Leanne Robers: She Loves Tech, Founder-VC Gender Feedback Dynamics & Entrepreneur Psychology - E312

· Women,Start-up,Southeast Asia


“So many male VCs come to me and a lot of times, they say they’re trying to find balance. They end up giving advice that is less direct and less beneficial to the startup because they're fearful of the repercussions. It is both ways. We have to be able to establish an ecosystem where VCs are able to give the best feedback because it's going to benefit the founder and the company, and tech founders, regardless of gender, must make sure to not take the feedback personally. They should know that the person whom I asked for feedback is doing this to help them and that it is in their best interest.” - Leanne Robers

“One of the things that we notice after collecting data from She Loves Tech entrepreneurs is that the majority of our founders say they’ll put their heads down and do good work, and concentrate on building product. Sometimes, with that on focus, while you are getting traction, a lot of traction in the early stages, you're also not spending that time building up relationships in the ecosystem that we realize are so necessary for you to be able to fundraise, and do collaborations and partnerships with different individuals. So the visibility of women tech founders really needs to increase. We really need to encourage our tech founders to network more. You have to be out there and be visible in the ecosystem.” - Leanne Robers

“We saw how many entrepreneurs had these limiting beliefs about themselves and they were not pitching or being able to grow to the best of their abilities. Then, I thought about bringing psychology and entrepreneurship together. We started introducing the psychology of our founder courses to our entrepreneurs during our acceleration program and our boot camps way before mental health for founders was even a thing, and we realized how important it was for founders. We take so much of ourselves we put so much of ourselves into our startups. Everybody's hustling and pretty jovial and they appear happy, but when you dig deeper inside startup founders, it's a tough journey and sometimes they are not able to talk that much about that. We use a lot of neuroscience and psychology tools and resources to help them prevent burnout, and be their best possible selves.” - Leanne Robers

Leanne Robers, Cofounder of She Loves Tech, and Jeremy Au talked about three major highlights:

1. Foundational Journey: Leanne shares her personal journey from working at Siemens, to building multiple ventures like The Hedge Club and Comish, and how those cumulative experiences helped build She Loves Tech, first as a passion project, and eventually becoming the world's largest startup competition and acceleration program for women in tech. she aims to address the unique challenges that women tech founders face by providing them with tools, resources, and exposure to influential figures like Arianna Huffington, Reid Hoffman, and Tim Draper.

2. Gender Dynamics & Supportive VC Relationship: They talk about the nuances of gender dynamics in the startup ecosystem, highlighting the challenges female founders often face when seeking and internalizing feedback from VCs. Leanne advises female founders to proactively seek feedback, not taking it personally, and using it positively. She also underscores the responsibility of male VCs to be empathetic and thoughtful in their approach, ensuring their feedback is both constructive and empowering.

3. Integrating Psychology into Entrepreneurship: Drawing from her profound respect for psychology and the role models in her life, especially her father, Leanne explains how understanding psychological concepts can be a game-changer in entrepreneurship. She says that understanding human behavior, motivation, and cognition has equipped her with unique insights into the challenges and opportunities women face in tech entrepreneurship. Integrating these principles has helped her tailor She Loves Tech's initiatives, ensuring they resonate on a deeper level with female founders, and providing them not just with business insights, but also with personal growth tools and strategies.

They also touched on the significance of mental well-being for founders, the importance of building relationships in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, the courage to leave a stable job to pursue a passion project, and the role of communities in fostering innovation and growth.

Supported by Ringkas

Ringkas is a digital mortgage platform aiming to solve the access to financing problem for home seekers in Indonesia and Southeast Asia. Ringkas currently collaborates with all major Banks in Indonesia and the largest Property Developers across more than 15 cities. Ringkas vision is to democratize home ownership and create more than 100 million homeowners. Don't just dream about owning a home. Make it a reality. Explore more at www.ringkas.co.id

Jeremy Au: ​(01:17)

Morning, Leanne, really excited to have you on the show. You're the co-founder of She Loves Tech, and I've known you for so many years you have an incredible journey to share about entrepreneurship and Psychology. So really excited to share your journey. Could you share a little bit about yourself?

Leanne Robers: (01:31)

Firstly, hi Jeremy. It's such a pleasure to be here. Yes, we've been friends for so many years and, journeyed together in multiple ventures, so it really is a great pleasure. Thank you so much for having me.

