Interview with Leslie Bradshaw
Leslie Bradshaw is the Chief Operating Officer at Guide, a software company focused on turning online news, social streams and blogs into video. In her role, she is focused on publisher relations, fundraising, marketing, product strategy, talent development and back of house management - "There's going to be a lot of times when as an entrepreneur, even someone who might be an entrepreneur," she said "You're going to come up against, not just resistance, but flat‑out people standing in front of you saying, "You can't do it, you're not going to be successful." I've had people look me in the eye and tell me I'm a fool to think that I can make this work. Of course, truth be told, that just motivates me more."
Leslie Bradshaw is the Chief Operating Officer at Guide, a software company focused on turning online news, social streams and blogs into video. In her role, she is focused on publisher relations, fundraising, marketing, product strategy, talent development and back of house management.
Interview with Leslie Bradshaw
Lucy Sanders: Hi, this is Lucy Sanders and I'm the CEO of the National Center for Women in Information Technology or NCWIT. With me is Larry Nelson from w3w3.com. Hi Larry.
Larry Nelson: Hi, I'm real happy to be here.
Lucy: We are in love with this series of interviews, very interesting women from all sectors of tech with lots of interesting stories. Today, we are interviewing another serial entrepreneur who was named to the top 30 women in tech under 30 by the "Wall Street Journal." Very interesting and she herself has started a new company. Leslie Bradshaw is the founder and COO of Guide and this is a really cool company. It's sort of a visual news reader application for your personal computer. It takes all kinds of blogs and social media streams, online media news, then turns them into these video news segments if you will. With avatars and other cool stuff.
Lucy: I'm sure I'm not quite saying that right, and Leslie will set me straight in just a moment, but it sounds just fascinating. Before she started Guide, Leslie co‑founded and served as the president and COO of Jess3, and really helped them achieve their success. Landed on the 2012 Inc 500 list. So, a very successful entrepreneur. When she's not starting companies, she's a partner at her family owned vineyard in Oregon which sounds fascinating as well. Welcome, Leslie, we're happy to have you here.
Leslie Bradshaw: It's wonderful to be here, thank you so much for having me.
Lucy: You know, we have a couple questions about being an entrepreneur, but first why don't you tell us just a bit about what's going on with Guide. I'm sure our listeners will be interested in having an update.
Larry: Plus, we'll have it linked on the website.
Leslie: It's an exciting moment to be able to actually share some of the things going on at Guide. If you would have been speaking to me a month ago, everything was still in an alpha form. We were just testing it out with a number of private users. We are officially launched and you can download it if you have an iPad. We are, right now, number 3 if you can believe it, in the charts in the news category in the United States.
Leslie: We're also trending in a number of other countries, some of which are complete surprises to us because English is not the native language. A lot of the South American and Asian countries that are downloading our apps in force. It's so exciting to see that people really enjoy what we put out there. Certainly it's been resonating with thousands of people worldwide.
Lucy: It certainly sounds like an interesting app. Just a couple minutes, maybe, on what the technology is and what people use it for.
Leslie: Certainly. If you think about the app eco system around newsreaders, a couple of big players come to mind. You have Flipboard, for example. Flipboard aggregates your favorite online news, blogs, and social streams like Twitter and Facebook into a magazine experience that you can actively read. If you've ever used Flipboard, there are other platforms out there like Zite and Pulse. Those all do that in what, again, I call an active reading experience. I don't know about you or the listeners out there, but I have a very busy day.
I cannot read all of the media that I want to actually review. Having the ability to have a passive consumption model is very important. Things like [inaudible 02:59] and SpokenLayer are creating apps that just read you your favorite online news, social streams, and blogs through text to speech.
You have Ferry which is a text to speech engine. You have GPS which is a text to speech run engine. A lot of the other applications that I mentioned are doing that pure audio. Think about it for a second. Although audio is great and it's certainly helpful, I'm a visual learner. I know a lot of other people are, and most posts online include rich media like photos, videos, block quotations.
Sometimes the comments and social interactions are even part of the story and make it even more interesting. What my company does at Guide is we take all of the things I just listed off and repackage it in sort of a news broadcast so you can consume all of your favorite content through both an audio and a passive consumption experience while also being able to get the best of the posts if there are photos, if there are videos, again, block quotations and any other rich media that add to that experience.
