It is December 2023 and I am very, very ready to turn the page on this year.
Before I inadvertently start any rumors, let me clarify: despite all the VC doom and gloom, our fund is doing great, our long standing partners continue to support us, our community continues to thrive, I still have the world’s best team (even if one of them was, ahem, poached by a certain championship winning basketball team, she’s still team G&W), my family is generally healthy, I still love my husband, and I even like him, too!
I can’t tell you all the reasons that made 2023 hard, because most of them are not my stories to tell. What I can tell you is, it hasn’t been an easy year. It’s been a very, very hard one. As was last year. And the one before.
Looking back on what is now an almost seven year gig, I’m realizing that there hasn’t been an easy year in this whole journey yet.
This spring, I reconnected with Jane Park, an accomplished entrepreneur who also happens to be my last boss (and whose new company Tokki we recently invested in).
I met Jane at the 2014 Geekwire Awards Gala, where she won “CEO of the year” for her a16z-funded ecommerce startup Julep Beauty, at the time one of the hottest companies in Seattle. In her acceptance speech, Jane told the audience she wanted to meet women product managers. She even gave everyone her email address right there from the stage. I thought to myself – this woman would make an incredible mentor. So, I cold-emailed her and told her as much.
A few weeks later I went to her office to “grab coffee” (narrator: it was actually an interview). A few weeks after that I had a job offer to be Julep’s VP of Product. This, at the time, was a very, very, very big deal. I joined later that summer, and spent a year navigating the very extreme ups and downs of startup life. It was hard. But also, it was an education unlike any I had ever experienced.
Fast forward almost a decade. When I saw Jane again, she reminded me of something I said to her in that first fateful coffee-meeting-slash-interview. She said that when she asked me what my goals were, without skipping a beat I answered the following:
“My goal is to live an extraordinary life.”
Being reminded of this in the middle of another *very-hard-year* was breathtaking. As was the realization that, however hard, this is all absolutely, 100%, undeniably extraordinary. By my own measure, this is what success looks like. To live an extraordinary life. Not easy. Not glamorous. Not obvious. But extraordinary.
One day two summers ago, my oldest daughter decided she was ready to master the monkey bars. She stepped up, grabbed the first handle and fell. Then she got back on again. And again. And again. And again.
Every day that week, for as long as we let her, she was on the monkey bars until she got blisters on the palms of her hands. She kept going even when the blisters scabbed over. She kept going even when the scabs cracked and her tiny hands bled. She kept going and going until one day, she made it. All the way across the monkey bars, and all the way back.
It was not easy. But it was extraordinary.
So if you find yourself on whatever your version of the monkey bars might be, with dirt on your face and blisters on your hands, questioning whether you have it in you to go the distance (as I often question myself): I hope you can be kind to yourself and take a break. I hope you get back on and try for one more rung. I hope you have someone who believes in you even when – especially when – you don’t believe in yourself. I hope you remember that it’s ok that this is hard. I hope you remember that the hard makes it extraordinary.
To every single person who makes this all possible, I once again say: thank you. My family, my team, our sponsors (especially: AWS! Seattle Bank! Cooley! Antares Capital! Silicon Valley Bank!), our investors, our portfolio founders, our community. Friends, loved ones, supporters big and small. I am so grateful for each of you. I hope we’re making you proud.
And to everyone reading this: my warmest wishes for a safe, prosperous, joyful 2024. May we see peace once more, recognize our shared humanity, and let the light shine through.
I know it will be hard. But also:
PS. Go Storm!
Read previous Year In Reviews here: