5 1/2 Questions for Lisa Stone

Lisa Stone

Co-founder of BlogHer, The first social publishing platform for women creators. Co-Founder BrainTrust Founders Fund.

Lisa Stone is a Silicon Valley builder — with multiple exits — turned investor. Lisa has raised $100MM+ in venture investment for companies she founded or helped lead, and built five consumer movements (25–127MM unique visitors/month) using pricing, programs and platforms she designed (BlogHer, She/Penske, Ellevest, Law.com, Women.com/Hearst, Fortune 100 clients, and various startup advisory boards). As an investor, Lisa to date has helped raise $125MM+ from limited partners, including family offices, institutional investors and other angel investors.

Today Lisa is Co-founder of BrainTrust Founders Studio and Chief Investment Officer of BrainTrust Fund I, investing in beauty and wellness companies with at least one black-identifying co-founder across 20 subsectors, from cosmetics to pet care. Lisa also acts as senior advisor to women-owned investment bank Independence Point Advisors, and to WestRiver Group, an innovation investment platform where she was a managing director in the venture equity practice from 2019 — March 2022. Lisa also is a member of Broadway Angels and the Committee of 200.

https://braintrustfoundersstudio.com/about-us/

5 1/2 Questions for Lisa Stone

1 — Who is a role model for you in your career — that you never met?

I answered this question to my friend, Dylan McGee in like 2009. At the time I was the founder and CTO of blog, her, which was a big mover in the early creator economy. And I was also raising three kids, one by birth and two by love. And they had just started to become teenagers. And I wanted to, and I still want to meet Tina Knowles because Beyonce and Solange Knowles are two of the most unbelievably entrepreneurial and important game-changers in the music space changed how people dress, change, how people sing, change, how people think about being black in

America, just phenomenal. And I remember thinking at the time I could really use a mommy mentor, look at what this woman’s done with these teenagers. I need some help. And so, uh, that’s still a goal of mine, Ms. Tina Knowles.

2 — When was the last time you tried to build something that didn’t turn out too well?

Oh man. I have so many stories, but I’ll cut to the chase. So I come from a long line of seamstresses. I’ve always sewed and I love to work with my hands because it helps me work at things. And in my head, like if I’m, if I’m coding something, I like to be sewing something. So I decided that I was going to give myself a challenge and make a form fitting pinstripe dress. I love a dress, but I’m not a straight line. And the pinstripe makes it extra hard. So I wanted a challenge.

There’s only one problem and that’s called the invisible zipper. So I pieced this thing together and I had the most beautiful maroon pinstripe Wole with a slight gray seam and I had a hot pink lining and it was everything. And I got the top match to the skirt and I got the pieces in the front

match to the pieces in the back. And then I put the invisible zipper in and I want you to know, I failed the top left side of the back of the dress is a quarter inch higher than the top right side. And every time I put that dress on, I do like a Yosemite Sam. I’m like, you know, it just drives me crazy

[You’re not able to see it, right? It’s in the back.]

I can’t see it, but I know it’s there — and it really pisses me off, man. It drives me crazy!

3 — Your future self travels back 20 years to give you advice today — what does she tell you?

I would tell myself that based on all the data that I’ve read about how women — particularly women of color, BIPOC — get investment. I would say “Lisa Stone stop taking meetings in rooms of venture capitalists, where there are only men in the room because the data show that they are much less likely to invest in me.” And if I could get a bunch of those hours back and meet only with the people who were women as investors and or male allies who had proven that they

were male allies, and I would have had more time to work on my companies.

4 — What do most people in business believe that you don’t — or doubt?

I was a journalist in my first career. I was a business public policy, real estate, labor, transportation, journalist, and investigative journalist. And that experience taught me that the business of entrepreneurship and gathering enough data to run our companies is never done. You literally can never have enough data. You have to have enough data to know what to leave out.

So what I think most people think is — that they got it. They can stop studying something, they can stop learning something. And I think that, you know, anytime one makes assumptions, it’s like that all bad news bears movie from when we were a kid. Any time, you know, maybe you remember that when you age time, you assume you make an ass out of you and me never make assumptions about your own business because that way lies, diminishing ROI. Unacceptable.

