Interview with Alicia Morga
Stanford, Goldman Sachs, Hummer Winblad: Alicia Morga may look like your typical success story, but don't let that fool you. This driven woman has worked her way up the ladder from extremely humble beginnings. Now, as an entrepreneur, she's figured out the difference between how to survive and how to thrive.
An Interview with Alicia Morga Founder of GottaFeeling, Consorte Media
Date: February 21, 2011
NCWIT Entrepreneurial Heroes: Interview with Alicia Morga
Lucy Sanders: Hi, this is Lucy Sanders and I'm the CEO of the National Center for Women and Information Technology or NCWIT. We've got just another great interview coming up. I can hardly wait to talk to the person we are talking to today. With me is Larry Nelson, w3w3.com. Hi, Larry.
Larry Nelson: Hi and I am so happy to be here. This is going to be an extremely interesting interview. The listeners out there, make sure that you get yourself ready to take a few notes here, too.
Lucy: Absolutely. Lee Kennedy who is founder of Bolder Search and she is also a serial entrepreneur and probably most importantly, she is on the board of directors at NCWIT. Welcome, Lee.
Lee Kennedy: Thanks and I love being here and part of NCWIT.
Larry: All right.
Lucy: Today, we are interviewing Alicia Morga who is currently the creator of gottaFeeling. This is an iPhone application that we must all go get. It basically tracks and shares your feelings. I went and look at the interface and it's just so cool. To think that all the places where I'm happy could be tracked over time and that I could learn something from that. It's just a wonderful application. But, before that, she was the founder and CEO of Consorte Media and it's a digital media in marketing company that is focused on the Hispanic market. Ultimately sold to Audience Science in April 2010. I was intrigued by Alicia's bio and I went to her site to learn more and she has the most wonderful video bio, I think I've ever seen. I really want to encourage all our listeners who want to be inspired to be entrepreneurs and to really get out there to go and listen to Alicia's video bio on her site. I know today we are going to hear some great advice. Here is my personal favorite and my husband was listening as well. Alicia, I'm ratting on you now but you said like "I do things to scare myself on a regular basis." [laughter]
Lucy: It was just great. Welcome, Alicia. We are really glad to have you here. Why don't you tell listeners what have been going on with you lately before we go on to our interview questions.
Alicia Morga: Well, thank you for having me first off. I have continued to do things that scare me. One of those is actually building a mobile application. I've never done that before. I actually didn't own an iPhone, or an iTouch and decided this is something I don't know anything about. Why don't I just jumped in and see what I can create. That is when I created the gottaFeeling application. As you said before, that's an App that helps people identify, express and manage their emotions. As you all some intend, you can track where and when you've been having those emotions. You got a better sense of what in your life is actually making you happy or not.
Lucy: See, isn't that good?
Larry: Yes, I'm happy.
Lucy: If I plot my iPhone when I'm around you and I press annoying, annoying, annoying...
Larry: Be careful, be careful, be careful, be gentle.
Lee: That's how I kind of look at it. Not when I was happy but when I was sad. [laughter]
Alicia: Just an beneficial. Serve you when you are unhappy, as well.
Lucy: And so, Alicia, why don't you tell the listeners how you first got interested in technology.
Alicia: Absolutely. It was a security's route. That was for sure. I did not grow up thinking I was going to be an entrepreneur nor anybody who knew me think I was going to be an entrepreneur. But when I look at it back now, I realized I have all the entrepreneurial traits that are usually necessary to become an entrepreneur. I was very curious and adventurous. The first time I got into technology was when I was in high school. There was a basic programming language course that I ended up taking and I built a baseball game in basic and thought wow, this was fun. You can build anything that you want in this thing called the computer. I had absolutely no concept beyond that I would use technology. But I ended up going to Stanford University and that of course, just plunked me down in the middle of Silicon Valley. I started to hear drips and drabs about technology and entrepreneurship but really didn't connect the dots until I became a corporate lawyer after law school off at Stanford University. At that point starting to work with technology companies and venture capital firms. That's when I just started to really dwell. There's this business here and this is how people here make money. I want to understand it more. I started just digging in. At that point, the Internet was more evolved and I was able to go online and see how other people were using technology and that was very inspiring.
Lucy: Well, as you look at then on the technical landscape today. Are there any technologies that you find particularly exciting?
Alicia: What was so eye opening to me about learning technology. We are not really as far long we think we are or we would hope to be. And so, the uses of technology right now are pretty basic. And so, I'm actually excited about pushing the technologies a little bit further. One of the things that I really like about this mobile application and the next company that I'm going to be starting is how do we push the technology to do more than just read newspaper accounts or play a game. But actually use it more in our everyday life. Some in extremely motivated by the quantified self movement, I don't know. You guys are familiar with that. But in essence, it is using the device, the technology device that are out there today like the mobile phone. In some cases, devices that are actually created for specific uses like Fit Fit or Nike's iPad tracker. To give you more feedback about who you are as a human being and to use the data that you produce by yourself to make better decisions and improve your life. I'm really excited about technology that is going to actually make a fundamental difference as opposed to just highlighting the symptoms.
