When angel investor Joanne Wilson was recently asked “how do female entrepreneurs find you”, she replied “i don’t know, they find me; i guess i’m kinda out there.” Joanne’s larger-than-life reputation precedes her…
for going to bat for her female founders, and for speaking the truth even if it comes at the expense of her own pocketbook. Joanne took up angel investing with a vengeance as a second career and as a way of giving back and empowering the next generation of female founders. Joanne has made over 60 angel investments in women-led startups and regularly writes about her experience on Gotham Gal, a blog that she’s been writing for over a decade. Today, we have a chance to get inside the mind of an experienced angel investor and hear some inside baseball from Joanne, including what she and Warren Buffett have in common. Entrepreneurs listen up: she will share cautionary tales about the importance of knowing your deal terms and why she *hates* seeing an exit slide in a pitch deck! You will learn all about “the good, the bad, and the ugly” from Joanne Wilson, the ‘no BS’ angel investor.
Gotham Gal Joanne Wilson is an angel investor — and ‘chick magnet’ by Mary Johnson, The Business Journals
The Retrade by FeldThoughts
A Fighting Chance by Elizabeth Warren
Why I Stopped Angel Investing (And You Should Never Start) by Tucker Max, Observer
How to become an angel investor by Sophia Epstein, Wired UK
How To Become An Angel Investor by Dorie Clark, Forbes
Husband, father….but not wife, mother. by Joanne Wilson, Gotham Gal
Sticking to your plan by Joanne Wilson, Gotham Gal
Guest bios & transcripts are available on www.broadmic.com.
Joanne Wilson has had many careers. She started out in retail, eventually moving to the wholesale arena. She then transitioned to the media side of the technology world, before reinventing herself as an investor. She is currently an active angel investor with a portfolio of over 85 companies such as Food52, Catchafire, Vengo, Nestio, Captureproof, Makers Row, Le Tote, and Little Borrowed Dress. She has been involved in numerous real estate transactions from beginning to end and continues to make investments in that world. She is also an investor in a few restaurants in the New York area. In addition to these endeavors, Joanne has been involved in various education projects and served as chairperson at Hot Bread Kitchen, a non-profit committed to increasing access to the culinary industry for woman and minority entrepreneurs. She also sits on the board of The Highline. Joanne has maintained her very popular blog, www.gothamgal.com for over 10 years. She loves to bake, cook, throw a good party, travel, read, collect art, do the crossword and stay on top of what's happening around the globe and in NYC. Her most successful venture is being married to her best friend, Fred and raising their three kids- Jessica, Emily and Josh.
Joanne: I hate that. When someone tells me this is their exit when they haven't even started. It's like to me that is the biggest red flag ever.
Kelly: I'm Kelly Hoey host of Broad Mic. I speak with the most accomplished entrepreneurs, investors and thought leaders about the issues that matter in building a business. You will get the inspiration as well as the picks and shovels you need to become a better entrepreneur. Be inspired, take action, think broad.
When angel investor Joanne Wilson was recently asked, "How do female entrepreneurs find you?" She replied, "I don't know, they find me, I guess I'm kind of out there." Joanne's larger than life reputation precedes her for going to bat for her female founders and for speaking the truth even if it comes at the expense of her own pocketbook. Joanne took up angel investing with a vengeance as a second career and as a way of giving back and empowering the next generation of female founders. Joanne has made over 60 angel investments and regularly writes about her experience on Gotham Gal, a blog she's been writing for over a decade.
Today we have a chance to get inside the mind of an experienced angel investor and hear some inside baseball advice from Joanne including what she and Warren Buffett have in common. Entrepreneurs take note, she will share cautionary tales about the importance of knowing your deal terms and why she hates seeing an exit slide in a pitch deck. Today you will learn all about the good, the bad and the ugly from Joanne Wilson the no bs angel investor. So Joanne how did you get started as an angel investor?
Joanne: I got started, I guess it was almost nine years ago, some eight or nine years ago and the reality is I was looking for what's my next gig when I grow up. That's been the theme of my life which is, okay, that was good now what's next? And I think a lot of it had to do with being a mother. And so I was watching the next generation of the web come back after we had seen it all go into the toilet and I was watching Curve Media which was Curbed Racked and Eater and I was reading these things three or four times a day. And I was obsessed with them and I actually said to my husband, "You know, it's too bad you would never invest in something like this because this is how people are going to take in content in the next decade and it is just beginning. With their doing is so smart." Came home in the next day and he said, "Well do looking for money." And I was like, "Really?" he said, "You should invest in them." And I was like, "Really?" he was like, "Yeah, you'd be so good if you know how to build businesses, you know how to make money and you have a good eye for what's going on out there." So, I called Lockhart Steele and I said, "I hear you're looking for money." And that was the beginning.
