Our favorite position is CEO, too

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.

Advisors Anonymous

A note on advisors…

The first week we started theSkimm, people asked us who was on our advisory board. We said we didn’t have a board yet, not realizing that an advisory board is entirely different than a board of directors.

We quickly learned that just like the word ‘equity,’ people throw the word ‘advisor’ around very casually and it means different things to different people.

What should it mean to founders? Someone who is involved with the company, who is not an employee, and who is not necessarily an investor. But is more than just a friend. Someone who will get equity. Someone who can offer expertise or be able to help in a specific area of your business. And someone who can and will give you time. 

This is what we’ve found it can mean to other people.

Scenario: “Hey, Skimm A and Skimm B, we went to college together and I’ve been working in finance for a few years now and so I know a lot about deals and things. Give me some equity and I’ll advise you.”

Takeaway:  This person has never worked with startups. This person doesn’t know what they would be advising on. 

With every industry becoming more and more entrepreneurial, more and more people are trying to get their feet into the startup scene—and position themselves as experts, when they may not be. 

Scenario: An interview applicant said rather than join the team they would love to formally advise us so we could learn from their “business acumen.”

Takeaway: This person has about 3-5 years work experience in junior and mid-level positions. Sometimes people need to check themselves.

Scenario:  A very well-connected and influential person who could be very helpful to us informed us they would not make one introduction on our behalf without an advisory agreement.

Takeaway: There’s a fine line when it comes to gaining access to someone’s rolodex. There’s the stage of general and generous intros and then there’s a stage when someone becomes a professional networker for you. The latter stage is usually an advisor. The first stage is a normal human.

Scenario: A serial startup advisor said they’d love to get involved. For 8% of our company.

Takeaway: HAHA.

Scenario: "I’m advising all the companies in your space. And actually plan on starting my own company just like yours!  I should advise you too!"

Takeaway: Too close for comfort.

Scenario: I’d love to advise you. You can use my name. But I have no time to talk to you ever.

Takeaway: Sometimes it is helpful to have advisors for name recognition and credibility. But at a certain point, you need to realize what it means to give someone a piece of your company and a name can only help so much.

New Entrepreneur Lesson of the Day:  Focus is as important here, as in other parts of your business. Know what areas you need help in and line up advisors who are different from one another and can give you the time you need. Each relationship will be different but each should have a distinct value to the company.

And @netflix just made #SkimmHQ ‘s #ValentinesDay weekend is now booked.

And @netflix just made #SkimmHQ ‘s #ValentinesDay weekend is now booked.

About that…

People make mistakes. New entrepreneurs make mistakes all f’ing day long. We’ve made  a LOT…

Things we’ve done wrong:

Asked for too much

THE STORY: In the earliest of Skimm days, a very big brand wanted to work with us. The head of said brand was an idol of ours and we were very excited. They asked us to throw out a number of how much it would be to work together in a very big way. We asked people for advice and people told us to aim really high. We aimed a little too high.

THE REACTION:  We got a bunch of emails telling us we should be ashamed of ourselves and that we had lost a potential mentor.

THE PANIC: We wrote 3 apology notes and sent flowers we couldn’t afford.

THE LESSON: We were wrong. But we also realized that a mentor should want to welcome the opportunity to teach us and put us in our place. Not just make us feel bad.

Never showed up

THE STORY: We had a meeting with the co-founder of a successful brand. We forgot to put it in our calendar and never showed up.

THE REACTION: Angry emails from an assistant asking where the f we were.

THE PANIC: We sent two apology emails, a hand written apology note, and alerted the person who connected us to let them know what happened, and sent flowers. Again. Then two follow up emails. Never heard from her again.

THE LESSON: Nothing annoys us more than when people waste our time so we think it’s fair that said co-founder should have hated us for awhile. Time to move on.

Didn’t pursue enough

THE STORY: We really liked a potential investor. But couldn’t make up our mind about when we were closing our round. So we let the clock tick and tick and tick. When we checked back in with said investor, she was no longer making investments for the year.

THE REACTION: She told us that we didn’t pursue her enough.

THE PANIC: We wrote a letter telling her she was right and why we wanted her involved.

THE LESSON: Go after what you want. Or opportunities will slip by.

Forgot about it

THE STORY: We had an amazing intern who worked for us remotely. And then we forgot about her. We forgot to give her assignments. Forgot to check in. Forgot we had her as a resource.

THE REACTION:  The intern kept asking if she could do stuff. We kept putting a note on our to-do list to email her back with an assignment.

THE PANIC: We told her it wasn’t her, it was us. And we meant it.

THE LESSON: Managing is a full-time job. Identify key areas you need help in and look for solutions that you can utilize. But adding ‘help’ for the sake of help, wastes everyone’s time.

NEW ENTREPRENEUR LESSON OF THE DAY: You’re going to make mistakes. Get over them and learn how not to make them again.

This is how we do board meetings #firstone #skimmlife cc @satyap

This is how we do board meetings #firstone #skimmlife cc @satyap

Loving this @lablstudio antique find for #skimmhq

Loving this @lablstudio antique find for #skimmhq

Tags: skimmhq

Guess the office is permanent now #skimmlife #skimmhq  thanks for the amazing decal @lablstudio !

Guess the office is permanent now #skimmlife #skimmhq thanks for the amazing decal @lablstudio !

Things that are not fun about being a CEO

Payroll/Benefits

Dream: We’ll get funding and a magical fairy will deposit paychecks for us and our employees in our bank accounts each week. And then give us really nice health insurance.

Reality: Setting this stuff up is the worst. THE WORST. There are always mistakes and you will learn more about state and federal taxes than you ever cared to.

Lesson: Ask other founders who they use, monitor every detail. If something feels like a mistake, it probably is one, and it’s your responsibility to fix it.

Staying in relationships

Dream: We’ve talked about how the fundraising process was like dating—in the worst possible way. And how hiring can be a series of very bad Match dates. But once we met our investor match and first hires we kinda sorta thought we were happily settled into relationship-ville. Not quite. 

Reality: Keeping your current investors happy and your employees happy is a lot like being in the most insecure relationship ever. There’s always a little voice whispering — are things really OK? You want to show them how much you love them and that you know they love you, but secretly you’re always wondering if they’re cheating on you.

Lesson:  Learn to focus on your team and keep them happy, challenged, motivated, and invested.

Hiring for jobs that bore you

Dream: We’ll get funding and a magical fairy will find us a bookkeeper, a contract lawyer, and an accountant

Reality: You have to interview people for these positions and find the right fit. To many, ‘startup’ budget means different things—especially when they hear you just took in money. Each type of role often believes theirs is the most important line item in your budget. 

Lesson: Only go through referrals.

Board Meetings

Dream: We’ll have a “Richie Rich” moment and drink a milkshake with our feet up.

Reality: We haven’t had one yet but every entrepreneur—from the new ones to those on Fortune 500 lists look like they have Stockholm Syndrome when they talk about theirs.

Lesson: We are continuously warned to “keep it casual for as long as we can”—we’ll keep you posted.

New Entrepreneur Lesson of the Day: Decide on your favorite brand of wine and stock up. Being a CEO is hard.

Feeling the #SkimmDay love in Chicago

Feeling the #SkimmDay love in Chicago

Tags: skimmday

Some puppy love for #skimmday

Some puppy love for #skimmday

Tags: skimmday