned the words So our community in general, they're very high achieving people. And they're very ambitious people who understand that the world of tech is a thing. And they want to be an active participant in it. But they are also not going to retrain to become developers and data scientists. And so they, they take our courses. And after they take our courses, a lot of them end up joining our membership, where we have a live weekly meetup, where we will have an expert talking about a specific aspect of technology. Like for example, last week, we had somebody from Microsoft, talking about zero, which is their cloud computing platform, basically say, how it works and like how they sell it to enterprises, and why it's different from Amazon. And I make sure that if those tech experts go off too much of the jargon, which frankly, they do, but I pull them back, and I say, hang on, what was that word? What was that abbreviation? Because in a normal tech meetup, there's so much jargon. And you will see the non techies basically sitting there feeling too shy and too embarrassed to admit that they don't know. But that's stupid. Nobody comes out of the womb, knowing what an API is.

 

Sue Robinson  

It's very true, right? It's like, it's like going to another country and not speaking that language doesn't make you stupid, it just means you haven't learned to have that mindset about this.

 

Vanessa Alava  

And to your point about paying as much money as we sometimes pay to send our children to college or to put ourselves through college is going to be interesting to see the shift in what happens in the future as it relates to education at the higher level, you know, do you go in and get your basics, and then you get certificates that I think, in this world We've been living in, certificates aren't valued at the level that a degree is per se, but that you have your basic degree, and then these certificates have that equal value. And especially with technology that's changing so rapidly, that makes most sense. You know, so I love that you mentioned that. And I think that you're, you're giving people an extreme value, that to Sue's point, aren't stupid, are smart, but maybe the technology courses that your teaching wasn't available when they were in school. So it's valued, to have these certificates and have the same weight given to those certificates that a degree has, after you have those basic skills.

 

Sophia Matveeva 

Well, I think the world is changing. But I also think that a lot of work very well, well, meaning governments have campaigns to get more people in more women into STEM. And I actually think that these campaigns and that messaging can backfire. Because you know, if somebody is going to be really good at math, or they wanted to do to be a computer scientist, like, go for it. But if somebody is going to be a brilliant storyteller, a brilliant communicator, I would rather that they lived in a world where they were encouraged to go and be a great storyteller. And so I actually think that these kind of get more people into STEM campaigns do make people who are right, right, they make people feel kind of stupid and left out. And I also think it's not a pragmatic approach. So from education reform, what I would like to see is that, yes, I want to see people getting into STEM, I want to see women getting into STEM if that is what they want to do. But I also want there to be more education for non-technical professionals to understand enough about how technology works. So they can make choices about whether to participate in it, and how to participate in it. Because for example, in large companies, like literally, I was having lunch today with somebody who is working with Google's voice programs. And there are plenty of non-technical professionals working on those programs, especially psychologists, who understand voice and how how, you know, points down into intonation, that's the way to understand information. And that's not something that you know, people necessarily know about. And actually, I think telling those stories and showing that you can work successfully in technology, as long as you know how to speak to you know, how to work with developers, you can be, you know, focused on psychology or storytelling, and still have a very fantastic career in tech. I think the more kind of, we just widen tech education to also include essentially what I'm doing, I think that's going to be a more inclusive and more programmatic approach.

 

Sue Robinson  

I think that's very insightful that you say that Sophia because there is a huge focus on getting more women into STEM and more girls into the STEM education system. And I think the reason for that is because, you know, research shows that girls, for one thing, stem programming is not presented to young kids in a way that naturally appeals to girls, it tends to appeal more to boys just innately. And then there's sort of this undercurrent of messaging that girls aren't good at science and math and things like that, so that they never go down that path and explore it. However, to your point. Every company and every type of industry now has some technology component, right? And is a tech company or an industry on some level. And we need people in those industries, you can explain it, who can make it interesting, who can make it relevant, who can make it creative, you can code the best software in the world. But if nobody's marketing it in a way that appeals to actual everyday humans, it's never going to see the light of day, right. And one thing that you had shared with us when we did our phone call before this interview was, and I want to call it out here, because I recommend it to people was the documentary General Magic. Oh, yeah. Which I watched, I've watched it twice now. And it's such a great case study in how you can get if you're that hard coding kind of mindset, you can get so excited about a product. But if you don't know how the business side of things works, you're doomed. So I appreciate you sharing that. And it's, it is the documentary story of the company, General magic, which was a spinoff of Apple. And it is the most influential tech company or Silicon Valley company that people haven't heard of, because it gave rise to a lot of the technologies that we use every day now, like cell phones, and things, apps and things like that, but they didn't survive, because they didn't have a good suite of talent in their company,