Jeremy Au: (01:44)

Yeah. So could you share a little bit about, what and who you are as a person in terms of your biography, and accomplishments? And then of course we'll talk about a little bit about your early days from there.

Leanne Robers: (01:57)

Well, I guess I'll start at the beginning. I am Leanne. I founded four companies. My last being, She Loves Tech. And before that, I actually started my career back in the UK, with a German conglomerate called Siemens and I was doing international business development. I did that for about four years before moving back to Singapore. When I moved back to Singapore, I looked at all of the jobs around and I said, you know what? Nothing really quite interests me. Let me start my own business. At that point in time, there was no such thing as startups. It really was just small, medium businesses. So I partnered together with somebody else who had come highly recommended through friends and said, okay, let's do something together. So we started a hospitality and real estate business where we acquired small boutique, locations and transformed them into hotels. So we had this dotted all around Southeast Asia in Bintan and Bali and Krabby in Chiang Mai.#

Leanne Robers: (03:05)

And, we did a couple of things. We did our small boutique cartels. We also did a wine arm as well, and lastly, we did restaurants. So that was my first venture into entrepreneurship. And Jeremy, I can tell you, it was tough, right? I did not realize what I was getting into and two years later, I had left and I had said, you know what? This is so difficult. I'm never going into entrepreneurship again. Entrepreneurship is totally not for me. Then I went into consulting, specifically leadership consulting, working together with Management, and senior management at large MNCs and helping them to meet some of their strategy KPIs.

And so I did that for another two years, moved to the US to do my Masters, and while I was doing my Master at Penn, I found just groups of individuals at Wharton and they were just so passionate about entrepreneurship and so many people were starting up new ventures and constantly saying, Leanne, Leanne, join our team, and I was a bit burned. I must admit Jeremy from the entrepreneurship journey that I had in the past. And I was like, no why don't I consult for you? But I don't really want to join as co-founder. I'm happy to just do this on a temporary basis. And I enjoyed it so much, the brainstorming, the creating of the new products from zero to one. And it really energized me and then I realized it wasn't that I hated entrepreneurship, I just needed to find the right fit with my co-founders, and when you have that right founding team, things happen and things move so smoothly, and when you're aligned with the same passion, it just really brings so much energy into the team.

And so I went back into entrepreneurship. I started my second company called The Hedge Club. And it was together with people that I had met in Wharton and it was a social trading platform that we did headquartered in New York. However, one and a half years into it, I actually had quite a bit of medical issues and my family is here in Singapore and I really wanted to be near my family. I also wanted to be around medical care that I was familiar with. And so I moved back to Singapore and went in and out of the hospital for about six months. And that kind of ended with a big surgery at the end. But in the meantime, that entrepreneurial itch was still there. So I was constantly looking around for ways to build things. And I met this individual when I was in Indonesia and we said, Hey, there's so many really talented artists in Southeast Asia. But, how are the rest of the world discovering them? And so many of them were struggling. So we created Comish to give them a platform for them to be discovered by people from all over the world, but also a commissioning platform to help them to create commissioned art, and in a smart way, and in a way that really helps to bridge that gap between the artist and the buyer.

Jeremy Au: (06:28)

Yeah. So here you are and then, you went on to build She Loves Tech, right? Which is a platform for female founders across the world and Asia. Could you share a little bit more about that?

Leanne Robers: (06:41)

So having been an entrepreneur three times, I realized that, hey, firstly, entrepreneurship is really not sexy at all, right? It's a really tough, arduous, long journey. And as a tech entrepreneur, especially in the early days, I usually was the only woman in the room, the only woman in tech conferences. It was really difficult. It was very challenging. I knew that there were a lot of investors that we were pitched to and, they were way more comfortable talking to my male cofounder than they were talking to me when I was a CEO of the company. And so I said, okay, how can we change that? And so, three of us, she looks like, has three co-founders. So three of us, really came together to be able to create a platform to help women tech founders to firstly, be showcased, but secondly, give them the tools and resources that they need to overcome some of these unique challenges that they were facing.

And Jeremy, this is our ninth year of doing she Loves Tech and I can't believe how long it's been. But when we first started, She Loves Tech, it really was a passion project. We all had different full-time jobs and we realized that it had quickly gained so much momentum that we all had to make a choice. Do we stay in our full-time jobs or do we do this? Which we have no idea what business model, right? It was a passion project after all, so no idea how to make money from this thing, but it's taking off such momentum and three of us individually decided that there was something here.

