My Blog

What 90 Female Founders Taught Me

I just re-discovered something I didn’t know I had lost: the feeling of belonging in the tech industry.

Last week I had the opportunity to facilitate a female founder retreat for Pear VC. The incredible Mar Hershenson, Mada Seghete, and Vivien Ho gathered 90 women in the desert of Palm Springs for 3 days of connection, vulnerability, and more than a sprinkle of magic.

But arriving at the retreat, I felt like a poser. A washed-up founder in the dressings of a coach.

When I sold my company a few years ago (4 now!), I felt so much shame and grief. It was so potent that San Francisco reeked of it for me. I had to escape the stench and flee.

I thought that being a founder was the only way I would belong in the tech industry. But this event showed me another way to belong: by being human with one another. Vulnerable. And in our humanity, where our companies didn’t define the entirety of us, I found my feelings of connection.

Work events often strip us of humanity. We lose the magic of our quirks and wear the mask of our role. It feels safe and is required. This week we were invited to take the mask off and show our true faces to one another.

In the hot springs, as we connected over Buddhism, theories of consciousness, exploring work cultures in Asia vs Spain vs America, we wove our threads of humanity back to one another. In the yoga dome, we danced as our favorite female icons and laughed like little girls. Lying on the grass, we sipped cacao together and meditated, connecting to something higher.

One of our dinner topics was to “give your standard 30 second intro” and then “give your REAL intro if we really knew you.”

My standard intro: I built a tech company over a decade, raised $40M in venture capital, scaled to 300 employees, then sold in 2020.

If you REALLY knew me: I made no money off the sale and left SF grieving my exit. I had a hole in my heart post-exit trying to figure out who I was. I lost my magic. I’ve spent the last 4 years since the sale finding my magic again.

I noticed how different I felt giving the standard intro. It felt safe. A little lifeless. Like I was behind a wall. The real intro made me emotional, I felt some fear of being so vulnerable, I was afraid of how the other women at the table would judge me.

But they didn’t judge me. Instead, they entered the waters of vulnerability with me by sharing their own stories behind the mask. It wasn’t just me in the pool alone.

And that’s when it came undone, this idea that I was separate. That being a coach meant I had “failed out” of tech (I have a gnarly story, right?).

Underneath it all I believe humans have the desire to be truly known. While we may get this with our friends and family, it’s rare professionaly to find someone willing to step up to the window of our soul and look at who we truly are. To find 90 women in tech willing to do this was even more magical.

This trip helped me break the story that being a coach makes me an outsider. It helped me unveil the deeper truth: that I have a set of experiences and deep love for founders. That I want to ensure they aren’t alone on their journey of building. And in this phase of life I can make that the center stage in my work.

Coming back into the tech ecosystem as a coach isn’t shameful. It’s delightful.

Even if I become a founder again, I will still find ways to support this community that I love so much. The community of people who jump in the arena with full hearts and take their shots. Who dust themselves off over and over again after falling….subject to public judgment. A group of people who are so deeply curious about the outer world and their inner lives. And a group who have such diverse backgrounds but come together seeking one goal, one purpose, which they build their lives around for years.

This group has a tenacity that’s beyond belief. Founders also have the craziest insecurities that you’ll never see unless you’re lucky enough to get admission into their inner world.

I feel so blessed that founders grant me a ticket to entry into the messy underbellies of what they are building. Under the mask, I love the richness of their struggles and wins, losses and passions. It’s the inner jumble that I thrive in witnessing and helping founders sort through.

Coaching is my current incarnation of the love I have for anyone brave enough to build. Today I claim my role 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *