Entrepreneurs

Natalie J. Egan: Spreading Empathy Through Technology

Natalie J. Egan

Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs and Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, who are advancing the UN SDGs.

Hey, friends! It's Spiffy, back again on Planet Earth with an eye on entrepreneurs making the world a more equitable place! I have another great interview for you this week. Today, I’m excited to cruise around with Natalie J. Egan, the founder and CEO of Translator, Inc. Are you ready to be inspired?

Spiffy: Thanks for joining me, Natalie! What challenge are you addressing?

Natalie: Happy to be with you, Spiffy! At Translator, our vision is to spread empathy through technology.

Spiffy: Oh, interesting! For our intergalactic audience, what do you mean by “empathy,” exactly?

Natalie: Empathy is the ability to understand and feel what other people are feeling. At Translator, we do this by helping people become more self-aware through anonymous, technology-based exercises. These “learning experiences” are designed to help people first reflect on their own identity and lived experiences so that they are then ready to learn about other people. Without self-awareness, people cannot have empathy. And that is what we do!

Spiffy: Super! What motivated you to do it?

Natalie: In 2016, I came out as a transgender woman, and for the first time in my life I experienced bias, discrimination, and hatred. Intellectually, I knew what those things were, but I had never felt the cold, hard reality of not being accepted. Nor did I know the feeling of being unsafe just because of who I was or how I looked. As a lifelong entrepreneur always trying to solve problems, I knew I had to do something about it. So, I decided to start a technology company that would help us understand each other better.

Spiffy: How are you all at Translator working towards a more equitable world?

Natalie: By helping individuals and organizations like businesses, schools, and nonprofits spread empathy, we are improving people’s lives and creating a more equitable world. This is because when people feel seen, heard, valued, and respected, they are more likely to want to help others feel the same way. We see evidence of this across our clients and users, because they report being more accepting and open toward interpersonal differences such as race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, age, etc.

Spiffy: Tell me about a recent milestone by Translator. What impact does that make?

Natalie: A recent, important milestone for us relates to our sales and marketing efforts. We re-launched our website and all of our promotional collateral, including an updated pricing model. The impact of this is visible in the growth of our monthly cash revenue. For most startup companies, revenue is a major benchmark of success – it is the fuel that makes sure employees get paid, and it helps founders maintain control of their company (rather than surrendering it to investors who may fire them someday).

Spiffy: Congratulations on that milestone! Please share an experience when you faced failure and didn't give up. What did you learn from that experience?

Natalie: In the early days of starting the company, there were many scary moments when I was running out of money, and I couldn’t afford to pay myself or my employees. It was incredibly stressful at times, and there were even people who told me I was a failure. But I constantly reminded myself that we were building something important and that I had to push through. We still have a lot of work to do, but we made it through those dark times. I learned that if you really believe in something, you have to build it no matter what.

Spiffy: Thank you for sharing that. What is something you've unexpectedly learned from someone recently?

Natalie: Last weekend, I went to see a Katy Perry concert in Las Vegas. She taught me how to have fun again. Through her lyrics and her performance and the outrageous outfits and the dancing and the lightshow and all the zany characters on stage, she taught me to not be so serious all the time. I learned to not pay attention to what other people think of me and to do exactly what I want to do in this world. If I had to summarize it all, her message to me was this: “Natalie! Life is too short. You do you.”

Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?

Natalie: Participation matters. Representation matters. Language matters. And allyship matters. Show up. Do the work. Be intentional. Be kind. And love wins. Always. If folks in your audience want to continue the conversation, they can find me on LinkedIn or Instagram @nataliejegan, or you can email me directly at natalie@translator.company.

Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Natalie—it’s been an honor!

Natalie J. Egan (she/hers) is an openly transgender, business-to-business (B2B) software entrepreneur and recognized thought-leader. She lives her life at the intersection of technology and Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI). Natalie has over 25 years of experience driving digital change, developing high-performing teams, building complex products, and selling enterprise solutions.(Nominated by Lorenzo Thione of Gaingels. First published on the Ladderworks website on June 23, 2022.)

© 2022 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by George Romar. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Corner here.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and digital curriculum, with the mission to enable over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs.

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