BY LORI BOGHIGIAN
Women in tech. Young women in tech. Young Armenian women in tech. Young Armenian women leaders in tech. There aren’t many people that comfortably fit into all of these categories, but Paulina Galoostian can be grouped into them all. As a fresh graduate from University of San Francisco, Galoostian launched her own phone application, ThisWon, at the age of 22. With her work at IBM at the age of 19, she was recognized by the San Francisco Egoist as part of the “32 Under 32,” a list highlighting great accomplishments by young entrepreneurs in the tech industry.
Galoostian is the youngest person to make the list to this date–and the only one to make it twice.
As Galoostian proves in her tenacity and perseverance, she’s become a great attribute to the growing technology and media world and sets a precedent to young women to translate their spirit into action.
Currently based in Los Angeles, the young leader finds joy in charity work, playing tennis, and spending time with family and friends.
Lori Boghigian (LB): In 2016, you launched your very own iPhone application, ThisWon, and became the youngest and only founder on the San Francisco Egoist’s list of “32 under 32.” How did you get to this point in life at such a young age?
Paulina Galoostian (PG): My story begins when I was eighteen as an LA girl who moved to San Francisco to attend the University of San Francisco.
In high school, my dad had passed away from cancer, which changed my life. This tragic loss fueled my fire to keep fighting and working hard. As I looked for internships in San Francisco, I was introduced to the tech bubble. I began interning and working at startups and then transitioned to large companies. Eventually, I found my calling for product management, which combined my leadership skills with my strong personality to get work done quickly and efficiently. While I was in college, I started my first company, ThisWon, which launched in May 2016. I love creating products and found an amazing team to bring this idea to life! It was the first time I had stepped away from working for a company to start my own. I graduated school early with honors to follow my entrepreneur spirit. After the launch of ThisWon, I moved back to LA to continue building the ThisWon community and to explore a new adventure. I appreciate the recognition by San Francisco Egotist’s list of “32 under 32,” especially since the list is made up of such brilliant, inspirational individuals. It was amazing to have them recognize me as a young Armenian female founder.
LB: What does the app do?
PG: ThisWon is a decision-making social network. Users get feedback and voice their thoughts by having friends and the community vote on posts. We can all be indecisive! Friends can finally help you decide which shoes to buy, which restaurant to try, and everything else you’re stuck on. You can download ThisWon in the iTunes App Store.
We built ThisWon to help people make better decisions from crowdsourced feedback. Our next goal is to onboard verified experts to give their professional input on specific topics such as fashion, food and beauty.
ThisWon is ultimately a resource for brands. The app helps brands get direct feedback in a timely, efficient and fun experience. Brands want direct Qualitative and Quantitative Data from consumers to create better products/services. U.S. consumers ages 16-34 like it when brands ask consumers to get involved in creating brand roadmaps and crowdsourcing with the ability to create and curate personalized polls, ThisWon eliminates the need of surveys, focus groups, polling services and other costly testing methods.
LB: What drove you to be a part of the tech industry?
PG: Living in San Francisco, I was in the eye of the storm. It’s an industry that offers so much opportunity. This industry creates simple solutions to everyday problems. I wanted to learn how companies were executing ideas and then raising millions of dollars to successfully scale and grow. It’s a very competitive industry but the best products and best teams always shine the brightest.
LB: What were your motivations, expectations, and goals of joining the tech industry after graduating university?
PG: My first goal post-graduation was to launch ThisWon with my team. Once we launched in May 2016, we immediately received positive feedback from our users. Seeing a community grow on a platform I have built has been my motivation! My goals are to continue iterating ThisWon and expose it to as many people as we can. I love learning and know that everyone I work with knows something that I don’t. Now that I’ve recently relocated from San Francisco to Los Angeles, I would love to learn from teams at companies like Snapchat and Disney. I know it will give me better exposure to the industry as well as teach me methods to better my leadership skills, ThisWon and future projects I plan on executing.
LB: In 2014, Business Insider named Armenia as the “Silicon Valley of the Soviet Union.” With innovation reaching all corners of Armenia such as PicsArt and Tumo Center for Creative Technologies, are you collaborating with any tech initiatives in Armenia? How do you see yourself contributing to the continuing development of this industry in Armenia?
PG: I am truly inspired by the creators of PicsArt and Tumo Center of Creative Technologies! Unfortunately, I have not collaborated with their work yet but hope to do so in the near future. I believe it is also important to get young Armenians in our local communities exposed to technology and entrepreneurship. I have recently reached out to Chamlian Armenian School, which I attended, to see if they would like to put together a series of fun presentations to expose their students to entrepreneurship to inspire them to learn how to code, spark an entrepreneurial spirit and even get involved with difference organizations in Armenia like the Tumo Center.
LB: What do you think are the challenges of thriving in this industry as a young [Armenian] woman?
PG: While I was in school, I worked for various tech companies, from startups to corporations like IBM. Those experiences gave me the tools and network to be a part of the tech world and to launch my first App. But, being part of the tech culture at a young age, I quickly saw the gender issue many women in this industry face on a daily basis. At certain companies, my work was not seen nor valued at the same level as my male peers, even if my work was stronger. This fueled my drive to become a vocal Female Founder when I launched ThisWon. I encourage the Girl Boss culture often on my personal social networks (Instagram: Paulina.tech / Snapchat: Paulieg). As a leader in my team, I often have the play the “Chief Cheerleader,” which means I aggressively encourage everyone, from interns to our CTO, to come up with new ideas, hustle and create. If they’re stuck on a problem, you have to work as a team and encourage them to find a solution. All types of work should be valued and appreciated, from coding a new feature to sending out a newsletter. I have personally experienced gender discrimination and a lack of appreciation for my work and my advice for that would be to stand up for yourself and speak to your managers. Sometimes people don’t recognize what they are doing is wrong so you have a responsibility to yourself and your team members to bring it to their attention.
Since the launch of ThisWon, I have received emails from Armenian college students asking me questions about the tech industry, advice on diversity issues and entrepreneurial questions on how to bring their own ideas to life! I recently received an email from Dominick Tavitian, a fellow Armenian techie from Seattle, asking for advice and a background on my journey. I loved hearing about his volunteer work in the TUMO center in Armenia because it inspired ideas of how I can collaborate with TUMO. Since there are few Armenians in tech, we have to support one another! The number of Armenians in tech are rapidly growing and I’m excited to see what products and companies they build next.
LB: How would you motivate and encourage aspiring Armenian/non-Armenian female entrepreneurs to pursue their goals?
PG: If you’re currently in school, I encourage you to network with your professors and fellow classmates! They have contacts and resources that will be very helpful throughout your entrepreneurial journey. At USF, many students were working at large companies and would help their classmates get interviews and jobs. Experiencing the culture, structure and development process of another company can give you the guideline and inspiration you need to successfully build your own company. It’s very difficult starting your own business but hearing success stories of other Female Founders, like Ooshma Garg of Gobble and Payal Kadakia of ClassPass, is always a motivation. Never stop creating and building products you love! It takes time, patience, working until 2am and a lot of coffee, but once you get your first user or customer, you’ll learn it was worth the hustle!