Introducing Nicole Paterno, a CEO and advocate for angel and impact investing, startups, and social enterprises. With a focus on the care economy, caretech, and femtech, Nicole is a leading voice in the industry. As a Maternity Career expert, she brings a unique perspective to the table, and we can't wait to dive into her insights and learn more about her work.
1: Your work & career is very impactful in the realms of ‘fem tech’ & ‘maternity career’ - Can you tell us about your career, what you have achieved and what you found the most rewarding?
I was in the development sector for a decade. That meant working with non-profits/ NGOs and government. I badly wanted to be in research but research rejected me. Haha. It was a bit traumatising in a way and that affected other skills related to it such as writing. It took me a while to be confident again truth be told. I was able to regain it eventually. But going back, after realising that I was not fit to do research, I had to figure out and be open to another skill I could develop and be good in. Fund raising was presented as an opportunity to me. I never realised that it would bring me to tech, innovation and entrepreneurship. It was a surprise. As a child I was enterprising - selling stationeries, bags and shirts to my friends and classmates at school. Being an entrepreneur was not an option as it was not a career that was frequently spoken of nor mainstreamed. I wanted to be in the health sector. It was a nurse at first, then a dentist, and then a doctor just like my mother. It was only in high school that I learned of it but bearing witness to my late father’s failures as an entrepreneur was traumatising. It was not only me but the entire family suffered from it. So when a wise and generous donor pointed out to me that I was more entrepreneurial than anything (by this time I was already working,) I was in shock and disbelief. Fast forward to a year or two later, I found myself working in a VC firm and immersing myself in the space. I struggled at first but when I saw people more than willing and happy to teach me and expose me to the work, I began to ease into it: learning, discovering, experiencing and loving it. It upturned the past and the trauma I bore due to what my father went through. I found my way to being an entrepreneur/ founder for an angel investing network and a venture studio.
2: You have experience in Technology and innovation, with deep and insightful perspectives and experience on both investor (VC and angel) and entrepreneur (founder-problem-solution-market-business model fit) sides! Can you expand on this - what have you worked on in this sector?
I think when I began 1000 Angels, I found myself talking to a lot of entrepreneurs and investors - and I learned a lot from them in all honesty. Not just about the space that we are all located in but also about myself and the valuable skills, connections, resources that I could bring to the table. What I enjoy the most is having these “insider” talks or chats that just demystifies and makes more real the dynamics of building a business, raising funds, and networking.
3: You advocate for gender development and gender lens perspective towards female entrepreneurs and career mothers - can you tell us how and where do you see gender reform and inclusion going in the future?
My wish at some point in my life is that gender will not have to be something that causes friction. Right now it does because of biases. If without the biases, we would not have to qualify a lot of things in life - women-leadership, gender lens, gender smart, etc. We would not have gendered-terms nor have to be politically correcting ourselves all the time.
4: What startups and social enterprises are arising that you find innovative and forward thinking in their sector?
Nothing in particular as I believe that each venture - be it a startup or a social enterprise - are really called to work and solve on a problem that makes so much business sense. But to your point - I am excited about the care economy and I am glad that I am working on a venture that will put the Philippines on the care map.
5: As an Angel and Impact Investor - what do you look for in a business that would make you inclined to invest?
The entrepreneur and how s/he found a problem that spawned a business. I like those who truly understand their customers’ pain points and delve into their experience deeply that it gave them ammunition to build out their business model, product, strategy and growth.
6: What advice do you have for startups looking for investment?
Appreciate the feedback from investors. It’s going to help you refine what you have. Say yes and thank you to the ones who truly understand and support your vision. Value them. Say thank you to the ones who turned you down and get as much learning from that. They are still on your side. Know that you have control. You can walk away and find a better offer.
7: You live in Manila, Philippines - what is life like there? Would you recommend Manila to fellow female expats & digital nomads?
Manila is exciting. It is a separate region and is tagged as National Capital Region (NCR) of the Philippines. I live in one of the many cities that comprise it and the city is the largest of all the Manila cities. We are a melting pot of many influences - Malay, Chinese, Spanish and American. So many co-working spaces abound and we love to familiarise ourselves with other cultures. It is a great place for women. Female expats and digital nomads are more than welcome. You’ll be in for so many treats - sights, sounds, sites, flavours and friendships. I would highly recommend though that the digital nomads head to our beaches as working - and living - on a beach is quite idyllic.
8: What are your key tips for successful female entrepreneurship?
Know yourself - your strengths and limitations - and find complements for that. Be voracious in learning. It’s OK to say no.
9: With all your achievements and busy work life - how do you unwind, relax and take care of yourself in order to stay on top of your game as a female?
I do have my good and bad days. What helps me a lot is chatting with friends, who at the same time are from a support group, as they are privy to the details of my life and how it can affect me on a regular basis. We have regular check-ins with each other and we pray for each other. I love going to this convent (I am a Roman Catholic) near my residence with my son. It’s owned and managed by a congregation of Pink Sisters and yes, they are cloistered. It’s a very quiet and peaceful place right smack in a city but the environment seems to shield it from noises and distractions. I pray and let myself be - and I know God is there listening and accepting whatever I dump out of my system. Then I just become quiet and allow my senses to settle down.
10: Lastly, what is life like as a female CEO? What advice do you have for fellow female founders?
Life is always busy. Yes I do get exhausted but at some point, I reconciled with myself that I am a workaholic and revealing in it. That stopped me from complaining and being envious of other people who can shut off during the weekends and escape. I told myself that I would find my own pace and choice when I can do that. But when work calls, I need to respond to it. And if I love my work, it’s just easy on me. It’s a part of me and it is me. But when my body and mind tell me otherwise, I need to heed them. Then I get back to work.
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