So I left my company Comish, to say, you know what? I'm going to take a risk and do She Loves Tech. And so it has been nine years, and now we are the world's largest startup, competition, and acceleration program for women in technology. We operate in 72 countries around the world, and we've had more than 13,000 startups come through at she Loves Tech. We also organize Asia's flagship conference for women in technology and we've had just wonderful speakers speak at our conference, including people like Ariana Huffington, Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, Nobel Peace Prize winners, ministers, Tim Draper.#

Leanne Robers: (08:54)

We've had his daughter Jesse Draper and many, many more.

Jeremy Au: (08:59)

Great. And so I think a lot of folks have talked about what are the challenges and opportunities opening up opportunities for female founders. I'm curious. What was it like from your perspective as a platform builder? What was it like to be focused on this mission? What are things that you have to do differently and what are things that you had to do the same from other incubators and accelerators from your perspective?


Leanne Robers: (09:22)

Well, firstly, everything that we do out of She Loves Tech comes from a place of need. It came from a place that, hey, nobody else is doing, so let's do it ourselves. We started She Loves Tech. She Loves Tech was really one of the first people to really shape up that whole entire women in tech movement together with other organizations. Fast forward nine years later, we become the leader in many things, the leader in our startup competition where we are the world's largest, the leader in our acceleration programs, and the leader in the conferences that we run. And because of all of these things, we've also now been able to have the world's largest database and pipeline for women tech founders.

So because of all of these activities that we're seeing for She Loves Tech, everything that we've added came out of necessity, came because we saw that there was this huge gap in, whether it was a society, whether it was the ecosystem, and nobody else was solving it. So we said, let's solve it. So for example, women tech founders, at that point in time when we first started, there were startup competitions. But when you went, firstly, a lot of times there were no female tech founders. Secondly, when there was a token female tech founder, and she had a huge, sometimes distinguish between the males and the females. And then thirdly, the people who were organizing were usually male organizers or male judges, and the VC world was also all male VCs. So we said, okay, how can we change these equations? So Sheila said, when we started our startup competition, we said, okay, we are going to do women-led women impact tech founders. So about 90% of our female of our founders are female tech founders, right?

So, at least one female tech founder in the company. And then the least 10% is technologies that are built that are using technology positively to help women. So for example, it would be MedTech solutions, FemTech solutions, et cetera. So, we said, and then when we looked at, for example, for judges, we realized, hey, the judges were asking different questions whether they were male or female judges. So we said, okay, let's have a balance. So as She Loves Tech, we do 50%. So we really try to create that balance of 50% female judges and 50% male judges. Same with our speakers. When we think about thought leadership, we're not the type of organization or conference that says, you know what, it has to be all female speakers. We say, Hey if we want to create more inclusion into the ecosystem, we really have to involve all these voices. And so again, we really strive for a 50-50 in terms of female representation and also male representation for our speakers.

And then lastly, it really is the challenges that the female tech founders are facing. So what we see is that women entrepreneurs, just have a different journey. Biologically, we're different. The way that women pitch is also different. So, for example, male founders tend to say, you know what? I'm going to tell you in my first meeting how I'm going to get to unicorn status. Women tech founders, what they do is they tell you what they have done right? So, they look to the past, whereas male tech founders look forward. So firstly, it's saying, Hey, how can we firstly educate the male investors to recognize that these are the kind of contexts and these is the kind of answers that women are going to be giving?

This is the kind of way that women are going to be pitching and also to help the investors really try to ask questions to draw some of those answers, but then also for the women tech founders to teach them how to pitch in a way that's most impactful. We have so many mentors that come through because of our mentorship program that see our entrepreneurs and they say, wow, you have amazing entrepreneurs that are building groundbreaking solutions. I just wish they all knew how amazing they were. I just wish they pitched how amazing they were. So for us, it's also helping these women tech founders say, Hey, pitch to a way that doesn't downplay your successes, that doesn't downplay your achievements. That really just showcases, that you're not bragging, you're just stating facts and showcasing all of these great things that you are doing.

