Monday, December 19, 2011

My Tribute to the Crazy Ones...Never Stop Believing!

Some days I feel like that terrier who has taken hold of your pant leg and won’t let go. Am I crazy? Yeah probably! Do I wonder, on many, if not most, days if I should keep going and at what point do I stop? I get asked that question a lot and the only response I can think of is, “When I stop getting signs to keep going.” I don’t know when I’ll know, I just know that I’ll know. Being an entrepreneur is not for most. It reminds me of the quote that got resurfaced upon Steve Jobs’ death that he and Apple created a Video based on:

Here’s to the Crazy Ones. The misfits. The rebels. The trouble-makers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules, and they have not respect for the status-quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify, or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world – are the ones who DO!

I don’t think I ever fully would have gotten it, if I wasn’t an entrepreneur. The life of an entrepreneur is not always easy, in fact some days it can be downright unbearably gut wrenching and painful…but I am pretty sure, if not now, for sure some day in the future I’ll look back and say “I wouldn’t have changed it for the world!”

That being said, it is not for everybody and it takes a special kind of person, indeed a crazy kind of person, who has a stomach of steel, who can take all the NO’s in stride and keep getting back up and trying again. There are many peaks and valleys in the life of an entrepreneur and most of the time, it is the little reminders and “godwinks,” that keep us going.

I recently had one of those moments when a friend sent the quote from the WSJ obituary of Ted Forstmann. At the 25th anniversary of Forstmann Little & Company (a private equity firm), guests received an engraved silver tray with the quote:

The entrepreneur, as a creator of the new and a destroyer of the old, is constantly in conflict with convention. He inhabits a world where belief precedes results, and where the best possibilities are usually invisible to others. His world is dominated by denial, rejection, difficulty, and doubt. And although as an innovator, he is unceasingly imitated when successful, he always remains an outsider to the 'establishment.'

Words I could not have expressed more perfectly. Over and over in my career, I have witnessed as investors have said NO or clients have looked at me – or others – as if we had three heads...this disconnect between what we as entrepreneurs see and what others can imagine. I am continuously amazed (and even appalled) at those who claim to support entrepreneurs, but turn away the best ideas and champion the known, safer, quantities. Yet later, when those “alien” entrepreneurs become successful, those same people come back around and act as though they believed in them from the beginning, rather than having the courage as the entrepreneurs to provide meaningful support from the start.

I remember breathing a sigh of relief when I heard about Tim Westergren who maxed out 11 credit cards and pitched Pandora 348 times before raising enough capital to build his business – thinking to myself, “Well, I’m not there…yet” (and hopefully, I won’t ever be)!

But I remember reading the book Founders at Work by author Jessica Livingston who quoted Howard Aiken...

Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats.

Some days I just don’t get it. I feel like I am standing in a room with a total no-brainer and I am jumping up and down and no one can see or hear me, like I am a social pariah or I don’t exist. It is like I am the pink elephant in the room and no one wants to be reminded of that, so they turn their heads in denial or pass me on to the next person like a hot potato. Investors say they want another Steve Jobs' and iPhone but they want it to look like Bill Gates or a Blackberry, something that they know or are familiar with. There is a complete disconnect.

And yet, there are those who when you meet them, there is a moment of recognition. Perhaps it is that acknowledgement of one “crazy one” to another or the recognition of light that you bring. They meet you and they are inspired to help. They reach into their rolodex, they send a quote or other vote of confidence, or other bag of tricks and they support you in whatever way they can! It is those moments, that as an entrepreneur keep you going.

That and the reminder of what you are trying to do. You see us “crazy ones” see things differently. We recognize an opportunity or a window to make things better, to change things and we commit our time, resources and lives to seeing that come to fruition. There is no other explanation for the abuse and rejection we go through – other than a labor of love and a persistent belief, faith and commitment to a better future and possibility for more than just ourselves.

That is how it has been in my own journey. Never in a million years, did I ever imagine it would be this difficult to create a product that could so massively transform the status quo, when the world is crying out for reform on every level and within every institution – business, finance, health care, politics, education, marriage, war, etc. It makes me realize every day how afraid of change people are – even when that change means more light, more hope, more possibility – perhaps even more so because it means just that and they are used to the darkness. Some days I don't understand how it is possible that something that is such a no brainer, could be so hard to convince people of.

Then I am reminded of the game changers before me…Galileo, Einstein, the Wright Brothers…they were scoffed at, ridiculed, even imprisoned…but in the end, they changed the game and they shifted paradigms. They believed they could change things…and they did! And so in my hours of darkness, I remember them and I am reminded to keep believing and I continue be a of the "crazy ones." And I applaud and urge the other "crazy ones" to continue believing, because "Believing is seeing," rather than "Seeing is believing." I encourage you to keep getting back up and to keep on keeping on...because the world needs more of you...the world needs more of us!

