There was a moment, three years ago, when we were hunting for someone brave enough (nuts enough*) to invest in The Pool, when Lauren, Jo and I were hawking our wares (AKA PowerPoint plus wireframes) around London, and I'd inevitably be asked where we saw the business ending up.
This could translate in two ways:
1) What’s your big, bold ambition, or
2) What’s the exit?
Either way, the question boiled down to, How do I get my money back x a zillion?
And I'd take a deep breath, cross my fingers, and bang on about 'Vice but female focused'. I'd throw in mobile, global, innovative, market-leading, constructive-not-disruptive, blah... To any sane person that makes me sound like a complete wanker. But one of the main things I learned quite quickly was that sounding like a complete wanker was something of a prerequisite when trying to raise money. The more wankery the better, in fact.
Yes, I’m looking at you Travis Kalanick.
Over the course of the last three years, and three rounds of funding, I've been advised to: Behave more like a bloke (“if you were a bloke you'd have…” said one female fund manager - yes, there are some, but not many - reeling off a list of things I hadn’t said/done). "Take a man to investor meetings to make them feel safe.” (No, I’m not making that up; yes, he is still alive, just). And, in one memorable case, we were told to out-and-out lie.
Our problem, we were often told, was chromosome-related. That, and age, what with us being the wrong side of 30. And in my and Jo’s case, the wrong side of 40. Oh, and we had this annoying tic of compulsively telling the truth.
But whilst those traits didn’t resonate with suits panic-searching for the next Uber, luckily for us, they went down a storm with the literally hundreds of thousands of women who, over the last two years, have discovered The Pool via social media: identified with our less-but-better content approach, tailored to the moments in their day; signed up to our Today in 3 email; told their friends about it, and made us part of their daily routine.
Now, The Pool is 2! It has two more investors on board, and is butting up against a million monthly unique users. And if you’re one of them (and I mean a regular one, as opposed to someone who had the bad luck to click on this link), then Thank You. Because the fact we've won a Webby, otherwise billed as the Internet’s Oscars, is entirely down to you. (We took the People’s Voice Award for best lifestyle mobile site/app.)
When we were asked to come up with an acceptance speech, in no more than five words (whoever came up with that idea is a GENIUS, and the Oscars should hire them), it was inevitable we'd ask you, and one of you came up with something better than we ever could, mining the old adage that Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, But Backwards and in Heels! (So thank you @so0ps!)
You’re not kidding.
Anyway, thanks to all of you, and to the nice people at Virgin Atlantic who made it possible for us to go to New York to collect the award. On Monday night we were sitting in Cipriani’s on Wall Street, opposite The Trump building (boo, hiss), in a room that boasted Solange Knowles, Gillian Anderson, Steve Buscemi, Louis CK and, most excitingly, the women who organised the Global Women’s March. As well as Buzzfeed, Vice, Youtube and Netflix, and the producers of that brilliant Netflix series, The Chef’s Table (if you haven’t watched it, you need to rectify that, right now). There were more pairs of trainers than you've ever seen in one ballroom in your entire life.
And us. Nuts.
I hate the word journey, but I’m going to use it, because it’s been such a mad one. And we couldn’t have done it without The Pool's fantastic team, and without you, The Pool’s users.
(*we did! Thank you Fourteen17)
Watch the Webbys in full: