Office Hours: I'm a founding partner of #ANGELS, former CMO of Color Genomics and VP of Global Media at Twitter. I'm Katie Stanton.Featured
Hi everyone!I’m one of the founding partners of #ANGELS – we’re an investment collective on a mission to get women on the cap tables of more startups. We invest in phenomenal companies like Gusto, Bird, Literati, Carrot, Lambda School, Modern Fertility, Threads and Carta.Previously, I was the CMO for Color Genomics and VP of Global Media at Twitter. I also sit on the Board of Directors for Vivendi and was previously on the board for Time. I was a Special Advisor in the Office of Innovation for the US Department of State and I was the Director of Citizen Participation for The White House under President Obama.I started my career at Google, Yahoo and Chase and I have an MA from Columbia University and a BA from Rhodes College.Ask me anything about getting started in angel investing, tech media, becoming a board member, living abroad, or working in both tech and government. I’m also open to having a conversation about the challenges of building a career and managing a complicated personal life. I haven’t been public about this before, but in the safe, empowering community of Elpha (and disclosure: I’m an investor!), I’m open to including this in the AMA. I’m a single mom of three, responsible for my father who has Alzheimer’s and a close family member who struggles with addiction. I know how hard it is to juggle work and family challenges so happy to share what I’ve learned (and eager to hear from those of you who have even better life management solutions! :)
Thanks so much for joining us, Katie! Office hours have now ended.
Thank you so much for having me, Cadran!
Katie, thank you so much for putting your time forth to answering some questions!Immediately I am curious if there are any angel investing bootcamps you would recommend? More generally, what is the best way to get started in angel investing?Second, I am a HUGE fan of #ANGELS. Just an amazing group of powerful women with incredible investments. Since a lot of the women in the collective come from media or have worked in media, what do you think the next big trend in media and tech will be?Asking selfishly because I just started a media tech startup (Curastory) after leaving ESPN this year and we have about 20% of our pre-seed committed. User interviews with content creators + experts like yourself are extremely important and useful! Would love to chat more if interested :)
That's such a good question. I think we need to create one with #ANGELS!The only angels bootcamp I'm aware of is one that my friends at Unusual Ventures put together a few months ago. Related, I'm a huge fan of the Unusual team (John Vrionis, Jyoti Bansal, Megan Holston-Alexander and Andy Johns). They are an incredible VC. ###I love media but it's a tough business. Distribution is consolidating and it’s making it hard for pure content brands to build big profitable businesses. That said, I believe brands that can create unique, high value content with utility have the opportunity to do build D2C subscription businesses in a way that was not possible 5 years ago. [Insert emoji: fingers crossed]
I'm biased, given my tech company - but I say gaming behavior is going to impact how media tech plays (ha!) out. :)
I've done some research myself in this area:- Pipeline Angels is a nation-wide angel investing bootcamp with a focus on under-represented founders and funders- 37 Angels in NY also has a program (in-person in NYC or online)I think there's many ways to get started - tapping on your networks such as Elpha, getting involved with accelerators. and syndicates on angellist are all good ways!
Hi Katie, thank you so much for honestly sharing your personal life. I love the safety of Elpha! I'm a startup founder – www.toycycle.co, a marketplace for buying and selling outgrown toys and baby gear. We are just 4 months post launch and I am insanely busy. I'm also mom to 10-year-old twin daughters and caring for my mother who has dementia. I often feel as though there are simply not enough hours in the day to handle all that I am responsible for. What I have found though, is that like most human beings, I am super adaptable and resilient. Things I couldn't have imagined being able to manage two years ago, are now a regular and reasonably manageable part of my life. I find myself soaring on the tiniest bit of good news/good metrics. And yes, brought down by missing a target. But that down is a motivator. It's a brief window for reflection–what can I do differently? How can I care for myself through this? I think a history of practicing gratitude, for me, is the key. When life is dishing up what really feels like just too much to handle, I run through my gratitude list. I'm healthy. I have a roof over my head. My kids are wildly creative, spontaneous and jubilant. I get to spend time with my mother and hear much more about her early life than ever before–often over and over again. :) I've learned to turn off Rhonda the entrepreneur and dutiful daughter from 5-8pm everyday when I give myself 100% to my kids. Then I have firm boundaries for myself after 8:00 so the rest of the evening is just for me. Through all I've experienced in the last several years, I've come to believe that there really is no mountain too high for me. The climb may be incredibly arduous, but the view from the top promises to be awe inspiring.
