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Women on Top in Tech – Roshni Mahtani, CEO/Founder at Tickled Media and theAsianparent.com.

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(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

Here is my interview with Roshni Mahtani, CEO & Founder at Tickled Media and theAsianparentRoshni is also actively involved in the start-up community. In 2015, she founded the Female Founders Network, a group of over 2,000 female founders. She also sits on the board of TIE Singapore and is a mentor at JFDI and the Crib where she works with early stage start-ups. Besides her interest in the start-up world, Roshni is also an Executive Producer of Untouchable: Children of God – A 2014 documovie about young girls in the brothels of India and how they are sold and trafficked from Nepal. The film won the Humanitarian Award at the Newport Beach Film Festival 2014 and is currently playing on Singapore Airlines flights.

Roshni has graced the cover of multiple magazines and newspapers in the region. Her company has been mentioned in over 200 media outlets ranging from the BBC to the Singapore Straits Times.


What makes you do what you do?

I’d always wanted to create something that would have a positive impact on the world around me. I noticed that a lot of organizations focused on education, children’s welfare, housing – covering our basic needs. But even more fundamental is parenting, and I knew of none that was singularly intent on making that better.

So I thought, if I could capture a mere 1% of the 20 million Asian families online, I’d be making a difference in at least 200,000 of next-generation children. We all want to make the world a better place; and to us at Tickled Media, the simple solution is: better parents = better kids = better tomorrow.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?

When you say ‘rise’, you think steady upward trend; but it’s really been more of an uphill battle with lots of stumbles for me. Startup life is neither easy nor predictable. We got to where we are through making calculated yet still gutsy moves, eventually making mistakes and learning from them, then using this knowledge to refine our strategy.

Despite the hurdles, we’ve just had to stay laser-focused on our mission and goals and one thing that’s helped us do that is our market research department. We conduct both commissioned and our own studies on Asian mums, so we can keep track of how the market is evolving. Again, knowledge is power; acting on what you discover propels progress.

Why did you take on this role/start this startup especially since this is perhaps a stretch or challenge for you (or viewed as one since you are not the usual leadership demographics)?

I remember way back when I started my company at 25, and people just didn’t take 25-year-old Asian women seriously. I would go to meetings with male business owners in their 40s, and they wouldn’t even look at me, directing their questions to junior male employees instead.

I powered through anyway, not to prove them wrong but to do something right – to pursue what I believed in. I fully knew that entrepreneurship would take over my life and even change its course; but I persisted, taking on this challenge for the same reason we all do – because I knew it mattered.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work?

My first mentor, who continues to advise me to this day, was Zoomit co-founder William Klippgen. William has been an integral part of theAsianparent’s success and is an exemplary leader. Amongst a score of others in my support system, it’s important to have advisors with a good understanding of your industry. For that, I’m fortunate to have the support of people such as Ashwin Puri, formerly from Komli, and Dave Weiss, formerly from BabyCenter.

As the founder of the Female Founders Network, I’ve also tapped on the expertise of a global community of women entrepreneurs who come together with the common objective of sharing knowledge and empowering women to achieve their goals.

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?

Spotting talent is the easy part – a person’s achievements speak for themselves and word gets around about rising stars in the industry.

Crucial to developing and supporting talent is setting people up for success. Provide the right resources, have the right culture + environment in place, and challenge don’t choke. Training helps, but what I’ve found to be more important is mentorship. It gives me great satisfaction to know that many of our former employees have gone on to do incredible things – that we’ve played a part in helping them reach their potential.

Supporting our Ticklers’ personal alongside their professional lives is something we’re also keen on. If someone in our team has to move all the way to the other side of the globe, we’d still find a way to make it work, time difference and all.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?

As a company speaking to mothers, we actively support working mums in our own environment. We offer flexible schedules and work-from-home arrangements, we have breastfeeding and kids’ rooms, we’ve built a culture of understanding – these are all part of our efforts to be truly mum-friendly. We have dads working for us too and they’re equally supported.

Since we’re present in Singapore, Thailand, India, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam, we’ve got such a rich multi-cultural pool of talents. Even with the complications in logistics – time differences, different holiday schedules, having to do calls instead of face-to-face meetings, etc – the benefits absolutely outweigh the costs.

Our flagship product is theAsianparent.com and we’ve got so many Asian parents under our roof! This doesn’t just help us in terms of authenticity and knowing our audience intimately; it also allows us to learn from each other’s parenting principles, styles, and traditions. All these elements come together to provide our readers and partners with the best we can offer.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?

There’s no one formula; no one size fits all. Each person must tap into their leadership potential given their own context and decisions thus far, skill set, passions, support system… all these things that make each leader’s journey his or her own.

