How Cyrus Supports Female Founders

Last week, I met with Tami Reiss, a talented and enthusiastic tech product manager to hear about her new company Cyrus and their focus on women entrepreneurs. Tami is a pro on product development; she has worked at Pivotal Labs and with numerous start-ups including her own. I found it intriguing that a development firm would decide to strategically focus on women building tech products.  She said to me “something built for everyone is in fact designed for no one,” which resonated. We know that women prefer and enjoy a different on-line experience and enjoy a highly visual product. Tami also has a passionate interest in providing meaningful apprenticeship and employment opportunities for women in STEM. Please read her guest post here and sign up for her special event.
Deborah Jackson

Guest Post by Tami Reiss

Tami (1)

A month ago, we decided to launch an initiative at Cyrus Innovation to become the best software development shop in NYC for female founders to transform their ideas into great products. I had only been in charge of Cyrus Innovation for a few weeks, but I knew that we could take our talents and do something more for the tech ecosystem in our great city than just build software for the enterprise.

This initiative is in response to the dozens of stories I’ve heard from friends of mine that have attempted to venture out on their own and been blocked in so many ways. Their anecdotes mirror my own bad experiences working with outsourced developers almost a decade ago when I attempted my first startup. The delays, the invoices coming in way over budget, the buggy user interface; it was like listening to a broken record.

It was time for a change, and I was finally in a place of power to make a difference. As Chief Product Officer at Cyrus Innovation, I am able to set direction and strategy for our services, and I chose to assist the underserved community of female founders.

The response has been phenomenal and we’ve learned a lot in a short time. Primarily, we have learned about the importance of communicating why we are singling out female led organizations. Why not focus on all startups?

The answer to us is clear. As a small group (less than 15 people), we understand the importance of targeting our services. And as an organization led by a product person, we’re aware that something built for everyone is in fact designed for no one. Therefore, we’re focusing on a group where we think we can really make an impact.

What we’ve ascertained about female entrepreneurs so far let us realize we’re just the team to help out. We believe female founders have skills and values that closely align with our own. And as a former sole founder, I hope to share my past’s learnings with others and see other female founders succeed. Luckily, NYC has more female led startups than any other city, so we have many to serve!

First of all, the biggest challenge female founders face is lack of access to capital. As I and many others learn when founding a startup, friends and family money can only take you so far. We’re therefore working on relationships with New York Angels and Golden Seeds, in addition to other angel groups and VC firms that will assist the startups for whom we develop products.

More immediately, we’ve been able to drastically lower our rates for these organizations – something that could only be made possible because we’re so lean. In turn, the funds available to startups, whether from family and friends or credit cards, can be stretched as far as possible while working with developers here in NYC.

When partnering with Cyrus, female-led organizations can build one important piece of their product over the course of a week or two. From there, the organization can spend a few weeks or months validating its product and potentially getting more funding before returning to build the next set of features. Our dedication to agile is most apparent by our ability to prioritize the development needs each week and always deliver a functional product at the end of each iteration.

It may be cheaper to work with an off shore team or individual freelancers, but there is nothing like being able to stop by and chat with your team down the street. When I contracted with a team that I thought local and it turned out that the code was actually being built in Eastern Europe, I was really upset. The bait and switch of a local representative with an offshore team of freelancers is all too common. Cyrus will always provide engineers here in NYC for you to work with hands on.

In addition, being able to show off a working product, not just a prototype, makes it easier to attract money, users, and talent. Next to funding, the biggest trial all founders encounter – one which is especially challenging to new female leaders – is hiring quality developers. The engineers at Cyrus are enthusiastic to work with entrepreneurs to turn their visions into real products.  Independent of gender, we promise to treat every person and idea with respect.

When recruiting a potential new developer, they will have more confidence in the startup when they see the quality code that’s already been written. Additionally, Cyrus will be creating a program which gives the entrepreneurs the opportunity to directly hire the consultants  who crafted their code. This includes graduates of female STEM programs that we’ll be employing ourselves. Because we value transparency, these rates will be pre-negotiated with startups so that they can plan accordingly.

The last piece of the puzzle that will help female founders is connecting to role models who have war and success stories to share. In 2008, I was a sole female founder of a startup called StarTrax. Looking back on my journey, I was lacking the training and mentorship opportunities I needed to succeed.

Since then, I’ve spent the last seven years working with startups and enterprises to help them make the best decisions for product strategy. I’ve been both a freelance consultant and official Pivotal Labs product consultant. I have a huge desire to provide such training to the aspirational women Cyrus partners with and I am so glad that this is the next chapter for me. The majority of female founders are going down this road for the first time, and they can leverage my varied experience for their own growth.

Beyond working directly with me for free, Cyrus  will also be hosting a series of events to provide opportunity for all founders in the NYC community. Some topics will include attracting funding, negotiations, and legal matters. We will be partnering with other organizations to create this content and produce a vast network with which our startups can engage.

Our launch event, “10 Things Every Female Founder Should Know”, will be held on Wednesday, May 13th in NYC. We will have ten amazing women on stage sharing their stories of success and advising future entrepreneurs with lesson learned along their journey. I look forward to learning from the women on stage, in the crowd, and in our office as the many facets of our initiative take flight.

Buy your tickets here: Plum Alley subscribers can attend the event at a $10 discount the code “changetheratio”.

Tami Reiss


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