In the run up to International Women’s Day we’re showcasing some of our amazing female clients and their achievements. Next up our Head of Marketing Emma Allison chatted to the co-founder of Digital Oracles; Sara Simeone.
Hi Sara, it’s great to chat to you! Can you tell us about your business?
Sure, I am the CEO and co-founder of Digital Oracles, a growth management platform for start-ups and scale-ups. We help investors, accelerators and their team to monitor the performance of the start-ups over time. We allow them to dynamically monitor portfolio progress at every point in the growth and launch lifecycle, and quickly identify the next big opportunities.
What do you love most about your job?
I spent over a year researching the market; the pain points of my target audience; and finally, we created a solution that was tailored to our target audience. I love creating smart solutions and bring them to market. It makes me feel alive. It is amazing to hear that someone really likes your product or idea - almost an addictive feeling.
How did you get to where you are now?
I worked in Digital Marketing and strategy for over 15 years. I worked in 4 different countries, and moved back to the UK in 2016 while I was working full-time and studying part-time for my Masters (Digital Marketing in Manchester). My tutor told me about the shortage of Digital talent in the North of England and, since I loved Manchester, I decided to leave my highly paid job at Dentsu Aegis, where I was heading the Global client services team at Amnet and start a new life here.
My dissertation opened up so many doors. I published my master thesis on how machine learning and blockchain will have an impact on the future of digital marketing. I was one of the first marketers in the world to publish a piece on the topic. From that moment on, I got to work for a few start-ups and scale-ups in the blockchain space who needed help to translate their value proposition into tangible strategies. At the same time, I was working as an Associate Lecturer at The Manchester Metropolitan University; and I am still mentoring start-ups in Crypto valley / Switzerland. Whilst doing all this, I decided to start helping these companies in a more structured way and that’s when I opened Digital Oracles.
What were the main challenges starting up a business?
Putting together a team of people who are committed to the project, fast thinkers, senior enough to work autonomously, but also entrepreneurial enough to take initiative when needed. From a mindset point of view, I found it quite challenging to look for clients and put my face out there. This has taught me to deal better with rejection.
Life as an entrepreneur is very lonely and extremely bumpy. I am always known as the one who can overcome everything and anything in my family. I did beat cancer 10 years ago. But it is very difficult to put your face out there. What if I fail? How am I going to justify that to a future employer or to the people who supported me so far? I have a great mentor in Germany who keeps telling me to be more daring and believe in what I am doing, as I have achieved so much in such a short period of time. But we, being women, always tend to minimise our achievements.
Current figures show that women are behind roughly one in three businesses, why do you think that number isn’t higher?
It is emotionally, mentally and physically draining. I am in awe of mothers who are also business owners. I don’t have any children, just a dog, and it is very challenging to juggle my hectic travel schedule, with the business, friends, family... and I often forget myself. My mentor told me recently, I have never met a successful entrepreneur who hasn’t taken care of himself/herself. You should start doing the same! But it’s not always that easy and I keep finding excuses.
There is definitely an unconscious bias towards women in business, especially in tech and emerging technology. And when you add to that my ’exotic’ name and accent, things can get 'complicated'. I don’t have time to explain my life to people in 5 minutes. They will normally judge me for what they can see and hear in those 5 minutes. Having worked in so many countries and with so many people from different backgrounds, I learned very early on, to have an open mindset.
What would your advice be to any women considering setting up on their own?
Be confident and believe in yourself - it sounds cliché but I really mean it. Don’t be afraid of doing things that you have never done before, because there are so many people out there doing exactly the same (both men and women). We make mistakes daily. All you have to do is to rectify, learn and move forward without beating yourself up too much.
Click the link to read through all of the interviews in our International Women’s Day series.