You can find me at and twitter @pilarstella.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Looking Back at 2011 to Look Forward to 2012

As I reflect back on the year of 2011 for me, I can appreciate all that I have learned and gotten out of this year. I have accomplished a lot and also failed a lot. I am grateful for both. I have taken risks, which have taught me lessons, I might never have learned had I never tried. Over and over, I have been reminded to truly appreciate the moments and lessons along the journey - no matter how wonderful or painful - for they each come with their own gifts!

So I share with you a look back at 2011. I am sharing 12 memories or lessons, that inspired, informed or shaped my life in some way. I have categorized them across physical, mental, spiritual and emotional realms as I believe that balance in our lives is like the four tires of a car across these realms. If one or more tires are out of balance, then my whole life can get a little rocky and imbalanced. As I strive to find more balance in my life, here are 12 lessons, from 2011, to inform more peace and harmony in my life for 2012! (I know this is a lot of information, but it is a recap, so check out what you want, discard the rest!)

Mental (Intellectual/Biz)

  1. A VC's wisdom. I have to say, I am not the biggest fan of all VC's (Venture Capitalists to some, Vulture Capitalists to others ;). However, that being said, one VC that stands out and writes remarkable, informative blog posts is Fred Wilson. He writes almost every day and shares wisdom from his daily experience as a VC that are insightful. His blog is and a recent blog post and video that stood out for me was about business and sustainability that is long, but worth watching, particularly the last few minutes if you have it in you:
  2. Women as a Force for Good. Being that I am a woman in business, I am extremely passionate about our place in business, technology, startups, and investing to both transform business, but also have an impact on the planet. We are the voices for a new sustainable, responsible and conscious capitalism that can make business a force for good! Here are some of my blogs and other interesting articles reminding us of the power (and limitations) of women worth checking out can be found in my recent blog: The Next Steve Jobs...A Chick!
  3. The loss of Steve Jobs. Whether you liked him or not, Steve Jobs's passing this year was a loss of a great mind. My favorites included his tribute to The Crazy Ones and his Stanford Graduation Address. But for the good, there was also the not as well known Dark Side of Jobs. And finally, my favorite a recent article about the next Steve Jobs being a CHICK...Amen to that!


  1. Sugar is bad, mKay?! I know I probably won't win a popularity award condemning sugar around the holidays, but it is worth knowing ALL of the negative implications of sugar and some better alternatives, including: Xylitol and Stevia. More at my Sugar Blog.
  2. Food Matters. What you put in your body - matters - you are what you eat! Evidence shows that every cell in our bodies is replaced somewhere between every year to within seven years. Given that, the implications of studies by Masaru Emoto on water, and the film Food Matters, our bodies are impacted by our thoughts, the food we eat and supplements, so remember to take better care of your body! More at my blogs: You are What You Eat and Supplements for Thought.
  3. Surfing, a great metaphor for life. My passion for surfing has translated into so many lessons in my life. It reminds me to keep getting up, even when I'm knocked down, to have patience, to be present and to be persistent and perseverant. More at my Surfing Blog.


  1. Giving Back. The earthquake in Japan early in the year set the tone for the year - one of giving, one of deep shifts in our planet's consciousness, and the recognition that we are all connected. Giving's visibility and impact grew throughout the year, which leaves us with reminders that in giving we receive! Some of my blogs on Japan and a three part series giving this year include: Giving for Thought-Japan; Look at Giving Part 1, Giving Part 2, Giving Part 3.
  2. Occupy Wallstreet. While some might not put this in the spiritual category, I am putting it here because it is a call for more consciousness and responsibility in finance, business and government. The movement of OccupyWallSt can be tracked at their website: Though some of the most powerful moments from the Occupy movement recently that occurred at UC Davis were captured both in Words and in Pictures. Of A good reminder that even in a "free country" and the "greatest democracy on earth," we still have to stay awake and make sure that our freedoms don't get widdled away. Democracy requires consciousness on each of our parts to stay awake and stand up, when necessary, for what we believe in to make this world a better place.
  3. The Power of Meditation and the Aquarian Age. Whether you are a believer or not, increasing evidence is coming out about the benefits of meditation - not only to relieve stress, but actually to heal and to improve our efficiency in life and in business (Got Meditation Blog). Additionally, we have entered the Aquarian Age, which is about bringing more balance, feminine energy and healing to the planet (Aquarian Age Blog). Some of my blogs remind us to Breathe, Pay it Forward, and Leave Everything Better Than When You Found It!


