Danielle Weisberg
Carly Zakin

Danielle Weisberg & Carly Zakin

Cofounders of theSkimm

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON June 13, 2016

Discussion

Danielle Weisberg
Danielle Weisberg@dmweisberg · Co-founder, theSkimm
We're Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin, Co-founders of theSkimm, a company that makes it easier to be smarter. So much happening around SkimmHQ these days -- we're so excited to be here and to answer your questions. Ready, go!
Hunter Walk
Hunter Walk@hunterwalk · Partner, Homebrew
With so many great investors now supporting The Skimm, why has Homebrew remained your favorite of the group?
Carly Zakin
Carly Zakin@carly_zakin · theSkimm
@hunterwalk mostly because we really like their twitter icons:)
Carly Zakin
Carly Zakin@carly_zakin · theSkimm
@hunterwalk also because they yell at people for us on twitter
Hunter Walk
Hunter Walk@hunterwalk · Partner, Homebrew
@carly_zakin can take the boy out of NY, but can't take the NY out of the boy....
Danielle Weisberg
Danielle Weisberg@dmweisberg · Co-founder, theSkimm
@hunterwalk and because they join our product hunt live chats #support
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Makerpad.co
Hey! Thanks for joining us today :) I recently read your TechCrunch chat around growing an 'obsessive community' (loved it!) - and naturally it really interests me for Product Hunt :) What are the biggest things you have learnt while growing your community? What would you do differently if you had to do it again? What are the biggest challenges/obstacles that you have had to overcome and how did you figure it out? For others, the video is here:
Danielle Weisberg
Danielle Weisberg@dmweisberg · Co-founder, theSkimm
@bentossell One of the biggest things we learned while growing our community is the value of our story. there are a lot of things that differentiate our company - our focus on routines or demographic, our customer service, etc. a lot of people in the beginning connected to the fact that we started it from our couch with no business background and grew it from there. that was surprising since we thought it was something people would think to hide.
Capri Galaska
Capri Galaska@caprihiggins · Co-Founder @anchorxyz
Hello, Danielle and Carly! I was reading your Forbes "30 under 30" article from last year that 20% of your >1M subscribers are men. Do you have any plans to broaden your target market in the future or keep focused on female young professionals? If so, what is your theory on altering your original target market and if not how do you keep focused as different users come on board?
Carly Zakin
Carly Zakin@carly_zakin · theSkimm
@caprihiggins Hey, thanks for submitting! Big fans of Anchor:) When we started we got asked all the time why we were focusing on such a niche market (women) which made us laugh. We do not believe news is gender specific in any way but we know our audience focus and are grateful to have our growing male following!
Andrew Ettinger
Andrew Ettinger@ettinger · 👟 @wearAtoms // ex @Twitter @ProductHunt
How do you respond to people who say theSkimm is written for women? As a daily(ish) reader, I usually say:
Danielle Weisberg
Danielle Weisberg@dmweisberg · Co-founder, theSkimm
@andrewett We love our male skimm'rs! and we have a lot! we do not think news is gender specific and we definitely target busy people on the go. but we have a clear marketing plan and an influential demo to focus on
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Makerpad.co
If you both had to swap lives with Tech CEOs/Founders for a week, who would you pick and why?
Carly Zakin
Carly Zakin@carly_zakin · theSkimm
@bentossell ooh love this question!! I would love to swap lives with Elon Musk for a week but then I think i'd be too scared and ask theSkimm to take me back
COSTAS ANDRIOPOULOS
COSTAS ANDRIOPOULOS@candriopoulos · https://medium.com/strictly-curious
Hello Danielle and Carly, thanks for taking our questions. 1. Where do you look for emerging trends (e.g. sources, events, websites, etc.) and 2. What kind of tools do you use to find interesting content?
