From Tallinn, Estonia
During the Women's Forum Global Meeting 2015, we had the chance to meet and interview Karoli, here is her testimony.
What’s on your mind right now?
I feel pretty energized, I had such interesting conversations here. In a way I’m kind of a people person, I get energy from the conversations I have. I feel really good!
Describe yourself in one sentence?
I want to say restless. I see opportunities and I go for it, I’m also very spontaneous so it’s not always easy to follow me.
How would you describe the glass ceiling you had?
I was kind of lucky that somebody helped me break my first one quite early. I didn’t really realize I had one at the time. I was 16 when I launched my first company. I came from a small town and a random school with no rich family behind me. Still, I had the feeling my ideas matter and I could actually launched my own company with people buying my products. If I had to do it all over again today, with no entrepreneurial background and just an idea AND being thirty something, well I’m really not sure I would. But I was 16 so I just thought « Let’s go for it ».
My last glass ceiling in the other hand was more tricky. It was launching my last company, Jobbatical. My child was 1 year old and I just had taken a year off to take care of her. When I came back in business I had lost the confidence. I felt like I didn’t know anything, that everyone was smarter than me in the tech industry where everybody is a guy with no family or a wife to take care of it. So being the mother of a 1 year old starting a tech company, I really had trouble to overcome my fears.
How did it affect you? How did you feel at the time?
I was talking a lot about it without actually do something. My husband who also has an entrepreneurial mind, finally told me « Either you do it or you don’t but you need to pick up one choice for sure ». I decided to do it. I sat down and started my researches. I needed to gather proof that I was about to do the right thing. Now I can say I took too much time to do it.I made research for 3 months when 1 would have been enough.
How did you break this glass ceiling?
It actually reminds me of a anecdote. An homeless person was talking to God, praying to win the lottery. After several requests God answers « Please, please, buy a lottery ticket! »
It was the same thing for me. You can still talk about it but if you don’t sit down and set yourself deadlines it won’t work. So I hired a nanny and I went to a coffee shop, opened my laptop and set up a plan!
How do you feel about where you are today, after breaking your glass ceiling?
We launched only 11 months ago and there’s already people changing their lives through our platform, we have a big media coverage and became the hottest early stage startup from northern Europe… If someone had told me that a year ago, when the only thing I had was a presentation, I don’t know if I would have had the courage to actually believe it. And well, I’m really glad I broke that glass ceiling! It’s just the beginning but it’s still very encouraging.
What advice would you give to someone going through this glass ceiling?
You have to remember we all are human beings in the end. When you meet people from hot startups or running governments and you talk to them, you realize you’re usually not far from being as smart as they are. So if you have an idea, go for it. Step by step. Define your first goal and when you reach it the second one, etc.
You also have to learn to say no and focus on building your company. When I launched my first one at 16, I suddenly became famous. Everyone wanted to talk to me, have lunch, having me speaking at seminars, in schools, etc. It was great but I actually didn’t have much time left to develop my company. So you have to choose carefully. Think of what this kind of opportunities can bring you AND your business.
What are your upcoming projects?
Totally focusing on developing Jobbatical and raising my child. It’s almost like I had two children actually.
Tell us about something, like a quote that inspires you?
I really liked Richard Branson book on his life. If you need a kick in the butt it’s definitely the kind of book you want to read! One of the message is you need to take yourself and your idea out there. It’s basically how he launched his airline. He was somewhere in the world and his flight back home was cancelled. He really needed to get home so he made some calls to figure out how much it would cost to rent a plane and the team that goes with it. He then wrote a sign with all the available seats in the plane and went back and forth in the airport until he sold all the seats! In the end he thought « Ok if I can do that, why not create a new airline?!»… when everybody else thinks this kind of project is too complicated.