Angel Investor Joanne Wilson Talks about Have to Have and the NY scene

10/16/12Follow @jpruth

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the startup industry and saying to themselves, “We can’t build this internally. We’d love to but we can’t. It makes more sense to hire or partner with a small company that is nimble, agile, and gets what we’re doing and can build products that are going to benefit us.”

X: Are more women entrepreneurs making their mark in New York?

JW: We’re definitely seeing more women entrepreneurs. I hear this from women who make the journey back and forth across the country that they see more women in New York and it seems to be a much more friendly place for women to do business. New York is a very special place. We are the epicenter of many different industries: fashion, media, and publishing. Manufacturing is coming back to New York.

Startups [in New York] who might be interested in disrupting an industry through technology become part of that industry [they are disrupting], but also the tech industry. They sit on a very interesting fence. On one side you might be involved in the media world, but on the other side you’re involved in the tech industry. It’s not one dimensional here, which is one of the reasons the startup community is bourgeoning right now.

X: What other the factors shaping the local startup scene?

JW: It’s a combination of a lot of things that have been percolating for a long time. My husband and I are involved in the Academy for Software Engineering, which is a New York public high school that opened this year. They understand the need to teach and keep engineers in our own town. Cornell is building the school on Roosevelt Island, which is going to be a master’s program in computers and engineering. As startup companies grow, we need more tech people to be here and live in our city. The city is involved in trying to create programs for kids in high school so they know how to develop. I don’t think we’re going to have a shortage of engineers who put down roots in the city in the not-too-distant future.

X: The current renaissance of startups is sometimes described as a bubble. Any concerns that the overall momentum will slow?

JW: Post-2008, when everything fell apart, desire grew among young people to own their own lives and become entrepreneurs. It’s exciting, they understand technology. That’s across every spectrum—new media, fashion, and publishing—they’re all looking to change the way we live our lives. In regards to a bubble, I don’t think we’re going to see a cease and desist among startups and entrepreneurs and new ideas. If anything, we’ll see the price points fall. There’s been a bit of a feeding frenzy among startups. You can’t have 500 startups and then have 500 venture capitalists give them Series A money. There’s a disconnect between the two, but the hope is that maybe out of those 500 startups there will be companies that are sustainable, lifestyle businesses.

X: What drew you to Have to Have?

JW: I’m a huge fan. What’s interesting about that company is they started a business and then realized after two weeks [their original affiliate-based commerce idea] was not a business that would fly anywhere. They rolled up their sleeves, rethought their entire program with no money, bootstrapped, and then they finally launched a new product. In 10 seconds, I got it, and this was brilliant. I hope to see more businesses like that, spend time talking to them, and watch them figure out how they can grow a company that’s going to create traction and be scalable. Those are the kind of entrepreneurs I invest in.

João-Pierre S. Ruth is the editor of Xconomy New York. He can be reached at jpruth@xconomy.com and followed on Twitter @jpruth. Follow @jpruth

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