Our guest today has a “golden” resume, notably for the ease with which she crossed the Internet 2.0 digital divide, while at the helm of some of the largest brands in media, commerce and consumer products – Disney, ABC, Gilt and AOL. Susan Lyne is now founder and president of Built by Girls Ventures, aka BBG Ventures, a corporate VC fund investing in early stage, female-led businesses with consumer, tech-enabled products.
In this fireside chat, Susan talks about “why the time is now” to invest in female founders, a conviction born out of decades of observing women’s powerful role as consumers, yet she points to a disturbing disconnect: the still “shockingly low” amount of VC $$s being invested in female-led companies. You’ll hear what she has to say about… how to look for mentors, whether it makes sense to go for VC $$s or not, and why you may be shooting yourself in the foot if you are a solo founder. Listen if you want to hear Susan Lyne’s unique blend of inspiration and practical wisdom for today’s “happy warrior.”
Female Founders Outperform Their Male Peers First Round
The Wright Brothers by David McCullough, iBooks
Cheerful Money by Tad Friend, iBooks
Why Women Entrepreneurs Need to Be More Cocky by Susan Lyne, Inc.
The F-Word: What Chelsea Handler and I Have in Common by Susan Lyne, LinkedIn
Why The Force Will Be With Women Entrepreneurs In 2016 by Geri Stengel, Forbes
Two Women Bosses Reveal the Most Insane Things Said to Them at Work by Betty Lui, Inc.
The Growing Trend of Firms Investing Only in Women Founders by Steven Loeb, Vator
Female founders grab record VC deal share—but still just 18% by Joanna Nolasco, Pitch Book
Guest bios & transcripts are available on www.broadmic.com.
SUSAN LYNE - Susan Lyne is President of BBG Ventures, a new venture fund for women-led tech start-ups. The fund is focused on consumer internet businesses – services, content, commerce – based on the belief that there is a huge opportunity in backing smart entrepreneurs who reflect and understand the consumers driving the fastest-growing areas of the internet. Before launching the BBG Fund, Susan was most recently CEO of the AOL Brand Group where she oversaw AOL’s unique content brands including AOL.com, TechCrunch, Engadget, StyleList, Moviefone, and MapQuest.
From 2008-2013 Susan was CEO and then Chairman of Gilt Groupe, the innovative ecommerce company that pioneered flash sales in the United States.
Prior to that Susan spent three decades in the media industry. She served as President and CEO of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSO) from 2004-2008. While there she was named Publishing Executive of the Year by Advertising Age and received a Matrix Award from New York Women In Communications.
From 1996 to 2004, Ms. Lyne held various positions at the Walt Disney Company and ABC, including EVP of Movies and Miniseries and later President of ABC Entertainment where she was responsible for the network’s primetime schedule, overseeing the development of shows including Desperate Housewives, Lost, and Grey’s Anatomy.
Before joining Disney she was Managing Editor of New Times and The Village Voice and created and launched Premiere Magazine, serving as Editor-in-Chief and Publication Director.
Susan Lyne is Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of Gilt.com and a director of Starz LLC. Additionally, Ms. Lyne is a trustee of Rockefeller University and The New School, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Susan: So thinking hard about the kind of investment you need, the kind of company you're building, before you start to go out and raise money is really important.
Kelly: I'm Kelly Hoey, host of BroadMic. 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.
Kelly: Our guest today has a golden resume. Notable for the ease with which she has crossed the internet 2.0 digital divide while at the helm at some of the biggest brands in media, commerce, and consumer products: Disney, ABC, Gilt, and AOL. Susan Lyne is now founder and president of Built By Girls Ventures, aka BBG Ventures, a corporate VC fund investing in early stage, female led business with consumer, tech-enabled products.
You'll hear what she has to say about how to look for mentors, whether it makes sense to go for VC money or not, and why you may be shooting yourself in the foot if you're a solo founder. Keep listening if you want to hear Susan Lyne's unique blend of inspiration and practical wisdom for today's happy warrior. Why women now?
