This is the fifth time I write a year end reflection on the path to building Graham & Walker. You might read that sentence as a simple, factual statement. To me, it is mindblowing.
Five years ago, I found my calling. It wasn’t much at the time. It was a Seattle-based Facebook group of women founders that met for drinks and a fireside chat every so often. But to me, it felt special. It felt different. And so I made a big decision in December 2017 to dedicate myself to it full time – without really knowing what “it” was or what “it” could become.
I’ve been running at sprint speed non-stop ever since, carried by the sweetest of highs, beaten by the most hurtful lows. I once came so close to quitting that I started a word doc titled “What would happen if I quit today?”. I could earn way more and work way less elsewhere. I could stop putting myself out there so much. I could stop getting hurt so often. The list of reasons to quit kept growing, and there was only one statement to counter them: “If I quit today, I wouldn’t get to keep working on this.”
And so I scrapped the “quit” list. And my first ever year end review poured out of me and onto the page instead.
There’s this saying about founders – we overestimate what we can achieve in the short term, but underestimate what we can achieve in the long term. Our journey these five years is testament to this truism. Because for the longest time, we were veritable nobodies in our space. Underdogs lacking in clout, connections and resources when other groups in our space had it all and had it in spades. I can’t begin to tell you how many people underestimated us. They were wrong before, and if they still count us out, I know they’re wrong again. Graham & Walker is only getting started.
You know why I feel confident making such a bold statement? Because in just five years, our tiny underdog no-clout under-resourced team built the largest, most engaged community of women-founded, VC-backable companies in the country. In just five years, the four hundred founders who participated in our *free* startup readiness programs have gone on to raise one hundred million dollars in venture capital. In just five years, I went from failing to raise venture capital for my startup, to raising a fund that’s already invested in 33 startups, with many more to come, led by extraordinary founders that will absolutely change the face of the Nasdaq by the time my daughters graduate from college. Don’t believe me? Just watch 😉
There’s another reason I feel more confident than ever about how far Graham & Walker can go – and that’s because this year, I found my running pace.
Every year so far has been transformative, and 2022 was no exception. This was the year that I discovered, much to my surprise, that it is indeed possible to burnout despite working on things you love. Honestly, it was terrifying. It made me realize that I can get in my own way more than anyone or anything else can. But what I wrote down five years ago is still true today, “If I quit today, I wouldn’t get to keep working on this.”
And so this time, the transformation was less about going super fast and trying lots of different things, and more about finding confidence in greater focus. The sprint is now officially a marathon and I’ve worked very, very hard this year to ensure that we can go the distance. I owe it to myself and my family, but most importantly, I owe it to every one of YOU.
In that first year end review, the one that started out as a list of reasons to quit, I wrote about that fateful decision: “After months of managing FFA (the Female Founders Alliance) as a side project, starting January 1st, 2018 I decided to devote myself to it full time. And even though I had a sense back then that FFA was something special, in my wildest dreams I never imagined we would be where we are today.”
These words are even truer in 2022. Imagine where we could go next, together.
As always, I am filled with gratitude for all of the people who make this journey possible. To my family, who are there for me no matter what. To my team, who’ve been there through the highs and lows and make every day a joyful one. To the partners who literally keep us going. To our investors who bet on our fund. To our portfolio companies, who gave us the privilege to be a part of their journey. To every founder who’s ever participated, said a kind word, helped us, helped each other. To every co-investor, every speaker, every mentor, every quiet supporter, every friend, everyone who’s dropped our name in a room full of powerful people. I am grateful for you all every single day. I don’t take any of this for granted.
With my warmest wishes this holiday season,