Kelly: That is so cool. In the number of times you and I are talking and I interviewed you and I never knew that story and thank you, Fred, we'll give him a shout-out. He can get his one shout-out there it is Fred you got it.
Joanne: You know what's interesting about that is that here I was like what's my next and all of a sudden I invest in this company and I start getting involved, interviewing people, seeing what's happening and they were learning too. And I think what I learn from that experience and we all learned a lot is that know what your place is because even when I chaired a non-profit at one point, the board members pulled me aside and they said, "Do you want to be the Executive Director or do you want to be the Chairperson?" and that's all they had to say and I was like, "I know exactly what you're talking about, I do not want to be the ED." And so I learned a lot through that process of what is my role as an investor because I am not working there full time.
Kelly: Right. So, I think part of this what I'm hearing is in terms of what's attracted you to this was you were seeing trends in the future but you are also knowing where you added value and what you got excited which means you add more value.
Joanne: Right, right. That's very true. I think that as an investor particularly as an angel investor versus a institutional investor where you have a thesis which more than likely the thesis is based on what you're best skill set is on your career. Is that to invest in things that you understand and that you enjoy because it's an extension of yourself. So for me to invest in something like a really deep dive into technology in the cloud I totally get it but can I really help that company? Probably not.
Kelly: I'm laughing at the invested in joy because of course with my life as a past lawyer people want to pitch me legal technology all the time and I'm like, "Yeah, don't even talk to me about that."
Joanne: No, I get that because I started my career in retail and wholesale and so when I look at brands like I have a handbag line or I have a denim line. It's just I know so much about that business it really took me a long time. I'm in some manufacturing businesses but I have a hard time digging into those businesses because I know how difficult they are.
Kelly: Yeah, that's excellent advice and I was going to ask you now what is your advice to new angel investors?
Joanne: Well, I think it's a couple things, is that you have to remember you could lose it all. So if you said I really want to put money into startups because you can go to any event these days, I don't care if it's a dinner party for 10 or a party for 200 and you stood up and said, "Does anyone know someone who's in a start up?" Someone's going to raise their hand. Right? Everyone's like we are redoing the entire economy and products and everything that we live in, technology is changing everything.
And so, I think it's important to say why do I want to invest? Of course, I'd like to make money with my investment but maybe I also with like to take what I have learned and help another up and coming founder. Connect with me and perhaps I can help them not steps into pot holes or I know this much about this and I can help them. And so I think it's important for a couple of things which is one, have a thesis. So, what is it that I want to invest in? Two, how much money do I want to put into this and how much money am I willing to lose because you could lose it all or you might not. And how much money do I want to put into every business and how many do I want to do a year.
So I think the importance is I have a thesis, everybody has a thesis even institutional investors have a thesis. And the first year spend a lot of time meeting and talking and greeting. Not only investors but also up and coming companies. Because I think the first year, you like everything. You are meeting the smartest people, their synapses are like busting out of their eyes and you're just like, "Oh my god, they're so smart, that's such a great idea." But as you get more seasoned you're like wait a second, it's a good idea but you know what? I'm not so sold on that one.
And so I think that it's important to...it's like Malcolm Gladwell thing after so many hours you become a maven. So take your time don't jump in immediately with two feet.
Kelly: That's such terrific advice. When you started did you have a thesis or did that evolve? I want to say your first year, time period as you got into investing.
Joanne: Oh, it totally evolved. I put in quite a sizeable amount of money in Curbed I didn't really think about it but I should have I think because how I operate is like, oh one lemonade stand on Monday and I better have a chain by Friday so I don't know why I thought that was going to be my first and only investment. It accelerated as I started talking to people, and looking at companies and then I made another investment and another investment. And so then after the third one I was like, "You know what? I need to be thoughtful about what is my thesis here." And I talked to a bunch of people in regards to how my thesis was setup and what I wanted to do, it was relative to how many deals I should do a year in the way that my thesis runs I should really do 10 deals a year. I can't do one because it doesn't work out in regards to opportunity cost and so that was number one and the other thing is I realized by like the deal three that I really wanted to support women and I made a conscious decision very early on. Third deal, I'm in 90 which is I'm going to invest in women. Only 75% of my deals are women led founders. So if you're a guy you really have to be off the charts.
Kelly: Where are the exceptional male entrepreneurs? If we want to find that person we just look at your portfolio that's what I'm hearing.
Joanne: Yeah, that's it. And my assistant is always now what do you invest in? You've met the incredibly tenacious, really driven women and very interesting quirky guys.
Kelly: You know what? There's a good thesis. I like that one. You referred before to opportunity cost and what did you mean by that in terms of the number of investments you needed to make on an annual basis?
