Tiffany Pham on making Mogul, uniting women around globe
By Chirag Kulkarni
Jul 15, 2016 | 2:31 PM
Building a media company is an uphill battle.
But Tiffany Pham, who is only 29, is well on her way. She has the same level of vigor and hustle that other successful media founders possess.
Pham is the founder of Mogul, a website connecting women to trending content, including stories, products and jobs personalized to their interests. She started as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse and moved on to be a part of several media companies and to produce films such as "Hermit." She also was named to Forbes' 30 Under 30 list and received Cadillac's Innovator Award.
She's just getting started. She discussed with Inc. her aspirations for the platform, which is used by millions.
Q: What inspired you to start Mogul? What was the journey you undertook?
A: The inspiration behind Mogul harks back to my family and history. My family had been in media for generations, and early on, I made a promise that I would dedicate my life toward our family legacy of providing information access to the world.
I also initially learned the English language through media, as a young girl. Reflecting back on that experience, I discovered what a powerful tool media could be for learning, for change.
Thus, after graduating from Yale and Harvard Business School, I went on to hold multiple roles within media simultaneously: at CBS, within TV and radio; with the Beijing government, collaborating with the vice mayor on a new venture bridging cultural gaps between the U.S. and China; and producing feature films and documentaries highlighting social issues that needed more global awareness.
Young women around the world would read about my three roles, and as time went on, I would receive hundreds of letters--and eventually thousands of letters--per day, asking for advice. "What articles are you reading every day?" they would ask. "What videos are you watching?"
I realized then that we needed a platform whereby millions of us could exchange our insights from the ground level, where we could share our careers, our lives, our journeys. And from that exchange of information, we could gain access to knowledge from one another and become that much stronger, that much better.
Every day, I would, therefore, work on my three jobs, and then at night, at 3 a.m., I would sit down at the kitchen table and just teach myself how to code Ruby on Rails.
Ultimately, I built the first iteration of Mogul, a worldwide platform that now reaches more than 18 million women across 196 countries, enabling them to connect, share information, and access knowledge from one another.
Q: What are some key insights and guidance you can provide other entrepreneurs?
A: Talent: Collaborate for access. Find industry leaders with whom your interests might resonate, and obtain warm introductions through mutual connections. Learn what opportunities might enable you to collaborate with them in order to learn from them. Whatever task you're given, whatever partnership you agree to, ensure that you overdeliver for them. Earn their trust, and build a genuine friendship.
Technology: Establish your vision of what you would like to accomplish in 10 years, then backwards from five years to now. Whatever it is you would like to create, rapidly prototype this idea. Then, listen to others and incorporate their feedback.
Community: Be kind. Be authentic. Be generous. Stay in touch with why you wanted to start this company in the first place, why it's important for the world.
Q: How should millennial women prepare themselves for important leadership roles?
A: Early on, it's important to identify what type of leader you would like to be, in what industry, and figure out where your weak spots are. Hone your skill sets in those areas through collaborations or side projects, if your present role within an organization doesn't seem to enable you to do so.
For example, if you need more management experience, but are an associate at a company whereby managing a team is not currently possible, contact nonprofits around the city within your industry and offer your expertise for a special project for which they need volunteers; if the opportunity is available, manage the team of volunteers for this project. But remember to also ask for such opportunities at work. If you don't ask, you don't get.
Finally, always be resilient. You will hear noes--but know that they are "not right nows." Keep going until you hear a yes.
Q: How is Mogul creating a social impact on women?
A: Mogul provides women worldwide with access to information, enabling our users to realize that they can be more than what their societies say. Partnering with organizations such as the United Nations, we serve as a key agent for advancing gender equality and quality education.
Every day, women around the world write to us, telling us about the impact Mogul has had on their lives. For example, one young woman from Pakistan wrote to us saying that there, a girl's life is all about marriage. But Mogul helped her by pointing out ideas to her that she could be more than what others say. And now she's kind of a feminist, and she loves, loves, loves this Mogul.
Another woman uploaded her invention to Kickstarter and received little traction during the initial stage of fundraising. But when she posted her product onto Mogul, it became the No. 1 trending item that day, and she subsequently received incredible support and backing to fund her product. She wrote to us, saying she was in awe at Mogul for democratizing PR and giving women their voice.
A: With Mogul widely regarded as the next-generation media company for women, we aim to continue accelerating change across (1) information access, (2) economic opportunity, and (3) education.
Information access: Right now, women represent just 15 percent of the voices on op-eds and boards. Mogul is accelerating this rate by encouraging women to share their insights at the ground level, to speak up and share their voices at the earliest stages of their lives--our community enables one another, supporting courage and confidence.
Economic opportunity: Women represent just 10 to 20 percent of top leadership positions in the U.S. We must, therefore, encourage those in hiring positions to seek top talent, beyond what they may sometimes be used to or comfortable with. For this reason, Mogul enables users to post jobs and tap top female talent on our platform.
We see large companies such as Procter & Gamble and Verizon as well as top tech startups posting jobs to accelerate the rate at which women are being placed into their work forces. Otherwise, it will take until 2085 for women to reach parity with men.
Education: There are 62 million girls around the world who do not have access to an education. And with Mogul's massive reach and global scale, we are in a unique position to effect change. Thus, we now offer Mogul mentorship and courses, named one of the top areas for online mentorship and learning alongside Harvard Business School and Coursera.
We provide women a mentorship channel that they can email 24/7 with questions across life and career and from which they receive an immediate response, accompanied by 10 award-winning courses developed by experts. For every subscriber of the mentorship and courses, we provide access for free to the 62 million girls internationally in need of this invaluable resource.