Giving Visionary Women Their Due

Hunter Walk
Mar 16, 2018 · 3 min read

Even though I finished reading Emily Chang’s Brotopia last month, it’s lingered. One passage in particular — Jennifer Hyman, CEO of Rent the Runway, talking about how we call many men in tech “visionary” but fail to apply this characteristic as often (or at all) to women.

Reflecting on Jennifer’s assertion, I thought of our experience with theSkimm, one of the most dynamic audience companies out there today and a startup we were fortunate to first back in 2013. While reading Brotopia, we were also helping theSkimm finish up their new financing, with Google Ventures and Spanx founder Sara Blakely joining the cap table. Over the past five years, I’ve witnessed theSkimm be underestimated by the venture capital industry, by pundits and press. During that time I’ve heard many male media founders lauded as “visionary” — Jonah Peretti, Shane Smith, Bill Simmons. They certainly deserve it. I’ve rarely heard Carly Zakin and Danielle Weisberg described the same way. They deserve it too.

“Visionary” is defined as “thinking about or planning the future with imagination or wisdom.” What, in my mind, makes them visionary when it comes to theSkimm?

  1. Email as Format — at a time when they were being told to just try and grow on the back of Facebook and other social platform, they took a medium decried as moribund and reignited it.
  2. Smart Summarization as Wedge — helping make it easier to live smarter. Taking real news — not women’s news — and delivering it in a branded tone.
  3. Leveraging 1% Fans — the Skimmbassadors as a group, now 30,000 strong, which helps drive the passion and provides a realtime focus group.
  4. Paid App — One of Apple’s Top Five Highest Grossing News Apps since the day it launched. A $2.99/mth product delivering a seven-figure revenue stream… and growing.
  5. Calendar Integration — The app integrates into your calendar and posts things coming up you need to know about — ranging from entertainment and lifestyle events, to activism and political deadlines.

Some of this ground was completely new to the industry. Some was shared by similar thinkers such as Mike Allen and The Week. But the package is unique. And that’s why 7+ million active readers start their day with theSkimm. A number that’s almost all US-based, professional and aspiring professional. A number that’s the equivalent of a Top Five news network.

Digiday recently did a podcast with Carly and Danielle and it’s a lively snapshot of how they think about the present and the future of theSkimm (transcript). Listening to it I thought one thing — visionary.

Congrats to the team on their fundraise and here’s to being underestimated!