We talk to Laura Roeder, founder of Meet Edgar, one of the world’s most popular social media scheduling tools, which turned over $4M in revenue in just 2.5 years. In this interview, Laura tells about her journey from running her agency to running an incredibly bootstrapped startup.
Where did the idea of Meet Edgar come from?
I founded LKR Social Media in 2009, which I used to create and operate training courses and programs that taught entrepreneurs how to market themselves on social media. Before then, I had been helping people develop their online presence on a more individual basis, but I realized that those methods of creating fame could be applied to all kinds of different businesses and entrepreneurs!
What’s your elevator pitch for Meet Edgar?
Edgar’s a scheduling and automation tool that stops social media updates from going to waste. Most updates just don’t get seen by the majority of your audience, so Edgar recycles your updates again and again over time. That way, your queue never runs out of updates, and your updates all get multiple opportunities to find an audience.
What inspies you to work for yourself?
My parents ran a business together - my dad is self-employed, and my mom ran the books for the business. They worked for themselves, so I got to see what that was like. I joined a larger company after getting my degree but I left to work for myself before too long. I’ve been doing that since I was 22.
Has it been a big shift between running an agency and doing client based work, to building a startup with tens of thousands of users?
My company before Meet Edgar, LKR Social Media, wasn’t exactly a traditional agency with clients. Still, there was a giant shift between that and building Meet Edgar! One big difference was adapting to a different pricing model, and going from selling single-charge courses to managing a SaaS product with subscriptions. Something that made a big difference going from one type of business to another was going slowly, and growing ourselves as we needed to. We didn’t go for explosive growth, we didn’t try to secure funding, we didn’t bite off more than we could chew - we took our time, and allowed our growth to guided by our successes.
What are your experiences with learning technology itself? Have you learnt how to code yourself?
I’ve never written a single line of code for Edgar, mostly because I don’t have to! I don’t have that background or expertise, but I can surround myself with people who do, and are extremely good at what they do. Creating Edgar was about getting a really strong product off the ground, not creating a practice exercise for myself to learn how to code. I would much rather build a team that knows this stuff inside and out.
One of the most common things early stage startups seek is funding. However, you’ve proudly kept your company bootstrapped. Why have you made that decision?
A huge part of it is the importance of maintaining control. I really value the independence that comes with being an entrepreneur, and I don’t want to sacrifice that by making myself or my company beholden to the whims of investors. Another big part is that when you get locked into the cycle of operating on those kinds of funds, user growth often becomes a higher priority than profitability - and if the investments stop coming, you’re out of luck. Too many companies have had to basically (or literally) shut down overnight because they suddenly didn’t have the funding they need, and weren’t profitable enough to be self-sustaining. That’s a business model that just doesn’t appeal to me.
As a female founder, have you experienced any challenges that you feel were a direct (or indirect result of you being a female)?
Literally every professional woman has experienced those challenges, whether explicitly and directly or otherwise. Personally, I’ve never sought funding as a founder, but 60% of the women who do report encountering sexism as part of the process (compared to 8% of men). I’ve had business coaches tell me I’d never make a sale unless I practiced speaking in a lower-pitched voice. My company once had to reject an otherwise-promising job applicant for making sexist comments to the women who were interviewing him. This isn’t exactly the kind of thing you can just avoid, because it’s part of our society, but I’m proud of that fact that it isn’t a part of my own company’s culture, and our ability to prioritize and maintain that type of culture is one of the reasons I value our independence.
Only 3% of startups are owned by women, and women occupy only a quarter a US tech jobs. What do you think about the current diversity problem we’re experiencing within the tech scene?
It’s a problem that isn’t taken particularly seriously by people who aren’t necessarily negatively affected by it in a direct, conspicuous way. That’s not anecdotal, either. Research shows that the vast majority of male founders and male investors report never having witnessed sexism in the industry. It shows that the vast majority of white founders and white investors report never having witnessed racism in the industry. The infamous anti-diversity Google memo made headlines and was treated like a big surprise, but probably very few women - especially in tech - were shocked by the attitudes it expressed, because they’re used to it. Tech’s diversity problem persists in large part because it goes unacknowledged, or treated like a fringe issue, when in reality it affects everyone - whether they want to accept it or not.
What can we all do to support WIT and diversity within STEM as a whole?
Believe people who report encountering discrimination. Confront and refuse to tolerate it when we see it. Look for the ways we might cultivate an environment that doesn’t encourage diversity - even incidentally. For example, men tend to consider themselves qualified to apply for a job if they meet about 60% of the qualifications it lists, whereas women generally don’t apply unless they meet closer to 100% of the qualifications. How do the language and the contents of your company’s job listings encourage or discourage a diverse pool of applicants? Everyone can make improvements like this that change this industry for the better.
What would your best advice be for a female who’s just about to enter the tech industry? And what would your advice for anyone looking for their first tech based job?
If you can, look for and prioritize places that will value you. That doesn’t always translate to things like a Friday afternoon beer cart or a pool table, especially when you’re expected to work until 8 pm every day! What are a company’s values? What level of ownership and autonomy can it offer you? What’s the makeup of its leadership? Where does its money come from? These are the sorts of things that are ultimately going to make a really significant impact on your day-to-day satisfaction, so allow yourself to make them a priority.
What is one of your favourite books at the moment that you would recommend?
I just finished The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. I love it’s guiding question: what ONE thing would make everything else easier?
Lastly - if you could have a meal with and chat to any person in history, living or dead, who would that be?
I’m a massive Oprah fan! I lived in Chicago when I was 20 and I would call the last-minute ticket reservation line every day for tickets to the show. I was able to go twice! So I’d love to talk to Oprah.