December 6, 2014 - Comments Off on Women Who Inspire: Infomous’ Chief Operating Officer Scarlett Sieber on Being a Woman in the Tech Scene, Gaming, and Creating a Community on Twitter
Scarlett Sieber in our Eleanor Top
Meet Scarlett Sieber, Chief Operating Officer at Infomous—but that's not all.
Scarlett is a lady who wears many hats—from her day job as COO at a tech start-up to an avid tweeter with an impressive community of entrepreneurial followers. Scarlett has been in the tech scene for three years, but the impact she's already made will long outlast the little time she has already dedicated to her various outlets. Aside from her full-time gig, she's constantly attending networking events, participates in the prestigious Start-Up Leadership Program, and manages to find time on the weekend to play video games with her boyfriend—more on that later.
We grabbed some time with Scarlett to talk about all of her activities, and the hobbies she manages to fit in during the free time she makes the most of. Tune in to learn what Scarlett has to say on the state of the tech scene in New York City, her advice for starting a business venture, her growing Twitter following, and more:
The Daily Grind
I manage and oversee a team who helps with the design and development of our website, including a marketing analytics and a web development intern. Let's say we're walking through a Monday morning. We always have an hour-long strategy meeting to discuss the high-level goals for the week. We'll put a goal up on the board and try to achieve it by the following week. After that, there are always a lot of sales calls. On any given day, I'll have between two and three sales calls with prospective clients. A lot of that is also about follow-ups, going through and making sure we reconnect with the people we talked to the week before and send them the appropriate documents—marketing documents, proposals, or whatever is applicable to that specific client.
I spend a lot of time applying us for different competitions. It's time-consuming, but really fun. Specifically within the last six months, we've been looking for funding. So it's been a lot of investor stuff—researching investors and the companies they invest in, looking at the portfolio companies and seeing if they are the right match for us and getting as much information as we can about them.
Share a little bit about your day—how does it start?
I'm a low maintenance girl. I usually wake up about 20 minutes before I have to go anywhere. It's terrible, but I hit the snooze button at least three times. I put something on, brush my teeth—which takes five minutes of my 20 minutes, I'm a very aggressive tooth brusher—and then I'm off. My time after work is the time that's really spent networking, whether going to tech events in the city where there are pitch contests or networking events where investors are speaking. I spend about 2-2.5 hours any given night managing my Twitter account, which is really how I network socially. That includes checking out my followers, researching them—I go as far as checking out their Twitter and Linkedin, to see how they could be applicable to what we're doing at Infomous, or applicable to me personally. I'm a huge advocate of women in tech, so sometimes I'll just look for really cool women entrepreneurs—or just entrepreneurs in general. I spend that time keeping my account up and responding to people who have tweeted me throughout the day—because I can't really check while I'm at work.
Making a Name on Twitter
It really started with being a young woman in tech and going to a ton of tech events that were highly male dominated. I think it was partly my own insecurities, but when I went people would always ask me what my role was in this or that, or super technical questions—assuming that because I work at a technical company that I'm a super technical person. But I've always been on the operations side. The founder of my company, Paolo, tried to do whatever he could to make me feel comfortable. So he started sending me to women's events, which were helpful, but weren't the answer I was looking for. A part of that was because so many people would talk about the same message: Women are great, let's help the stats about women, and why women are important at any given company. For me, I really thought the balance of men and women was important. It was also hard for me, because I never really met that many women entrepreneurs.
When I started really utilizing Twitter—because I was following specific investors—I was trying to give us the strategic advantage. When you're an early company, it's really important to make a personal connection with the investors. Seven or eight months ago, I started using Twitter to get to know the investors better and see their backgrounds and also hear what they have to say about the tech culture in business. It really started growing and I suddenly became somewhat of a thought leader in the young tech space. From then on, I was very vocal on being a huge advocate for women in tech and how I wanted to find more of them.
Now, more than 80 percent of my network is from Twitter. I meet women entrepreneurs on a daily basis who are doing amazing things. I connected with a woman who was running a media company in Detroit who is highlighting spectacular women and men. One woman was actually producing Shakespeare plays for women in jail. She also has a story on the youngest entrepreneur woman in Detroit—her name is Asia, I believe. She is 11-years-old and she has a candle-making business. She happened to run into Dan Gilbert, who is the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, on the street and pitched him on her business, to the point that he gave her funding.
