Individuals and businesses have multiple social media accounts to stay attuned to family, friends and business contacts. The KeepUp application provides a convenient way to manage all of them from a single news feed, which really saves a ton of time and eliminates the hassle of platform hopping. Management of social media accounts is simplified with the innovation of this app engineered by Lauren Washington, CEO and co-founder of KeepUp. The application allows you to keep abreast of trending items, events and news, as well as making responses right there and then. This has wide application to personal and professional spheres. Learn how Lauren was able to make this breakthrough and about the qualities and strategies she made use of to make her business the success it is today.
What did you eat for breakfast?
I almost always just have a piece of toast and coffee every morning. I’m not really a morning person, so simplifying my choices makes it go a lot smoother.
What’s your workout?
Because I’m busy, I really like to integrate my workouts into my day. I’ll walk or bike most of my errands, take the stairs, etc. I used to be pretty hardcore about working out, but I find that I actually enjoy this method a lot more.
Tell us about your work. What inspired you to start your business? Where did you start and where are you now?
I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur. Since I was 11, my career dreams always ended with me owning my own business, so this is truly surreal for me that I get to do this every day. The inspiration comes from wanting to create something from nothing, to build a solution that’s bigger than myself and will positively impact others.
I started with research and planning, which was literally what I did in my last job. I looked into whether or not my idea existed and who my competitors might be. Then I just jumped right in: built out the wireframes, thought through the business model, priced out developers so I could get an MVP out quickly. I think a lot of people tend to overthink what starting a business entails, but what truly makes someone an entrepreneur is the ability to take action on an idea.
What do you see for your future?
I hope to make an impact on the larger startup and VC industry. While being an entrepreneur is fulfilling, there is still a proliferation of bias and barriers that women, particularly of color, have to overcome to succeed. I co-founded Black Women Talk Tech with that in mind, and hope to be a part of the solution to bringing greater opportunity to the space.
How large is your business? How many employees do you have?
We are truly a startup. We have 2 full-time employees, but a number of incredible contractors, advisors and interns who are integral to building the business.
Tell us a success story about funding your business.
Our greatest funding story was when we won the 43North competition back in 2014 and with it, $250,000. It was such a great feeling to be recognized for our work and given the opportunity to build out a business.
What do you see as challenges for you and your business? What are some opportunities?
A challenge for our business is making sure we stay on top of all the different social sites. While our apps may look simple from the frontend, it takes a lot of coordination and oversight to make sure we’re complying with each social site.
The greatest opportunity for us is in machine learning. We just started integrating it and it truly has the power to make our business completely automated while also increasing our accuracy.
Tell us a story about a success in your business or a mistake you overcame?
We have overcome so many mistakes from technical to hiring to strategy, so it’s hard to choose one! I think that’s part of being an entrepreneur. You’re never going to be perfect at something you’ve never done before. To me, the only true failure is not learning from your mistakes.
What do you love about being an entrepreneur?
I love the freedom, the ability to create something from nothing and the constant challenge. These were all things I couldn’t get in my corporate jobs.
What about your business matters most deeply to you? How does it engage your values?
The thing that matters most to me is the impact it makes on others, whether that’s our customers, people who work for or with us or the general startup landscape. I’ve been given such an incredible opportunity and I don’t take lightly what that means.
What would you say is your “entrepreneurial superpower?”
My entrepreneurial superpower is resourcefulness. I will always find a solution, no matter how daunting or impossible it seems.
Who is the entrepreneur you admire most right now? Why does s/he inspire you?
The entrepreneur I admire most is Jessica O. Matthews of Uncharted Play. She has not only found success with a company that brings real social change, but also pays it forward. She understands what it means to be a woman of color in technology and has inspired me to keep pushing.
What’s the best and the worst thing about being an entrepreneur, as a woman?
The best thing and worst thing, at least in the tech world, are one in the same. Because we don’t have a lot of models to point to (like the white male college dropout in a hoodie) we can create our own ideas of what leadership and success looks like. On the flip side, we have few people to point to and say, she’s been where I want to go.
Do you think male entrepreneurs are “different” from female entrepreneurs, and if so, how? If not, why not?
Of course they’re different, though I think a lot of it has to do more with societal expectations than what we’re really made up of. Are women allowed to be aggressive, angry, bossy, boastful, etc in the same ways men are? The reaction to what we do throughout our whole lives means we approach business and life differently.
What the best advice you ever got, and from whom?
Something I always repeat to myself, especially when things are challenging is, “Everything will be alright in the end and if it’s not alright, it’s not the end.” Pretty sure my mom said this to me and it’s true!
Connect with Lauren on LinkedIn and Facebook.
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