What better way to welcome me to a post-#sandy NYC than heading straight to Women 2.0’s PITCH Conference. Having attended the event in the Bay Area earlier this year in February, I was excited for what the East Coast edition had in store. And wow, it certainly delivered, two and a bit weeks later and I’m still catching up from all the goodness.
The tone was set early on with the trusted and true Girl Effect video. Over 350 women (and men) sat in awe of a handful of amazing keynotes, some of which, I’ll list the highlights below.
Photo courtesy of Women 2.0’s stream
The cofounder of Cisco, Sandy Lerner, gave a heartfelt account from her early days of working in tech. She spoke about being fired from her company by the same guy who fired Steve Jobs. She mentioned it was a huge mistake that she didn’t spend time networking, building relationships and consensus. She encouraged women to believe in themselves more and build confidence when seeking investment, something she wished they did more of when starting out. They “got taken to the cleaners” when raising their initial round, giving away a third of Cisco for just $2.6M, even when the company was doing over a million in revenue a year.
“Women tend to play fair but it’s not fair game. In that same game, the men will always support each other,” Sandy quipped.
She also had an interesting perspective on the state of tech as we know it today, remarking that “Facebook is a wonderful tool, but it’s not a technology,” and has little IP associated it with.
Next up was someone who I personally was looking forward to hearing from: Amanda Steinberg from the DailyWorth. With 400,000 subscribers now under her wing, Amanda started the company using just $25,000 in the first nine months. “As CEOs and founders, we make things way too complicated” … “With email newsletters, you can build $10, $20 or $30 worth of revenue on an email alone. It’s a simple model.”
But she also warned to play in a market that’s big enough and be disciplined with your UI design – make it as simple as possible for users to sign up.
When it came to customer acquisition, Amanda flat out said “People are lying out there in the startup and social media world”.
She recommends looking for tricks from people who have never raised money as it’ll highlight how to grow your company smartly with limited resources.
Her experiences found the following:
- PR is only good for credibility. It’s not going to drive the traffic that will build your audience
- Social media is not even within the 5% of where audience growth comes from at the DailyWorth
- Don’t build ‘tell a friend’ mechanisms. It might work as part of a contest though but needs to be incentivised
- Google and AdWords don’t really convert well
And the winners:
- Other email channels are what work best for them
- User growth through properties with similar audiences – “You can only barter with people who are in your club though”
- 30-40% people are direct referrals through buzz/WOM
- Paid advertising (through channels like Help A Reporter Out) is recommended – and you can control it
- Growth Hacking
Finally, Sandy Jen, the cofounder and CTO at Google-acquired Meebo had some great thoughts on managing your emotional health. When you’re a leader within your company, people look to you as the anchor. They seek stability even though behind the scenes things may be rocky, and you have days when you wonder what you’re doing. Your team will take the emotions you exude to them very seriously so it’s important to keep up your smile – there’s a responsibility to uphold the spirit.
The rest of the day followed with some more solid keynotes, case studies, panel discussions and stand-out pitches. The energy was fantastic and I’d strongly recommend any female founder (as well as diversity-championing teams) to head along to future PITCH events.
About our Curator // Kate Kendall is the founder and CEO of The Fetch, a community where professionals can discover and share what’s happening in their city. Before this, Kate led product, content and digital at magazine companies, handled outreach for new startups and organised too many communities and events to mention. Follow her on Twitter at @katekendall.