Thank you so much for meeting with us! Can we start by hearing a little bit about your overall experience at TEDxOdenseWomen last year?
Yes, it was an incredible experience! It was my dream to be a TEDx Speaker. I have been watching TED Talks for many years and I have always found them to be educational, inspirational, and fun. I cannot believe it has only been a year since I did the TEDx talk, so many things have happened since! [It] has been incredible. TEDxOdenseWomen gave my company, Develop Diverse, and me great visibility and authority in the field.
What do you remember most about the day of the event and the event itself?
The minutes before, I think, where we had to rehearse on stage and we could see how big it was going to be. That’s when I became conscious of what was happening and that it was not just a dream or not just something that I would eventually get to, but I was actually there in the moment. I could feel it.
What do you hope that the audience learned from your talk?
I hope that they learned that there actually are biases in language, that inclusive language is not something that we should take for granted. I wanted to show the audience that there is still a problem today in the way we talk. How and which words we use will affect the feeling of belonging or the appeal to being in a company or in a place. I wanted to show them the power language has. This is something that is not only a single-person issue, but actually statistically happening to many people, especially women.
This year’s theme is Bold and Brilliant and I wondered if you could tell any bold and brilliant personal stories about you as a woman in the workforce and in Denmark?
I don’t like the word bold but I understand why we use it here, because both “Bold” and “Brilliant” would generally be considered male biased words. However, one of my boldest moves was when I wanted to create Develop Diverse and I decided to quit my job in the biomedicine field—a career I had been dedicated to since university, including a PhD, and seven years of professional experience. This meant no salary for two years and only living from my own savings while I had no proof that it would work out. I had never built my own company before, so it was really a leap into the unknown, you could say, but I was willing to try. I organized my thoughts, and I accepted the potential consequences of making this jump. I am very proud of it, and I am so happy I made this decision! Even though it has been very tough, and I have been very close to giving up, I have never regretted this once.
Sounds super bold! And it turned out brilliantly! Could share a little bit about what you have been up to since we last saw you?
Many things have happened since then! We launched our product and got our first two customers in January, so this was a big “Wow!” moment, but we still did not have enough money to sustain ourselves. We applied for several funds, and we got great funding from Innovations Fund Denmark, then a private investor joined us, as well. This implied that we had to move to Oslo for three months to join an accelerator program. A few months later, we received a second public fund, also from the Innovations Fund, and we started focusing on sales again. We were trying to understand how to best present our solution to our customers, because no matter how great a product is, it doesn’t speak for itself. And then, two months ago, we cracked the story and suddenly we got new customers! We got big companies, among others, we have TDC, Assa Abloy, and Danske Bank on board! Things are looking good and exciting, we have a four-person team working full-time and two part-time people, we have good traction, and we are in discussion with new investors. We look forward to seeing how the coming months are going to evolve.
Would you say that giving the TEDx talk has been like a stamp of approval in that process maybe?
Both a stamp of approval and a learning process! I had been giving talks in my previous job when I was presenting results and giving conference talks, but this was always in the field of biomedicine. Presenting at TEDx was totally different, there I had to learn storytelling and bring emotions through my words to the audience. It was hard at first but it was powerful once I got the right words and story together. Now, I try to bring it into all my talks—especially in front of investors. So you could say TEDx gave me this stamp of approval. I was not known yet within the field of diversity and inclusion or gender balance. Therefore, having the possibility to present my own research and novel idea, resulting in Develop Diverse, allowed me to publicly show my strengths, expertise, and potential in these fields to a big audience.
What is next for you and for your company then? Are you still applying for funds and what is going to be the next thing?
We are always fundraising. The next step is to develop the software tool (our DD-scan) further. We want to help companies build a sustainable and inclusive culture through inclusive communication, and for that, we need our software tool to work for every single text that is used in the employee lifecycle: from talent attraction to talent recruitment, employee development, employee retention. Everything from external to internal communication. We also aim to expand the team. Those are the main goals we hope to achieve over the next year.
I have one last question and that is, do you have any advice for the speakers this year?
Focus on your story as a whole and embrace the chance and the experience… Just own it, own the stage, own the talk, own your story, and enjoy!
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I love the idea of having TEDxWomen. It is a powerful way of making women’s strengths visible. In particular, this year’s Bold & Brilliant-themed TEDx. Here, you have selected women who are doing work which is non-stereotypical for their gender. We tend to expect people to hold specific jobs according to the gender stereotypes in our society, and therefore, I am glad you have selected women working in fields such as crypto-currency, which today is still a field where women are underrepresented. Increasing the visibility of these women will enable us to generate new role models and thus get more women interested in entering those fields. So, thank you very much for your great work empowering women!
Watch Jenifer’s talk at TEDxOdenseWomen 2018 here