  1. Joy and Laughter. Life just wouldn't be the same without giggles, laughter and joy. So don't forget to have a sense of humor! Here are two funny reminders that made me laugh this year: a Letter to Ryan Gosling that definitely got a giggle out of me and some of my friends ;) and a Video Compilation of parents playing tricks on their kids for Halloween, funny! Laughter - pass it on!
  2. Overcoming Fear. I recently read a quote by Michael J. Fox: "The only thing that separates any one of us from excellence is fear and the opposite of fear is faith." It was a good reminder that in order to overcome our fears, we have to face our fears and go through them (or around them), but not let them stop us - as was my Super P Rappel Against Cancer. Sometimes we have to allow ourselves to feel the fear and even let it slow us down - Even Superheroes Have Bad Days! Just as long as we remember to get back up afterwards!
  3. All you need is LOVE. This year hasn't been a big one for me for finding love outside of myself, but it was a good one for finding love within, accepting myself unconditionally and even falling in love with myself. In doing so, I also have realized how important love really is all you need and meeting someone who loves you ain't so bad either...I guess that's something to look forward to in 2012! Perhaps I am learning the Keys to the Castle. And if not, I've always got the Beatles to remind me!

Happy Holidays and New Year! May 2012 be your best year yet!

You can find me at and twitter @pilarstella.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Next Steve Jobs...A Chick!

I recently read an article entitled, "The Next Steve Jobs Will Be A Chick!"

It really hit home for me! The article was based on a conversation with comedian Louis C.K. who has two daughters and his tribute to our feminine future. It was funny and touching at the same time. Given all the research out there on women in business and technology (Women in Biz, Tech, Startups and Investing Blog), his prediction is likely not far off either!

Being a woman in business, in technology and in a start up, seeking capital for my for-profit company, OneGiving, to create sustainability and social responsibility for corporations and sustainable revenues for nonprofits, I believe as women in business, we are poised to lead the next generation of business leaders. I am not the only one...

The Dalai Lama predicted that the Western Women will Save the World (Women as a Force for Good Blog). An Illuminate Ventures Report by Founder Cindy Padnos wrote, "Women entrepreneurs are poised to lead the next wave of growth in global business." And Jensine Larsen in an article in World Pulse Magazine posited, "Women manage money differently [than men], and had there been more women at the helm of investment decisions all along, the worst of the global financial meltdown might have been averted."

Given that, I thought I'd highlight a few of the articles from 2011 that I have read re: women in business, technology and beyond that may shed perspective on Louis C.K.'s prediction that the next Steve Jobs will be a Chick!

Let's start with Forbes Top 100 Women, which gives a list of some of the most powerful women in business and politics, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Melinda Gates, Indian President Sonia Gandhi, and First Lady Michelle Obama, demonstrating women's reach and leadership in top roles around the globe.

The article Why Women Make Excellent Entrepreneurs in the Digital Age, highlights some of the latest data on women in the workforce and entrepreneurs, including the fact that in 2010, women became the majority of the U.S. workforce for the first time in the country's history and highlighting that now 57% of college students are women. Further, women are advancing in entrepreneurship with an increase in the number of women-owned firms from 1997-2011 by 50% as compared with a 25% increase in male-owned firms, which has allowed businesses owned by females to reach 49% of U.S. firms.

An article on What Men Can Learn From Women About Leadership predicts that the most successful leaders of the future will make employees feel safe and valued, emphasize cohesiveness, openness, inclusiveness and respect, and foster true networked collaboration. Women are poised for this type of leadership (as highlighted in the New Yorker article about Sheryl Sandberg) with the ability to identify nonverbal cues, listen, make eye contact and build trust and collaboration.

With all of the pros and evidence that women's place in business and in leadership, there are still many factors limiting women's rise through the ranks. A recent Wall Street Journal Article asked, "Where the Ladies At?" in the VC world and wrote that despite the lack of representation of women in the Venture Capital space, there are three VC firms seeking to help female entrepreneurs, including: Illuminate Ventures, Women's Venture Capital Fund, and Valencia Ventures. Additionally, Golden Seeds is a network of angel investors funding early stage companies founded and/or led by women and Astia is community of experts committed to building women leaders and accelerating funding and growth to women-led startups.

Even with those examples, we still have a long way to go. Women's Startups still Lack Access to Capital as women are learning the good ol' boy's game and still are learning "to ask." Further, some of the Worst Stereotypes about Powerful Women don't help women who are perceived as powerful get ahead. And, women have been known to Stunt Their Own Careers, including by being overly modest, not asking, by blending in and by remaining silent.

Whatever the case may be, the question remains, do women need to become more like men or can they authentically be themselves AND get ahead at the same time? My money is betting on that the more WE women stick to our guns and show that we can BE ourselves, share our creativity, vision and leadership potential, and rock the business world, we will show that the next Steve Jobs won't just be a Chick, but a WOMAN!

You can find me at and twitter @pilarstella.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Sugar is BAD, mKAY?

I feel like the teacher from Southpark…(Southpark video 1 and video 2). But instead of “Drugs are Bad, mKAY?”…I’m saying, “Sugar is BAD, mKAY?” I feel like the bad guy breaking the news, especially during the holidays! But I thought it was important to share the information so that perhaps, you might consider going a little easier on sugar for the holidays and who knows, maybe you'll get inspired and let it go all together for the new year, or at least reduce your regular intake of sugar and make it for very special occasions. Moderation is key, right?

I think it is something that we all know, but I don’t think many of us realize HOW BAD sugar really is. In addition to its more known evils (weight gain, hyperactivity, tooth decay), research has shown (141 reasons article and 146 reasons article) that sugar can weaken eyesight, impair the structure of DNA, change the structure of protein, lower the enzymes ability to function, damage the pancreas, increase fluid retention, compromise the lining of the capillaries, suppress the immune system, reduce learning capacity, and slow the ability of the adrenals to function.

Further, sugar can cause premature aging, arthritis, asthma, gallstones, heart disease, appendicitis, multiple sclerosis, varicose veings, hemorrhoids, food allergies, cataracts, emphysema, atherosclerosis, headaches, migraines, loss of tissue elasticity and function, depression, hormonal imbalances, kidney stones, epileptic seizures, and constipation.

Finally, sugar also feeds cancer, so it can lead to cancer of the ovaries, play a role in pancreatic cancer in women, increase the risk of gastric cancer, lead to prostrate cancer, increase the risk of breast and stomach cancers, cause endometrial cancer, cancer of the rectum, renal carcinoma and liver tumors.

So what are your alternatives?

My preferences and recommendations are Xylitol and Stevia. Here’s a little information about each:

Xylitol is found in different fruits and vegetables, such as plums, berries and mushrooms as well as from birch trees and bark, and is produced naturally in the body. While it has the same sweetness as sugar, it has 40% fewer calories, 75% fewer carbohydrates, a low glycemic index of 7 with minimal effects on blood sugar. It is actually not considered a “sugar,” because it doesn’t display any of the negative insulin release effects as sugar. Additionally, Xylitol has been shown to reduce the risk of dental disease by killing bacteria tied to tooth decay and has other anti-bacterial, viral and fungal properties. Because of this, switching over to using Xylitol can lead to some initial digestive discomfort, but this is only because of the bad bacteria and viruses that it may be killing off initially. So upon continued use, any discomfort will pass. Finally, Xylitol is approved by the World Health Organization, European Union and Food and Drug Administration. Xylitol is my favorite alternative to sugar. Here are a few articles on Xylitol: Xylitol article, Ezine article, Zhion article, and Xyloburst article.

Stevia is an herb from the Chrysanthemum family. Stevia is significantly sweeter than sugar, but has negligible effects on blood glucose. There is even some research that it has anti-plaque benefits, but not to the levels of xylitol. The FDA is ambiguous about Stevia as it allows it to be imported as a food supplement but not a sweetener and defines Stevia as an unapproved food additive. Stevia may be used in cooking and baking, but may not caramelize like sugars. Stevia may also have a slightly bitter after taste. Some articles include: Wikipedia Stevia and

There is much discussion, and use, of agave nectar, but I am not a fan as how it is metabolized is much like sugars, corn syrup and honeys, so it negatively impacts your blood sugar and insulin levels, can feed bacteria, virus and fungi in your system and hence lead to more significant negative health consequences. A series of articles by Dr. Merkola explains more about why agave is bad, and possibly even worse than high fructose corn syrup (Merkola Article 1 and Article 2). Another Agave article that is not necessarily based on hard science or from a solid source, brings up some interesting and valid perspectives that are worth considering.

That is a little food for thought on sugar and its alternatives. Sugar is bad, Agave is not so good, whereas Xylitol is best, Stevia is another good alternative. So consider letting go of sugar in the new year and replacing it with something a little better for your body…it might just do your body, your health and your soul GOOD!

You can find me at and twitter @pilarstella.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Look at Giving in 2011: Part 3 of 3 in a Series...Social Responsibility and Giving!

This is Part 3 of 3 in a series. Part 1 is available at: Giving 2011 Part 1 and Part 2 is available at: Giving 2011 Part 2.

