A Mom Blog Social Network
As two moms who are working really hard to build this company - we are always happy to see other working moms receive attention for their hard work as well.
But when the media decides to take that attention and make it seem like betting on a mom to succeed at business is a riskier business than betting on anyone else - it makes us mad. Really Really Mad!
So we spoke up. Below is the Text of our article that appeared on Forbes.com. I hope you enjoy it, and if you are a working mom - building a business or even just dreaming about building a business at some point in the future - this one is for you!
The New York Times Declares War on....The Women of Tech
Pardon the women of tech if some of us have seemed slightly distracted over the past three weeks. We have been busy trying to remove the knife the New York Times shoved into our collective backs.
The backhanded compliments we recently received courtesy of David “men invented the internet” Streitfeld (covering the Ellen Pao lawsuit against Kleiner Perkins) and Hanna Seligson (covering mothers running startups in the tech industry) delivered a particularly stinging blow as they represent the accepted belief that women enter the workforce with a genetic disadvantage called “possible impending motherhood”.
Seligson in particular, had at her disposal the insights of brilliant and highly successful executives in the tech industry. Cited in her article are women who have built firms that exceed $100m in sales (Jessica Herrin, Founder and CEO of Stella & Dot) are valued at $300m (Carley Roney co founder of XO Group), and are just flat out wildly successful (Alexandra Wilkis Wilson co-founder of Gilt Groupe). And yet she chose to frame that article in a “Mean Girl” spirit that praises female founded startups run by women with children at the same time it makes every effort possible to reinforce the noted worries of venture capital firms and other investors who are considering investments in such tech startups.
Yes, the responsibilities of being a parent typically fall more heavily on the woman in a relationship. And yes, juggling motherhood and entrepreneurship is sometimes challenging.
But so is running a business while still in college, or running a business as a newlywed, or while working full time for another employer – or any of the myriad situations in which many men find themselves launching their own tech startups. Situations in many times, where both investors and the press frame their coverage in admiration and wonder of the entrepreneur’s ability to juggle hurdles of time constraints and multi-tasking.
My business partner Megan and I started building our company, (Hatchedit.com – a free social network for families) when she was six months pregnant (I myself have a 12 year old daughter).
Throughout 2010 and 2011 in addition to being entrepreneurs we also both maintained full time positions in the financial world (Megan as an executive at an investment bank, and myself in the grueling world of financial media). None of our efforts were hampered by our responsibilities to family. In fact, our focus was such that our first meeting with a business partner occurred three weeks after Megan gave birth to her daughter.
Seligson’s article does a disservice to any woman building a business because she overlooked the fact that the spirit of entrepreneurship is sexless.
Being mothers did not hinder the launch of our site and its mobile apps because an entrepreneur with a vision brings that vision to fruition by any means necessary.
Motherhood has not slowed us down – but has instead been the very thing that has driven much of our success. And that is largely because we are our own target audience. As Hatchedit develops socially networked tools to help families better communicate and manage their busy schedules we have the benefit of being intimately acquainted with the very problem our site aims to solve.
It also gave us an edge in being ahead of the curve in anticipating the explosion of mobile phone usage amongst women (an important fact to know when female users are driving the explosive growth of social media and other Web 2.0 tools). With much of our audience accessing their network via phone rather than via a website, traditional advertising alone is not a viable option, and that is something we have built into our business planning.
One of the few bones that Seligson threw to female founders in her article was an observation made at the very end:
Looking ahead, investors may find themselves at a disadvantage if they don’t invest in companies run by women, including those with children.
That’s because “women are going to be a huge force in developing Web and mobile companies,” says Ms. Lee at Kleiner Perkins [Aileen Lee, Partner].
Or as Ms. Roney [Carly Roney, co-Founder of The Knot] put it, “Women are going to come up with the best ideas for women, who are driving our economy.
They are astute observations, especially in light of recent research highlighting how women utilize technology.
Women – the consumers who drive half of the US GDP - are not only tech savvy, they are leveraging mobile tools in force, and incorporating them into their every day lives at a faster clip than men.
Last week after presenting our site at a tech conference several men enthusiastically informed us they had already texted the name of our apps to the women in their lives. One man in particular noted to us that he considered his wife to be the consumer tech expert in his house. He said she had moved to iPhone long before him (as he was tethered to his Blackberry because of work), and that she was often the first to discover and leverage new apps and relied heavily on technology to oversee managing their home. This situation is not unusual.
An AdAge Insights white paper released at the end of 2011, “Always On Women: A Survey of How Women Are Using Technology Today” details how “…women have caught up with, and in some cases surpassed, men in the ownership, use and, yes, even the love of tech gadgets. A Burst Media study found that, overall, 74% of people think technology has improved their lives, with Gen X women leading other female age groups and men with a whopping 83% who say technology has improved how they keep in touch with family and friends."
What are women using technology for?
Overwhelmingly they are using it to organize their lives…and those lives are often led “on the go”.
In fact the study concluded that for women leveraging mobile technology, “The mobile phone is evolving into a woman’s Swiss Army knife, helping her manage all her identities (mom, daughter, boss/employee, wife, friend, etc.) and responsibilities (making social plans, shopping, paying bills, etc.) simultaneously. As a result, brands need to create seam- less experiences optimized for mobile and local. (And because adoption of shopping and bill paying on mobile is low, brands will need to address any security or privacy concerns that come with transactions on that platform.)”
As women founders, who share the same concerns as our user group, we have focused on many of these areas intuitively. So yes, according to the astute observations of the New York Times staff, multi-tasking our families may be seen as a challenge that we face launching a tech startup - but we view it as our secret weapon.