Authority Magazine Interview with our CEO
Female Founders: Maria Scott of TAINA Technology On The Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder
An Interview With Candice Georgiadis - Authority Magazine
I wish that someone had told me just how much I would have to sacrifice and, what’s even more important, that my loved ones would have to make sacrifices too. I have always been very happy to work hard but I never appreciated just how much impact this role would have on my loved ones and how much they would have to sacrifice — both in their quality of life and the emotional support that they need to give to me.
As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Maria Scott, CEO & Founder, TAINA Technology.
Maria is an experienced tax lawyer who has worked in the industry for two decades prior to launching TANA. Her personal experience of the burning pain points within regulatory compliance of financial institutions informed her decision of the market need for TAINA.
She launched TAINA to transform the burden of regulatory compliance into a competitive advantage for Financial Institutions by transforming their customers experience, eliminating risks, and reducing costs.
Maria is passionate about creating cutting-edge products and empowering diverse human potential. She speaks and writes about customer experience in RegTech as well as culture, purpose, and resilience.
Maria is a Chicago Booth MBA High Honours’ 2017, a FinTech Power List by Innovate Finance, and a mother of 2 girls.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
It is my pleasure — I am happy to be able to support your mission to promote female founders.
I am incredibly boring — the person you don’t want to sit next to at a dinner party!
Before I launched TAINA, I practiced as a tax lawyer for many years, over a decade of which was with a big financial institution.
Whilst there, I was able to see firsthand the pain points that financial institutions experience with regulatory compliance — the complexity and breadth of regulatory obligations, which are increasing across the globe, strong pressure from the regulators and boards to demonstrate robust compliance, ever-increasing costs, really poor customer experience — I could go on.
My dream was to wave a magic wand and make it all go away! I started to think seriously and realised that something so difficult and complex could not be solved based on its historical legacy and within the constraints of an institution — I would need to step outside and build a fresh solution that incorporated the collective wisdom of the industry.
As is typical with female founders, I thought that I had to learn a lot more before I could launch a business, so I went to Chicago Booth Business School to learn all the things I had little idea about at the time — how to raise money, how to think about product strategy, how to communicate my vision…. In a nutshell, that’s how TAINA came about.
Can you share the most interesting story that has happened to you since starting your company?
This has been a fascinating journey, with so many stories and lessons on resilience…
I think the most helpful one I can share with women who are considering launching their own business is this… You will often hear that what you are trying to achieve is impossible, at every stage. The truth is, with a strong and motivated team, you will absolutely get there.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I have made so many mistakes and I continue to make them every day, without a doubt. Most of them still feel painful, to be honest. Perhaps, one day, when I look back, they will seem very funny.
I think the most important one is to do with hiring and my lesson has been — it is much better, in the long run, to take longer to hire the best person you can for the role than to rush into a quick hire even if I am desperate to fill that vacancy
None of us is able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
This is so true — I really believe that, if I have achieved any success, all of it is a credit to the many people I have come across on this journey — my amazing, ever-supportive family, our team, investors, clients, and mentors.
If I have to highlight one person, it would be Joo Hee Lee. She is an amazing woman, a very sophisticated and experienced professional investor, who believed in me from day one. She was my very first investor and is incredibly bright and thoughtful. To this day, her support and advice help me through my toughest challenges.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience, what is currently holding back women from founding companies?
One important aspect of this research is that the figure of 20 percent reflects not the number of women founding companies but the percentage of venture-funded startups that have been founded by women.
In fact, as the research highlights, the number of women founding startups has increased four times, whereas the percentage of funded startups founded by women has not increased to anywhere near that extent.
What’s even worse is that the percentage of female-founded startups is dropping at the later stages of funding, which would indicate that startups founded by women have a tougher time fundraising the more progress they make! So the real issue here is funding.
I have always been incredibly blessed, probably because the investors we raise funds from tend to be deeply committed to our space and their expertise means that they can focus on the real fundamentals of the business. I can see from this research that not everyone is this lucky — we must do everything we can to address this.
Another aspect here is, of course, that fewer women than men found startups to begin with. This is tragic because women founders bring much-needed diversity of thinking — in terms of strategies and solutions — and are capable of making a huge impact in our world.
I think that the main reason for this challenge is a real lack of role models. Role models are so important; they help us believe that we too can achieve what others have achieved.
Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome these challenges?
Bringing female role models into the public eye — which is what you are doing with this series — is hugely impactful.
Individually, as female founders, we need to make more of a conscious effort to tell our stories. This often does not come naturally to us — certainly not to me!
And, as a society, we need to bust some of the myths and stereotypes out there about what makes a successful founder.
This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?
For founders, the single most important reason to go for it and establish a company is that it offers the ability to make a real, positive difference in the world and to provide solutions to frustrating pain points.
And it’s incredibly rewarding to hear happy clients talk about their experience and the difference your solution is making to their businesses and teams.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?
The most damaging and inaccurate myth out there is that there is one particular type of successful founder. In reality, successful founders come from all sorts of backgrounds, from all ages and genders — and, most definitely, not all of them are extravert!
Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder, and what type of person should perhaps seek a ‘regular’ job as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?
At a fundamental human level, we are all capable of being a founder of something meaningful.
Whether or not someone actually becomes a founder depends on several key factors, the most important of which is: Do we care about something so deeply that we would be prepared to make sacrifices and face many challenges to make it happen?
We may or may not come across this in our journey and, sometimes, we may just care about other things equally deeply, so we don’t take the plunge.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
Oh my word, there are so many.
- I wish that someone had told me just how much I would have to sacrifice and, what’s even more important, that my loved ones would have to make sacrifices too. I have always been very happy to work hard but I never appreciated just how much impact this role would have on my loved ones and how much they would have to sacrifice — both in their quality of life and the emotional support that they need to give to me.
- If only someone had told me that I would care about my business, my team, and my customers so deeply that it hurts, physically. Even a positive event can create such a strong emotion that, by the end of the day, we are absolutely worn out but still must recover and be strong again by the next morning.
- It would have been good if someone had told me that it does not get easier as the business grows; the challenges just keep evolving. At our earliest stages, our challenges may be to do with the product; as the business grows they may be to do with fundraising, geographic expansion, new business extensions — and so it goes on.
- I wish someone had told me that what makes a good CEO is very different as the business grows. We must continue to grow as people and learn new skills indefinitely — and we must do it faster than our business grows, otherwise, we will no longer be the right CEO.
- I wish someone had told me that it’s the loneliest job in the world. We must stay strong and patient for our teams because our job is to give them clarity and stability. Many things we go through cannot and must not be shared with anyone except, perhaps, a therapist (as and when we get time — for most of us, this is in a distant future!).
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
Ultimately, this is what this is all about.
I have not succeeded yet; I have so much more work to do before I can declare it a success. When I do reach this point, my dream is to take on charitable missions and I already know what they will be. Here and now, my focus must be on creating a substantial positive change in our clients’ lives, supporting our teams’ growth so that each individual feels fulfilled professionally, and encouraging more women to be founders of something meaningful.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I believe very strongly that our world could be free of fighting and deadly conflicts.
To create this world, we must have leaders and role models who are truly accepting of diverse points of view, are willing to listen, and prioritise the good of the world above their own individual egos and victories.
To get to this point, we need to eliminate the typical stereotypes of good, strong leadership and embrace truly diverse and open role models and approaches.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in business, VC funding, sports, and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
There are so many amazing people I would love to meet and learn from.
If I was to select one, I really admire Therese Tucker, the founder, and CEO of an amazing multi-billion-dollar enterprise software business.
My mission is to get TAINA to this point, so I would love to hear how Theresa did this for her awesome business.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.
Thank you for working on this important mission; it is great to be able to support it in my small way.