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Women at the Forefront: Tall Poppy's Fight Against Digital Harassment

Updated: Mar 20


In the fast-changing tech world, Tall Poppy is a source of hope for people facing online harassment, combining innovation and resilience.


Founded by the visionary duo, Erica Kwan and Leigh Honeywell, Tall Poppy emerges not just as a company but as a mission to fortify digital safety and foster a supportive community in the tech industry.


Kwan and Honeywell, driven by personal experiences and a shared determination, embarked on a journey to scale up a crucial service that addresses the growing concern of cyber threats and harassment.


As we explore their story, we uncover the essence of Tall Poppy's founding, the hurdles overcome by its founders, and the impactful legacy they aspire to create in the tech world and beyond. Join us as we celebrate their achievements and insights during Women's History Month, offering inspiration and guidance to women aspiring to make their mark in technology and entrepreneurship.


Can you share the inspiration behind Tall Poppy's founding and what you aim to achieve with your company?


Leigh would help friends, acquaintances, and communities she participated in, address online harassment and threats they were receiving. She wanted to scale up this work and realized that companies might be willing to pay for these services for their employees and stakeholders.


Our aim with Tall Poppy has been to offer comprehensive cybersecurity guidance and support in times of crisis.


What initial challenges did you face when starting Tall Poppy, and how did you overcome them?


We faced a lot of uncertainty at the start — we didn't know what interventions would be effective or what technical tools could be built, and we didn’t know precisely who our customer/buyer would be. We had to figure all of that out experimentally, all the while learning to run a company. The pandemic hit barely two years into the history of the company, which brought a whole new set of challenges as we went from a very in-person team to a fully remote one.


As female founders in the tech industry, how do you navigate the challenges that come with this territory?


Receiving funding through traditional channels has been challenging. While hearing “no” is part of running a business, we found that the research on how women founders are asked “prevention” questions instead of “promotion” ones aligns with our experiences.


We’ve been lucky to participate in a couple of programs for underrepresented founders, including the StartOut Growth Lab and more recently the Morgan Stanley Inclusive Ventures Lab. Finding communities of founders with experiences like ours has been really energizing.


In what ways do you think being women founders has uniquely shaped the vision and operations of Tall Poppy?


We have both experienced negative online interactions and understand how online harassment, threats, scams, etc. can have emotional, mental, and even physical tolls. We’ve built the product we wished we’d had during those past experiences. Providing compassionate support and cybersecurity expertise to people dealing with adversity brings a lot of meaning to this work.


How do you foster a company culture that supports and advances women and other underrepresented groups in tech?


We’ve been able to organically grow the company to be majority women and inclusive of LGTBQ+ people and people of color. 


What has been the most unexpected lesson you've learned on your journey as founders?


It’s incredibly important to have good support, especially from people who are experts in areas you are not. Also, knowing how to create, edit, and navigate a spreadsheet is super useful.


How do you measure success, both personally and for Tall Poppy?


We’d consider Tall Poppy a success if we built a sustainable business with a healthy company culture. Personal success would be gaining all the skills required to start another company and be effective leaders in other aspects of life.


What advice would you give young women aspiring to be entrepreneurs or leaders in tech?


Build your network. Connecting with people, especially those who could offer guidance or make other introductions, is vital when starting a company or furthering your career. Not just folks senior to you, but also peers – having a posse you can grow alongside is essential!


As we celebrate Women's History Month, what message would you like to share with women navigating their careers in male-dominated fields?


You are as talented, smart, experienced, and driven as your male peers, and you deserve just as many opportunities as them.

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