[You need to have enough data to know what to leave out]

when you think about the very best storytelling about current events and news of the world, it’s just not one person pontificating or one person pontificating someone else saying yep. What they said. It’s a true investigation of what’s happening in a story and, or in a current event, the more perspectives, the more pieces of data, the more insights, the more inputs, the more actual and factual and real and robust and candidly from our field investible, something is so it’s so important to know enough data so that you can know what you can ignore the single most important thing.

As you know, I’m a gender specialist over the years, I’ve built five different platforms of 25 to 127 million uniques a month aimed primarily at women as consumers, right?

Beauty, wellness, CPG stereotypes about women are the single biggest thing causing fortune 100 brands to overspend on customer acquisition costs. Most people don’t know because they haven’t looked at the data that by far and away, the most profoundly influential word of mouth leaders and adopters of product, convincers, are black and Latina women.

If you look at the data, you’ll learn that pretty fast, but it took years of looking at the data to build a business case, to find that out and to begin using it so that I could offer actual guarantees to fortune 10 and 100 brands based upon what these women are doing. So I had to have enough data to know that I could say, you know what, actually, this stereotype that all the moms that a certain brand might want might look like the old 1950s, every snow girl, who’s a little, it looks a lot like, you know, Lisa Stone, 30 years ago, that’s actually not the majority of consumers. And so don’t use stereotypes around your business is another way to say it.

5 — If you could have one tweet or message that every entrepreneur would save and read every day — what would it be?

If I had one thing hanging over an entrepreneur’s desk every day, it would be

Integrity. Is. Everything.

and … the BONUS “Color” Question

5–1/2

Poof — you’re a reality TV Star — What’s your show? What are you doing?

Oh, I love this question. And it’s so hard, but I got to tell you, I think that the, the, the TV show that hasn’t been done — that really should be done — is an ongoing time elapsed day one through seven, um, of real Burning Man camps — oh yeah — I’ve been going to burning man since 2003. And most people don’t believe that because, you know, I always wear clothes and I don’t do drugs.

Burning Man is a lot like a startup in a week, it’s recreational, moving, you go there, you set something up, you make it fabulous, beautiful. You work to give a gift to the local economy and then you pack it up and you leave. Now there’s a lot of larger infrastructure that the org does and God bless them. And there are people who’ve been months in the desert, setting it up and then cleaning it up for those of us who don’t do a great job of the following.

But I just think that, you know — and I’m not talking NC 17, PG — But more you know, Netflix kind of a thing where you could see human behavior under stress, in an extreme environment, trying to create something together. What happens? Who’s good at it. Who isn’t, who’s playing fair. Who’s not what’s quality. What’s not. I mean, it’s, I just, I love it. I love my annual drama.

[but what’s your role?]

Oh, I’m behind the camera!

For more 5–1/2 Questions Interviews, see:

“5–1/2 Questions” from CJ Cornell is a new series of mini-interviews with leaders in the entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem around the world. In less than a half-dozen short questions, we’ll try to learn more about each leader, and what makes them successful and unique.

The questions are designed a little like a “Magic Eight Ball” (my GenX colleagues know what this is): A set of questions, posed at random. Plus, at least one question, or half-question, is designed to find out something about their personality that most people might never suspect (I mean expect).

CJ Cornell is a serial entrepreneur, investor, advisor, mentor, author, speaker, and educator. As an entrepreneur, CJ Cornell was a founder of more than a dozen successful startup ventures that collectively attracted over $250 million in private funding; created nearly a thousand new jobs; and launched dozens of innovative consumer, media, and communications products — that have exceeded $3 billion in revenues.

He is the author of the bestsellingThe Age of Metapreneurship — A Journey into the Future of Entrepreneurship.”

And the upcoming “The Startup Brain Trust — A Guidebook for Startups, Entrepreneurs, and the Mentors that Help them Become Great.”

Follow him @cjcornell or visit: www.cjcornell.com

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CJ Cornell

CJ Cornell

Professor of #Entrepreneurship & Digital Media. Serial/Parallel Entrepreneur, Author, Speaker, Mentor, Angel Investor, #VC. Crowdfunding & #Startups Evangelist