Back in Fashion with Sophia Amoruso (Girlboss) | Disrupt SF (Day 1)
12:10AM Sep 6, 2018
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome back to the stage TechCrunch editor and disrupt MC Jordan crook.
Hello, there. Oh, we made it work. Okay. So before I make the real introductions for our next panel, I thought I would introduce a new member of the TechCrunch family. This is Hayes birthday, this
and we really liked him. And he is very excited about our next talk. Because he is a ladies man I've learned. So with that, I'm going to bring up our next panelists. She and actually both of them did almost a very similar panel. Things have changed a lot for both of them a few years ago at disrupt. So with that, I'm gonna I'm going to hand it over to Alexia please welcome to the stage from girl boss. Sophia amoruso and our moderator Alexia Bonanzas.
Is it working? working? Can you hear her?
Not for me, it's not for you. It's for you guys.
there and a little bit for me. Okay. Kind of for you, Sophia. I'm so pleased to have you on stage. We're
back. We're back. We were here four years ago, doing the
exact same thing are kind of the same thing you've been through a lot since we last spoke.
Your last company didn't work out and started a new one. You wrote this amazing book. You were on Netflix. You or your summary. played me. Someone played you on
You went through some personal life changes. catch us up. Oh, God. Yeah. Well, that's a real long story. It might be another book. But let's see in the four years since I spoke at TechCrunch, which was when girlboss my first book came out, which chronicled my story of starting Nasty Gal is a 22 year old, you know, community college dropout, who, you know, started an eBay store and then figured it out from there until it didn't work anymore. God what's happened,
Nasty Gal didn't work out
filed for Chapter 11 at the end of 20, 1608.
So it was a crazy six months. So in 2016, and a six month period I was on the cover of Forbes and then a month later, my husband of a year left me and and that was in July and then in December on the day Trump was actually elected we filed for Chapter 11. So that was like that was really fun time
I'm came out the other side, I'm good. And you know, in the three years since the book came out, before we start the company, it's been four years now girl, Boss became I guess a movement like a novena, a phenomenon part of the you know, cultural kind of site Geist, a word that hasn't always even become attributed to me, or what we're, what we're doing and, you know, as a hashtag on Instagram has been used 12 million times. And so this community of women really took it and ran with it. And we, you know, I founded a company a year and a half ago, a few months after Nasty Gal happened. And here we are today, we're just catching, catching the the community that built itself over the three years before I founded girl bosses, a proper entity.
Yeah, amazing, amazing, amazing
at the lowest points like that, that day, when Trump
got elected, I had I had about like, the world was having a bad day, or at least people who I wasn't sure what what I was crying.
So we've got this guy, how did
you pick yourself up? Like, how did you
manage to get out of that situation with your head held high
partially because it was just such an important time girl boss became even more important the day now CL file are filed and Trump was elected. And also because it was something that I continued nurturing like very part time, you know, two hours a week had started a podcast called girlboss radio and had the privilege of interviewing them as like, interesting kind of successful and women in the world. And realized that not just my story could inspire the people, but bringing to light the stories of other women who may not have told their stories and harnessing the the Rolodex that I was an access, I was so lucky to build over those 10 years for a generation of women who may not be able to afford you know, we an executive women's conference that a lot of these women maybe maybe speaking at, which is often like, just kind of like a closed loop conversation. And so bringing that to a different generation and connecting them to one another, which we are doing now the the girlboss rally, which is our twice yearly conference, but also because I'm an opportunist, like, I like building businesses. I the only thing I've ever done 22 to 32 Nasty Gal is like a nice 10 year run, I understand understand enterprise value that's really sexy and interesting to me and girl boss was a global brand by the time the company was founded, which is just such a unique opportunity.
So with girlboss, tell me a little bit about what the mission is, are there any lessons that you learned at Nasty Gal that you're applying in this new thing?