Joanne: Well listen, if I'm putting in $50,000 or less in a business to own 1% of a business with the caveat that I can continue to put money in at every single level going forward, keeping my prorated share. If you do one deal, right? $50,000 and think god I hope that works. It's just like the chances of one working and being your one it can happen but reality is that's not how it's going to happen and so if you invest in a variety of them over the course of time, some are going to be big, some will be medium, some will fail and so you have to have enough in there for probability.
Kelly: Right, it's the portfolio approach and I think it's almost where we started this conversation that early stage investment start-ups as an asset class need to be part of your overall portfolio and then within that segment you need to figure out how many because you're absolutely right. I mean wouldn't it be lovely to be the person who could pick the one big winner but even Warren Buffett doesn't invest that way.
Joanne: Totally. And then of course, as time goes on the hope is, is that some of these companies will exit or you decide that it's worth so much more money now than I ever thought it would be and I'm willing to sell to the secondary market and get out of that deal and then you start putting money back into your coffers and you continue onwards.
Kelly: So one of the practices I want you to explain because I think we're hearing more of it? I think as some of these new Angel investors that we've seen come in the market in the past couple of years are sort of maturing. Can you explain the practice of tap out amounts or a cap for each company?
Joanne: In regards to total amount that I would put in?
Kelly: Yeah, as part of strategizing how you're investing.
Joanne: Yeah, I mean I like to own 1% of the company from the very beginning and so and I really don't want to put out more than $50,000 into a company at the very onset and I'm really early. I would say almost half the companies I'm in I probably gave their first dollar to. And it's so funny because some of them have moved forward they're like, "And you gave me my first dollar." And I'm thinking, "Really? I didn't even realize that." So it's super-duper early and so then I own that 1% and then as the business moves forward there is a dollar amount that I like to cap out on in regards to consistency. So if you look at my portfolio on a piece of paper in regards to the dollar amounts that I put in, you can see I've hit those numbers on several companies. I have not putting any more money in but I'm always involved regardless because I still care about the company and I obviously want to do anything I can help to move it forward because you just never know. There's some now that I'm thinking, "Oh man, they're doing amazing, should I over-exceed my number?" But I think the one thing that I have is a thesis and it works and I should stick to it because I've had companies that I thought that company is a great company, those women are really smart. They're probably going to build a nice little $30 or $40 million business and then all of the sudden things shift and you're like, wait a second that actually could be a $100 million business so you just don't know.
Kelly: Quick, get back in that one. When you said you go in really early what is your definition of going in early just describe a company where you said this was early. Did they have an MVP or was it just an idea or did they have a first customer? How early when you say early?
Joanne: Yeah, I don't invest in ideas. I just won't do it. I just feel like the hardest part is actually building that business from the very beginning and figuring out if the consumer or companies if it's B2B, has a need for this particular product. I think that's really important because I just don't think I'm that smart to know. It's like things have come and exploded and the consumer told us we like this product or we like what they're doing and so I really want to see something. I have invested in a couple concepts that have yet to materialize but they're also not first time entrepreneurs and so I know they know how to build a product and I think what they're doing makes a lot of sense and no one else is doing it and there's definitely a void in the marketplace for it. So that is another way, I'm willing to go out on a limb and help them strategize and think about as they move forward in their businesses.
Kelly: And that's a classic situation where you've got people who've done it before. They've built teams, they've shipped product when you're investing in the entrepreneur at that early stage seeing that they can do it.
Joanne: Yeah, even look at VCs there's people that have had tremendous success they've exited with and they come back with something else and they're like, sure let's do it. We'll give you some money, let's see what you can come up with. Because once you've done it once you sort to know all the pitfalls. Not that there won't be new pitfalls but you're a little quicker on your feet.
Kelly: Yeah, fewer mistakes. I'm just going to go back on something on investing in when you said you like to own 1% of the company. Are you with your deals? Are you thinking about this for someone coming in as an angel? Let's talk about being entrepreneur first because I think that is another lesson for angel investors whether they're getting into this game now or their first year or two in. What does that mean to you and why is that the right approach when you're making these early investments?
Joanne: Well, as an Angel the reality is, is that unless you have a fund or a family fund where you can write a significant check and you are connected to a lot of institutional investors that would be happy to have you on the team because of your knowledge in whatever it may bring. You've got to get in early because you're not going to see those deals later on. And so you know I created this whole side angel group that I have that every time I invest in something just to keep people up to date, I tell people this is what I'm doing if you're interested in meeting, fantastic. And I've had a variety of women meet with those founders and then put money in. And they're so excited about it which is great because they're doing something different and they feel really good about it and they do talk to the founders and they try to help where they can help but when that one founder gets to the round when they're wasting $10 million they're not going to this angels and so you really have to be as an angel, I think early to the game.
