Interview with Hilary DeCesare
As the mother of three young children, Hilary DeCesare recognized the unmet need for a safe environment for kids to connect online with friends, play games, share pictures and music, and learn new skills. With her children in mind, she created Everloop, a social media platform for kids under 13.
Interview with Hilary DeCesare
[music] Lucy Sanders: Hi, this is Lucy Sanders and I'm the CEO of the National Center for Women and Information Technology or NCWIT and we're back with another interview and a series of interviews that we've had with just tremendous women who have started technology companies. With me is Larry Nelson from w3w3.com. Hi Larry. Larry Nelson: Hi, Lucy, it is really great to be here. A lot of people ask what does w3w3 Business Stock radio do. Well we've been around for 14 years. So that was way back in the early days and we have partners like NCWIT certainly one of our most popular and most important to us. I must say that we're extremely proud to be able to help promote young women in technology. Lucy: Well we've got another great interview today as I've said. It's with Hillary DeCesare, who is the founder of Everloop which we're going to find out in a minute. It is just a terrific company for kids. So she is a digital parenting expert and a mother herself. She recognized the unmet need of a safe environment for children to share, to talk, to chat on the Internet. She came up with the idea of Everloop, an idea around privacy protection and mentoring technologies to ensure the safety of youngsters. This is a very comforting thought. I know Larry, you and I are both parents. So it's nice to know that something like Everloop is out there. Perhaps Hillary will tell us some about their innovative technology called loops, looping, how children join loops that they share common interests. They talk to each other and of course that is all with parental approval. So welcome Hillary. We are very happy to talk with you today. Hillary DeCesare: Thank you for having me. Lucy: So tell us a little bit about what's going on at Everloop. Hillary: Well as you mentioned, Everloop is a social media platform and it is designed for kids under 13. There is a huge craze going on out there where kids are using devices far earlier than even two year older children of today. So you've got kids as young as 5, 6, 7, going on their parents' smartphone, the iPads, desktops. What we're trying to do is make sure that when these kids finally go out into the wild wild Internet and they are exposed to adults, that they're ready to actually be there and that they're not making mistakes. So Everloop's purpose is to really keep these kids safe across all devices. Larry: Well I love it. Lucy: I know. It's great, isn't it? I'm sure that some of the companies' strategies will emerge as we talk to Hillary in this interview. Why don't you let our listeners know how you got first into technology? Hillary: I started in technology at a company called Oracle. I was there for 10 years and really became passionate about different products that are out on the market. I was hungry to learn about new things being brought up and I thought of my own children and I do have three kids. As my own kids became interested in technology, I thought, you know, I've got the background and yet I still feel that I'm not connected to my kids in their digital nomadship when they are out there really exploring. And I thought, well if that is happening to me as a parent, it must be happening to others. So two other moms and entrepreneurs, we decided to join forces and create a company that was really designed to as a mission, help with safe communication. I mentioned across multiple devices and it was really mobile devices were coming into play and desktop, giving them the ability to have kids feel safe. Because they ultimately want that too but also give parents a place that they can trust. And that's why we really created Everloop. Lucy: I like that phrase, digital nomadship. Larry: Yes. Hillary: Haha. That might be a new one. Larry: There you go. Lucy: Absolutely awesome. Larry: Hillary, you've got a family. You obviously are very busy. Why are you an entrepreneur? And what is it about entrepreneurship that makes you tick? Hillary: Well it's interesting because someone said last week "So you're a mompreneur?" I said, I really am because I believe so strongly in giving kids a voice, having them have a homebase, having them stay kids longer. I think that today's society makes kids grow up much faster than they need to. And there's always that desire as a tween, I've heard it statistically said that kids want to be 17. But the problem is that where we have technology now, taking this kids, they're getting to the place where it took us years and years and years to get. They can get to pictures, images, videos in five seconds by going online. So for me going into being an entrepreneur and having children, you have to take a step back and say how are you going to do it all? And that is really the question. How do you create balance in your life? And I felt so strongly about what I wanted to give my own children that I use them in my test cases. I use them as my focus group. I actually engage them in the company. Larry: That's super. Lucy: Now that is very cool. I believe that's the first time we have heard that. That's awesome. Along the way Hillary, who influenced or supported you to take this career path? Hillary: Well it was interesting because I have had the privilege of really being located in the Silicon Valley. I have had the change to meet truly the top people in the industry and when I worked at Oracle, got to know just some, you know, the creme de la creme of the men and the women. I saw what it took them to really be successful