EYIF interview - Anne

EYIF interview - Anne

Posted by: Unknown on Friday, March 8, 2019 at 12:00:00 pm

 European Young Innovators Forum interviewed Anne to launch '#herstory' series


Q: Could you share your story with us? What have

been the best moments of your career?

In a career of nearly 50 years, there are so many, but I would have to

say being part of launching new industry in digital marketing and

making many friends around the world while we invented SEO were

memorable. We will always have been the first.

Publishing my First book “Global Search Engine Marketing: Fine Tuning

Your Search Engine Results” (Que Publishing: 2012) was certainly a

high point, as was launching Zillow and watching it race to #4 in six

weeks for the search term “real estate”. Producing CEO Coach has been a special joy, where Gillian and I can

explore hot topics and voice our observations and opinions. I am

thrilled when I hear from listeners or when one says “I know your

voice”, when I meet them.

Most recently, mentoring entrepreneurs from Central Europe for the

U.S. Department of State (Young Transatlantic Innovation Leaders

Initiative) has been extremely rewarding. At one time, it pleased me

to launch my own businesses; now, I am happy to advise founders,

sharing what I know, largely from my own missteps — of which

there were many! I am happiest when I travel far and wide, meeting

entrepreneurs, hearing their stories and supporting their work. When

Gillian Muessig and I formed Outlines Venture Group to do just that, I

knew I had arrived at the right place at the right time.

Q: What motivated you to build your company and

what made you decide to become involved in

venture capital?

With my expertise in search engines, I earned a seat on the board of

directors of a content start-up platform called Helium which had a

successful exit (25x revenues) after only 􀁢ve years. Though a white

male founded company with white male PE funding, I learned a lot

sitting on that board, the only woman at the table for the  rst three

years. The lead investor was a very good teacher. I saw what was


The sale of Helium to RR Donnelley provided enough cash to allow me

to do as I pleased. Anyone would call that a happy moment. Most

important, this was my opportunity to support my life-long belief in

diversity: multiple points of view and experiences lead to richer life

and to more successful outcomes.

At the same time, my business partner Gillian Muessig had a successful

exit herself from Moz. We admired each other’s work and we had

become good friends traveling around the world for SEO conferences.

We knew we wanted to work together, we were excited by

entrepreneurs and we wanted to give a helping hand to start-ups. We

began with a small portfolio of investments, in both cash and mentor

capital. When one start-up, for which I was an advisor, thanked me for

meeting with them, I said “No, you have it backwards. I own shares in

this company, so your success is my success. Now go make me some

money!” As I left that visit, I texted Gillian “we’ve found a business


After several years as angel investors, we realized our sister founders

are receiving a pitifully small access to venture capital, crippling their

ability to scale. We decided to change that and bring gender parity

to venture funding. Further, as angel investors, we observed faults in

the current system that needed tweaking, most notable a large gap in

post-seed funding that needed filling.

Q: You are a very inspiring woman with an impressive

track record. What motivates you to keep going? Do

you have a formula for becoming a successful


My career started in 1970, now nearly half a century ago. I am keenly

aware that time is now limited and I  firmly believe in leaving the

world a better place — at least my small part of it. Economic

prosperity is the key to peace and security — doing well by doing

good and doing good by doing well.

Entrepreneurs create economic prosperity in their countries.

Knowing that I am doing what I can to help them is what motivates

me most.

Plus, entrepreneurs have a zest for adventure and risk and are fun to be

around. Most of the ones I know are decades younger than I, and that

keeps me from feeling my age.

Q: VC funding is a heavily male-dominated area. Have

you ever felt discouraged working in this 􀁦eld and

what advice would you provide to women who want

to follow this path?

Ah, the Old Boys Club, the Bros, most of them are white. Where to

begin? A few weeks ago I reviewed a response from an investor to a

woman founder and it was filled with multiple reasons why he would

not be investing, all in an effort to cover up that he would not invest

because he believed a woman was not capable of success.

Sometimes I hear questions a man would never get, such as how are

you going to raise $100 million? Disappointingly, some of these

questions come from women who work in male-led VC firms.

I have no time to be discouraged, so I push it away and reframe such

comments into action steps. The boys’ rules are tired, producing

inflated, over-subscribed investments, as well as billions of dollars in

capital that sit on the shelf, contributing nothing to progress. How

many products and services that would clean up the world’s water

supply provide more effective cancer cures, and help raise healthier

babies are going unfunded because their founders proposing such

advances are women?

On the bright side, I observe a growing core of women innovators

stepping into the venture capital arena, many with fresh approaches

Anne Kennedy with one of the YTILI Fellows at the U.S. Department of State

unencumbered by old rules. The Women’s Venture Capital Fund has

been active for ten years. Backstage Capital, Chloe Capital and BRAVA

Investments are newer. My advice to women who want to become VCs

is to seek out the groups of women VCs who are running their own

shows, join with them and make your fforts stronger together.

Form a network stronger than the ‘Old Boys’ Club’

and play by new rules: girls’ rules!

Q: How will the world of venture capital change in the

next 5 years and what role will women play in this


If I have anything to do with it, there will be gender parity in

funding. It has been said that at the rate we are going today it will take

170 years. I am not waiting that long!

Q: What are the 5 most important skills an

entrepreneur needs to master to be successful?

The 5 most essential skills are:

Time management, Communication, Planning, Financial modeling,

Product development

As a bonus, these 4 necessary key attributes:

Persistence, Patience, Optimism, Vision

Q: What advice would you give to your 20-year-old


First, delay marriage till you are 30 — this is what I told my sons since I

was married at 20 and divorced at 35. All that took a lot of mindshare,

but my sons are extraordinary grown men, so I am glad I went through


Second, believe in yourself, even as the world tells you you are not

worthy, for so many reasons, not least, because you are a woman.

Q: Looking back at your career — if you were to do it

all again, would you do anything dfferently? If

yes, what?

Not much. Each step has been on my journey to where I am today. I

evaluated each opportunity and decided whether to take the leap. And

then leapt.

Q: What is next for Anne Kennedy?

A legacy: gender parity in VC funding, which will lead

to more women entrepreneurs funded to successful

The YTILI Seattle cohort and their mentors

exits! And a world commitment to diversity in all

its forms.

Only then, I will “retire” to a beach somewhere to write trashy novels

under a palm tree.


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