Womenflare Presents: Unfiltered
Join Womenflare each week to hear about vital experiences and insights from women in technology roles, including those who are not in traditional engineering roles. We'll discuss a range of topics including challenges or wins as it pertains to supporting each other as women, day-to-day experiences, career development, and mentorship. This week will feature Nicole Ellis chatting with founder and CEO of LionX - Consumer Privacy Platform, Aimeelene Gaspar.
Hello and welcome to Cloudflare TV's Womenflare Presents Unfiltered. Before we get started, my name is Nicole Ellis.
I am Cloudflare's, one of our office operations managers.
I'm here speaking with Aimeelene Gaspar. She is a co-founder and CEO of LionX.
Let me talk a little bit about what Womenflare Unfiltered is and what to expect in the upcoming episodes.
Womenflare is an employee-led group here at Cloudflare.
It's our mission to inspire and elevate all who identify as women. Our program, Unfiltered, will cover topics such as career journeys, advancement stories, personal development strategies and tips, mentoring lessons learned and more.
We're excited to be here and we're looking forward to having an unfiltered conversation with you all.
Stay tuned for upcoming episodes on Thursdays at 3 p.m. Pacific Time, 5 p.m.
Central and 6 p.m. Eastern. So, Aimeelene, or Aimee, as I know you, let me talk about how we know each other.
We worked together at our previous company in fintech or financial tech and since then we've gone our different ways.
But we're here back together again to talk a little bit about LionX, your company that you're co -founding.
So LionX, as I understand it, you are creating new experiences for businesses and consumers to share information that builds consumer loyalty, while also meeting complex consumer strategy regulations that give consumers the right to control their data.
Through LionX consumer privacy platform, consumers experience a process where they can see and choose who can access their data, which builds loyalty in a company they can trust.
So LionX, you're here with me today. I want to talk a little bit about your journey before we get into all about LionX.
So I want to start off by asking you who has inspired you and who keeps inspiring you on your journey?
Sure. So I would say my mom, women in my family, really.
Probably the strongest people that I know have overcome all kinds of adversity and difficulties through their lives and have always wanted more for me and my sisters.
I think that, you know, my mom, she is probably one of the hardest working women I've ever met.
As you know, from what I remember, like she worked on weekends, she worked at a hospital.
So working weekends is kind of a common thing.
And so, you know, being the oldest, you know, she put a lot of responsibility on my shoulders.
But, you know, it was something that obviously made a big impression on me.
And so that's just how I've been ever since.
And, you know, there have been, like I say, so many strong women in my family.
And I think about even her mother. Her mother raised her family, her children after her father died or her husband died at a very young age.
My mother was only five years old at the time and had two older siblings, put them through college, put the rest of the kids through college as they came up in age.
So, you know, it's just I come from a long line of strong women, I should say.
And then, you know, on a daily basis, I would say entrepreneurs.
I talk with a lot of entrepreneurs in, you know, just who I've met, you know, along this journey.
But even in my graduate program, a lot of budding entrepreneurs there and then have been in different accelerators that I've met.
And what's so great about talking with all of them is like how inspired they are.
Right. About what they're working on. And you just get excited just from talking to them like you.
You see how they they saw this problem and they really went for it.
You know, they took that leap to go out there and make their their vision a reality.
And so that's just like it's very infectious.
And it just keeps you going because as an entrepreneur, typically it's kind of a lonely journey.
So having other entrepreneurs to work with and commiserate with and learn from has been super inspiring.
So, yeah, that's wonderful. Yeah, I can definitely with what you describe who inspires you.
I can really see you in all of that.
You've actually been a great inspiration to me when we work together.
So I'm so happy that we get to talk about it now today. So thank you for inspiring me.
So speaking of like inspiring others, you know, no journey can happen without challenges and hurdles and humps.
So what are some of the challenges that you overcome in your day to day as let's say, well, we are women flair.
And so I want to know about what are some challenges you've overcome as a woman in tech?
You know, as as an Asian-American or a Filipino-American in tech as well. What are some of the stories you can talk about where your challenges come from?
Sure. Lots of challenges.
