Obsessed with start-ups, coffee, and online marketing.

That about sums me up.
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Oct 30

Moving on from Porch

First off I want to thank all of you crazy cats for your texts, messages, GIFs, and virtual love. It’s been quite the week. Hell, it’s been a crazy few months.

For those that haven’t heard, I’ve recently left Porch. This past week they announced a shift in strategy which, over the course of the past few months, made it clear it was time for me to move on. I have a great post brewing in my fingers around the “responsibility of putting yourself on the layoff list,” which I ultimately did,  but for now let me just say a few things as the dust settles on this crazy week…

Porch has been a fast and furious ride. I learned so much there, some of it was what not to do, but most of it was “on the front lines, get in the trenches, hard as hell, dig in your heels” type work, and I am thankful for it. I am proud of the marketing organization I lead and the marketing we did. I am proud of the team I built, and only wish I could have been there for them this week. This team, and the extended 80 or so Porchies that were laid off, poured their heart into a company with a lot to offer this world. I am excited to see where they all go next, and only hope I get to work alongside many of them in the future.

It has also been a hard ride. We don’t talk enough about the hard in startups. But it’s there. Building the right product, organizing the right way, leaning in at the right time, pausing in others. Startups are hard. And I don’t think there is an honest entrepreneur out there that would say otherwise. All we can do is make the best decision through a blend of instinct and data, be kind as we make them, and do better the next day.

I am excited to see what Porch does with their recent technology acquisition and the recent talent they’ve added to the team. There are so many great people at Porch. I wish them the best of luck as they roll into this next year.

Many of you have asked me what’s next. First and foremost, I’ll be taking a little while off. I am fortunate to have the chance to pause, reflect, and really choose the next adventure with intention. It’s been over 7 startups, 100+ speaking gigs, tens of thousands of miles traveled and 12+ years of marketing since I’ve done that. It’s well overdue. I am excited to talk to the movers and shakers out there, both in Seattle and outside of it, to see what everyone’s been up to this past year and a half. I’ll also be sneaking in some time back home to Vermont because I have two cute nephews that I am dying to spend some time with. Cody & Easton – see you soon!

In the meantime, if you want to grab coffee, do a mid-day yoga class (they actually have these! I’ve always wanted to go!) or just talk startup lessons and life – let’s do it.


Jul 26

Are You a Culture Creator?

Last week my team launched a new About section on Porch.com. It’s beautiful. The imagery, the promises, the culture video – they combine to really get at the heart of what it means to be a Porchie. With the new About section came an updated Value exercise. For the past 6 months the team has been working through a variety of offsites, meetings, emails, and more to help us understand just what we stand for.

Culture. Cultureeeeee. C.u.l.t.u.r.e.

It’s one of my favorite things about startups. We get to define it, we get to build it, and if we’re really lucky we get to spend the majority of our time sharing it with the world. So much has been written about startup culture. What it is and isn’tHow you can’t compromise it. How it’s not really about the startup at all.  And one of my favorites – how important it is that you don’t f-it up.

We can all agree that getting clear on your company culture, hiring in for those that align with it and upholding it are important. You know what we don’t talk enough about? How we can live it, stretch it, shine it. The question I’d ask you is…are you a culture creator?

What’s that mean? It’s a triangulated commitment between you, your team, and the culture itself. a commitment that this is a living and breathing promise that deserves your very best.

You. Are you living it every day? Are you representing it in meetings? Are you questioning your own habits, your own strengths, your own practice on whether they align Continue reading →

Jul 21

Personalizing the System Issues: A Startup Lesson

I’m a fan of accountability. Always have been. It plays directly into my pillar around “fairness” and into my pulse line of meritocracy. I very much believe we can all do better…every second, of every day. Every failure is a moment for learning, and every misstep is an opportunity to stand up and truly stretch into a taller, stronger version of yourself.