More and more companies and celebrities are getting into giving. It is an exciting time in history. In September 2009, Time Magazine called it the "Responsibility Revolution" and the "Era of the Ethical Consumer." Consumers are demanding giving. Time Report html

Despite the economy still struggling to get back on track, giving is here to stay and consumers are demanding it. Cone research found that 90% of consumers want companies to tell them the ways they are supporting causes (that's over 278 million consumers who want to know what companies are doing to benefit causes)! Additionally over 80% of consumers said they would be likely to switch from one brand to another if the other brand is associated with a good cause. Cone Report html

Yet as with many good things comes a down side.

First, corporate social responsibility and celebrity giving efforts often get targeted for their self interest in giving. While there is the potential for and some abuse as it relates to this, it still doesn't account for the fact that companies that are giving those dollars are committing money that wouldn't have been there otherwise. We do all have to start somewhere and starting with some giving is better than no giving.

But why does this have to be a bad thing? Is there anything wrong with creating a win-win scenario. If done well, social responsibility creates a win for the corporation, the consumer and the cause! Plus, even if a corporation starts giving with less than the best intentions, it is a continuum. If they get into giving and have good nonprofit giving partners, they can learn more about it, become more thoughtful and sophisticated in it, and they may even derive more value from it. If their experience with it is positive, then likely their giving will grow too. Over time, creating the partnership can lead to more and more sophisticated donors, corporations and causes - everyone wins!

Second, corporate, celebrity and all giving often gets targeted for corruption, misuse of funds, lack of transparency, etc. Once we get organizations, public figures and others giving, we need to educate them and provide them with the tools and resources to give with ease, transparency and strategy to make giving impactful, sustainable and fun! There need to be more resources to strengthen this capacity!

Finally, consumers are demanding giving and more choice in giving. Cone found that not only do more consumers want to choose brands that are tied to causes, but they want to have more say in choosing the causes they care about (over 84% of consumers want to select their own causes). Campaigns like Chase Community Giving and Pepsi Refresh and others have created online campaigns to allow users to choose their causes of choice. More efforts are being tailored and need to be created to give consumers more choice.

So what's the moral of the giving story? Let's face it...Giving is good, giving is happening, giving is sexy and giving is here to stay. Now if we can find more effective ways to give with transparency; coordinate, consolidate and aggregate our giving across the dozens of giving platforms and players; give more strategically and provide more choice in giving...we will have solved the Giving Conundrum! At least for now!

That is one of our dreams and visions for OneGiving! Thank you for your continued passion, patience and support as we create OneGiving! We will get there...a little at a time!

You can find me at and twitter @pilarstella.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Small Biz Saturday - Investor Stimulus til end of 2011!

As I realized that today was Small Business Saturday, I thought there was no better way to support small businesses (and the economy) than investing in them. So I thought it would be useful to share some information with potential investors about the INVESTOR STIMULUS that is in effect until the end of the year that is worth taking advantage of. If you've been on the fence and have a couple of good companies you've been considering, NOW IS THE TIME to invest!

In September 2010, President Obama signed the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 (H.R. 5297) which included a provision for an INVESTOR STIMULUS. This law enabled those who invest in small businesses and hold their stock for at least five years to pay NO CAPITAL GAINS tax up to $10 M (approximately). (Summary of Small Biz Jobs Act) The goal of the law was to help stimulate the economy by encouraging investors to invest in entrepreneurs and companies to create jobs. And yes, I said NO CAPITAL GAINS tax up to approximately $10 M!

Originally, the law expired at the end of 2011, but on December 17, 2010, President Obama signed the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 (the 2010 Tax Relief Act and Summary).

The 2010 Tax Relief Act extended the favorable legislation to allow for 100% of capital gains (up to approximately $10M) on “qualified small business stock” (QSBS) investments held five years, but only for QSBS acquired between September 28, 2010 and before January 1, 2012. An additional explanation is available at Latham & Watkins.

It is not clear if this provision will be extended into 2012, and it is not looking promising. Therefore, if you are an investor, considering investing in a QSBS - or a small business, consider making that investment by the end of 2011 to reap the full benefits of this investor stimulus. Not only will you benefit, but your actions may help foster new entrepreneurs, start ups and our greater economy! Now that would be a GREAT way to do your part on Small Business Saturday!

You can find me at and twitter @pilarstella.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Humor about our Newspapers

I recently had an email sent to me with some humor about some of our country's leading newspaper. I figured for the holiday weekend, a little humor was appropriate. Enjoy! Happy Thanksgiving weekend!

1. The Wall Street Journal is read by the people who run the country.

2. The Washington Post is read by people who think they run the country.

3. The New York Times is read by people who think they should run the country and who are very good at crossword puzzles.

4. USA Today is read by people who think they ought to run the country but don't really understand The New York Times. They do, however, like their statistics shown in pie charts.

5. The Los Angeles Times is read by people who wouldn't mind running the country, if they could find the time -- and if they didn't have to leave Southern California to do it.

