What I Learned at Y-Combinator’s Female Founders Conference

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend Y Combinator’s Female Founders conference in San Francisco thanks to the amazing company I work for, Flywheel.

Here are some things that resonated with me:

Culture is tough choices. No assholes.

Having an ongoing love for startups and entrepreneurship, I’ve been paying close attention to companies and how they operate- specifically when it comes to culture. I am fortunate to work at a company where culture is purposely thought through. Culture is in a lot of ways the heart of Flywheel.

Our co-founder and CEO, Dusty Davidson, talks a lot about the subject. After building several successful companies prior to Flywheel and seeing other successes, it seemed he knew what worked, what didn’t, and what he wanted to instill in his next gem. Culture can do a lot for a company. It must be thought through- whether a company of 3 or 300. 

Because of my interest in the subject, I was really able to connect with Kathryn Minshew, the founder of The Muse, as she talked about culture being one of the most important things a company should have. To Kathryn, culture consisted of 2 things:

  1. How you hire and attract people

  2. How you behave when people aren’t watching

Kathryn makes a lot of decisions regarding The Muse by referencing these two aspects. If a controversial subject doesn’t align with their values or culture, then the answer is no. “No assholes,” Kathryn said when referring to hiring. One bad hire truly impacts your company. “Culture is tough choices.” A lot of culture also has to do with what happens behind closed doors. Do you live out your culture or just talk about it? This brings me to the next point.

Transparency is key.

Kathryn showed this trait in a way I truly admired.

After recent news of funding for The Muse, Kathryn had some choices to make when it came to where The Muse would be spending the money. When you raise a lot of money, people ask more questions. All of a sudden she had to make even harder choices.

To dodge conflict and ease minds, Kathryn made a 20 slide pitch deck that went through and explained the company’s budget “to a tee” for the next year and beyond. Prior to the decisions, she had surveyed the company, asking them what was most important to them about the company. The survey allowed The Muse to move forward, investing in the team at hand and delivering what its employees wanted. 

Scaling is like a rocket ship.

The founder of BellaBeatUrska Srsen, had a very diverse upbringing in comparison to most YC founders. In her talk she described her sort of “imposter syndrome” mindset when going through YC- being European and having a hardware entity really made her feel out of place. Sure enough, she was totally meant to be there. I learned a lot from her presentation, specifically when it came to scaling startups.

She brought up how scaling is similar to a rocket ship. You can’t take everyone with you. Some were meant to be with you all the way to the moon, but some are there just at the beginning and fall off after take off. Not many founders talk about this specific topic. When you think of scaling, you think of hiring more, not necessarily losing more. This analogy really unlocked a perspective I’d never had before.

Fundraising is not for the faint of heart.

“You can’t take no for an answer.” “Don’t take it personal.” “If it’s not a yes, it’s a no.” These statements echoed mostly everything the panelists of the Fundraising 101 discussed during their segment. Scary, huh? 

 This is where I realized- fundraising is hard and it is only becoming harder. True respect for those companies who have been fortunate to receive funding. This panel helped me understand what fundraising entailed and how you must have a specific approach to the process.To our founders at Flywheel– congratulations on the recent round– it couldn’t have been easy.

Overall, I learned so much at the Female Founders conference. I am so glad I had the opportunity to attend and feel so fortunate to be a part of a company that values helping their employees grow through outside experiences.