Surround yourself with the right resources, whether that is a place, people that can help you, or a particular technology.
Tanya Sam is a tech savvy businesswoman. Tanya is the Director of Partnerships at TechSquare Labs, a technology startup hub and venture capital fund. Since 2016, TechSquare Labs has invested in over 30 companies and those companies have raised over $300 million dollars in venture capital and generated over $100 million dollars in revenue.
Tanya is passionate about creating pathways to bring more women and minorities into business and technology.
She cofounded BuiltxWomen, a business accelerator for female entrepreneurs. She currently leads Ascend 2020, a technology startup and small business pre-accelerator for minority and female founders.
Additionally, Tanya serves on the Board of Directors for Kate’s Club, a non-profit organization that empowers children that have experienced the death of a parent or sibling. This organization and all the children they help hold a special place in her heart as she also experienced loss at an early age, losing her mother at the age of 12.
Tanya appears on the show The Real Housewives of Atlanta. Considered a break-out fan-favorite on her debut season this, @itstanyatime has many RHOA followers asking for more. Her fans love her because of her brains, fashion, ebullient personality, and tech-savvy professionalism.
Tanya lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her fiancé Dr. Paul Judge, a technology entrepreneur and investor. She was born in Toronto, Canada and her parents are from Ghana and England.
Tanya earned a Bachelor of Science in Genetics and Cell Biology from McGill University and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from The University of Toronto.
She has practiced nursing for over a decade in some of the top oncology hospitals in Toronto, New York and Atlanta including Princess Margaret Hospital, Northside Hospital, and New York Presbyterian.
She is a fashionista, an avid runner, workout queen, spin-cyclist, traveler, foodie and bibliophile.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
Working alongside a visionary serial entrepreneur like Paul Judge and then starting a company of my own, I realized that a large part of being successful is surrounding yourself with other like-minded people as well as opportunity. We built TechSquare Labs to create a startup ecosystem in Atlanta for early-stage entrepreneurs. TechSquare Labs provides a space where we can foster success by providing access to resources and knowledge. Furthermore, we work hard to foster diverse and minority tech businesses.
We have invested in over 60 companies and those companies have raised over $300 million in revenue. Atlanta is the perfect hub for TechSquare because it has a very fast-paced, growing technology system that needs a helping hand.
We invest in and help build early-stage technology startups including everything from e-commerce to marketing to cybersecurity to blockchain. As the Director of Operations and Partnerships, I have a lot of freedom to create programs and I am passionate about helping minority and female founders build businesses.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
There really is no typical day in my life right now, which makes life pretty exciting. I often say I traded the adrenaline rush of working in bone marrow transplant nursing for the startup life rush. Both are non-stop days.
On any given day I try to start my day off with a work-out of some sort. Either on my Peloton bike or I go to Fast Twitch, a HITT strength training class. Exercising regularly is key for me.
Unless I have early meetings I usually start my day off in my home office. Answering emails and running down my priority to-do list. This helps me start the day of in solitude before I go into the office at TechSquare Labs.
The rest of day is filled with calls, mentoring entrepreneurs, and just getting work done! Work for me is creating programming and content for our conferences, startup events, and accelerators. It is working on strategic development for Kate’s Club, the non-profit I serve on the Board for.
This is all interspersed with possibly filming for Real Housewives of Atlanta or attending other social events.
Productivity for me is organized chaos, so taking things one day at a time and balancing this with the big picture is what is what works.
Paul and I are partners in business, and in life so constant communication is essential. We usually have a quick strategy session at the end of each day to understand what’s happening next, and when then work back from there. Making sure everything is in a shared calendar is also essential!
How do you bring ideas to life?
People, connections and action!
At TechSquare Labs we encourage our entrepreneurs to surround themselves with the right resources, connections, and people. So many startups/business have come from being with the right people at the right time and making the right connections. This is how you take your idea from the napkin stage to implementation.
We need people to foster an idea to make it grow.
Find the right people, talk to them build a world-class team and then act on it.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I am excited about the future of voice recognition software and technology as its implementations. My fiance, Paul co-founded a voice security and authentication startup that protects large volume banks and financial institutions from fraud over the phone. To date, Pindrop has screened over 500 million calls.
