Launching Start-ups Across the Pond: A Q&A With Courtney Boyd Myers
Courtney Boyd Myers, a.k.a. CBM, has been called “a 21st century Sherpa of intrepid international start-ups.” Or, in other words, a woman who makes things happen for early-stage ventures around the world.
After a successful period as a tech journalist for Forbes and The Next Web, she joined entrepreneurial academy General Assembly and helped to open the company’s London operation. Taking all that she learned from the New York and London start-up scenes, she’s recently taken on her next big adventure: founding and building audience.io, an “audience development studio” focused helping London and New York City start-ups grow their reach internationally.
On a recent plane ride across the Atlantic, we got the chance to catch up with CBM about her career, entrepreneurship, and the start-up scene on both sides of the pond.
audience.io is going to help NYC and London companies grow internationally. What are some challenges you hear from clients trying to grow their businesses across the pond?
Finding the right people. Whether you need a developer, an investor, a media partner, or a community manager, finding the right human beings to become a positive part of the growth of your business is difficult, particularly if you’re from a new city and no one has ever heard of you or your company. Immersing yourself in a foreign culture takes a lot of time and energy, and it’s nearly impossible to do if you’re also building and running a business.
That having been said, it’s a lot of fun to try!
How do the start-up scenes in London and New York differ in terms of female entrepreneurs? Is one more conducive to early-stage, female-led companies launching?
The first month I landed in London, everyone in the community reached out—from the advisor to the Prime Minister to a young woman who followed me on Twitter. In London, I’ve experienced men and women working to elevate women in tech with equal passion—to the extent that one very high-ranking gent in tech suggested I start employing “positive discrimination” when accepting RSVPs at my events!
Whereas in New York, I feel like the women-supporting-women vibe is much stronger. I’m part of an incredible network of women called “XX in Tech,” and while the network is international, it’s strongest in NYC, boasting hundreds of brilliant women who #kitfu [“keep it the f&@# up”] on the daily.
Who has been your greatest entrepreneurial inspiration, and who is getting it right right now?
When I close my eyes and think of who inspires me, I see a thousand faces. They are the faces that surround me both online and in real life; they are the leaders of the maker’s movement, the Internet artisans, and the digital craftspeople who are pushing the boundaries of innovation on a daily basis.
Ev Williams is getting it right right now. His digital publishing platform, Medium, is dynamite, and while I haven’t been using it as much as I should, it’s gorgeous and has elevated a new generation of writers.
Once audience.io grows, what will be your ideal company culture?
While we are barely two months old, I think about company culture constantly and value getting it right from the start because I’ve seen what happens to great companies that don’t.
We are a transatlantic team composed of young, passionate human beings who love technology, who love to write, and who understand how to create dynamic business opportunities for young companies.
Managing a global team means long hours and checking email and Skype before bed and when you wake up in the morning. But I also make time every day to go to the gym or yoga, cook healthy meals, and spend time with loved ones, and I want this integration of work and life to be a major facet of our company culture.
We just started using Honey.is at audience so we can share what we’re reading each week, what we’re listening to, and what we think of changes in the company as we grow. This past week, we had a team discussion on what to call our clients. I felt uncomfortable calling the awesome start-ups we work with “clients,” because it sounds formal and old-fashioned. We’re now calling them “Members,” which is a play on the word audience, but it’s also in line with our company vision, which is to create a network of Nylon-based [New York-London-based] technology companies.
How much time do you spend networking versus focusing on international business affairs like strategy, management, and creative?
I’ve stopped having coffees with people unless it’s directly related to growing audience.io. Instead, I host dinner parties every two weeks and invite all those awesome people who want to pick my brain or catch up out to a delicious meal. I try to attend one networking event per week that is product focused, like the “Work in Progress” evenings at Makeshift, or one event that’s educational in other ways, like a Sandbox Network event. My weekend nights are spent writing, focusing on yoga, or strategically cooking dinner and creatively drinking wine with loved ones.
At the end of the day, NYC or London?
"At the end of the day," literally speaking—when it comes to hot summer nights, serendipity, and pure energy, New York City is the greatest city in the world. But in London, it’s light until 10 PM, and when I go to sleep on the top floor of my flat in Islington, I hear the sound of raindrops and the wind between the trees. Why have one when you can have both?
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