Sian Morson is part of Oxygen’s digital series In Progress 52. In 2016, Oxygen's Very Real digital hub is featuring 52 of these outstanding women: that's one woman a week, for 52 weeks. Check out the series here!
Sometimes your dreams don't work out how you expected— they're better. Sian Morson studied film at New York University but she took a left at Hollywood and landed in Silicon Valley. The technopreneur is CEO of her own company, Kollective Mobile, which develops apps for startups, entrepreneurs and agencies. "We will entertain anyone looking to build a mobile app, ranging from Fortune 500 companies to startups and just individual entrepreneurs," she says. "We walk them through that process."
Morson was born in Antigua and raised in St. Thomas. She moved to New York City at the age of 12. Growing up, she had no real interest in a tech career. "I thought I was going to be a filmmaker so I was fairly creative," she remembers. "I thought you had to be pretty good at STEM; science, math and all that stuff. I didn't take to math all that well. I didn't really love science. I was super creative."
Like a lot of young people in the 80s, her first foray into tech was through her early computer. "I do remember have a Commodore VIC-20 back in the day. I begged my parents to get me one. I do remember staying up late trying to make programs, trying to make games and things like that."
After graduating from college, she headed west to pursue film, and fell in love with San Francisco on the way. "I headed to L.A. but ended up as far as San Francisco," she laughs. "I hung around for a bit and when I started to get serious about my life, it happened to be the first dot-com boom and I fell head-first into that. Everything was tech and I sort of took to it."
Her first job was at a startup called LookSmart, an early search engine, and she founded Kollective Mobile in 2010.
Silicon Valley is notorious for being a homogenous boys club, but Morson says that it's face is changing. "There are more people of color here. A lot of people have moved with hopes to get a piece of the pie. There's a lot more black women, Latina women, than I've ever seen before and that's great."
Despite the influx of diversity, she points out that high-level, executive positions are still rare for women and people of color. "C-Level positions are for the most part; I don't see many people of color there. My experience as a woman of color who runs a technology company is unique. I don't see many people doing that who look like me. I'm still oftentimes the only person in the room."
Her latest app, Cast Beauty, is something only a brilliant woman (or makeup-wearing being) could invent. When traveling to different places - like Atlanta - Morson realized that her beauty regimen was always on the fritz due to the outside weather. Cast Beauty combines a daily forecast with personalized beauty products. "It gives women beauty product recommendations based on their skin type, hair type and the weather."
Morson is happy and thriving in Silicon Valley, but she doesn't think future technopreneurs need to follow in her literal footsteps to make it.
"The beauty is that you don't need to pick up and move to the Valley. You can do whatever you want to do from where you are," she says. "At one point, you may want to come here to pitch or something like that but you don't need to uproot and move to Silicon Valley to create a startup or even get a job in technology. All over the country and all over the world, individual cities are creating their own startup ecosystems."
She points to cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta as burgeoning tech hubs that need ambitious women to keep the gears moving. "We need innovation centers around the country. If you can stay where you are and build something there, it'll be a great contribution to where you are, especially if you're a woman."