Hi, could you introduce yourself?
Hi! My name is Julia Enthoven, and I’m the cofounder and CEO of Kapwing. Kapwing is an online image and video editing website and a Series A startup based in San Francisco. My cofounder, Eric, and I started Kapwing about 2.5 years ago, in October 2017.
How did you get into your current field?
I originally got interested in tech through education policy. I’ve always cared a lot about how you increase access to educational opportunities and found during my undergraduate studies that technology is an important piece of education reform. I ended up studying math and computer science at Stanford and fell in love with product design. I loved building products that could make people’s lives easier and automate away tedious tasks.
After college, I went to work at Google as an Associate Product Manager. I loved getting the opportunity to work on one of the world’s most popular products, but also found myself craving a faster, smaller environment where I could have more ownership over my work. Eric and I worked together for two years at Google, and in 2017 we decided to make the leap and try building Kapwing, a simple, modern product that makes digital storytelling, entertainment, and education more accessible.
What are your goals?
My goal is to continue growing and developing as a leader while building a meaningful culture and impactful product. I love being an entrepreneur and now CEO because I’m constantly being challenged and at the bottom of a new growth curve.
Do you have a mentor?
My closest mentors are my peers, the entrepreneurs who are one step ahead of me in the company building process. Dylan Field at Figma is a good friend and role model of mine; the DownDog founders, Ben Simon and Carlos Ormachea, have done so much to help and look out for us. Our investors - Saar Gur at CRV, Chris Fong of the Xoogler Syndicate, Nikhil Basu Trivedi at Shasta, and Erik Torrenberg at Village Global, for example - also do a lot to support and advise me.
Do you mentor anyone?
I mentor my friends who are considering a transition from a big company to starting their own company. I struggled and had a lot of anxiety when I left Google, and I can empathize with people going through those first few lonely months of a startup when you’re building something from scratch and you’re not sure if it’s going to work.
What tips would you give to someone wanting to break into tech?
My advice would be different for “big tech” and for small tech startups like mine. With big tech companies, the first tip is to apply! Go through open job roles and drop your name in the hat, even if you worry that you might be underqualified.
Tech startups, alternatively, care more about initiative and enthusiasm. Reach out to the founders and follow up if they don’t respond to let them know you’re persistent! Also, unlike the services or media industry, tech is all about creating something new, so the best way to get into a tech startup is to show that you can create. Make a podcast, website, Instagram account, newsletter, or product about you or something you’re passionate about. These artifacts show that you can execute independently and showcases your skills.
And of course, Kapwing is hiring! Please reach out to me over email or Twitter if you want to chat about an open role.
What could the big tech companies do better to foster female talent?
My advice would be to be aware of the organic social communities that form within your company. Everyone wants to belong at work, feel respected and even loved. Nurturing networks, communities, events, and relationships that are inclusive to women can really help someone that feels isolated or alienated at work. For example, we’ve hosted Women in Tech dinners at our office. I think Universities can follow similar advice; I’ve written a blog post on this topic.
How to create a good startup culture?
The first few hires are really important; they will set the tone for the future of the company. Founders need to hire the talented people who take initiative and who deeply care about each other and about healthy office culture. It took us a long time (months) to make our first hire, but I’m now very grateful that we were patient. These people have shaped our interview process, referred candidates, and set a lot of our initial processes and documentation, so they have affected our culture a lot.
I try to remember that work is all about the people. We celebrate birthdays, have team offsites and happy hours, and look out for each other outside of work too. We also maintain a behind-the-scenes Instagram account to document fun times together. It’s been a challenge to keep this up while everyone is working remotely, but we’re trying our best to bring a personal touch to our Slack channels and communications.
Who do you follow? What blogs do you read?
I love to follow great creators on social media and spend time watching/listening to content made by the Kapwing community. I also follow HackerNews, listen to the NYT Daily podcast, and check in regularly on Product Hunt. I’m also part of several Slack communities - Xooglers, Femstreet, etc - that I check in on most days since starting Kapwing, I’m also active on Twitter and follow updates there.
Any book recommendations?
I highly recommend Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth. This book was a great overview of possible growth strategies and gave me lots of ideas for how we could uplevel our early traction. I also think Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In is an amazing, empowering book for anyone in tech (not just women!). We have a library of books at our office that includes my other recommendations: Zero to One, The Design of Everyday Things, and Nudge, to name a few
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