125 Meetups for Marketing Influence: Crowdskout CMO Shana Glenzer on Building a Huge Following in the Tech Startup Scene
Shana Glenzer has been the Chief Marketing Officer of successive hot Washington D.C. tech startups – SocialRadar, MakeOffices, Aquicore and now Crowdskout. Along the way she built a huge following using the power of meetups. Now the DCFemTech Meetup has more than 13,000 members. We talk about women in tech, paying it forward to women coming up and how to grow your influence.
Melinda Wittstock: Welcome to Wings, Shana.
Shana Glenzer: Thanks. Thanks so much for having me.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, it’s great to have you on. I know, just being in the D.C. area myself, but I got used to, for the longest time, being the only woman in the room, and that is changing a little bit. What’s your take on where we’re at right now for women in tech?
Shana Glenzer: I think it’s a really exciting time for women in tech in Washington D.C. And women in tech, at kind of various levels of a career, and various kinds of roles. So, there are always been women in the trenches in tech companies in D.C., coding and designing and they had really not been connected to a broader community of women who are very technical in skillset. To help, either to grow their own skills, or for people that were looking to get started in coding or designing, they didn’t know of an opportunity to do that. And I’d say in the last five years or so, opportunities have sprung up and a community, specifically DCFemTech has been created to support those women. It’s also a really exciting time for women in business in technology. Whether you’re founding a company or you’re, like myself, a marketer at a tech company. There are more and more communities that are popping up to support women at their various stages of life, and their various, you know, times in their career or the roles that they’re looking to accomplish, so whether that’s to start their own business, or to transition their career in to tech, for example.
More and more, the last five years, we’ve seen those opportunities emerge.
Melinda Wittstock: You know, it’s so interesting that startups, founded by women, do so much better often, than those that had no women on the founding teams. There are so much research. I mean, Vinetta. It says that women are 20% more likely to be revenue generating. And investors make 35% higher return on investment, when they finance female founders. And yet, we’re still not getting the capital and the numbers that we should. What do you think are the reasons for that?
Shana Glenzer: Oh, that’s a loaded question.
Melinda Wittstock: It’s complicated.
Shana Glenzer: Honestly, I think if there was a plain and simple answer to that, there would be more women and it would be getting prompted, so. So, no, that said. I think that recently, one of the first parts is sort of calling it a problem. To show the opportunity of how successful women have made businesses and then to call out the issue, and certainly in a more public way than ever before. We live with news that we’ve seen, and I’m not talking just the discrimination news, but news about the lack of diversity in management teams and boards and leadership across the US and across the world when it comes to having women at the top. So, I think the first step is calling it a problem, so we can figure out how to address it. There are groups like Vinetta, and I know I keep talking about different groups, but I think its part of the solution to a lot of these problems, is building a community to help find answers. Cause clearly one person has not, as effective at solving a problem as a group of people who are thinking through it. So a group like the Vinetta Project is a great example of providing access for female founders when the founders, to get insights from people who have raised money.
People who are building companies, and to actually access some additional capital.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, sometimes I think we talk a different language, or we come up with business models that serve an addressable market that the dudes in the room don’t understand. There are a whole bunch of different things. When you think of where women, where we get in our own way, or some of the things just in terms of our own behavior or what we do. Where can we do practically better? If you think of all the investor pitches that you’ve ever seen from women. Do we ask for enough money, do we know our numbers? Where are some of the things that it goes wrong and that we can do better?
Shana Glenzer: So, it’s hard for me, because I’ve seen actually equally bad pitches from men and from women. So I think generally, you know, it’s no. I might be generalizing this too much. But women don’t necessarily ask for what they deserve, right? Or they think that they shouldn’t apply for an opportunity to pitch, because their company might not meet all 10 criteria that someone asked for on a website. I think oftentimes, men are more likely to apply for grants or funds or to pitch their company, in places where they’re not qualified. And as women, we often see the criteria in front of us and say, oh, we don’t meet all that criteria. I’m not going to. I’m not going to apply for this. And it goes for everything. I’m not going to apply for this job, because you know, it says 10 years experience and I have nine. Or, I have seven. And really they need me, and I’d be the best person for them. But, you don’t apply. And so, I think that that’s, or you don’t ask for the raise. I just think that there are , you know, being confident in an ask and also asserting yourself, even if you don’t meet all the criteria on a checklist is something that women could do better.