Susan: I think it's not why women now. I think it's always been why women, or yes women, but I do think that in this tech-enabled economy, the fact that women are such minority players is shocking given that it's 2016. And if we look forward and we think about the world we want to see, you got to have more women participating. And that means being some form of activists now.
Kelly: I love that word activist, because so much of financial wealth is sitting on the sidelines and not actively getting into, I want to say making it happen for women now. We were both looking at a series of infographics that Plum Alley had produced on women's entrepreneurship. What are your thoughts on those?
Susan: You know, I think what it speaks to and this is not a surprise, is that most women's entrepreneurship is really small business. It is you doing something. So I think that something like 35, maybe 40% of all female entrepreneurs, it is just them. So really, what they're doing is creating a service and they create a company around that service. And most of them are good, small businesses that ultimately make money, support a family, do all the things that good businesses ought to do.
What I think we're talking about is how do we move women in business into this world of high-growth venture where you can actually create true wealth and where you can influence the world, right? You can create jobs. You can create opportunity for people. You can change consumer behavior. There's just so many things that can happen when you tap technology to create something innovative. And this is where, I think, I hope, women and business are going to move.
I certainly see so many young, female entrepreneurs now coming out of not just engineering schools, but B schools, and consulting, and corporations with some sector-specific skillset. And they believe that they can fix something that doesn't work well. So women are consumer problem solvers. We see some aspect of work life, home life, play life, that we think we can materially improve. And so there's this whole new wave of female entrepreneurs who are coming out and saying, "I can make this better."
Kelly: Well, and the example I always love to give is if women had been more involved with designing of cars, there would have been a place for the handbag from day one.
Susan: Yeah, it's really true.
Kelly: So it's like, ladies, you've got to get in this game so that...
Susan: Finally we got coffee holders.
Kelly: I got another theory on that one, but it's the whole idea that if you want, this is such a great opportunity right now, because of technology, to create a future that works for us.
Susan: Yeah, absolutely.
Kelly: As opposed to always being kind of butting heads against it, rallying against it. You've had a long and illustrious career: media, digital e-commerce. How did it prepare you for your current role as an investor?
Susan: You know, I think about this. On one level, it didn't. But I have always been focused on female consumers because for as long as I have been working women have been the primary magazine readers. They've been the primary television viewers. We are the end user and that hasn't changed now. I'm now focused on this tech world. And if you look at all the fastest growing parts of either social media or mobile, women dominate.
We are...and I may get these numbers a little wrong, but they are pretty close, so we're 56% of Facebook users. We're 60% of Twitter users. We're 70% of Snapchat, Instagram users. If you look at Pinterest, it's just off the charts. We use mobile phones more frequently. We're on social media more often. We are the person you should be speaking to if you are building a consumer tech company.
So that part of it has not changed for me. Every good decision I have ever made has been because I looked at that female consumer and said, "What does she want? How is she changing? What can I do to delight her?"
Kelly: I'm just thinking in terms of did you ever imagine that you would have this? Wake up and think, "All right, I'm going to do these kind of leadership roles." What was it, do you think, in terms of your background that enabled you to step in? Because you've all, from your, I'm going to say your original career starting in media, they've all been very creative leadership, broad thinking kind of roles. Anything in your background you can say, "You know what? It was because of this."
Susan: One thing I would say is I am the oldest child of five. I've got four brothers and sisters who are all born within five years. I was never the baby, right? I was always the big kid. And I was the oldest grandchild, oldest of 18 grandchildren, I believe. So I was always pushed into being a leader, even as a little kid, because I was responsible for the younger ones. And that probably imprinted on me more than anything else.
It's definitely something that, as I look back, I look to maybe the grown-ups for guidance, but I always felt like I had to take my little chicks under my wings.
Kelly: I would say telling the eldest grandchild, the firstborn, to step up and be the example, not a bad lesson.
Susan: Yeah, absolutely.
Kelly: So I'm excited that you started BBG Ventures. Why was this the right time for that venture fund?
