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The Importance of Risks and Failures for Entrepreneurs, with Kate Ryder

The Importance of Risks and Failures for Entrepreneurs, with Kate Ryder

Episode 35: The Importance of Risks and Failures for Entrepreneurs, with Kate Ryder

Kate Ryder is the Founder and CEO of Maven, a company that’s disrupting the healthcare industry by providing women with a network of women’s health and family providers around the country. But Kate started her career as a journalist. While she was writing an article on the Chinese travel market and its potential business opportunities, she realized her calling to be an entrepreneur. In this episode, Kate discusses the importance of storytelling, go-to tips for entrepreneurs, her greatest failure that lead to the beginning of her career, and the most important aspect of building a new brand (especially in healthcare), and more.

Episode Transcript


00:00 Rachel Griesinger: Welcome to the Ellevate Podcast. Conversations of women changing the face of business. And now your host, Kristy Wallace.


00:13 Kristy Wallace: Hello podcast listeners. This is Kristy Wallace with the Ellevate Podcast, and I'm joined today by Maricella Herrera. Hi. What's going on?

00:21 Maricella Herrera: Hi Kristy.

00:22 KW: So you're having a a great day?

00:24 MH: I'm having an amazing day.

00:26 KW: And you wanna share why your day is so great.

00:29 MH: Many, many, many reasons. There were doughnuts this morning, we have our holiday party this evening, but the biggest reason of all is I'm going home tomorrow. I'm going to El Salvador for a month.

00:45 KW: And then you will torture all of us by sending pictures of you on beaches and the beautiful sun and sand.

00:53 MH: Like of course. And by telling you that I'm drinking homegrown coffee that is delicious, and it's hot and warm and it's beautiful and...

01:05 KW: If you like this, this is the appropriate time to remind you that last time you went to El Salvador and you came back with coffee, I did not get any, because I was not in the office when you got back so, keep that in mind.

01:16 MH: Yeah. I will.

01:16 KW: I'm here. See, I'm smiling at you. Coffee, coffee, I love coffee.

01:21 MH: I'm holding it hostage until the end of your bonuses are out. [chuckle]

01:26 KW: For those listening to the podcast, if you do not follow our Instagram feed, you should and then you would know exactly what we are talking about here because coffee and doughnuts are two of our favorite things, and dogs and cats.

01:37 MH: And dogs and cats, yes.

01:38 KW: But you should check it out.

01:40 MH: But you should check out Ellevate_NTWK on Instagram.

01:44 KW: And Joanna on our team, who you're actually gonna be hearing directly from in a few weeks. A little preview, we have an Ellevate end of year podcast coming out and we're so excited and you will meet everyone who makes Ellevate happen everyday, who makes it great and special and impactful. And Joanna's one of the fantastic women you'll be hearing from and she manages our Instagram feed. So that's a little teaser for you. Make sure that you are subscribing to the podcast and that way it'll automatically show up in your feed every Tuesday when we release the new podcasts. And if you love us, which we know you do, and we love you right back, rate us, review us, tell your friends. It means so much but it also helps this podcast to become even more impactful to help get these stories out there to make sure that women's voices are heard and we're learning from each other.

02:40 KW: So thanks to all of you and now we're gonna introduce our guest today who is this phenomenal entrepreneur, really shaking up the healthcare industry, which we love, women who are taking industries. You'll be hearing in the future the founder of Thinx, some other women who are really doing cool things, disrupting industries and products. But today, we have Kate Ryder who is the founder of Maven. Maven is an online health clinic and you're gonna hear more about that in a few minutes, but Maricella, you have some cool stats to share with us, so let's get into it.

03:17 MH: Yep, I do. I kinda feel like I need a little drum roll. [chuckle] One of the things we have here is, we asked our members if a company's maternity leave policy would affect their decision to work for them. What do you think?

03:34 KW: Absolutely.

03:35 MH: Well yeah. So 56% said, "Yes", and it's lower than I would've expected. I would have thought pretty much 100% would have said yes, but 25% actually said, "It depends on if it would affect me directly... "

03:52 KW: Okay. Fair enough.

03:53 MH: Which is fair, and 18% said, "No."

03:57 KW: When I first started working at many, many, many moons ago when children were not on my mind, I didn't even know what the maternity policy was and then once I found out I was pregnant, I high-tailed it to HR and was like, "Whoa, what's this mean? What's gonna happen?" So I think often times, you don't think about it until it's directly impacting you.

