By Ale Lariu (Co-Founder, SheSays)
Three months ago, I left my job at a big advertising agency: McCann Ericksson in New York. At McCann, I was SVP Group Creative Director and worked with clients like MasterCard, General Mills, Kohls, Nikon and Verizon. Because I was always at advertising agencies, I did not have other startups prior to this. But having said that, in the past two years, I personally helped and invested in startups from friends who could benefit from my marketing expertise.
I’m Brazilian, grew up in the Amazon jungle and lived in the UK for 13 years. I moved to London in 1994 to do an MA in Electronic Publishing. CD-ROMs where ‘the’ big thing at the time and that’s what I worked on during my MA. I was a coder and a designer then. And I did coding and design until 2004 when I took a liking to advertising and started working in the area.
Last year, I was doing a lot of work for my agency that involved creating digital products that could be advertised, rather than advertising products. I wanted to create a new revenue stream for my agency to make digital products and started modeling the business. Half way through doing that I realized I shouldn’t create a business for my agency. I should create one for myself. I already had a very successful not-for-profit networking organization called SheSays, which I founded in 2007 with Laura J Bambach. I just had to transform it into a business.
I’ve created a platform called Shout where all the 3000+ women on the SheSays network can reply to marketing and advertising briefs. So if you’re a client who needs a marketing or creative idea, on shout you can get big agency talent to make your idea happen without the big advertising agency overheads.
Having founded SheSays, it seemed like a natural progression to me to leverage the power of our community of 3000+ women in marketing and creative business. I wanted to create a radical new way for women to collaborate and get paid. And for companies to harness the collective wisdom of women to improve their business.
Being from the creative side of marketing I needed a partner who complemented my skills. Enter Amanda Jaskiewicz. Amanda is a super client services person who I knew from the UK. Although Amanda and I are the core team, we feel we have a work force of 3000 because of all the women who are registered in Shout. We also have support from our technical partners Jovoto. They had the best platform for nurturing and building a community in a very special way. They were perfect for Shout to build on their existing functionality — and bam! — come up with something that we hope will not only be great for women but will be a successful alternative for companies and clients.
Our board of advisors is has a mix of executives in advertising, entrepreneurs and VCs. We are self-funding until December and will be looking for funding after that.
Shout got out of beta in August 2011 and the business is up and running. We’re busy with two distinct open projects at the moment. They are Karlsson’s Gold vodka for marketing ideas and Digiday for a site re-design. As well as funding, we are looking to expand our client portfolio and the number of women registrants on Shout. We’re also working on adding even more amazing functionality to the platform. All of this because we have a small dream: to be the best place for women to work in the world.
Startup Lessons Learned
I’d say because of my advertising background, branding shouldn’t be an afterthought. It should inform everything you do. Entrepreneurs don’t tend to talk about what their business stands for in a impactful way. They usually get caught in ‘tech speak’ when they should be thinking about an unique proposition that is irresistible to customers. For Shout, we tested the site with real briefs and a collective of 150 people. We got our alpha as close to beta as possible 😉
Focus on the big. Women tend get busy running running the day-to-day tasks that they sometimes forget to think where they want to be in two, five, ten years time.
Editor’s note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below.
About the guest blogger: Ale Lariu is Co-Founder of SheSays, an award-winning global network organization focused on the engagement, education and advancement of women in digital marketing and advertising. Most recently, she was SVP Group Creative Director at McCann, where she has worked with clients like MasterCard, General Mills, Kohls, Nikon and Verizon. In 2010, Ale was picked by Fast Company magazine as number 29 out of the 100 most creative people in business.