We're taking the concept of news aggregation and curation, we're taking the concept to be able to passively consume news while you multi‑task, whether you're commuting or exercising or frankly even working at your desk on your computer, and we're taking it up a notch.
The way we're able to do that is not only through the technology of the aggregation and the indexing of the content but also through avatar technology which is very futuristic and very cutting edge and very fun to work with. It's something that we've been sort of promised through sci‑fi movies like Iron Man or even, frankly, some of the earlier stuff like Total Recall.
You had this kind of artificial intelligence newscaster. That's becoming a reality, because the technology is becoming just that good. That's kind of where we're at right now at Guide.
Lucy: I think that's pretty cool. Larry, maybe you can be an Avatar. [laughter]
Larry: Do I look like an avatar?
Lucy: That's really very cool. Congratulations on a great start. I think it's awesome. Leslie, why don't you give us a sense of how you first got into technology? What caused you to be drawn into the technical spaces?
Leslie: It's interesting. My educational background is one where math and science was always such an important building block to whatever I was doing. When I was very young, I can remember back, all the way to being 10 years old and going to a summer camp just for girls that focus on math and science. It was just a great time to geek out and play with Petri dishes to come up with hypothesis, test them, and come up with your evidence, and you end up with a thesis statement.
I feel like that's always been a part of my approach. It's always been very scientific. Now, coming of age in the late '80s, early '90s, technology was coming online but not nearly at that speed and quality that it is today.
It was something that wasn't a big part of my life per se, but it was always a little bit in the background. I would say it was more of an underpinning of the methodology of what science and what math can really enable.
Now fast forward into my college career and then coming out into the work world when I was 22 years old, that's about probably 2005 I would say, at that time, the second wave of technology innovation was happening on the Internet.
The first wave is that dot com boom and bust, and the second wave is really being driven by social media and by blogging and by a lot of democratization of the tool that enables social engagements and website creation and just tons of creation period.
I was able to catalyze on that moment much like the people catalyze on the moment that somebody [inaudible 07:20] around the Internet. This was my moment with my colleagues and my cohorts. What I started doing was going to a lot of user groups, going to [inaudible 07:29] , going to bar camps and just starting that dialogue around what these technologies were enabling, what they could enable.
Looking at my background, I'm not someone who look deep into the code and programming by the social scientists. As a business woman, I would able to partner with designers, developers, and strategists to think about what problems should we be solving, how can we utilize these technologies to help brands, help politicians, and issue advocacy groups.
I was in Washington DC for about seven years in my early career and through [inaudible 08:07] all the stages of the web as they continue to unfold, I stay very active and involved in the graphic community around it and learned a lot. I was able to partner with a lot of really wonderful, very smart, talented people who had very discreet skill set who needed someone like myself to help pull it all together towards an end goal.
Larry: That's very, very fascinating. I'm going to have to share that with my daughters for sure. Leslie, why are you an entrepreneur, and what is it about entrepreneurship that makes you tick?
Leslie: I'd like to say that it's genetic at some level. My ancestors came across the orient express six generations ago and have a very strong pioneering spirit, and my parents continued that spirit. They have a farm and vineyard in Willamette Valley, Bradshaw Vineyard. I watched them work hard my entire life. In fact, I don't know anything else. I watched my mother be the CFO, COO of our family business. She's an accountant by trade and does a fantastic job of leading the decision making on that by making sure that we're using the best technologies, the most cost‑effective things, and looking for different ways to get smart calf brace, and be able to really scale and expand at the rate that we want to.
At the same time, I look at my father who had the vision of putting the vineyard together and looking at how he's been able to use a lot of his ingenuity as a self‑taught engineer figuring out how to do everything from wire up 10‑15 feet tall wires that keeps animals out to putting together an irrigation system.
I worked hand in hand with him using Google Maps and Google Earth. We plotted out over half mile of PBC pipes of where we want to lay it. We produced the pipes, and it showed up that we were within 18 inches. It's right on the money. It's a really fun project working with them.
That's something that, again, I grew up just knowing what hard work looks like, what working for yourself looks like, and what dry designing and troubleshooting on the fly looks like. When I got into the work world, and I'm behind the desk and on track to go to law school and have job offers at the Department of Justice and a few big law firms as a paralegal, because I was thinking about going all the way to becoming a lawyer, it wasn't exciting. It wasn't like on the TV shows I was watching, right?