04:19 MH: I guess that's for everything though. A lot of it... People don't necessarily consider that if you're a woman of color, you'll make even less money than other women...

04:32 KW: And men.

04:32 MH: And men.

04:33 KW: Even more than them.

04:34 MH: Well. Even... Well. [chuckle]

04:36 KW: Well, that's for another podcast.


04:39 MH: But you don't realize it until you're living it, I would say, in any case. Another question we asked that's sort of related to this is, if you feel that you have a say in your company's policies and culture as it pertains to women in working families.

04:54 KW: So I love this question cause I know what the answer is and I want you to share it.

05:00 MH: So 29% said, "No way," which is really sad but it's the reality. 23% said, "I don't think so." 20% said, "Yes, somewhat." 12% said, "Yes, it's my company," which you know, fair. 13% said, "Yes, absolutely," and nobody said they didn't know.

05:22 KW: So 53% of women, total said, "No way," or "I don't think so." I don't have a voice in my company's culture or policies as it pertains to women and working families. And I think that's very important for all of you business owners and business leaders out there, women who are writing, blogging, thought leaders, important stat to keep in mind as we talk about closing the gender achievement gap. The business case for diversity, I think giving employees a voice in those policies can go a long way.

05:54 MH: Yeah, you want to have the people who this affects be there to drive it.

06:01 KW: Absolutely. Alright, well, thank you for sharing as always the Ellevate poll and, and if you want to participate in the Ellevate poll, make sure that you're subscribed to the morning boost. You'll receive it everyday or weekly if you prefer and there's some great information, polls, articles, upcoming events, webinars including spotlights of the women in the Ellevate community who inspire me every single day and one of our members, Kate Ryder, we're gonna hear from now.

06:31 MH: And now we are going to go get ready for our party.

06:33 KW: Yay.


06:50 KW: So excited to have you here. So we met a few weeks ago connected by another Ellevate member who had been on the podcast, Annie from Werk, right?

07:00 Kate Ryder: Yup.

07:02 KW: And you and I have some commonalities because we both have experience, you currently, me prior, in healthcare start-ups so I'm really excited to talk to you about that. But before we get started, can you share with our audience a little bit about your background? How did you get to where you are today?

07:17 KR: Sure. I started Maven about three years ago but I definitely had a varied background before that. So I worked as a journalist for a bit, I wrote for publications like The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, so covered business journalism. I also helped Hank Paulson write his memoirs on the financial crisis. And at a certain point, I realized that I no longer wanted to be in the industry. It was just changing too much and and so my dad's an entrepreneur, I have a lot of entrepreneurs in the family and so I was actually writing an article about the Chinese travel market when I was in Singapore.

07:55 KW: Of course. As you would.


07:56 KR: And realized, "Wow! There's a business opportunity in this." So that was when I tried to start my first business, a Chinese travel, online travel business. And then from there, I realized that really, that was my calling or so to speak but realized I had a path to get to starting a business, figuring out what I was passionate about and where my skill set would be most valuable. So I ended up working in venture capital for a few years to understand how to raise money, learn from entrepreneurs and the portfolio of the VC firm, how to build a business, how to build a product. And I was covering a lot of digital health at the time and really fell in love with the space mainly because it's one of the last industries to really be disrupted, it affects everyone's lives. But really, I mean the dynamics of healthcare are that it's a primarily female-driven market. Women control about 80% of healthcare decisions.

08:55 KR: My friends and I, we've all just started building our families which is where really healthcare comes to factor into a lot in a woman's life. But even before that access to contraception, healthcare is very much with you always as a woman. Every month, you're dealing with it. And what was...

09:14 KW: Like it or not.

09:15 KR: Yeah exactly. [chuckle] So what was so fascinating though was as I was covering it from a business perspective and then experiencing things from a personal perspective, there were just so few products built for women and brands by women for women. And so, I decided to really look into, "Okay, what's needed?" And that's where Maven was born.

09:33 KW: That's awesome. That's exciting. I wanna talk just about the entrepreneurial nature. We at Ellevate have many opportunities for our members to be thought leaders or to raise a professional profile, and often that's a huge benefit for women who are starting businesses or really looking to grow their business and you kind of have a leg-up on that given your journalism background. How important do you think that is? Writing and being a thought leader and getting your voice out there? And do you have any advice for our members that are looking to do the same thing?