Wow, Rhonda, what great perspective. The "sandwich generation" has it extra hard but it sounds like you are navigating it well and with an amazing attitude. Congrats on having the courage and the determination to build a new business. Wishing you so much success.
@rhondacollins love the concept of your company! I just shared it on my Facebook page San Diegans Against Single-Use plastic. Hopefully it'll get picked up by some of the bigger zero waste/anti-plastic pollution pages on Facebook. Good luck!
Wow, this is so exciting! Personally, I would be most interested in understanding how you pick companies to invest in. Thank you!
I look at four key factors when considering an investment:1. Founders. Investing in early stage companies is ultimately a founder bet. As a result, I spend a lot of time with the founders trying to understand their motivations. Why are they building the product? Why now? What makes them uniquely qualified to build this important service or tool? Can they build a world class team? Are they customer-obsessed? Do they have high integrity? 2. Product. I look for products that make life or work better. For example, I was an early investor in Modern Fertility because I know firsthand how hard it can be for women to manage their fertility. I wish this product existed for me when I needed it! I was also an early investor in Threads, a tool for better workplace collaboration. In the world of more distributed teams, I love the idea of making it easier for remote teams to work together. I also think about how this product with respect to consumer behavior. Is the product something that creates new consumer behavior (AirBnb) or makes existing consumer behavior easier (DoorDash)? 3. Market. It's not always easy to measure the Total Addressable Market (TAM), but it's something that is key to every investment equation. I want to make sure the market is big enough so the product has a big enough runway to succeed and grow. 4. Timing. It's also not easy to time the market, but it's a consideration. You could have the right product, market and team, but you may struggle if the timing isn't right.
Hi Katie. Thank you. Your post and personal introduction struck a deep chord with me. After a successful career in IT for development, I have just launched AkooBooks Audio, Ghana's first publisher and digital distributor of Black/African audiobooks. (https://www.producthunt.com/posts/akoobooks-audio) I'm excited about the market potential for digital audio books in Africa and the potential for Akoobooks Audio to carve a niche for itself in the African literature segment. I think its crucial that new African start-ups like ours enter the market, making the $5 billion digital opportunity a reality and bringing the African publishing industry into sync with the front-runners in the global book markets. I 'm in my 50s and a single mother of a 13 year old girl. I also live with my mother who's 86 and a blind children's book author, the inspiration for my starting the company. As a "late-start" founder and mother, I bring all my career and life experiences along as key assets, but the learning curve of entrepreneurship is SO steep and fast that I need help to bring my ideas to life and then to scale them up globally! It just gets simply overwhelming... Joining Elpha for me is such a unique opportunity for me to meet other women and grow and share my experiences.Q. I want to become a social venture partner with a company like Amazon Audible, and have them cover our audio production costs for Black/African titles while getting a share of our proceeds and access to their distribution networks. How would I go about starting to get a relationship with the 'Giants of Retail'?
Great to meet you! I'm so glad you joined. How did you hear about Elpha? I'd love to hear more about what you're building. I have a few investor friends in Western Africa and happy to share your idea with them. Email me at [email protected] I'm not sure how to become a partner at Amazon, but let's follow up via email and I'll brainstorm some ideas.
Hey AmaDee - I have a contact in Amazon that I can ask, and also know a few people who have been successful with audiobooks in the horror literature segment in Los Angeles. If you send me a general idea of the resources you're looking for, I can hit up my network. [email protected]
I have so many questions about juggling work and family challenges and those identities for you, Katie! Thank you so much for sharing. - What are some ways that you're managing the switch between work/family on a day-to-day basis? I'm wondering if you have a clear work/family cut off, or are they more or less intertwined.- There are a few posts on Elpha on daughters being the primary caretakers of their aging parents, and suffering from big career step backs. How are you holding up both sides? It's a big question. :) - What have you learned about yourself in navigating those challenges?
Hi Kuan!I'm not sure I have the best answers, but here's what worked for me:1. Prioritize your time. Understand that there's only so much you can do in a day. Prioritize the things that require your headspace and time. Get as much help as you can afford and don't sweat the small stuff. For example, I gave up trying to cook homemade meals for my kids every night. Shopping, cooking, cleaning - why? They can deal with take-out and prepared foods from the local grocery store. :) 2. I'm not great at this, but self care is key. As they say, put your own mask on before helping others. I have a lot of dependents and need to make sure I'm in the best mental and physical health before I can provide for others. 3. Structure your time. I try to set aside specific times and dates to be 100% present with my family. For example, from 6-9pm every night, I am full-time mom. One weekend/month, I am full-time daughter for my dad (I have caregivers for him full-time at a caregiving home in Colorado). 4. Pace yourself. When things get too crazy, it's OK to slow down and take a break. 5. Surround yourself with great people. I feel so much gratitude for the friends, mentors, colleagues and family in my life. It take a village (and a valley) to get through life's challenges. So choose your community wisely!