6. The Boston Globe is read by people whose parents used to run the country and did a poor job of it, thank you very much.

7. The New York Post is read by people who don't care who is running the country as long as they do something really scandalous, preferably while intoxicated.

8. The Miami Herald is read by people who are running another country, but need the baseball scores.

9. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is read by people who want only the score of the Cardinals game. They drink Budweiser, Budweiser, and -- wait a minute -- what was the question?

10. The San Francisco Chronicle is read by people who aren't sure if there is a country or that anyone is running it; but if so, they oppose all that they stand for. There are occasional exceptions if the leaders are handicapped minority feminist atheist dwarfs who also happen to be illegal aliens from any other country or galaxy, provided of course, that they are not Republicans.

11. The National Enquirer is read by people trapped in line at the grocery store.

12. The Seattle Times is read by people who have recently caught a fish and need something to wrap it in

13. The Desert Sun is read by people who don't mind getting second hand news, and by those who love to see Mary Bono-Mack's mindless thoughts in print.

You can find me at and twitter @pilarstella.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Why NOT Invest in Women?

I have recently begun to dig deeper into statistics about women in business, technology, startups and investing ( and and every time it leaves me with one response – JAW DROPPING!

I feel this way more and more every day given my own experiences seeking capital for my technology start up OneGiving® ( (however successful or unsuccessful). Whatever the case, several things have really struck me about the process and how the dynamics have to shift for women in business, and particularly in technology, startups and investing. I am not saying, invest in women just to invest in women – a.k.a. through a gender lens, per se, but just not allowing gender be a barrier to investment. I am saying something has to change because the status quo is just not working--for women, but also for investors and the global economy at large!

I have been told more than once during my process seeking capital that I am too nice, hence I am not likely to succeed. I have had people tell me “if you are going to swim with sharks, you have to be a shark,” (or at least you have to play their game). Perhaps this is true, but I am not convinced!

I have also been asked, more than once, “Don’t you think if you dressed more conservatively or had more conservative hair, you’d have more investors by now?” My response to that is, “I’m sure I would, but I don’t want those investors, even if it takes me twice as long.” That may be stubborn but that is my reality. Why is it, that when men like Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg come dressed in jeans and disheveled hair or otherwise, it is business as usual and they are a maverick or pioneer, so it is ok. Yet when a women shows up dressed in a way that is “unprofessional,” it is inexcusable or an indicator that she is not proficient in business.

Then I read a quote by Amy Millman, co-founder and president of SpringBoard Enterprises that connects women entrepreneurs to investors, who said, "Investors, like bankers, pretty much invest in what they know, something that they understand or that is clear to them." (

I started thinking...there is something inherently wrong with this picture and something has to change. That is, women are not men. We do things differently-in business and in relationship (as many of us have experienced personally ;). So if men are the largest share of investors, and they won't invest in what they don't understand or know, then they are not likely to invest in women. We are unfamiliar and "un-understandable" territory. It is no wonder that the statistics are what they are...less than 10% of women in CEO positions in technology startups - and that just scratches the surface. (

I am not trying to be skeptical, but the proposition is all wrong. They have their checklists of what to invest in—and women don't, and the way we do business often doesn't, fit into their checklist. We may learn to do the tap dance, or bend over backwards as we have for centuries to make things fit and work, but it is inauthentic and disingenuous in order to just to close a deal. Now I'm not saying that we both don't have to meet somewhere in the middle, but there is an inherent conflict in all of this.

It reminds me of my experience consulting for many years with large foundations. When I started working with many of them, they had (and continue to have) strict criteria and checklists of expectations that nonprofits submit to seek funding. When those funders reviewed the proposals, if the nonprofit didn’t "dot their i’s" or "cross their t’s," they often times wouldn’t get the grant. As I reviewed more and more proposals with funders, the pattern repeated. Nonprofits that had good grantwriters (and could afford one) would invariably get funding and the others wouldn’t.

Yet, many of the really good ideas were getting lost and dropped away because they didn’t put their explanation in the right place or capture the data in the way that the funder could fully grasp. This ultimately often damaged the caliber and quality of ideas and grantees that got funded and often the “less professionalized” and even "more marginalized" communities lost out because they didn’t “speak the same language.” My work with these funders was often in looking past the well-formatted applicants, to see beyond the "well-pitched exterior" to find the good idea in a haystack and then to provide the proper supports to help that organization make that needed gap being addressed succeed.

This is not much different than the investment world and companies that are pitching to investors. If they "pitch well," they get funded. If they don’t fit into the boxes that investors have, then they don’t get funded. If they don’t speak the same language – one that is understood by investors – then they don’t get funded. If they don’t look the same as, or in a way that is familiar or comfortable to, investors, then they don’t get funded. And an inherent flaw keeps getting regenerated and perpetuated—because we don’t look or act or are "un-understandable" to investors, then we don’t get funded.