This technology is becoming more and more integrated into everyone’s lives, and this is just the beginning. Voice technology isn’t just a trend; it’s a paradigm shift.
Every new startup must now begin to think about integrating voice technology to stay relevant in the future. Even if it is solely to connect their product to the Alexa app, or to use when a user is in the car, the possibility should be considered. Plus, I am not a great typer so I can’t wait to do away with keyboards entirely.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
The use of technology apps! For example I reply heavily on task management and list apps like Asana to keep myself organized. For instant communication I use Slack. I have about 14 different slack teams that I use to communicate with different companies. Lets not forget Lyft so I can email during my commute and Instacart so I don’t have to go grocery shopping ever. Those are major life-hacks!
What advice would you give your younger self?
Coding is cool. To date myself, when I was in grade 9 we were still learning to type on typewriters!! By the time I got to college I really only knew a handful of friends in computer science so I had little exposure to it. To my younger self and any young person now I would strongly recommend taking coding classes. Marc Andreessen said “Software Is Eating the World” and the ability to code will be paramount no matter what discipline you end up in.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Soca music is the best music ever! Everyone can dance to it and its so upbeat it life anyone’s mood instantly.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Ask questions when you don’t what something means, read books, and surround yourself with a community of like-minded entrepreneur, tech founders, and individuals.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Done is better than perfect!
Perfection, for a lot of people, means procrastination or contributes to action paralysis. I suffer from this big time! I try to remember this when completing tasks or projects. I feel that you can always make iterations or tweaks later, but most of the time it is more important to cross things off your list, continue with the momentum and then if it needs improving later on you can go back. Growth is about continuing to push things across the finish line.
This message is especially important for startup founders who want to get their products out there.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I think its important to fail fast but its also important to fail fast on small rapid experiments. These can prove so beneficial to ascertaining what is key to the success of your business. Too often people think of failure as binary but in reality each business should have a long list of failures that have helped to inform its correct trajectory and product market fit.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I love to read in bed, and sometimes I feel that my posture suffers from holding my book in front of my face, or I get tired and don’t want to hold my book for too long. I want someone to build a free-standing book screen or holder. It could be a digital screen, or hologram floating above my head, or a physical holder of sorts with a screen, but it also needs to follow what my eyes are doing, so it realizes when to turn the page for me. This could be viewed as laziness or potentially an idea that could help so many people who aren’t able to do this for themselves. Please can someone build this.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Best $100 was spent on a bullet train ticket from Tokyo to Kyoto to visit the famous Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine 伏見稲荷大社. Experiences and adventures are things I always cherish.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
When running multiple business ventures, everything moves so fast.
SLACK! I said earlier that my husband and I are in constant communication, well I extend that same communication to my team and the people I work with as well.
Slack is a godsend. It keeps everyone in the loop; I can have different threads for all the different groups and projects that are on the go. It keeps everyone informed in real-time. Urgent things come up emails can get lost, and people don’t necessarily have time for calls anymore and all the indirect banter that comes with it.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Hard Things About Hard Things, by Ben Horowitz. This book is pretty much the Startup bible and one of the best startup business books ever written. In my opinion, everyone who wants to develop a startup or is a startup founder MUST read this.
The book provides practical examples from Ben’s life, founding, running, investing in startups throughout his difficult path to success.
It describes the rough realities and gritty challenges that founders face on the startup journey. The startup life is not for everyone, and many people take for granted how hard it is to actually launch an app, a startup, or run a business.
What is your favorite quote?
Done is better than perfect!
Also, “suck it up Buttercup” which one would think is from my favorite movie, The Princess Bride” but its not. However, it can absolutely apply to what Princess Buttercup went through.
- Just do it! Push past doubt and go for it!
- Having a pow wow at the end of each day to discuss short and long-term strategy is one of the keys to staying on top of things.
- Read, read, read! Always take time to learn more about what you do and the world around you.
- Surround yourself with the right resources, whether that is a place (something like TechSquare), or people that can help you, or a particular technology.
- Recognize that tech or life in technology can create so many opportunities for new careers.