Episode 52: Building and Scaling a Tech Startup Through Continuous Iteration

Hello listeners! Welcome back to a new episode of Tech Forward. This week, I’m thrilled to share my conversation with Fatima Dicko, Founder and CEO of the on demand delivery service, Jetpack. Prior to starting the company, while completing her MBA at Stanford, Fatima served as the youngest senior engineer on an upstream technology innovation team at Procter & Gamble. Today on the show, we’ll discuss her journey as an entrepreneur, some of the challenges she has faced building her business as a young woman of color, and advice she would give to other founders looking to follow in her footsteps.

Having immigrated to the United States from Mali at the age of 6, Fatima’s inquisitive nature set her down the engineering path fairly early in life. At Procter & Gamble, she was part of a team working on products 3-10 years away from going to market. While in that role, she attributes a huge confidence boost to the words of a mentor: “Great ideas happen when two old ideas come together for the first time.” When you have an idea, it may be tempting to immediately scour the internet to see if someone else has built or done something similar — but Fatima came to realize “you don’t have to be first, you just have to be different and better.” She stresses the validity of past attempts, and the value in being able to pinpoint why those attempts didn’t reach a certain level of success. From there, you can work to make something incrementally better than what came before.

The path from idea to launch was a tough one for Jetpack, mainly due to fundraising hurdles. While the value of Jetpack’s decentralized convenience network was immediately clear to college students, it was less clear to traditional VC investors. “They have to invest in you. There are so many challenges as an African American woman founder where, if pattern matching comes into play, if their implicit bias comes into play, it’s much harder to have them invest in the vision alone. So your traction needs to be there, your product needs to be there, you need a rockstar team. That ends up being an unfair burden on underrepresented founders.”

Beyond fundraising wisdom, Fatima offers a wealth of powerful advice for anyone considering becoming a founder themselves. First and foremost, she urges people to think differently about growth. “We hear about companies going from 0 users to millions of users… I think shedding more light on the trajectory of growth can help people feel more confident about their ability to [do the same].” Then, she suggests 3 questions to ask yourself before starting a company: what problem do you want to solve, are you the right person to solve that problem, and what truly makes you come alive? While those answers might lead people away from becoming founders, Fatima says they might push people towards something more suited to them — such as joining an early stage startup.

Fatima, I cannot thank you enough for coming onto the show this week to share your journey, vision, and advice with our listeners. Thank you, also, to everyone out there listening, sharing, and reviewing the show. See you next week!


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