264 MINISODE Bettina Hein: Moonshots & Motivation
Bettina Hein is a serial technology entrepreneur now remaking what we know of the web into its newer version, a decentralized 3.0 version where we own and control our own data. CEO and founder of HelloYellow, and SVOX and Pixability before, Bettina talks about what it takes for women to play bigger to launch moonshots and why, just like in childbirth, it helps not to know or understand all the challenges before you take the leap.
Melinda Wittstock: Bettina, welcome to WINGS.
Bettina Hein: Thank you for having me, Melinda.
Melinda Wittstock: I’m excited to talk with you and I’m always curious about what is inspiring you right now?
Bettina Hein: My new company is inspiring me. I am founding a company in the Web 3.0 space called HelloYellow. I just came off of a ten-year tour of duty being the CEO of a company in Boston called Pixability. We hired a new CEO for that company and I moved with my husband and my family to St. Gallen, Switzerland, from Boston. That, in itself, is quite a shift and now I’m also challenging myself with founding a new company in a space that is just emerging. I’m super excited about doing it, but obviously, as always, when I start new things, really nervous about it.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh gosh, that comes with the territory, for sure. Just very briefly, I want you to explain a little bit about Web 3.0.
Bettina Hein: Okay. The web was invented around 1991 by Tim Berners-Lee actually in Switzerland at the CERN, which is a research center that is very famous. He is now really disappointed and dismayed what has happened to the Internet. That big tech players and nation states have usurped all of the power and have really taken over our data as web users. He has started … he’s a professor at MIT, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and he has started a new project which has created a framework called Solid, and I am building a technology on top of a company on top of Solid. Solid is going to allow web users to actually take charge of their data, decide who to give access to all that data, and be able to take that access back at any time. Enabling us, as web users, to really take advantage of what the web was supposed to be. We’re, all of the people in the Solid movement, are re-decentralizing the Internet.
Melinda Wittstock: Just listening to you, I’m super inspired. This is so exciting. I love that you said at the beginning that, okay, you’re really inspired but you’re also a little bit nervous because that comes with the territory of entrepreneurship. What a wonderful segue into, what’s challenging you right now and what’s the biggest challenge about everything that’s going on with your life and your business?
Bettina Hein: Being in a new country again, that’s challenging. I lived in Switzerland for 13 years and my husband is Swiss, but now I have two kids in tow and doing all of those things. That’s a challenge, setting up a new household, getting a new bank account, all of those things, obviously that’s challenging, and at the same time founding a new company and being essentially alone with that. I don’t have co-founders yet, I have one employee, he is a master’s student here at the local university that I also graduated from, he’s very bright, but he’s 23 years old so he has to learn a lot of things. I’m teaching him and that’s all challenging, at the same time, the whole technology is so new. My talent has been, throughout my career, that I start with tech when it’s still too early. Here, I’m choosing that, to go early again, but I don’t know if this will take five years to take off, ten years, as it has taken with Pixability, will it take 15 years, I don’t really know.
I stick with stuff a lot, I just have that grit to see it through, but I would love to see something that takes off a little more quickly-
Melinda Wittstock: I am so there with you because I’ve done that with technology so many times, when you’re so early and your taking investor meetings and they’re looking at you like, “What”?
Bettina Hein: In fact, years later they come back like, “Oh, this is what you meant”.
Melinda Wittstock: Right, so because, Bettina, you’ve done this before, you know, you have credibility as a visionary, right? Because you said it was going to happen and it did happen with Pixability. One of the things you mentioned I think is really important is this grit, being able to be resilient and stay the course. Have little mini pivots within as everybody needs to do as they find their product market fit and all those kind of things, but that is so, so important to succeed as an entrepreneur.
What your top three go-to pieces of advice? I’m assuming that that’s going to be one of them.
Bettina Hein: Yes, it is. My top three are … first one is, you have to have naiveté, if you start something and you knew how hard it was going to be, you would never start. It is just every time … this is my third software company that I’m founding; the first two were pretty successful. I exited the first one for $125 million; we sold it. But still, I am starting fresh and new here, you have to be naive about it. You can’t be sort of, “Oh I’ve seen everything, been there, done that”, because the passion is just not there for it if you feel just, “uh, this is a burden, I’m doing yet the same thing again”.
The second one is, chutzpah, you have to have chutzpah. Sometimes people don’t know that word, Melinda, do you know how you could describe it?
Melinda Wittstock: Oh my goodness, when I think of that word the first word that comes to mind is daring, but it’s also resilience, it’s also just strength, it’s also just being willing to go for it, to be all in. Does that make sense, is that right, is that how you define it?
Bettina Hein: Yeah, sort of that audacity and the willingness to put yourself out there, to be fearless even though internally you’re a bit nervous and like, “This is spit and tissue paper, I don’t know”, but then just to take that deep breath and jump, not knowing if there’s a safety net there, just jumping and standing in front of people saying, “Follow me, join this company, become my co-founder, invest in my company, buy my products”, and saying that with conviction. So that’s the second one.
The third one is, as you mentioned before, it’s perseverance. It’s that grit; it’s that, getting up … every time you get knocked down, getting up again, because it happens almost every single day. You ride this entrepreneurial roller coaster and you have lots of ups and downs and on the downs you just have to tell yourself, “It’s going to be better tomorrow”, and if it’s not better tomorrow, it’ll be better the day after, you have to keep going. That doesn’t mean that you should be stubborn about what you’re doing, you do have to do the pivots that you mentioned, but that stick-with-it-ness is probably the most important ingredient to having entrepreneurial success.
Melinda Wittstock: Amen sister, I couldn’t have said it better. How can people find you, Bettina, and learn about all this amazing stuff you’re doing with your new company?
Bettina Hein: Well, first of all, I need people to actually go look at Pixability because that company is still going strong, at Pixability.com, and see if they might want to join Pixability. We have lots of jobs open and we’re growing like crazy over there. I’m still on the board. That is the first thing; take a look at that. The second thing is, if you want to follow HelloYellow, it’s still super early, but you can sign up for our mailing list and I will just keep you in the loop at helloyellow.co, so that’s C-O.
Melinda Wittstock: Wonderful. Bettina, thank you so much for putting on your wings and flying with us today!
Bettina Hein: Thank you Melinda.