Saturday, December 6, 2008

Over the Moon

Dear Readers,

My last post - on how I am managing the milestone of talking to investors - drove a lot of emails and comments. All very positive, supportive and helpful. So thank you. I've since gotten better educated, more interest from potential investors, and a greater sense of confidence around the whole milestone.

In the meantime, I still struggle as a female entrepreneur in a male-analytical dominated world.

My friend, Patricia Handschiegel, a woman entrepreneur who never seems to sleep, is doing a series in the Huffington Post, where she is a regular contributor, on The New Power Girls. She recently asked me to weigh in on how "instinct" plays a role in my company. Naturally, there is often a difference between how men and women start and manage their entrepreneurial ventures. Women, by nature, are often more instinctual (and less analytical) than men.

And we live in a Man's business world.

It's no surprise that the original computer spreadsheet, upon which the ubiquitous Microsoft Excel is based, was developed by men. It's no surprise that the golf course is the cliche networking activity. Most CEOs are men. Most investors are men. Most people in technology - the industry in which my business is based - are men. There are fewer women entrepreneurs than men entrepreneurs.

And that's because, in my humble opinion, the cost/benefit analysis of an entrepreneurial venture is often calculated within a spreadsheet. And most women don't live in spreadsheets.

Innovation was never born out of a spreadsheet. You simply can't calculate the risk of innovation because by definition, it's never been done before. So we look at market size, growth potential, and then throw in ebitdas and three ways to 'project' the future and take the one in the middle. And we expect major success based on calculated projections.

When looking at a valuation for my company, I asked a male friend helping me flesh some things out this (fair) question: "
How can I possibly responsibly project what will happen? Aren't projections basically a guessing game?" Yes," he texted back immediately, "But no one can guess as well as you."

I don't like guessing. I like envisioning. I like setting tough goals and meeting them. For example, my plan was to look for a literary agent for my children's book two months after I launched Thanks to Chris Webb, a Twitter friend, I found my agents two weeks after I followed up on my plan.

When I worked in the non-profit world 12 years ago, I planned to increase participation in a program that I believed - with a some major re-branding - could increase 1000x fold. Sure, I had a plan. And I set a budget. And I hired help. Still, no one believed we would make it. No one was as determined as I. But I had envisioned the success. For me it was no longer a business goal; it was reality. I don't shoot for the moon. I live on the moon and wait for everything to catch up. And we increased participation by 998%.

My boy-genius friend, Eric Kuhn, said recently: "I start at the top and work my way up." That's why he's a genius.

The truth is, business plans worry me. Not a day goes by that something doesn't change everything. Some of those things I control. Some I don't. What never waivers is the end-goal. Not matter how rocky the waters - I know what I am sailing towards.

But I know that I can't fight it. As a business owner seeking investor support, I need to speak in analytics. My new and incredibly helpful friend, Rich Caccappolo, sent me the "10 Slides every entrepreneur should have." I am going to do that now.

In the end, I live in Man's world. But that's okay because there are lots of Power Girls shooting for the moon.

See you there, girls. And yes, there will be martinis. Savvy Auntinies to be precise.

Auntie Melanie


  1. "I don't shoot for the moon. I live on the moon and wait for everything to catch up."

    Love that quote... it's going to be my new career philosophy. :)

  2. This made me smile. I am right there with ya! Fortunately I don't need investors for my business, my mind works like yours does. Someday we'll get to present to a bunch of female investors in a way that makes more sense to many of us. Until then, we'll keep playing in our world AND theirs!


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