and to gain the respect and you know I talked about trust. You have to, and this is really important for any entrepreneur, when you're thinking about starting a business, you have to be able to identify with at least three people that you think can mentor you and be able to coach you. What was interesting is after Oracle, I actually started a business where for five years I have helped CEOs in the Valley put strategic frameworks around their business. And sometimes when you do things like this you think, well I've done this. I coach other people. Who's going to help me figure out next steps? What's interesting is that there is always more to learn. There's always comments and feedback that people can give you. People have experiences and you have to be so willing to throw out where you are in your company and what challenges you are having. People want to help other people if they're willing to listen. So I went ahead and found three absolutely incredible mentors. I ping them all the time and throw off questions. Sometimes these are 10 minute conversations and sometimes they are an hour. Larry: That's great and I hope you listeners out there heard that because it's a great thing to go after. Now with all the different things you've done. It already sounds you are a serial entrepreneur. What was the toughest thing that you've had to do in your career? Hillary: I think the toughest besides always having the pressure of being a mom right? Because that's my number one job. That's my number one love. That's my number one focus and everything. So besides the juggling of just really being there and I'm also a single mom. So you add the element of trying to be there for your kids. I think that what you always have to remember is that this is just a job. I mean that is ultimately what it is. It's a career choice and that's the key that I just said. It is a choice. You're doing this because you ultimately want to spend your time and your hours doing it. Sometimes what happens is that you can get caught up in wanting to have something be so successful that you lose sight of why you actually started to create it in the first place. I had the opportunity at one time specifically that I will talk about. I had a chance to merge the company with another and it all sounded great. But then when you started to look at the real terms behind it, it took me away from the core focus of what I had set out to accomplish initially. I believe that you will be successful if it goes with what you are passionate about. So it was a challenging time for me because there was a moment where I could have sold myself short. I chose not to and I chose to continue down the path what I truly believe in and where I believe that this company can go. But those were tough decisions. Lucy: Absolutely and it's a great transition to our next question. Around giving advice to young people about entrepreneurship, so it seems like one piece of advice you would clearly give them is keep your perspective. What other things would you advice them about? Hillary: I would absolutely say ideas can become big, way to big to even handle so focus, focus, focus. Really put together that one page on what are you hoping to accomplish? What are your milestones going to be? Because we lose sight. You're trying to go to that end game, you're trying to get to be that, the big picture. Where you have to appreciate the small things that you accomplish. So putting plans together and I'm dig on a 30 day plan, a 90 day plan. You have to be organized enough that when you hit those small successes, you stop and you take note and you say you know what? That was really good. I was able to accomplish this. Because if you don't, what happens is you spin and you spin and you spin and you don't think you're moving forward at all. You kind of just plateaued. But in reality you actually had. You've accomplished and you're getting closer to ultimately what you're trying to build, which is a successful company. Larry: That's very good advice. Now let me ask you a related question and that is: What are the personal characteristics that have made you a good entrepreneur? Hillary: The characteristics that an entrepreneur needs to have is one you need to have very thick skin. I mean you just have to have the ability to get knocked down and get up again. It's this idea that you've got your integrity. You've got what you initially started the business to be. But then you are also flexible. I see many entrepreneurs kind of get on their path. You can't deviate at all and especially if you're dealing with technology. Technology, you can't jam in your product. The square into the circle peg. You can't do it. Sometimes you have to be able to pivot. You have to be flexible enough to realize, you know what, this idea isn't that great of an idea anymore. But willing to say, but hey, maybe this other one is a really good idea. Lucy: And that's really evolutionary right? Which is a thing that we hear a lot in these interviews that things will emerge. So Hillary you mentioned your personal and your professional lives, what kinds of tips or techniques can you share that help you bring balance to the two of them? Hillary: That we're balanced...You know what if you really showed me someone who truly balanced their lives, please introduce them to me. Lucy: We don't know anybody. Larry: We don't. Hillary: I think it's a fallacy. I think what you can try to do is realize what's important in your life and look at it as a way to say as I'm doing right now. I don't feel as guilty when I know over the dinner table, I'm discussing a new concept or new direction with the company and I'm gaining the feedback of my own children. It's interesting, I once heard that you have your life and it's in the shape of a triangle and