Larry Nelson: [laughs]
Leslie: It's not "Law and Order." It's not dramatic. It's just a lot of paper ‑‑ copying, sorting, printing, highlighting, finding, searching, scanning. That, to me, was not innovative enough, and not utilizing my abilities to the fullest. I'm an organized person, I'm very detail oriented, but it lacked something for me. I continued to look for more out of my career, as I continued to take additional opportunities that came up. I worked in television for a little while, working for John McLaughlin and the McLaughlin Group, which is on PBS in most markets.
I also worked in a crisis communications firm and learned a lot about how to communicate with stakeholders, internally and externally, during a moment of otherwise the worst case scenario out there ‑‑ whether it's an oil spill, or a product recall or some sort of outcome that you just don't want to have happen.
I also worked at a public relations and digital media firm, and was able to learn a lot about how to work with online audiences, how to work with the media, how to do media relations, how to create valuable, interesting things that people would want to talk about. Not just pitching them to say, "This is our story," but how can we create content that serves the audience that we were trying to engage?
All the while, technology was a part of enabling what I was doing. I was always utilizing maybe 30, maybe 40, percent of what I felt to be my full abilities. I kept wanting to take a car out and drive it faster and faster, but I couldn't because I was constrained by my age.
People looked at me and said, "You're 22, 23 years old. You do the thing that I ask you to o and maybe a little bit above that. Don't try to go and create a whole product line." I was really constrained by that.
I was also constrained by the vision of the people I was around. They couldn't see what I was seeing, either related to the opportunity around social media, around visualizing large data sets, which, as a practice, is generally called "data visualization." They didn't see the full opportunity of what online, digital, mobile and social really meant.
Of course I'm not saying that I was omniscient, that I saw something that others weren't, of course, taking advantage of in a much better way. There's Mark Zuckerberg founding Facebook and Evan Williams at Twitter, but I saw it in a way that others around me in Washington DC weren't seeing it.
Finally I said, "You know what? I'm going to go ahead and throw up my own shingle," and found a really great, talented web designer, business partner, who needed someone like myself with, again, the business and strategy, and client‑relationship sense.
We were able to build that partnership and build that company because, in spite of the fact that we couldn't get it going within the company that we were working at, we pulled it off to the side and said, "All right, if we think our vision is so strong and so great, we're going to go after it."
That's what really is the underpinning part of an entrepreneur, is someone who can see things differently and see what other can't see. Even when others are not believing in it and can't see that vision, we still go after it. That's exactly what I did when I was 24 years old.
I built that company over the course of six years and as you mentioned at the onset of the show, you made $8,500 in 2012 and I was proud to say that it generated $13 million in revenue during my tenure. That was all done boot‑strapped, all cash flow management, no outside funding, but was a very profitable, very successful service‑based business.
Lucy Sanders: That's quite a story. I'm so fascinated, too, with the experiences on the vineyard, the lessons you can learn about engineering and hard work. That's wonderful. In addition to your family, Leslie, who else do you consider to be your role model? Who else supported you along this path? The types of people, or surprising people, or what have you?
Leslie: One thing I like to think about, when bringing up an answer to a question like this is really looking at the axis of role‑modeling and mentorship. What I first look at is when you say role model, I look at that as someone who holds a position that I want to hold someday, or has a particular talent, or skill set, or visibility that I look up to. That someone could be at arm's length or could be miles away. I think of people directly in my industry. Specifically, Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg are both very strong examples of successful, female executives in the technology space that are succeeding because they're the best at what they do, not because they are women, or not because of anything other than they're just the best.
I love that Marissa Mayer's also the youngest man or Leslie00 CEO. I think that's something also to look up to and know that age, just because you add a couple extra gray hairs, doesn't mean that you're going to be better at something.
In fact, with the technology industry, by and large, the youth of our country is really driving that innovation because they're so close to it at a more native level. When I think of role‑modeling, I think of that.
Then I think of mentoring, and I think of mentoring as someone who takes an active interest in your career and is someone who has at least 10‑plus years on you, in terms of their career experience, and are able to help you navigate situations that you may encounter and may not know, "Oh, what should I do? Should I take this job? Should I negotiate? What are other the things that I should be considering that I'm not?"
As far as mentors go, I've had some really fantastic mentors. One of which Karen Zanderlane, used to be one of the partners at Price Waterhouse Coopers, and really has a good mind for operations, built her team, took it from two to 1,500 globally, so it really helps frame up my scaling and thinking around that.