Susan: Yeah, so it goes back a little bit to the time I was at Gilt, because when I went from the Martha Stewart Company to Gilt I was suddenly surrounded by all these young entrepreneurs, and particularly Alexis and Alexandra, who were part of that founding team, were really the key people on that founding team. They're the ones who built the Gilt experience. And through them I met a lot of other young women entrepreneurs who were part of that first wave of New York City B school grads who decided, "Instead of going to McKinsey or Bain I'm going to start a company."
And it was LearnVest, and Rent the Runway, and Paperless Post, and Birchbox, and of course, Gilt. And through all of those young women, I started meeting even more young entrepreneurs. We started a breakfast group that started with maybe a dozen young women, and by the time I left Gilt it was probably 75. And now when we do it, and we do it a couple of times a year, we have to rotate because we have over 150 working entrepreneurs on this list.
But what struck me is that there were, as this wave of young women were coming through with a lot of great ideas, that amount of venture capital that was going to female entrepreneurs was shockingly low. And to me, I can look at that as being unfair or you can look at it as an opportunity. And I looked at it as an opportunity. So we launched BBG Ventures because it is now eminently possible to take a good idea and see if there's market fit without spending millions of dollars. That's how far technology has now advanced, right?
So you can get out there and you can test your concept. And assuming that you see something that is really resonating, you can go out and raise your seed money. But for young women, there are far fewer options. So our thought was why not invest in the entrepreneurs who know that end user best? Who really understand what she needs, what she wants, what's going to really make her happy. And thus we launched BBG Ventures 18 months ago.
We've seen, I mean this is a shocking stat, but in that time we have seen or been approached by 800 entrepreneurs, women entrepreneurs.
Kelly: Oh, there's no women out there, yeah.
Susan: Yeah, exactly. I would love to invest in women but we just can't find them.
Kelly: Can't find any. Okay, so you had 800 in...
Susan: Eighteen months.
Kelly: And from that 800, how many are you...?
Susan: We've invested in 24. We are about to close 2 more, so 26.
Kelly: That's fantastic. And geographic location for the companies you're investing in?
Susan: New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
Kelly: Okay. And for those who don't know, your investment thesis. What are you investing in?
Susan: We invest in consumer companies. First of all, we are seed investors so we get in early. We occasionally invest in an A round to start. We will always do follow-on, but we sometimes look at a company that's already raising an A and think there's still enough serious upside here that we will dive in. But we're primarily a seed fund. We invest $200,000, $250,000 on average, sometimes as little as $100,000.
And we really look for companies that are in arenas where I think we can add more value than just money. So we tend to focus on marketplaces, commerce, mobile services, media, especially video, and increasingly, Internet of Things, so connected devices.
Kelly: Why seed stage? Why was it so important, in your mind, that your venture fund come in at the seed stage?
Susan: Well really, a couple of reasons. One is that we have a $10 million fund, so if we're going to really make that money count we need to be able to get in early. I think, too, that if we want to impact this broader group of female entrepreneurs, then being able to put up a little money with a lot of women, ultimately we will probably have 50 or 60, maybe even 65 companies in this portfolio, that means getting in where a $200,000 investment actually has meaning.
Kelly: Just a thank you for being in there, being early, and putting that stake in the ground with respect to women and investing in them at that stage, because it's just so, so needed. You've seen 800 deal flow. You're out there. You're talking to a lot of entrepreneurs. What kind of advice, in terms of you could give to women who are entering in this entrepreneurial ecosystem? What kind of advice to them in terms of how they should start to navigate it and figure out where they fit in it? Because as you've already alluded to, not everything is angel backable, it's not venture backable, but how they figure out who they are and navigate.
Susan: Yeah, and I think that's the first question, right? That's the first thing you have to sort through. So there are a lot of great ideas that could be good businesses, that could support your family, could make you actually a wealthy woman, but don't have the characteristics of a venture company. And by taking venture funding, you may be damaging the long-term interests of that idea or that company because venture investors will be looking for fast growth, right? They will be looking for this to scale quickly.
Not necessarily what all businesses need. Some businesses should have that slow build where you're building a brand, you're building a reputation. You are demonstrating that you can deliver a service or a product that is really best in class. And that may take real time and learning along the way. So thinking hard about the kind of investment you need, the kind of company you're building before you start to go out and raise money is really important. I think that the idea of raising a venture round has become kind of a badge of honor and so there's a number of companies we see, number of women we meet with who we really believe should be going a different way.
