I’m probably going to get myself in a bit of trouble here – I had a thought a couple weeks ago about a female founder that I buried away. Normally I’m quite willing to throw my ideas out in the open as I think we learn and grow when we’re open about our ideas – the crazy ones, the politically incorrect ones – all of them. For those of you that know me I’m sure I’ve offended or bothered all of you at least once. If you know me well enough you probably realize my intent isn’t to hurt, but to provoke new thought and get an honest response. I like to iterate my way from crazy to sane but that path can be misinterpreted. OK, so enough up front fluffery- you’re probably thinking “What the hell could Paige be thinking about a female founder that he wasn’t willing to just throw out there”. Honestly there’s probably a ton of things but here’s the one that’s been bothering me:
“A pregnant founder / CEO is going to fail her company”
As an angel investor, a free-wheeling free- agent in the world of entrepreneurship, I’ll normally say anything that comes into my head. But now, as the cofounder of BetterWorks I thought “maybe I should let this idea slide away – no need to piss off the world of female execs out there”. But the reality is that women in the workplace is an incredibly important topic. We’re missing out on a ton of talent out there and we need to take this seriously.
The Situation: I was contemplating an investment in this awesome crowd-sourced funding company in LA called Profounder. I love the vision: helping local brick & mortar businesses get funding from their community. The founding team, Jessica Jackley & Dana Mauriello, are incredible ladies with exactly the spirit and attitude I’m looking for in founders. We’ve talked extensively, had lunch together and I saw first hand the amazing talent & drive these two bring to the table. And then, a week later I find out Jessica is pregnant…and this dirty little thought pops in my head. I’m thinking how in the hell is this founder going to lead a team, build a company and change the world for these businesses carrying a kid around for the next few months and then caring for the kids after. I can’t say I personally know anything about it but birthing & raising kids seems like the toughest job around. And now I have a founder who has to be a CEO and a mother.
The Decision: Ultimately I decided to invest, namely because I gave a commitment to invest and decided that pregnancy shouldn’t impact my decision. But what concerns me more is that I’m normally very equal-opportunity. In fact I really like working with female entrepreneurs and wish we had more of them. I have quite a few female entrepreneurs in my portfolio companies but the reality here is that I almost didn’t invest and I’m sure a ton of us decide not to invest, support, promote or work with women because of this whole “marriage / pregnancy” hurdle that most women will face in their career. I normally tell people I don’t care about your sex, race, religion, sexual preference – these things just don’t mean a bag of dogshit to me.
Yet, I almost didn’t invest so it must mean something and I’m definitely not as equal opportunity as I thought. And even though I ultimately decided to support Jessica and Dana, there are a ton of Jessica’s out there that won’t get the same treatment. And this brings me to my big question: Should I go out of my way to support female entrepreneurs? Should I give female executives, founders and others women an advantage in funding, hiring & promoting?
I talked to Jessica this weekend at Summit at Sea and told her my thoughts. I was a bit ashamed – walking up and telling an entrepreneur you’re backing that you have doubts, particularly something like this, is never an easy chat. But it is something we should do; I really love being direct and we do owe it to each other. Surprisingly Jessica wasn’t upset and I asked her if it was cool for me to write about this.
She gave me a warm yes and so here are two key points rolling around in my head right now:
- I have doubts once I think of you getting married, having kids and being distracted from work. Right or wrong this is something I’m thinking
- We need more women in the workplace. Look around at founders, boards and execs and you’ll all realize women are grossly under represented in the workplace
Recognizing this doubt I’m now asking myself if I should give preference to women. What do you think?
And before you answer, take the time to watch Sheryl Sandberg’s TED talk. I watched this last night as I was thinking about this topic and she brings up some great points. But the issue I have here is that Sheryl’s talk is directed at women – telling women what they should do. What I want to know is how should we as men deal with this?
We launched BetterWorks all roadrunner like :) Check It Out.
