“Entrepreneurship Demands Dedication and Effort” – Silvina Moschini, Miss Internet

There has been a lot of talk about Miss Universe, so we decided to get a better understanding of the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Miami, the location of the competition. Although we were unable to cover the coronation, we did get to spend a week with our co-workers from The Miami Lab.

While there, we had the opportunity to meet with Silvina Moschini, a businesswoman and serial entrepreneur from Argentina, who is known as @MissInternet on social networks. She is the Founder of Intuic, President of TransparentBusiness and KMGi Group, and creator of Yandiki – Creative Talent in the Cloud.

In addition to being an online trends analyst for media outlets such as CNN en Español, NTN 24, and columnist for La Vanguardia, Infobae, Revista CIO América Latina and the Miami Herald, she is a tech enthusiast and perfect representative for trends and technology.

She shared her story with us, and spoke about what is required of an entrepreneur to take on the challenge of learning and continue pursuing success, as we enjoyed a coffee near Wynwood – along with her dog, a Yorkie named “John John”.

Silvina has been an active promoter of female entrepreneurship, and an amazing businesswoman. She began as an expert in marketing and online visibility, founding Intuic, which expanded its operations to New York, Miami, Mexico, Buenos Aires, Barcelona and London. This venture led her to develop her online career. When the Internet boom began in the ‘90s, the number of women with experience in this area was limited, and Silvana belonged to that group, receiving the pseudonym “Miss Internet” due to her perseverance and expertise.

RM: How did your career path lead you to become an entrepreneur?

I work in Social Communications. I studied in Argentina and received a degree in Public Relations. In 1997, I earned a Master’s in Communications, with a focus on risk-assessment communications at the University of Houston.

During that period I was working at a Chemical company, and planned to specialize in that area, which involves crisis management, environmental problems, and others. Later, I was hired by Compaq They offered me a position managing the Latin American Communications and Public Relations department. So, I had people from 28 countries reporting to me, it was my first important role, and I was terrified! It turned out to be a very interesting and rewarding experience. Later on, I received an Executive MBA in Marketing from the University of New York, and a Master’s in Communications and Social Media in Milan.

The idea of relocating to the U.S. was an easy choice. When a person is born in such a distant country as Argentina, they experience a sort of ‘near-sightedness’ – they can’t see what’s in the distance. And that ignorance can cause you to become arrogant – that wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted ‘my’ world to be ‘the’ world, not the four streets which surround my block.

Through a great deal of sacrifice I came here to study, despite many people telling me I was crazy, because at 23 years old, I was the Public Relations Manager at a large chemical company, Imperial Chemical Industries. I had the job that any communications graduate would have dreamed of. However, I knew that my position was fixed there – I had no room to grow. I decided to come to the U.S. in order to broaden my horizons.

You could say it was a step backward in order to take a leap forward, even though I knew it wouldn’t be easy, that I would have to adapt, learn to work in a foreign language, and learn how manage completely on my own.

Sometimes people don’t realize that when you have a job and are earning money, everything is a bit easier. But, when you are studying and trying to make a living, it’s a challenge. Before you could pick up the phone and say “Mom, I need…”. But as a working student, to manage your life you must do laundry. If you’re hungry you have to go to the supermarket for groceries – and obtain the money to do so. It was difficult, it is difficult. But, it can be done.

I worked in large companies for a long time. I was the Communications Manager for Latin America at Compaq. After a year, they promoted me to the role of International Director of Public Relations and Internet. I managed all markets outside the U.S. – Eastern Europe, Asia / Pacific, Central Europe, and Latin America; incredible places, and I had never planned on having the opportunity to do it. During that time, I was also presented with the opportunity to join the management team of a company considered to be one of Latin America’s most successful, based on its amount of sales (USD $785 million, Patagon.com, the internet aspect of Santander Group), since I was already working with Internet strategies by 1999 or 2000 – when it was still in its early stages.

At that time, they invited me to join their management team, a Vice President of Corporate Communications, to make the company more well-known and achieve its short-term goal, which was to sell the company to an important, strategic partner like Banco Santander (Santander Bank). After that, I worked for Visa International, where I was Vice President of Corporate Communications, and in charge of Public Relations Strategy, focused toward strategically positioning the brand to achieve a better overall value. I cried on a daily basis. I was 27 years old and I was completely weighed down by internal politics. Nobody wanted to work, everyone blamed others for the lack of efficiency, and spoke badly of each other. That’s something that has always bothered me. Gossip is not my thing – I feel that it’s a mental limitation, and a terrible waste of time to live talking about others.

I looked for and designed internet projects, and this made some people in the organization have to work a bit harder, and they weren’t liking it. At one point they told me, “You are proposing too many projects, just one or two is enough”. It was then that I understood that I had leave. I felt that my best qualities – my productivity, my ambition, my passion for ideas, and of creating change – were my worst enemies there.

It was a difficult decision to make, because the pay was great, my work visa was dependent on this, which left me in a tough spot, and I left. I quit, because I decided to become an entrepreneur. I created my first company in 2003 – Intuic – which is currently managed by a partner of mine. Among its clients are Twitter, Google, Facebook, MasterCard, and other large enterprises. Intuic specializes in Online Visibility.

At the time it was what I wanted to do, a time when the term Social Media was not in common use. I spoke of dialogue, about reputation and image, forums and online presence, and about how Google was a window to the world into their identity and image as a business, and why they should take charge of their online image and presence.

I later started a company called WikiExperts, which creates visibility in Wikipedia, because it is an extremely important factor in the formation of the identity and online reputation of a business or brand. Due to its high level of credibility, if your company is listed in Wikipedia, it will rank between 1st and 5th in organic Google Search results. But not just any company can be listed in Wikipedia. Because it is an encyclopedia, what we do at WikiExperts is determine how to gain recognition from writers who collaborate with Wiki, but with a commercial angle. It’s not about making your business or site more visually pleasing, but rather making history.