Now the even bigger disservice is what this is doing for the economy. We are in a recession on par with the Great Depression (though few will say that publicly). Yet we continue do the same thing over and over again and expect different results – Insanity (as Einstein and others might say)!

As Jensine Larsen posited in her post in World Pulse, “Women manage money differently, and had there been more women at the helm of investment decisions all along, the worst of the global financial meltdown might have been averted.” (

It leads me to ponder a similar scenario, if the current investment marketplace isn’t working and the economy is spattering and sputtering trying to make a "recovery," then why not try something different? Why not, change your criteria a little, not accept less than, just accept different?

Look for things that might be out of the box. Be ok if you don’t fully understand it. And recognize that if a woman is standing in front of you and she looks different, speaks different, and highlights and does things a little differently than you would, don’t give her a demerit and check out, sit up and really listen. There might just be something in what she’s saying that could not only make you MORE money, but she might value the money you give her more, leverage it more wisely, and she might even make a difference on the planet at the same time. You might have to provide supports in some more “traditional” or "male" ways, but the perspective she brings, might transform it from an investment to a game changer. There is plenty of evidence and data that makes the case for it. (

So the question isn’t “Why Invest in Women?”…it is “Why NOT Invest in Women?”

You can find me at and and twitter @pilarstella.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Why Invest in Women in Biz, Tech and Startups?

I have recently been asked increasingly to speak to groups about my experience as a women in business and particularly in a technology startup seeking capital. While my personal story and experience is compelling, I am finding that the data is often staggering and irrefutable. In fact, it totally begs the question, not why invest in women in business, technology and startups, but rather why not? Below is some of the data for you data geeks...Happy Reading! ;) p

Women in Investing/Start Ups

· Women manage money differently, and had there been more women at the helm of investment decisions all along, the worst of the global financial meltdown might have been averted.


Women-owned funds are more stable and consistently outperform general funds with higher returns.

· Women—in charge of just 3% of hedge funds and 10% of mutual funds—are more patient and consistent with their investments, are less apt to take overconfident risks and more likely to integrate detailed and conflicting data into their decisions.

· Average return on funds from 2000 to 2009 was 9% for women-managed funds compared to 6% index average.

(National council for research on women, 2010)

· Less than 2% of retirement assets are managed by women- & minority fund managers, yet account for >40% of the top quartile of performing funds.

(Diversity best practices,

· Only 5 VC funds in the country with over 50% women ownership.

· 1 of 25 women CEOs who had successfully taken 1 (or more) companies from startup through exit and also been on the VC side.

· Women now represent just over 15 percent of angel investors, but just 5%-7% of partner-level high-tech venture capital investors in the U.S. Firms with women investment partners are 70 percent more likely to lead an investment in a woman entrepreneur than those with only male partners.

· In 2008 woman co-founded tech businesses gained less than 10% of venture investment while representing over 30% of the workforce.

· In 2010, women gained 11% of angel financing and made up 46% of the workforce.

(Cindy Padnos, Managing Director, Illuminate Ventures and

· The percentage of women among start up capital seekers grew to about 20 percent last year, up from 12.6 percent in 2000, according to New Hampshire's Center for Venture Research. Of those women, the number who received funding grew to 13 percent in 2010, up from 9.5 percent in 2008.

· Research suggests that women's access to, and use of, capital to fund their business dreams lag in comparison to men. Of the U.S.-based companies that received a round of venture capital financing in 2010, only 6 percent had a female CEO, 7 percent had a female founder and 10 percent had a female founder or CEO at some point, according to Dow Jones VentureSource.

· There were 265,400 angel investors in 2010, and they put $20.1 billion in 61,900 entrepreneurial ventures in the U.S., the Center for Venture Research said. Women represented about 13 percent of angel investors, and female entrepreneurs accounted for 21 percent of those seeking angel capital.

· Historically, venture capital has been a much-acclaimed boys' club," says Mark G. Heesen, president of the National Venture Capital Association. "That network is something women have to permeate. It's harder for women to break into that arena."


Women in Business

Women entrepreneurs are poised to lead the next wave of growth in global business.

· Companies most inclusive of women in top management achieve 35% higher ROE and 34% better total return to shareholders versus their peers.

· The average venture-backed company run by a woman had achieved comparable early-year revenues, using an average of 1/3 less committed capital.

· Despite often being capital-constrained, women-owned businesses are more likely to survive transition from start-up to established company than traditional companies.

(Illuminate Ventures –

· A recent report called Women Matter 2010 found that companies with a higher proportion of women in their executive committees are also the companies that have the best performance.

