Sweet Sixth-teen: 6 Big Things We Learned This Year

This week we are 6. To say we have been at a loss of words for how to articulate how much this means to us, with each other, with the team, with you, would be an understatement. But the resounding sentiment is that this is a big f’ing deal.

So we decided to take a look at the numbers. To put our 6th birthday in perspective:

90% of all startups fail¹. 50% fail before their 5th birthday².

Looking at the funding numbers:

  • Of all companies that raise a Seed/Angel round of funding, only about 40% go on to raise a Series A
  • Only about 23% go on to raise a Series B
  • Only about 9% go on to raise a Series C³

Check. Check. Check.

But wait.

Of all companies that receive Seed/Angel funding, only about 3% are entirely female-founded. Looking at the subsequent rounds of funding, the numbers become even more striking — factoring in the standard drop-off rate through stages, we see that of all the startup companies that make it past a Series C, less than 0.5% are female-founded. Less than one half of one percent.

Whether you’re a Skimm’r (thank you) or not, whether you love us or have some critical feedback, the progress of our company is a big deal. For everyone. It’s a big deal for the tech industry, and some much needed efforts to change ratios. And it’s a big deal for the next generation of female founders, who, we hope, won’t have to write blog posts measuring themselves against these statistics.

We wouldn’t be able to say these stats if we didn’t have our go-to 911 calls along the way. We want to make sure we take the time to thank a few key individuals who we keep on speed dial: Satya Patel, Hunter Walk, Betsy Morgan, Jim Robinson, Alexa von Tobel, Catherine Levene, Alan Patricof, Jenny Fleiss, Jon Steinberg, Jennifer Meyer, Laurie Racine, Greg Clayman, Joe Marchese, M.G. Seigler, Susan Lyne, Krista Smith, Sam Yagan, Eric Weiner, Ed Zimmerman, Whitney Wolfe Herd, Michelle Peluso, Rebecca Kaden, and Dan Rosensweig. So thank you.

But, as any frequent visitor to our page knows, a blog post from us wouldn’t be complete without a list. So here are 6 things we’ve learned as founders in the last 6 years:

1. HOW TO FIND OUR PLACE IN THE DAY-TO-DAY OF THE TEAM.

As leaders, we’ve alternated between being in the weeds and hovering at 40K feet. Spoiler: Neither has worked. A big lesson for the two of us was learning to acknowledge the stage we’re at as a company, and where we made mistakes in prioritizing our team. Namely, prioritizing is useless if everything is a priority. Our team is incredibly sharp and scrappy — they’ve always been able to surpass our expectations when there’s been too much on their plate, but at our stage we need a greater sense of focus. It is our job to set the team up for success.

2. WE ARE NOTHING WITHOUT OUR TEAM.

You can have the best ideas in the world but you have to have the best team to actually realize them. And we do. But part of making sure we set our team up for success involved learning how to communicate with them more effectively. For example, we’d say, ‘It would be really great if we had a new engagement philosophy.’ Yes, it would. But what is our team supposed to do with that? It’s on us to make sure we’re properly articulating our vision and working together on a roadmap to get us there.

3. OUR BLIND SPOTS IN HIRING.

As founders, we are constantly working on figuring out what makes a successful executive partner to the two of us. We’re focused on what we could, and should be doing differently as co-CEOs in all stages of senior level hiring, including the recruiting, interviewing, and onboarding processes. We’ve learned that it is important to bring on leaders who have been part of scaling a company bigger than ours, who have worked for founders before, and who have had startup experience.

4. HOW TO TAKE OUR CULTURE AND TURN IT INTO POLICY.

One of our greatest senses of pride comes from our culture and the team who built it alongside us. We’ve learned that a crucial part of culture at our stage is providing the support and resources to take our team to the next level in their lives and careers — at theSkimm or elsewhere. Supporting our employees and their families through different life stages is especially important to us. And we’ve introduced a 401K plan, a parental leave policy that crushes industry standards, and family planning and fertility benefits (to name a few) to do just that.

5. WORK IS PART OF OUR LIFE AND NOT OUR WHOLE LIFE.

Our team has been through a lot together in the last year alone. We learned that there are moments in our lives and in the lives of HQ’ers that force a broader perspective. We consciously decided that speaking engagements, business travel, or opportunities we’ve dreamed of for years would have to wait because family is more important.

6. OUR OWN NARRATIVE CAN CHANGE.

As founders, we built our brand around admitting everything we didn’t know. But we actually know some stuff now. We are businesswomen. We are leaders for our team and leaders for the industry. We are comfortable public speakers. We are confident interviewing on-camera and off. We are organizing efforts for thought leaders and sourcing deals for some of our investors. This newfound confidence in who we are and what we’ve built — and will continue to build — is what allowed us to execute a Series C led by GV, and joined by industry titans like Sara Blakely and Shonda Rhimes.

On our 6th birthday, we’re proud to say that we’ve created a playbook for what it means to be a membership company that is different. And that we’re setting our own terms. We used to say that what we do was a privilege. But now it’s more than just that — it’s a responsibility. Our mission of making it easier to live smarter has never been more critical. At a time when the world we live in has never been more divisive, we are in a unique position to find our audience is VERY politically diverse. We can’t wait to show you what’s up our sleeve for the midterm elections…

Just keep Skimm’ng,

Carly and Danielle