I've been in fintech financial services technology for a really long time.
I started in finance. I moved out here from Ohio. I was, you know, you're in San Francisco.
You just end up in tech. I think everybody does. And I actually coded for a year, but realized that, you know, the engineering life was not for me.
It was really more product management where you get to sit in the middle of, you know, customers and designers and engineers and the business stakeholders.
And that was just a lot more fun for me. Something I just really enjoyed.
And so oftentimes I walked into a room and nobody looks like me. Whether it's, you know, being the only woman or being the only minority, it is intimidating to say the least.
And I would say that growing up in Ohio, that was also very common to be different and to feel uncomfortable because of that difference.
And in a way, I guess it kind of prepared me for for being in the working world, being comfortable with being uncomfortable in a sense.
Yeah. I hear that phrase a lot.
It's a good one. Totally. Yeah. It's such a good one. Well, you know me and my yoga.
But, you know, what I try to tell other women is that you have a seat at the table.
Right. And despite all these challenges that you're faced with, you know, whether it's harassment or discrimination, you can find a way to overcome.
Right. And that, you know, what your worth is. Right. You got there.
Right. You got the job. You have a seat at the table. Right. Use it. Right.
You have an opportunity to speak out and speak up about whatever might be going on.
Right. And fight for what you feel is the right thing for them to do, whatever that situation might be.
But I think the most important thing is that knowing that you have a voice and that you can use it.
And even if they don't listen or if, you know, they don't comply with what you think is the right thing, you can move on.
There's other opportunities out there. It's not the only opportunity for you.
You don't have to suffer. That's true. So to speak, you know, speak up, get up, get out, get to the place that you want to be.
That's wonderful. Get loud. Get out there.
Yes. Right. Yeah. Totally. Totally. You can't. No more staying silent.
You know, I think that a lot of times I was talking about this with some other folks the other day about as a girl growing up, you're told to, in a way, hold it.
Yeah, that sounds familiar. You know, you got to present. Smile. Right. Make everybody feel comfortable.
You know, all of that. But that's not your job. Exactly. Yes.
Thank you. You put it in such a wonderful way with everything you've gone through.
And, you know, if you had a chance to go back in time, travel to the past and meet Amy of, you know, five years ago, Amy of 10 years ago, 20 years ago, what are some pieces of past self-advice you would give yourself that might help others who are in your situation today?
So really being present in the moment that you're in.
I think, you know, over time you realize that time is a precious thing.
Yes. Right. It's so fleeting. And if you can't focus on where you are in that moment and really relish, you know, in what's happening, how can you ever enjoy your time with who you're with?
You know, knows what's going to happen.
Life is so fragile. You know, it's probably the biggest lesson I've learned is life is just so fragile.
And so, you know, really making the most of every moment you have with the people that you're with.
And so that's why I'm going back to using your voice.
But that's just it. Right. You don't want to regret not saying what you wanted to say or what you felt, you know, and it's scary.
Lord knows I get that. You know, being able to really be vulnerable with somebody else to really be who you want to be.
Right. It's hard. Yeah. So you're saying that we should be unfiltered.
Unfiltered. Yeah. Well, I would agree with that.
I like the title of this for sure. But yeah, it's super scary.
Right. Like, I mean, have you listened to like Brene Brown? Like she's amazing.
She talks about this all the time. Right. Being vulnerable. And I love it because it just it means everything.
You know, I mean that you can, you know, you can find so much joy, you know, by really being yourself and being open.
With the people that you love. That's awesome. I know. I hope that we can see more of that from everyone today.
I'm seeing it everywhere. So I know it's working.
It's awesome. So let's talk about LionX and your journey there. So we talked about inspiration before and I want to talk about inspiration again.
So taking that leap, you know, starting a company, you know, starting with like a business partner going together on this new path and new journey.
So what what inspired you and your co-founder to start LionX?
So I actually thought about this idea back in 2007, which seems like a really long time ago.
I think that was like the first email that I sent to my my co-founder, Andy Cara.
And so over the years, we were just talking about this idea about how can we help people control their financial information.
So to get all kinds of things that they need. Right. Whether it's a loan, investment advice, what have you.
And so when I worked at different companies, you know, trying to help them integrate all this data about a customer so that they could give the best products and advice and, you know, get them in the right loans or what whatever types of services.
Right. Financial services is really where I started.
And so it was really hard and it almost felt like everywhere I went, I was doing the same thing over and over again.
So wait a minute.
Why can't we get this right? Yeah. Try to centralize this, you know, and give everybody transparency into the data that they need to make the right decisions, whether you're a customer or an advisor or the institution.
Right. Everybody's using the same data, but why not just centralize that and be able to give people again that transparency and control.
And so since then, you know, Andy and I over the years have been at different financial technology companies.
Andy was technical co-founder at SoFi.
He also was CTO at LearnVest. And I went on to Yodlee, where I was general manager for personal finance.
We know each other from Cindeo, was, you know, there for a bit.
And then when 2017 hit and Equifax, you know, happened, we started rethinking.
Right. That was a frustrating time for a lot of us.
Made everybody go, hmm. Yeah. It really makes companies like LionX seem very, very crucial in this time.
For sure. Privacy is so top of mind now, especially with COVID and contact tracing.
And, you know, people really want to make sure they can trust the companies that they're working with, with this really personal information.
And so we want to basically help those companies, you know, give that level of transparency and that sense of control back to consumers so that they can have that more trusted relationship.
So we have been steadily working. We raised friends and family, raised an angel round as well.
We're working with our first pilot customers.
So we'll see how we go. I'm hoping to get more pilot customers so we can learn more from them about how we can help them.
But we are, you know, steady in our course.
And, you know, hopefully, you know, we'll be a big success like every entrepreneur dreams of.
Yeah, I'm cheering for you both. Like, this is so exciting.
Plus, I love hearing news about like, you know, old friends from Cyndia, like I work with Andy over there too.
And I love hearing about successes of our friends.
So this is so amazing. So, you know, we talked about Equifax a little bit and how that's such a challenging thing for a lot of people because it really does put a spotlight on like privacy and security.
And so, um, has that caused any challenges or has that actually made things easier?
But then I guess what are what are some huge challenges that you've seen so far?
Well, I certainly I think, you know, we run up against the argument of do people really care about privacy?
Right? And I think it's something that's grown over time, as people become more aware, right, of how companies are using their data.
Everybody's, you know, there's a big backlash there. I think the big four were under Congress's gun the other day.
Yeah. Was it this morning? The days are blending together, as you can tell.
But, you know, people want to know, what are you doing with my information?
I have a right to it. But yeah, and there are other companies who are trying to find ways to help consumers monetize their money, even, you know, as part of like advertising and marketing, right?
So, you know, again, I think people are just becoming more aware.
And so now they're looking for different solutions.
And they're starting to, you know, vote with their feet, so to speak, right?
Like, if they feel a company can't be trusted with their data, they're actually walking away and choosing a different company, right?
That says or is, you know, doing the right thing, if you will, in their eyes.
Yeah. So they want to align themselves with the brands that meet their same values more and more.
Yeah, I see that with Cloudflare as well, you know, data traffic, you know, making sure that there's security and what we, you know, filter through us.
And so I see a lot of that in with with FinTech or financial tech with Linux, too.
I mean, it's, it's very, like, close to you.
It's like your private information. It's like what I go and buy at the store.
It's my social security number. It's just a lot of information that when you're handing that off to a bank or to someone that's going to manage your money, it's like, here you go.
This is me. This is everything. This is who I am.
Well, don't share it. Right? Right. It's I mean, it's part of you. Your data is part of you.
Exactly. It's a representation of you. And so why shouldn't you have some control over that?
Right? That's awesome. Um, wins. So I know you mentioned that you got some of your first test consumers, you have some funding rounds that you've had some other huge wins that have come out of that.
Let's talk about that a little bit.
Yeah, so I mean, you know, for me, all of the, you know, being able to raise, you know, enough money to get us where we are right now to be able to work with some pilot customers, you know, those, to me are the kind of milestones, right, that everybody talks about, of course.