I mean, a lot, I mean, girl boss really exists to, you know, connect, inspire, nurture advance women in their careers professionally as entrepreneurs, both in their lives in their work within companies, starting their own companies, really in an effort to redefine what success means in this world where, you know, a bunch of white guys very long ago built industry invented magazines that they put themselves on the cover of and say, like, this is what success looks like. And we're in a time where people are changing the way they're working.
Of course, there's the
gig economy. There's the rise of the freelance economy. There's side hustlers side, hustlers are turning their side hustlers into their front hustled, there's just this incredible array of digital tools at our disposal. I had eBay Legal Zoom in 2006. And now whether it's gusto, or Squarespace or Shopify or the just a number of, you know, platforms, even Instagram didn't exist in 2006. So I'm galvanizing all of those products that allow it, you know, allow
individuals to start businesses or become their own proprietors is just such an interesting time.
How have you changed as an entrepreneur since we last spoke, you mentioned that in the prior conversation, that you're more focused,
what's helping you get focused, I'm
I have a chip on my shoulder, I really want to get it right. This time. I'm very fortunate to be able to start from scratch with all of the learnings over the last 10 years that by the time I realized what I should have been doing as a CEO, it was it all been spun out far too, you know, so such a huge company that undoing those headless, Chrome
now CEO, that's the answer. At our peak, I think we're around 300 people. And we did over 100 million in revenue, like at our at our peak, and we're valued at 350 million dollars, which was just wild and probably irresponsible, but not completely my fault.
Yeah, but learned over those 10 years, what my, what I should have been doing. And by the time I I wanted to do it, it felt like it was a little too late, even though I tried. And so being able to apply all those things at girl boss has been really like bloodletting in a way. But I work really differently. You know, I like to say, this is my first the second brand that I started on accident. But the first business I started on purpose, that's a really different thing, your first seed round, you never raised the theories around a Nasty Gal, to 30 million profitably, and then index came in and we're, like, Here, take our money, they built a deck for me, I don't really take our money and put $40 million and out of their growth fund. And it was like a huge shock to the system for, for me, for the company to work as differently as you do when you have venture capital and board and all of these things that I didn't even understand, you know, years prior to taking that money. And yeah, I went out for a seed round, I've been very spoiled, and because I bootstrapped, you know, Nasty Gal to $30 million, I didn't really have to, I didn't really have to ask for a lot. I mean, I asked for a lot in business and beat down doors and all those things where, you know, you have to manifest things, but in terms of pitching, you know, a very clear vision of what you're doing, how it's going to scale, how it's venture, investable,
why it's, you know, important right now, why I'm the person to build it, all the things that, you know, we've probably all read about on different blogs that you should know when you go out to raise money, I never really had to learn. So in a lot of ways, there are many things that I'm doing for the
first time did did you end up talking to the Nasty Gal investors for this round? And if so, what was that, like, did any invest.
There were some investors who have invested personally that were involved with Nasty Gal in the past, maybe, maybe didn't invest through their funds, which I'm really grateful for.
I like vaguely talked with like, demure and index, who's really lovely, and Danny and I have stayed in touch. I didn't go in and pitch index, I think I need to take a beat. Maybe for my third business. I'll go back to index. I still have a lot of respect for them. And for Danny and love Danny, but spend less time with him now
to answer your question. Yes. And answers. Okay. Let's see. girlboss.
So it's a blog. It's podcast. It's an event.
It's a lot of stuff. Do you consider it a media business?
I don't. So you know, our beginnings. I just got up and started running. So we held our first conference for 500 women called the girlboss rally at the beginning of March of 27.