With such a strong sense of accountability and yearning to make every day better than the last comes the shadows of that – the self-criticizing, the self-doubt, the internalizing of everything so deeply that you are constantly shaking yourself at the core. I believe this has made me a great fit for startups. This ecosystem is built on over-achievers and life long learners.

Today, over coffee with a friend, I had talked for about an hour on challenges that have been on my mind. I walked through team dynamics, miscommunications, and the outcomes that  have left me pretty confused. “What am I doing wrong?” … “How can I communicate better?”…”What’s going on with me?”…were all questions that came up.

I then quickly spoke to other, seemingly unrelated challenges I’m seeing around the office. I easily dismissed them with the appropriate startup dismissals – “people are stressed given how hard everyone is working” and “this is a critical season” and “everyone is feeling it.” She quickly pointed out to me that maybe this was all related…

Maybe “my” issues were also a result of “system” issues.

Whattttt. Synapse fires. Boom. Bam. Maybe they are?

I think in startups there is such a focus on being “all in” and that has huge implications on our bar setting. It directly correlates with a promise to always do your best, to always do better. The flip side of that is if things seem hard you quickly assume “you aren’t doing your best” or even worse “you are failing at everything” [enter dramatic music here.] Continue reading →

May 17

The Correlation Between Intellectual Honesty and Great Companies

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what makes a great company. This is, of course, not an easy thing to answer. A lot goes into building a great company. There is product, culture, and community. In those there are promises, actions, and connections. In those there is integrity, authenticity, kindness, and the so on and so forth. Then there is a market, a need, real value. There are ripples that turn into waves that change lives.

Like I said, a lot goes into building a great company.

While I’m not yet at a conclusive answer, I can honestly say my year at Porch has brought me a lot closer to one. I feel so fortunate to be in the eye of this remarkable startup storm. We have so many great things in the works, and the team building all of this is just…so damn special. Sure we’ve got our challenges, but we’re better for it. We are dead set on trying to be a great company and I am learning as I go just what that means.

One thing that stands out to me lately is this concept of intellectual honesty. I read an article about how “great testing requires intellectual honesty” and it got me thinking – damn, that’s hard. Intellectual honesty means “you make arguments you think are true, as opposed to making the arguments you are “supposed” to make and/or avoiding making arguments that you think are true that you aren’t “supposed” to make.” Basically – it means you’re willing to rock the boat, shine the bright light, and say “that thing” that no one else wants to say.

This is…uncomfortable. Risky. Hard.

This is not…easy. Taught. Appreciated.

Well, maybe it is appreciated. I think great companies appreciate intellectual honesty. I’ve seen this at Porch. The past few weeks I’ve pushed on some big things and asked some hard questions. I’ve actually blown up a few email threads…not because I want to. Or even because I had to. But because I believed an argument needed to be made for the greater good. Greater good can be the customer, the team or even the bottom line. There are lots of “greater goods” that demand that sort of risk.

Lesser companies punish people for those risks. They shut you down. They ignore your concern. They silence it with sentences like “we’ll get to that later” or “good point, but we’re just too far along to rethink that.” Great companies stop. They pause. Acknowledge the point made Continue reading →

Jan 04

A Declaration of Interdependence

A New Year. I, for one, am ready.

Like many of you I have spent the last month putting things in motion, hoping that as Jan 1, 2015 came around I felt “ready.” Rested, healthier, excited, and ready…to live bolder and bigger than the previous 365 days. And I do.

I actually wrote down resolutions this year for the first time ever. Not ones to do with losing weight or getting promotions or to get more sleep but soul promises. Goals for myself that would make this next year worthy of the gift it is. My list is around seven themes and all of the resolutions are around things I can do for myself. Yes, many of them would benefit others…my team, my family, my relationship. But they are ultimately resolutions that I want to help me be better.

This got me thinking – something is missing.

I just started reading the book “Innovating Women” by Vivek Wadhwa and a sentence stuck out within the first few pages. He wrote, “This is not just a book; it’s a flag planted in the ground –a declaration of interdependence by the hundreds of women who contributed to this crowdcreated volume.”