Danielle Weisberg
Danielle Weisberg@dmweisberg · Co-founder, theSkimm
@candriopoulos Hi Costas! We don't use a lot of tools to find articles. we scroll through a lot during the day and are reading constantly. we've used social tools to figure out what's trending bc that can be a ton of info to go through
Michelle Gifford
Michelle Gifford@santinagifford
HYPOTHETICAL SITUATION: if you were not co-founders of the skimm and joined the team after the skimm was founded, what job would you want at Skimm HQ and why? (also LOVE THE SKIMM SO MUCH and am obsessed with the fb group. how much posting in there is too much?!???) -xoxoxo baltimore skimmbassador
Danielle Weisberg
Danielle Weisberg@dmweisberg · Co-founder, theSkimm
@santinagifford hmmmmm stuffed panda skimm'r because all he has to do is watch
Carly Zakin
Carly Zakin@carly_zakin · theSkimm
@santinagifford LOVE this one. I would want our product skimm'r Dheerja's job because she gets to build all our new products.
Andrew Ettinger
Andrew Ettinger@ettinger · 👟 @wearAtoms // ex @Twitter @ProductHunt
What was the hardest part in monetizing theSkimm?
Danielle Weisberg
Danielle Weisberg@dmweisberg · Co-founder, theSkimm
@andrewett Deciding when to turn on the monetize button. we knew we were building something really valuable and wanted to maintain quality even as we let in sponsors
Carly Zakin
Carly Zakin@carly_zakin · theSkimm
@andrewett creating examples of our inventory to show brands what we meant by saying they could sponsor natively
Sydney Liu
Sydney Liu@sydney_liu_sl · Co-Founder of Commaful.com
Hi Danielle and Carly! Huge fan of theSkimm. I get the email every day and read it every couple of days. Gives me the dose of knowledge I need. Also part of the campus Skimmbassador program :) Couple of questions: 1. When did you start noticing that your newsletter was 'viral' before the skimbassador program? Were people just forwarding the email? Telling their friends? What did the organic sharing process look like and why do you think it worked so well for you? 2. What lessons would give you somebody trying to build an online community? theSkimm is not an obvious product that a community would form around yet you've built one of the best communities online around it! What did you learn from it? Thanks so much! Sydney Liu https://commaful.com
neeharika sinha
neeharika sinha@neeeharika · Google, Threadchannel
Hello Danielle and Carly. Great to meet you here. I am a Skimm'bassador and love the community you have created. I have 2 questions for you 1) What is the hiring and growth strategy of Skimm? I would love to be a part of the Skimm family? 2) How did the transition from newsletter to App happen? Has the funding from 21st century made you wan to grow your product in different verticals? Thanks!
Carly Zakin
Carly Zakin@carly_zakin · theSkimm
@neeeharika SKIMMBASSADOR!!!! hayyyy...thank you for being a part of that community! 1. We are looking for people with hustle. We like to say that if we gave you a laptop, a couch, and a phone you could grow this business and we hire people we believe can do that. We are hiring a ton right now. check out openings at theskimm.com/jobs. 2. We never thought about let's create an app. we thought about how do we integrate ourselves into a diff routine and from there Skimm Ahead was born.
Sarim Haq
Sarim Haq@sarim_haq · AI Whisperer
Hey Carly and Danielle! I was wondering, what was one of your most successful growth hack during the initial days of the Skimm?
Carly Zakin
Carly Zakin@carly_zakin · theSkimm
@sarim_haq literally just acting like a human and responding to emails to each user and saying hi please share
Jacqueline von Tesmar
Jacqueline von Tesmar@jacqvon · Community at Product Hunt ⚡️
Where is one place you want to visit that you haven't been before?
Carly Zakin
Carly Zakin@carly_zakin · theSkimm
@jacqvon Japan!!!!! Danielle just said Greece
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
If you could give one piece of advice to a young women looking to start her own business, what would it be?
