Supporting female founders is crucial to our post-COVID economic recovery. We’re all building the future together – and maximising knowledge-share is crucial. We sat down with Aine Kerr, the host of our latest Female Founder Breakfast, who spoke some home truths about leadership.
We created our quarterly Female Founder Breakfasts as an empowering, supportive virtual space for entrepreneurs across our Hubs to come together, learn and solve problems with a pioneering female founder in the innovation ecosystem. We have one key requirement of our guest host: an unbridled enthusiasm for sharing transparent, actionable advice with our members.
Journalist, entrepreneur, coach and broadcaster Áine Kerr is exactly that – and more. This quarter’s host is the proud owner of a ‘squiggly career’: from her roots as a teacher, she spent seven years as a Political Correspondent and News Reporter with The Irish Times, The Irish Independent and The Irish Examiner. She went on to the role of Managing Editor at the first social media intelligence agency in the world (Storyful), followed by leading on global news partnerships at Facebook. These experiences gave her a ‘behind-the-curtain’ insight into the dubious veracity of the content we’re consuming.
Now, she’s leading the fight back against fake news. Founded by Áine and her Co-Founder Mark Little three years ago, Kinzen is helping technology companies and content moderators detect and disrupt disinformation, alongside helping publishers build deeper engagement with their audience. As COVID-19 mistruths, conspiracies and deliberate misinformation spread like wildfire, Kinzen’s role is vital; ensuring we can have confidence in the quality and transparency of the information we consume every day. Áine and Mark recently closed a round of €1.6M in funding which included BVP, FST Ventures, DK Investments and Ray Nolan, with around €3M raised in total.
Leadership skills, the future of media and finding balance: here are a few takeaways from Aine’s Breakfast that I have been mulling over, and putting into practice since:
- Know what gives you energy. Áine’s fulfillment comes from ensuring people understand the world around them. We are in the middle of an infodemic. People need to know that what they are reading is the truth. Energy needs to be replenished, as it can deplete in times of anxiety, so make sure you are saving time in the day for things that nourish you.
- We develop our critical thinking skills from the age of 12, so the role of schools in helping us assess what’s real and what’s not real has never been more important. With good quality content often hidden behind a paywall, state-owned media is vital for dispersing good quality, factual news. We need to keep our public services safe.
- Know what your purpose and your impact is. It helps to have a clear mission during those days when things don’t go according to plan when you feel like giving up and throwing in the towel. Remember why you started, and be stubborn about your vision. Having an accountability buddy helps us to stay grounded, and to stay close to our vision. It helps if this person does not work with us every day.
- Be the wisdom in the crowd, instead of adding fuel to the fire. Be of service to others in times of uncertainty. What skills do you have that can help others? Karma is real. If you are asking someone else for their service, know the ask.
- Consider timeboxing your day to achieve balance, and to replenish your energy stocks. Leave Slack and email to work hours. If you need to send an email during the evening time, consider putting it on a timer for the next morning. Weave Slack in throughout the day, don’t spend hours waiting for the next update. We are wired to crave the next ping – don’t give in to it (check out The Social Dilemma for more on this).
- Once a week Áine and Mark ask the Kinzen team to imagine they were holding the CEO reins. What would they do differently? They ask about what’s worrying them and welcome hard truths. They communicate their failures (seen as learnings) and prioritise open and honest communication.
- Stay loyal to your dreams, not your fears. This was a big one for me. Imagine if we invested the same time and energy in driving impact, and achieving our goals as we did reading Covid-19 news and scrolling through Twitter.
- When faced with a challenging situation, ask yourself three questions: 1) What can I control? 2) What is out of my control? 3) What can I influence? We won’t always be able to control everything but we can influence situations and other people.
- Often it helps to simply write down the thing you are unsure of. Writing something down is a piece of advice I have heard so many times since the start of the pandemic. Putting pen to paper somehow simplifies a problem that has magnified itself in your busy head.
- Career paths do not travel in straight lines, rather they are squiggly. The squiggly bits are the most interesting, and this is where you learn the most. The squiggly bits can also be referred to as the messy middle, as depicted so well by one of Brene Brown’s most recent podcast episodes “Day 2”. The messy middle is ambiguous, ever-changing, and challenging. Sound familiar?
– Dream Big by Tara Muer
– The Messy Middle: Finding Your Way Through The Hardest and Most Crucial Part of Any Bold Venture by Scott Belsky
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