 

Sophia Matveeva 

exactly. one sided company. So they created great technologies that couldn't be commercialized, because actually, no, they were thinking so much about the technology, and they weren't thinking about the users, which is where I actually thing, a lot of non-technical professionals do have an advantage. So if you are a non-technical founder or your your non-technical professional, because because you're not going to be so enamored with the tech, you can then get much more into the users head and into the users problem. And so then you can understand, okay, well, what we're building like the user, like, think about it, when you are, you know, when you're going to a restaurant with friends, and you're using like, Open Table, you're not thinking I really want to use booking software today. Nobody thinks that, Okay, I need to get a bunch of people together, and one of them is vegetarian, the other one's vegan, like we all have different budgets and what needs to be in a place that we can all get to. So essentially, like that is the problem. And then there are lots of different ways that you can solve that problem. And one of them was going to be an app and one of them was going to involve VI, but one of them might just be like cooling, your super knowledgeable friend who actually knows restaurants. And that's not a tech solution. So this is where that non-technical professionals can really excel. Because we're not thinking about the algorithms, we can really get inside the user's mind. And the more we understand about the user, essentially, the better product and also the better we can be at translating the product. So the tech product to an actual business strategy that makes money can be commercialized,

 

Vanessa Alava  

Absolutely, it’s the intersection of something that you love, or a problem that you've discovered that you want a solution to that you think more than one person want the solution to this problem. And then finding the tech team, right? It's the intersection of both. And we say STEM a lot on our show, because I think it's more of a general term, but we love STEAM, and using the A, in in that stem/steam acronym, which is the arts in all of this. And I think that there is an art to, you know, knowing how to communicate to developers and the tech team, knowing how to bridge the gap, knowing how to say, hold on a second, what's that term? What does it mean, because everyone over here is lost. And just being that effective leader in communication, in envision, and raising your hand in the room when no one else is talking and saying Hold on a second, have you considered this group using your product, you know, they're not gonna have that same connection that you're having, because you're coming from this one place. So it's all of those things that I really think that the A in steam encompasses.

 

Sophia Matveeva 

yes, and it's a fairly new term. So I literally only started coming across steam fairly recently. If you actually think about it, it's a very Renaissance concept. So you know, Renaissance European In order to Vinci that worth art and science, and I think, you know, as, as we become more and more specialized in our professions, then people start kind of accepting that if I do one, then I'm not going to do the other. But surely, I mean, ultimately, don't we all also want to have a more rounded education. So, for example, friend of mine, who is a surgeon started, told me that he listens to the tech for techies podcast. And I thought, first of all, I was really humbled because I think, Oh, my God, an actual surgeon, like, I was like, Oh, my God, I better make it really good.

 

Vanessa Alava  

are really good. See, that's, imposter syndrome kicking in! 

 

Sophia Matveeva 

Absolutely. But then I asked him, I said, you know, first of all, he is working in a very technical job, but it's just, it's a different type of technical job. You know, why do you care? What What are you doing? Like, are you building an app on the side. And he said that he just wants to understand the world better than the world that we live in. And essentially, unless you're living in a cave, in which case, you're probably not listening to this podcast, but unless you're living in a cave, you are a participant in the digital revolution, you're using arms, your data is being used? You are, you're part of it. So I do think that also just having an understanding of how these things are built, and what are the business motives behind how they're built, can make you decide what you want to do with it. So for example, you know how at school, we all learn kind of the basics of electricity, like I don't even really remember much, but like, you know, essentially kind of power is generated, and that there needs to be some kind of usually fossil fuel that is bad for us to have electricity. And, okay, if you just have this basic understanding, then you can decide, do you want to leave the light on in your bathroom, when you're not using it. That's just a really, really simple example, that I think, if we just have a very basic understanding of, Okay, if I leave the light on in my bathroom, when I'm not in it, then that is going to actually impact climate change, because fossil fuel has to be bad for this. Like for this, like, I don't need a PhD in physics to explain all this kind of just from some basic classes that we took at high school. And I do think that that kind of very basic understanding of just how upsides and algorithms get built, can also just make us conscious members of society. And then we can decide, well, are you Am I happy with the tradeoff that I'm making? Like, I'm not saying that we will then all stop using everything and all disabled cookies, but if you are enabling at least understand what it is. And then like, for example, I enable most of them because like, I'm I prefer personal like personalization, which I also understand means giving up privacy, but that's a conscious choice that I've made. And I'd rather that we all kind of approached, approach life a little bit more consciously, rather than just being kind of sheep being used in Mark Zuckerberg algorithms.

