I was ten minutes early to the interview, which was for the better considering I needed some time to sit in my car and calm my nerves. I fixed my make up in the mirror and tried to remind myself that this was a good thing – that the publicity was a godsend. It didn’t matter what I told myself, however, because at the end of the day, I’m not a celebrity – just an entrepreneur, and giving an interview for a magazine is basically walking into the lion’s den of personal probing.
People are going to read this... People are going to read the words that come out of my mouth...
What an utterly ridiculous thought. I checked the clock and realized I had to pull my self together – it was time.
“Do you mind if I tape this?” Samuel asked me, placing a small recorder on the table in-between us. We were in a run-down diner – his idea, but I didn’t mind. The smell of pancakes was actually making me feel more comfortable.
“Uh, I guess not.” I said shakily.
“Great. Alright, so let’s just dive right in shall we?”
I shrugged, took a sip of my coffee.
“I’ll take that as a yes.” Samuel smirked and pressed the record button. “So, Lilly Anderson, how does it feel to go from being a relatively unknown startup entrepreneur, to being the featured story on our Upwards Magazine 30 under 30 article?”
“Well, uh, I mean, all of the people on that list are absolutely awesome...”
“Maybe so, but you truly earned that feature. Just a few months ago every startup accelerator you applied to turned you down, and now there seems to be a new acquisition rumor about your company every week. Can you share your secret?”
I looked around the room awkwardly, trying to gauge how many people could hear what I was about to say. Oh well, I thought, here’ goes nothing.
“Actually Samuel, I can tell you my secret, but you have to promise not to laugh.”
Samuel said sure and motioned for me to continue.
“Well, back in May, my company was doing really bad and I was getting very discouraged. I was seriously considering scrapping the whole shebang. And, during that dark time, I decided to have a day full of wallow and self-pity, and what better way to do that than to stay in and binge watch a dramatic TV show?
“I can’t think of one.” Samuel added.
“Right, so, naturally I thought it was a good time to finally bite the bullet and start watching Game of Thrones.”
“You’re only seven years late.”
“I wanted to read the books first...” I trailed off with embarrassment.
“And did you?”
“Of course not – have you seen those things? Their thicker than a good steak.”
“So, what does this have to do with your company?”
“Right, sorry. Well, to put it simply, the show changed my life. After watching all the amazingly dynamic characters use such creative tactics to get their way, I realized I had been running my startup all wrong. I realized that were I to implement some of these GOT strategies into my business, I might actually be able to make something of my ideas and of myself.”
“You’re kidding.” Samuel said, wearing a face that screamed I just hit the tech world journalist jackpot.
“Not kidding. That show taught me three important lessons that, when carried out in my business practices, instantly propelled my startup towards success.”
“Well, then, now I have to ask, what were these three lessons.”
I thought about being coy for a second and not elaborating, but then I remembered that I’m not that smooth and that I really didn’t care who knew my “secret”. I threw back my last sip of coffee, grinds and all, and jumped right in.
*Expert from Upwards magazine interview with Lilly Anderson:
“Lesson number one: You should have Stark Family like loyalty to your idea and to your team.
After watching the Stark family band together and risk everything for one another, I realized that loyalty is an immensely strong force that can drive even the most unlikely of characters (or ideas) towards success. That’s why I gave each of my team members a small increase in equity. In exchange I asked them to write me a one-paragraph explanation about why they believe in this idea. Reading them not only invigorated my original passion for the project, but it also reminded me that I did, in fact, come up with quite a fantastic concept.
Lesson number two: Understand your strengths and recognize your weaknesses. Act intelligently, and with measured confidence, like Tyrion Lannister.
Tyrion always knew his path in life would be a difficult one and that he would be met with much animosity, but that doesn’t mean he allowed himself to get discouraged or listen to any of the hateful negativity his family threw in his face. Don’t disillusion yourself into thinking running a startup will be easy, but also don’t accept words of discouragement from the outside world.
Lesson number three: Be flexible and willing to play multiple roles within your company – just as Aria wears multiple faces.
Once I realized that being the founder doesn’t mean I should only do founder-related projects, everything changed. I started sitting in on meetings that I would have originally thought didn’t pertain to me, as well as picking up slack in areas that I hadn’t even realized needed the extra support. Suddenly, I was closer to all my employees and I had a deeper understanding of what was happening at every level of my business. This helped me see where we could improve, where we could make budget cuts, etc. There’s a reason “the girl has no name” – labels can be constricting. Be willing to shed yours.”
“Wow, Lilly,” Samuel added once he was able to get a word in. “It sounds like you pretty much have it all figured out. And to think, most people just watch Game Of Thrones for entertainment – and here you’ve made it a strategic career move.”
“You have to take inspiration when it comes, Samuel, regardless of the source. Like how I was finally able to mend the riff in my relationship with my cat by channeling Claire and Francis Underwood from House of Cards.”
“Now that,” I said as I put my jacket on to go, “Is a whole separate interview in and of itself.”
-Written by Sawyer Smith
Sawyer is a creative writer, bookworm, and movie-nerd. Sawyer attended the University of California, Santa Cruz and has years of experience writing creative, academic, and marketing pieces. Sawyer recently wrote a play that was picked up by several Fringe Festivals across the country.