I went to it was it was four months. Thanks. Yeah. It
was like if, if TechCrunch had been a conference going
on, where women were in power. And all VCs were like 90% women and all entrepreneurs were present when it was amazing. You could get headshots, you could get vitamin B shots, you could get a Mani pedi It was really really cool. Yeah,
So I would say it's not a media business, the early trappings of girlboss looks like a media business. Because the book is a piece of media, the podcast was a piece of neat media, the Netflix was serious, was a piece of media. And those are all, you know, different types of content. And that's something that I'm really natural at doing, you know, Nasty Gal was half the product and really half the voice. And now what we're doing is almost purely the voice, which is such a beautiful thing. inventory is virtual for the first time in my career, which I really love, but really, at our best and highest is going to be continuing to galvanize this generation of women who have have sought out girl boss, or maybe haven't even heard of girl boss and connect to them, not just physically, which we've done at our conferences. And it's happening, you know, naturally on social media, and very in a closed Facebook group, which has kind of been the petri dish of research for what we build next. But, you know, ultimately, we need to build something that prints money in our sleep. And that's not what we have today. That's what I had for 10 years. I understand how that works. And it's an exciting task to tackle again, so we're spending a lot of time thinking about what that will look like, what do you have any ideas like you What's the new new media model look like? Because display
is not working inside a lot of bad behavior. And Russian bots like, do you know what, what the next hope
for media is? Are you hopeful I, you know, I was talking to Dave Morin about this, who's a good friend, and he said, something that I thought was really interesting, which was, you know, within a few years, there will be two classes of the internet one will be subscription and one will be free, because people just are increasingly you know wising up to their privacy in the trade offs that we're making invite joining these platforms. And I also think there's a rise in, you know, communities, and the word community used to be like, the most disgusting word to me, it meant, like, you know, shared dinners, and co ops. And, you know, I've always been, like, very much an only child, but it's, you know, being part of a community digitally, is a really different experience. And, you know, whether it's in Facebook groups, and Facebook is, you know, now rolling out subscription for groups, which I think is really, really interesting. We're seeing this rise in niche, but mass communities who want us who want to congregate around some kind of contexts and not be just like out, you know, on these totally agnostic platforms that maybe don't have their best interests in mind. And to do that, right, I think, and to have a really had to have a high quality group of people some time, I think that mean transacting directly with them. So you're
moving off of Facebook and building your own platform? Yeah, cool. Cool. Yeah. So it's not just a few that's changed since we last spoke,
it feels like the whole world is change. Yeah,
post Uber post wine scene. But, you know, in the me to era is there is there something different you would do with girlboss, if you were writing the book now, or coming up with the, with the concept now? Yeah, I
think I really took for granted what was happening under the surface, in culture in different you know, in industries that I wasn't exposed to, because I had, even if, you know, of course, even here, because I never was that entrepreneur at the beginning of my career, who hadn't proven myself who is asking for things, which I am doing now. But running a company called girlboss, I don't think anyone's going to put their hand on my side. So from a empathy standpoint, that's my hope, and I, you know, hadn't been exposed to, and it also just seemed, you know, and maybe, you know, four years ago, it was a time where I think a lot of, you know, took for granted and seemed like we were all kind of had wised up to feminism, and maybe in you know, we're in our bubbles in Los Angeles and New York, it became very clear that that's not the case. And that conversation has never really existed on a global scale, or on a national scale. And it's been super fascinating to be part of, and watch what's happening with the women's movement and be in a time where we can talk about the things that so many women have suffered through silently, but can now you know, there's no answers yet. But at least getting things out into the open and understanding what the issues are is a is a great start.
