Pregnant. That was my big secret when I was pitching (and winning :)) at Women 2.0 a year ago. Not only am I a female founder, I’ve also led my startup while becoming a mom at the same time.
I wish we didn’t have to have this debate so I could be working instead of writing my story. I wish there wasn’t any bias in Silicon Valley. I wish I didn’t have to think carefully about how I could write this so I could still be perceived as a strong and capable individual, not a victim of gender bias or a privileged super hero (or whatever they are calling Marissa and Sheryl). But I write because we need more women in tech, and to inspire someone to join us here is to contribute to the solution.
Truth is that women are treated differently in Silicon Valley. Most people are not aware of their bias, just like symphony orchestras had no idea they were judging female musicians differently until they introduced blind auditions. Just like that, they went from being 90% male to 50-50. We don’t have blind VC pitches here, nor do we have a rigorous data set for Steven Levitt to write a chapter for the next edition of Freakonomics, so we’ll never really know how the gender bias plays out for sure.
I can say that I’ve walked into a dinner of aspiring entrepreneurs who were all male and been asked point blank: “So, how come you here?” because it was inconceivable that a woman would be founder. I also know that some smart VCs recognize their bias and are actively hiring women to source deals (so they don’t miss the next Pinterest). Silicon Valley is human, complete with faults and desire for self improvement.
I do know what it’s like to fundraise while pregnant. Awkward. Do you disclose? Will they think that just because their wife decided to stay home you will too? Or will it all be irrelevant because the one woman you are pitching to in the room will automatically figure out that someone with your body type would never wear such an outfit unless the midline was out of sorts, and the guy in the room will notice that an excel document labeled Baby List is hanging out on your Chrome download tool bar? That’s what happened one pitch meeting, as they happily told me “we knew it!” when I ran into them again late into my 8th month.
There is hardly any precedent for a pregnant founder pitching. Not long ago, there also used to be little precedent for couples founding companies together. Married founders give investors pause, I know because I’m married to my co-founder. It’s funny to hear VCs wonder out loud how someone could work with their spouse because they could never see themselves working with their wife, and I smile to myself at the utter irrelevancy of that observation. Investing is such imperfect science.
Now that the roster of successful married founders is growing, (thanks to EventBrite, Bebo, and hey even Y Combinator since PG’s wife, Jessica, also works there), investors no longer bat much of an eye at funding married founders. I hope the same will be true of women, and down the road in a more gender-equal future, pregnant women.
Since you are wondering what the F happened when I had the baby, I’ll tell you that we hired a great team that could execute the details while I directed high level strategy taking care of baby. We launched Tiny Post 2 weeks before I gave birth, and released a major update 2 weeks after, and grew like bottle rockets with Apple promoting us around the world.
Was it hard? Harder than I could ever have predicted. It wasn’t just the sleepless nights or pregnancy induced carpal tunnel syndrome, it was being responsible for a tiny human who didn’t come with an operating manual. A few times a week, I was able to walk to the office with baby sleeping in a carrier and bounce on a ball at my computer, but it was really having the full support of my co-founder and team that made it possible. It really took all of us to get through it. I’ve been back at work full time for a while now, feeling refreshed and driven. We’ve got something up our sleeve that will be revealed soon.
Am I going to get stuff accomplished as a founder and a mom? Yes. Being an entrepreneur takes guts to try to accomplish something when all the odds are stacked against you. Perhaps the odds are a little steeper for women, and once in a while I notice it, but I don’t want to get hung up on the gender bias. The best way to have more women at the top is to climb up there myself.
Sometimes it’s so easy in Photoshop to re-design an app screen and change the size of an element:
“Look at those teeny avatars! Wouldn’t it be better to make them 30px high instead of a measly 25px?” And with a quick drag of the transform tool, your design is more beautiful and you go home happy…
Until engineering wants to shoot you. As it turns out, all those measly little avatars have been stored in S3 at 25px and your quick resize means that someone needs to run a script and resize all 3 million of them. Small task? Maybe, but depends on how many to-do’s are on their plate.
Luckily, the backend for the app that I’m helping is clean enough that engineering can get it done with minimal effort, but I’m glad that I caught that implication and got engineering go-ahead before going home happy or digging my heels thinking that 30px is the way it HAD to be.
I’ve noticed that doing the laundry is a habit with a peculiar trigger: running out of clean underwear.
2 Christmases ago, my mother in law bought my husband a kilo of new undies, and now that I think about it, I’ve been the one doing laundry ever since.
So instead of a “talk” about getting husband to do more chores, I’m going to do a little shopping so that I’ve got, oh, 1 extra week of clean underwear than he does.
Let’s see if this works!
Inspiring to find someone doing what they love! Can’t wait to get some of his books for Aria.
Photo from Kristina. Here we are with you Josh, in front of a campfire at the beach the last night we were in LA. Isobel cozy in your arms, and you in Christine’s, Zeyad excited about everything, Aria fussing to be walked around. Starry sky, Yoram on the grill, Sidd and Shally telling jokes, Hilary walking a little dog, Kieran and Sim running around. You were wearing your fuzzy Patagonia jacket, a favorite.
Love you. Melissa
Brilliant! My inbox just got so much cleaner.
Here’s a clever way to mass-unsubscribe from spam, marketing emails, newsletters, and other stuff you don’t want clogging your inbox.
- In Gmail, do a search for “label:inbox unsubscribe OR email preferences OR subscribed OR newsletter” (without the quotes)
- Select (checkbox) the emails you want…
Watching Jony Ive
Why Pump Iron? Just Eat It
Yes, you too can look like the face on the current cover of Vogue. All it take is a little “Fotoshop by Adobé.”
via Li Llinares
Join me in backing this documentary on women entrepreneurs on Kickstarter. Let’s get more women’s voices out there!
Think, for a moment, about the time it takes from when you wake to when you have a screen in your face?
If you’re anything like me that, time has dropped from hours, to minutes to seconds in the last few years. And tho we, as a startup community, celebrate apps as addictive the effects of these…
Alexis Ohanian talks about design, community, and marketing in a great set of video over at General Assembly (that blissfully designy startup space in NYC). If you’re doing or even thinking of doing a startup, this is required watching.
Renowned entrepreneur and Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian will inspire you to think of unique ways to connect with your customers, and to build a community of users who want your business to succeed. In this class, you’ll learn some key branding, marketing, and user experience principles, plus specific tactics and strategies that you can use to create a company people love.
The farther away you are from a situation, the harder it is to empathize. If you’ve not been a minority in a group before (especially in a career-type setting), then it is hard to even imagine what that’s like. A male friend recently came to me and told me about a childcare situation he was in where he was the only male. In this group of females, he was already feeling a bit apprehensive when one of them made a joke about him being a pedofile, and why was he there, etc. etc. He didn’t think the woman meant anything malicious, but was instead just clueless. Unfortunately, her insensitivity left my friend feeling hurt and even more awkward than before. Even though he loved working with kids, it tainted his whole experience, and made him question whether or not he even wanted to continue. A few synapse connections later, my friend came to me and said “now I know what you guys must feel like in this industry. I’m really sorry on behalf of us all.
- Elizabeth Naramore on why empathy is important, and how hard it is for guys to understand what it’s like to be a woman in tech.
I always struggle trying to figure out what typefaces go together, and usually end up defaulting to clean Helvetica or humanist Lucida to avoid a faux pas. This website takes the guess work out, love it!