I love this concept — “a declaration of interdependence.” That is what was missing.

This isn’t a new concept, in fact it’s been around in project management and organizational development for years, but for some reason it feels perfectly suited for this new year. As you kick off this year and make your promises to be better, to be kinder, to be healthier, why not also declare interdependence in these goals for “better” and “bolder” living?

As an entrepreneur, especially as a female executive in her early thirties, it can be easy to focus on investing in yourself. We are programmed to push ourselves, albeit for the better of the group. This year I resolve to invest in others and their goals more. I declare to intentionally intermingle my success with theirs. I promise to find out more of what you’re chasing, and what you need to wrestle it down and conquer it in 2015. I want more of me going to you.

It’s an interesting twist in new years resolutions – to resolve to help others accomplish theirs. A declaration of interdependence, who’s up for it?

#cheersto2015 #letsdothis

Aug 13

Perseverance as a Practice

I’ve thought a lot about perseverance over the years. It’s one of those words. The kind that takes on a new meaning every time you feel it, or wish you had more of it, or see it in others.

When I think about it a few things flash in my mind:

…I remember my dad getting up so early to go downstairs and keep the coal fire burning to heat the house and then heading to a job he hated to make sure his family was taken care of and happy – day after day after day…for years.

…I remember my family after my mom passed away and how no one wanted to really get up, or be awake, or do anything- for a long time. But we just did things. Ate meals, cleaned the house, left the house and saw friends. We just did things to move forward.

…I remember my graduate degree and working at the coffee shop in the morning, going to classes, and working nights as a hostess, and just going, until you couldn’t because that is what I had to do to pay for school.

…I remember watching a friend of mine go through so many rough things with her family for years, and just seeing her be the mom and the sister and the aunt and the cousin. She just did it day after day for years.

…I remember all the startups I’ve built and those my friends have built. The ones that made it. The ones that didn’t. Not much difference in the work you put in, the early mornings, late nights, and dreams you dreamt, and sleep you lost. It’s just our way…our days and our nights and the way of things.

When I was younger I thought perseverance was something you either had or something you didn’t. I used to think Continue reading →

Jul 15

Joining Porch.com!

Two weeks ago I announced that I had wrapped up my time at BigDoor, a leading loyalty software provider here in Seattle. It was a day of many emotions. I feel so lucky to have spent the past year working with such a scrappy, dedicated team. I was able to jump head first into the world of loyalty and retention and growth work with some of the top brands in the world. I am just so damn thankful for all the lessons I learned and what we built together.

It was hard to say goodbye, but I am so excited about my new opportunity. In a lot of ways it’s the type of opportunity I’ve been waiting for Seattle to have – a big consumer play backed by a brilliant team that truly believes in data and growth hacking. Throw in that it involves the visual web, online communities and actually has real-life value for those that use the service and I honestly couldn’t help but jump all in.

And that is exactly what I’m doing. In a week I’ll be jumping in as VP of Consumer Marketing at Porch.com, the home improvement network, and fastest-growing startup in Seattle. And frankly I’m over the moon excited.

Why Porch?

For about a million reasons to be honest, but let’s start with the big ones.

The Team

If you live in Seattle (or any of the tech cities to be honest) you’ve probably noticed that Porch.com has been snagging up top talent from some of the best companies out there to join in their mission of helping people love their home. I feel very lucky to collaborate with them and learn from them. After sitting down for just one day with their team I could tell this team was rare…passion, kindness and smarts all over the place.

The Mission

The past few years I was fortunate to spend a lot of time honing on what really matters to me and what I really want from my career and life. Recently I wrote about how I want to have a “beautiful impact” on this world. This to me means I pour my heart and soul and the hours of my day into a product I can get behind, design, share and one that truly makes life better.

