“You don’t get anything if you don’t ask”: How Heidi Zak raised money for an ecommerce startup, no male VC needed
It’s hard to imagine someone giving a typical male VC more reasons to say no to them than Heidi Zak, co-founder and CEO of ThirdLove.
She was a woman who started having kids just after closing her seed round. She was proposing an ecommerce company solving a pain point few VCs intrinsically get: How horrible bra shopping is for most women. And ThirdLove isn’t the first Valley company to attempt to disrupt this market. Oh, also Zak’s co-founder was her husband. Despite successes like Eventbrite and ModCloth, a lot of VCs are wary of that close of a co-founder relationship.
It wasn’t an easy yes, and yet she’s raised $13.6 million to date. What gave her a leg up? She happened to meet Patrick Chung (then of NEA) at a dinner party, and impressed by her idea, he wound up leading both rounds. Her advice for women is: If you ever think you may want to start a company, go everywhere, meet everyone, and keep those relationships warm, because you never know who you might be sitting next to. “Women tend to have more authentic relationships, with smaller networks and they are closer with their networks,” Zak tells me in this week’s installment of “A Uterus Is a Feature Not a Bug.” “Men tend to have bigger networks and ping people more and don’t feel bad asking about something when they need it.”
Despite both of us building companies while building families and raising money pregnant, Zak and I have had very different experiences as mothers. For instance, she felt not enough people told her how hard it was going to be, whereas I wished more people had told me how doable it all is. It took Zak a few months to bond with her first child, something a lot of women go through, but few openly talk about.
But despite our differences I could certainly relate to this comment about the surreal moment of bringing home a baby for the first time: “You bring someone into your household who wasn’t there before, and they are very demanding and can’t communicate well and really change your environment and it’s very stressful.”
Like Eventbrite, ThirdLove is another example of a husband and wife team building a company together and raising young kids together. I’m increasingly fascinated by this extreme version of a 50%-50% marriage, and we also discuss why it works for them.
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