Twitter been such a fast thing for me. I wrote a piece about women in tech for the Huffington Post about including men in the conversation about women and an event I went to that was just awesome. It wasn't a women-specific event—there was nothing about women in the title—but every single panelist and every moderator was a woman and the audience was almost perfectly split, men and women. Men were highly engaged, asking questions. They weren't talking about women's issues, they were talking about business issues. Now, of course, being women, some of those things came up. Someone saw my article on Twitter and shared it. She found my contact information from the HuffPo article, saw me on Twitter, and then connected with me. That's how I ended up writing a piece for Forbes in the same vein. It was talking about men mentoring women which has been the case in my life. All of my business connections I've made on Twitter, as well. It's been great.
"Be passionate about what you're doing because that passion is palpable and people will be able to see it from the moment they meet you."
The State of the NYC Tech Scene
I think that for the most part NY has been really underrepresented, going back to the most basic levels of financing. We haven't had any huge exits that are game-changing like you might see on the West Coast. There aren't any Facebooks or Twitters or Snapchats. We do have companies like Etsy, though. The culture is definitely shifting—it's growing. There's a ton of wealth here, hence a ton of opportunity for funding. There are so many events, your schedule is easily overfilled. You can't go to all of the ones you want to. In the three years I've been here, it just seems to grow and grow. It's overwhelming how many people are passionate about this now, which is a great thing to see.
Words of Wisdom
I feel like I'm always pitching my company. I think of any single person as a potential client. Again, that's not even me expecting them to invest in the company— I pitch the company to pretty much every person I talk to.
My advice? Know your numbers, know your market opportunities, and know what differentiates you from other people. Really just be passionate about what you're doing because that passion is palpable and people will be able to see it from the moment they meet you. That's super important. When you have a more formal meeting, you'll get to due diligence. This is the only comment I'll make about women—and I've seen it and heard it—they make great companies and great businesses, beautiful Powerpoints, but when it gets to the numbers, they tend to be very vague. That's one area, generally—this is not true across the board—where they tend to not be as comfortable. Knowing your numbers is especially true in New York, because we're such a finance-based city. It's really crucial. Even if you're not the one who does it, you've got to get someone to help you really dive down and understand your market size and your product market fit and seeing what the future will look like for you., having specific numbers is really important.
Even if you're a consumer business and you're not seeing profits at the moment, just seeing what it looks like is important. You may not be profitable, but you made this much more money than six months ago and this is what it'll look like from here, and you gained this many new clients, etc. Be as specific as possible, even if you don't think the numbers are good—investors will see the work and they'll know that. You'll get to it eventually. The easier you make it for the investors, the easier it will be.
"I think it's really important for all entrepreneurs to have a safe haven. There are so many issues that we all face and there are the highs and the extreme lows. Sometimes there's no real person to talk to."
The Start-Up Leadership Program & Passion Projects
The Start-Up Leadership Program (SLP) a really awesome organization that's in over 20 cities globally. It's been in NYC for about four years. They accept 25 fellows per year. I've only been to one class so far and it's a six-month program. Accelerators are all the buzz right now, but it takes a different approach. First off, it's a not-for-profit, there's no equity and no cost. You help pay the expenses for food, but that's it. It's really an accelerator for people. They don't care about what your business is, they care about who you are as a person, how they think you will be in the future, and what kind of leader you will be. I think it's really important for all entrepreneurs to have a safe haven. There are so many issues that we all face and there are the highs and the extreme lows. Sometimes there's no real person to talk to. Often times, you aren't going to a networking event to talk about things that are wrong with your company. Being able to have a group of people who have a) been there, and b) don't judge you, is really important.
I know a lot about early stage start-ups in general, but I feel like there are always more effective ways to get things done so I'm really hoping to learn more about that. Just the network itself and spending six months with people who will really get to know you and what your strengths and weaknesses are. For me, one of the biggest things will be the funding aspect. I play a role in that—I go to investor meetings, but I don't understand in detail the term sheet and all of that, so I think gaining access to that will be crucial. They're all about honesty off the bat. If they think something is wrong, or they don't like something you're doing, they'll let you know in a respectful way. That can be the most healthy thing for your business, seeing what you're not doing right. I'm really excited for the next six months.