Porch.com is that already, in many ways, and will continue to grow into it even more as we share it with the world. It solves a real problem, one that our CEO has talked at lengths about solving. We are helping home professionals do what they love, and homeowners love their home. I mean wow.

Funny enough, I spent a lot of time on my porch as a child. It was the place my family celebrated everything – from birthdays to “ice cream sundaes for dinner” nights, to graduations. My childhood is peppered with family memories on the porch. In fact, before my mom passed away we spent many afternoons on that porch talking about how much she loved it out there. Dad had it built for her so they could watch us grow up in the backyard and play in the pool.

A porch to me represents everything good…family, traditions, laughter, safety, comfort, peace of mind, and spending time together in something you’ve built as a family. Hell I get teared up just think about it.

I am 100% behind spending my days sharing the mission of Porch - love your home. We have very big plans for Porch and the value it will have for homeowners…more on that later, but get excited friends. I know I am.

The Challenge

My journey in marketing has been, unexpectedly, quite funnel like. So meta, huh? I started in performance, moved into engagement, ended up in retention, and fell in love with brand. I’ve gone from running campaigns to launching integrated customer journeys. I went from selling keywords to becoming obsessed with the visual web and what it has to offer.

I am a growth marketer, driven by solving the hardest problems with testing and data. I believe in viral marketing as a practice not a fluke. I believe in using our channels to activate and unlock growth at every turn. I believe that today’s best marketers have the platforms, and the guts required to build bold, beautiful experiences that catch fire and add real value to the consumer.

Porch.com combines so much of what I love. I’m coming on to Continue reading →

Apr 15

Your Decision Making Batting Average

I’m a big fan of moving fast. I feel very fortunate that somewhere along the way the idea of “taking risks” became one I was pretty comfortable with. While I haven’t always been right (obvioussslyyyyy), I’ve become very comfortable with what I call “my decision making batting average.” This isn’t an entirely new concept, but it is one that I have advised friends to embrace over the years and one that I believe has been a huge advantage for me as an entrepreneur.

The gist is this – you won’t always be right. But you will likely bat an average. The sooner you feel out how comfortable you are with that average, the more you trust yourself, the more honest you can be with those that work with you, and the faster you are at making decisions and providing value.

My batting average is 70%. I believe that if given ten decisions to make, I will likely lead us the right direction 7 out of 10 times. Of course this is high some days (say for example — days I am in my wheelhouse in marketing) and low others (like days that I’m out of my wheelhouse on a new product or something).

But over the years I have settled in at .70 and I dig it. I’m all cozy up in there. Getting comfortable with this has helped me so much. First and foremost I let my colleagues know. I’m up front – hey guys, I chill around .70 most of the time, so you can expect I might screw up 3 out of every 10 times. This sort of transparency builds trust. Trust that I’m not pretending to know it all. Trust that if I screw up, I’ll let you know right away and we’ll correct it. Trust in my abilities to lead us [generally] in the right direction the majority of the time.

These are good things.

Additionally, it gives me a place to jump from. You’ll be amazed at how much more you trust yourself when you spend time nailing down your decision making batting average. Some of you might be cool with .50 – you risky little cats you. These people move real fast, and are totally comfortable hitting it out of the park 1 out of every 2 times. Others might need to be closer to .90, which means you might need more information prior to a decision. It might take you longer to make a decision on something but from that you have higher confidence. The truth is there is a job and place for all of us. Continue reading →

Mar 25

A Beautiful Impact

I get asked all the time… “what drives you?” I never really know what to say. I feel like over the years a million things have driven me in startups and marketing and life. I didn’t give the question that much time. The irony, of course, being that I have spent so many hours thinking about questions that really are far less important. Stressing over why I said that one thing, or acted that one time. It all comes back to what motivates us.

