Hi there. My name is Jackie. I’m 26 years old, Cuban-Colombian-American. I was born in Miami, but have lived all over the world. I was a teacher in Teach For America out of the lovely state of Colorado I now call home. I worked in politics after that as an oppositional researcher with Leadership for Educational Equity. But for the last year and a half I have been the CEO of a personal safety startup called Revolar, a passion project I started working on four years ago.
The idea for Revolar was born after my sister was assaulted. I couldn’t help but ask myself, what if? There was no time for her to use her phone, but what if there had been a button she could have pressed to send for help? That question kept echoing through my head, until I convinced my co-founder Andrea to work on the idea with me. At the time, we had no hardware experience, no engineers and no money. But that didn’t matter. We had purpose, passion and persistence. Today, our team has launched that button, for my sister and for loved ones everywhere.
Sometimes I find I barely know what to feel as there are so many thoughts racing through my mind at the same time. There’s excitement of course, touches of disbelief as I never knew that standing up for my sister and others would lead me down this path, and more than a little trepidation as I realize how much harder this journey will become.
That’s the catch. When you start you don’t know anything so everything seems possible. My co-founder Andrea and I called this naïve confidence. We thought, “We’re smart, we can figure this out, how hard can it be?” Then you actually start living it and gain a much deeper appreciation for the level of complexity and endurance required to build a big, awesome company.
That’s the thing about being a startup CEO. No matter what milestone you hit, you can barely catch your breath to enjoy it because you have your eye on the big vision. I’m one foot in the present and one foot somewhere in the future all the time and sometimes I have to take steps backwards before I can start moving forward again. I’ve made great calls that changed the game for our company. I’ve also made mistakes and had to own them.
When my team faces obstacles, I think back at the milestones we’ve hit, each of which came with a unique set of challenges we had to overcome to get to this point. We got a patent, built a rockstar team, went through Techstars twice, ran a successful Kickstarter, received funding from the Foundry Group, executed like crazy and got our product from prototype to full nationwide retail launch in 8 months. All of this combined we accomplished in 18 months.
Today my days are filled with conversations about financials, product roadmaps, partner relationships, go-to-market strategy, brand building, hiring plans, you name it. I’ve learned that I’m the foremost expert in my business, and it’s on me to be fluent in our strategic plans so I can clearly communicate them to investors.
I was taught that a CEO’s job is 3 things:
- Setting the vision and culture
- Building and attracting an incredible team
- Making sure the business doesn’t run out of money
But as a first-time CEO who is non-technical, didn’t go to business school and isn’t always sure how I got here, this is what I’ve come to know about myself- I’m really just an overall nerd at heart who loves data, patterns, learning and people, and I have a mission I will never give up on.
Thinking about what it’s taken to get here brings me back to all the moments I really love. Sitting with Andrea on our couch spending hours whiteboarding in our pajamas and eating ramen while trying to figure out how to get this thing off the ground and pay our next month’s rent. Hearing my mentors laugh as we practiced negotiation conversations or investor conversations, because yes that is a coachable skill but super awkward to practice. Getting a total rockstar to join our team after we had been wooing them for what felt like forever. I’m blessed that our journey has resulted in so many incredible, authentic relationships that have shaped me.
And I’ll never forget the moments that made us. Turning down offers people thought we weren’t smart enough to realize were one-sided. Being told by unkind investors to hire a CEO people would take seriously or not to pull the gender card when I told them I had a unique perspective on the issue we were trying to solve. Even worse, being told by investors I respected and wanted to work with “no” because at the end of the day they didn’t understand the market we’re trying to serve because it is nothing they’ve ever experienced. Then, I have to do everything in my power to prove them wrong. In the meantime, I’ll show all the naysayers kindness and be eternally grateful for those who share in our vision.
Thanks to Forbes, I’ll now be sharing with you the good and the bad as the future of Revolar unfolds. I’ll be writing about everything we’ve learned to date, from failures and successes to some nitty gritty takeaways. I hope that it helps you. In the meantime, if you have any questions or suggestions or want to hear more on a topic feel free to reach out on Twitter @jackie_ros.