A View from the Heights

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Vassar In Tech

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This month I am proud to appear in the Vassar Quarterly issue focussed on Vassar alums working in the tech industry.  As a Vassar grad I knew about many of our esteemed alums including Gerry Laybourne (founder of Nickelodeon and Oxygen), Caterina Fake (founder of Flickr) and even Grace Hopper (widely credited as being one of the mothers of computer science) but some of these other Vassar alums in tech are less well known to the community but equally outstanding - such as Katia Beauchamp (co-founder of BirchBox), Chris Fry (SVP of Tech at Twitter) and Hunter Walk (former head of product development at YouTube). Our last Vassar in Tech meetup was also a very dynamic, fun gathering of 60+ diverse and accomplished alums in the industry many of whom I was meeting for the first time (and we even had a waitlist!)  I think we’re at a turning point with regard to galvanizing our Vassar in Tech community and really connecting with each other in meaningful was to help one another and future generations of Vassar grads forge meaningful careers in the space.  If you’re looking to get involved - join the Vassar in Tech meetup here, the Linkedin Group here or start your own local meetup by following these super easy best practices - and please reach out to let me know your thoughts on what else we can be doing to bring the community together.

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Over the summer I had the unique opportunity to support my friend Alicia, a CBS alum, working mom of two and entrepreneur, by appearing as an uncoordinated blur in the back of a TV spot about her incredibly cool pop up fitness company KiwiSweat.  It was the first time I worked out after having baby #2, so for all our sakes I’m really glad you can’t see me better, but if you freeze the frame you can see a panting hot pink blur on the left hand side. Otherwise this ad contains so many things I love (CBS mom entrepreneur whose company is based on creative healthy living being promoted by Amex/ OPEN - why yes I will take another scoop of that!)   Enjoy :)

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Venture for America Updates

Last week I went to the Christmas Party for Venture of America hoping to say hi to my favorite hard working non profit staffers ever and perhaps meet some cool people.  Instead I had my faith restored in the future of America.  Yep.  That’s right.  ”How is this possible at a Christmas party?” you ask - well Andrew Yang gave an update on what the first and second class of fellows have been up to and it was just awe inspiring.  The work they’re doing at their day jobs creating cool products, managing rapidly growing companies in cities with low job growth is impressive enough - but on top of that many are already launching side ventures.  Check out some of these incredible projects and companies and help them win $20K in seed funding from Amex OPEN.  There is no stopping these super talented fellows - I cannot wait to see which project wins and where these kids go next.  Stay tuned!

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Camp Gyno

Unless you have been under a rock you are aware of the massive internet sensation known as “Camp Gyno" from the insanely popular video for Hello Flo. 

Hello Flo is the brainchild of Naama Bloom a friend and former Amex colleague, who has been an amazing mom in tech mentor to me as well.

I’ve known about Hello Flo for several months and always thought it idea whose time was totally overdue.  Periods are literally as old as mankind.  They are inconvenient as hell and I don’t know one smart put together woman who has not totally blanked on her start date and been caught off guard with no supplies.  

Also why is it that with something literally as regular as clockwork that we *have* to purchase that no fortune 100 CPG company has successful won over our hearts and minds - like in the way men love Bonobos or 20 somethings love Toms or moms love Diapers.com.  I think that spells major market opportunity for women to turn to a brand that speaks their language and seems to really care about their menstruation experience. Yes it is a commodity product to an extent (though don’t get me started on that weird OB shortage a few years ago) but its a deeply personal one at that.  So I think they’re onto something huge.  

But there’s more to this story than a great product with a killer video (made for $6,000!!!!) that has run away with the zeitgeist.  There’s a story about a mom entrepreneur who left her successful career in corporate America to do something more entrepreneurial with major skin in the game because she was passionate about doing something meaningful with her career (read: also her time on the planet).  

This is not just respectable and inspirational - its super risky.  Her equally awesome husband is also an entrepreneur and they have two kids and that equals lots of bills to pay.  She’s not a 21 year old kid right out of school who can move home if techstars doesn’t make her famous.  And what is so refreshing about Naama is she’s been super transparent about this dynamic in all of her press.  Check out this great piece in the WSJ where she ends it with this brilliant quote: 

I‘ve spent my life doing the “responsible” thing and while it had its rewards, it also had limitations. I wanted to feel passionate. And I want my children to learn, like I did, that being happy in what you do is worth a little struggle. Looking forward into this year, I don’t know how we’ll keep our heads financially above water. I guess I’ll just have to sell a lot of tampons.

Everything worth having/ doing/ being/ experiencing is worth a struggle which makes it all the sweeter when you attain it.  I am so impressed with what Naama is doing because she’s putting herself out there to pursue something she’s passionate about but isn’t spinning some silver lining story about how hardcore it is to be an entrepreneur.  

This follows a nice trend in authenticity from several high profile startup vets in tech speaking honestly about the pitfalls of this space (including my personal fave by the amazing Shane Reiser). It is not all boozy open bars in Austin and accolades at meetups.  It’s shipping products and getting paid and that takes a ton of effort, experience, determination and who knows what else.  

Clearly the authenticity Naama brings to the business she’s building has resonated into the video which has put Hello Flo to firmly on the map - this is only going to be the first you hear about them I’m sure.  

Let’s help her sell some tampons!

