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In this enlightening episode of Future Focus CXOs, we're thrilled to introduce our distinguished guest, Allyson Eman, the Chief Executive Officer at Venture Atlanta Conference. Allyson has led Venture Atlanta for 16 years. Let's explore her journey and get a glimpse of how the world of startups and venture investing works.
1:30 - It was a real challenge. There would be two women in a room of a hundred people. I'd walk in ready to promote Venture Atlanta, but no one would interact - a classic boys' club atmosphere. The landscape has changed over time, yet challenges remain for female leaders.
I fought hard to win acceptance and avoid being classified just as "the female." I went to a meeting with another woman at the time, Susan O'Dwyer. I was even prepared for a one-minute speech, which horrified me. I used to feel unaccepted and intimidated, but now I can speak confidently everywhere. It's been a true change.
3:33 - Taking on this responsibility was initially intimidating. The "fake it till you make it" mentality took over. I went forward with focus and commitment, helped by supportive advisors like Susan O'Dwyer and a superb board. It has been critical for me to surround myself with excellent people.
I served as Executive Director for 12 years, overseeing significant development. When I proposed the CEO title, there was no immediate response. I campaigned for it because it meant that my interactions with corporate partners would be taken more seriously. Economic fluctuations, COVID-19, and quick adaptations to virtual event planning have all been constant obstacles over the last 16 years. I've overcome these challenges by relying on a professional team, such as my trusty audiovisual crew, and by obtaining pricing and strategic advice.
7:21 - Growing from 20 funds in 2007 to 450 funds took time. With Venture Atlanta, we've worked hard every year to iterate and innovate. We've added new aspects year after year to keep the conference fresh and engaging. When we expanded our reach from Georgia to the entire Southeast, it was a watershed moment. Our collaboration with Market Way, a marketing consultancy, assisted us in properly positioning Venture Atlanta as an East Coast must-attend event. Silicon Valley tours and branding efforts have helped us become a destination for VC funds from throughout the country. We had over 1300 attendees in 2022, and the buzz continues to grow, with registration for the following conference already skyrocketing.
9:20 - The key takeaways from my success for any business are based on relationships. Developing solid relationships with sponsors and partners has been critical. If founders, students, or investors reach out, I'm always open to input and eager to grow.
Furthermore, my organizational support system is critical. The lady in charge of logistics, my 16-year team member, and the 28-year graphic designer - these connections enable us to do the seemingly impossible. In short, developing relationships and creating trust are critical success elements for me, both with sponsors and within the team.
12:57 - When working with female entrepreneurs, I prioritize their confidence and getting their stories and goods out there. It's about promoting activity even if everything isn't exactly in place. Throughout my 16-year tenure at the Venture Atlanta Conference, I've witnessed a variety of techniques. Some men appear overconfident, while others appear unprepared and dismissive.
I'm not an expert in fundraising or investing, but I can help you with presentation, branding, and storytelling. The significance of the logo is also considered. My marketing background provides a unique perspective.
17:25 - In a previous career, I failed miserably at managing a huge staff. Despite believing I was a fantastic boss, a 360-degree appraisal revealed that my team loathed me. I thought they were slackers and was annoyed since I insisted on timeliness and high standards. It was a low period in my life; I felt like a failure.
In retrospect, one of my team members, Hannah, eventually sought me out for a recommendation and expressed gratitude for how much she learned under my supervision. This event taught me how to handle others differently, balancing my demanding personality with empathy. While I continue to push aggressively, I attempt to better understand and respect the demands of my team.
22:04 - Yes, I believe in keeping a balanced schedule. While I am not a workaholic, I keep in touch via email and phone, but when I’m npot working I may not respond immediately. Exercise is a priority for me, and I work out regularly, even scheduling morning yoga and Pilates sessions. I've also learned how to effectively manage my time and create to-do lists for both personal and professional duties. I don't drink coffee and instead prefer water. Consistent exercise aids in the maintenance of discipline in my regimen.
Covid put us all to the test, and those who successfully shifted not only survived but thrived. It is about adjusting, taking action, and making the best of difficult conditions.
26:43 - Trust your instincts, prioritize building healthy relationships, and take a stand for yourself. Internally and externally, surround yourself with a supporting team. Remember, what you ask for is what you receive. Don't be afraid to ask for help and accept that you won't know everything. Thank you for the opportunity to share advice and insights. I'm always here to help and look forward to connecting with more people in the future.