Katie, thanks for being transparent about your personal life -- talk about inspiring! One question: how do you keep it together?? Would love to know about how you take care of yourself so you can take care of so many others.
Hi Sara!Same answers as Kuan's with one addition: I let out a good cry here and there. :) Here's what has worked for me:1. Prioritize your time. Understand that there's only so much you can do in a day. Prioritize the things that require your headspace and time. Get as much help as you can afford and don't sweat the small stuff. For example, I gave up trying to cook homemade meals for my kids every night. Shopping, cooking, cleaning - why? They can deal with take-out and prepared foods from the local grocery store. :)2. I'm not great at this, but self care is key. As they say, put your own mask on before helping others. I have a lot of dependents and need to make sure I'm in the best mental and physical health before I can provide for others.3. Structure your time. I try to set aside specific times and dates to be 100% present with my family. For example, from 6-9pm every night, I am full-time mom. One weekend/month, I am full-time daughter for my dad (I have caregivers for him full-time at a caregiving home in Colorado).4. Pace yourself. When things get too crazy, it's OK to slow down and take a break.5. Surround yourself with great people. I feel so much gratitude for the friends, mentors, colleagues and family in my life. It take a village (and a valley) to get through life's challenges. So choose your community wisely!
Hi Katie, It’s great to have you in office hours this week! I volunteer with a group, the Multicultural Angel Investor Network, whose mission is to promote a culture of early-stage investing amongst multicultural professionals. My questions for you are around how #ANGELS work as an investment collective. What are some of the deal flow advantages you have from being an all-female organization? Any disadvantages? I love that your group is specifically focused on diversity on the cap table. What are your plans for measuring progress going forward? Thank you in advance!
Thank you for joining!I'm so glad you are building the Multicultural Angel Investor Network. I've had a few conversations with friends who are building a Black Angels Network and will share this with them!For #ANGELS, we have amazing deal flow. And I don't think it's amazing because we're women - it's because we're good at what we do. :) I think the most important quality you want with an investment collective is a common purpose and a deep sense of trust. I love, respect and trust every single one of my #ANGELS co-founders. With respect to diversity on the cap table, we partnered with Carta a few years ago to measure the gap: https://medium.com/angels-news/thegaptable-9982230d923a. We'll continue to measure this disparity and find better strategies and tactics to accelerate our goal of equality.
Thank you for your time Katie. What are some important considerations as founders of early-stage companies reach out to seed investors? How would we assess the right fit and which investors to pitch to?
Hi Vidhya,Here are a few ideas:1. Do your homework. Think about which investors and angels would most likely resonate with your idea. Perhaps they've worked or invested in your category already. Or they have a personal connection to the problem you are trying to solve. 2. Seek a warm intro. I know this sounds annoying, but what I'm quickly learning as a solo GP is that I can't review every pitch. There's just not enough time in the day. BUT, if I get a warm intro to a pitch from someone I trust, I'm more likely to dig in. I know that feels unfair to entrepreneurs outside of major cities and networks, but it's a tactic that works. 3. Keep building. The best way to get any investors attention is building something meaningful. Prove it in data, brand and impact. Best of luck! Feel free to email me at [email protected] when you are ready.
Thanks @katiestanton for openly talking about your challenges juggling between work and family. What is your learning from not burning out? Thanks!
Hi Samantha,This is what has helped me not burn out:1. Take care of yourself first. 2. Slow down when you need to. 3. Get as much help as you can afford.4. Let the stupid stuff go (don't worry about homemade meals, perfect house, etc)5. Invest in time with family and friends who bring you energy (and let the ones who drain your energy go).6. Volunteer. Help your community and appreciate the gifts we all have.
Hi @katiestanton! That's a great learning! So much needed and appreciated around this time of year. Thanks for sharing!
Hey, great to join the group.,My background is in tech, specifically video games. So a boys club within a boys club. Video games are a language that needs to be spoken to reach next gen, we allow anyone to speak it for education, marketing, entertainment. But investors are generally older, and they don’t play video games, and don’t realize how big the market is, 106.4 B in just mobile games. What’s the best way to pitch a future market.?