Melinda Wittstock: Yes. It’s interesting that I often see that women are a little bit shy. I think we’re acculturated on some level to not kind of appear to be bragging or putting ourselves forward too much. Or, I went through a group called Springboard Venture Forum who is one of our sponsors on the podcast. Which is an accelerator for women in tech of high growth businesses. And back in 2011, I remember they made us go through this pitch boot camp, where not only would we do a two minute investor pitch about the company, but also a two minute investor pitch about ourselves as women. And I swear to God, there was a woman there who had a $500 million exit, and she neglected to even mention.
Shana Glenzer: Wow.
Melinda Wittstock: Right? And so, there was another woman who was an astronaut.
Shana Glenzer: Oh my heavens.
Melinda Wittstock: Who forgot to mention that. And it drilled home to me that we’re so acculturated in this way to not put our hands up, to not speak, or to not do it, until we think it’s perfect. And in startups, nothing’s perfect ever, right? If you think about all the startups that you’ve worked on and the reality of iteration, share with, anyone that’s tempted to make perfect the enemy of the good here. Shana, fill us in correctly on what it’s truly like.
Shana Glenzer: Truly like to work at a startup?
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah.
Shana Glenzer: Oh heaven. So, you know, there are times, I don’t know. Depending on the stage of the startup, there are times where it’s, I can say across the board it’s a rollercoaster. I think that’s the best way to describe it. There are just, you know, such highs and such lows or periods of worry or concern, whether it’s funding or acquisition or, and everything is just a little bit more intense on the highs and the lows when you’re at a startup. The exciting parts are the milestones that you get to celebrate, right? That you hit a certain revenue milestone or a certain customer milestone or you launch a new version of your platform. Or, a partnership that you’ve been working on for so long. And there are such celebratory moments and milestones. But, you know, there are just this constant nagging about what you could be doing that you’re not doing. And that’s something you have to learn to live with when you’re in startup land.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, I’ve learned to just try and figure out how to be kind to myself, right? And its taken time because, I think as women too, sometimes we take things personally. And so, there are so many things in startup that’s just beyond your control. Like, there is no way that you can control. But when it goes wrong, yeah there are probably always something you can do better. But I’ve just noticed something, and again, this is all in the realm of generalization, as you said once again. Well, I just think that men are more likely to kind of like, shake it off, like a Labrador puppy would, you know? Whereas we’re like, oh God, what is it about me? And I need to be better, or whatever. And, trying to kind of separate those things out. I figure I’d think going for massage once a week is helpful to me.
Shana Glenzer: Yeah, I was actually just thinking my shoulders are actually a little tight right now. I was sitting here thinking that as we’re chatting, but no. I think that, you know, trying not to make, just giving yourself the flexibility to make a mistake, to say okay, I made that mistake. What I’m going to do is not make that mistake again. Like, I may accept the fact that I made a mistake and move on, but I’m going to try my hardest not to make the same mistake again.
Melinda Wittstock: And not make it about yourself.
Shana Glenzer: I think that’s important.
Melinda Wittstock: So, Kara Goldin, the founder of Hint Water. When she was on Wings of Inspired Business, she had something really, I think, I don’t know really stuck with me. She said look. You’re going to look around the room, thinking about being an entrepreneur or like, first company or whatever. And you’re going to think that everyone else knows what they’re doing. And she just said, nope. Nobody does. So just remember that you’re really not alone, and she said the only thing you can really do is keep moving. Just keep moving, keep going, keep moving. I mean, have there been times in your life where that’s been the case with you? You know, you’re sitting around the founding team and God knows there are some sort of horrendous kind of setback or something happens. And, you’re just like, God, you know we don’t know. But we’re, I don’t know, just going to kind of keep moving. What are some of those moments and how do you get through them personally?
Shana Glenzer: So, you know. I think, honestly, it’s been one of the greater hardships but also joys in the last two years is I had twins.
Melinda Wittstock: I know, congratulations!