Carly Zakin
Carly Zakin@carly_zakin · theSkimm
@ems_hodge man or woman...NETWORK. learn how to do it. there is no better skill you can have
Danielle Weisberg
Danielle Weisberg@dmweisberg · Co-founder, theSkimm
@ems_hodge take a vacation before you start it. and hold on to those memories
neeharika sinha
neeharika sinha@neeeharika · Google, Threadchannel
How did Skimm meet Homebrew? I love what you are doing with Snapchat stories. Are there more initiatives such as a day with a Skimm employee coming up?
Carly Zakin
Carly Zakin@carly_zakin · theSkimm
@neeeharika ah thanks for watching Snapchat! Yes we want to bring back our employee days. We met HB back in 2013 through an early angel investor of ours Rich Greenfield. We were going to come to SF to meet but we figured they like most of the valley wouldnt get theSkimm. Then we did one more call and decided it was worth going. Best first date we ever had. Signed term sheet about a week later
neeharika sinha
neeharika sinha@neeeharika · Google, Threadchannel
@carly_zakin Would love to do a skimmbassador takeover if that is on the cards :) Snapchat takeover
Danielle Weisberg
Danielle Weisberg@dmweisberg · Co-founder, theSkimm
It was a one day trip to SF. We had lunch with them. They asked if we could tell the other person's lunch order. Easy.
Carly Zakin
Carly Zakin@carly_zakin · theSkimm
@neeeharika oooh interesting idea!
Carly Zakin
Carly Zakin@carly_zakin · theSkimm
@neeeharika will keep under advisement:)
Caroline Ciaramitaro
Caroline Ciaramitaro@caroline_ciaramitaro
How did you decide on the name? Were there ever other ideas you considered?
Danielle Weisberg
Danielle Weisberg@dmweisberg · Co-founder, theSkimm
@caroline_ciaramitaro We came up with a whole lot of bad, industry specific terms. In the end we we went with something that described our first product really well. We wanted the 'm' for a little something extra.
Andrew Ettinger
Andrew Ettinger@ettinger · 👟 @wearAtoms // ex @Twitter @ProductHunt
What's the future of theSkimm? If email dies like so many people in this industry seem to want, what are other mediums for delivery you've considered?
Carly Zakin
Carly Zakin@carly_zakin · theSkimm
@andrewett well we don't forsee email dying anytime soon but never say never. we are hugely interested in the routines we all share--calendars, commutes etc.
Danielle Weisberg
Danielle Weisberg@dmweisberg · Co-founder, theSkimm
@andrewett People have always said email is dead. It's apparently had more than nine lives.
Andrew Ettinger
Andrew Ettinger@ettinger · 👟 @wearAtoms // ex @Twitter @ProductHunt
Theoharis Dimarhos
Theoharis Dimarhos@theo_dimarhos · Marketing+Biz Dev at AngelouEconomics
Hey ladies, thanks for doing this. What are the 3 things that you did about growth that worked? How about 3 that didn't?
Carly Zakin
Carly Zakin@carly_zakin · theSkimm
@theo_dimarhos 1. literally asking people to sign up 2. turning that into a brand ambassador community 3. actually working to get to know our SBs and fostering that into a program What didnt work: 1. trying to make SB community too small and focused (ie college specific), taking every blog opportunity that came our way 3. not learning to say no
Thomas Stöcklein
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
Hi Danielle & Carly, Great to have you on ProductHunt! When creating theSkimm were you influenced or inspired by @jason's Inside.com newsletter 'The Daily Brief'?
Thomas Stöcklein
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
Congrats on your recent $8M Series B! What's your long-term vision and roadmap for taking theSkimm to the next level via video content, a bigger subscriber base, corporate partnerships, etc.?
Carly Zakin
Carly Zakin@carly_zakin · theSkimm
@tomstocklein well if i tell you, i have to kill you
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
Thomas Stöcklein
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
What do you most enjoy about building up theSkimm into a major news platform? On the other side, what are some challenges and obstacles you've been facing?