And this is one of the things that I think we should all be thinking about. There need to be alternative ways to fund a business. And some of them should be, because the government puts up a bunch of debt that can be accessed by female entrepreneurs, there should be debt vehicles that can be accessed by women. And there should be different kinds of investment funds that are not typical venture, that are more along the lines of private equity, but for small business.
Kelly: I was going to say back in the day, where if you were, it's exactly as you describe it. You had a really good small business, and let's remember small business is actually what fuels the economy more than anything else. But if you had a small business and you had a revenue stream, you would go to a bank and get a small business loan if you had this gap in cash flow. And you're absolutely right.
That doesn't exist anymore and we're trying to do a stopgap with that with crowdfunding or I should pursue venture or whatever, or maxing out another credit card. But you're absolutely right, some other vehicle to get access money so that entrepreneurs can fuel this economy, which is what they do.
Susan: Yep. Then the second thing I would say is that an idea isn't enough, right? There are lots of good ideas out there. You can't fund an idea unless you're...if Mark Zuckerberg wants to leave Facebook and he has a new idea, people are going to put money behind that in a heartbeat.
Kelly: Sara Blakely, I bet people would be thrilled if she...
Susan: I will give her money. But the vast majority of us, you have to have a product that's in market, right? You've done the hard work. You can demonstrate that there's market fit. And so don't go out and waste your breath trying to raise money too soon. You've got to figure out a way, whether it's friends and family funding or, as you say, maxing out a credit card. The good thing about starting a business right now is that you don't have to buy servers.
There's a lot of things that have improved so dramatically over the course of the last five, seven years that it's possible to get to market with a few hundred thousand dollars. And so doing that, knowing in advance what it is you have to prove before you go out and start looking for seed funding. And then making sure you hit all those points.
Kelly: It might be helpful just to clarify for any of the entrepreneurs listening, the reason why, if a Sara Blakely or a Mark Zuckerberg, Alex or Alexandra say, "Hey, I've got another idea," why they are attractive as an investment with an idea.
Susan: Yeah, so one of the unknowns is always is this person a CEO? Can they actually build a business? If you have a track record of having done it, then that takes a big piece of the risk off the table. And very interesting research that is worth looking at that came out of a VC called First Round. They've been in business now for 10 years. They were really the first people here in New York City who said, "You know what? We think there's an opportunity here to invest early in companies, before the A round and actually get a great return."
And so they've, I want to say they've invested in 300 companies in that 10 years. But they looked at their numbers. There were some very interesting statistics in there. One of them was that if they looked at their female entrepreneurs versus male entrepreneurs, the women were 64% more successful than the guys. That's a big deal. The other one was that second time entrepreneurs were something like 125% more successful.
So now there's just hard data that shows not just first round, but hard data that shows a second time entrepreneur is far likelier to succeed, both because they've learned a lot the first time around, but also because they've proved that they have some of those innate leadership skills, so more people are going to be willing to put money behind that second company.
Kelly: When you're already making a risky early investment, here's a way to de-risk.
Susan: Yeah, absolutely.
Kelly: How important is mentoring as part of your current role?
Susan: Well, it's incredibly important. It's also something that I feel like I've always done. Again, this goes back to oldest child. So we oldest children mentor, I think, by nature. It's really something that you grow up doing. And I have done a lot of mentoring, informal mentoring particularly, over decades. Right now, I have a fantastic partner. She's 32 years old. Nisha Dua, I consider her my key mentee. She's amazing and she's going to rock this world. But then I also have a couple dozen young female entrepreneurs.
In some cases there are two or three women as part of that founding team. I also spend time advising a number of young women who are not part of our portfolio, but whose companies I admire. There are some of them who I've been mentoring or what I would call advising since well before we started BBG Ventures. So there's a part of virtually every day that I spend on that, giving young women feedback, helping them think through something that is challenging.