Shana Glenzer: Thank you. And it is funny how much they put life into perspective. Not that everybody wants to be parents or are bound to be parents, but you know, it is, you know, it is something quite different leaving work and going home to babies and your own set of issues at home that puts, issues that you’re facing at work in perspective. And I think, that has given me a whole other level of appreciation, that you know, as awful and dire as the situation at work is, you know, there is something else too that I can personally focus on to get me through the tough times at work. And so, you know, one of our sons actually, [inaudible 00:18:35] has special needs. We had a really rough pregnancy, and he was born, he had some traumatic brain injury when he was born. And again, not that I would wish that on anybody, but it just really, for me personally, has enabled me to have a totally different outlook on issues in life, right?
And reminds me that like, you know, [inaudible 00:18:58], it’s really, this is not really that important. I mean it is, we need to continue to tweet this or else we’re going to lose money or we’re going to lose employees or we’re going to, you know. Whatever the issues that you face that day, I mean, they’re still significant issues, right? But it puts it into, I think, for me personally, in a more, in context. To just move on and to figure out a solution and go from there.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. So many women do come into entrepreneurship a little bit later in life with kids. And some women that I’ve talked to say that actually the kids have actually really made them better entrepreneurs. That there are maybe some about our brains where we’re much more, I’ve heard it described as web thinking. You know, we’re very much about the relationship and we can sort of multitask or actually, kind of more like multipurpose. We can, you know, we can say, okay, this is going on over here. This is happening over here. This is happening over here. And you know, honey, your socks are over there. And we’re more temperamentally suited to do that. Something about having kids accentuates that, and that can also be good for our businesses.
Shana Glenzer: Yeah, and I think, though I think what is really funny, especially in … You know, I’m by no means a parenting expert. But in the first year of having children, it’s really funny though because you experience the first few months thinking like, I’m never going to be smart again. Because I don’t talk to adults. When I’m home, I don’t talk to adults. And I can’t think of what the word, like, I can’t figure out a word that I want to use that is so simple and easy to grab and is eluding me. I can’t have adult conversations. And so I feel like, it’s funny because you doubt yourself, even really, I doubted myself a lot before I went back to work. Because I just wasn’t engaged in adult conversation. But I do think that, yes, as you progress in your role as a parent, you likely get very good at multitasking. And I just need to remind myself of that on the days where I feel like I still can’t quite, haven’t quite recovered the vocabulary that I had before I had children.
Melinda Wittstock: See it’s so funny that dudes never think about these things. But yeah. It queues up a question that I ask everybody, really, about work life balance. And at this point, I think that’s kind of a crazy term. I call it work life integration, because it’s all the same thing now. And my kids are older than yours; I’ve got an 11-year-old and 14-year-old. They still need me, you know, a lot. But, I’ve just kind of reconciled it to, because I’m, really this is like my fourth startup. And with the podcast and everything. When I’m working on that, I’m really 100% focused on that. But when I’m with them, I try and be 100% focused on them. And it doesn’t always work out, but they see me go through the ups and downs. And they, kind of, I don’t know. I think they’re getting an education that they wouldn’t otherwise get, or at least that’s how I justify it to myself.
Shana Glenzer: Yeah, no, I heard. At first it was hard because you know, I was leaving work to go make sure, early to me right, because when you’re at startup, you’re used to working until seven PM every night. And I don’t have to leave at 5:30 to go home and feed the babies, because they go to bed at you know, 6:45. And so, it would feel really guilty leaving work. And then one day I stayed at work, and I was like, oh my God. Because I just needed to get stuff down. And I had my, you know, my husband helped out. And then I felt so guilty that I was not home with them, that I was still in the office. And you know, somebody told me when I was kind of experiencing this constant guilt, is like, is that you’re going to be there, there are times where you’re going to be an amazing, amazing mother. Like a super mother. And then there are some times where you’re going to be an amazing like super woman at work. But you will never be both at the same time. And I don’t like accepting that because I like being able to do everything.
But the more I came to accept the fact that I’m going to be, you know, the times where I’m going to be the best employee ever and there are times where I’m going to be the best mom ever. But it’s not at the same time. That has helped me to cope with that feeling of guilt.
Melinda Wittstock: Well, here’s a really interesting thing that happened when my daughter was in fifth grade, and she invited me to speak to her classroom about entrepreneurship. And I was so flattered. I was like, Stevie that’s so sweet. Thank you so much. She said, oh, but mom, here’s the thing. And she did like, this arm movement that indicated a hockey stick, you know, for like a hockey stick number. So she said, all my friends think that that’s what entrepreneur is, being an entrepreneur is. But mom, I want you to tell my friends that it’s actually not like that at all. And she did this like, roller coaster hand movement. And it’s like, yeah, that’s right. You’ve been watching me a little closely there.
Shana Glenzer: Yeah. Hopefully our experiences at work will help to bring a perspective to our children that they wouldn’t have otherwise about making it through tough times and celebrating the really exciting milestones.
Melinda Wittstock: Exactly. And just, you know, kind of seeing a parent, you know, face these challenges calmly and get through it. And I think that’s really important. So I think that entrepreneurs can actually be great parents, you know, in that case, because you’re preparing kids really for how the economy is kind of moving the future. It’s been interesting to read all about the kind of gig worker movement that like 40% of the United States will be gig workers or freelance workers by 2020. Which is kind of massive. So that presupposes that we all need great entrepreneurial skills. You know, to cope with that and to teach our children to be up with that as well. So, this is the section of the podcast where I always like to ask really high performing women like you, all our superheroes, to share a couple pieces of advice for other women coming up, whether they are women who are thinking of reinventing themselves kind of little bit later in their lives, in their 30’s, 40’s, or 50’s, 60’s even. As entrepreneurs. Or, women in their 20’s, just coming up.
What are some of the things you’ve learned and say, give us a couple, two or three pieces of advice.
Shana Glenzer: Sure. One piece of advice that I always have to remind myself about. That I have gotten in the past, is sort of to never say no to an opportunity, because you don’t think you’re qualified for it. So, you know, I had started I guess a couple of years ago getting asked to speak on panels or present at a conference. Or, you know, I had the opportunity, four years ago, and still do to go on TV and talk about technology. And each time I sort of think, you know, really they probably could find someone better to do this. Am I really the best person to talk about x, y, z? And, you know, a couple years ago, just had to stop, imposter syndrome I guess is what they call it. But stop and tell myself, no, they’re giving me the opportunity. Don’t ask questions, just take it. Because every opportunity you take will lead to another opportunity. And if they’re asking you, you’re likely qualified enough to do what they’re asking you to do.
Now, of course, if they ask me to go speak at an aerospace conference, that would be ridiculous and they never would. But I should definitely say no there. But, I think that’s just one thing, just sort of, accept opportunities as they come to you and don’t doubt your qualifications for them.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, that’s such good advice. I mean, really, really is. I want you to say a little bit about what’s going on with CrowdSkout, your company. Because it’s really exciting. It’s kind of new, and tell us a little bit about what CrowdSkout is doing and up to. And how our listeners can kind of find out what it’s doing and connect with you.
Shana Glenzer: Yeah, that sounds great. So, I joined CrowdSkout, actually back in June. And spent a really, really exciting few months. CrowdSkout, for people who don’t know, which is probably most people, is a CRM [inaudible 00:27:31] management platform that’s built for advocacy. So we power advocacy campaigns, non-profit movements, and political campaigns. People that are gathering a lot of data and want to try to understand, you know, who their audience is and how they can better communicate with and motivate them. A lot of really exciting initiatives. And for anybody that has a small non-profit or advocacy initiative that they’re working on, we actually just launched the ability for you to sign up for a 14 day free trial and get started online. So, that’s right on the crowdskout.com website. Sign up for a free trial and get started.
Melinda Wittstock: And tell us how it’s spelt, too.
Shana Glenzer: Oh, sure, that’s a good point. It’s spelled, crowdskout is crowdskout. So it’s crowdskout.com. And skout is spelt with a k.
Melinda Wittstock: Okay, great.
Shana Glenzer: And so, yeah you can find that there. And we’re based in Washington D.C. But we work with groups from all over the US. And actually all over the world. So that’s been exciting as well.
Melinda Wittstock: That’s fantastic. I love companies that are doing good for the world and enabling that. It’s kind of a personal passion of mine, so thank you for what you do.
Shana Glenzer: Oh no, it’s been really exciting to see a lot of non-profits walking forward, generation for generation, Unite for Kids, Alabama Education, there are just been, there are a lot of really powerful movements out there. And we hope to continue to be the fuel that drives them and helps them find success.
Melinda Wittstock: Fantastic. Shana Glenzer, you’re so inspiring. Thank you for putting on your superhero wings.
Shana Glenzer: Thank you for having me again.