· Women currently hold 2.8 percent of Fortune 500 CEO roles and 3.3 percent of Fortune 1000 CEO roles

(Gillibrand, Kirsten, Women’s Economic Empowerment, 2011)

Women in Technology

The internet is an inherently feminine entity—it is based on connecting, leveraging, networking, relationship building—all female characteristics. Yet, women’s leadership in technology firms continues to lag.

· According to research from Stanford GSB Project on Emerging Businesses, fewer than 10% of high-tech start-ups have a female CEO, Founder or President. Technology driven start-ups continue to be largely male dominated.


· Yet, high tech companies that women build are more capital-efficient than the norm.

· In the past 10 years more than 125 companies with over 200 women co-founders or officers have achieved IPOs or >$50M M&A exits in the U.S. high-tech sector alone.

(Illuminate, 2011)

· The low number of women founders in the high-tech industry could be related the lack of access to equity capital. Women-owned startup companies tend to start with less capital than their male-owned counterparts, according to a study released by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

· Only a small percentage of women-owned firms attract venture capital, yet technology driven companies typically need millions. Generally speaking, women aren't comfortable raising venture capital in part because of a lack of education regarding the process. Plus, the venture capital world continues to be male dominated.


· Of the over 100 giving technology platforms, approximately 5% are women owned or led.

(Pilar Stella, 2011)

· This all while, women are the majority of users of social networking sites and spend 30% more time on these sites than men; mobile social network usage is 55% female according to Nielsen.

· Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, has talked about how women are not only the majority of its users, but drive 62% of activity in terms of messages, updates and comments, and 71% of the daily fan activity. Women have 8% more Facebook friends on average than men, and spend more time on the site.

· More women use Twitter, which has a reputation for being a techie insider’s (i.e., male) product. Women follow more people, tweet more, and have more followers on average than men, according to bloggers Dan Zarella and Darmesh Shaw’s analyses.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Welcome to the Aquarian Age

11.11.11 marked the entrance into the Aquarian Age.

I'm sure some of you remember the song from Hair...This is the Dawning of the Age of Aquarius (! I know that dates me a little...but I can just barely remember it ;)!

Anyway, being a yogini, and a Kundalini yogini at that, this date has special significance of the era we have entered into. Many question it and doubt there is really any truth to it all. Yet, I imagine that was the case when people questioned pioneers like Galileo, Einstein, Edison, the Wright Brothers...and so on and so forth...who proclaimed a different time, era and paradigm.

The Aquarian Age has been forecast by many for generations. Dating back to the Mayans and the Mayan calendar ending life as we know it on December 12, 2012, foretelling of a new golden age, not necessarily the end of life, but life as we know it.

The yogis have told that this time is a transition from the Piscean Age, or the age of information, the age of masculine energy and the age of seeking out, manipulating, and dominating. Rather the Aquarian Age is a more feminine energy, or an energy in balance between male and female, in which we receive and allow information and opportunities to come to us. By doing more meditation and yoga, balancing more between work and fun, between body, mind and spirit, by nurturing our soul, we are raising our consciousness, energy and vibration to attract in more of what we want and need while doing less to get it.

Eric Rankin, the author of The Aquarians - 2012 The New Age described it well, "This period represents nothing less than the second great divide in human history, comparable in magnitude with the shift from barbarism to civilization... To put it simply, we are shifting away from old, fear-based habits and imagining a whole new reality for ourselves - a reality based on hope rather than despair, of abundance rather than lack, of peace rather than war, of contentedness rather than yearning, and of connectedness rather than separation. We are awakening to the fact that a new era is upon us, and that we have the ability to co-create the hopeful future we desire for ourselves and our planet."

It is a good reminder that we all have a choice. We can choose to fret and scurry from here to there seeking and searching frantically, frenetically. Or we can choose to take deep breaths, relax a little more, have a little more fun, integrate our spiritual self and practice into our human lifestyle and elevate our vibration. We may choose to slow down which can help speed up our manifestation.

I know for many this sounds like airy fairy voodoo. And so it may be. Yet, this age is about manifestation. So if we choose negativity, fear, resentment and anger, that will come. If we believe in love, peace, positivity and gratitude, that will manifest very quickly.

I am seeing it with people's health, when they heal their mind, their body follows quickly. I am seeing it with people's financial and emotional well-being. I am witnessing it all around me. If you don't believe it, try it on for size...take more breaths, pauses in your steps, stretches and moments of gratitude in your day and see what happens.

After all, 11.11.11 marks the dawning of the Age of Aquarius to come into full fruition leading up and through 12.21.2012. Happy 11.11.11 all! Just like the saying goes, you are what you are what you believe! Try that on for size!