10:09 KR: So I think it's one of the most important things that you as a founder and a leader can do both internally and externally. So much of communication is storytelling. You have to make it interesting, you have to simplify it, too. You have to understand your audience. Think about your audience, think about your messaging. And so yeah, with thought leadership, it's not just writing an article for a publication. It's being able to simplify your mission into a very concise few sentences that you can repeat over and over again to people that you want to invest in your business. People that you wanna sell the products to. People... Future hires that you want to join your team. So that's where I think storytelling is one of the most valuable things I think that CEOs can have and a lot of people don't realize that.

11:01 KW: Yeah, I agree and it's hard though. I mean how do you become a good storyteller?

11:08 KR: Well reading. [chuckle] I think it's important to read fiction, both fiction and nonfiction. That really helps you understand other people's stories and how other people are... Their narrative form and whatnot. So I think that's really helpful. Reading... I love personal essays. Joan Didion is one of my favorite essayists, so just understanding how these great writers tell stories and then understanding business and how you can apply the art of the storytelling experience to understand the bottom line of a business and narrowing your story, your mission into those... The important points. So yeah, I think that's one way. Another way is looking at some of the great business leaders are great storytellers.

12:00 KR: There's a lot of great biographies and autobiographies written out there. Get Larry Ellison, Sheryl Sandberg. So reading some of those or listening actually to podcasts, I think that some of the work that people who might not have a journalism background can do.

12:14 KW: Sure. So your experience at the VC firm... That wow, not every entrepreneur gets the behind the scenes look and training like that, how important was that to you and for those that don't have that experience, any advice for... What the top three things you should know before starting a business?

12:37 KR: Yeah, so I think working in venture capital, it really... Probably, the best thing that it gave me was the access to the entrepreneurs that were part of the VC's network because they have become mentors to me and I think one of the... That's one of the first things that a young entrepreneur should know is you need mentors, you need people who have done this before. There's so many hard questions that you don't know the answer to and so, you should always be asking it. The second thing is just the art of raising money. Most businesses require funding these days, most tech businesses at least, not all mom-and-pop businesses. And so, there's certain terms that come with that cash and so understanding that whole landscape [laughter] is really important to make sure that you are an owner of the business after all is said and done. [chuckle]

13:28 KW: Absolutely, yeah.

13:31 KR: So that's another thing that's important and so with that, there's a lot of great free... There's a lot of lawyers who will do a lot of pro bono work with small business owners, particularly female business owners but definitely pay attention to term sheets and even corporate structure, and a lot of that is now for free online that you can look at. Probably, the third thing is just how hard it is and how failure is okay in certain areas and to take risk means that there's gonna be failures. And so, I think a lot of the entrepreneurs that I met, whether it was an entire business or a product line that didn't work, just knowing that that's part of it. I remember there's this one company that the VC firm invested in called Supercell, it's a gaming company and they actually opened a bottle of champagne every time a game failed and they killed it fast rather than a game succeeded because that meant that they were calling a spade a spade and then they were moving on to more successful things. And I just thought that was such a cool story and something so applicable as you're trying to innovate cause it's not... You're always not gonna be right.

14:42 KW: Yeah. I love that because often times, it is hard to admit failure or defeat and so you keep trying to fix it or keep trying to turn it around and it keeps you from just saying, "Alright, it's done," and moving on to bigger and better things. So recognizing failure is key. Can you share, would you be willing to share your greatest failure?

15:08 KR: Oh, there are so many. [laughter] Yeah. So I think, well, okay here's one but it actually turned out to be okay. When I was trying to transition out of journalism, I was transitioning out of journalism in London right when the first Eurozone crisis hit. So this is when everyone thought the currency was gonna go belly up. And I thought, "Okay well, where can I go?" I applied to a bunch of tech companies. No one would take me. And I was applying to the communications department so then I was like, "Okay, maybe I'll go into client relations at a bank." I had just helped Hank Paulson write his memoirs, so maybe that's pretty cool. And I had 120 meetings and it was rejection after rejection for about seven months. And also because in Europe, it's not as common for you to just jump industries like that, particularly from journalism to banking. And so, that was a point where I was telling my husband, "I'm packing up and going back to America. [laughter] We're gonna have a long distance marriage." And then luckily, I got this job at the VC firm in the end but that was eight months of just failure after failure after failure and thank God I didn't end up at a big corporate bank because I don't think I would've been happy. [chuckle]

16:24 KW: I love that you have shared that story because it's so much about that journey too, in your career. And oftentimes, particularly if you're looking to switch industries, you kind of don't know what you wanna do and it's those interviews and conversations and soul searching and rejection and tears and everything that lead you to where you're ultimately meant to be.

16:45 KR: Yeah! Exactly.