And we're certainly working towards, you know, getting, you know, paying customers and, and all that and, you know, want to move into other, you know, industries as well.
Financial services is just the first stop.
That's what we know best. But I think that even in meeting other entrepreneurs, right, and being part of the whole, shall I say, the startup ecosystem and seeing the change, right, that's happening.
In the beginning, when I was raising money, there weren't really a lot of funds that were, you know, focused on female founders.
But now it just seems like it's exploded, you know, and not just female founders, but, you know, founders of underrepresented, you know, classes, shall I say, or minority, you know, all kinds of different types.
And I love that there's this awareness now, right, the awareness started, and then now people are putting these, their money to work, right, and to live by what they're saying.
Yeah, you know, you have funds that have come up like Backstage and Precursor and Harlem Capital, you know, there's all these like female founder networks, you know, I mean, it's amazing.
Like, I didn't see anything really in the beginning.
It was like very few and far between. But so for me, like, part of the win is also seeing the change and being part of that change that's happening right now.
And it just makes me, you know, I'm part of this graduate program out of USC.
And it's basically in design, business and technology. And so some of the entrepreneurs that I've met there, or budding entrepreneurs, I should say, they're just starting.
I'm like, please let me help you. Like, what can I do?
Right? You just want to help them because they're so excited, and they don't necessarily have access to the same networks as we do here in San Francisco being in Silicon Valley and all that.
So if I can even help open those doors or offer whatever, you know, support, you know, even just talking through a problem, right?
But all the relationships I've built as well is, to me, a big one. That's awesome.
I know, I've heard in our other segments that networking is huge. Like, being able to have a support network, you know, having someone who can be your cheerleader, be your fan, you know, that's huge in this industry.
And that's what I'm hoping we can do with this segment as well to help give advice and inspire and give some tips to others who might be in the same situation.
I mean, to that point, if I may, like, when I first started out, we actually, I found these two other women who we meet on, like, an every other week basis.
And sometimes we don't meet, sometimes we do.
But that, and we have been meeting ever since, like I said, when I first started.
And that has been probably one of the most helpful things throughout this whole journey.
You know, like, just we constantly are, you know, saying, Okay, I saw this, or I saw that, or, you know, talk to this person, or, you know, I, you know, today, I'm just feel like crap.
Help me. You know, yeah, that kind of stuff, too.
It's just, you're able to just let go and be unfiltered. With a couple of entrepreneurs, right, that are also going through that same journey.
So yeah, so my buddies, Miss Hillary and Joanna, they're, you know, I don't know where I'd be without them, to be honest.
Wonderful. You know, yeah. You got to find your tribe.
You know, I think that's, that's the thing I really wanted to say was find your tribe.
That will, you know, be your mirror, right, tell you the truth, but also be your cheerleader, you know, because you need that.
That's awesome. Thank you.
This is so wonderful hearing all these great tips from you and stories. So this is Let's talk about the future.
I want to talk about the future a little bit.
So like, what's, what's next for LIONx? Like, what, what's your next steps? How can someone become a part of LIONx if they want to, to help you out?
Like, what are, what are, what are our next things?
What do we got to do? Well, one, I would love to, you know, have you as a pilot customer to help us build our platform.
So certainly reach out to me through, I think you're going to do that.
I'm probably preempting a little bit.
You can reach out through LinkedIn or, you know, an email. And also, you know, I'm starting to get ready for that fundraising cycle.
So I'm not quite ready yet.
But, you know, just preparing. So that's just a whole exercise in and of itself.
And, but we'd like to, you know, work with a few more pilot customers before I start that process.
But that's the immediate next steps is working with the customers.
I'm down. I'm signing up right after we're done. You'll hear from me.
Wonderful. So I, I did have a fun question for you. But so far, I guess, did you want to give me any questions you have for our little time together?
It's been a while since we connected.
Well, what's been your biggest challenge? I mean, you're a woman in tech.
You've got challenges too. Yeah, happy to talk about it.
So I work in facilities on our People and Places team. Being a facilities person in tech has been very challenging in many ways, but also very fun and exciting and successful in many ways.
As a facilities person, you're not necessarily seen as tech.