Kelly: Right, and you're early to the game if you are being supportive to entrepreneurs?
Joanne: Yeah, oh yeah, totally. I've talked to plenty of people who are so concerned about when do I think to get that money out, when do you think they're going to sell, how long will this take and it's just like, listen if you are more concerned about mitigating your risk you are in the wrong business.
Kelly: Right, I mean in some ways you're mitigating risk because this should be part of your portfolio but anyone whose investing has to know that this is a long-term game, this is not a short-term game.
Joanne: This is a very long-term game and I talked to some women the other day who they have a super cool fund actually. They only support LGBT founders. And she was asking me about my thesis we have a really interesting conversation and in her personal life and her career, she actually does much later stage investing and I said to her, "You know in the early stage stuff there's not a lot to analyze there and so you really got to trust your gut and if you have a hard time with that it's really a very difficult business to be in." Because someone can walk in the door tomorrow and all of a sudden let's say you sell an ice cream product. and someone walks in and says, "We want to go into 1,500 stores." The whole business just changed. Or you shift a little to the right and you play with the product and you are out there trying to aggregate consumer eyeballs to your app and all of a sudden that little shift, boom you've got 3 million eyeballs that month. I mean, you just don't know and that's why I like it because I love watching the evolution of companies as they grow.
Kelly: Part of me is laughing this part of the motivation for me to start angel investing and saying, "You know what I can do this" was hearing a successful male angel investor in New York go through the big list of what he looks for in deciding to make an investment and then he looked at the audience and he said, "Yeah, but then at the end of it I just trust my gut" and I remember thinking to myself I have a gut, I could trust it.
Joanne: And that's why you have one.
Kelly: And that's what you used it for. Let's talk about Gotham Gals just a little bit more because this idea that you are opening your deal flow because you have been so visible as an investor. You're opening your deal flow to other women to be part of and they can be part of trusting, all right Joanne is writing a check she's in this. Maybe I want to look at this two. Is it a formal network? Is it an informal one? Any other ideas on that because I think the more I really like what you're doing and I think the more other women who are angel investing hear about that is like hint, hint ladies you should do this too?
Joanne: Yeah, I would hope that over time we would get big enough that I think there's a number in my head of how many I would want on that list that I would say to other people, "Now you guys start. Hey I saw this, I saw this, what do you think of this?" What's interesting is that I don't take any carry, I'm trying to support A the entrepreneurs that I've invested in because I want them. I know you need the capital, B is I want women to think about investing in businesses and most importantly is that women look at things differently and so AngelList is very interesting place where you see a lot of money flowing and I've never done AngelList although part of me always thinks, "Oh, I should do it because I could raise so much money for one of my companies like so easily." But, on the other hand, I know women. Women like to talk to the founder, read the deal, look at the documents and talk to other people and feel like, "Okay, I want to make sure that I'm doing the right thing that I feel good about this, it's in my gut I'm going to do it."
And then once you do the first one it's easier to do the second and then the third one have you not, but you know it's funny when entrepreneurs will say, "I met with this investor today and when I told him you're invested they were totally excited." And I'm thinking don't follow me, right? I like that you're excited that I'm in it and terrific if you're going to give these people money but you're talking about people's capital. It's very personal decision if this makes sense for you because you believe in this company not that you believe in what I'm doing but you had an opportunity to look at it and go, "You know what? I like this too."
Kelly: It's like a verification point for me. I think about it in terms of who else has looked at this, what's their investment thesis? How are they looking at it? Friend of mine Erica [SP], I know that if she's going in on a deal that every piece of financials has been scrubbed over 16 ways to Sunday so I'm like, okay, if she's comfortable with the financials I'm pretty much comfortable with the financials. So, that's why I like to know who's in on these things and following in that regard and "Okay, this is something maybe to set up and pay a little more attention to," particularly if I agree with someone else investment thesis and has that agreement on it.
Joanne: [inaudible 00:23:15] because you know what? Like your friend Erica, there's certain people when they're in deals with me I'm thinking, I know what they like in terms of what they're looking at that they need a comfort level with and that's great because I don't need to look at that space over there because I know that they've looked at the financials or they've looked at this in the marketplace and that is a really, really important to sort of look at that overall what people are doing.
The other thing is someone emailed me this week and she's like, "Have you seen the Steele, do you want to meet with this woman?" And I usually say yes or no but not give a lot of information. But this particular time I know she's starting to do angel investing and for whatever reason I was in the mood and I basically said, "I'm not interested and here's why." And so I basically gave her what my thought process is behind of it and why I wouldn't put money into a company like that. And she was like, "Wow, that was super helpful because I wasn't looking at it like that."
