Featured on Feb 28, 2011
"Don't dream it, be it. - Frank N. Furter"
Rachel Sklar is editor-at-large of Mediaite.com, the former media editor at the Huffington Post and the co-founder of Change The Ratio, which promotes visibility, access and opportunity for women in new media and tech. She is the founder of Charitini.com, a social microgiving site, and has also been active in assisting numerous non-profits including the Robin Hood Foundation, the Elie Wiesel Foundation and TeachAIDS.org. She is an advisor to SBNation.com and Kapost.com, is a TechStars mentor, and is the co-host of “The Salon” on The Jewish Channel. One of those things is not like the other. She was formerly a corporate lawyer in New York and Stockholm, where, in a Victor Kiam-like move, she invested in H&M. Most recently you can find her evangelizing for Hashable, where she has vowed to hash you up. Be excited.
- Title: Depends who I'm meeting with. (Hashable/Mediaite/Change The Ratio/Charitini)
- Location: LES
- Contact: @rachelsklar. Or by offering me food.
You were a corporate lawyer in Stockholm and New York before switching careers to journalism. We’re curious, how did you end up practicing law in Stockholm?
Ha. To be honest, I never knew. I was recruited from law school to NYC by White & Case, a sprawling international law firm with offices around the globe, and while tons of my peers put in requests to be sent overseas, I was just psyched to be in New York. In my second year, out of the blue, they invited to spend 6 months at the Stockholm office, from November through the beginning of May. I always assumed that they wondered who would be able to stand winter in Stockholm and picked the happy Canadian.
I should clarify that I didn't practice Swedish law - I was there as a liaison for the office on matters of U.S. law. That was how I learned that it's not always what you know, but knowing who to ask. I would send thank-you presents of Swedish chocolate back through the inter-office diplomatic pouch, and word spread quickly that people should answer my emails.
It was from Sweden that I kicked off the leaving-law train, freelancing small pieces here and there and eventually breaking in on the front page of the sports section from the World Hockey Championships in St. Petersburg (see here). I also recorded four pop-dance tracks for a producer friend, and they are hilariously excruciating, but one apparently got re-recorded by an actual Swedish pop singer and was a minor dance-floor hit. It is not an accident that none of this has anything to do with law. Sweden was fun.
We asked Sara Chipps this question before, however, we’re curious about your viewpoint since you founded Change The Ratio. Do you think there are any major differences between a startup that is conceived and run by all females and others that are either all male or mixed? If so, what are those differences?
I generally start from the principle that diversity is a good thing, and that a healthy mix of perspectives helps shake out the best decisions. (There's research to suggest that a mixed-gender founding team performs the best, actually.) This is a tough one to answer because the category is so broad - "a startup" could be 3 people or 30 people, and I think any homogenous 30-person company would want to get a little spice in the mix with something different, be it male or female dominated. People use products differently, have different considerations during that use, and having the benefit of that broad range of perspectives will definitely lead to improved iteration. I love cross-pollination. I learned about it in Grease 2.
You recently took on a position at Hashable as a full-time evangelist and will be leading a team of 15 power users evangelizing the company at SXSW this year. What lead you to Hashable and can you give us a glimpse of your game-plan for SXSW?
Actually, Change the Ratio led me to Hashable, via CMO Emily Hickey. She and the other proprietors of EarlyStager.com - Alexis Juneja, Beth Ferreira and Sarah Tavel - had done this awesome holiday gift guide, and I was gobsmacked that I didn't know them or their blog. Emily and I met for lunch and had a mind meld, including some great talk about Hashable. One thing led to another, and suddenly I was on a plane to Boulder ready to hash it up, and I haven't stopped since.
The SXSW strategy is pretty simple - use Hashable, and share it with as many people as possible, so that they, too, might enjoy its business card-replacing convenience and friend-tracking might. Hashable is social by definition - it's an app specifically designed for our interactions with others - so the plan at SXSW is to be social, friendly, fun and, of course, hashy. Users gonna use, hashers gonna hash.
Back in December you were spotlighted in a post titled “Social media movers and shakers: The ones to watch in 2011” on the website The Wall. If you had to make a list of NYC based movers and shakers, who would be on your short-list of those to watch in 2011?
Wow, someone clearly hit the Google! Hmm, who is killing it in social media right now. I'd definitely say Lauren Leto and Patrick Moberg of Bnter - I love that site, it's super-fun, nimble and has a great community. I think Tereza Nemessanyi is mining a rich new vein with Honestly Now, poised to capture users who are both getting up the technology curve and thus far untapped. I'm biased because I love my Fashism ladies, Brooke Moreland and Ashley Granata, but they are blowing up, so there's that. I've noticed more chatter lately about Neighborhoodr, by my friends Anthony de Rosa and Richard Blakeley. You said 2011, right? So I'd watch the current crop at TechStars - Demo Day is in April and then, the world. There is a lot of awesomeness incubating in that office, and they've really only just begun. So watch them. (Especially my mentees, Team Shelby. They're like the Honey Badger of startups, except for the taste for cobra blood). Kelle Khalil, another Hashvangelist, has a wedding-themed startup that is going to just kill it. VYou is spreading like a cold sore on prom night. Oh, and I just made my first Venmo payment tonight, and it was super-duper easy. So, the Venmo dudes as well. OH MY GOD THEY'RE DUDES! That changes everything. Just kidding.