Jessica Jackley had us at hello. Not only is she half of the brains behind the wildly successful micro-lending platform KIVA and the co-founder and CEO of ProFounder, (a new venture bringing the crowd-funding model to entrepreneurs in the US), she is also a refreshingly honest and genuine human being who believes passionately in the the potential for good in our world.
You may have seen Jessica candidly share her story and the inspiration behind KIVA at TED last year. In a moving talk, she speaks about the transformation she experienced in her approach to poverty - a shift from obligation, guilt and the belief that ‘they’ need ‘our’ help to an understanding of the poor as ‘strong, smart hardworking entrepreneurs…doing things to make their lives and their family’s lives better.’ - An approach not very unlike that of another organisation we have a special affinity with! [Cue shameless Spark* plug] So naturally, we love it.
And to top things off, she brings us to tears with her own beautiful display of emotion at the close of her talk as she expresses her belief in our potential to love and believe in each other, do amazing things in the world and help ‘perpetuate hope and good things for all of us.’
Jessica has since moved on from KIVA, met a new man, and fallen pregnant with twins. Twelve weeks into her pregnancy, she shared the news with her team and investors at ProFounder. While most responded with enthusiasm and congratulations, one investor expressed concern, beginning a valuable conversation about a ‘dirty little thought’ that popped into his head:
‘How in the hell is this founder going to lead a team, build a company and change the world for these businesses carrying a kid around for the next few months and then caring for the kids after?”
Along with many others, Jessica responded and her reply provided us with even more reason to rave about her. First acknowledging the importance of the dialogue and her investor’s honesty, she then brings up a concern of her own:
I think it’s very unfortunate how often this line of questioning is focused on women alone. I’ve never heard someone ask the same of a Founder/CEO/Dad, worrying about a slightly different dirty little thought: “An expectant father / CEO will fail his company.” The idea that mothers are the de facto “foundation parents” to a new baby (or two) perpetuates the stereotypes and structures that make it more difficult for anyone, male or female, to balance work and family in the first place.
She goes on to explain how she would have responded to Paige if they’d had more time to speak before his post & the benefits of a strong work-life balance – something she and ProFounder Co-founder Dana Mauriell0 have made a huge priority:
I would have said that I have an incredible cofounder and an amazing, talented team. They believe in my leadership, my ability to serve them and our vision – with or without kids. I would have talked about my strong support system, including a husband who is a true partner and my greatest champion. I would have mentioned that I am fortunate enough to be able to afford full-time help if/when we need it….
When my titles expand from just Founder/CEO to Founder/CEO/Mom, I may have a different kind of load to bear than that of other entrepreneurs, especially if we’re talking about ones who fit the old Silicon Valley stereotypes… I’ve tried forcing myself to fit more into this profile during other seasons of my life and would like to report that, shockingly, there’s really no correlation between eating take-out everyday or skipping that 30-min jog again and great entrepreneurial success. If anything, I’ve found the opposite to be true.
…I desire to live a life that is rich in relationships both in and outside of work. I desire to reap the many different rewards that are abundant in my job, working in this incredible start-up every day. I want to surround myself with a team, including investors, that challenges me and helps make me better. I want to live my life transparently, and if being a happy, successful Founder/CEO/Mom serves as a helpful example to anyone who wants to use me as such, great.
This is not the first time Jessica has faced obstacles as a result of her gender. In a recent interview she playfully admits to having considered beginning an anonymous blog to document the challenges she and Dana have endured as female co-founders. But through Profounder, they are dedicated to seeing this change and supporting more women in the entrepreneurship space:
‘I wish selfishly that there were more people that looked like me…. I’m not wearing a suit, I’m not a guy… it would be nice to encounter more women. I think in about 70 plus meetings with investors, we actually only met with 2 who were women as we were raising our seed & our bridge rounds. It would have been nice to talk to more women. But we’re going to make that happen.’
We’d certainly love to see many more Jessica Jackleys calling the shots in our world…