Aside from tech and the women’s stuff, I’m a global youth ambassador for a organization called A World At School, which is run by the old UK prime minister Gordon Brown, and his wife Sarah Brown. There are 500 global youth ambassadors around the world, including Milala, the Pakistani girl who was shot in the head because she was trying to say that girls have a right to education. We’re working very closely with the UN's special enclave for education to get every child in a school by the end of 2015. That aligns with my whole focus on women's empowerment and getting women one step ahead. This is for all children, not just girls, but girls tend to have a disadvantage in this area, as well—especially globally where they’re not supposed to attend school. It’s something I feel really passionate about, and I try to spend as much time as I can outside of the social media networking and work, contributing in any way I can—signing petitions, getting the word out there, going to marches, organizing events in the city, fundraisers for books for children in Africa, things like that.
I try to find something that makes me feel as confident as possible. It usually tends to be something black. I'll wear a nice black shirt, maybe a skirt. Something that's not trying too hard, but letting them know that I'm here. It really depends where I'm going. Sometimes I won't want to play it up too much, so I'll wear plain pants with a nice dress shirt. Other times, if I'm trying to feel uber confident like I run the world, I'll wear my favorite teal skirt that's form-fitting, that really gives me the ultimate confidence. I'll wear a pair of heels, which I very rarely wear because I'm six feet tall. If I'm around people that are running NYC from the venture side, I like to feel confident and be the 6'4" person in the room.
Fit is King
The biggest consideration in clothing is fit. That's even more important than price. If I can find a pair of jeans that actually fit my six-foot body-with-hips, then that's a huge advantage and I'm willing to spend extra money. Or if there's a shirts that makes me feel super awesome that I can wear to every investor meeting, then I'm willing to spend some extra money since it's a go-to shirt. I have curves, which can be good, but it can be bad. Clothes don’t always fit right, so that tends to be an issue. It’s finding the right balance, which is why I go for maxi dresses in the summer and during the winter, leggings or jeans and some kind of nice shirt—whatever that may be.
Restaurants: I live in the Upper East Side and there's a really good Argentinian restaurant called El Libertador that has a great ambiance. It's very serene with candles on every table. I love the experience. I'm very particular with food. I don't like a lot, but I could eat a ton of what I do like. I love Numero 28 on 74th and 1st Ave. They make really good wood-fired pizza. Those are probably my two favorites.
Night Life: I'm not a big bar person. When I go out, I tend to like to dance. I like to go to night clubs. I don't do it often anymore because honestly I'm so exhausted by the time the weekend comes. Any time there's a place that plays hip-hop that's not super popular—I don't like a ton of people—it doesn't have to be posh, they just have to play good music and you can just dance the night away. It's just awesome.
Hobbies: I love scuba diving. My favorite spot so far—I’ve been doing it for almost two years—is a very small island on the East Coast of Malaysia. I went to the small islands on the east coast called the Perhentian Islands—two very small islands about an hour-and-a-half off the main area of Malaysia. Neither of them have roads and it just was gorgeous. I get very motion sick. I can’t do planes, cars, boats. I’m not a great swimmer—so everything was against me being a scuba diver. But I’m a very adventurous person, so I thought why not? It was very hard getting started. But once I did, the feeling was completely indescribable. There’s nothing you can compare it to. There are no distractions, and you’re surrounded by the natural beauty, like schools of yellowtails. It’s the most freeing experience I’ve ever felt. If I could be underwater every day, I would do it just because you’re so disconnected from everything and it’s amazing. You hear your breath and you’re so far down. There are parts, depending on how deep you go, where you can’t see three feet in front of you. It’s a really scary feeling and you have no control. There’s something really liberating about that.
Video games: I’m a huge video game player, my favorite game is called Borderlands 2. There's this character, Myra—she’s a siren. Basically, it’s like a first-person shooter game and role playing game. It’s a really interesting mix. She’s just a badass chick. She has these tattoos all over her and she’s super powerful and amazing. Recently, when I've gone to events and there’s something I don’t feel comfortable with or I’m shy, I just think of her. She’s really cocky and she has an attitude, but it’s kind of cool.
The thing I’m embarrassed to admit about it is that they have a lot of clothes customization, and they make you pay real dollars for the nicer ones. So I’ve spent real dollars for skin customizations for my character online because it makes me feel better. I’ve paid probably around $20, which isn't much, but it’s still $20 on a video game to change the clothing.
Published by: Nicole Lenzen in People Who Inspire