 

Sue Robinson  

Right? I always sort of draw this analogy in my head with technology to driving your car. Like, you don't need to know how to build the car. You just need to know how to operate it. So it can get you to where you need to go. So you can be productive in that place. I'd like to just touch really quickly on anti, and what that that app was, and kind of what gave you that idea, because that was that your first company that you started?

 

Sophia Matveeva 

Yeah, so it was my It was my first tech company. And so on the anti app, you can get professional feedback from professional stylists. So you can take a photo and you can ask question like, shall I wear this on a date? Or some of my favorites were when women were in shopping and sales, and they were like, it's 80% off, but I'm not sure about the color suits me. And you know, usually, if it's 80% of the answer is no. Isn't it dogen Gabbana, like, put it down and walk away. So you could get your Logitech photo and you would get feedback within five minutes from from a professional stylist if you had a premium subscription. If you didn't have a premium subscription, you would get words from a community. And the reason why we separated in two ways is that, you know, we know we women, we we ask our friends and we send photos on messenger services all of the time. But you know, friends are not professional stylists. And most people can't afford a professional stylist. But if you actually look at professional stylists market, while they themselves are expensive, and maybe they're charging, I don't know $100 Now, let's say because they're freelancers. Many of them would have you know A couple of clients in the afternoon, but actually, they're kind of free most of the day. So by allowing them to essentially make kind of micro income by advising women online, it gave them an opportunity to earn. And also it gives the opportunity to women or maybe just chopping. You know, I'd like normal retail stores as opposed to indulging and Gabbana gave them access to a premium service. So this, this was working really well when people were going out. Because essentially, what what I realized is that our, our business was really dependent on events, because think about when do we care about getting dressed up, basically, when we're going to events that are going to get us more sex or more money. When we you know, if we're going on a date, we are going to like think like I'm getting on a date tomorrow, I have been planning my outfit for the last few weeks. You know, when when when I go to parties when we do exciting things like this, or when we're going to when we're going on job interviews, for example, or we're going to client client meetings. And for the past 18 months, basically the use case for that has taken a nosedive, which meant, you know, our revenues like massively tokenized because nobody needs diverse feedback. When you're sitting about on zoom contemplating your mortality. I ended up in this really interesting situation during the pandemic where for the same macro reason, NT started essentially taking a nosedive, but tech non techies started really growing because also during the pandemic, what did we start doing, we started taking online courses. And we also learned that technology is a booming industry and the industry that was basically actually benefiting from cobit. And so I ended up in a situation where I was like, oh, okay, so literally the same event has been very damaging to one company, and has been basically fuel for another one. And I'm so I'm so lucky to have had both together, because I think of tech front and techies didn't exist, it would have just been a very mentally difficult journey. And I am now in negotiations to actually sell the end tip to people who have deeper pockets, and can take the technology on because essentially, the product is great. But what you need to do for a tech business, you need to maintain the technology and there is a cost, which basically means that you're either fundraising more money to do that. Or you basically need to sell it on to people who have deep pockets and who can integrate it into what they're doing. And you know, if the market doesn't come back, the way we want it to come back in the next six months, they've got the money to essentially keep it on hold. Whereas as a startup, you you literally kind of have to always be growing. So anyway, these these are the processes that we're going through right now going through due diligence, which is an interesting process. Not one I not not Yes, one that sometimes requires me to take a few glasses of wine. But definitely, definitely an interesting, interesting time in my life.

 

Sue Robinson  

Well, yeah, see you again for being nimble. And for continuing to iterate in your life and in your career, and coming up with with new technologies and new solutions. All those things are examples and lessons that are useful to any of us with entrepreneurial spirits.

