Techstars Includes Diverse LEADers is our series highlighting diverse members of the Techstars Network. Techstars is committed to having a meta-impact on diversity in the tech space by encouraging a new generation of entrepreneurs to build inclusive companies from the very start, because we know diverse teams perform better and we believe inclusive companies will create a better future.
Today, meet Camilla Olson.
Camilla Olson in her own words:
Born in Alaska, Camilla is an inventor and holds two U.S. patents, with two more in process. She is a serial entrepreneur and was a venture capitalist. She founded two big data predictive modeling companies in the pharma industry: one had its IPO and the other was acquired for $95M a year after founding. Camilla returned to graduate school to learn design and her first fashion collection was selected to be shown in Lincoln Center as part of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week. Her designs have been seen on the red carpet of the Academy Awards, at the Met Gala, and at the White House. In 2011, she received the Distinguished Alumna Award from the University of Maryland and Honorable Mention as “Best Second Act Reinvention” on the website SecondAct.com. She was a TEDx speaker in January 2016.
Camilla’s current company, Savitude, uses mobile commerce and hyper-personalized technology to enable shoppers to find body-positive clothing and beauty products that build retailer loyalty. Savitude has been listed in Forbes as one of 60 Women-Led Startups That Are Shaking Up Tech Across The Globe, in the top 12 of Project Entrepreneur 2017, on the stage of Techcrunch Disrupt Battlefield NY 2017, and was selected to participate in the Techstars Retail Accelerator in partnership with Target in 2017.
Specialties: Lateral thinking. Business development and strategy. Inspiration driven visual research, textile manipulation. Creative processes.
How Camilla LEADs:
- There isn’t a rule book. Do it until it feels wrong.
- Stop wondering what everyone else is thinking. They are too busy thinking about themselves.
Four teachers made all the difference in my life. My home room teacher in high school saved me when my family was figuratively “blown up.” A dance teacher at U of MD opened my eyes to the arts. We later re-met when we were chaperone parents on a field trip for our high school children.
More recently, two professors in my MFA program were instrumental. In design class, we had public critiques of each assignment. I saw how exceptionally talented my classmates were, and how young. I felt so out of place and hopeless. My professor took me in the hall and shook me, telling me that I did belong there. She explained where and how I had talent.
One last professor, Sara, twice instructed me. Now she is head of education at CFDA and continues to encourage me and Savitude.
Work harder, work longer, and don’t give up. Assess early and often. Pivot until you figure it out. It is the last one standing who wins. You cannot win if you quit.
I am driven by curiosity. I notice a problem at a high level and then find the solution through a lateral thinking process. From there on, I am driven to “peel the onion” to understand how to bring my solution to market: how to form the right company and make this actually happen. I literally can see the success; failure just isn’t an option.
What makes you YOU?
Trauma and drama in one’s life can imprint many different ways on people’s lives. For me, I spent most of my childhood fantasizing about fixing what was wrong in my world. Having “fixed” family issues, in my mind, I moved on to other problems and began inventing. I desperately wanted water fountains at each desk in school. This led me to “design” individual “toilets” in each desk as well. It is easy to see how I was the originator of six companies. Now not a day goes by that I don’t make a suggestion to someone, who may or may not want the suggestion. 😉