Carly Zakin
Carly Zakin@carly_zakin · theSkimm
@tomstocklein I just said to team an hour ago that days like today is when i feel most privileged about what we do. Yesterday's news is a day when so many feel so helpless and we then get to say OK this is a horrible horrible tragedy but here is the info you need to know. There is something so empowering to that. We love and are honored that we are the destination for how millions get their information each day and take that responsibility so seriously. The biggest challenge is that sometimes people want to believe what they want to believe and think we are insinuating smthg when we're not
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
Hi Carly and Danielle thanks so much for joining us today! What are some growth tactics you can share that helped you grow the Daily Skimm so quickly?
Danielle Weisberg
Danielle Weisberg@dmweisberg · Co-founder, theSkimm
@ems_hodge In the beginning, we used a lot of grassroots growth tactics because we didn't have any funding or marketing dollars. a helpful exercise is to go through all the points in your product where you can share or would want to share and make that feasible and easy. we have always gone by simple is best
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
What have been some of the biggest challenges in the early days of stating the Skimm? How did you overcome these?
Carly Zakin
Carly Zakin@carly_zakin · theSkimm
@ems_hodge Fundraising was the worst. truly. people didn't believe in what we are doing and i can't tell you how many times people said 'i don't get what you are doing but my wife loves it."
Preet
Preet@preetnation · BlueLight, also enjoy QS and Parkour
@carly_zakin @ems_hodge If only more people realized that their wives are truly their better halves. theSkimm and Pinterest would both have gotten funded so much faster
Sarah Olsem
Sarah Olsem@sarah_olsem
Hey Danielle and Carly - fellow Skimm'bassador in the house. Woot! I know the idea has been brought up, but has there been any traction to the idea of having more "local" Skimm newsletters for a more regional take on the news? It could be a great branch off of of the amazing foundation you ladies have created!
Carly Zakin
Carly Zakin@carly_zakin · theSkimm
@sarah_olsem hayyyy SB! Thanks for being a part of our community! One of the greatest pieces of advice we got was to learn how to scale our voice. That's really hard to do on a local level. Never say never but not our priority right now
Jacqueline von Tesmar
Jacqueline von Tesmar@jacqvon · Community at Product Hunt ⚡️
Who would you invite to dinner, dead or alive, and why?
Carly Zakin
Carly Zakin@carly_zakin · theSkimm
@jacqvon Thomas Jefferson for sure
Danielle Weisberg
Danielle Weisberg@dmweisberg · Co-founder, theSkimm
@jacqvon muhammad ali or frank sinatra. very different.
Ipsita Agarwal
Ipsita Agarwal@ipsitaag · PM. Engineer. Journalist.
Hi Danielle and Carly! I have worked as a journalist and news startup founder in the past. What I absolutely love about theSkimm is how thoughtfully it's designed to integrate into a readers routine. I read the newsletter first thing in the morning on my phone, with one eye open. I integrate Skimm Ahead with an app I use all the time, my calendar. It's clear that theSkimm has a strong focus on customer research. I wanted to ask: 1. What process do you follow for conducting customer research and how does it drive the development of products such as Skimm Ahead? 2. It's a really smart way of diversifying revenue streams, which is something that's always been a challenge for news products. I saw in your awesome TechCrunch interview that you think of theSkimm as an audience company, rather than a news company. What is your long term vision for it? :) Thanks! :)
Danielle Weisberg
Danielle Weisberg@dmweisberg · Co-founder, theSkimm
@ipsitaag We use our Skimmbassadors a lot for research and we regularly survey our audience. Thank you for saying we are smart -- we will take that! When we were fundraising people wanted to pinhole us as a media company vs a tech company so we made our own title -- audience company. because we focus on the routines of our target audience
Ipsita Agarwal
Ipsita Agarwal@ipsitaag · PM. Engineer. Journalist.
@dmweisberg I'd love to see and learn from those research techniques and surveys! :) That's really interesting! I think that's quite the challenge for news businesses, being pigeonholed to the category of news or content. The most interesting news products in the last few years - QZ's chat app, theSkimm, Circa, even NYTimes' meal kits - seem to have come about from a focus on understanding a target audience's routines and behaviour. What is the biggest challenge you face today in creating products? How do you overcome it?