Jeremy Au: (13:57)

Yeah. As, so, I think you started sharing about some of the advice that you give female founders, right? For example, how they pitch and how to fundraise. What other advice do you think is really important for a female founder to really take away?


Leanne Robers: (14:13)

I think sometimes, one of the things that we notice after collecting thousands of pieces of data from our entrepreneurs is that women tech founders, or at least the ones that come through She Loves Tech, so I'm only looking at the 13,000 that that we have access to data of. But we really find that the majority of our founders say, you know what, I am going to put my head down and do the good work, right? I'm going to concentrate on building product. And sometimes with that focus, while you are getting kind of traction, a lot of traction in the early stages, you're also not spending that time building up relationships in the ecosystem that we realize are so necessary for you to be able to fundraise, to be able to do collaborations and partnerships with different individuals, even the visibility piece. And so the visibility of women tech founders really needs to increase.

Secondly, the networks of women tech founders really need to increase, so we really encourage our tech founders to say Hey, go and network more. We realize that maybe about 40 to 50% of those who come to She Loves Tech say, I only come to She Loves Tech. I've never applied to anything else. I'm only doing She Loves Tech because For whatever reason, because, of the credibility that we built up our brand name, but also because they know that we have their best interests at heart. So they say, you know what, I'm not doing any other acceleration program. I'm not doing any other startup competition. I'm only going to She Loves Tech and we say, Hey, you have to do more. You have to be out there, you have to be visible. She Loves Tech can help to bring you here, but you really need to continue being visible in the ecosystem. So we constantly encourage them.

We also bring our own network as well as our own alumni together to help to increase their networks, but we really encourage them to do the same in their own countries, in their own ecosystems to really build that up.

Jeremy Au: (16:21)

Yeah. So, when you say visibility, what does that mean? Does that mean coffee and lunches, or does that mean personal branding like LinkedIn and podcasts? So what does it mean from your perspective, for visibility?

Leanne Robers: (16:36)

There are so many things. Visibility really means firstly being seen in events. So, what we notice is that women tech founders are much more, less likely to say, You know what, I'm going to pay X amount for a tech conference. Whereas male tech founders say, Hey, this is an investment because for this $100 that I'm paying for this tech conference, I am going to bring back 10 times, 20 times that value in customer acquisition or even in fundraising. And so we see fewer women tech founders at events, not because they don't exist. She Loves Tech has such a big pipeline that we realize, hey, you know what, there are enough women tech founders, so they exist in the world, but we're not seeing them because a lot of times they don't see the value in those, and being in those tech conferences. So it's really being in the ecosystem, being at the events.

Secondly, in what you mentioned visibility in terms of podcasts, in terms of media, they are less likely to say, Hey, can you introduce me to Tech in Asia? Can you introduce me to Ash Lauren? I'm co-founder of She Loves Tech, but still, the amount of male founders from the ecosystem that have said, Hey, can you introduce me to e27, to Tech in Asia, to Bloomberg, to all of these people versus the amount of women tech founders, even though we've had 13,000 come through She Loves Tech. I mean that balance that says, Hey, I just need media visibility. I need to use media to make this announcement that I have just raised a fundraising route. I want to use media to make this announcement that I've just launched a new product. And the problem is that if you are not visible in the ecosystem, people don't know about you.

You can have the best product in the world, but if people don't know what you're building, unfortunately, that's completely out of sight, out of mind. They're not going to be your customers, you're not going to get fundraising. So you really need to be visible on so many fronts. So it really is taking that step. And it's a hard step. Women type founders. Even for myself, it's hard for me to talk about myself. It's something that I've had to learn, but I remember just finding it very difficult at the early stages to just tell people what I've done.

And actually, this happened to me quite recently, maybe about a month ago. We're actually launching a new product and so we went to a VC that we've known for years, and it actually has two male GPs. And we said, Hey, can we pitch to you this? And can you just give us some feedback? So, we pitch to them. They said, okay, look, we know She Loves Tech for years. You're not doing yourself justice. Firstly, your team slide, you just went through it in 10 seconds. And they said, after that pitch, I don't know anything about the team. And I said, oh, well, but you know us, right? So we didn't think that you needed to hear about that. So they said, okay, pitch it to me. So I said, okay, this is the team, here are the co-founders, these are our accomplishments. And I kind of listed it like I would do in my CV, or through LinkedIn. Okay. This is what we have accomplished, blah, blah, blah. And they said, wow. They said, okay, this is not going to be PC at all, but can you re-pitch this to me and pretend that you are a male tech founder? And I said, what? And I said I don't know what you mean. I think I know about it cognitively, I just don't know how to do it. So they said, okay, let us tell you how we would pitch you.

