The Story Exchange is devoting the month of May to mom entrepreneurs.
As a working mother with four boys – aged two to eight – Joanne Lang has always been extremely organized to manage her busy life.
But it’s been challenging and time-consuming, and her background in computer science made Lang think, there must be a better way.
“I was using LinkedIn to organize my career, Facebook to organize my friends, but there just wasn’t anything in the middle that helped me manage the things to help my life run smoothly.”
Lang, originally from England, moved to the U.S. with her husband 13 years ago to work for the software development company SAP. She joined one of their first teams developing cloud technologies, which allows information to be stored and accessed over the web.
Her job at SAP planted the seeds for an idea – a software that helps people get organized. “I knew technology could fulfill the idea, I had the background, but I think I had a fear of failure,” says Lang.
Then one day “the mother’s worst nightmare” came upon her and gave her the kick she really needed. One of her sons has asthma, and when the doctor called with news of a medical emergency, she ran out of the house with only her keys and cell phone in hand.
When she got to the ambulance, she was unable to provide a list of her son’s medications to the paramedics as it was all filed away at home. “I really felt like my son was going to die. It was a horrible experience and I felt like I was causing it… that I was a failure,” Lang says.
Luckily her son recovered, but the experience made her realize how much she really needed the secure online “family management system” that she had been dreaming about.
“I started to think: what happens if I can have this company and it’s successful? And really when you start to have a mindset like that, positive things start to happen, because there’s no fear.”
In June 2010, Lang launched AboutOne, a centralized location where families can store all kinds of information – appointments, health and school information, photos from cell phones, to-do lists – and make them accessible from anywhere.
Lang started out with a temporary website to test the market. Once she found that people were interested, she started fundraising. “I looked at [pitching investors] as if I was looking for a husband who would stay with me forever in good times and in bad.”
That strategy worked and Lang surpassed her initial goal raising $1.8 Million from major investors such as Ben Franklin, Golden Seeds and MAG, a local group in Philadelphia.
She also learned a valuable lesson: Some people will say ‘no’ and it’s not necessarily personal. “Sometimes they don’t have any money, sometimes, those people, if you keep in touch with them, they help you in six months time.”
Watch Joanne Lang talk about the importance of understanding your business idea.
AboutOne now has three offices – one in Philadelphia, one in Utah, one in Canada – and 15 employees.
And Lang’s attitude towards failure has completely changed. She now embraces it and feels like she’s not doing enough unless she’s constantly innovating. “I love the fact that I’m my own customer. I feel my own pain point and I can solve it. But even more I love when customers email us and say: ‘well [AboutOne] really helped me today … and these are my ideas for what you can do.’ And the nicest thing ever is to be able to build that.”
NOTE: Watch Joanne Lang’s revealing journey through the startup scene in the featured-length documentary Ctrl+Alt+Compete, which followed 5 entrepreneurs and their teams.
Joanne Lang shared her story with us on Your Story Exchange, a place where business owners talk about their start up experiences. Share your story and read others.