Later, I moved to Verona, Italy. We had to overcome the challenge of managing our workforce, which was spread throughout many countries, while taking the economic crisis in the U.S. into account. The dynamics of work were changing as well – it was no longer necessary to have staff members seated at a desk in the office, and the freelance work style was quickly gaining momentum. It was now possible to hire workers short-term, on a project basis, or according to specialization – all made more simple by the internet.

To meet this need, my husband (Alex Konanykhin, nuclear scientist and founder of the Russian Exchange Bank) and I developed TransparentBusiness.com, an enterprise which facilitates remote work and helps businesses and entrepreneurs keep up with the activities of the people they collaborate with in different parts of the world. Since it is digitally based and everything is done online, you simply select the project you are working on at that moment, the system connects you with your manager, and then generates screen captures which are used to keep a record, suggest improvements, schedule videoconferences, provide feedback, aid in collaborative projects – truly a “board” in the cloud. With this platform I was able to increase my team’s productivity by 40%, and offer transparency of our procedures to clients.

We created a second version, so that entrepreneurs from all over the world would be able to use it at no cost, and know what each of their collaborators in any part of the world is working on. I don’t require you to come to the office – what is important to me is your knowledge, abilities, and the quality of your work. Additionally the sky doesn’t come crashing down if that person relocates. We have more than 7,000 clients worldwide. Now we want to encourage large businesses and government organizations to implement the technology.

We already work with Google, Twitter, and Sony – among others. That’s why we are interested in these types of talents. Instead of hiring regular agencies, they hire individual people via Yandiki.com.

We are very interested in reducing unemployment in many countries among young, qualified individuals from different professional creative backgrounds. All of these people could take advantage of our network. For example, we plan to launch the software in Colombia, where there are many extremely skilled, unemployed professionals, whose talents are being wasted. They would have the possibility of working from there, without leaving their home country. This often creates a large social and economic impact.

RM: Being a woman entrepreneur is no easy feat…

Being a female entrepreneur can sometimes be a sacrifice… For example, I don’t have children, because I waited to get married. It’s a subject I was talking about with Pia, Director of idea.me. I would have had kids, but I didn’t realize that after age 35 you are “old”. A person gets stuck in the daily grind, and trying to get everything done, as the to-do list continues to grow. Life passes us by and we sometimes forget that women also have that tough biological choice to make.

Suddenly, if you want to do something like start a business or pursue an unconventional career, your biological clock may run out of time. If you want to form a family you have to do it while you have ovules. I have studied this a great deal, but it is something that I hadn’t taken into consideration. It’s important that women realize that having children is a choice, not a social obligation. What society dictates doesn’t matter to me in the least.

I’ll be absolutely honest with you, I have never based my decisions on the norms dictated by society. If I had, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I would be an English professor, teaching private students, or a kindergarten teacher – and there is nothing wrong with that at all. At the end of the day, it comes down to what you want, and what you don’t want.

If you want to be a mother and a kindergarten teacher, and that’s what makes you happy, bravo! If what you desire is to become a Company President and change the world, bravo as well! We women have the right to do anything we choose – nobody can decide what is the right or wrong choice for us, because other people’s opinion of us is far less important than how we feel about ourselves.

I would tell any woman to never conform to the expectations of others, but rather to pursue her own personal hopes and dreams. I’ve been called insane many times. When I came here, people would say to me, “Why on earth would you leave the perfect job? You have a great career and a future at the company!” I looked at my boss, and felt that he was unhappy and bored, doing the same job as me but with a slightly higher salary, and I realized that that was going to be my life in 5 years – and it would be a dead end from there.

I would never have broadened my horizon. I would have never built an international career. And yet, I still wasn’t sure what endeavor I wanted to undertake –  until I joined a startup, Patagon, and from there I went to Visa International, where I would frequently cry.

Women who want to begin a venture and face difficulties or failures…

From my experience, within this world of technology and work, I feel that the gap between genders is non-existent. The only visible difference between women and men is physical strength, and there is no heavy lifting involved here.

I encourage all women and entrepreneurs to be daring, to think big, and to realize that this is not an easy journey – it involves some sacrifice. It’s a journey where many times you will sit and think to yourself, “Who forced me get myself into this?” However, the satisfaction of doing something that works well, and that impacts people’s lives and changes the rules of the game is so rewarding… it’s similar to the opportunity of giving life to a human being. You can make a meaningful difference in the lives of so many people. It has a social aspect that we women are adapted to provide.

It’s important to look for support from motivators, from mentors, and from other entrepreneurs, because women typically have a superb ability to generate strong connections and networks of contacts.

Sometimes it is just a matter of daring to do it. As the saying goes, it’s better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission. Fervently believe in yourself, find your passion and connect the dots to set things in motion. If you aren’t doing it, it’s because you don’t want to – there is no excuse with all of the resources and tools that we have available in modern times, from governmental assistance and beyond.

Colombia is an international leader in providing programs for entrepreneurs, and surely doesn’t discriminate based on gender.

Miss Internet’s take on being an entrepreneur

Being an entrepreneur is tough, not only because it requires talent and intelligence, but also because it requires determination, tons of energy, and sacrifices. From one moment to another, everything depends on you – if you don’t address situations, you lose your clients. You also have the responsibility towards many people who had faith in the project.

But, there is always a way to rise up and achieve success. There are tips and tricks. For example, I count on others to make things happen. Count on yourself as an entrepreneur.

I define myself as a Communications Entrepreneur. It’s an excellent combination because communication is important at all levels of an organization, and if someone doesn’t know how to do it, a complicated situation develops. Good Communication is an invaluable tool.