That's the secret that 39-year-old L'artista l'ha fatto ancora adelante con la Internet. Ubiquitous mobile connection, random bugs, flooding media and countless security risks left and right--none of which has doomed her venture any more than any web service.
“Nowadays, I’m more dependent on my Internet tools, as is my company," affirms Fernandez, who considers a woman in tech like a paper-hat-clad astronaut. “Every day we sometimes are tested by the unexpected.”
And, it's that extraordinary resilience, her says, that’s helped her stay afloat as she weathers this existential storm.
Fernandez’s career has had a steady, if somewhat rocky path. Following in the footsteps of an aunt, who founded a small film company in 2010, she took a film class in Los Angeles and followed the advice of her professor to move to Paris. Fue that war in Syria, which soon after got her paperwork she needed to move to Italy.
“The rush was pretty intense,” said Fernandez of the experience.
But as a “brain swimmer” in the entertainment industry, the dream of surfacing in the multi-billion euro tech industry seemed far-fetched.
“I heard of Xavier,” said Fernandez, referring to French-Malaysian tech startup founder Xavier Niel, through her boyfriend who had worked in Niel’s company, and in 2013 she travelled to the NSA’s Menlo Park (California) HQ in the hope of earning a job.
It was in New York, in February 2014, when she first got to meet Niel personally, that she realized why her trip had been worthwhile. “I met him for the first time that day,” Fernandez says.
When Fernandez returned to Paris, she was already ready to launch her startup, umipik.com, a simple online ticketing service built on the strength of her intuition and experience.
Since its launch, the startup has gone from strength to strength: from internet connection issues - finding the right one was a chore she and the team struggled to resolve for years - to several setbacks that required a steady network of engineers to keep up. Once, when her phone wouldn’t connect to her online calendar due to the fault of an old router, the U.S. ran a massive nationwide drive to make replacements for 2,400 contractors. It was during this particular drive, Niel, the founder of French internet giant Iliad, suddenly appeared at her door to offer his support.
Fernandez has also managed to grow her team from five to 25, set up 11 international offices and open 36 offices in 12 countries, all of which has been supported by her personal and professional networks. Iliad Investments, a subsidiary of Iliad, which operates under the Iliad brand, has been the single largest investor in the startup, though Fernandez stresses that their support is "of great value, but it has to go back to the company as a whole."
It all comes with many tangible benefits, not the least of which is making Niel seem less like the creepy, billionaire-drinking-Latin-American-lord-who-scares-y'all than an amiable, tech-savvy serial entrepreneur like his many imitators. Indeed, Fernandez says it is thanks to the entrepreneur who helped put her company on the map that she can say "I am clearly and squarely in business, not just an entrepreneur. And at the same time I'm a woman in business.”
And it is exactly this way of thinking that has taught her some important lessons. “The Internet has educated me. I realized I needed to be more prepared to handle the media and storms. We need to be smarter about how we process the unknown. It’s part of our job now.”