The following article was originally written and published by Jessica Bernido at Bowery Capital as the second installment of a recently launched blog series titled "Diversity in Entrepreneurship"
Kate DeWald is the Founder and CEO of Oncue.
Oncue is an end-to-end booking service and software platform that helps moving companies to book more moves and generate more revenue. Before founding Oncue, Kate was an early team member of the go to market groups at SuccessFactors (IPO and then acquired by SAP for $3.4B) and ServiceMax (acquired for $900M). Kate has over 10 years of experience in go to market SaaS companies, is passionate about stimulating customer delight and economic impact, and is committed to creating a diverse workplace to empower improvement and kindness.
What does diversity mean to you?
Diversity means something a little different to me: I think of diversity as the diversity of thought. People coming from different backgrounds and experiences may have a different outlook and perspective than my own. That is also how I think of diversity within a company: people with different life experiences and outlooks can come together to create a more well-rounded view of the different ways in which a problem can be considered.
How does this apply to the values at Oncue?
At Oncue, it's about encouraging people to bring their authentic selves to work and being open to feedback. We try to live by the "Beginner's Mindset", meaning that everyone comes to the table with no preconceived notions and remains open to a different way of thinking. This is how we try to encourage diversity within our workforce where everyone can be open to new ways of thinking that they may not have considered previously.
How has diversity shaped the progression of your career and impacted you as an entrepreneur?
Going from growing up in a very small town in upstate New York, to living in a large city, provided very different experiences for me. I had the opportunity to work with companies all across the US that were building amazing businesses powering some of the basic items we take for granted. Yet, these companies haven't had much technology built for them. This shaped the idea of bringing technology to groups with great businesses that may not have access to it. I'm passionate about serving these small to mid-sized businesses. 40% of our customer base are immigrant or minority-owned businesses, with another portion being veteran-owned. Learning about the diversity of our customers has led us to build an employee base that mirrors this.
How do you feel about the challenges pertaining to diversity in the entrepreneurship community?
What I have always aimed to do within the entrepreneurship community is to know the rules of the game and play accordingly. At Oncue we recognize that these challenges exist within the community. Our leadership team is over 60% female. We have these different statistics, but at the end of the day, the best thing you can do is to recognize the problem and make yourself aware of it. I don't look like the typical founder, which makes me want to succeed all the more. I want to be able to represent and inspire future founders that may come from a similar background than my own.
What would you say to other tech and SaaS firms that may not have as diverse of a workforce as Oncue?
I think this circles back to the idea of diversity of thought and life experience. As an example, our Director of Marketing recently asked if a college degree was a requirement for a new marketing hire at Oncue. One of the candidates was technically very qualified for the job, but did not have a college degree. We aim to find the candidates that have the relevant experience but we are open to considering different places, backgrounds, and perspectives (no matter their graduate level). Companies need to be open to honest feedback from their workforce. When you're starting out, and you make it an initiative to recruit diverse leaders from the get-go, those people will often also recruit people from different backgrounds.
As a female entrepreneur, what kind of strategies have you used to combat the challenges for the underrepresentation of women in Venture Capital?
What kind of advice would you give to women trying to get involved in entrepreneurship? To start, definitely do it. I'm at the happiest point of my life as an entrepreneur. There are really hard days, but what's so fun is that you're growing, changing, and learning every day. Focus the majority of your attention on building a great company. I learned early on that there's no such thing as a fair evaluation. With my sales background, I learned that you can be a great salesperson even when you don't have a fair shot to win. That being said, when you build a great company, people have to invest in you. Look at the returns of female founded companies like Stitch Fix: women are building great companies all over the world. Focus on building a great company, telling your story, and you will find investors. Make sure you ask for help! I wouldn't be where I am today without asking the founders that came before me for help, whether that has been introductions to investors or help with pitch decks. There are people of all different backgrounds, male and female, that want to see you succeed.
How has "asking for help" helped you face challenges throughout your career?
Whether it has been asking other entrepreneurs for feedback, introductions, investments, help with a pitch deck, or something similar, asking for help has really opened a lot of doors for me throughout my career. It's the culture of entrepreneurship: when asking for help, people will often drop everything to help you. Entrepreneurs love to help entrepreneurs and we all want to build businesses that are going to help the world in some way. You have to have other people help you on your journey if you want to succeed.
What advice would you give to someone trying to get involved in entrepreneurship who is worried that they'll face diversity-related challenges?
You're always going to face challenges as an entrepreneur. Being a founder can be really hard at times. You have to remember that there’s a whole world of people out there rooting for you to succeed, myself included. Make sure that you ask for help, and remind yourself that you can do this. The world needs you and what you're building. You're going to make mistakes, and that's what entrepreneurship is all about. Take your drive and your learnings and use it to your advantage.