When #MeToo Becomes #UsToo
It seems like the stories behind the Me Too Movement are never-ending. So here it goes... Me Too.
My story starts back in 2013 when I had the idea of developing an app that would take care of laundry & dry cleaning. It took just over a year of developing different prototypes, creating business models, and drafting business plans.
It wasn't until September 2014 that I had a working version that I could go to market with, also known as a minimum viable product. I launched a pilot service in 3 buildings in Murray Hill. It was an immediate success! From Sept 2014 to Dec 2014 I grew my sales from $300 to $1,700. Small potatoes, but that's 467% growth! Clearly customers liked what I had to offer.
I was feeling happy & positive. I had a proven model, a working business, and cash flow. I was ready to grow my business with an investment. Right?.... WRONG!
There are so many things that go into fundraising. This is why it's a dedicated profession for so many people. It's also why it's very common for companies to have more than 1 founder. Typically, one founder focuses on the company and the growth, while the other founder focuses on operations and investments. One person handles all the direction & creative, while the other crunches the numbers.
VC's and Angels break you down. It's their job. They want to understand not only your business, but also you. Having a sound business model is only half the battle. You still have to prove to the investor that you possess the intellect and creativity to successfully execute.
I don't have a co-founder. I don't have a COO, a CTO, a CFO. I don't even have an intern. I only have me. Needless to say, I struggled juggling a new business with fundraising. Every night I was in the laundromat doing laundry. I had 1 employee at the time. She and I would walk around the neighborhood picking up laundry, washing & folding it, then returned it again. I promised laundry would be delivered before 6AM. The quick turnaround time was what helped attract the initial customer base.
I was torn. I was tired. I knew I had what it takes to build a successful company, but my pitches and investor meetings were falling flat. I just couldn't do it. I couldn't run the business at night and be sharp for meetings during the day. I started to break down.
Fundraising is difficult enough on its own. Now add sexual harassment to the list.
Before the Harvey Weinstein fiasco, Newsweek released an article back in January 2015 entitled, "What Silicon Valley Thinks of Women". Here's an excerpt:
"When I arrived at the restaurant, I found it a bit awkward to be seated at a table for four yet to be in two seats right next to each other, but it was a French restaurant and that seemed to be the style, so down I sat. Wine was brought and toasts were made to our great future together. About halfway through the dinner, he told me he had also brought me a present, but it was under the table, and would I please give him my hand so he could give it to me. I gave him my hand, and he placed it in his unzipped pants."