I wish I could tell you what the key is, but I can only share what has been mine. Macro view, it’s been to always be one or even two steps ahead. The industry is moving at light speed and competition is intense. You can’t fall behind in the game; you have to be best player you can be. Your team looks up to you to make the right decisions – what you decide puts food on their tables and sends their kids to school. There’s no slacking off when that’s what’s at stake.

Within the organization, be a good listener. Take the time to get to know each of your team members – not just their strengths and weaknesses, but also their families, their dreams. People are your best resource so invest in them. You can’t have a good grasp of your organization if you only know the operational side. Be familiar with its every aspect, especially your people.

Advice for others?

Listen to your mom/wife! She’s always right.


To learn more about Tickled Media, please see http://tickledmedia.com/.

I am a huge fan and cheerleader of Women Leaders — If you know of an AMAZING Woman Founder, CEO, Leader in Tech or you are one yourself — Write me here.
AMPLIFY Conscious Business Leadership with me.

Callum Connects

Malcolm Tan, Founder of Gravitas Holdings

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Malcolm Tan is an ICO/ITO and Cryptocurrency advisor. He sees this new era as similar to when the internet launched.

What’s your story?
I’m a lawyer entrepreneur who owns multiple businesses, and who is now stepping into the Initial Coin Offering/Initial Token Offering/Cryptocurrency space to be a thought leader, writer (How to ICO/ITO in Singapore – A Regulatory and Compliance Viewpoint on Initial Coin Offering and Initial Token Offering in Singapore), and advisor through Gravitas Holdings – an ICO Advisory company. We are also running our own ICO campaign called AEXON, and advising 2 other ICO’s on their projects.

What excites you most about your industry?
It is the start of a whole new paradigm, and it is like being at the start of the internet era all over again. We have a chance to influence and shape the industry over the next decade and beyond and lead the paradigm shift.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I’m Singaporean and most of my business revolves around the ASEAN region. Our new ICO advisory company specialises in Singaporean ICO’s and we are now building partnerships around the region as well. One of the core business offerings of our AEXON ICO/ITO is to open up co-working spaces around the region, with a target to open 25 outlets, and perhaps more thereafter.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore, since it is my hometown and most of my business contacts originate from or are located in Singapore. It is also a very open and easy place to do business.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Be careful of your clients – sometimes they can be your worst enemies. This is very true and you have to always be careful about whom you deal with. The closest people are the ones that you trust and sometimes they have other agendas or simply don’t tell you the truth or whole story and that can easily put one in a very disadvantageous position.

Who inspires you?
Leonardo Da Vinci as a polymath and genius and leader in many fields, and in today’s world, Elon Musk for being a polymath and risk taker and energetic business leader.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Early stage bitcoin investors would have made 1,000,000 times profit if they had held onto their bitcoins from the start to today – in the short space of 7 years.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Seek out good partnerships and networks from day one, and use the power of the group to grow and do things together, instead of being bogged down by operations and going it alone from start.

How do you unwind?
I hardly have any time for relaxation right now. I used to have very intense hobbies, chess when I was younger, bridge, bowling, some online real time strategy games and poker. All mentally stimulating games and requiring focus – I did all these at competitive levels and participated in national and international tournaments, winning multiple trophies, medals and awards in most of these fields.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Phuket – nature, resort life, beaches, good food and a vibrant crowd.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Rich Dad Poor Dad by Richard Kiyosaki

Shameless plug for your business:
Gravitas Holdings (Pte) Limited is the premier ICO Advisory company and we can do a full service for entrepreneurs, including legal and compliance, smart contracts and token creation, marketing and PR, and business advisory and white paper writing/planning.

How can people connect with you?
Write emails to [email protected], or [email protected]

Twitter handle?
@malcolmABM

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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Entrepreneurship

Women on Top in Tech – Pam Weber, Chief Marketing Officer at 99Designs

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(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

Pam Webber is Chief Marketing Officer at 99designs, where she heads up the global marketing team responsible for acquisition, through growth marketing and traditional marketing levers, and increasing lifetime value of customers. She is passionate about using data to derive customer insights and finding “aha moments” that impact strategic direction. Pam brings a host of first-hand startup marketing experiences as an e-commerce entrepreneur herself and as the first marketing leader for many fast-growing startups. Prior to joining 99designs, she founded weeDECOR, an e-commerce company selling custom wall decals for kids’ rooms. She also worked as an executive marketing consultant at notable startups including True&Co, an e-commerce startup specializing in women’s lingerie. Earlier in her career, Pam served in various business and marketing positions with eBay and its subsidiary, PayPal, Inc. A resident of San Francisco, Pam received her BA from the University of Pennsylvania and MBA from Harvard Business School. Pam is a notable guest speaker for Venture Beat, The Next Web, Lean Startup, and Growth Hacking Forum, as well as an industry expert regularly quoted in Inc., CIO, Business News Daily, CMSwire, Smart Hustle, DIY Marketer, and various podcast and radio shows. You can follow her on Twitter at @pamwebber_sf.

