Hi, could you please introduce yourself to our readers?
Hi everyone! I’m Jessica Lauretti, Founder & Principal at Laurels, a consulting practice working with executives and startups to launch new ventures. My background was initially in documentary filmmaking but I’ve since worked professionally as a musician and then later in media & tech. I’ve been featured on CNN and NYT and have spoken to audiences of thousands around the world. I’m currently writing a book on women and leadership with career advice for young people.
What are your goals?
Currently, my goals for my company are to work on projects I care about with people I love. It’s also important for me to give back — to give a chance and help bring up younger creatives in the industry. And finally, I’m working on not so much work life balance but developing a deep calmness and confidence that permeates everything I do.
Your life experience is very broad. What lessons have you learned along the way?
I’ve learned a lot over the course of my career but a few lessons that stick out are that you have to follow your interests and passions because you never know to whom or what your curiosity will lead. Also, that failure is one of the greatest achievements because usually something better and unexpected happens on the other side of it. And lastly, that things take time. Something you work on or someone you meet today could not have much relevance to your life until 10 or 20 years from now. Life is long, be kind to everyone you meet for you never know what the future will bring.
What are you working on at the moment?
Currently, I’m partnering with SoftBank Investment Advisers and WeWork Labs to develop and launch an accelerator for underrepresented founders called Emerge. You can find more information about the program here: https://techcrunch.com/2020/05/14/wework-softbank-emerge-accelerator/
What tips do you have for people looking for investment?
Investors are looking for a variety of different things in a potential startup; predominantly if you have revenue and how much. One of the smartest pieces of advice I've heard is just to forget everything else and focus on finding customers. I'd also recommend that startups really spend the time up front to be sharp on what their business model is, what their differentiated IP is and that there is a solid market place for that business. It's also really helpful to be super honest with yourself on what your strengths and interests are and to not take on too much at the start but to begin focused and profitable with a growth plan that is both manageable and accomplishable. So many founders start with a big vision, burn out quickly and then inevitably scale it all back to bare bones and build again.
Do you have a mentor or role model?
I don't have one dedicated mentor but a large network of friends and colleagues across professional level and industry. I typically like to check in with them once or twice a year for a coffee or lunch to see how they are thinking about things and pick their brain on what I'm up to. It's amazing to see how people grow and change, evolve or pivot over time and you can get a really fresh perspective and outlook by having a diverse network to tap into.
Do you mentor anyone?
I don’t mentor any one person in a dedicated way but I do a ton of other types of mentoring. I work with several incubators including TechStars, NYC Media Lab Combine and the D&AD Impact Lab. I also open my schedule every Friday for 1 on 1 mentoring sessions and I participate in Pledge 1% where I donate 1% of my company time to pro bono work. If anyone is interested in a mentoring session they can reach out to me!
What could the tech industry do to better Foster female talent?
I think there are a lot of things all industries can do to foster female talent starting with offering women equal pay for equal work and creating real work life balance for their employees so women don't have to choose between a career and a family. We also need networking and leadership programs at every level to help bridge the current gaps as well as long term educational shifts that move away from a focus on earning potential and encourages all humans to pursue their passions and follow their individual potential.
Lastly, I think the tech industry specifically needs to open up their walls to let other industries in to create multi-disciplinary teams. We've seen in recent years how pervasive tech is in our daily lives and we need all types of people -- academics, philosophers, artists and scientists -- to be apart of its continued development to ensure it accurately reflects and serves the human experience in a positive way for society.
Are there parallels between the music and tech industry?
Industries are just niche groups of people in society so there are lots of parallels even if the specifics or genres are different. I often say, I learned everything I know from starting a band. The entrepreneurial skills I learned from recording, releasing, marketing and promoting the band, have given me a vast skill set and experience that I can apply to anything I do.
The most valuable skill you can have, no matter the industry, is to be able to learn how to do new things. If you have that, you can apply it to any task or industry.
Who do you follow online?
I took a Yale course on the psychology of happiness and one of the things they said was that social media adversely affects our ability to be happy because it causes us to compulsively compare ourselves to other people. I decided at the start of 2020 to significantly decrease my time online and so have reserved it only for a few select news outlets and limited social engagements. My philosophy is, kill your idols.
What's the best way to keep up with what you are doing?
I do occasionally post updates across my socials and website but the best way to keep up is to reach out directly. I love meeting new people and keeping up with old colleagues and encourage anyone who’s interested in what I’m up to to email me.
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