Lucy: Gosh, I love these interviews. It's like I always learn so much from. Thanks. That's really cool. I mean I have to check that out. Alicia, you have started to talk about the characteristics of why you are an entrepreneur, you're curious and adventurous. Can you expand on that? We'd love to hear about why you are an entrepreneur and what it is that makes you tick about being an entrepreneur.
Alicia: I basically started my own company because at that time, I was working at The Carlyle Group, a private equity firm, and really... Was also at my beginning 30s, and really started to ask myself where did I really want to be in 10 years and whose path did I want to be own. I thought the task at the Carlyle Group, a very fine firm, but it was going to be a long tap and arduous one to become partner. I wasn't necessarily sure that's exactly what I wanted for myself. I started looking around. I had this friend who start his own business and that was very influential because up until that point, I've never known anybody to be an entrepreneur. Because I am a curious person, I started asking him about what his day was like and I went over to his house. We lived in the same neighborhood and he was making hotdogs. I remember in his pajamas one day. [laughs] I start wow, is this what being an entrepreneur is like? ? [laughter]
Lucy: Yeah. [laughter] Alicia: That was eye opening. But what I got out of that interaction was you get control over your destiny in a way that you don't necessarily as an employee when you are the employer, when you are somebody who has the vision and is getting the team together and pushing forward towards that vision. There is just a whole level of control that you get and also, responsibility. But that was very, very intriguing to me. I get a lot the question: Are entrepreneurs born or made? I think that is a tricky question because I think it's a little bit of both. I think there are folks who have the personality traits that will help them to be successful entrepreneurs. But they may or may not have ever been put in a context that makes it available to them, that gives them the exposure and access they might need to become an entrepreneur. And without that context, you can have some very limiting belief about what's possible for you which was definitely the case for me earlier on. It took me... I've gone into my 30s before I felt safe enough before I felt more confident in who I was as a person to actually explore entrepreneurship.
Lucy: And now, you make hotdogs in your pajamas? [laughter]
Alicia: Sadly, that's true. [laughter]
Lee: All right.
Larry: OK. That's another session, OK? [laughter]
Larry: Alicia, along the way, you've worked with so many different people. Who are some of the people that you would say supported you in your career path whether they are mentors or role models?
Alicia: When I was younger, I had a feeling this question would come up. And so, I was thinking about this. I was thinking who were my mentors when I was younger and I actually didn't have mentors. By virtue of where I grew up, I was in a socio-economic community. Most of the people I knew didn't have college degrees, didn't have any college degrees, were not in any sort of professional industry. I then had to turn to popular media basically, to provide me with a sense of what else was out there and available. I had a mind that wanted to know what else was out there. I have to say, some of my mentors are actually PBS. [laughs] I found the PBS channel, and I used to watch "Nova" religiously. Especially when I was 12, for some reason, I went through a whole "Nova" period. [laughs] I was also fortunate that there was "The Cosby Show" at the time. That was the first time I had ever seen a doctor and a lawyer who were married. Growing up popular media actually had a very huge influence on me and were my mentors, until I got much older. Then in the process of being entrepreneur, becoming one, living as one, one of my greatest mentors is a woman named Carol Robbin. She's actually a professor here at the Stanford Business School. She was my CEO coach. There came a time in my entrepreneurship experience where I felt very overwhelmed and I needed help. I was referred to her, and she has just been fabulous. She used to be fabulous in my life, but somebody who I really look to for not only how to be an entrepreneur, but also how to be as a person.
Lucy: Alicia, you've done a wonderful job describing to listeners the path you've taken as an entrepreneur. What's the toughest thing you've ever had to do?
Alicia: Hmm. [laughs] There's been a lot of tough things I've had to do. There have been tough experiences in my life. The number one toughest experience, I think, in my life, was when I graduated from high school. I had been accepted by Stanford University, but I didn't have the financial resources to make it work. I actually had to spend two years working full time and going to school at the same time, saving money in order to transfer into Stanford at the beginning of my junior year. It was the first time I was confronted with the fact or the reality that you can do everything right and it still not work out. It was a hard lesson to learn, but it only solidified my persistence muscle, which is, if you really want something, you just keep going at it and eventually you'll get there. You can't take the early signs as signs that you shouldn't be doing it. Then later in my career as an entrepreneur, I think the hardest moment was in essentially my former company at Consorte Media always had to do with people. There came a time when we had to lay off a few folks, and that was extremely difficult. Especially in a small company, when you know people well, you know exactly what's going on in their personal life. It's the last thing you want to have to do. Very, very difficult.
Lucy: That seems to be so many of the woman that we've interviewed in this series, is having to lay off someone, and having to reorganize.
Alicia: Absolutely. People are the joys, but they're also the greatest challenge, as well.
Lucy: Looking at a more positive note, if you were sitting here with us, and you were going to explain to somebody that was thinking about becoming an entrepreneur, what advice would you give them?