Amanda Lewellyn
Amanda Lewellyn@amanda_lewellyn · Intern, theSkimm
I love the interviews that you do with political candidates--I feel like I get an inside look at the policies and personalities of those candidates as people. What are your goals in terms of political coverage, especially in interviewing Presidential hopefuls? Have you seen any interesting effects or feedback from your readers?
Danielle Weisberg
Danielle Weisberg@dmweisberg · Co-founder, theSkimm
@amanda_lewellyn Our goal is for people to register and to VOTE!!! Skimm the vote = get out the vote for real. we don't care who you vote for but we do care that you vote
Phoebe Robinson
Phoebe Robinson@phoebe_robinson
how did you decide the particular audience you wanted to focus on?
Carly Zakin
Carly Zakin@carly_zakin · theSkimm
@phoebe_robinson it was really organic for us...our friends are very smart but weren't watching what we were producing at NBC News. We were in effect skimm'ng for them each day and when we actually discovered there's a reason everyone was freaking out over the 'millennial' demo...we went after it
Amanda Lewellyn
Amanda Lewellyn@amanda_lewellyn · Intern, theSkimm
When there's so much going on in the world, how do you decide what news goes into the Daily Skimm every day? Do you focus on any particular topics or geographical areas?
Danielle Weisberg
Danielle Weisberg@dmweisberg · Co-founder, theSkimm
@amanda_lewellyn We look at what people would actually talk about and what they really need to know. We have the benefit of not having to fill 22 min of airtime
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
Is there any one piece of advice you've received that has had the greatest impact on you?
Danielle Weisberg
Danielle Weisberg@dmweisberg · Co-founder, theSkimm
@ems_hodge My mom told me that the worst thing someone could do is say no. I finally started listening to her
Carly Zakin
Carly Zakin@carly_zakin · theSkimm
@ems_hodge there's a lot....the biggest way to fail is not trying, that everything that has to get done will get done, and that we are not saving lives and to breathe.
Caroline Ciaramitaro
Caroline Ciaramitaro@caroline_ciaramitaro
Your lives have probably changed a lot in the last four years--has there ever been a "pinch-me" moment when you can't believe you get to do what you do everyday?
Carly Zakin
Carly Zakin@carly_zakin · theSkimm
@caroline_ciaramitaro we have literally had the highest highs and lowest lows. Pinch me moments have been a lot of the celeb encounters (Oprah, SJP) but also hiring, speaking at alma maters, . And those highs are usually followed by smthg that brings us back to reality like our server breaking
Danielle Weisberg
Danielle Weisberg@dmweisberg · Co-founder, theSkimm
@caroline_ciaramitaro Hmm we're luck enough that there have been a few. I think meeting the candidates this year and doing interviews with them was pretty cool. Also, we met Britney Spears. And that was epic.
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
What life experiences have helped to shape you to become great leaders in business?
Carly Zakin
Carly Zakin@carly_zakin · theSkimm
@ems_hodge i think we both would say our moms gave us a natural hustle and work ethic
Danielle Weisberg
Danielle Weisberg@dmweisberg · Co-founder, theSkimm
@ems_hodge Making mistakes. I think we both had an internal gut about marketing and business. But we refined it by making mistakes and asking other people what they would have done better. that's the only way you learn
Carly Zakin
Carly Zakin@carly_zakin · theSkimm
THANK YOU! SO MUCH FUN!
Danielle Weisberg
Danielle Weisberg@dmweisberg · Co-founder, theSkimm
Thanks so much! We had fun. Have a great day!
Matt K
Matt K@matt_krandel · Research
How were you able to effectively convert active email users to paying subscribers via your new subscription service? Looking forward as you begin to leverage new Skimm video content, will you look to use the same strategies to convert email users to video users?