it's you. Your family, the last is your career and the right is kind of this whole understanding that the health around you, not just your family. I think it's almost the point where you have to schedule things into your life in order to get balance. It's as crazy as saying that for these two hours I'm going to schedule time with my family at dinner and I'm not going to do anything else. You have to actually make it into a meeting so that you know in your head, nothing else. Cos if you're in a meeting with people, right now, I'm talking to you but I'm not going off and doing other things. I'm completely focused on you. You have to do that with your children. You have to do that with your health. It's so important because if one of these pieces fail, it has the tendency to spin off into other areas as well. Larry: Wow that's also great advice. By the way, I love your website. It's really super, isn't it? Lucy: It really is. Hillary: Well thank you. I'm really proud of it. I think again, trying to be this trusted source for any parent out there and giving kids a homebase where they can just go and feel like yeah this is mine. This is my place. Larry: Yes that's very good. Now you've already achieved a great deal both personally and professionally. What's next for you? Hillary: OK, you're asking an entrepreneur what's next? Well I think that I'm passionate about the kids phase. I love everything about it. I'm so excited with new partnerships that I'm developing for Everloop. I get approached all the time with new technology and it just fascinates me on how we are spending our lives these days. How everything is just gammafied around you. How do you make people interested in doing things without having everything be about a reward system? You look at kids and I'm a mom that does it. Hey if you do this, you get this. But it's interesting because how far will we go? So when I look at where technology is shaping kids. I just read that kids are learning to use an iPad before they can even tie their shoes. This is fascinating to me! I think where I see myself is really uncovering those great technologies in the future that aren't detriments to a kids life but enhances. Larry: You know I think that's so true. I've heard that kids today are taking three months longer to learn how to walk. That's only because they've got to learn how to text first. Hillary: I agree with you. Lucy: But they can't text while walking. Hillary: Exactly but when you have my daughter who is 14 and she texts about a 100 texts a day. She can do it in about 30 seconds and I'm still the thumbs and trying to get my text. She will look at me and say "Are you still sending that one text?' She's just light years ahead of me. I laugh at my 11 year old when she says "Mommy, are you in this new app?' She knew Instagram months before I did. It was so great. She's now telling me " Have you seen this? Have you seen this? Are you playing draw something?' I love it because I sit down and I'm like OK again. She's educating me. Now how can I educate all the other parents in the world? Lucy: And that's why a one final tip right? Make sure your subject matter experts live with you. Hillary: You know what they are the domain experts. I just realize that right now, but make sure you're not disconnected with it. Make sure that you embrace it because it is their way of life. If you want to communicate with your kids going forward, it's not your way. It's their way or the highway. Lucy: It's really true. My son was very impressed with me last night when I sent a photo with a text message. Larry: Whoa, very good. Lucy: I know, I graduated. So Hillary, we can't let you go without asking about your recent appearance on Secret Millionaire. How was that? That's pretty cool. Hillary: Oh I have to say I have always been passionate about giving back. I felt a little hypocritical as I was sitting here on Everloop, letting kids join fabulous charities and hearing more about what kids love to volunteer and what they do if they had the ability to go out and actually make a huge difference. I was approached by this opportunity and initially I thought I'm not definitely into the reality world. I barely even watch TV. I thought more about it and the fact that I could uncover by being placed in a city that I'm unfamiliar with and uncover wonderful charities and be able to help them become known. All these unsung heroes that are doing amazing things. I thought you know what? This is such a great way now. We've taken one of the charities that I've uncovered when I was doing the show and this little boy who started a charity called Love in the Mirror when he was eight years old. He now has a loop on Everloop and he shares what he is doing in the community to help make it a better place. It all came together. It made me feel good. It made the people that are hearing about what we did feel good. The charities that I got to meet. I mean I'm still friends with every single one of them. It's one of those that you feel blessed where something fell into my lap that was just so outside the box for me. It proved to be one of the highlights of my life to date. Lucy: Well it was very compelling. I went and looked out on it on the web and I think it's the perfect way to end an interview because it just really defines you and Everloop and what people are using Everloop for. I know that your site has a page that lists the charities in case listeners are interested. Hillary: Well thank you for taking the time to talk with me and I love talking to you both. Hopefully we will be able to do this again soon. Lucy: Great I want to remind listeners again that they can find this interview at ncwit.org and... Larry: W3w3.com Lucy: All right, thank you Hillary. Larry: Thank you. Hillary: Take care. Bye-bye. [music]