The past six months I have had the honor of working with one of Seattle’s most amazing professional coaches – Stacey Sargent, CEO of Connect Growth and Development, Author of a fantastic book on how we all handle our inner critics and brilliant woman all around. The funny thing is – she’d smack me if she saw I called her a professional coach. She adheres to “whole-person intelligence” coaching and believes it’s about helping us bring our life back into work. It’s so up my alley. I couldn’t agree more.

I don’t have work life balance. Never have. I’ve helped build 6 startups, four effectively succeeded, one failed, and one is in the middle of an exciting adventure. I’m a tech advisor, a TechStars mentor, a professor at UW. I’m launching a shopping app, I blog for Entrepreneur.com, MarketingLand, and here. I have been talking, learning, teaching, and doing marketing and tech for over a decade. I’ve traveled the world teaching hundreds of thousands of marketers how to do great marketing. I’m not married, I don’t have kids. Heck, I just got a betta fish, and I have to co-own it, because I have a hard time remembering to feed it. I don’t do balance. 

Or as Stacey has shown me…perhaps I do my balance. And perhaps it is perfectly in balance.

For the past five months we’ve met every other week to work through what I would call “hard stuff.” We talked through my inner critics, my mistakes, my regrets, my weaknesses. We also worked through my strengths, my superpowers, and exercises that showed me just how intense those two camps fight with each other. We worked through what I love about what I do, and where I want to end up. What do I want from all of this? What makes me truly happy?

It all made for a lot of intense sessions of self-reflection, a lot of late nights of reading, and writing, and pushing myself to get at the core of it all. It might sound new-age to you, or cheesy, or even a waste of time, but I can honestly say…working with Stacey has been the best thing I’ve done for myself professionally, hell possibly even personally.

After half a year of us working together, a few huge things came out of it (and a million smaller things). Big things include;

  • I know my core values. I have six core values (on itttyyy bittty notecards) I now carry around with me. I value “passion, acheivement, family, helping others, creativity and humor” more than I value most things. They steer me. They anchor me. They helps me identify when I feel off course.
  • I know where I am easily derailed. Aka, I know why I screwed up so much. Or at least I have some good theories. The first few years of my career were driven by pure ambition. I was very competitive, and not always that empathetic, and I acknowledge that now.  During that time I strengthened some muscles and not others. I now know what I need to work on and where I need to level up.  I can correct for it faster. Especially since the ambition is still so prevalent (and will always be a part of me). There is beauty in a team that is mutually ambitious and working with each other toward a common goal. That excites me.
  • I have words I am comfortable defining myself by. Eeekkk! Okay…here I go. I am an entrepreneur, a business woman, a storyteller, a marketer, a mentor. I am grounded, maternal, and an artist. I’m just gonna throw down on this — most women (and some men) have a hard time screaming “I AM AN ENTREPRENEURIAL BUSINESSWOMAN…AND I AM GREAT AT WHAT I DO!” So we hide it. We blush. We deflect when someone compliments us, and rarely do we own it. I am owning these words. I am these things. I work hard for them.
  • I have a mantra. We did this great exercise where I got to invite 6 business people to dinner. Any 6 in the world. Then we talked through why them, what would I ask them, what advice would they give me. The common thread between my six people were that they: challenged the status quo, empowered other people, were building a legacy, were driven & focused, and they worked their asses off. When it came down to the collective advice they gave me, I concluded they (in my story at least) said this: “Stop worrying and JUST GO!”  … I mean for real people, why don’t we all just stop worrying and JUST FREAKING GO?!

So those are some of the takeaways that really stood out. But the biggest success after all of this was that I had finally nailed down what really motivates me. I could identify the two words that feel so “me” that I can honestly say I wake up every morning, and work late into the night with this on my mind. I take opportunities based on these words, I pass on others because of these words. These two words are me.

