Veronika Sonsev is the CEO and Co-founder of Double Dutch Studios, a new social networking venture in New York City. She is a first-time entrepreneur with experience at both startups and large companies. She is blogging about her experience launching a new venture on 12monthstolaunch.com.
Before launching Double Dutch Studios, Veronika Sonsev worked in the Internet and mobile space for more than 12 years running business development and strategy teams at AOL and Jumptap. She has built new business lines for both companies by crafting game changing deals, launching international markets and developing new product offerings. She has an M.B.A. from Wharton and a B.A. in Economics from American University. Veronika is passionate about startups and women entrepreneurs. She co-chairs the Women in Wireless and is involved in a number of efforts to support women-led ventures.
What are you working on right now?
Our first product, inSparq, makes life simpler by helping you organize your friends around activities and conversations across all communication channels and social networks. inSparq solves many of the core problems created by large social networks in a simple, elegant way that is respectful of user privacy. It’s currently in development, but we’re looking forward to sharing it with the world before the end of the year!
3 trends that excite you?
1) Explosion of social media
Social networks give us tools to connect and communicate with more people than ever before. They also provide a democratic way of getting the word out regarding new ideas and products.
2) Open source technologies
Open source technologies make it easier than ever to start up a Web business. This means you can get to market faster with a smaller cash investment.
3) More women entrepreneurs
I’m seeing more and more women-led ventures these days (and a lot of people writing about how to get women engaged). It’s great to see this diversity in the startup community as it brings new perspective to ideation and product development.
How do you bring ideas to life?
First, I look for real-world problems to solve. Then, I think of simple, creative solutions for solving those problems using technology. Once I’ve come up with a concept, I research whether anyone else has done the same and run the idea by a few friends. If it proves valid, I begin documenting it using wireframes (an illustration of Web page layout/functionality) and use cases (a verbal explanation of how the site works). This is where the fun starts 🙂
BTW, if you want additional information on how to do wireframes, Smashing Magazine had a great post:
What is one mistake that you’ve made that our readers can learn from?
Not stepping out to be an entrepreneur earlier in life. It’s amazing to work for yourself and bring your own vision to life. It’s the most fun I’ve had in my entire career! I wish I had the courage to do it sooner.
What is one book and one tool that helps you bring ideas to life?
I tend to start out sketching the screens (or wireframes) by using OmniGraffle. I prefer it to Photoshop because they have some basic stencils for core Web page elements (e.g., drop down boxes, radial buttons, communication widgets, etc.). Plus, it’s cheaper, which is important for entrepreneurs.
What is one idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I think we need a better way to do social dating. The best connections are made through friends, but somehow the social cost of “fixing up” friends makes it difficult to execute. I was trying to solve this problem in the first version of my business. I would love it if someone figured this out!
Why did you decide to start a social networking venture?
I am very social and love connecting people. I’m always making introductions whether they are professional or personal and tend to keep in touch with large numbers of friends. In managing my own social networks, I quickly found the process to be unwieldy. I found it difficult to organize groups of friends and even harder to curate conversations. It always felt like I was talking to everyone or just a select few. This is the problem I want to solve. If you’re interested in the solving the same problem, please reach out.
Why do you think there aren’t more women entrepreneurs?
One of the main reasons we lack female entrepreneurs is that many women are hesitant to promote themselves. As women, we tend to wait for others to nominate us, promote us or suggest we speak publicly on a topic. Maybe it’s because we were told that self-promotion is boastful or arrogant when we were growing up, but for some reason women tend to self-promote less than men.
I believe this is why many women enter the professional workforce, but get stuck in middle management even though they are talented and skilled leaders. To get to upper management, you not only need experience and leadership, but you also need a large degree of self promotion and branding. Personally, this was my biggest hurdle in starting my own venture. Even though I launched businesses within companies before, it took something for me to step forward and say I can run my own. Starting my blog also was a big step.