Alicia: That's a great question. I would first tell them to listen to their body. I know that sounds really strange, but I have found that entrepreneurs are the people who do. There's a great big mix of people who talk about doing, but entrepreneurs are the ones who actually get out of their chair, off their sofa, and start trying to make it happen. It may not happen in the way that they want it to, but they're the ones who take the first step. You have to start to notice, as you think about entrepreneurship or what you might want to do next in your life, what your body does. If you find yourself searching online in the subject area that you're interested in starting a business, that's a great sign. If you find yourself thinking about but you never actually get up to go start doing some research or asking people some questions, that's a sign that you're probably not going to end up doing it, or the time is not right for you to become an entrepreneur. Woman: So you've got to move.
Larry: Got to move. Now, I think maybe there's a little bit of a hint about that, because I want to ask you, what are the personal characteristics that you have that has given you the advantage of being an an entrepreneur?
Alicia: Absolutely. I'm a mover. As you probably also might have noted in the video, I'm a runner. [laughs] I like to run. I'm a very physical person, just first and foremost. But mentally I am what's called a quick start. There's actually a test out there that people may or may not know about that is particularly interesting. I have found it interesting in assessing who I am and what I'm good at. It's called the Kolbe Index. It tells you what your conative style is, which is how you actually go about doing things, as opposed to just thinking about things. I am somebody who just dives in, and then tries to figure it out as I go along. I tend to get in over my head and then swim my way out. I think that's actually a great trait for entrepreneurs, because it's never going to be perfect. The stars aren't going to all align and the doors are just going to open up, and there's going to be sounding angels saying, "It's ready, it's time for you to start your company!" It just never happens that way. I analogize it a lot to having a baby. There's really no good time. But those people who jump in and do it are really, at the end of the day, entrepreneurs. I think that's a really key trait.
Lucy: Absolutely it is. Alicia, in terms of balance between your personal and your professional life, you mentioned you're a runner. That certainly helps bring balance. It certainly relieves some stress. What other things do you do that help put balance into your life?
Alicia: I have to admit, during my time at Consorte Media, I was terrible at balance. I really was. When you're brand new and it's your first thing, you're just so engulfed by what you're trying to accomplish that you think about it all the time. It's really hard to set up boundaries. This time around, I'm much more aware of how necessary it is to take a break and go for a run, or see your family, or hang out with friends, or just do something completely different. Play the guitar for a while to give yourself a mental, physical, emotional break from what you're trying to do. That's basically what I do to maintain balance. I see my family. I see my friends. We talk about things that are completely unrelated to what I'm doing on the business side. That helps.
Lucy: Definitely helps.
Larry: You got it.
Lucy: Well, Alicia, your life is really interesting, and I can't wait to go watch your video. Tell us what's down the road for you. What are you excited about?
Alicia: I'm really excited about where this mobile application is taking me. I'm very excited the concept of self awareness. One of the key things that I had to learn in becoming an entrepreneur is understanding who I was, which sounds so wishy-washy or touchy-feely, but turned out to be an incredibly important thing, because you can't be a leader without understanding your weaknesses and your strengths. That means really taking the time to understand who you are. I find a lot of people really don't do that, particularly young people. You get pigeon-holed really quickly into a track. You go down that track and not enough people, I think, stop to ask themselves if they're happy. Is there something that actually is working for them? I don't think happiness is necessarily the end all, be all. It's actually quite a fleeting thing, and it sort of happens every once in a while, and that's great. But is your life or what you're doing in life really congruent with who you are so that you're getting the best out of it? To do all that, you have to go back to some basic skills that we all started to learn in kindergarten, in the first grade, when we learned how to identify our feelings and to express our feelings. But it's a skill, and it's not something that's actually practiced on a regular basis. It's not something you can learn once and then hope to have for the rest of your life. I think it's extremely important that people continue to focus in on, "Who am I, and how do I get myself to a place of peace?" To do that, I think there are ways technology can help. So while "Got a Feeling," the mobile application, is one part of what I'm trying to create. I'm working on a second part, a company that's in stealth mode, but it's called Regmeta which is actually a Portuguese word for "reflect." It will help individuals to see themselves through the information they share about themselves online, and also through their relationships with others.
Lucy: That's really interesting.
Larry: Sounds interesting. Wow. Alicia: Good.
Lucy: Yeah, it definitely does. You know, "Got a Feeling," I was just sitting here thinking of that song, "I'm Hooked on a Feeling." [laughter] [singing]
Larry: We got them going. [laughter] Lucy: Alicia, it sounds like you've just got some wonderful things that you're working on. We really do appreciate your taking time to talk to us.
Alicia: Thank you.
Lucy: Good luck with those products. We'll be watching you, and hopefully connect again in the future.
Alicia: Sounds good. Lucy: I want to remind listeners where they can find this interview, at w3w3.com, and also at mcweb.org.
Man: All right.
Lucy: Thank you, Alicia!
Alicia: Bye. [music]