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John’s Jobs

A few months ago I did an interview with John Gannon, a friend and classmate from CBS who has terrific startup/ VC/ big tech company experience.  We discussed post MBA careers and tactical tips.  I get asked about this stuff from current MBAs quite often so hopefully you’ll find it interesting.  Also I highly recommend signing up for John’s emails - they are excellent if you’re interested in working at a startup. 

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The final piece for CBS on how to know if being at a startup is for you. Hope you’ve enjoyed these!

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Back in business

I have been terrible about keeping up with this blog but not for lack of overall productivity.  In fact speaking of things I have produced - welcome baby Charlotte :)   On July 12th I gave birth to my second daughter who even though she was three days late, arrived with such haste we almost didn’t make it to the hospital in time.  More on life as a working mom in tech to follow, but first a few immediate thoughts.

In the lead up to her arrival I was incredibly busy with work.  We’ve had a great few months and I am just loving being a part of this terrific team, working with such awesome clients on truly break through email marketing campaigns.  Our team has been expanding at a nice clip and in addition to the regular busy-ness of work we were on boarding some wonderful new team members which as anyone knows takes care and time.  But somehow the tasks at hand adjusted to the space allotted and even though I felt this intense time pressure as my due date approached everything got done.  In fact my personal to do list also got done pretty effectively as well (minus the blogging of course).  

So what is this?  Was I some new 24 hour workaholic?  Not at all (see: mother of adorable 14 month old).  But out of necessity I came to embody that principle that done is better than perfect.  I also had this intense dread that something urgent would be left in my in box unattended to while I was up all night and incoherent with a crying baby and that fear of not wanting to let my colleagues down gave me that weird laser like focus that people speak about when all their priorities become clear.  I’ve read a few pieces related to this lately - like this one about saying no (just a brash way of saying - this is not a priority) and this one about how few hours we have left on the earth.  (Terrifying!)  

Focus requires that you are able to prioritize your own objectives so to that end I’m going to be recalibrating what some of my specific personal and professional goals are and sharing them here (a la the terrific Scott Britton). 

It was notable that this focus and its subsequent productivity was so driven by not letting other people down - and I think going forward I want to approach everything with this urgency but add myself to the list of people whose life I want to make easier.  Being on maternity leave without the anxiety of leaving things half finished was ultimately the biggest gift to myself and my peace of mind, but I didn’t see it like that while I was racing around like a mad woman and I think that’s a missed opportunity.

Bottom line is - short of the important business of recharging for the most part there is no reason to ever not have that sense of urgency and focus.  Life is fleeting!  What the heck are we twiddling our thumbs for?!  Why are you wasting time reading the internet?!  Let’s get busy! :)

 

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This is another video in the series I did for CBS about how to assess what you’re really looking for in a career - and life for that matter.

Filed under experiences

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Movable Ink

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In November I was thrilled to join the amazing team at Movable Ink and just wanted to take a moment to share more about this terrific company.  I have known Vivek, the co-founder and CEO, for about two years through the tech community, and had also learned about the company through some Kohort friends and a shared investors - Contour Ventures and FF Ventures.  

What Movable Ink is doing in email is nothing short of revolutionary in changing the tool box for marketers in a way that is really moving the needle.  I’ve worked in email marketing before - back at TheaterMania where our email lists were the part of the backbone for all Broadway marketing campaigns.  It was interesting to return to the email marketing world seven years later and to discover that not much had really changed.  In a digital landscape that is been radically redrawn in just the past five years - it is really shocking to consider that something that is so pervasive in consumers lives and so critical to almost every business has really not evolved to match the agile development methods of every other channel not to mention the pace of business.  

Movable Ink offers marketers the ability to place dynamic live content into emails which can change at the moment the end user opens it - and subsequent times they open it - versus essentially just mailing a static message as marketers do now.

The dynamic content can take any form - a countdown clock to the expiration of an offer, realtime inventory trackers, a live stream of twitter comments, crop of a webpage with most recent content or inventory, a map which shows the closest store to where you are when you open it and messages that can vary by specific device type.  All delivered in one piece of code that you as a marketer don’t need to touch when deployed.   

The difference in engagement and results for an email which contains a dynamic message versus a static message is significant.  Here’s a quote about a recent campaign we did for Lilly Pulitzer (which just happens to be a personal fave brand of mine :)

“Movable Ink’s technology is making our emails more compelling than ever,” said Michelle Kelly, senior vice president, merchandising, marketing & retail at Lilly Pulitzer. “A recent campaign that showed the minutes ticking away to take advantage of a special sale drove more than triple the amount of anticipated traffic to our website.” 

And this is just one of the many enterprise clients we are working with and helping to drive results for.  A recent Pando Daily piece profiled where the company is today after two years heads down in the trenches:

"It worked: the company has grown 219 percent in bookings quarter-to-quarter, going from from 37 million emails at the end of 2011 to more than 1.4 billion in 2012, adding 60 large enterprise clients including American Eagle Outfitters, Disney, Express, Finish Line, and General Motors."

In addition to awesome technology Movable Ink is also powered by a wonderful team of truly seasoned email and tech veterans that I am really excited to be working with. 

Filed under experiences

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The super talented Jay Corcoran from CBS filmed me speaking about my career path last year and I thought this might be of interest to the few of you who have asked how I ended up in startupland.

Filed under experiences