It’s Female Founder Friday, and I couldn’t be more pleased to introduce you to Denise Hayman-Loa. Denise is the female founder of Carii, the most advanced enterprise social network in the market, with users in over 100 countries – from the U.S. to Europe to Asia. Available on web and mobile apps, Carii creates dynamic, end to end, branded digital ecosystems around organizations – and their partners and fans – delivering an advanced communication and collaboration framework – and creating an ever-growing network of connectedness and engagement.
Denise and I were both speakers at a women’s conference and a brief conversation revealed that we were destined to be friends. Aside from being female founders, we were both born in Texas, love horseback riding, and mixed martial arts. Denise was a stockbroker on Wall Street in the 80’s. She is literally one of the women who started shattering the glass ceiling. After retiring from her successful 30 year career (she even worked for Michael Bloomberg) she had the idea for Carii and jumped into the startup world. I am honored to know her!
So, if you have a startup idea related to social networks, or are a woman considering a second career, Denise’s answers and insights are particularly insightful!
What inspired you to create your company?
Our inspiration for the business came from a very simple need we saw – the communication needs of a far-flung kung fu group with multiple local chapters and an international head office. The local chapters had local communication needs, but sometimes needed to be connected to the head office, or other chapters, for information sharing or large events.
This small idea then grew into what is now a fully developed end to end digital eco-system platform available globally on web and mobile – for communication, collaboration and revenue generation. We have numerous clients in different business channels utilizing our branded versions of the platform and we are growing rapidly with ever larger groups.
I actually started on Wall Street in 1980 and worked in that world in various roles for nearly 30 years – both running technology departments and in front office senior relationship management roles. After all those years of intense work, I thought I would try my hand at transitioning to building and running a horse farm and doing non-profit work. That lasted a few years, and then I found that my brain really craved more activity, so I started working with my husband’s technology company on this cool new idea they had for a community based platform. That initial foray quickly turned in to becoming the company CEO, a role I have held now for 3 years.
What was your biggest obstacle and failure in going from idea to business?
The most difficult moment has actually been a series of ongoing moments, the constant financial balancing act and the length of time we have had to bootstrap. What I learned is that everything takes longer than you think it should and things that are obvious to you are not always obvious to others! But in hindsight it has also been a benefit because we have had the freedom to chart our own course, and we understand our own business better than an outsider could.
As in most technology related industries, the digital/social/collaboration/communication industry is always in motion. We see a lot of interest and demand for a better, less fragmented approach, to take the best of social tools and eliminate the issues. Demand for community technology continues to grow, with a priority on privacy, control, ownership of data and relationships and branding.
Because of the growth in demand and interest for communities and collaboration technology, we see enormous opportunity in a number of channels, from entertainment, to services firms, to education and nonprofits. What we call public social media still has its place, but organizations and audiences are all seeking a deeper relationship and more engagement. We have some exciting new clients we are working with that could make a pretty big impact both on our business and on demonstrating what is possible leveraging our platform – with global footprints.
We are continuing to enhance the platform by adding some key new capabilities and building up our client success team to make sure all of our clients continue to have a great experience with our technology and our services.
Please share your best piece of advice for aspiring female founders.
Keep it fresh! Constantly push the envelope both in terms of reading and learning new skills and testing the traditional boundaries of roles and ideas. Stay determined, and ask for advice – which you may or may not take!
If you had a theme song what would it be?
Ah, so many choices! I’ll say “Anything Could Happen,” by Ellie Goulding. Because really, anything can happen!!! It’s not my usual genre, I’m more of a rock/jazz/indie person. But it’s uplifting too!