By Kasey Quon
Lisa Falzone, 30, co-founder and CEO of Revel Systems, a point-of-sale technology company, thrives under high-pressure situations. After graduating, the former Stanford varsity swimmer realized she missed the adrenaline rush and competitive spirit and filled that void with the entrepreneurship world.
“It’s really team-oriented and you learn how to perform at a high level under high-pressure situations,” Falzone said of being an athlete.[pullquote]”Women need to be more into tech. There’s a lot of GDP missing in the United States just because women aren’t as involved as they should be.”[/pullquote]
“In entrepreneurship everyday, it gives you that adrenaline rush [like] being on that block as a swimmer. The passion I had for swimming got translated into entrepreneurship.”400
After throwing out a couple of business ideas, such as a toy company, Falzone and Revel Systems co-founder Chris Ciabarra decided to focus on the restaurant industry. After talking to local restaurant owners, they found an opportunity revolutionizing the 25-year-old and bulky point-of-sales system. Revel Systems provides retailers, such as Smoothie King and Sonos, an efficient point-of-sales system using an Apple iPad and cloud-based technology. Falzone has led Revel Systems to a $400 million valuation.
Falzone’s success is clear, and she has been named to the Forbes “30 Under 30,” Business Insider’s “30 Most Important Women Under 30 In Tech” and San Francisco Business Times “40 Under 40” lists.
The Stanford Daily: You studied history at Stanford. What’s the best advice for someone who doesn’t have a technical background and wants to enter the tech industry?
Lisa Falzone: It shouldn’t dissuade you. You always have to realize you have to learn technical skills or you have to partner with someone who is an expert in the technical field. Sales are such an important aspect of the business and finding the product market fit. The pairing of liberal arts major and computer scientist major is great to create a successful company. I think a lot of companies are unsuccessful because they’re too engineering focused and they forgot about the customer and human element.
TSD: What skills have you applied from your history major to your position as CEO of a tech company?
LF: In history, you have all of this material. If you’re in a class, you get 20 different books. It’s about finding what’s important and getting the main substance. You have to good at filtering a lot of data and what’s the most important and running a company is the same thing. You have to get good at figuring out what’s critical and focus on that and this really increases your efficiency.
TSD: Women only receive five to 10 percent of venture capital. Why do you think that is?
LF: A lot of venture capitalists are a little bit old school and they still have the mindset that women are supposed to be at home and not working. It’s a complicated issue because it definitely exists, but it’s just a matter of time before it changes. There hasn’t been a Steve Jobs as a woman. Until we have that Steve Jobs as a woman, where they can actually see someone that’s created a company from zero into a multibillion company, you’re still going to get this bias. People invest in what they’ve seen has been successful and people also invest in people who are like them and they can relate to.
TSD: How do we get women more involved?
LF: It’s all about trying. When I look back at it, all of my friends who started companies are all guys.
TSD: What made you stand out from the rest of your friends that are girls?
LF: While I certainly can’t speak on behalf of all women, I think a big differentiator for me is that I simply pushed ahead with my goals and didn’t worry about how I might be perceived. I was pretty clueless about the gender issues in technology so I didn’t really think too much about it. All my life, men were treated equal to women in school and in sports, so I didn’t think business would be any different. I think I also just had the courage to follow my dreams and the grit to meet every challenge and keep going.[pullquote]”There hasn’t been a Steve Jobs as a woman. Until we have that Steve Jobs as a woman, where they can actually see someone that’s created a company from zero into a multibillion company, you’re still going to get this bias.”[/pullquote]
TSD: Revels Systems just announced the Revels Scholars Program. It provides two young entrepreneurs with $10,000 scholarships and mentorship from you and co-founder Chris Ciabarra. What made you want to create this?
LF: Our product and company is the “American Dream in a Box.” Our vision is for people to start businesses and grow them. That is really what the scholars program is about — encouraging entrepreneurship and giving people a mentorship program opportunity where they can go to someone that’s been there and ask them questions and advice.
TSD: Can you talk about your past mentorship experience and what role it played to journey to Revel Systems?
LF: I didn’t really have a direct mentorship program, which is one of the reasons I wanted to create this: because it would’ve been super helpful for me.
TSD: What makes a good mentorship experience?
LF: It’s like treating it as a team environment. It’s more of a collaborative approach.
TSD: What is your outlook on women in tech in the future?
LF: Women need to be more into tech. There’s a lot of GDP missing in the United States just because women aren’t as involved as they should be. I think having women more involved is a win-win for everyone.
This interview has been condensed and edited.
Contact Kasey Quon at kquon ‘at’ stanford.edu.