Q&A with "She Started It" Documentary Creators

Posted by Viola Olayinka on 03/04/2015

Nora Poggi and Insiyah Saeed are the co-producers of She Started It – a documentary on female tech founders in the U.S. and Europe that aims to highlight successful role models for young women. FWD.us spoke with her about the film and how she hopes to change the narrative in the tech community.

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She Started It filmmakers interview Agathe Molinar, CEO of Lemoncurve.com, in Paris, France. Photo: Sheetal J. Patel

FWD.us: Can you explain what She Started It is and what inspired you to take action?

She Started It team: She Started It is a documentary film on women tech founders in the U.S. and Europe that aims to highlight successful role models for young women and to encourage more girls towards entrepreneurship in the technology industry.

Shot on location in Silicon Valley, NYC, Vietnam and Europe, She Started It follows the main stories of four young female entrepreneurs on their road to startup success – Thuy, Brienne, Stacey and Agathe – as well as featuring veteran experts and role models who give perspective on the issues. As journalists covering the tech industry in Silicon Valley for the past three years, we noticed that there are some great female entrepreneurs that were not getting the spotlight they deserved. There were tons of great male founders to learn from but not enough women, though there were some successful ones that had started companies. We decided we had to shed light on this new entrepreneurial revolution in a compelling way, and film appeared to be the most effective medium to inspire girls globally.

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Jess Lee, CEO, Polyvore in Mountain View, CA   Photo: Sheetal J. Patel

FWD.us: What hurdles have you faced in conceptualizing She Started It?

She Started It team: When the statistic is that 90 percent of all startups fail, you know a lot of people would not want to show some of the real grit on screen, so access to tell the whole story can be hard. That being said, the women we built relationships with really were generous to let us in their lives during insanely busy times – they believed in the message of the film and what we were doing.

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She Started It interview with 18 year old co-founder of Entefy, Brienne Ghafourifar, at their offices in Palo Alto. Photo: Sheetal J. Patel

FWD.us: What type of feedback have you received from the tech community?

She Started It team: People are extremely excited to be able to see women in technology on screen in a way that hasn’t been done before. Former leaders in the VC industry have supported us, and amazing men and women such as Megan Smith, Cindy Padnos, Tracy Chou, Sharon Vosmek, Ruchi Sanghvi, Michael Carter, Joanne Wilson (and more) have generously interviewed with us. Derek Anderson at StartupGrind, the people at 500 Startups, Girls Innovate, S.F. Citi and TechCrunch have been instrumental in helping us reach more of the tech community and we really appreciate their support.

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Tracy Chou, software engineer at Pinterest, speaks to She Started It filmmakers. Photo: Sheetal J. Patel

FWD.us: How do you hope the role of women in the technology industry can change in the future?

She Started It team: We hope that by seeing this film, women and girls will think, “If she can do it, I can do it.” Not only do we hope that in the future more girls will take interest in studying computer science and math in high school – but that they would also think that they too could become an entrepreneur, or be entrepreneurial in their approach to life. By changing the discourse and the perception around STEM fields and what it means to be entrepreneur, learn what an entrepreneur does, we think we can get more girls to participate in the field, but also learn about persistence, resilience, and confidence and that being okay with failing is part of the process.

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Nora Poggi of She Started It and Megan Smith, Chief Technology Officer of the United States at Google headquarters. Photo: Sheetal J. Patel

FWD.us: What comes next for She Started It?

She Started It team: We are currently in post-production and hope to have a finished film by summer 2015. Our main goal is to tour the film across schools and colleges here and abroad, to inspire as many young people as possible. We also plan to apply to top festivals and are exploring all distribution avenues, like broadcast and online. We are actively fundraising to be able to get to the finish line!

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Salman Khan, founder of Khan Academy, visits a Girls Innovate event in Palo Alto. Photo: Sheetal J. Patel

FWD.us: If you could tell yourself from 10 years ago something, what would it be?

She Started It team: Persist. Persist. Persist. Learn to be technically savvy in something, it doesn’t matter what. Learn to code, but also learn how to sell.

Day of Action: Our #Freedom2Innovate Kickoff

Posted by Todd Schulte on 03/02/2015

Today, FWD.us is holding a #Freedom2Innovate Day of Action – it’s the start of a month long campaign to highlight the incredible costs that come from failing to fix our broken immigration system, and to highlight the incredible potential our country has if we can reform our immigration laws. Starting today, we’ll be working with a broad coalition of individuals who would benefit from immigration reform, with elected officials from both parties from across the country, and with the tech community to show that reform can’t wait. We’re using April 1st as a backstop – the day where so many high-skilled immigrants will find out if they will, or will not, be able to stay in this country and create jobs.

