Approximately twice a week, Skimm A and B are each asked “Do you two hate each other yet?”
The answer is no.
This is usually followed up by:
Friend: Which one of you is in charge?
Skimm A/B: Both of us
Friend: No, but really…
We are actually friends and we are actually both in charge.
These reoccuring questions have reminded us how lucky we are to be business partners together and how important it is to find a co-founder who is a real partner. We are always amazed when we talk to entrepreneurs seeking to start something new and they say ‘I just need to find my co-founder’ as if they’re talking about finding a new office space. Finding a business partner is entering into a marriage —you will fight, you will both lose your looks, you will talk finances, you will set up a prenup, and your families will want to meet — and unless you’re into getting hitched after a first date, make sure you know who you are entering into business with
THINGS THAT REMINDED US WE WERE GOOD BUSINESS PARTNERS:
Setting: In theSkimm’s first week, we had a meeting and someone asked ‘which one of you came up with the name?’
Skimm A & B at the same time: She did.
The Lesson: Clearly, one of us came up with the name first. Which one of us? It doesn’t matter. The second it hit a google doc, it was both of ours. We entered into this with the same passion and objectives. Egos check at the door.
Who wrote that?
Setting: Biz dev meeting. Potential biz dev partner said they loved one particular line in theSkimm.
Brand: "Which one of you wrote that?"
SKIMM A: Both of us.
SKIMM B: She did.
The Lesson: Always root for your co-founder.
But what do you want to do?
Setting: During fundraising, Skimm HQ interviewed an attorney to work with. He wanted us to go down a certain fundraising path. Skimm A had to leave the meeting early and Skimm B finished up.
Lawyer: I could tell you don’t agree with Skimm A, you can tell me the truth.
SKIMM B: Check, please.
The Lesson: The biggest mistake we’ve seen potential investors, partners, and employees make in dealing with us is trying to play us off one another. Try again.
NEW ENTREPRENEUR LESSON OF THE DAY:
By the time we started theSkimm, we were friends first, roommates second, and then grew into business partners. Make sure you trust your co-founder implicitly.
- Although you’re a web developer at heart, you’re curious about different languages and platforms and don’t minddipping into backend or mobile code as needed.
- Solid knowledge of Ruby and HTML. Familiarity with Java a strong plus.
So we’ve been trying to hire a developer. Apparently developers are the cronuts of the tech industry—very expensive, very hard to find, and no one wants to share them.
We have come to understand that there is an art to tech recruiting and that we might not be the best artists. Per the advice of other co-founders, we have a few tech friends at the ready to conduct in-depth tech interviews for us — an invaluable resource, as some days our biggest accomplishment is being able to describe our system.
Things we’ve learned about hiring for tech:
So is everyone else
Turns out all of your mentors and friends are also hiring for tech, as is everyone in the Northeast and West coast, and so we are often told “I’d share your job description but if I find anyone I’m keeping them for myself.” Thanks. We get it.
Evangelists are not evangelicals
A lot of engineers like to use the signature ‘evangelist.’ At first, we thought everyone had joined the 700 Club. We were wrong.
Developers are ‘different’ and everyone is OK with that
Apparently all company rules do not apply to developers, according to some of our startup friends. Meaning: developer doesn’t want to work in an office? DON’T DISTURB HIM. Developer prefers working from midnight-8am? She’s a genius. Developer applicant forgot to respond to your interview questions via email? Totally fine.
NEW ENTREPRENEUR LESSON OF THE DAY: This is called survival of the fittest. And in our next life, we will be developers.
If every day started with stuffing our faces with @klgandhoda it would be a good day… #skimmlife #today
Great morning with @klgandhoda ! #skimmlife #today
Turns out being co-CEOs means you spend a good part of your time interviewing. We’ve been told you interview talent forever. We’d like to say that this is really fun, but then we’d be lying.
You quickly develop a stack of interview questions. Seeing how differently people respond to open ended questions has made us rethink our previous lives on the other side of the hiring process. Sometimes that has helped us weed out candidates…ASAP.
QUESTION: Why are you looking to leave your current job?
What you shouldn’t say: Because I hate my boss. Or at least how they handle things.
What we’ve learned: Everyone has had bosses and jobs they don’t like but bringing up the negative during an interview is more of a reflection on the interviewee than their boss. Fair or not, it’s a sign you could bring work drama and/or don’t go with the flow. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Plus, if you talk badly about your current employer, what would prevent you from talking badly about your future one?
QUESTION: Tell me about yourself.
What we used to say: Work. work. work. work.
What we’ve learned: Your interviewer wants to work with a person, not a resume. When people start the answer with where they’re from, we are suddenly drawn into conversation. At a startup especially, you are looking for a culture fit. You want to genuinely like your co-workers when you work in such a small team and getting more insight into someone’s character and their personality is a lot more interesting to hear about than an oral resume.
QUESTION: What are you looking to get out of this role?
What you shouldn’t say: Exposure to your investors
What we’ve learned: The investor syndicate is 100% part of the sales pitch to top-tier talent and definitely went into our thinking while finalizing our round. But knowing someone wants to work with us JUST to get close to one of our investors does not give them a gold star in our book.
QUESTION: Tell me what your first day would like look
What you shouldn’t say: I’ll take a few weeks to get caught up to speed.
What we’ve learned: That answer is totally a fair thing to say. Also, totally not what we want to hear. Early startups need to move at lightning speed. We are looking for people that come in with actionable plans to get things done. No one has six months to get up to speed.