Hi Lisa!I'm not a gaming expert, but learning. :) I would also suggest finding open minded investors and/or investors with a passion for gaming. I am an angel investor in TSM and the latest round was led by Bessemer. They are a great VC and happy to share it with them if you like. I'll think of others, too. Email me at [email protected]Best,Katie
Katie, thanks so much for doing this AMA!! Looking at your amazing background— I have so many questions. However my top one is: what are the biggest similarities you see between the work you did at Google in Product/BD, your work in Government (at the White House), and eventually your work as a communicator/marketing chief? What were the most transferable skills? What were the least transferrable?
Hi Rebecca,The biggest similarity of my time at Google and in the Obama White House was the caliber of the employees. Both teams had people well-skilled in their profession (whether in engineering, policy, PR or product). I also felt both teams were optimistic and purposeful about making the world a better place. Most transferable skills: hiring well, selling, negotiating and storytellingLeast transferrable skills: in Silicon Valley, openness is a celebrated part of our culture. in DC (outside of the Obama Administration), information was heavily guarded and traded. I didn't like that and went back to tech. :)
First, kudos to @cadran for hosting Elpha as a place where we can learn faster by working together and to pull out of ourselves more of our true potential, both individually and as leaders of companies. Thanks for being here, @katiestanton. Caring for family members with serious, behaviour altering conditions can be transformative (and humbling). As former innovation practice lead for https://www.baycrest.org, I am fairly familiar with science and tech for Alzheimer, and one of the most promising directions is photobiomodulation. Message me directly if interested. Question about #ANGELS: is it purely a Silicon Valley operation? Would you engage a Canadian entity with a foothold in Europe? In certain fields, such as precision medicine where I work, the artifacts of the US industry structure create high hurdles, while not serving the needs of the end consumers too well.
Hi VeronikaThanks for sharing more about photobiomodulation. Will dig in further. Our #ANGELS team is based in Silicon Valley but we try to spread our wings (see what I did there?) as much as we can nationally. We have made an investment outside the US, but it's not as common given our bandwidth constraints. But would be happy to learn more and share with our team. Feel free to email [email protected] Thanks!
Hi Katie! Thanks for doing this and being so transparent. What are your thoughts on nonprofit technology startups? Do you find that "impact investors" and traditional VCs are also philanthropic and will give to causes they care about?How would you suggest pitching a nonprofit vs traditional business to these folks?Thanks!Kathryn
Also — congrats on the raise/awesome press! https://www.businessinsider.com/katie-jacobs-stanton-raises-first-venture-fund-2019-12
Hi Katie!What an awesome intro and inspiring journey of professional and personal growth and success. I'd love to ask you a question regarding your experience working as an executive at Twitter and other media/tech companies. Q: There are many common criticisms of media & social media companies (ie. disturbing of the political system, mental health issues, the negative influence on younger users, etc). Of course, be as specific as you feel comfortable here, but what would you say are some the obstacles, challenges, or problems you see happening on the inside that make addressing these issues or making changes to the platforms slow / difficult?Thanks for taking the time to be here, Katie!
A bit late to the party. Thank you for sharing openly about your personal life as well. It certainly sounds like you have a lot on your plate. Given that you’ve continued to take risks and build the career you want. Amazing. I’d love to hear a bit more about the process for raising your own fund. What were similarities to a startup fundraising process? What was different? What were some of the strategies that you felt contributed to your success in raising the fund?
Hi @katiestanton! Thank you for sharing. I’m building a concierge/marketplace for family caregivers to access all the best resources and services available to them. I would love to interview you and learn about your experience as a caregiver sometime!
Hi Katie. Thank for this AMA and congrats on the raise! I am a solo founder of a fitness start-up focusing on the aging population. I have a product with promising early traction and paying users; however, the traction is still too minimal for typical seed investors. May I email you for feedback and advice on the path to a seed round?
Hi Katie, first Thx for the AMA. I'm a serial Entrepreneur who's raised funds prior. I'm currently look'g for a small ($100k) amount b/c doesn't mk sense to raise more yet until we get traction/customer/revenue. I went to F&F and the offers wanted too much equity. I don't want to waste time req'd with Accelerators (two have asked me to apply) (they had large time requirements). Me & co-founders all have track records. I just need one person or Angel to fund the $100k to get us past this phase and already have people int'd in next round. I checked w/ local Angels, they require $250k min + MRR or traction. Funding is to pay for development of alpha testing. Who we are: creating next-gen shopping (have patents filed) platform agnostic. Thx again, Jo