And they would say, oh, Leanne Robers, serial entrepreneur, and because of this gained so many insights into the whole ins and outs of the whole tech ecosystem, et cetera, et cetera. And I was like, wow. I literally just listed all my accomplishments just as I would do on a CV without, embellishing or anything. And it's not so much embellishing or bragging. It really is just saying, Hey, how can we present this to you? In a way that just becomes something that isn't just stating it like a LinkedIn profile. How can we pitch this to you in a way that's engaging, in a way that tells this really powerful story? And so I think, as founders for She Loves Tech, sometimes, we know this and we tell our tech founders, but we also fall into the same trap of, hey, even for ourselves, we need to learn to be able to pitch ourselves better.

Jeremy Au: (21:24)

Wow, what a story. Thank you for sharing the advice that you give to others, but also the advice that you receive and how to incorporate it. What's interesting is that it reminds me of a conversation I had with a VC. And as a male VC, I think he was sharing about how he was worried about giving feedback to female founders because, he couldn't figure out whether he was being too direct, in which case he'll be seen as I think his worry about being seen as patriarchal or in a negative way. And so he decided, in the end, to lean back and I would say put on the kid gloves a little bit in terms of the feedback. And so he wouldn't give the same level of feedback or directness that he would to male founders. And I thought it was a really interesting conversation because it's almost like two steps. It's like he wants to do the right thing, but he's scared of doing the wrong thing. So it ends up doing a slightly wrong thing. But to him, it's the least bad of all options. And I think it was just an interesting dynamic.

Leanne Robers: (22:10)

But Jeremy, I've heard this story so many times. So many male VCs come to me and say the same thing and they really struggle with that. A lot of times, they say, I'm trying to find this balance, and you are right. They end up giving advice that is less direct, and is less beneficial to the startup because they're fearful. They're fearful of whatever repercussions. And I think it is both ways, so we really have to be able to establish an ecosystem that says, Hey, you know what? I'm going to be able to give the best feedback to you because it's going to benefit you, and secondly, it's also to the tech founders, male or female, to the tech founders saying, Hey, whenever I get feedback, I must make sure that I know that I'm not taking this personally. I must make sure that I know that the person who I asked for feedback is doing this out of my best interest, and is doing this to help me.

Hey, feedback is not pleasant and it's not always easy to swallow. But how can we take a step back and say, okay, you know what, there are two parts of the brain? This is where my psychology comes in, right? There are two parts of the brain. There's a cognitive side, and there's the emotional side. How can we say, Hey, the emotional side feels first before we're able to think, but how can we take a step back and say, I feel it immediately if this feels bad, but I'm going to let the cognitive side kick in and say, Hey, this is something? Firstly, I ask for feedback, I ask for direct feedback. And secondly, this is in the best interest of me and for the company. We've seen cases where Founders or VCs have blatantly said wrong things at the same time. I think it is being able to say, how can we distinguish that? How can we distinguish, whether this person is saying something right that is beneficial to me versus saying something that is just there to discriminate against me? And I think these two things are completely different.

Jeremy Au: (24:28)

Yeah, I've also heard horror stories, of bad things that have been said, and I'm like shocked about that. I think the tricky part for male VCs is that there's good faith actors and bad-faith actors. And you don't want to get lumped in but that can feel like a continuum rather than a binary clarity. And so I think people are very worried about that. But yeah, I definitely heard bad stories that I'm just like, whoa, not good. And I think also, there's an interesting dynamic as well.

Leanne Robers: (24:55)

And the bad stories should come out, right? I mean, we shouldn't be fearful as well. But I think we really have to distinguish about, what are the stories that are bad and what are the stories that, hey, you know, just because you had feedback that wasn't easy to swallow doesn't mean that's a bad interaction, and it shouldn't turn into that. And again, I think, if you are asking for feedback from people, I also think, you have to do a bit of due diligence, kind of like say, Hey I am trusting you, and I know about you, I've done a bit of due diligence on you, and I know that you're not going to be somebody who is going to, for example, make any kind of let's say success remarks or remarks that are discriminatory in nature.