We’ve spent a lot of time talking about ‘What Not To Dos’, meetings that left us scratching our heads, and times we’ve messed up, but that’s not to take away from all the good meetings we have had. Especially the ones that came with lessons we think about pretty much everyday.
These are the types of meetings that have helped us the most:
Meeting #1: Will you give me money?
Backstory: For 370 days, we did everything we could to get in front of one particular investor. We were told he would not meet with us, wasn’t investing, and wasn’t interested. We finally got an in and he agreed to a meeting. We were given 15 minutes.
What happened: We researched EVERYTHING we could about him, his meeting style, how he likes his coffee, when he likes the hard sell, when he doesn’t. And we brought it. At the end of the 15 minutes he said ‘let me get some skin in the game,’ and the deal was done. We left the meeting saying, all fundraising should be like this.
The Lesson: Do your homework. Always. And don’t force something to fit, when it won’t.
Meeting #2: Will you give me advice?
Backstory: We were dying to meet Alexis Maybank, one of the Gilt founders. We told her we were fundraising, trying to navigate our way, looking for mentors like her, hint hint. She just smiled.
What happened: She told us her biggest advice was when you want something, ask. Want someone to invest? Ask them. Want someone to advise? Ask.
The Lesson: Ask for what you want. Up until then, when we took meetings, we’d flirt around the issues on our mind—money, advisors, partnerships, advice. We assumed people knew why we were there and what we wanted, and were hoping they’d just bring it up. After this meeting, we realized if we wanted something, we had to be upfront.
Meeting #3: Will you tell me what to do?
Backstory: We got a chance to meet with Jon Steinberg from Buzzfeed. We had lots of questions for him on business development and management style. Read: Tell us how to do our job well.
What happened: Jon told us our only job was to fire ourselves.
The Lesson: Fire yourself everyday. A good manager hires well and hires to fix current problems they’re currently multitasking. The goal is to fire yourself from those problems and move onto the next fire and the next big thing. We are very excited to be firing ourselves.
Meeting #4: Will you work with me?
Backstory: We had a meeting with a BIG brand. Everyone told us it was a waste of our time, that 2 years would pass before anything would come from it, due to all the red tape. We went anyway.
What happened? We said we’re a startup, and we move quickly. They said if you had come to us 6 months ago, nothing would happen, but we’re ready to work with startups. In 2 weeks, we had signed and executed a partnership.
The Lesson: Work with people ready to work with you. Some brands say they want to work with startups and don’t know what that means, or don’t really mean it. You’ll waste your time to trying to make it work.
Meeting #5 Will you give me a pep talk?
Backstory: We were lucky enough to meet someone in the space who not only gave us her time and contacts, but has become an invaluable part of our extended team.
What happened: A friend introduced us to our now advisor way back when. From then on, she has understood our company’s vision and our relationship as founders in a way no one else really has been able to. On cold days in February when we are very pale and very run down, she reminds us why we are good at what we do. And she means it.
The Lesson: You need someone to support you when things are good and when they are bad who is not your mother, father, or spouse, and actually knows your business. We are lucky to have that.
theSkimm is looking for an all-star developer. Please send resumes to jobs@theSkimm.com
Title: Fulltime Fullstack Developer with Java/Groovy Experience.
An ideal candidate has:
- Background in writing backends that are scalable and perform well under sudden spikes and without too much intervention.
- Experience dealing with Grails/Groovy and the Java language.
- Experience working with AWS (Amazon Web Services) infrastructure and scaling services such as load balancers, autoscaling groups and RDS database.
- Comfortable changing between front and backend programming as needed by the company’s growth objectives
We haven’t wanted to write this one.
But yesterday we were interviewed on NPR (!). When we checked the website, we saw this in the comments section from a Gordon:
"Wow. So, with a million plus in funding, they produce a *newsletter* that gives me headlines? One can only politely speculate on the techniques they employed to drum up that funding. btw "career" is not pronounced "creer", ladies."
Thanks for that, Mr. G.
Often times we are asked to talk about what it was like fundraising as two women in the industry. We firmly believe that fundraising is hard for ANY new entrepreneur —man or woman. That being said, we’ve had some interesting experiences along the way.
The following things happened during fundraising:
-We were asked if we shared a bedroom
-We were asked if we had any ‘crazy ex-boyfriends like that girl at UVA’ (the one who was MURDERED)
-We were told to make sure we find time to get married
-We were told (by a very famous feminist) to get a rich boyfriend to fund us
-We were told by a very famous female founder that she got a rich boyfriend and it helped her, when we repeated the story above
-We were asked who writes our sports coverage
-We were asked who we paid to come up with our business plan
-When we finished our round someone Tweeted: ”Diligence consisted of: “Eh i dunno the one on the left is actually cuter than the one on the right…”
For the record: The only ‘technique’ used in our raise was a lot of hard work mixed with sleepless nights. We write our own sports coverage. We do not share a bedroom (Skimm B snores).
If you thought all of this was said to us by old men in suits, you are very wrong. Although some of it was. Half of these interactions came from other women.
Amid the huge push right now to support women in tech and for women in tech to help other women rise in the industry, we are incredibly grateful that there are resources for us to grow our network with female mentors. We’ve been amazed by the support system (of both men and women) that has rallied around us.
And we’re sure many people out there probably have stories a lot worse than these.
NEW ENTREPRENEUR LESSON OF THE DAY: Raising money is hard and scary. For men and women. Especially first timers. And people shouldn’t write or say stupid things.