Spirits, Startups, and $1 Billion Exits: Lessons Learned From a Non-Technical Female Founder

Past Tides
November 2, 2017 By Natalie Gomez

As part of TriTech’s workshop “Woman Owned Enterprise: A True Startup Story with Tara Hannaford,” Tara Hannaford, founder of GoTYM Inc. and VP of sales at Casamigos Tequila, discussed what it is like to be a female non-technical founder of a technology company in southern California.

Hannaford has been a sales executive in the wine and spirits industry for over ten years–helping startups launch their products to market and execute successful exits, the most recent being valued at $1 billion. Despite her immense success in sales, Hannaford explained that she faced many obstacles as a non-technical founder when investing in her dream to start her own mobile application business in the wellness industry.

In 2011, Hannaford worked with a tequila startup when she first got the idea to create GoTYM, Inc. “Mobile technology was just starting to emerge and bring convenience to people’s lives,” Hannaford said. “We were seeing all of these services transform and become convenient, so it sparked an idea that grew into GoTYM.” GoTYM is a health and wellness marketplace mobile app that connects users to personal trainers, yoga instructors, and massage therapists–while providing a business platform for those providers to operate their companies without having to take on the administrative overhead that comes with running a business independently.

In 2015, Hannaford began turning GoTYM into a real product, rather just an idea. She explained her funding path and stated that, it was more about survival and getting the company to a point where investors were willing to provide funding. Given the constraints of her available resources, Hannaford had to focus on the app’s ‘must-haves’ and leave out the ‘nice-to-have’ features to get the product successfully launched. “It’s so easy to get into the rabbit hole and listen to people telling you need this and that, but you need to decide what you’re about and feed that [instead],” Hannaford said. “Everyone is going to have an idea about how you should go to market–you’ll never get out to testing your product if you try to keep all of these ideas in mind.”

For women trying to enter the technology industry, Hannaford advised not to allow the internal negative narrative to play out because “your narrative is what gets you over the line every time.” Hannaford acknowledges that she is one of a handful of female VPs in her industry, but argues that her challenges raising funds could be because of her lack of a technical background. “I think it goes both ways,” Hannaford said. “I could be facing these challenges because of my background–I don’t know if it’s because I’m a female or not a technologist. But I know that I have also gotten into a lot of rooms with a lot of amazing CEOs and companies because I am female.”

Hannaford ended her true startup story by advising women, afraid that they won’t be taken seriously, to always be prepared with all of the answers for a meeting, and to admit when they don’t have them and to go find them. “At the end of the day, that gets me in the room and gets me respect,” Hannaford said. “You have to go in knowing your product, your target audience, and every detail you can–inside and out.”

For more information on GoTYM, visit: http://gotym.com/. The mobile app is currently only available on iOS.