Jeremy Au: (25:43)

I do remember, when I was a founder and I had a female cofounder, and I remember she was Caucasian. I was also Asian. And so VC was like, oh, it was great. We're going to be able to count you twice in our sustainability metrics. And I was like, it was a joke. It's kind of funny in a very dark way, but I was like, we're going to skip that comment.

Leanne Robers: (26:01)

I know, I know.

Jeremy Au: (26:03)


Leanne Robers: (26:03)

I've been at the end of those kinds of comments as well, and I've had investors say, Hey, you are really feisty, I wouldn't want to be on the opposite side of you at the negotiating table. I'm so glad I'm on the same side as you. And then I went back home and I remember telling, I mean, this is many years ago, I remember telling then my boyfriend, who is now my husband, and I said, Hey, this person said this. I actually didn't think too much about it. And he said, oh, why would they use these terms? If it was a male founder, they would just say, Hey, you're a great founder. You're a strong founder, you're a confident founder. Like, why would they say these certain terms, like feisty? And I then started noticing it a lot more and I said, okay, you know what? I understand where he was coming from and he did not mean it in a negative way. And I have a choice.

I have a choice that I'm going to say, Hey, I'm going to have, I can have a dark conversation with him, not maybe in that moment. But when things don't feel bad say, Hey, actually maybe I really would prefer if you don't use this word, and this is the reason why. All right. Actually, I know that he didn't mean it badly, and he's never brought it up again. So maybe I'm just going to say, Hey, this is something that, it's okay. And I'm not going to take it personally.

Jeremy Au: (27:26)

So there you are. Obviously, I think there are good faith actors on both males and women for both VCs and founders. And I think you mentioned a little bit about psychology as well. And I know that you studied Psychology. You are practicing as a Psychologist. So I just want to hear a little bit about, that other side of you, because I think that's underappreciated. Everybody sees the She Loves Tech founder, but I'm just saying you have this psychology, love for it as a hobby and practice. So tell me more about it.

Leanne Robers: (27:53)

Well firstly, I come from a family of psychologists, so everybody studies Psychology, right? My dad is a psychologist. My mom did psychology, my brother and me. So all four of us studied Psychology and I always looked at it and I saw the kind of impact that my dad was creating, and my dad is the most discreet person. You have to be a psychologist and even though there are so many friends that I knew, or even people, sometimes I'm at events, there are people who come up to me and say, Hey, your, your last name is Robers. Do you know Dr. Harold Robers? And I say, yeah, he's my dad.

And they'll be like, oh my goodness. I go and see your dad. He's wonderful. And so I go and I said, Hey dad, I've met X, Y, Z. he looks at me. He's like, who? And I say, she or he told me that they're seeing you. And he'll be like, I don't know who you're talking about, and obviously, I know that he knows, but he's just super discreet about it. So I kind of always had people come up to me and just because he doesn't talk about it, but I've realized just from the number of people that spoke to me about this and about their journey and how my dad has helped them so much, the impact that he was making and transforming in people's lives. And so both my parents have such huge hearts, and so I said, okay, how can I make that kind of impact? I was really driven to say, the impact was such a big value for me growing up and helping others. And I said, how can I help others? But not one at a time at scale. And so I think for me, She Loves Tech helped me to do that.

But I also realized that in the past, because I studied Psychology, I went into, especially as an entrepreneur, for those of you who aren't entrepreneurs, the first couple of years is really hard because you're not going to pay yourself. You're going to be draining so much of your savings into your company. And I remember always being at the stages and saying, okay, how, what can I do that takes up 10 to 20, 30% maximum of my time. But then it really helped me to fund my entrepreneurial activities, right? And so I would go back and work in the clinic. So I've been working in the clinic now for close to, actually more than a decade. And that money helped at the initial stages of entrepreneurship, helped me to fund my, well just to feed me.

I always kept it very separate because I always thought psychology, entrepreneurship don't mix. And then when we saw the founders coming through She Loves Tech and saw the challenges that they were facing, and I said, Hey, for example, we saw how many entrepreneurs had these limiting beliefs about themselves and hence they were not pitching or being able to grow to the best of their abilities. And I said, actually, maybe I can bring all the things that I do in the clinic and put that together, and really say, okay, bring the psychology and the entrepreneurship together. So then we started this, doing this, introducing the psychology of our founder courses to our entrepreneurs during our acceleration program and our boot camps back in, I would say maybe, 2018, 2019, and this was way before mental health for founders was even a thing, and we realized how important this was, how important it was for founders. We take so much of ourselves we put so much of ourselves into our startups, and the startup ecosystem is quite a positive one, right? So everybody's hustling, but everybody's pretty jovial and appearing pretty happy.

