Berlin Geekettes attended the Switch Conference and caught up with 22-year-old entrepreneur Inês Santos Silva, to discuss her recent trip to Berlin, find out her views on the tech scene in Portugal, and learn more about Startup Pirates.
Interviewed by Jess Erickson
So what do you think of the Switch Conference so far?
This year has been even more interesting than previous years. Switch has this ability to bring speakers from different parts of the world to Portugal, where usually we don’t have access to these kind of speakers. Of course you can always read what they write on their blogs and we can see their talks on TED, LeWeb, NextBerlin and in other conferences but its great to see them here. They are the best ambassadors the Portuguese startup ecosystem can have to spread the word on what we’re doing and show to other countries in Europe and the US that we are serious about startups and we really want to create a startup ecosystem here. This is my 3rd year at the Switch Conference. Great conference, great speakers and I loved it since the beginning.
You recently made a trip to Berlin and attended a Berlin Geekettes meet up. What was your overall perception of the startups scene and the women in tech in the startup scene?
I think the startup scene in Berlin is completely different from everywhere in Europe. The mix between startups, tech, artists and creativity brings different flavors to the startup ecosystem. When I’m in Berlin I’m always amazed by the people I have the pleasure to meet. Everyone seems to be doing something innovative and everyone has a small project they would like to show you. And that is amazing.
However, there are not many women in startups or women in really important positions in companies. So we really have a long way to go. When I went to the Berlin Geekettes event it was great to see all these women interested in how they can become great CEO’s and leaders and most importantly, they are open to share their experience with others. Events like this are hugely important if we want to see more women in the tech world.
In Portugal, we have a few events that try to bring women together but like I said before, we have a long way to go. I’m often the only woman in the room when I have 10 founders of companies or people who are doing interesting stuff. It’s not uncommon, that I’m the only girl in a team when I’m organizing an event or another initiative. I try to help as many women as possible because being part of the startup scene is not very difficult, as long as you are willing to learn, to ask questions and to meet as many people as possible.
Can you name one Portuguese startup that you admire most?
I know one that seems amazing. I don’t know much about the company but its called farfetch.com. They sell luxury products, clothes, bags and accessories on the web. They recently got funding, the CEO lives in the UK but the development team is in northern Portugal. It’s an amazing company that we’ll hear more about in the future.
Then we have another company. For example, UniPlaces. They are a bridge between students who want to rent a room and the owners of those rooms. And its interesting to see that in such a short time they have grown so much. They are in Portugal, Chile and expanding into other countries. They are doing amazing things and for us its great to see these kind of companies in Portugal. It inspires others to follow the difficult path of entrepreneurship.
Tell me more about your project, what’s Startup Pirates about?
Basically, SP was born last year as a one-week acceleration program for entrepreneurs in the making. We wanted to combine training and mentoring and bring together 30 participants from different countries and backgrounds and help them develop business ideas and accelerate the process of turning an idea into a real business.
We started almost a year ago, our launch party was on the 5th of July. Since then, we organized the first one in Porto, another one on in Lisbon and now we’re in 8 countries. At the end of this year, we expect to have at least 12 events in different parts of the world from China to Brazil to South Africa.
Did you go to the Pirate Conference in Germany?
I didn’t. But it was funny because one of the founders came to our first Startup Pirates @ Porto. When we launched SP, we found them online a few weeks later. And we thought to ourselves, how awesome it is that both organizations are applying the Pirate Spirit to the start-up world.
What advice would you give to young women who are considering a career in the tech industry?
I think they shouldn’t see themselves as like, “ahhh…. no one is here, I’m the only one doing this.” They probably have to fight more than men but they have to say: “I’m here, I’m capable of doing this, I can be as good as anyone around me or even better.”
One of the things I don’t like is when I see women positioning themselves as something they are not. I think in tech, we see a lot of women that say “I have to be just like men, because no woman can be a success in this male dominated world” or others say “I have to be in tech, because no other women are here, so I have to fight for us”. It’s not like that. Of course it’s important to bring as many women as possible into the tech industry but it has to be a natural process. Organizations like Berlin Geekettes can go to schools, organize a few awareness events, show how interesting the tech industry is but It’s going to take a while (maybe in the next 5-10 years) but sooner or later we’ll see more women in the tech industry.
We need to support the ones that are just arriving. Give them the tools, mentor them, make sure it’s a natural process and not forced. Make sure they are doing this with meaning.
You can follow Ines on twitter @isss111