We all encounter emotional challenges while building our careers. At Quibb, the social network for professional content, we’ve been collecting stories from our members about intense moments in their working lives. This story comes from Elizabeth Yin, who built and sold a company called LaunchBit before becoming a partner at the investment firm 500 Startups.
“I don’t want to say the wrong thing, and call you a meek Asian woman,” said the investor. “But I question how you will lead a company of a hundred people.”
He said those words to Elizabeth Yin, who went on to successfully build and sell her company, and is now a partner at the well-known investment firm 500 Startups.
“Obviously I was thrown for a loop,” says Elizabeth today. “I was like… did he just say that? Then I realized that I had to come up with a great response immediately. So I pulled up my chair and looked him directly in the eye. I don’t remember exactly what I said — it was something generic, like ‘I don’t see that being a problem at all,’ and I said it in a much louder voice than I’d been pitching in.”
Elizabeth continues: “That had never happened to me up to that point, and it hasn’t happened since. But it may have been a blessing in disguise. Obviously, I thought it was inappropriate and I was angry. But thinking back on it a day later, I thought: Maybe there are other people who think the same thing but are too polite to say it. I realized that I needed to go into my subsequent meetings overcompensating for that perception — the perception that I’m not energetic or charismatic enough. And I think that worked out well for me.”
Of course, we had to ask whether this person invested in Elizabeth’s company. He didn’t — and Elizabeth says that “even if he had offered me money, it would have been inappropriate to take it.”
“A relationship with investors isn’t just about the money,” she notes. “It’s about whether they respect you and what you’re doing.”
And her advice for other entrepreneurs? “It’s hard to come up with something that would apply to every situation,” says Elizabeth. “Just be on your toes. I’ve heard crazy things that have happened to other founders that you can’t even imagine.”
Elizabeth has also written a longer piece on Quibb, called What Female Founders Really Encounter When They Fundraise.
Thanks to Lydia Laurenson, writer and media strategist, for her work on this series.