 

 

 

Vanessa Alava  

And it’s like the the insider on like what actually happens with with startups, if you're contemplating a startup, if you're in the tech world, if you're not in the tech world, and you're like, Hey, I really want to get into this. These are the things that happen sometimes. And being an entrepreneur, you have so many ideas going on, you know at once. Sue and I are very familiar with that. We're like, Okay, hold on, let's table that for a different day because we have to accomplish these goals today. But to your point, you know, you had two companies that were your babies that were thriving at one point. And then obviously, something came that no one expected. And tech really did benefit from this situation that we're all in. And thank goodness, we had tech that enabled all of these other businesses to keep running. But you're in a position now where you're going to be able to sell something that proved to be a value. And to your point, somebody with deeper pockets can put it on hold when you're a founder or startup, like you don't have that luxury sometimes because you're constantly growing and wanting to do more. And it takes money to do that. So yeah, awesome. And congratulations to you. Because again, I think both businesses are are awesome ideas. Mm hmm. Yeah.

 

Sophia Matveeva 

Well, you know what's interesting, so yesterday, I was at an event with some venture capitalists and I'm not sure fundraising protect for non techies. But I've literally had inbound interest from venture capitalists, because a lot of venture capitalists are actually not they don't have technical backgrounds, but they invest in tech. So I literally had, you know, these are like, partners and funds. And I literally had the big like, Oh, wait, so where's your podcast? I knew I needed this. Like, you, I thought like, you would know that you have made a lot of money investing in this industry, and that there was a secret thing like, Don't tell anyone, but I really was interesting. But I also really saw that like, so this is my theory right now. Because one of the reasons why I've had such inbound interest from VCs in investing in tech non techies, even though I'm not fundraising, is because it is a problem that they understand. And they experience. So they think, well, I, you know, Bill Cosby saying that technology is changing so fast, there are always new words. And essentially, I need to always stand up this game. And my background is in consulting or in banking, usually. So I need I need this stuff. And because they have this problem, they are then thinking, well, I can like I would pay to have this solution. So yes, I will fund this business. And then they will literally I was being grilled about my business model. And I was like, I'm at a party. This is like, no. But when I was speaking to those same venture capitalists, about women getting started feedback, they were like, well, I just don't see the use case. I don't really like I don't I'm not gonna invest in it. I was thinking like, Well, you know, now that I've had the experience of both, I'm really seeing that. Essentially, if you have created a business that solves a problem for rich white man, you are going to find fundraising much easier. I mean, I did raise money for the first company. But it was it like it was an uphill struggle. Whereas I've literally had VCs reaching out to me on Twitter, saying, like, Can we talk? And I always take the call. And you know, I might fundraise one day, but it's just it's a very, very different conversation when the person with the funds experiences the problem when you're fixing the problem, versus them understanding like, yes, there are these creatures called women, and they do take photos, and they do exhibit these behaviors. And yes, in theory, they are willing to pay like, it's kind of it's also theoretical, that yes, you can, you can raise money, but it's much more, it's much more difficult to sell, because you need to sell, you need to sell them on the problems, as well as on the solution. So this is just being you know, for all the women who are listening, I do think that if you're, if you're building a product aimed at women, doesn't matter how great your revenue model is, doesn't matter how great your product is, if the investors you're speaking to don't experience that problem, the problem that you're solving is going to be that much harder for you to raise money.

 

Sue Robinson  

It just comes down to people invest in something if they get it, exactly get it. And it's so basic, you know, I mean, that's they could complicate that in business school and try to explain investor theory and all these things. But at the end of the day, what you said is that people with money invest in the products and the services that they get, but they understand.

 

Vanessa Alava  

I also think On the flip side, it can be a double whammy. And you know, if you're a female founder, and you have a female product, trying to get male investors to get it, versus even having a female product being pitched as a male to male investors, that's a different conversation. Because I think that they're more like, Oh, yeah, that is a good idea. There's something there that it's like this bro connection or whatever. And there have been examples, even the last several months, where not even founders, just males, right? They have this this idea. They pitch it to get invested in to a male investor panel, they get the money, and then now they've been slammed on the internet saying, Wait a second. This is a product for females. It's so off target, and they just got investment money. I mean, I've seen the articles on LinkedIn. And it's happened more than one time and you're like, Wait a second. What where's the disconnect? Obviously, having robust team, a diverse team is able to kind of say, yeah, that product will work, not work. But all of this to say what you're saying is absolutely right. And I think that there's that added like nuance of, if you have a male person pitching your product, could you potentially get investment money, even if you're the founder. 

 

Sue Robinson

They have a better shot.