I have a call this afternoon with one of my entrepreneurs who has a big issue about her company she's tackling and she just wants to be able to talk through the pros and cons of it. So yes, it's a huge part of my work and it's also something I really like doing. It's valuable, I know, to the people who I mentor, I advise. But I get a lot back from it.
Kelly: It's part of your DNA.
Kelly: Also realizing, and I know you understand this, realizing that in some ways it's part of this job of being an investor.
Susan: No question, yes.
Kelly: If you're not, as an early stage investor, if you don't have that kind of mentoring inclination, then you may not be the best investor.
Susan: No, I think that's right. I will say that there is another stream in this whole mentor conversation that I don't think is great, which is that there's a, I'm sure you get this, too, but any time I go to a conference, any time I speak, any time I meet with a group of young women, there are invariably a half dozen of them who come up to me afterwards and say, "I'd like you to be my mentor." And I think, "And why do you have the right to ask me this?"
Kelly: If anyone can see, there was video in this podcast, everyone can see my hair ignite. What is the question that they should be asking you?
Susan: You know, I think that look, there are lots of question they should be asking, but one easy one is, "What kind of mentor should I be looking for right now?" And I think that always having mentors, whether you call them mentors, it's again, this is not new. Throughout history, older or more experienced people have brought along younger, talented colleagues who they believe are worth the investment of time.
And so we've now coined a term for it. And in many instances, young women are told that the way they can get ahead is to get the right mentors. And that's why they ask you to be their mentor, despite the fact that they're meeting you for the first time. Or me, because they think if they can just grab hold of one or two or three mentors who have done something significant, that's going to guarantee them advancement.
And what I would say to them is, "Look much closer by." Right? Look for people who are really part of your world, people you admire who you work with, people you admire because they're maybe part of your extended family. And try to understand, first, what they do, why you think they could be valuable to you, and why investing time in you could be valuable for them. So it needs to be a two-way street. And I think in some cases a mentor, a good mentor, can even be a peer.
Kelly: Oh, I agree, absolutely. I feel with some of the young women in tech who I mentor, I never understand when am I mentoring them and they're mentoring me.
Susan: That's absolutely true.
Kelly: In terms of their leadership skills or their confidence. And there is this element of trust and reputation. If I'm going to have someone as my mentee, I'm trusting my reputation with them. What I advise a lot of young women, and I think Levo had done this so well with their mentoring platform, is right here, right now, what is a question I can answer for you based on my experience? And really looking at that kind of mentoring that way. Like not asking you to take on some big commitment as opposed to coming up to you after you speak to say, "I was really interested in this point. Could you expand it?" Or, "Your career was this. How did you do that?"
Susan: Yeah, yeah, absolutely.
Kelly: Rather than saying, "Can you take on this big obligation?"
Susan: But even those questions, so I'm going to even challenge that because I think that someone can ask me a question like that and I have no context for why you're asking it. I have no idea whether my answer to that is going to be right for you. It was right for me, but not necessarily for you. So this is again why I say look for people who are part of your life already, somebody you admire who knows you and who can therefore give you better advice because they understand the context.
Kelly: Yeah, excellent, excellent advice. So I just want to go back to, so someone sent you a pitch deck.
Kelly: First meeting of you someone has the ability to get in front of you and your team. You're going to have that pitch deck there. But what I'm hearing is you're going to be having a conversation so you can figure out this team.
Susan: That's absolutely right and I'm going to be trying to dig deeper in all those areas that are part of your pitch deck to make sure that you really understand all parts of this business. So never good when someone says, "You know, let me get back to you on that." Right? Whatever that may be, a question about what your CAC to lifetime value, even if your lifetime value is very nascent, right, so you're still trying to...this will not be something, it's a moving target for at least the next 18 months. But still, if I ask you even what your CAC is, what your customer acquisition cost is, and you can't tell me that number, that's a problem.
Kelly: I'm so glad you raised that because it is how many times do I meet a founder who says, "Well, that's not..." No, no, that's your company.
Susan: Yeah, yeah.
Kelly: You need to know every...I don't care if you're not the technical founder. I don't care if finance is not your background. I don't care if you're a marketing person. It's your company. If you've got founder next to it and you're the one pitching...
