FATIMA DICKO - FOUNDER AND CEO @ JETPACK
”I got the advice once that the only way you fail is if you run out of money or you give up. As long as you have your idea, you are still in the running. It might take more time or pivots, but you can make it work.”
Meet Fatima Dicko, Co-founder and CEO of Jetpack, a community-based last mile delivery company. Prior to founding Jetpack, Fatima worked as a Senior Engineer on an upstream technology innovation team at Procter & Gamble. We chatted with Fatima about her upbringing, entrepreneurial path, and creative pursuits.
We’d love to start by hearing about where you grew up. What was your childhood like?
I was born in Mali in West Africa and came to New York when I was 5 years old. When we came to New York, my parents and I experienced American culture for the first time and had to get acclimated. I was always asking questions like, “How are computers put together?” and “How do roller coasters work?” I didn’t realize it then, but these questions and my hunger to find the answers were a sign of my budding entrepreneurship. I studied Engineering at Columbia University.
After college I wanted to use my engineering experience to create products that would directly impact people. That is how I ended up at Procter & Gamble (P&G). One of my mentors use to say, “Great ideas happen when two old ideas come together for the first time.” This was exactly what I was working on at P&G – taking two ideas from different parts of the organization and engineering them together.
I then left P&G to go to business school which made my parents very happy!
Can you tell us about what has guided your career decisions?
I loved my time at P&G. I had awesome bosses and the problems were interesting. However, I was in a role where my team was working on things that wouldn’t be released for 5+ years. As a result, I often didn't see or feel the impact of my work in real-time. Furthermore, in the confines of a large company, we were never going to work as quickly as we could have in a startup setting. I realized I wanted to solve tough problems through fast-paced iteration, which is why I decided to focus on entrepreneurship and start Jetpack.
For those who may not be familiar, can you describe your company Jetpack?
Jetpack aims to bring people the items they need in less than 10 minutes. I saw a gap in the market whereby the largest delivery company could never get under the 15 minute delivery time frame due to the last mile problem. The person who knows where the parking spaces are or can swipe into a dorm will always have the advantage. Once we identified this whitespace in the market, we decided to start Jetpack. We started by giving people backpacks and filling them with samples of what people need (e.g., phone chargers, tampons, mints).
What is your broader vision for Jetpack?
Our mission is to use the power of community to fuel the world. We want to be the world’s largest convenience network. I believe that there should be a way for a woman to ask all the other women in the area for an item that is probably in their purse. We want to use college campuses to understand the problem and work out the business model, but also want to test if there is an area outside of campuses where this still applies. We want to be the Uber for convenience.
How have you developed your leadership style over time? Has it changed? If so why?
Business school taught me a lot about introspective leadership especially how what you do and say impacts people in different ways. My manager at P&G was so phenomenal and I try to think about what she would do in different scenarios.
I heard a quote once that said, “When you talk to a boss or manager, they feel important, but when you speak to a leader, you feel important.”
My manager at P&G always made you feel like I mattered – no matter how busy she was or stressed. As CEO, I try to explore that question and think about how to make people feel valued and important. My leadership style has become more introspective over time. After tough situations, I ask myself what did I do that contributed to that?
Who are/were your mentors and what did they teach you? Did you have any great female mentors? Do you feel that’s important?
I have had a lot of great mentors including Gordon Guay, a lead technologist at P&G, who is so innovative and inspiring. Professor Amy Wilkinson at Stanford is a great mentor and has always pushed me and other women to succeed. When I first came to the Valley, I saw so many people that I wanted to learn from but they often don’t have a lot of time. I realized that networking across rather than up is more effective for me. I often lean on my peers and get great advice from them.
What advice would you have for entrepreneurs dealing through the lows of starting a company?
I got the advice once that the only way you fail is if you run out of money or you give up. As long as you have your idea, you are still in the running. It might take more time or pivots, but you can make it work.
You’re done when you stop having ideas about your idea. I really believe that where there’s a will, there’s a way. It takes a lot of resilience to be a founder, but it’s great to build this resilience because in a regular company, you have the answers.
We saw on your personal website that you love art, you dance, and are always finding new avenues to be creative. Can you share more about this part of your life?
I find that whenever I don’t have a creative outlet I have higher levels of stress. I am genuinely at peace and grounded when I have one creative outlet. At Stanford, I found outlets to continue hip-hop dancing and even choreographed dances for the GSB Show. Dancing really helped with the stress of starting Jetpack. Now, for 30 minutes a day, I learn to use turntables. I need it - I’ve had phases where I haven’t had that outlet and I find I’m worse at building my business.
What is an industry trend that you’re most excited about?
Advancements in the gig economy that empower individuals (e.g., allowing home cooks to participate in restaurant delivery platforms).
What is a favorite or most interesting article or book from the past few months?
I read about a study where the researchers correlate IQ with success. They found that IQ is just a fraction of the impact on success. What was more indicative was high levels of persistence.
Who is a female entrepreneur or investor you'd most like to meet and chat with?
Oprah. She is just phenomenal. From the amazing speeches she gives, to her life journey from growing up low income, to becoming one of the most successful business women, she is an amazing woman. I have so many questions for her.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
One of my mentors at P&G, Gordon Guay said that ‘Everyone is either an Einstein or a Da Vinci. Einsteins choose one thing and go very deep, while Da Vinci’s are interested in many different things.
School teaches you that competency is connected to depth, but I don’t think that’s true. If you’re a Da Vinci, that’s fine - you just need to surround yourself with Einsteins. This advice has really helped me as I have built out Jetpack. I realize that I can’t learn everything, so I need to find great Einsteins to support me.