 

Sophia Matveeva 

to be honest, that's advice that I was given. I remember, right at the beginning of my founder journey, I was in New York, and I was introduced to a very successful female tech founder in New York. And, you know, I went into her fancy office, and I was like, Wow, she is going to just, I just want to learn everything she has to say, because she's awesome. And one of the things she said, she said, is like, Well, you know, just bring a man with you to meetings, just bring him. And you know, just get him to say things, and it doesn't matter. Like, you could just bring a friend, like, just bring a dude. Just get him to sit there and like, maybe like, give him a couple of sentences to say, and your life will just be easier. And I said, but did you really mean like a friend like a random? Like, like, presence? Like, exactly like, if they're so bad, and they're clean, and they're male? That's basically the end. So sad. But so she said, Yes. She said that she actually did, like, literally ask her friends. So just come in and sit in on meetings and just be reassuring presence. And you know, what? I actually I, I did, I did that. I remember that there was, there was a conversation that I need to have, which was very difficult conversation, I'd been telling that person because I was having a difficult conversation with about the issues, and he just wasn't listening to me. And so then I said, I asked one of the angel investors in the company to literally I was like, Can you just say those same words, I literally gave him the script, I was like, Can you just be in a meeting with me? So the two of us will be in this meeting. And you just say, like, I wrote down what he needed to sound like just say these words. And when those same words that I wrote, were said, by person who, yes, he's an angel investor, but like, wasn't involved in running a business. We actually had a conversation when we started reaching a solution. And I'm like, I'm the CEO. How? But, you know, yes, we can sit down and can be, we can be outraged. Or we can think like, what this fabulous female founder from you told me, like, Yeah, I don't like it either. But what do you want to do? Do you want to make a deal or not? I actually think that, you know, we can sit there and we can be outraged. But that's not that's not going to get us where we want to go. So if that means that we need to do some hacks, in the form of like, just finding around a man and cleaning him up, and like telling him what to say, then fine, I'm willing to do that.

 

Vanessa Alava  

That just goes to show how strategic women have to be in order to get to where they want in order to succeed, and not saying it always happens that way. But we hear these stories all too often. It's crazy to me.

 

Sophia Matveeva 

Yeah. But also, I think, when you when you actually look up, for example, fund performance, or when you look at first round capital, a venture capital firm, actually, based in New York, they said that female founded teams in their portfolio tend to outperform. I do think that just the School of being a woman, and kind of learning all of these hacks and all these tricks, and also learning self-control, like you know, when you really just want to tell somebody what you really think of them, but understand you're like, I will breathe, and I will kind of stay some kind of small strategic thing. And then and then, and then I'll figure it out another way. I think, that kind of school of life, it does just make you better and more resilient. And so that means that yes, you, you're probably you've had a tougher schooling, so you're more likely to be more successful if we actually look at fund performance or female fund managers tend to outperform our fund managers. And I don't think it's, you know, because women are smarter genetically. Like, I don't think that's the thing. I don't think that's true. I think it's just women often have to learn tougher survival mechanisms, just because it's more difficult.

 

Sue Robinson  

That's a great insight as well, you know, being resourceful, being forced to be really resourceful pays dividends, you know, and whereas, to your point, Sophia, like blowing up, the ridiculousness of some of the discrimination that you face along the way might make you feel better in the moment. And you might feel like you're a warrior for for, you know, equality and all those things, but at the end of the day, do you want to make a deal or not, and if you can make the deal and if you can be resourceful, then we'll have more women in positions of influence and with the financial wherewithal to help lift others and hopefully that's what will come up All this. So, great insights.

 

Vanessa Alava  

Sophia. since this is what you do, maybe top five or top three, like acronyms are terms that are widely used that we hear all the time that you find most people have no idea what they mean. 

 

Sophia Matveeva 

Let's start with front end and back end. Because most people don't understand what what is basically, in a software products are like an app or a website, if you can see it, and you can touch it, and you can speak to it, that is a front end. So a front end is a computer that humans interact with, like literally, that's all you need to remember. And then the second term is a back end. So a back end is the bit of the computer that you as a human, you will never see. So essentially, most tech products and this is a third time we'll have a tech stack, unless you just think of it as like a stack of pancakes. So you have the top and the top is going to be the front end, like if you can see it, if you can touch it, we can lick it, we can speak to it, it is a front end. And the bottom of the stack is going to be the back end. And so for example, when you're fresh when you're when your phone is on airplane mode, the connection between the front and the back is cut off, basically. And so I think that is that is a really, really key term. And in general, the back end is more complicated, and it takes longer to build. So for people who are non technical founders, your first your biggest investments at the beginning are going to be the backend, because the back end, in general is where all the memory and all of the algorithms that's that's kind of that the invisible expensive foundation of your house. So those are those are three terms. And the backend is basically computer that only speaks to computers, a front end as a computer that speaks to humans. 

