Allison founded Walc to fulfill her vision of a walkable world. Allison has been featured in myriad local, national, and international publications, including Inc., Fox 5 News, and Fast Company. Allison’s walking apps collectively won every competition it entered, hit #3 in Navigation Apps, became the #1 walking navigation app and acquired 500,000 users in a mere six months with $0 paid in marketing or PR.
As an influential person in travel, we would like to know how she as a female founder is navigating the challenges of building her business and what advice she has for other women who want take her path in the future.
What drew you into travel?
Growing up, my parents took me to Italy two summers in a row. The different culture opened my eyes to life outside of LA. After that, I moved to Boston to pursue my bachelor degree. Throughout my life, I had the chance to move across the globe from London to Washington, DC. I currently reside in New York. All my life I yearned for a travel-filled life to expand my mind by learning and listening to different stories from the people I’ve met on the road.
What is your overall travel philosophy?
I’m fascinated by the way people think and communicate with each other. Hence, I listen to as many stories as I can to understand how people live in different parts of the world.
What motivated you to become an entrepreneur?
I’ve always been entrepreneurial, working on multiple projects at the same time. I knew I wanted to start my own business one day, especially when I’m working at my previous company, Network for Good, in Washington, DC. As I walk for transportation, pleasure, and health, I couldn’t find a walking app that both helped my terrible sense of direction and gave me real-time experiences of city streets. When I realized hundreds of thousands, millions of other people had this problem too, I thought: “Nobody’s doing anything to change this! It might as well be me.”
Did you always know you wanted to go into the travel and technology industry?
For a long time, I had this idea of giving women and girls around the world exposure to each others’ stories. For example, a young girl in Asia could learn about the life of a woman in Nigeria and vice versa. They could find similarities across borders. I want to create a company that enables cross-culture learning. I didn’t think it would be in travel per se, but I knew I wanted to travel and work in technology. I love my life, but I never anticipated these worlds would meet the way they have.
What is your biggest career accomplishment?
Quitting my job and starting my own company. Hands down. My friends are inspired by that leap of faith and in turn are inspired to take leaps of their own. My greatest accomplishment is not about winning something. It’s more of the journey than the destination.
Looking back, how difficult it is to bring your ideas to life?
Entrepreneurship is a paradox; it is both amazing and rewarding yet at the same time it’s laborious and stressful. It’s incredibly challenging and yet there’s an ease to it. Prototyping is effortless, as there are many online tools that speed up the process. Growing the business is harder — finding the right people is no easy task. Bringing ideas to life with the right people is the tricky part, because people can understate and overstate their abilities. Trust your judgment and go with your gut.
What challenges do women face in the technology industry?
There are a lot of conversations about raising money from institutional investors aka venture capitalists. Only 2% of women are funded by these investors, so it is tough to raise money when you’re a woman. It’s even harder for women of color, gaining only 0.2% of funding. While it may be difficult raising money, there are ways to get around that. Build a business that makes money out of the gate, fund yourself, etc. The biggest challenge is being respected the same level as men. Female founders just wants to be treated with the same respect and dignity, which can be undercut by micro-aggressions and inappropriate male-dominated business practices.
Female founders just wants to be treated with the same respect and dignity, which can be undercut by micro-aggressions and inappropriate male-dominated business practices.
Do you have any recommendations for other women who want to start their careers? Any interview suggestions?
I went through a period where I tried to be something I’m not. I acted more masculine and wore boxy suits. It took a while to accept my femininity and womanhood. My best friend recently said of our peers, “The people who are doing the excelling the most are the ones living their most authentic selves.” That really stuck with me. Focus on being you. Nothing more. The most important thing is to have confidence. The more women focusing on their confidence instead of cutting each other down, creates a better world for us to thrive in. I coach entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs on this single piece of advice: being confident is the key to success. And when you’re not confident, fake it til you make it.
Regarding interviewing, use the company’s product before going into an interview. You’ll leave a mark, I promise. I was shocked when people met with me while never having used my product. Invest your time using the product and come to the interview with feedback. Additionally, research as much as you can about your interviewer. Check their online profiles and strategically drop in words and phrases they have use. Mimicking their verbiage creates a bond between you and the interviewer.
Do you have any recommendations for other women who want to start their own company in the tech industry?
Starting your own business is really, really hard. But, if you loved it and you’re dedicated enough, it is so gratifying. Don’t quit your job until you have enough money that will last twice the amount of time you think it will last. In the interim, build out proof points that your product is needed. That’s called validation and it will give you a good indication of whether your passion project is worth pursuing full time. Ask strangers if they like your idea. Your friends tend to skew their feedback because they want to make you feel good.
Also, talk to other women who have built businesses. If you ask for frank feedback, they’ll give it to you. I’ll happily talk to you about your dreams.
How to own your voice? In other words, how to overcome feeling like a failure when your work does not give the results you want?
I don’t like the ‘F’-failure word; I believe if you tried something you can’t fail. Maybe it won’t work out, but at least you’ve done something. Look, someone once told me, “There are many paths you can take but regardless of which you pick, you’ll make the right choice.” That made me feel grounded. I can’t make a wrong choice. That doesn’t mean I don’t make mistakes — I make them all the time! It means stress less about options. Focus on doing something. Pick a path. That way, you won’t regret it because at least you’ve tried.
Which entrepreneurial book changed your life?
I have several books that blew my mind. These books helped me understand anything that’s worth doing is hard, so hard work + persistence is a recipe of success. These include:
- Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike
- On Becoming Fearless…in Love, Work, and Life by Arianna Huffington
- Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
- The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday
- Beauty Sick: How the Cultural Obsession with Appearance Hurts Girls and Women by Renee Engeln, PhD
- You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth by Jen Sincero