332 MINISODE Helen Thomas: The Power and Profit of Collaboration
Women Innovating Networking Growing Scaling – that’s WINGS … I’m Melinda Wittstock, my mission is to help women take flight to soar to the success of our dreams in business and in life, so on this special mentoring minisode of Wings of Inspired Business … we talk about the price of isolation, why we need a true “business family” of supportive mentors, coaches and peers around us – and how technology must adapt – and thanks to my guest today – change so we can easily have the collaboration and connection we crave. Plus why we must all dare to dream big, be persistent in following our dreams, and help each other as women.
Here with us today to provide her insights and inspiration is …
Helen is an inspiring entrepreneur now in her third act with a company called Touchjet – a collaborative technology platform that turns any surface into a touchscreen – even a wall – and powers genuine human connection in real time. It’s a disruptive innovation, combining software, cloud and hardware to change the way we do business – and how we learn.
Helen is an award-winning entrepreneur and marketer, who has a strong track record of building technology and digital media companies from startup to exit. She was the founding CEO of LeapFrog China, then at Livescribe, she grew worldwide sales from zero to $50 million in 3 years. She built Blue Focus Communication Group from zero to $200 million in North American in only two years
And now to the inspiring Helen Thomas – CEO and founder of Touchjet, pioneering a new way for us to collaborate meaningfully by combining touchscreen technology with collaborative software.
But first I have an invitation for you…
Melinda Wittstock: Helen, welcome to Wings.
Helen Thomas: Thank you, Melinda. Thank you for having me.
Melinda Wittstock: I'm excited to have you on. I'm a big fan of what you've done with Touchjet. This company's growing very fast. I love to see women step into the light and into bigness, into big dreams, going for these big unicorn companies. What is inspiring you right now as you're on this journey?
Helen Thomas: Really, it's the people. I've been very fortunate having a successful career in Silicon Valley after I got my MBA from UC Berkeley [inaudible [spp-timestamp time="00:01:16"] in school. Without all the people I work with, work for and people who inspired me and learning from all these people I wouldn't be here. Touchjet is really a very unique mission as people today are empowered by technology in your hand, but we are feeling more and more either so called isolation, distraction or side effects because of that. What Touchjet does is really to use technology and bring people back together again. We transform any service or any flat screen calcification in their low cost into giant caps so people could collaborate. That has a lot of imprecation in classroom especially for children at young age that don't want them to be a smart device.
We want them participate in the circle time to read together and play together. But more importantly, for the main roles, even in senior people, we want them to circle and do things together. Really it is people that inspire me. I want to make people lives better. I want to communication together better. I want to see the future generation capable to do well while doing good. So that is my inspiration.
Melinda Wittstock: Helen, I'm really struck about what you say about people being the inspiration because entrepreneurship, it is impossible to succeed if you go it alone. It really it about leveraging the best people reaching out and asking for help. I see so many women, who tend to try to do it all in isolation. And of course, it is pretty hard to get anywhere fast if you are not really connecting with people.
Helen Thomas: That is right. Along the way, we had engineers, we had advisors, we had ambassadors, we had a very (inaudible [spp-timestamp time="4:24"]) team, but most importantly we had users around the world. They come in and supported us during crowd funding and they provide us with feedback. And to really see the technology, it has the impact in cooperation and the school districts out there. Far from major, metropolitan areas and to be connected around the world because of this venture, it is fascinating. Very rewarding, I have to say.
Melinda Wittstock: I love what you say about the mission of this too, because technology on one hand, it is connecting us. But it is connecting us to our devices for the most part and not to each other. So what you are doing with Touchjet, it solves such a big problem and it has so many applications. How do you focus? There is so many different things that you can do.
Helen Thomas: We focus on the core benefits in terms as adults. We meet, we share ideals. Our work is collaborative work and in school we really are not because technology is providing information to your fingertips. So more of the education process is communication, collaborations, how to work together. So there is more and more project base education. In a work world, we all know that is what we pretty much do. We collaborate in either smaller group or bigger group and across the globe, multinational cooperation. So we really focus on that specific user case on how we can deliver and share the content and take notes and go back and build on those ideals. So we capture that moment of sharing and interaction so we build a closer on top of a hardware. So not only do we have capturing activity which makes it interesting engaging, we also enable you to ping this, capture those moment, to share those moment and have data and analytic to enable more of a productivity in the workforce as well as for education.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, it is really phenomenon. And as someone who has seen you pitch, it is wonderful, wonderful technology. There must be some things along the way that are always challenging. I know whatever stage of company as a serial entrepreneur as myself as you are too. There is always something. Sometimes, it is a challenge that you can control and some that you can't really control. There is anything that is challenging you right now?