 

Vanessa Alava  

That was great.

 

Sophia Matveeva 

I actually do honestly believe that when you did, down below the jargon, most of the stuff is actually quite easy to understand, because it's logic. So it's, it's quite what when you actually, when you have somebody who just explains it to you and human language, it's not complicated. I think the complication is that you often have people who've been doing it for so long, explaining it to people who've heard it for the first time. So it's not that the concept of hard to understand is that the explanations are so bad.

 

Vanessa Alava  

I agree completely. Awesome. Well, I think that that lightning round is an order. Are you ready for the lightning round? Sophia? 

 

Sophia Matveeva

Absolutely. Yeah. 

 

Vanessa Alava

Awesome. So lightning round fun, round of questions that we kind of just give our guests to get to know them on a personal level. First one is what are three pieces of advice you could give your younger self?

 

Sophia Matveeva 

Okay, number one do not put up with sneezy man at work. I took I took so much really terrible behavior from like sleazy colleagues or sleazy clients, because I didn't I didn't know what to do. So I kind of politely batted it away. So no, do not do that. Another one is always ask for more. Because sometimes you met him sometime you'll get it. And the third one is network act like networking is work. Sitting at a lovely lunch with somebody interesting for three hours is work. It is sometime it is often more important than sitting at your computer and writing emails. So go to lovely lunches with interesting people.

 

Sue Robinson  

Excellent, excellent pieces of advice. Sophia, how do you define success?

 

Sophia Matveeva 

Oh, I'm always thinking about that. Because I know that you're supposed to say Oh, in a piece. Well, you know, I may be but I'm not. That's not the stage of life that I'm in. So for me, success is actually building something that I didn't think was possible for me. So I think success is it is still an internal thing, but it's doing something succeeding or doing something that you thought was impossible. Like when when I do when I achieve that, but I feel pretty damn good about myself.

 

Vanessa Alava  

What celebrity would you cast to play you in a movie? 

 

Sophia Matveeva

Oh, My God. Well, can I say the young Sophia Loren? 

 

Vanessa Alava

of course, of course you can.

 

Sue Robinson  

I think that's an excellent choice. What is something about you that people would be surprised to learn

 

Sophia Matveeva 

Maybe that one of my favorite things to do when I was an 11 year old girl was to watch British sneak on TV for hours. Because I'm not sure I'm Russian. I'm from Moscow. So when I moved to London, I didn't really speak English. And so when you think about it, watching cartoons is very, very difficult. But the world snooker championships were on and there wasn't much talking, but like the stuff happens. So it was literally glued to the TV. Watching snooker championship. So like I'm a club Snooper fan. Cool.

 

Vanessa Alava  

Alright, Sophia, last one. Fill in the blank. Blank, like a girl.

 

Sophia Matveeva 

Orgasm. We're gonna go for quality, why does all go from the bedroom to the boardroom and back again? Mm hmm. Yes,

 

Sue Robinson  

absolutely empowered in both places.

 

Vanessa Alava  

Upstairs & downstairs.

 

Sophia Matveeva 

That's the mind body connection. And, I mean, I used to work with a with a coach that literally like her teaching was that if you have a good sex life, you're basically going to be confident in all of in all other areas of your life. And so she was like, you need to invest time and thinking and education into your sex life. Because once you get confident there that actually, like once you've conquered your demons in that arena, then going and negotiating an investment deal is going to be much easier. And MIT that that works.

 

Sue Robinson  

I think that's great advice. 

 

Vanessa Alava  

Yeah, you've been awesome, again, there's so many synergies with what you're doing with what we believe in. So thank you for what you're contributing and tech for non techies. Go check it out and go check out the podcast and thank you for your spirit and for your vicious energy. This has been fantastic. 

 

Sue Robinson

It sure has!

 

Sophia Matveeva

It has been such a pleasure.