Kelly: That is so helpful in terms of guiding someone who is a new angel and educating them on [inaudible 00:24:20]. I was actually going to say [inaudible 00:24:24] one of those things that if there's fun involved in being an angel investor, saying no sometimes is...depending on how the entrepreneur takes it, it can not be very much fun but how do you say no?
Joanne: I think saying no is really important and I think it's just how you do anything right? Everything is how you pitch it but I do say, like this morning, this woman I said to her you know your deck is great. She wanted advice on that I said it's exactly what a deck should look like, 12 pages, here's the problem, here's what we're solving, here's what makes this amazing, [inaudible 00:25:03] the marketplace, blah, blah, blah, blah. I said as much as I appreciate what you're building this is not something that I would invest in and unfortunately because of that I don't have the time to get together with you. I wish I had the time to get together with every single woman that reached out to me but I just don't.
I recommended she apply to WE Festival because I think she would learn a lot from it probably more than 24 hours than she would learn even from sitting in an hour with me. And I hoped she understood. And she emailed me back she was like, "I so appreciate the fact that you were completely honest, you gave me a no but you gave me some feedback and I couldn't have asked for more than that."
Kelly: I always think maybe it's the worst thing that investors could [inauble 00:25:47].
Joanne: Oh, it's the worst. People do that all the time particularly more institutional investors I think because you never know where these people will end up, it will end up going down the toilet and bring back the next deal and the next deal is the big one and so I do think there's something nice, I mean listen. Years ago when I was a buyer at Macy's people would call me like crazy to come see their lines. And once a month I would go out and see 12 lines in one day because I felt like that was my job and I would say yes or no. But I was very where I stood and I know that I went to the other side and people would be like, yeah this is great totally 70s something and then you could never get them back on the phone. And this is like why are you wasting my time? I'd rather you said to me great talking to you, I hate your stuff, I'm never going to buy it but if you ever go somewhere else please give me a buzz. Then I would know check off the list, not for me. So that whole, where you don't know where you hang I don't like that. I'm a very black and white person but I don't like gray.
Kelly: Oh, I was going to say you were such an influence to me. Pitch event we were both at years ago with women founders and Malene B who had that carpet line and she said she wanted an investor and you just said stop right there, go back three pages on your pitch deck, look at your financials, what's this work in progress? You're going to have a profit six to nine months, suck it up. I still think of that moment.
Joanne: And she did.
Kelly: She did.
Joanne: And she did and I bumped into her at the show at the Javits Center about six, seven months ago and she literally was like, oh my god. She took a selfie with me, she was so excited, she goes, "I took that and she was I never took a dime." And now she's doing fantastic and she owns it 100%.
Kelly: That's so fantastic. So sometimes I think people think, "Oh, saying no is the unkind thing." I'm like no, no giving the direct advice and telling people no, you should go off and just do this. I think just the best advice they can be given rather than this maybe and all that other stuff where they can't make a decision or move forward it's...
Kelly: So, you mentioned pitch deck and you said 12 pages. So, what do you want to see in a pitch deck just in case someone doesn't know?
Joanne: Well remember, a pitch deck is an appetizer. It's not the whole course, it's not the entrée. With some of these decks, it's just like, "Why are you giving me everything? You've got to tickle my fancy. Now I know so much I don't even know if I'm interested." And so it should be 10 pages, here's the problem, here's the solution, here's what we've done, here's our competition, here's my team, here's the future, here's what we're doing.
Kelly: There it is.
Joanne: And that's it.
Kelly: Should they talk about their exits in the pitch deck?
Joanne: No, oh my god no, I hate that. When someone tells me this is their exit when they haven't even started. It's to me that is the biggest red flag ever. It's like that's not what we're in here to do we're here to build businesses, we're here to build the colonies, we're here to create jobs, we're here to make things that are going to change people's lives, change businesses' lives and, by the way, you have no freakin' clue what your exit is because your business might evolve completely into something you never thought it would.
Kelly: Okay, so there, they've heard it do not put exit in a pitch deck. Think about building a company. How do entrepreneurs find you?
Joanne: They do, I don't know they just find me. I think that I'm pretty out there so it could be from reading my blog, it could be from advance like this where we're talking, it could be from the Women's Entrepreneur Festival, it could be from whatever it is from word of mouth. All these founders talk to each other and see each other on the street. So most of it just shows up in my box. There's only one company in all of them that I was at a party that actually Victoria Song put on and when she was in Boston for a bunch of New Yorkers to get together. It was a dinner and a cocktail party with founders and investors and there was a woman there, Amanda Elian and she was telling me about her business and I was like, "God that's really interesting." And I said to her "I'd love to talk to you. Is there any more money in that?" She was actually "We have one $50,000 slot left." And I said, "Well let's talk." And then we got together and talked more about our business." And I was like, this is phenomenal and then, of course, it ends up that I know four of the other investors.