Helen Thomas: Thank you for asking. I think the bigger the opportunity, the bigger the challenge. I think one of the things that you are asking about is focus. Defining a pink one and building a solution around it or building it as from the foundation to one brick at a time. Brick by brick, build a building together. They are solid, they are strong. And keeping that focus is one of the biggest challenges for any entrepreneur because you can easily be distracted to find different tracks. The most challenging thing is I want to share with you Melinda, besides to dream, beside to mission, you would think that capital and funding would happen a lot easier for us but to be honest, that is probably one of the biggest challenges I have faced throughout this journey.
Melinda Wittstock: That is incredible to me because when I look at the fact that two percent of venture capital money in this country in the US, is going to female founders. And yet I look around as a tech entrepreneur, I see women doing amazing things like using capital so effectively with companies and doing destructive wonderful things. They surely qualify for venture funding and yet it is so hard to get money. Like why is what?
Helen Thomas: I think this is a good discussion and I love to hear more. I am working with advisors or more people who have more experience in this area. This is my third venture experience. I worked at leap frog and those were ventral funded. I was not a key founder but I was one of the minority senior staff members and all that. I think there are three things, one-do we tell the story right. The story can always be better. Maybe there is a focus, I think through word telling me to my face I'm sure you can build a 50-100 million dollar venture. But it may or may not be a billion dollar venture. So is there something missing there? And the other, are we asking for money in the right way, are we asking for money in the right place. So I think there is a lot of factors but persistence is what it takes. So we just keep moving forward.
Melinda Wittstock: That is all you can really do. Getting better at telling the story, getting better at. I'm sorry, I'm just going to ask that again. That is all you can really do. As an entrepreneur, do the best that you can, just keep moving forward and have your eye right on the north star of where you are going.
Helen Thomas: Exactly.
Melinda Wittstock: You may have to lead a little bit to get there, but you will get there. So along the way Helen, with all the companies and all the accomplishments, and all the awards and everything you ever had, what are the top go to pieces of advice that you would give to female entrepreneurs, female business owners.
Helen Thomas: I would keep it short. Number one-you got to dream big and believe in your realization. I think what keep us going, is what we believe in. So having that vision and dreaming big. And that is actually very essential for business pending anyways. Nobody wants to invest in small thing. I think number two is we have to be persisted. It is not easy. So we just have to keep going. And the third thing I would say as I am here having this conversation with you Melinda, we have to help each other. If we don't support each other, we don't get ourselves out there, nobody else would. So I think support each other, build a community, match a hands down, do your own thing. Warm a force and create a way and get this on a much higher level and bigger, bigger, skill is what we need to do.
Melinda Wittstock: Absolutely, that is exactly why I started this podcast. WINGS stands for “women innovating networking growing scaling”. And my dream is to create this ecosystem where we meaningfully help each other, mentor each other, throw business to each other, buy from each other, and invest in each other. So I just put out to the universe that I am going to invest ten million bucks in female founders over the next ten years. I am just going to go and do that and what I really would love to do is educate and get more women involve investing in other women. That is really a game changer. Right?
Helen Thomas: Correct.
Melinda Wittstock: We can do this; we can do this.
Helen Thomas: And thank you. Thank you for doing what you do.
Melinda Wittstock: I think we are all in together and when we help each other. Actually a brain chemical releases oxytocin when women are working together and collaborating with each other. So I think we meant to do that. Right? So I know you have a special offer for our listeners and I can't wait to hear it because it involves Touchjet.
Helen Thomas: We have a standard code, CEO 20, so anybody that uses that code on your website which is Toughjet.com, you will get fabulous product and 20% discount.
Melinda Wittstock: Awesome. Everybody do it. I downloaded it. It is amazing. Some of the stuff you can do, Helen, it is just mind boggling. I think it is really a destructive company and congratulation on all your progress. I have no doubt that your persistence will definitely pay off. Thank you so much for putting on your wings and flying with us today.
Helen Thomas: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me.