The dialogue in D.C. is filled with noise on immigration – what we’re doing in the next month is boiling this down to the consensus. Past the arguing, we agree the status quo is broken and we need reforms to help our economy grow and provide the ability for 11 million undocumented immigrants to come out of the shadows and contribute fully.

Here are three reasons why we’re asking you to join our #Freedom2Innovate Day of Action today:

First – 3 in 4 Americans (including 2 in 3 Republicans) support immigration reform, but for us to be successful we need to highlight the urgency and increase the intensity of our work. While April 1st isn’t a determinative day for all, it is for many and we’re asking each and every one of you to help drive home the urgent need to fix our broken immigration system over the next month.

Second – We’ll create urgency by showing the cost of inaction and the benefits of reform. Today, we’ll be highlighting individual stories of entrepreneurs who want to grow their companies here and create American jobs – both online and on calls with the press. We know the power of stories, and we believe in the power of technology to harness and amplify these stories.

Third — We’re organizing our efforts around policy points where we can make a difference through legislation and executive action, while continuing to work towards a permanent legislative solution that fixes our fundamentally broken system so that it works for our economy.”

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That we are a nation of immigrants has been, and always should be, a source of incredible strength and dynamism. The very nature of immigration – the entrepreneurialism that leads people to leave so much behind and come to our nation – has long been one of our country’s greatest competitive advantages. Yet today we no longer have an immigration system that reflects our values, and the price we pay is severe: we educate the best and brightest only to tell them there is no place for them to create jobs here, millions of families live in fear of being torn apart by deportation, and $37 million dollars are lost every day we fail to pass reform.

The stakes couldn’t be higher – so today, please help us renew our push to win.

Call your member of Congress now.

Creating Entrepreneur Pathways: Making Sure the White House Hears from the Tech Community

Posted on 02/26/2015

FWD.us has been working hard to make sure that the White House hears from you: last November, President Obama promised to take action that will make it easier for high-skilled immigrants and entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses here in the U.S., boosting our economy and creating American jobs. As part of the Entrepreneur Pathways Program, we’ve been collecting suggestions from members of the tech community to help ensure that these proposed programs are rolled out in a way that truly meets the tech community’s needs.

We’ve hosted calls and roundtables with members of the tech community, and received meaningful feedback from entrepreneurs across the country. We’ll be sending these suggestions in to policymakers at the White House in just a few days, and we want to make sure as many members of the tech community as possible can help create solutions by passing along valuable ideas and insight.

What Happens Next?

Once recommendations are submitted, the White House will compile the suggestions and release their policy proposal for a period of public comment, where members of the tech community will have another chance to weigh in. We’ll make sure to keep you posted as that key piece of the Entrepreneur Pathways Program moves forward.

We hope you’ll take this opportunity to share your experiences and recommendations with White House policymakers. While FWD.us continues working to pass a permanent legislative solution that will finally fix our broken immigration system, the tech community has a key role to play in helping to craft policy solutions that will make it easier for entrepreneurs to do what they do best – create jobs, grow our economy, and innovate.

Want to get more involved in political advocacy? Join your FWD.us chapter.

 

Immigration action will boost Florida's economy

Posted by Lucas Waldron on 02/25/2015

Diego Garcia came to Miami when he was 11 years old. His family received E-1 visas, which provide legal status for five years. When Diego was a teenager, he wasn’t able to renew his visa and was days away from becoming undocumented. Despite his immigration status, Diego fought to be able to attend University of Florida, and later graduated with a degree in nuclear engineering. He wants to stay in America – the country he calls home – but his future is uncertain because of our broken immigration system. Diego’s story is just one of thousands in Florida, and across the United States.

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Immigration has had a huge impact on Florida’s culture and economy. Florida’s labor force is almost 25% foreign-born, and nearly 30% of Florida business owners are immigrants. With such a large immigrant population, Florida will gain a powerful economic boost from President Obama’s executive actions on immigration reform. By 2025, the new programs created by executive immigration action will increase Florida’s GDP by $4.3 billion to $10 billion.

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253,000 people are eligible for the expansion of DACA and creation of DAPA in Florida, gaining the opportunity to apply for work permits and live without fear of deportation and separation from their families. We know that these programs are the right choice for America’s – and Florida’s – families and economy.

“I love energy policy, it’s what drives me,” explained Diego, who hopes immigration action will allow him to secure a more permanent immigration status. “I love this country. I feel American.”

Click here to find out where your Representative stands on immigration.