And so you do have like quite a few assumptions that are made about like your, you know, what you do, which is very easy to clear up.
And everybody that we've ever worked with has been so wonderful.
We have such a great support network where I'm at. But it's just these really fun conversations you have with people where, you know, you know, they assume like, oh, the toilets clogged.
Can you get that? And I'm like, I could.
I like to think that I have very humble beginnings, and I do love everything about it.
Just because I see like, where I've come from, and it makes me so appreciative and love where I'm at today.
Like, there's no job that's below what we do. Just because we're here to support our coworkers, our family, our people.
And so, yeah, definitely great conversations have with our tech workers.
I'm also learning so much from all of them.
Like, I'm picking up things every day, things that I never knew before.
So, yeah, it's a lot of fun. I like to think that I like can do like a tiny bit of IT like this much.
Well, you can always learn more if you want.
Exactly, yeah. That's one great thing is we do have like, especially during COVID, I think the personal projects time has like skyrocketed.
Yeah, and so I'm watching a lot of our coworkers work on personal projects, be it, you know, learning a new thing, shadowing another team, or even just like, everybody's learning how to bake sourdough bread.
I'm doing a starter upstairs right now.
I love it. It's funny how everybody thinks the same thing.
It's great. It makes me feel like that we really are kind of like, you know, big family together in all this.
Oh, yeah. So fun question for you. Are you reading?
What are you watching? And what are you eating? Besides sourdough bread. So let's see.
So reading Little Fires Everywhere. Celeste Ning, I think is the writer, takes place in Ohio.
Shaker Heights where I grew up. I'm not in Shaker Heights but in Ohio.
And Lean Startup, rereading it. I'm mentoring a woman. And so we're reading it together.
Let's see, watching HGTV all the time. All of it. Any special favorite program?
Yeah, it's like, it's madness. I have to turn it off. But, you know, I think because we're home, right?
You see all these things that you're like, ooh, I really want to fix that.
Or, you know, it didn't bother me a lot before, but now it's bothering me a lot.
And then eating. Well, you know me, Nicole.
I love to cook. I mean, that's my time, you know, I like to get up early and it's either working out or it's cooking.
So, yeah, doing all kinds of stuff. Like I did go to Paris right before, you know, everything shut down and I took a baking class there.
I'm like all croissant and macaron, you know, like crazy. So baking all the time.
Love it. I feel like I'm the opposite end of the spectrum for watching, reading and eating.
So I'm huge into cartoons. That's like my, that's my MO. That's my jam.
So I'd say reading comics. I know this is huge right now on Netflix, but they just reposted like Avatar The Last Airbender, a show that was on Nickelodeon like back in the day.
There's actually comic books for that show. So I've been reading all those.
Obviously reading news, you know, a lot of news.
That's why I like comics and cartoons so much.
It kind of breaks up the reality that we live in. Oh my gosh. I read the newspaper because I'm old and I can't watch the news anymore.
Oh yeah, it's too hard.
I prefer to read all my news. Reading is like, that's preferred because I can't listen to some of the things I hear.
I'd rather just, I can turn the page or close it real quickly.
For watching, I don't know. You know, like there's been a few shows on that I wanted to catch up on.
There's a show called Black-ish and now they have Grown-ish.
And now they have, well, they've had before, they've had another show called Mixed-ish.
And it's the story of this, you know, mixed race doctor who she talks about her life and like all the different challenges she's gone through.
Mixed-ish actually takes place in the 80s, which is kind of fun to see.
Oh my gosh. Yeah. Oh yeah. I love the clothing, like the costumes. They're great.
And then eating, I don't know, whatever's at the corner store. Oh, come on.
No, I do a little bit of cooking. I'm an egg master. I can do eggs like no one's business.
So that's fine. I do poached eggs. I'll have to drop off some like frozen croissant or something like that.
Oh, let me real quick wrap up. We only got a few seconds left.
So if you want to reach LionX, go to mylionx.com. You can reach Ameline on LinkedIn or by emailing her at ameline at mylionx.com.
Be sure to join us next week on Women Flair Unfiltered, where we have an interview with engineering.