16:45 KW: You would never have gone there. [16:48] ____.

16:48 KR: But think about it, month one, month two, month four. [chuckle] I still...


16:51 KW: Yeah you're like, "What's wrong with me?"

16:53 KR: Yeah, yeah, so it was a long time.

16:55 KW: Why do I not have control over this? I think that's the hardest, right?

17:00 KR: Yeah.

17:00 KW: You don't... And so much in business and starting your own business is giving up some control. There's only so much. You can have a great product and you can practice your pitch and you can have the financials and you can do it all, but then you don't... Ultimately, someone pulling the trigger and investing in your company is up to somebody else and that's really hard. So I wanna get into healthcare and I love the stat you mentioned about the power of women in healthcare decision-making and spending. And we hear that time and time again, right? Women are the majority of consumers and manage the majority of wealth and we have so much power and yet industries are often not catering specifically to that buyer, right? And if they are, it's something that's pink which I don't understand. So why women? I mean obviously, the buying power and you are a woman, but why do you think it's so important and why do women need a solution specifically for them?

18:03 KR: So, I think that in healthcare, there are genuine gender differences in what you need. So women have babies [chuckle] that's very basically, there is a difference there...

18:15 KW: There you go.


18:15 KR: In your biology. But also...

18:17 KW: We have parts that men don't.

18:19 KR: Right. [chuckle] But also the way that mental health affects women is very different than men. Depression disproportionately affects women. The way that women are socialized and that's very different than men and how that affects their mental health. I also think that one of the most important things about building a new brand, but particularly in healthcare, is trust. And so how do you build trust with a new healthcare product? And I think having a very personalized network for women that's built for women by women is one of the first ways to do that, so actually about 98% of our providers are women.

18:56 KR: So once you've gotten over the hurdle of, "Oh my gosh, I can have a video appointment with a healthcare provider on the other end. And who is that person and how do I know they're good? And is this gonna be a good quality experience?" I think particularly around women's health issues, when you put them... So much is still in the shadows and taboo that when you put them on the other line with somebody, whether it's a really compassionate male healthcare provider or a female healthcare provider because, PS, 80% of healthcare providers are women, a lot of people don't even know that.

19:28 KW: It's funny before the podcast, I was thinking about my personal experience with healthcare, my doctors. And it's funny, my husband and I have different doctors and I'd gone to his doctor whom he likes, his general practitioner and I just didn't have that connection. I was like, "I'm not feeling it." And I went and found my own. So even in that situation, I mean, for the two of us, it was much more of a personal experience about finding someone you trust and then now having a network like this, it even opens up the doors even further.

20:02 KR: Yeah, and I think one of the big things that everyone in healthcare is trying to figure out is the patient experience and even hospitals are incentivizing financially on the patient experience and patient satisfaction scores, if you have high satisfaction scores then you can actually earn money that way. But patient satisfaction is so different when it's a man versus a woman. And so bedside manner and listening is, I think, that's very important to women. [chuckle] So anyway, that's a lot of the stuff that we think about and then just the providers themselves. Like a lactation consultant, an OBGYN, a midwife, a mental health specialist who only specializes in maternal mental health, a women's health physical therapist, there are providers who are only treating women and those are primarily who they work with.

20:51 KW: So tell me a little bit more about Maven.

20:54 KR: What we do is we offer a network of the best women's health providers and family health providers in the country and we connect patients over video with them or private message. So it's all about access. It's very, very convenient so you can do it from your car, from your home, from your office, you can get a prescription, you can just get a quick question answered. And so, I think one of the big things too is that given that women do control so much of healthcare decision-making, the dysfunction of the healthcare system disproportionately falls on their shoulders. So even just having a network that makes things more convenient for them, will make them more productive and just give them a better experience.

21:39 KR: And then the other thing from just innovating in digital care. One of the coolest things is that by working with so many different providers, we can actually build continuity of care among them so that in postpartum for instance, right after you have a baby, you're actually working with a lot of different providers, lactation consultant, physical therapist, hopefully you are, not all women are. We should be. Mental health provider, pediatrician, infant care specialist. Wouldn't be it great if they all just were talking to each other?


22:09 KW: Yeah.

22:10 KR: So that's also how I think having a digital network, we can really innovate on that aspect of health care.

22:18 KW: Yeah. And it's available throughout the US?

22:22 KR: Mm-hmm.

22:23 KW: So I think that's very important as well. I've had three kids, but in Brooklyn and I feel like there's a doula, a lactation consultant or someone at every few feet, which I love and makes me really excited, cause it's something I really believe in but here, this is opening opportunities for women in other regions to have access to that as well.