David Reimer, one of her colleagues, founded both works, a company called Merryck, who does professional mentoring. David also has a great mind for global‑scale leadership and how to think about cultivating and retaining talent.
Another mentor, Michael Bloom is someone who I met through my alumni association at the University of Chicago. He took a very active interest in my career while I was in Washington DC and helped me navigate when I was at a company that didn't quite understand the vision I had, or helped me find another opportunity that did see that vision with me and shared that and wanted to give me the capital and wanted a way to run after it.
Another thing is sponsors, and this one's probably the most important. If your listeners haven't thought of this concept, I hope they do after this interview. A sponsor is someone internal to your organization, who's two to three levels above you, they're working an active interest in the advancement of your career within that organization.
It's one thing to get in context as far out into the distance, rock star poster up on your wall, like your Marissa Mayers. It's another thing to have someone external to your organization looking out for you, looking for opportunities, giving you advice.
It's quite another to have someone directly in your organization helping you block and tackle, helping you navigate the politics of the organization, helping position you to be the person considered when promotions come up, or opportunities to go global or to travel or to do other large projects.
You want to be top‑of‑mind and you can do that through your own grass‑roots, hard work and working with your colleagues and proving it with good work products, but the larger the organization, the more you're going to need someone at the top, advocating on your behalf.
I've had some fantastic sponsors in my life, one of which was at my first job in Washington DC, at Air Soft, a partner by the name of Dave Gregg.
He was global head of the trademark and IP side of things, and really focused specifically more so on, and did a great job advocating on my behalf. When there was more interesting work, I was the first name that he made sure to put front and center. I really appreciated that.
Another sponsor of mine, Peter Snyder, he was the CEO of Media Strategies, a company that sold to Meredith. I think Meredith Integrated Marketing is now what they're called. He was someone who looked out for me throughout the course of my three‑year tenure at that company and I advanced quickly through the ranks and was able to take on new advanced projects because of his sponsorship and support.
Those are just a few examples. Of course my parents, I already mentioned, are certainly role models and mentors, as sponsors. Those are three types of people that are very important to have in one's career and to make sure to keep cultivating, and giving back to those relationships, because they can be two‑way. They don't have to just be you taking from an elder career person.
You can actually help in return. What I typically do is help enlighten these folks as it relates to social and digital media, thinking about innovate strategies, thinking about innovative technologies. Also helping them think about big data and data visualization, visual story‑telling. Those are areas that I can come to the table, because I like all the relationships that I'm in to be a two‑way street and everybody to feel good about giving and taking.
Lucy: That was an excellent answer around the difference between role‑modeling, mentorship and sponsorship. These are concepts that people really do confuse. I would add that many of the mentors, or sponsors in my life, it's almost like a life‑long relationship, in addition to being two‑way.
Larry: Yes, for sure.
Lucy: Really great answer.
Larry: Leslie, you've been through so many things in the different companies and types of things that you did, even earlier in your career. Today, what would be the single toughest thing that you've had to do in your career?
Leslie: I think the single hardest thing to do is keep going. There's going to be a lot of times when an entrepreneur, even someone who might be an entrepreneur, someone within an organization, you're going to come up against, not just resistance, but flat‑out people standing in front of you saying, "You can't do it, you're not going to be successful." I've had people look me in the eye and tell me I'm a fool to think that I can make this work. Of course, truth be told, that just motivates me more.
Leslie: When you go and tell Leslie Bradshaw she can't do something, she'll turn around and prove you wrong. I will say that there are times that it meant not sleeping for two days straight. It meant pulling back‑to‑back all‑nighters to make something work. It meant making personal, financial, physical, mental, emotional sacrifices, beyond anything I could have ever imagined coming out of college, thinking, "OK. I'm going to work hard. Get a corporate job, work my way up the ladder," and do that thing that you read about when you're younger.
I love what Sheryl Sandberg says, in the book "Lean In." She says, "Your career won't be using a ladder, it's a jungle gym." You're going to swing from the left to the right. There's a lot of different access points to advancing in your career. Advancement doesn't even have to look vertical, it can look a little bit more horizontal and you can still have a great career out of it.
Re‑framing the way I looked at things and being ready to be tenacious and have fortitude. It's a long haul, especially if you're going to be an entrepreneur. I told you at the top of the interview how well things are going with Guide, and that's after 11 months of incredibly hard work, long hours, long weekends, and it's really just the beginning.