So you just, you never know but otherwise, most of them just show up in my box or introductions from other founders you know what I mean? They're cold calls, they're introductions it's all over the place.
Kelly: And you look at all of it?
Joanne: I do. I'm a super freaky organized efficient human and I know that about myself. But I do think that it is so hard to be an entrepreneur and start a company and figure out who's the right person, who's the funding and to write that code call email that...it's nice to get a response from somebody even if it's a no or just some little feedback. You know if I'm interested I'll go back and forth for a while and I have invested of some of those companies that came in cold. But I just feel like and then some of them, of course, prod you in ways afterwards it's just like, okay you're done. But I do think it's nice to respond.
Kelly: Some people even if you say no they still, they don't get the no. You mentioned the WE Festival for anyone listening who for some reason is not aware of WE Festival. Can you describe it for us?
Joanne: Yes. WE Festival's my own personal entrepreneurial venture. WE Festival is the Women's Entrepreneur Festival for five years it was at NYU, it was a phenomenal event. I decided that after five years I was over it because there was no company behind it essentially. We were just putting it on at NYU and they were great at helping execute on all the production and we really didn't capture enough data, all that stuff and we had no partners/sponsors and so I decided after five years I was done and my husband and my sister and I went out and got completely hammered on margaritas and my husband was like, "You can't give this thing up, it's like part of the extension of your brand. I've met so many women who've come to this event and there's nothing else like it and you're helping all these women in the trenches." And my sister turned to me and she was like, "I'll run it." And I was like, "Oh my god." And so the next morning we woke up and I just like, "You know what? That's a really great idea." And so I went back to my co-founder Nancy Hechinger and I said, "You know what? I think I want to keep it. Do you care if I take it on the road?" And she was like, "It's yours, take it." and so...
Kelly: Five years of fun please take it away. Yes.
Joanne: Yeah, she was done and I just felt like it had to become something bigger and better in the next iteration. And so fast forward not only are we going to do it in New York on April 13th and 14th you have to apply to come and we're super excited about it. The night before I have a fireside chat with Rachel Ray and then the full day's activities are panels that are very appropriate around helping women build better businesses and all of the people on the panels are women that a series A, maybe series B. They can give great feedback and advice. The rooms become incredibly interactive just because when someone on the panel is not that far along than you are, you don't feel like you're being talked too, you're being validated what you're doing.
So, it was a really interesting event and it's a full day event and we have wonderful panelists and people speaking. And we have ITP doing a super cool thing in the afternoon which is called Creative Tension in all three rooms. And so it's at One World Trade Center. And what's really nice too is that because we did it for five years and didn't have any people sponsor us because we didn't need to except I will say Silicon Valley Bank allowed me and also [inaudible 00:35:05] girls the opportunity to do live stream because the NYU students weren't doing such a great job of filming the panel.
We went out into the market and talked about what we're doing. We have an audience like nobody else does and we have these amazing sponsors that have come on from Verizon to AMEX to SheKnows media, Google, Accenture, LinkedIn, Justworks, GE, WeWorks, and New York Magazines and Media Partners. So it's been really fantastic and they're part of what we're doing and we're taking this thing [inaudible 00:35:49] on the road. We're going to do this event in Los Angeles in November and then we'll go back in New York in April of 2017 and then we're going to Berlin in June of 2017 and continue to have three of these events a year. But I think what's much more interesting is that underneath all of this we have a slack channel that anybody can apply, of course if you're a woman and you're entrepreneurial is that we might only accept 400 people to go to each of these events but you can still participate. And so one of the things we launched this week which I love is called Slack-Off and so, for one hour a week, we have someone in that slack room essentially speaking to everyone about answering questions that they're interested in.
And so, our mission which is helping women build better businesses to connect and be heard. And so I did it this week, people were asking a million questions about raising money and all that kind of stuff and it was great. We have someone next week, we've got Jenny Fielding from Techstars she's going to talk about all the accelerators. We have someone from Justworks, who's going to talk about HR and insurance. We have Beth Comstock from GE, who's going to do it. We have someone who's an expert on branding, who's going to do it. We want to continue these over the course of the year and build them bigger and bigger so that there's this community that will continue to talk to each other and will have different off shoots of it.
And hopefully, we're going to do something on Medium as well from all the panelists and from others writing these long forms conversations around women, around entrepreneurial, around resilience, around all the things that...we're all looking for that information. So I'm really excited about it because it's a really unique audience and it's important to go to these events to listen to your peers, find your peers, find mentors, find maybe a co-partner, find someone you can do business with, find a group that you can have a meetup with once a month. It's really cool. The women at 40, under 40 they met there and they had this idea and then Winnie and Christy [SP] they launched that whole thing from being at a WE Festival. So that's kind of cool.
Kelly: It's so great and I hear the enthusiasm of the two things that I'm thinking about for people thinking about their own entrepreneurial venture, their own entrepreneurial journey. This importance of getting out there and doing it and proving it to people that you can execute. Not that getting sponsors for an event is ever easy but a heck of a lot easier
when you're going to find [00:38:26]. Five-year track record to say this is what we have and this is what you're sponsoring, this is what you're investing in.
And the other piece of it is the really, this massive importance on early stage investing of having peers that yes it's absolutely amazing to have this mentors and advisers who have built a company and exit it or they built a company and they're running a successful company but being mentored and working alongside peers who may be half a step ahead or just dealt with a problem last week that you're dealing with this week is absolutely essential and at WE Festival this is where you get to sit alongside those peers and learn as much from them as you are from the panel.
Joanne: Totally, yeah. Actually, one sponsor partner is Deloitte. And what's interesting is about Deloitte they've published so much information about this and so through us we can share it with all of the people that are connecting and so, there's all these opportunities certainly we are in the time of woman that they want to support what these women are doing and I certainly do. And I think that it's really gratifying to find out that I'm not the only one out there that really wants a difference.
Kelly: So this last part of our interview what I want to do is our pay it forward questions. These are questions we ask to all of our guests, so I'm going to get some fast answers from you. What are your go to sources information?
Joanne: I posted this a couple of weeks ago. What do I read every day I think I was shocked myself. I've always been one of those people that get get 25 magazines a month, ridiculous information for your head that's probably better for a cocktail party than anything else and so I just read what comes under my feed as well as things I actually signed up for every day based on things that I like and then obviously a Twitter feed of who I follow and what they're posting and putting out there that I find interesting. As an investor, it's really important to know what's going on out there in terms of the whole big picture.
Kelly: And having all these different sources, how do you discover new information?
Joanne: If you click enough through you can find it. It's like something comes in you're like that's interesting you click through, you end up someone else, you're like, "Wow I've never seen this thing I'm going to sign up for this too," and so that's how.
Kelly: Okay, what book are you reading?
Joanne: Oh, I'm actually reading right now Elizabeth Warren's biography.
Kelly: Oh, very cool.
Joanne: Yeah, I usually am a novelist in terms of what I read but I am really fascinated and it's a great book. She's very chatty, it's easy to read and I think what she's writing about in regards to where the middle class is and how we have screwed them particularly through a variety of channels is very poignant for our times as you look at what is happening in presidential race.
Kelly: Exactly. What's the...
Joanne: It's worth it, it's good.
Kelly: Worth reading. A right Elizabeth Warren's book.
Joanne: Yeah, it's totally worth it. It's really, really, really good, yeah.
Kelly: What's the conversation we should be having that we aren't?
Joanne: You know, that's a great question. I think we started to have the conversation about gender balance which I think is important but I think it's really important like anything if you start on one foot and it's the wrong foot, it's really hard to get back on the right foot. And so when these companies start the importance of gender balance in these companies from the very get go makes them better companies because men and women think differently and they come at things from different angle. And I also think part of that right foot there's a lot of really young entrepreneurs but there's also a lot of these companies that are getting older and having families. And the importance of appreciating and celebrating how important it is to allow people that work because we have phones in our hands, that our lives are blurred between our careers and our personal lives. To give the flexibility for people to be able to do both.
It's weird how in your 30s and 40s when people end up having families is also the time where you're actually creating the biggest important value of your personal career that's going to make that kind of capital for you over those years. Which makes it crazy right? My kids are out of the house now so I can do all this stuff with no worries of being home on time and having dinner on the table and having the refrigerator filled and making sure their socks are in the drawer. And so I think that happy workers, happy families, better businesses.
Kelly: Well said. Who are the people that most influenced you in your career?
Joanne: I had a couple people that over the years that particularly when I was younger. People that influenced me how not to behave and which I think as just as important as people that influenced me how to behave that I thought I want to be like that and they were women. One woman that I worked for was the meanest human being I got acne from her, it was awful. It even took me to composed myself the day that I quit. She was so mean and I thought I would never ever be a human being like that.
And then I worked for a woman who was she just took over the world and I loved how she operated and how she thought and so when I was super young, I was, "I want to be like that." So there's been a bunch of people over the years but I will say is that my husband has probably made the biggest impact on me in regards to pushing me forward in my career. We've known each other since we've been 19 years old, so you know he could probably say the same thing about me. But there were times where I took up the slack, there's times when he took up the slack but as a partnership it's been fantastic and we have three amazing children who inspire me every day. I think at the end of the day it's really been my family.
