Sramana Mitra: The point is that e-commerce would do well with more female investors evaluating the deal just because there is more informed perspective on how the customer behaves in that segment, especially in fashion and lifestyle brands.
Kerry Cooper: I sold men’s pants for six years. I’m very comfortable figuring out what it takes for a man to buy a pair of Dockers. I had a great boss. He was trained under Mickey Drexler who was one of the kings of merchandising. He said, “You can’t take about bras and panties without giggling when you’re not a good merchant.” If you can’t figure out how women buy, then shame on you. You don’t have to be a woman to know how women buy.
Sramana Mitra: True and not true, right? You have a job as a merchant. That’s your job eight hours a day. You have a huge amount of time to figure all these things out. If you’re a venture capitalist, you have to figure out all these things with a very small time window. Some people do have a gut instinct. There are very successful male VCs who have done very well in e-commerce including fashion e-commerce. Obviously, there are people who have been able to figure it out. Especially for VCs who come from deeply technical backgrounds like somebody whose core understanding is in how routers work, they may not have that gut instinct. You can’t hold that against them.
Kerry Cooper: I think it comes back to the core of what you’re talking about. So much of what all of us do in decision making is driven by pattern recognition.
Sramana Mitra: Instinct and judgement.
Kerry Cooper: That is right. I think pattern recognition can be applied in many ways. It doesn’t mean that you have to be female.
Sramana Mitra: My husband, for instance, has great taste. He just has incredibly good sense of design, but there aren’t that many men like that.
Kerry Cooper: That’s exactly right. I love men like that. It’s awesome that you’re married to one. That’s a blessing.
Sramana Mitra: You did not bring up balance. Is there balance in your life?
Kerry Cooper: It’s a set of choices based on what one thinks is important to you. In response to your question, I would say yes. I’m a mom before I’m anything. I have a close relationship with my children that I enjoy. I have a natural tendency to be a workaholic, and I’m blessed with a lack of need for sleep. Being a CEO, you’re never off. That weight sits with you. I think the choices I make are very proactive. You learn to figure out, through time, how to define what balance is.
Sramana Mitra: What kind of an infrastructure do you have around you that makes this balance logistically possible?
Kerry Cooper: My kids are a little older now. They are 12 and 13, which makes it much easier than when they were younger. The world that we lived in was all of this crowdsource stuff. I’ve got Uber. I’ve got Google Shopping Express. You can have anything you want delivered to you or done that you need done. I’m a big believer in outsourcing whatever you can.
Sramana Mitra: One subtle point that I want to underscore is, you were at larger companies when your children were much smaller. That’s actually helpful.
Kerry Cooper: It is helpful. I actually interviewed a Chief Product Officer candidate who said to me, “I thought you regret the six years you spent at Levi.” He had a similar view of being in a large company for that long. I said, “No, I’m very thankful. I raised two beautiful children while I was there.”
I got promoted when I was seven months pregnant. There was a big profile project that came up that I had to go back to work when he was really little. He learned to crawl when I was on the phone with bankers. It’s not necessarily something I’m proud of. Those things happen. It doesn’t matter if you’re at a little company or a big company. At the end of the day, you don’t have to worry where the cash is coming from.
Sramana Mitra: At least, that pressure is not on your head. That’s actually very helpful, I’m sure.
Kerry Cooper: One thing you realise when you’re with six people, when one guy is down, you have a big problem. When you’re at a hundred people or more and one guys is down, the rest of the team fills in. There’s a huge difference on being able to spread work across multiple people when you’re a leader.
Sramana Mitra: It’s been a real pleasure. I hope our paths will cross one of these days in person.
Kerry Cooper: I hope so too.
Sramana Mitra: Thank you for sharing your story.