Susan: Yeah, absolutely.
Kelly: Got to know every single bit. Any other observations you would want to share in terms of needs of early stage companies after you're doing your own investments and the 18 months with BBG?
Susan: Yeah, I think that having confidence that you are building something, understand who that end user is, and why you are really going to resonate with her, and sometimes him, but again, I go back to the fact that there are probably going to be more women using your product than men even if it is not specifically targeting women. So really believing that you can build something that is not just as good or that isn't just a cool idea, but that it is actually going to make her life better and that you are not going to stop until you genuinely can prove that to her, delight her, and make her a customer for life.
So that passion to create something that is fabulous. And I'll give you another example. And this is a company we have not invested in. We actually missed the first round but I'm very intrigued with what they're doing. It's a company called Lola that created an all-cotton tampon, which there are no all-cotton tampons out there so what you're putting into your body is often not great. And they've created a subscription product so that it's delivered to you every month. You can decide what sizes, how many, but one less thing to think about and a significantly better product.
And it sounded like a really good idea. They've gotten incredible uptake on it in a very short period of time. And they see the other things that they could add to that box they send to you every month that would even make it more valuable. But they had such a powerful belief that this was something that they and all their friends and everybody who they spent time with genuinely needed, both a better tampon and taking away the midnight run to Duane Reade, that they were happy warriors.
They were driven to get this off the ground. And I love that. I love when someone really identifies a specific need, a better product, a way to make a woman's life better, and has a passion to get it done. It's great.
Kelly: That example is also one where we can just hear the male investor voices in our heads as to who would buy this.
Kelly: But it is an interesting intersection to say this is a really great example because you, I am suspecting, saw founders who had done their user research and they knew that this was not just a convenience play, but this is a health and a lifestyle and a completely different mindset now in terms of how we're approaching well-being. And that there is a big category of women out there who say, "No, no, no. It's not just convenience. We're New York. We got Bodegas and Duane Reades everywhere. We can grab anything we need 24/7. But there's a health issue here and there's no product like this on the market."
Susan: Yeah, yeah. And the interesting thing here, and I'll give you two things I found interesting. One is that when we were looking at them it so happened we had a meeting just to catch up with one of the most active seed stage VCs in New York. They're great. Love them. And we were trading things we were seeing. We mentioned this company. The guy said, "You know, I'm not really looking in that category or not something that really interests me."
And we said, "Just meet them." I think that VC is going to end up leading their next round because you just can't be in a room with them and not think, "Okay, they're onto something." So there's that. And we brought it up in our investment committee meeting, thinking that this is going to be interesting. It was just a teaser, saying this is a company we're looking at. And one of the two guys in there said, "Well, I guess it's kind of like death. It comes every month."
So it's always interesting once you get beyond the, "Oh, what do I know about tampons?" If you can make a good case for it, and this is where I think we can have a multiplier effect as a seed stage VC, we cannot just invest in companies that we think might not get the attention of some of the larger, legacy VCs, but we can also introduce more companies to other VCs so that more women end up being part of more VC portfolios.
Kelly: That's a point I want to touch on, but I wanted to say, with technology, if women could disrupt things like menstruation and childbirth, Lord knows we'd be on it, right? That and menopause, we would get rid of it, we'd be good, all that kind of stuff. But the teasing aside, I was just thinking that exactly because here you found a really great company with really great founders, and you're looking at another investor and you're saying, "This is not only a good investment, but I'm thinking this should be in your portfolio for these reasons."
Kelly: Right, and you may overlook this, but you can do that to get these women a meeting. If they don't at that point...
Susan: Yeah, absolutely.
Kelly: It's all them.
Susan: Yeah, yeah. And look, it's not always going to work but it's definitely the case that we can have a much bigger impact by passing along entrepreneurs we've seen who are doing something we think is really interesting and that would not ordinarily be something they might look at. Yet, they've got skillsets and they've got history as a VC. They've successfully launched businesses that look like this, so they would actually be a very valuable investor. So that's where I think, again, we can have a broader impact than just where we're going to put our $10 million.
