In the margins of the 71st Session of United Nations Economic and Financial Committee (Second Committee), the Division for Social Policy and Development (of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs) organized a side-event to provide stakeholders with the space to examine initiatives that have worked in youth employment and entrepreneurship and to share lessons that can be adapted and adopted by all stakeholders. On that occasion, Tiffany Pham, the 29-year-old CEO and founder of the online platform Mogul which reaches 18 million women per week, emphasized why youth entrepreneurship and the contributions of young people are essential for innovation and solving real-world problems. In the below interview, Tiffany shared her views on being a young entrepreneur and some of the challenges she faced as a young woman in the media and technology industries.
Question: As a young “tech entrepreneur”, what spearheaded your interest in this sector and how did you get started?
Tiffany Pham: Ever since I was a young girl, I would think about the ways I could positively impact the world. My family had been in media for generations, and early on, I made a promise that I would dedicate my life toward our family legacy of providing information access to the world.
After Forbes placed me on their 30 Under 30 List in 2014, I was inundated with letters from young women asking for advice. As I responded to these messages, I began to realize that providing women with a platform to share information and insights would be a powerful way to help support them. Mogul, the online platform that I started in 2014, emerged organically out of this global need.
Question: Can you share some of the challenges and barriers that you have faced as a young female entrepreneur? What advice would you give to those wishing to pursue similar careers?
Tiffany Pham: At first, Mogul’s “whole team” consisted of me working around the clock from my bedroom, designing and coding the website. However, the company grew faster and to greater heights than I envisioned – to a million users upon our launch! Thus, building the infrastructure for Mogul proved to be challenging because I had to retroactively form a world-class team to support our external growth.
As we continued Mogul’s momentum, there were many doubters and we heard a lot of ‘no’s’. However, my father taught me the importance of ‘failing forward’ from a young age. That would be the advice that I would pass on to others: as long as someone is learning and honing their skills, they are not failing so much as they are moving forward and building resilience and grit. And over time, they will realize that all those ‘no’s’ are actually ‘not-right-now’s’ that will one day turn into ‘yes’s.’
Question: As a young woman entrepreneur, can you speak to the role that gender can play in a young person’s entrepreneurship experience?
Tiffany Pham: I think that gender can play a positive role in the identification of previously neglected avenues for entrepreneurship. When I looked at the other online information-sharing platforms ahead of creating Mogul, I noticed that that market seemed to cater to male millennials (through sites like Reddit) and that even a massive information hub like Wikipedia had around 91% male editors. These observations fueled my thinking that something geared towards females was needed. Now, Mogul has developed into a platform with the potential to create a lasting impact on women worldwide.
When I was growing up, my mother and grandmother were strong influences on me and taught me the importance of being kind and generous to others, which culminated in Mogul. Now, the women from all around the world that share their insights, experiences and struggles on Mogul inspire me as well, and I try to learn all that I can from them and give back as much as possible.
Question: Can you speak to the specific skills and support needed for young business women in the male-dominated IT and media sectors?
Tiffany Pham: Through my studies and work experience to date, I learned to tackle complex problems by thinking on my feet and making strong decisions even when little information was available. In the rapidly changing media and technology sector, this ability to improvise analytically and agilely is an invaluable skill. At startups, in particular, there is a continuous need to balance different challenges and opportunities, while having to choose between the long-term strategies of the venture and its present resources.
By identifying what they want to do or build, early on, and figuring out what areas they are weaker in, young people can detect capabilities that they can improve on to optimize their efforts. They can develop skillsets in these areas through training, collaborating (such as through side projects), or by seeking a mentor or advisor to help provide guidance over time.
The lack of women in the IT and media sectors often results from the fact that there is a lack of support available for them if they want to build on their role within their organizations. This is why there should be structures in place to provide young women with ongoing backing, enabling them to accelerate at school and in the workplace. For its part, Mogul has developed solutions to resolve this issue, including by creating educational tools and resources to support women worldwide.
About Tiffany Pham:
Tiffany Pham (@tifftpham) is the Founder & CEO of Mogul, an award-winning technology platform that enables women worldwide to connect, share information, and access knowledge from each other. The platform was the winner of the 2016 Innovation & Inclusion Award, named one of the Top NYC Startups to Watch in 2015 by Entrepreneur and one of the Best Websites for Finding Top Talent in 2015 by Inc. Magazine. Tiffany was named one of Forbes “30 Under 30” in Media, Business Insider “30 Most Important Women Under 30” in Technology, and ELLE Magazine “30 Women Under 30 Who Are Changing the World”. Tiffany also produced award-winning feature films and documentaries and graduated with distinction from Yale University and Harvard Business School.