Kelly: Awesome. Okay, Fred, you get a second mention, thank you. What is the best advice you've ever received?
Joanne: The best advice I ever received was my third job because when you're at Macy's which is where I started my career, every year it's like a pyramid, it was, it isn't like this anymore as you interview for the next job. So my third job was I was 24 years old and I was the assistant store manager for New Rochelle Macy's. The woman who ran the store was, I loved her like loved her and I oversaw all of women's ready to wear and cosmetics so all of those managers reported to me and it was important. My job was also to nurture them and teach them about how to build their businesses to then get promoted to the next job. Truth is it's very similar to what I do today. But when I got there I had been...my first job was running Kings Plaza Cosmetics so I really knew cosmetics cold and someone said to me and it wasn't the woman who ran the store, it was a vice president in the company, I think it was this guy Carl [SP] Madeo and he said to me, "You know cosmetics inside out. You could spend five minutes in the morning and five minutes in the afternoon there and probably get everything you need to get done as a manager. Spend time in places that you're uncomfortable and you don't understand because most people come into this job and they end up spending all the time in something they knew from their first job and then they never end up learning anything else because they just stick to that." And I was like, "Great advice." So I basically tackled women's ready to wear and cosmetics. He was right, I spent maybe half an hour there a day and that was it. And it was a great business the cosmetics business there but I knew enough already that I didn't need to spend eight hours a day in that business.
And so, I think spending time in places you're uncomfortable. So I met an entrepreneur, he's an incredible product person and he needed to understand sales and I said to him, "Spend time in sales, understand sales, no sales no business. I know that's not what you're good at or what you've learned but be uncomfortable and spend every day there until you understand it or you're never going to be able to build your business and manage that. And he did and the business is fantastic and he learned a lot from that because he didn't need to spend that much time in product. Because he all ready know how to do product.
Kelly: Go where it's uncomfortable. What makes your work fun and rewarding?
Joanne: You know the people I get to talk to everyday and work with every day. It's insanely rewarding to see founders that I gave their first dollar to go out and raise $10 million from a institutional investor who I tremendous respect for and then have them take the business to the next level. Sometimes I'm lucky enough to sit on the board with them but to see them grow from an idea to a business and then have this confidence and knowledge that they didn't have three years ago, it's really rewarding. It really is. And it was the same thing with my children it's incredibly rewarding to see them become young adults as they move forward in their lives. Not that I'm not starting always new careers and new things I'm working on but to watch someone who's young and come up the pike and make decisions some good, some bad, some failures, some positives. I think it's just great to watch, it's insanely fun and rewarding and I'm glad that I got to be part of their process.
Kelly: I couldn't agree more seeing other people succeed it's such a meaningful thing. Everyone knows this from my Instagram feed when I need to feel powerful and the thing I pull out from my wardrobe are my heels. What do you pull out your wardrobe when you need to have that power suit?
Joanne: Everything black.
Kelly: If it's black it's power, I like that.
Joanne: If it's black, it's powerful, if it's in New York, it's black. I'm out in L.A. during the winter and it's just jeans. It's such a different thing and it's like a very different wardrobe but in New York, it's the black pants and the black boots. In L.A. it's totally, it's loafers and jeans.
Kelly: I love it. I won't feel that you've lost you power if I see you on the West Coast. Oh, we're on the other coast we're not in New York. And this question I'm going to laugh because you are I want to say the godfather because there's something powerful about saying that. The godfather of paying it forward for women but how are you paying it forward for women?
Joanne: Well, certainly the Women's Entrepreneur Festival and listen, I can give my two cents all day and I hope that I inspire women. I went to a party last night and it was 30 women investors and a lot of them were actually more analyst than they were VCs, some of them are VCs as well and everyone went around the room and said, you know who they are and what they are and I said, "You know don't leave, don't leave this business. It's important that women stay in the forefront of the investing world or even when their companies become publicly traded companies or they sell their companies, don't go home. Because if we go home then who are the role models for the next generation?"
Kelly: That is a absolutely perfect way to end this conversation and that is the mic drop comment and I want to thank you for being so visible and being such a role model for me personally and for so many women. Thank you.
Joanne: Thanks, Kelly. I really appreciate it.
Kelly: Thank you for listening to Broad Mic. We welcome your feedback. Find us on Facebook where you will have show notes and additional references for a deeper dive in today's topic. Subscribe on iTunes so you never miss an episode. Please review our podcast on iTunes which will help other listeners discover Broad Mic and grow the Broad Mic community. Broad Mic is produced by Christy Mirabal with editing by John Marshall Media, our executive producer is Sara Weinheimer. Think broad.