I want to have a “beautiful impact” on this world. A beautiful impact. I want to build companies and brands that want to have a beautiful impact on the world. I want to work with investors that believe in investing in a beautiful impact. I hire people that work hard and build things. I believe in the power of design, and imagery. The visual has always been key to the experiences I’ve built and sold. I love beautiful people. Like really beautiful people – inside and out. Honest, real, full of flaws, that are making a difference. “Beautiful” to me means you have the power to stop someone in their tracks with a moment so real that it encourages a deep breath, a thankful breath…for that singular experience. That experience could be between people in a community, between a consumer and a product, or a brand and a customer, or two colleagues building something together. It could be felt when you see a photo or read a story. Moments of beautiful impact are rare, but to me…it’s what this is all about.

As Stacey pointed out with every superpower comes the other side…it’s called the “light” and the “shadows.” The light of such a goal is pretty obvious. But the shadows include – lack of patience for those mailing it in, a need to move fast and go hard that can cannibalize others. It can be intimidating, my obsession for progress can come off as inauthentic (because what crazy person could care that much about a homepage layout? #raiseshand). I have a high bar for the beautiful which can cause friction with fans of MVPs, baseline experiences, and uber lean approaches. To have a beautiful impact you often have to be bold, outside the box, and you have to often follow your intuition. You have to trust the consumer, hear what they need, put them first. You have to aspire to delight them at every corner…sometimes at the detriment of short-term revenue. This is hard, and frankly…not right for every company. It’s not the goal of every team. With the light, comes the dark.

Mar 11

The Value of Stiletto Networks

I was wandering the web the other day and stumbled upon a post on Entrepreneur.com about the Rise of Stiletto Networks, and I have to admit – I was caught a bit off guard. What is this new trend regarding women in business that I have yet to hear about?

A stiletto network is loosely defined as “a group of power women that meet often and support each other” and apparently it’s like a thing. There is even a book on it {that I admittedly just ordered}.

Honest moment…something about the name rubs me the wrong way. Which is strange because I love both confident women and beautiful stilettos. Hell you all know how much I love shoes. Like a lot. But it feels like a name that goes against the nature of the cause. Like it somehow suggests you have to be wearing stilettos to be powerful, or maybe that you have to be a stereotypical type of beautiful to be powerful. Neither of which is true, obviously. Powerful, confident, world-changing women wear all sort of shoes. They come in all sorts of sizes, styles, and types.

On the flip side…a stiletto is a very powerful shoe. It’s synonymous with bold, beautiful, power. All of those words are exactly how I view the women I know that are leading the way. They are bold, beautiful, and powerful.

It’s what I aspire to be daily…bold, beautiful, and to have an impact on the brands I build, consumers I reach, and technology world in general.

I’m a fan of camraderie between women in business, especially women in tech. In fact, I’m more than a fan. I’ve spent the last few years of my career very much focused on investing in other women entrepreneurs, marketers, and technologists (this focus of mine has come with it’s own challenges, which I plan on writing about at some point). I mentor two women myself, and take any chance I can to get in front of women and remind them how exciting technology is and how perfect a place it is for their unique skills.

My mentor is a woman. My professional coach is a woman. My closest industry liasons are women. Without even knowing it I have created and joined a number of “stiletto networks.” In fact, right now I am actually, intentionally, working with a fellow fashion blogger on building one focused on fashion and tech. We just didn’t know that it was called that. So meta. I find it very interesting, that without having been exposed to the idea, or learning about it’s value, I was actually creating and participating in so many of these.

The value of these networks (call them whatever you want) are so amazing. From them we get professional guidance, personal support, connections, advice, and what I believe to be an “innate understanding” that somehow helps me silence my inner critics, and be my boldest, best self.

I feel very fortunate to have found myself surrounded by so many women I adore and admire professionally. If you are a woman in tech and you find yourself without a group like this, I encourage you to go create one. It can start with just two of you, and see where it takes you. Invite in those with other skills, and similar ambitions and before you know it…you’ll be rocking a Stiletto Network yourself.

And if you really can’t find that second person, ping me. No I mean it. We’ll figure something out. #thepoweroftwo for women in tech can be a very powerful beginning. So go get started already.