The Future is Female: Caitlin Tran

Academy senior, Caitlin Tran '18 is founder of In Great Company, a community for female entrepreneurs who are building the next billion dollar startup. Caitlin, who is a mobilizer and advocate for female entrepreneurs, is currently interning at Civic Nation in Washington D.C. on their United State of Women Summit. Here, Caitlin shares what inspired In Great Company, and in turn, who inspires her...

Tell us a bit about your journey to the Academy. What were you looking for in an undergraduate program?
In high school, I was creative, but also a techie with an entrepreneurial streak. At that time, I was making hundreds of dollars by selling clothes online that I bought from designer warehouse sales in LA. I wanted to pursue all my passions and was looking into double- or triple-majoring until I read about the Academy in the New York Times and then instantly knew I needed to come here.

What project are you working on right now?
In September, I launched In Great Company, a media hub and community platform for Gen Z female founders (and future founders). Besides curating the best new entrepreneurship-related stories and resources in a weekly newsletter, IGC chronicles and celebrates the stories of inspiring young women who are changing our world. IGC also plans to host live events such as workshops and book clubs. My goal for IGC is to make entrepreneurship more accessible and inclusive to young women of all backgrounds.

How did you come up with the idea for your project?
Before starting IGC, I was working on a startup where I was the only female team member. We were also part of an incubator where I was often the only woman in the entire office. And in my classes, I realized that most of my entrepreneurship professors were white males and so were the guest speakers they brought in. All these things began piling up and I started to see how and why this idea of a "typical entrepreneur profile" — and "startup culture," in general — could be unwelcoming or unappealing to my female classmates. I want to change the narrative around what "type" of person can and should be a founder because we need more women building our world.

Is there a leader or mentor who inspires you?
Ellen Pao inspires me. She was a partner at venture capital firm KPCB who spoke up about gender discrimination in the tech industry and turned down millions to not stay quiet about it. She's since returned to VC and has also started Project Include, a non-profit that uses data and advocacy to accelerate diversity and inclusion solutions in the tech industry. I follow Pao on Twitter and, as an intersectional feminist, I admire how she also uses her platform to acknowledge her privilege as an Asian woman and lift up others, too.

Is there an inspirational quote you live by?
"If they don't give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair." - Shirley Chisholm 

What advice would you give to a freshman?
Professors are people too, and the majority are really interesting. Get to know them during office hours or stick around after class to talk more and you might end up with an awesome mentor. 

Describe one thing most people don’t know about you? 
I didn't have a cell phone in high school (but I survived by using an iPod touch + WiFi) .My mom is always the most prepared and most informed. She taught me that the little details make a difference. I try to be the same way — whether it's making sure everyone's passports are scanned and saved on the cloud before an international trip; or just having nice graphics on Facebook for a potluck event.  


What are the essential things you always keep in your backpack?
Reusable water bottle, Insta360 Nano camera, In Great Company business card.

Favorite app or website?
Browsing places to rent on Airbnb and Motion Stills which turns Live Photos into GIFs and videos.

Favorite class at USC and why?
Founder's Dilemmas with Professor Noam Wasserman. Professor Wasserman teaches about the "people problems" that sink most startups and how entrepreneurs can avoid them.

Favorite way to de-stress:
Retail therapy at Trader Joe's.  

Guilty pleasure?
I'm addicted to Twitter. You can follow me at @caitlinsays

Thank you, Caitlin!