Heather Delaney, founder of Gallium Ventures has spent her entrepreneurial life straddling two continents and cultures while consulting for her clients. Alpha Woman’s co-founder, Leslie Andrachuk, had a chat with Heather about feminism, creating her own corporate culture and how she grew her business through treating people decently. Oh, and Heather launched the world’s first crowdfunding division of an agency years ago. so you don’t miss her top three crowdfunding tips!
HD: Yes, my mother worked in the police force at a time when women were not as prominent in the field, and my grandmother was a WASP (Women’s Airforce Service Pilots) in WWII. Back in those days women in the United States were not pilots and men were uncomfortable with them coming into the industry. For example, it wasn’t uncommon for the women to discover sugar in the gas tanks of the planes were being piloted which would then cause the engines to seize up, or cause accidents. This was their way of saying you don’t belong.
It’s interesting how, over the generations, we notice changes being made. Most recently this can be seen in the wake of the #MeToo, #TimesUp and similar feminist movements appearing around the world, which is just the tip of the iceberg. Our children and our grandchildren will grow up with even more access to opportunities than ever before thanks to the foundation our grandparents, parents and ourselves are building.
My grandmother was a very strong woman and incredibly proud of being a WASP as she was keenly aware that WASPs were a part of history unlike ever before. Whether they had only been able to fly once or if they flew thousands of hours, they knew that they were making a difference for the future.
Exactly. I think they coped by gathering together and creating a tight-knit group. They had their own area where they lived, studied and trained. But all the instructors were men of course who believed in their journey.
I’ve had quite a unique journey. I fell into PR after working at a pathology lab, and in the tech industry in Silicon Valley. It was working in PR that I realized the industry is still very old school and predictably the majority of agencies are very male heavy at the top and heavy female at the bottom. Many agencies try to modernize by buying digital or social media agencies and think they’re good to go, providing a wide range of services for their clients, but the reality is the teams are still very siloed and there is no cross pollination of strategies and training of staff. All of this means there is no new or diverse thinking within industry, which is why I created Gallium Ventures.
I’ve worked both in-house and agency side and I noticed a massive disconnect between the client needs and the agency. I feel like a lot of founders aren’t listened to, so at Gallium we decided to re-engineer the approach to work backwards, understanding what the client’s goals are long term, whether that be sales, downloads or VC investment, and decide the correct strategy for us to get that result.
We’re approached by a large number of companies every week who express interest in working with us. In order to determine if we’re the right fit, I question the founder regarding their company goals, manufacturing and development processes, timelines and what they need when, among other things. If they meet my initial criteria, I present the opportunity to the team. We then talk about who on the team likes the project, and who has experience in that area. If we like it and we’re emotionally invested – or would actually buy this product ourselves – then we will take it on. If nobody is interested in it, we decline.
Sometimes the strategy might include PR, perhaps a digital ad spend or a creative campaign. PR is typically one of the last pieces of the puzzle. Prior to diving into PR we help guide companies with product development, packaging design or funding, as examples. We make sure our clients have a solid foundation so that the PR story becomes simple to tell.
We’re still a very young business – only a year old, but the business was growing before I even really started it. When I left my previous company, I had helped and advised so many over the years that people immediately started contacting me wanting to work together. I’m very much a California hippie at heart and I believe that if you treat others the way you want to be treated everything will be okay, and was touched to discover so many enjoyed our working together that they wanted to do it all over again.
For me the culture has to have heart and I feel like the people who work for you absolutely should come first. If you take care of them they’ll take care of you. Everyone should be a piece of a larger puzzle, meaning hiring members of the team who have varied backgrounds, lifestyles and beliefs as I want to make sure we develop the people that choose to work at Gallium and they are able to not just learn from me, but the skills of their peers. That means allowing them to dip their toes into different areas of the business to give them exposure to new areas they might excel at, whether that’s PR, SEO or product development. When people are enabled to continuously learn they rise above everybody else they not only are more fulfilled but have a varied experience that sets them apart.
I did look for a mentor many years ago but since my bosses were male they thought I needed a female mentor. Admittedly I thought that was a bit odd but I went for it anyway, even though I didn’t really understand what someone’s gender had to do with mentoring someone. I was introduced to an absolutely wonderful woman. After our first meeting however, I was disappointed because she informed me she wouldn’t be able to help me beyond coaching how to balance motherhood and work as what I did was already outside her realm. I recall being so shocked that I tried to talk her into feeling confident about mentoring me.
As I’ve gotten older I’ve had the opportunity to mentor others, even though I don’t think I quite realized I was mentoring at the beginning. Over the past few of years I’ve been brought in as a mentor at Google, Blackbox and various accelerators. I love mentoring because it’s basically problem solving, which I feel is at the core of mentoring, and during your time together you can help set them down the right path. At the same time I don’t think anybody should have just one mentor, and instead you need a number of advisors from different areas of business that will give you a balanced set of helpful tools, and advise you on how to build the business to its strongest point. A Mentoring Board.
I have found there are very few women who apply for mentors and normally I’m one of maybe five mentors at the most so it goes both ways. A lot of female founders that I’ve spoken with are very passionate about what they’re doing but sometimes they’re too nervous to apply. The truth is, it never hurts to try!
I think it’s very tempting for a lot of founders to immediately rent an office space because it looks professional. The problem is you’re locked into that rent, and often it’s for 24 months. If you’re a startup, income can go up and down and it’s really difficult to get out of the lease on a property. So I advise people to start out at a shared office space. A hot desking area not only allows you to keep costs down but it’s also a great way to gain access to a whole network of other professionals. Suddenly there’s a community that you can tap into and ask questions of, or potentially hire from. Whereas, if you’re on your own in an office you might have a lot of rent to pay and also feel quite isolated.
Realizing that I need to take care of myself. Staying the course comes down to your own mental and physical well being. Whether you’re a solo founder or you’re co-founder, there’s a lot of pressure on you. Also, I tend to say yes to everything, I just soldier away and keep working. There’s a point where you have to step back and take care of yourself. There is definitely never enough time in the day but you have to make time for yourself.
I’d like to say I go for a daily run, but I don’t. My way of de-stressing is I bake. I bake any time of day or night and it’s not necessarily very good baking!
Research the best platform for your campaign. For example, there are different platforms for different business goals, such an equity vs. non-equity campaign. Research similar campaigns which were successful, what platform they used, and keep close watch on those who have similar goals to your own as you can learn a lot from how they communicated and when they launched.
Determine how you’re going to market your campaign, and prepare all your assets accordingly. Make sure you tell your story in the most compelling way possible for the audience you are targeting, but it is key to make sure you prepare your press assets, email marketing campaigns and digital ad spend with plenty of time ahead of your launch.
A lot of founders get scared before launching a Crowdfunding campaign, because crowdfunding is incredibly transparent and if they don’t meet their goal, everyone will know. The point is, if you execute #1 and #2 well, and you do the background work needed, this risk should be minimized.