We only have six or seven days out of the gate with our [inaudible 21:49] , and we have a long road and relationship with them to continue to iterate our product to get it to where it needs to be and continue to evolve based on our feedback that we get. It's not always going to be easy.
Sticking it out is probably the single hardest thing to do. It would be just as easy to stop and say, "You know what? I'm going to go ahead and I'm going to take one of those job offers that I get through LinkedIn."
People are asking me to be the VP of strategy at some company. Just take a check and have someone else worry about cash flow and payroll, and user acquisition, user retention, and a lot of the other things that come with running a start‑up in this day and age.
The hardest thing is to also deciding when it's not a good idea to keep going. I think there's some really interesting dialogue around whether or not...How do I say this? There's the hype around start‑ups and there's this hype around technology companies as being the new cool thing. You're seeing almost like movie stars, or rappers. Technology CEOs and founders are being treated like the new level of royalty when you look at all the magazine covers.
Truth be told, when you look at those people's stories, and you hear what it's been like, something like a Pinterest, it took two to three years of really slugging it out before it hit mainstream success. You hear from the founders what it was like to stick it out and believe in their vision, despite the numbers not being where they wanted them to be, for not just a few months, but we're talking years.
A colleague of mine, at Peach Tree is Ellie Cossette, she wrote [inaudible 23:20] "Business Insider" and pointed out about a dozen stories or so from founders, CEOs, people involved in start‑ups, saying, "Not all that glitters is gold over here. Just because there's some hype going on and there's some great news articles written about us, and we're treating that everything's all good, doesn't mean it's all good."
It's OK to talk about some of those harder times. Whether it's missing payroll, whether it's being really far down on your bank account and having to raise money in a really stressful situation, or having to put in your own financial capital. Even deciding it's time to shut down the shop. Those are all things that are top of mind for me and the people I talk to, who are also entrepreneurs.
Lucy: That is a tough choice. "Do I keep going or do I change course?" It's very, very hard to do. I want to switch gears a little bit around the personal characteristics that you see give you advantages as an entrepreneur. Obviously, listeners will hear, in your answers so far, hard work, tenaciousness, creativity, things like that. What other types of characteristics do you have that make you a successful entrepreneur?
Leslie: I think one the single, most successful characteristics that I have, it almost doesn't even come from me, but it's the fact that I work closely and really love others. I would say that one of my biggest secrets, I'm going to go ahead and give it away today on your show, is that I partner with these very talented, very smart, very hard‑working people, who are the best at what they do. I'm good at what I do. I'm good at being a leader, [inaudible 24:56] strategies, [inaudible 24:57] operational track or something to scale. But then there's probably about 900 other things that need to get done in that company or a project that I'm not the best at. I'm not going to have time to as Malcolm Gladwell says, put about 10,000 hours in to be the best.
What I do is I have a running list of people who are the best at what they do in every major category of skill sets that I ever need. When the day does come when I may need someone who's a great front‑end web developer, someone who works really well with API, application program interface, or there's someone who's a great designer, or copy writer, or researcher, analyst, whatever it may be.
I do all that, I use a particular customer relationship management system called Contactually, founded by Lee Zan, who I had an opportunity to work with early on in my career. He's fantastic. I [inaudible 25:49] like a sales force, but I think it's a lot cooler and easier for individuals to use sales force as a bigger enterprise‑level version of this.
As I meet people and really enjoy working with them, not just because they're the best at what they did, but because they also had a great attitude. That, to me, is a true A player. I'm on the hunt for A‑player talent all the time. Even if someone has a great attitude, but isn't the best, that's not someone who makes my list.
Conversely, someone who's the best at what they do, but doesn't have a great attitude, I also wouldn't say that that's someone that I would want to carry forward in a project or a team or company that I'm building. My great secret ‑‑ partner with A players and have a good time with the people that you're working with.
Make it fun. Make it like a game. I did a lot of team sports all through middle school and high school, and some intramural in college. I always loved working with a group of stakeholders who were the best at what they did, for a mutually beneficial outcome. That's what I do now in my job.
We not be on the softball field trying to put together getting someone on first and rotating them all the way through, to get them into home. I might not be on the volley ball court, trying to keep the ball from hitting the ground. But I am, in a sense, still doing that by partnering with people who are skilled at various things, to come up with a great outcome.
Lucy: I bet that list is worth a lot of money. [laughs] .
Larry: Yes, it is. It is.
Leslie: It's my list and everybody's list is going to be a little different, because everybody comes at it with a different lens. That's the great thing about technology today, is that it enables you to do more with what you have. I look at it almost as an extension of myself and it's scaling myself too. Maybe before, say 20 years ago, you may have a Rolodex sitting on your desk. That Rolodex was really about when you were able to flip through it and, "OK, I need to look up this person," or "I have this particular vendor type that I need," You flip through it.
In this day and age, people are moving jobs faster. People are having more jobs in their career than before. How do you keep track of that? Do you keep crossing it out and flipping it over and scratching out the Rolodex index card?
Or do you have a dynamic system that's populating and pulling from things like LinkedIn, and Facebook, and Twitter and some of these places that are being updated automatically by the platform. I would say the answer is B.
In doing so you can do more. How more and the volume of people, it goes from dozens and 100s, to 1000s. My collective network of people that I can access at any given time is probably well over 20,000. It's not people that I stay in touch with on a daily basis, but people that I've interacted with and had a good, successful something or other.
I've done something for them, or they've done for me, or vice versa. I only hope to continue to cultivate and grow that through my career.
Larry: That is awesome. With all the different things that you've done and been through in setting up a new company, and everything else. How do you bring balance into your personal and professional lives?
Leslie: That's probably one of the best and hardest question that I've hassled, I've pondered, I've struggled, I've failed, and I've succeeded at. If I were to look across probably four or five areas of my life, it all hit me when I turned 30 years old, which for whatever reason is some milestone. It's a big milestone and I hit 30 and at that point I really took a bead and really assessed "What are the priorities in my life? What are the most important things to me? How am I spending my time?" Supposed priorities and then what is my time actually being spent doing?
My priorities, you've heard me talk about them a couple times now, it's my family. It's my parents, my sister, it's our farm. That's something that's incredibly important to me and I was not putting enough time towards that. I was pulling back‑to‑back all‑nighters and if my sister or parents would call I was usually multitasking and trying to get their email, while I was also trying to be there for them.
It was just not great. I was a bad daughter, I was a bad sister, and I never want to do that ever again. I kind of hit the reset button at the end of 2012. As hard as it was, I had to leave the company that I helped build. After six years I felt I accomplished a lot. In fact, I felt that a lot of the things I wanted to accomplish were done.
It was time for a new challenge. In leaving, it also gave me four whole weeks off. I unplugged, I stopped checking emails. I just spent time on the farm, just really decompressed, did a lot of writing, putting things in my journal. I did a lot of reading, a lot walking outdoors and I really got back in touch with where I wanted to be.
If this is what my first 30 years looked like and then I looked at my parents who are 60 and my grandmother who is 90. I looked at these third, third, third increments, I want to really plan smart for the next two‑thirds of my life, and, hopefully, even three‑thirds. We'll see.
One of the things at the core was family, and the second thing was health, and this was something that I was really, really neglecting, because what I was doing was I was working so much that I wasn't ever resting, and my brain...I was actually experiencing decision fatigue, and there was inability to access certain key parts of information. It's almost like the little, "file not found," hourglass just rotating in my brain when I was looking for information because I just overused that muscle.
I wasn't sleeping enough. I would average probably four, five hours of sleep a night if I even went to bed, and if you've ever tried to do that I think they actually liken it to having a certain blood alcohol level in your body if you're not sleeping. It really disorients you. I'm disoriented, I'm not sleeping, and it gets worse.
I'm not eating the right kinds of food, and even though I was raised on a farm, and how to do all the great kind of home‑grown organic...I knew what was good for me, but when you put yourself in a situation where you start trying to optimize for the maximum amount of time to spend on work, you stop cooking for yourself.
You stop grocery shopping, and you turn to ordering food. You're either doing takeout, or fast food, or, "Oh, we don't eat all day. I'm so hungry," and then you sit down and have a huge meal really late at night, and that was happening to me.
Over the course of those six years I gained 40pounds, and it was something that not only was it a manifestation of kind of being unhealthy, but it also... it manifests itself in other ways, too, just how I felt. My energy levels were lower. My ability to even have the stamina to make it through some of the long pushes and some of the physical work that was required at some of our live activations, I wasn't the same athlete that I was all through college.
And so what I did was I took a real strong look at my health, and what I did was I hired a trainer. I started investing in what I felt at the time to be kind of extravagant, expensive, but things like facials and massages and things that were kind of re‑instilling or revitalizing my skin, my teeth, my hair, like all the things that I was so rough on for so many years.
It turned out that after a year of doing that I've lost all the weight, I can leg press almost 800 pounds. I lift weights frequently. I go jogging. I can do just about anything, and I feel so strong and so healthy, and I get eight hours of sleep every night. I eat five square meals a day. I make sure I'm getting the right nutrients, and I have never felt more ready to take on the world.
I have a sharper mind. I'm able to see things quicker, and I'm just happier. And you can see it on my face. You can see it in my eyes. You can see it...it manifests itself all throughout the physical body that I have as well as the mental body, and those are things that are just so important, and I will never ‑ I repeat here for the public in public record ‑ I will never let it get that bad ever again. In fact, I will not even go in that direction. I will only keep taking better care of myself.
Family and health are two things that I put on the backburner in my twenties, but in my thirties and going forward I will never do that again. And if it means that I have to do a little bit less work or say no to a few things or find ways to delegate or bring others in to help scale out me and not try to write it, put it all on my shoulders and do everything myself then so be it, because tell you what ‑ it's not worth it. It just isn't, because your family and your health are the two most important things in this world.
Lucy: That's really great advice and discovering that at 30 is good. Many people don't discover it until they're 50 or 60 so it's great. It's a great message for our listeners. Leslie, our last question is maybe a little bit of a peek at the future, although I realize you've just made a transition, and it sounds like quite a happy one. Do you have any sense of what's next for you down the road after Guide is a 100 million‑dollar company [laughs] ? What do you see for yourself next?
Leslie: Well, I wouldn't be a great planner and strategizer if I wasn't, as you say, thinking about kind of the next 24 months, 3 years, 5 years, 10 years, but I have a couple goals I'm setting for myself, and I actually use an app that I highly recommend to folks. It's called Everest, just like the mountain, and in Everest you'll see that I have a couple of goals. One of those goals is that I'm working on a book right now, and that's going incredibly well, and, of course, it's about data visualization and visual storytelling, because that'll be something I'm really excited to share with folks hopefully early next year if it stays on schedule.
The next goal that I have is that I would like to be part of a company that does some sort of exit, right, and Guide is certainly positioned to be that company, and if it's not Guide, another company, but that's when you take a company that you've built to a certain level value and are able to sell it to another company.
The third thing that I have as a goal is somewhat related to that, but it's to build a company to a level that goes public, so goes to an IPO, initial public offering, and if you just watch Facebook, think of the IPO last year, and you think about some companies decide to sell, and some companies decide to create liquidity and value through doing an IPO.
And another company, Eloqua, which is an automated marketing company based in McLean, Virginia, and they were a client of mine for three years, and we helped kind of create a lot of the content and visual marketing as they were preparing to do their IPO, which happened last year. So those are kind of things I've looked to, I've been part of, I witnessed I guess from arms length kind of afar, and I'd like to be an active part of a leadership team that does that in the future.
The fourth goal that I have ‑ and these are all kind of goals that I have in the next, let's say, 10 years, this next decade. And the fourth goal is to be on a board of directors, and I currently serve on a kind of advisory board, and that's when I have an equity stake in a company that looks to my advice. My relationship has helped kind of steer them.
I work closely with a data visualization company called InfoActive, helped with a data driven storage company called Beutler Ink ‑ a little play on words there ‑ and also a really fantastic women's network called, "The List." And those are all kind of great starting points for me to get that experience as someone who serves at an adversarial level.
But to be on an actual board of directors of a privately held company or even at some point a publicly traded company would be a goal that I have for myself. Those are things in the next 9 to 10 years and before I turn 40 I hope to be a part of. We'll have to check back...
Lucy: I know. I was just...
Leslie: ...we're creating here.
Lucy: I was just thinking that. We'll have to check on your 40th birthday [laughs] and see.
Leslie: Boy, I'm putting it in my calendar.
Lucy: Yes, well, you know, Les, this was great. You have perfect answers. Good luck with Guide. Just the best of luck. It just sounds like a very cool application, and I wasn't to start looking at it to see if we can use it here at NCWIT. So thank you very much for your time. I want to remind listeners that they can find this interview at w3w3.com, as well as NCWIT.org. Thank you very much.
Larry: Yes, thank you.
Leslie: Yes, it was a great conversation, and thank you for all your challenging questions, and really wish the best of luck to all the listeners and their entrepreneurial and entrepreneurial endeavors. [music]