What makes you do what you do?
My dad always told me make sure you choose a job you like because you’ll be doing it for a long time. I took that advice to heart and as I explored various roles over my career, I always stopped to check whether I was happy going to work every day – or at least most days :). That has guided me to the career I have in marketing today. I’m genuinely excited to go to work every day. I get to create, to analyze, to see the impact of my work. It’s very fulfilling.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?
I had a penchant for numbers and it helped me stand out in my field. This penchant became even more powerful when the Internet and digital marketing started to explode. There was a great need for marketers whose skills could span both the creative and the analytic aspects of marketing. I capitalized on that growth by bringing unique insight to the companies I worked with, well-supported with thoughtful analysis.

Why did you take on this role/start this startup?
I’m not sure this is relevant to my situation as I had been a marketing leader in various start-ups and companies. I took on the role at 99designs because I was excited by the global reach of the brand and the opportunity the company had to own the online design space. I especially liked the team as I felt they were good at heart.

The challenge I’ve faced in my time at 99designs is how do I evolve the team quickly and nimbly to address new challenges. The work we do now, is very different than the work we did a year ago and even the year before that. There is a fine line between staying focused on the goal ahead and being able to move quickly should that goal shift.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industry or did you look for one or how did that work?
There is no one I’ve sought out or worked with over my entire career as my “mentee” needs have changed so much over the years. There are many people who have helped me along the way. For example, one of my peers at eBay, who was quite experienced and skilled in marketing strategy and creative execution, taught me what was in a marketing plan and how to evaluate marketing assets. As I have risen to leadership positions over the years, I often reach out to similarly experienced colleagues for advice on how they handle situations.

How did you make a match if you and how did you end up being mentored by him?
I learned early in my career that it rarely hurts to ask for advice. So that is what I have done. Additionally, there are people that are known to be quite helpful and build a reputation for giving back to others in advisory work. Michael Dearing, of Harrison Metal and ex-eBay, is one of those people. I, as well as countless others, have asked him for advice and guidance through the years and he does his best to oblige. Finding mentorship is about intuiting who in your universe might be willing and whether you are up for asking for help.

That being said, generally, I have found, if you are eager to learn and be guided, people will respond to the outreach.

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?
I generally look for a good attitude and inherent “smarts”. A good attitude can encompass anything from being willing to take on many different types of challenges to working well amongst differing personalities and perspectives. Smarts can be seen through how well someone’s done in their “passion areas” (i.e. areas where they have a keen interest in pursuing).

I try to hire those types of people because in smaller, fast-growing companies like many of the ones I’ve worked in, it’s more often than not about hiring flexible people as things move and change fast.

Once those people are on my team, I try to keep them challenged and engaged by making sure they have varying responsibilities. If I can’t give them growth in their current job or in the current company, I encourage them to seek growth opportunities elsewhere. I’d rather have one of my stars leave for a better growth opportunity than keep them in a role where they might grow stale.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?
I consciously support diversity. When I am hiring, I am constantly thinking about how to balance the team with as broad a range as possible of skill sets, perspectives, etc. to ensure we can take on whatever is thrown at us, or whatever we want to go after.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?
I’m going to assume a great leader in my industry to mean a marketing leader in a technology company. I think a great leader in this industry is not afraid to learn new tricks no matter their age – it’s the growth mindset you may have heard about. I have a friend who inspires me to do this – she purchased the Apple Watch as soon as it was available, and was one of the first people I knew to use the Nest heating/cooling system. She’s not an early adopter by most definitions, but she adopts the growth mindset. This is the mindset I, too, have sought to adopt. In my field of marketing, it most recently has meant learning about Growth Marketing and how to apply this methodology to enhance growth. Independent of your industry, I think a growth mindset serves you well.

Advice for others?
I have been at 99designs for 3.5 years. During that time we’ve invested in elevating the skills and quality of our designer community, we’ve rebranded to reflect this higher level of quality, and have improved the satisfaction of our customers. Our next phase of growth will come from better matching clients to the right designer and expanding the ability to work with a designer one-on-one. We have the best platform to find, collaborate, and pay professional designers who deliver high quality design at an affordable price, and it’s only going to get better. I’m excited to deliver on that vision.

Pam Webber
Chief Marketing Officer of 99designs
Twitter: @pamwebber_sf

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