Do you think that men and women obviously, I think you think this but do you think when when we go to raise money, like is there such a thing as raising while woman raising while black woman is what arlan Hamilton just said in another time, panel raising? What raising money when you're a woman, when you walk into that meeting, and you're wearing like, a heels and a puffy shirt versus like a puffy best, you think we're
treated differently when we go in and ask for money? And do you have a story of that happening to you? Or it's hard to know, because there's, you know, someone's not going to say, like, No, I'm not going to give you money. Because you're a woman,
I think the era of investors saying like, Well, let me go back and talk to my wife, or like, my wife, really, you know, it's like, wives are awesome. But it's like, I like you're the one place you know, taking a bet on me, you're the one I'd be interacting with. If you don't understand what I'm doing. That's really scary. But I I I haven't had an experience. But from all of the stories that you know, we've heard it's, um, it's it's pretty, it's shocking. Or maybe it's not shocking. Maybe it's something that we all knew about
in the things that are happening. And I think there's a reckoning that happened, and it's happening, and
we're all retraining ourselves on what we're willing to accept. And, you know, how we should, how should we should treat women doing
it's changing towards the good or it's just a reckoning, and then it'll readjust towards where it was before you
think we're, we're saying nervous. I don't know if we're going to go back to where we were before. The one thing I really wish is that when I gave when I give an investor a hug, that it's not like, from five feet away, they're like to keep
their doors open now, yeah, yeah, there's, like, like are,
which is just doesn't feel doesn't feel that, you know, it's like,
I don't know, it's not
very human. It's a little bit of, yeah, it's just, there's like, there's fear, which is probably a good thing. So your goal is to empower women, but you're also making money off them in some ways, how do you reconcile that with
everything we do, we're creating value or creating utility and things that our audience can use to level up. And if you know, we need to make money to do that, that's, I mean, I think that we can create a virtuous cycle to date, we've worked with brands. And so with someone like Google, who is our largest client, we created something called a startup studio with the girlboss rally, which had 50 Chromebooks out in a room and, you know, this signup list was, you know, totally spoken for within a few hours of posting about it on social and it was 90 minute workshops on everything from how to create a deck in Google Slides.
called sheets, nope, slide
slide. To build it. I think it's Excel. Yeah,
to building a p&l and Google Sheets, to writing a press release to, you know, so real utility and education, practical skill, and it's like, yeah, and there's a natural integration with those brands. But there's also, you know, with what we are doing with brands, which is only part of what we do and you know, very much just a part of our future
is, is something that very few people speaking to women can do. Like, our girl wants to learn about technology, she wants to learn about productivity, she wants to learn about saving money and you know, taking care of her finances and, you know, billing customers and protecting herself legally, which while there may be other you know, publishers or you know, conversations happening with women, their users are coming to them with a different motivation there were users may be coming to them for pop culture news. And you know, while what we're doing is a part of the site Geist, our users coming to us with the motivation to learn exactly what we are giving her which is unique in the world of who is speaking to women, which is the ability to be self actualize, and not depend on anybody else. Mm hmm. To wake up every day and reinvent yourself and ask yourself, Is this still what I want and not be burdened by our past and fear of our future and being comfortable throwing away the things that we've spent our time building that we may be attached to, and just like just keeping ourselves and that balance between real fear and opportunity, fearing confidence,
doing it, managing to do it all with your head held high. So because you are a person in the world, you deserve a chance to learn four years from now, when we're doing this interview for a third time,
where do you want to be? You want to be on your third business, I want to have built a business to outlast myself. girlboss isn't about me, it's not my personal brand. It's not like a glorified influencer brand. It's something that's important that I will continue to grow in size. And, you know, at our best in highest for creating something that looks more like a church, that a publisher and a place where our community can galvanize autonomously or connected autonomous Lee without us necessarily facilitating it. We have to, you know, obviously build more ways to facilitate it first, and, you know,
at the end of the day, the best and highest thing a brand can do is become part of someone's identity. I am a girl boss, I'm a Nasty Gal. And we already we already have that. So how can we continue to do that? And you'd be a public company,
I don't know, I'm open to all of the above.
I want to do what what the company wants to do. I want to create as much value as I can. That's my job. But do I want I mean, this is I'm not supposed to say this. But like, I'm not sure what the last 10 years did to me in terms of like aging, like we'll see over time. But being a public company CEO, like I just I think I've experienced enough stress. So
we'll see. We'll see. Yeah, well, thank you for your time. Thank you. See you in four years. Thank you guys.