22:45 KR: Yes. Yeah, we've worked for about a year to be able to say this, that we are nationwide.

22:51 KW: So you've also written about maternity leave policies and a lot around company policies and culture as it pertains to women and health. Can you share some of your thoughts about that cause I think that that's really important.

23:05 KR: Yeah. So we have a corporate product actually where we sell unlimited access to our telemedicine network as well as structured programming around the 15 months, nine months of pregnancy and six months of postpartum, to companies because I think it's a huge issue right now. I think America's been massively behind the rest of the world in having good maternity leave policies and creating an equal system for both wage equality as well as keeping women in the workforce, keeping women productive. So right now, there's a ton of focus on extending maternity leave and introducing paternity leave which is excellent. And so where we come in is we cover... There's also a maternal health aspect and so for having extended maternity leave from like six weeks to 12 weeks, or even six weeks to eight weeks in some companies, is great.

24:00 KR: Still, eight weeks is still a little too short in my opinion, but that's all great but to be able to have a productive transition back to work, you have to be taking care of the women's health aspect, too. And so, that's where we really come in with our postpartum care team, with our maternal mental health specialist, with just having that instant support when you need it. So I, we've talked about this, but I just had a baby three months ago, so I am also incredibly passionate and living the experience right now with just how important this is and how, if women are so disadvantaged if their companies don't offer them the appropriate leave.

24:43 KW: Yeah. Frankly, the way that oftentimes pregnancy and maternity leave is viewed in companies, and this could just be all a stigma in my head, but I don't think that it is, is you announce that you're pregnant and then you feel like you have to say, "But I'm gonna work up to the day I leave and I'm gonna be 100% engaged," and then when you're on maternity leave, you're thinking about work, and then you come back and you almost wanna act like you did not have a child because you don't want to be the person in the office that's just like, "Oh, here's my pictures and I need to leave early, and I need to do this, and I need to do that."

25:21 KW: And so there's almost this stigma around pretending you actually didn't have a baby, and just kind of making it this flawless in-and-out transition. And so, what you're doing in the companies that work with you, it's a lot about embracing it. You had a baby, that is an unbelievable thing, we are a population that needs to grow and have families, and there's so much value in that. And so recognizing it and supporting it and saying, "We're here for you for the long haul," that goes a long way and I think conversely, feeds back into not just your relationship with your employee but also that transition back into the work.

26:04 KR: Yeah, absolutely. I think that's what a lot of people, that's where people still... The early adopters understand this, but the middle of the pack is starting to, which is that it's not just saying, "Oh sure, we'll pay you for eight weeks, see ya when you come back," it's there's a whole support that's needed. Really progressive companies like Google, for instance, which has 12 weeks of paternity leave and 16 weeks of maternity leave and childcare options, and they're really trying to define the whole package which is great but there's so many companies that don't offer things like that.

26:46 KW: And as you may have seen too, after you have a baby, so much of the focus is on the baby, cause why not?

26:51 KR: Right.

26:52 KW: Cute little munchkins that they are. And sometimes the moms, they're not getting the love that they need...

27:00 KR: Right. Exactly.

27:01 KW: And, having a resource that's so accessible.

27:03 KR: But yeah, I think with a lot of companies, they'll see women coming back part-time after having a baby, or women extending unpaid leave and being out for a while, that really hurts the company's bottom line, and so imagine if you just gave the appropriate amount of support, and you figured out policies that would help women come back as 100% as possible, with an appropriate amount of time, three, four months.

27:28 KW: And healthy...

27:29 KR: Yeah, healthy...

27:29 KW: Physically, mentally.

27:30 KR: Exactly.

27:31 KW: Feeling good.

27:33 KR: Yeah. So anyways that's what we're trying to support companies to do and it's to ultimately help women.

27:38 KW: Thank you for being a role model in that way.

27:41 KR: Yeah, thank you.


27:46 KW: Thanks so much for listening to Ellevate. If you like what you hear, help a girl out. Subscribe to the Ellevate podcast on iTunes, give us five stars, and share your review. Also, don't forget to follow us on Twitter, @ellevatentwk, that's Ellevate Network, and become a member. You can learn all about membership and all the great things that Ellevate Network is doing at our website That's E-L-L-E-V-A-T-E And special thanks to our producer, Katharine Heller, she rocks, and to our voice-over artist, Rachel Griesinger, thanks so much, and join us next week.



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