Joanne Lang; Founder & CEO AboutOne, on Fundraising & Failure
When our blogger Laura Greb attended the BlogHer 2012 event, she met AboutOne Founder & CEO Joanne Lang and set up an interview. Here is Joanne's story and what she had to say.
Joanne Lang is a former software company executive specializing in cloud technology, Lang recognized that while she had Facebook for friends and LinkedIn for business, there was nothing in the middle to help manage her home life. She designed AboutOne, based on her direct experiences as the mother of four children.
Since launching first on stage at VentureBeat’s DEMO Spring 2011, Lang was named a Forbes Top Ten Female Entrepreneurs to Watch, won the StartupNation and the Startup Princess competitions, received seed funding from Ben Franklin SEP, Series A from Golden Seeds and MAG, and was accepted to the Astia portfolio and DreamIt Ventures. A regular blogger on StartupAmerica, Women 2.0, and The Huffington Post, Lang is also a frequent panelist, including the NYU 2012 Women Entrepreneurs Festival with Arianna Huffington (founded by Joanne Wilson and Nancy Hechinger), the CES MommyTech Summit, Women 2.0 Founder Friday, Penn State’s Igniting Innovation Forum, BlogHer’s Entrepreneurs ’12, and was the keynote speaker at the Chamber of Business & Industry’s Annual Small Business Dinner.
LG: What advice would you give entrepreneur just starting out in this industry? (I ask every interviewee this same question, love the replies – helps a great deal!)
Networking is key, even if your network does not buy directly from you; it’s having those relationships that drive success.
LG: We had a lovely conversation during the BlogHer 2012 in NYC and one of the topics we spoke about was failure. So, I’m curious to know, how do you define “failure”? What’s considered a failure to you?
JL: I love this quote from Winston Churchill: “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm..”
We had to learn to embrace failure, measure it and use it as a baseline to learn from, we learned that if you are not failing every day you are not trying enough new things.
It took running a startup for me to learn that my biggest failure in life would be to not aim high enough.
LG: AboutOne was created in 2010 – you’ve come quite a long way since you launched. Along with yourself, who else is part of your dynamite team?
JL: My dynamite team is made up of 18 people, and every single person plays a key role. The leads are broken down into these areas:
- Consumer Marketing: Katrine Kubis
- Creative Direction and UI design: Jesse Harding
- Technical Architecture: Nathan Bayles
- Product Management: Tracy Keenan
Whilst we have team leads, we run a lean and virtual organization and each team member knows exactly what role they play in our success. Each person has the flexibility to work from home or attend family events as they need to.
The 20 people we have on the team are amazing; out of the 20 people, 7 were hired through our Comeback Mom program
LG: What’s the number one highest rank comment users are saying about your application?
JL: “I feel like I’m part of AboutOne because you respond so well.”
We are committed to providing the best possible customer service, so it’s always gratifying to hear comments like this. Our product development is based on feedback from our customers, so we actively seek input and involvement from them. We think that this kind of focus results in a product that truly meets our customers’ needs.
LG: When an entrepreneur seeks funding and an investor tells an entrepreneur “no”, does that necessarily mean “no” and to walk away forever? Do you have any words of encouragement for entrepreneurs seeking funding?
JL: Entrepreneurs should look for an investor in the same way that she would select a life partner – they need to fit with you through high and low times.
You need to “date” your prospective investors for a while. Choose people who have a background in your industry, check their connections, and interview people in their portfolio.
Remember you don’t get married after a first date. If an investor says “no” or “maybe”, but you think you are a good fit, keep going back, show progress and demonstrate with facts over time why you are a good fit.
That initial “no” may really mean come back when you have more information and I know you better. Even if they don’t fund you – they will have heard of you and you never know whom they will mention you to. Keep communicating with them.
You also have to learn that when an investor turns you down – it could have nothing to do with you or your idea. It could be that they are out of money, that there is a conflict of interest, or a plethora of other reasons. Don’t take it personally. Just make sure you have a pipeline of investors you are speaking with.
LG: As a mother of four boys, you are a true inspiration and breath of fresh air. How do you keep yourself composed while running a full household and focusing on AboutOne?
JL: Here are my tips:
- Every day make 20 minutes for yourself: take a bath, get your nails done, exercise; you need to be well yourself for your family and your team
- Make sure you focus
on the activities that drive the goals that add the most value to your
company. Measure everything.
LG: What changes will we see with AboutOne in the coming months?
JL: We’ve got many exciting new changes coming in the next few months:
- More mobile and more integrated apps
- B2B relationships that will differentiate companies in the education, insurance and banking industries by providing them with cross-sell and new customer opportunities.
- Plans with foster care agencies that will use AboutOne to help manage foster children’s records, memories and milestones – their online LifeBook.
LG: If you have any upcoming Tech events you’re participating in, please tell us:
JL: We’re very excited about participating in CES again in January 2013. Last year, we worked with Robin Raskin’s Living in Digital Times MommyTech Summit. It was an amazingly successful event for us, and we’re looking forward to working with Robin again. She does such a wonderful job of providing a cost effective, rewarding experience for lifestyle tech companies, and we benefitted greatly from working with her.
Laura Greb-Anand lives in New York and created Artmeme to empower and educate visual artists by providing real life business tools to enhance job security and advance career growth. For the past seven years, Laura has worked with an array of artists as her passion grew immensely to help visual artists attain the essential business skills needed in order to move forward with their career confidently.
While Laura is not focusing on artists, she is an avid writer and has interviewed an array of founders, mentors, artists and other likeminded individuals. She also loves to write about technology and business events. She is passionate about meeting people and sharing information to help others reach their goals.
Sign Up to our Newsletter
So you enjoy The NextWomen. Why not sign up to our monthly newsletter?
You get a Letter from the CEO :-), the chance to catch up with the best of our recent articles - and some extra things we throw in once in a while.