Along with over 10,000 other people, I’m enormously looking forward to next week. This is my third year of attending and speaking at Web Summit – I’m a huge fan, and blown away by what Paddy, Daire, Dave and the entire team have achieved over the past four years. I recommend Web Summit to everyone I know as the vibrant, dynamic hub of an amazing community that has the power when everyone comes together to make extraordinary things happen.
It’s precisely because of that power, that I would like to see Web Summit make two even more extraordinary things happen that would make my fandom and happiness complete.
1. Diversify to win
Do you want to build a hugely successful venture with millions of engaged users and rapid growth? Do you want to sell as much product, services and advertising as you possibly can? Do you want as many people as possible talking about and recommending your brand? Then you need women.
You need women as your customers – because women buy: we are the majority of purchasers or influencers of purchase in every product sector (which also makes us the primary target for advertising). You need women as your advocates – because women share: we are the majority of users of social media, which just gives us a new way to do something we’ve been doing since the dawn of time – sharing the shit out of everything in a way that men don’t. And you need women on your team. Diversity = innovation. A closed loop of guys talking to guys about other guys will only take you so far. Double your disruption factor by fielding a team of diverse perspectives, mindsets, approaches, insights that spark off each other and explode your worldview. (That includes diversity in race and ethnicity as well as gender.)
We need a lot more women at Web Summit. More women entrepreneurs onstage, as inspiring role models for both women and men; and more women entrepreneurs offstage, in the audience, meeting and mingling with potential co-founders, collaborators, team members, investors, mentors and friends. Let’s #changetheratio, the way Courtney Stanton managed to (How I Got 50% Women Speakers at My Tech Conference), Jan Lehnart managed to (Beating the Odds – How we got 25% Women Speakers for JSConf EU 2012) and Eric Ries and Sarah Milstein managed to (Solving the Pipeline Problem). It’s a numbers game – there are more men than women in tech, so you have to put the effort into finding, encouraging and inviting – but it can absolutely be done, and I’m here to help.
2. Disrupt the biggest market of all
At Web Summit you’ll see huge excitement around disruptive, innovative startups in every possible area, except one – the one that needs it most.
This open letter I wrote to Ireland in April about why I started my venture MakeLoveNotPorn – ‘Pro-sex. Pro-porn. Pro-knowing the difference’ – applies to every country, everywhere: “Embarrassed to talk about sex and porn? Ireland, this is your wake-up call” (Cindy Gallop, The Journal)
Here’s what I’d love to see the Web Summit community do:
- Start ventures designed to change the world through sex. (I hear increasingly from young founders telling me the trail we’ve blazed with MakeLoveNotPorn has encouraged them to start up something designed to help make sex better for all of us.)
- Welcome, support and fund those entrepreneurs, and make business and tech services open and available to them on the same basis and terms as everyone else. My team and I fight a battle every day to build makelovenotporn.tv: every piece of infrastructure any other startup can take for granted – PayPal, banks, video servers, email partners – we can’t, because the small print always says, ‘No adult content’. Read more: Why America’s Outdated Morals Won’t Let Porn into Mainstream Business (Nerve)
- Establish tech incubators and accelerators for sex-related startups, or invite them into existing ones. Yes, I really do plan to start XXXCombinator one day: Make Love Not Porn founder wants to make the Y Combinator for porn (Venturebeat)
The returns are potentially huge. Yes, there’s money to be made out of sex, but there’s even more money to be made out of socially acceptable, socially shareable, socially beneficial ventures that change the world through sex.
Want to talk about #changetheratio and/or changing the world through sex? Come hit me up!
Cindy Gallop is Founder & CEO of IfWeRanTheWorld and Founder of MakeLoveNotPorn. She also consults as a brand and business innovator, working only with clients who want to change the game in their sector and looking for radical, breakthrough, innovative and transformative ways to do so. You can see Cindy speaking on the Digital Marketing stage at the Web Summit on Thursday 31 October at 11am on ‘Brands, Tech and $$$: Redesigning The Business Of Advertising’. She will also be interviewing Justin Cooke of Innovate7 at 12.25pm.