Sramana Mitra: What is your perspective on this theme that often gets discussed that there’s a bias against women in Silicon Valley. Do you buy it?
Ilana Stern: It’s a hard question to answer. I think I’ve been really fortunate in fund raising, team building, and getting support from my environment. I don’t feel disadvantaged. I am a minority, so it’s not unusual for me to walk into a room of a hundred men and I’m the only woman. I look back and thank my dad for being intentional with me from a very young age and challenging me to make my voice be heard and just helping me build my confidence. It hasn’t been a challenge for me but it is very much a reality that I’m a minority.
Sramana Mitra: The fact that Silicon Valley is a male-dominated environment is absolutely true. There is no two ways about it. I happen to not buy into this often tweeted theme that there is a bias against women. I actually believe that if you’re good and if you have the right goods basically, then there is no bias. But what you’re describing is correct. You have to be comfortable in that highly male-dominated environment. If that freaks you out or intimidates you, that’s a problem.
Ilana Stern: I think that’s true. In some ways, what’s been an interesting advantage for me is that I am a woman running a company targeting women. The majority of my investors are male. What’s cool is because they are not my target audience, they actually defer to me and trust me as the expert in understanding my customer.
Sramana Mitra: Yes, which actually is true about most of e-commerce. A very large percentage of target audience in e-commerce is women. As a result, if you’re a woman doing an e-commerce venture, it’s to your advantage because you understand the customer better than the investors do.
Ilana Stern: Yes, and as long as the investors are smart enough to defer, you’re in okay shape. I will say that I talked to a lot of women in leadership positions over the years, one of their most important choices were their life partners. My husband has been a key success factor for me in that he does all the cooking and grocery shopping. He is super supportive. He is an enlightened guy. His support and understanding has been very invaluable for me.
Sramana Mitra: Is he also from the industry?
Ilana Stern: He’s an entrepreneur himself but he’s in finance. He started his own investment fund. He understands the struggles of entrepreneurship from his own perspective.
Sramana Mitra: That’s very good. Congratulations and wish you all the best.