How theSkimm and its founders are growing into their success

Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin were two young NBC news producers when they started theSkimm, a news roundup email designed to keep time-starved Millennials in the know.

Then, it was two women sending an email from their couch. Now, it’s a force of innovation, changing the way more than 5 million readers consume news (and avoid looking out-of-touch at cocktail parties). The company has grown to more than 50 employees and 25,000 “Skimm’bassadors” (fans who help promote the brand), and offers a mobile app and a new video series where celebrities deliver theSkimm from the tub.

The two will be appearing at Shop.org in a panel about female entrepreneurs, alongside Beautycounter founder and CEO Gregg Renfrew and Minted founder and CEO Mariam Naficy, moderated by former Macy’s CMO Martine Reardon. We spoke with them prior to the event to learn more about how they grew their company from the ground up.

theSkimm has gone from scrappy startup to successful tech favorite. What has been your biggest leadership challenge as your startup grows up?

When we first started theSkimm, it was just the two of us writing from our couch. As the company has scaled, one of the most exciting — and challenging — parts has been growing the team. As first-time managers, the learning curve was steep. We’ve worked hard to create and maintain theSkimm’s culture 50+ employees later, and we’re constantly learning and growing with our employees.

How has the company infrastructure evolved, and how have you decided where and how to invest in new hires?

We’ve always been a company focused on tech and analytics — our first hire was a head of growth and analytics. We’re continuing to hire across the board, but are really focusing on building out those teams in a meaningful way.

Danielle Weisberg (left) and Carly Zakin (right)

How were you able to make theSkimm a community instead of just an email list?

We listen to our audience. It’s important to us that we take time to understand what our audience wants, and to acknowledge their feedback. In the early days Skimm’rs would write in to let us know how much they loved it, and instead of just saying “Thank you,” we’d say, “Thank you! Can you share with 5 friends?” And they did. Today, our community of Skimm’bassadors (Skimm’rs who have referred people to theSkimm using a unique link) is over 25,000 strong.

What accomplishment or milestone has meant the most to you personally thus far?

Looking back on the past five years, the thing we’re proudest of is the team we’ve built. They are truly the best in the business, and we’re so excited about what’s to come.

What’s the most important advice you would share with young female entrepreneurs?

Know your audience and what your product’s value is to them. And take a coding class.

As news junkies, what do you find most fascinating about the retail industry right now, and what would you like to know more about?

As a media company based in tech and analytics, we’re interested in the ways traditional retail outlets are adapting to consumers’ new and evolving buying habits. As consumers frequent bricks-and-mortar retail locations less and less, how do you capture their attention when there is so much other information vying for it?

To continue the conversation with Carly and Danielle, attend Shop.org in Los Angeles, Sept. 25 to 27.


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