- AUG 2010: Paige daydreams “Happiness in the Cloud” + “Google Perks at Costco Prices”
- SEP 2010: Recruit cofounders // Market Research
- OCT 2010: George, Paige & Zao – Concept to Design
- NOV 2010: Recruit Early Team // More Design // Refine Business Model
- DEC 2010: Seed Round // Hire Engineers (KW, Ian, Jonathan) // Hire Sales Team (Robyn, William, Scotty) // Win Early Customers
- JAN 2010: Prototype Complete // Hire More Sales (Mike, TJ, Tracy) + Product Mgr (Ron Yang)
- FEB 2010: Alpha Release // Hire Marketing Director (Chris Spore)
Quick bit of advice to founders: Time is your scarcest resource. Move quickly. ‘nuf said.
And from an anonymous quote I remember walking by my first two years at West Point: “In the absence of further orders…ATTACK”
Haven’t had much time to post lately. We’ve been so focused on building up BetterWorks these last few weeks but Jason reminded me about this interview we did a few weeks back around Bootstrapping Your Business. I barely have time to have a life these days but wanted to share a few pearls of wisdom around bootstrapping – but with a twist. Generally you hear people tell you how to boot strap: use your credit cards, get friend & fools to invest; give talented folks equity & no salary; work out of your home; etc.
But I want to talk about WHY we as investors care about Boot Strapping. Or at least WHY I care. Bootstrapping is an indicator that you’re the type of self-sufficient, bold, confident, passionate entrepreneur that we want to invest in. It’s painful – it takes months & years of sacrifice and it will drain your energy. You’ll give up girlfriends (or boyfriends); you’ll give up evenings that could be spent with friends – you’ll toil away in your miserable little efficiency condo cranking out code or convincing people to use your early product. You’ll beg & borrow your way to success and MOST of you will eventually give up. Nothing wrong with that at all – if you can’t handle the sacrifice we don’t want to invest in you because you have to invest in yourself first. We want people who can make short term sacrifices for long term gains – we want leaders who are willing to sacrifice their personal comfort to bring a dream to life.
Simply put, boot strapping is just a really good indicator that you’ll be a good founder.
Lot’s more to say but I’m out of time and I’ll leave you with this video of our last discussion on bootstrapping
Back in early November of 2010 I gave a short talk at TEDx in Silicon Valley thanks to an invite from the awesome Tam Pham. I’ve had quite a few comments and I wanted to share this with all of you. While I’m known to spin out relatively useless ideas on an hourly basis, Transparency is a subject that interests me greatly and I hope this short chat gives you a few things to think about.
And, my apologies if the chat sounds rambling. I hate preparing for discussions and interviews and always “make it up” on the spot. As a result you’ll hear me move from such topics as Intelligence Collection, the war in Iraq, Gay Marriage, Wikileaks, blippy, twitter and online dating… but believe me there is a common thread that connects these topics together.
Enjoy, and welcome to 2011!
Zao and I got together to talk about investing – watch on:
Had a great afternoon with my cofounder Zao Yang yesterday on This Week In Venture Capital. Mark Jeffrey invited us over and we’ll post the video once it’s ready. Until then, just wanted to make a comment on deal sourcing. For some reason linkedin has become the refuge of crazy – While folks like Angel List have an awesome curated list of deals for angel investors, how has Linked In became the calling of insane investors and nutty founders.
As an example, I give you one of my most recent messages from linkedin:
“I am privileged to contact you of my intent to invest a huge fund in your country, with interest in the following sectors: Banking, Real Estate, Stock Speculation, Mining, Transportation, Oil & Gas and Tobacco. If you think you have a solid background and idea of making good profit in any of the mentioned business sectors in your country and you are interested, l will need your email address for the detail of the investment or you can contact me through this email firstname.lastname@example.org, . I look forward to hearing from you.
Sorry Michael, my schedule is full for the next ohhh decade or two…
Doing notes, banks, payroll, benefits enrollment… ahh the minutiae of starting a company. Couldn’t this be easier? It’s sort of fun, but I’m jealous of George right now – he’s working on design, interface and more. Spinning out cool graphics, working on user flow. Can’t wait to get the basics done and get back into the fun stuff :)