Kelly: Right, right. All right, get to the fun part of our interview. Not that the rest of it wasn't fun, but now we get to go rapid fire, close this all up. We're going to do our pay it forward questions, questions I ask of every interviewee, designed to be sort of a little bit insightful and a whole lot of helpful. What are your go-to sources of information you use every day?
Susan: MediaREDEF. I have to say every morning I read the New York Times' morning briefing. I think it is really good. It's a really fast, quick, quick, quick way to get up to speed, recode the skim. And Twitter.
Kelly: Twitter's a fave.
Susan: It is.
Kelly: How do you discover new information?
Susan: Twitter. I mean, honestly. And there are certain people I follow on Twitter who just deliver over and over again. But it is, I think, one of the great things that has come from the evolution of technology, is this ability to see what is happening real-time because of platforms like Twitter.
Kelly: And just think how better the platform will be when they get to gender parity. What book are you reading?
Susan: I always have more than one book that I'm reading. So right now I'm reading "The Wright Brothers" and I'm reading a book called "Cheerful Money" by Tad Friend that is just a great look at the kind of dying WASP through his family. And he's such a beautiful writer. It's just a really, really pleasant read.
Kelly: In my next lifetime, a novelist. I'll put that up there. Or a cat. One of the two. What's the conversation we should be having in technology that we aren't?
Susan: It's a good question. Look, I think that we probably should be having a conversation about why female entrepreneurs are not even more successful that doesn't start with the fact that it's too hard to get money. So there's a lot that doesn't get addressed because we have this big rock we're trying to get up the hill. And I think there are probably a lot of more subtle issues that could and should be addressed once we can get this big, hairy one off the table.
Kelly: Let's do that in 2016. Who influenced you most in your career?
Susan: I did not have a whole lot of role models to look at when I started working in 1974, so it was a really different era. But the people who have influenced me, interestingly, have been usually peers, people who I looked at across a table and thought, "I could be more like that." Not people who were at the top of companies.
Kelly: Peers, I love that answer. What is the best advice you ever received?
Susan: You know, I've been asked this question so many times and I feel like there was a period of time where I gave one answer, which was Dick Parsons once pulled me aside and said, "Just remember that when you're negotiating with someone, leave a little on the table because you're going to meet them again. This is not winner takes all."
So being conscious of the fact that someone on the other side of the table has to be able to keep their head up is going to be a very valuable lesson. And it was a great lesson because over the years, by keeping that in mind, a lot of people have come back into my life either because they liked working with me or because I had been fair to them, and often at times when I really needed them.
Kelly: We could have a whole podcast on that advice, which is such brilliant advice. But particularly thinking in the startup community where it is so small, leave something on the table. What makes your work fun and rewarding?
Susan: Oh, I spend my days, I'm 64 years old, I spend my days with 30-year olds who are incredibly optimistic about what's possible in this world, who believe that they are going to be able to change things and make the world better. A lot of my peers have become a little cynical. They're winding down in some cases. And I am surrounded by people who make me feel like this is the middle of my life.
Kelly: What do you reach for in your wardrobe when you know you've got to get out there and kick butt?
Susan: Look, I have a pretty good closet. I worked at Gilt for many years and I still shop on Gilt a lot. So today, I have on a pair of Dolce & Gabbana pants and a J. Crew cashmere sweater, and that's the way I dress. It's a combination of stuff I can buy that is well-made and reasonably priced. And things that are incredibly special and make me feel cool.
Kelly: And get delivered to your door.
Susan: Get delivered to my door and that were a great price when I hit buy.
Kelly: And I can tell you, I love that, too. All right, you do a lot, but I got to ask it one more time. How do you pay it forward for women?
Susan: I think that the way we all pay it forward and we need to pay it forward is by spending time with younger women who have the potential to really not just carry this on, but to do something remarkable. The great thing about that answer is that when you do that you get something back. So it's not just a question of I'm doing something because I want to do good. It's I'm doing something that I believe is going to do good, but that is also going to do good for me. I'm going to get a whole lot out of it.
Kelly: Well, I got a whole lot out of this interview. Thank you.
Susan: It was fun.
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