But when you dig deeper inside as startup founders, it's a tough journey and sometimes we are not able to talk that much about that. And, we are humans and we need to be able to process a lot of the challenges that come, your identity is so tied up in your business and separating that or even you live and breathe your company and it's very hard for you to separate that. And so many founders, including myself, have burned out badly. And how can we use a lot of those neuroscience and psychology tools and resources to help them to prevent burnout, to help them to really be their best possible selves?

And so I think that's where we started introducing a lot of the psychology tools and resources and neuroscience tools that I use in the clinic into our programs with our founders. And it really has, even the ones that I've done years ago and I meet the founders again and they say, Hey, that course that you did with us was one that I would never forget.

Firstly, I've never been to something like that. And secondly, it really helped me to confront a lot of the challenges that I was facing that I wanted to kind of bury and it helped me to have the right tools and coping mechanisms to say, Hey, I'm going to confront it and I'm going to be able to release some of that stress that was associated with those challenges.

Jeremy Au: (33:29)

Great. And on a personal note, could you share a personal story about a time when you were brave?

Leanne Robers: (33:38)

Oh, I feel like I'm brave every single day, but I think it really was in the early stages of She Loves Tech. We didn't know where this company was going. As we said, it was a passion project and we all took big risks to do this full-time. But beyond being brave to take that risk, we knew the opportunity that was there, but we also knew that the rest of the ecosystem didn't understand the value that an organization, She Loves Tech, had to be able to transform the whole ecosystem.

And we had so many people come up to us out of pure concern, just being like, Hey, are you sure you want to do this full-time? Maybe you should do this again as a part-time thing. And so many people said, Hey, it's so niche, are there enough women tech founders? Do you really want to dedicate your career to this?

It's really, a very, very niche market that you're focusing on. We actually kept going because we had that belief and that really strong belief that there were so many women tech founders out there who were building amazing solutions. It's just that a lot of these communities didn't have them in their ecosystem. And so we said, okay, let's rebuild a whole entire community and a whole entire ecosystem. And through that, we found thousands and thousands of women tech founders. People are still amazed at the state that we have about 4,000 to 5,000 startups come through She Loves Tech every single year. Yes, it's a global number, but that number alone tells us that there are women tech founders and that isn't a pipeline issue. So I think for me, being brave really meant to say, Hey, even though that the ecosystem, or even though society doesn't quite understand what we're doing, we did and we saw the value and we said, this is something that we needed to be able to change the world, to be able to change the whole entire tech ecosystem into one that is better because it's inclusive, right? So even for our founders, if we have women tech founders who have a women tech female founding team, we say, Hey, bring in that inclusivity and we do the same with male tech founders.

We say, Hey, bring in women tech founders and because diverse teams just make much better, they build better products, they make much better decisions, and I truly believe that diversity will make the world a better place.

Jeremy Au: (36:33)

Wow. Thank you so much. I would love to summarize the three big themes that I got away from this. First of all, thank you so much for sharing about your personal journey about building multiple companies, by eventually building She Loves Tech into the platform that it is for so many women founders, as well as the broader ecosystem. So it's really fascinating to hear about some of the tough times, but also some of the joys and passions that brought you there.

Secondly, thank you so much for sharing a lot of, I'd say tactical, but actually maybe more relational advice on how both female founders can ask for better feedback but also receive it in a better frame. But also how men of VCs can be better partners and be thoughtful about how they provide feedback and be supportive of founders as well. So I think it was just interesting to have that frank conversation about how we can help each other build great companies.

Lastly, thanks so much for sharing a little bit about Psychology, a little bit about who your role models are, your family, and your dad also I think how throughout the entire conversation you've kind of interwoven a sense of warmth, but also I think a precision of terms around relationships and personal self-awareness that I found really fascinating. So, on that note, thank you so much for coming on the show.

Leanne Robers: (37:49)

Thank you so much for having me, Jeremy.