Nancy Lublin

Nancy Lublin

Founder & CEO of Crisis Text Line & founder of Dress for Success

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON February 19, 2016

Discussion

Nancy Lublin
Nancy Lublin@nancy_lublin · Founder & CEO, Crisis Text Line
Hi, I'm Nancy Lublin. I don't sleep much. I founded Crisis Text Line, a free, 24/7 text line and one of the first “big data for good” orgs. I ran DoSomething.org and Dress for Success before that. I believe in building things that matter. I know a bunch about tech, data, teens and start ups so ask me anything!
Theoharis Dimarhos
Theoharis Dimarhos@theo_dimarhos · Marketing+Biz Dev at AngelouEconomics
When it comes to approaching celebrities, what have you found to be the best ways to reach and work with them?
Nancy Lublin
Nancy Lublin@nancy_lublin · Founder & CEO, Crisis Text Line
@theo_dimarhos Hire someone like Diane@dosomething.org (or Colleen or Calvin) who are all genius about thinking about landing and leveraging talent in smart ways.
Zameer Ansari
Zameer Ansari@xameeramir · @nordible previous @nerdspal @nistencorp
Hey, @nancy_lublin How do you decide building products that matter? It's the big skill. Can you share some advice on how do startups shall make product decisions?
Nancy Lublin
Nancy Lublin@nancy_lublin · Founder & CEO, Crisis Text Line
@xameeramir Prioritizing what gets built first, what can wait a few weeks--thats hard. We have 4 organizational KPIs. The entire staff (and our board!) can see them every day, in a Slack channel at 7am. Every product we build has to relate to a specific KPI--and have a hypothesis about how much it will move the needle. Makes it easier to set priorities.
Alexandru G
Alexandru G@alexg0g · MBET student at UWaterloo
Hey Nancy, did any of the Crisis Text Line counsellings fail terribly and how did you react to that? If luckily not, how do you keep yourself prepared if someone for instances takes their live after being counselled and the situation just couldn't be addressed accordingly...?
Nancy Lublin
Nancy Lublin@nancy_lublin · Founder & CEO, Crisis Text Line
@alexg0g Being a Crisis Counselor (or a 911 operator or a social worker or any of these jobs that are on the front line of human pain) is hard work. Even for people who have been doing it for multiple years, its emotionally draining. The hardest part is that you don;t always know what happens after that interaction. To me, its the most generous act of kindness I have ever seen: strangers communicating about very personal things, with no promise of resolution. Frankly, I couldn't do it. I'm not that altruistic. I would need to know. I would want to crawl through the phone and hug someone (or shake them.) So, I am not a Crisis Counselor...and I am in awe of the 1500 volunteers who do this with us.
Theoharis Dimarhos
Theoharis Dimarhos@theo_dimarhos · Marketing+Biz Dev at AngelouEconomics
Hi Nancy! At DoSomething you worked with big sponsors. What are your top 3 lessons in dealing with them and getting the funds needed for your campaigns?
Nancy Lublin
Nancy Lublin@nancy_lublin · Founder & CEO, Crisis Text Line
@theo_dimarhos Cold call. Give them something THEY want. Be a nice person--everyone would prefer to work with nice people.
Joey Tawadrous
Joey Tawadrous@joey_tawadrous · Happy to be alive & creating projects!
How do you manage to stay focused with minimal amounts of sleep? :)
Nancy Lublin
Nancy Lublin@nancy_lublin · Founder & CEO, Crisis Text Line
@joey_tawadrous Have children. Seriously. After having 2 kids, I learned that sleep is something optional and I can focus like Luke bringing down a death star.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
Hi Nancy. Thanks for being here today. What are some of the biggest challenges you've had to overcome founding Crisis Text line?
Nancy Lublin
Nancy Lublin@nancy_lublin · Founder & CEO, Crisis Text Line
@ems_hodge Funding new things is really hard in the not for profit space. Foundations are set up to fund specific program areas. New things don't fit old buckets! It took me 2 years to raise the original 4 mil to start Crisis Text Line. (And I'm kind of a safe bet!) So, yeah, landing $ for new things is hard.
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
Hey Nancy! Thanks for joining us :) What's something you used to fundamentally believe that you now see as fervently misguided?
Nancy Lublin
Nancy Lublin@nancy_lublin · Founder & CEO, Crisis Text Line
@eriktorenberg I went to law school. I was trained to hold things close and be skeptical of sharing. Now I 101% believe the best ideas are not in the room, ideas get stronger by sharing them. And, that opening our stuff will only lead to more people being helped. Kimono, open. Always.
Theoharis Dimarhos
Theoharis Dimarhos@theo_dimarhos · Marketing+Biz Dev at AngelouEconomics
What have you found to be the top 3 marketing practices that have produced the most results for your causes?
Theoharis Dimarhos
Theoharis Dimarhos@theo_dimarhos · Marketing+Biz Dev at AngelouEconomics
Nancy, you've had some very influential people support your causes. How do you storytell in order to attract important/busy people?
Nancy Lublin
Nancy Lublin@nancy_lublin · Founder & CEO, Crisis Text Line
@theo_dimarhos Actually, I think the key is to LISTEN more than you TALK to those types of people. We have 2 ears and 1 mouth for a reason...
Andrew Ettinger
Andrew Ettinger@andrewett · 👟 @wearAtoms // ex @Twitter @ProductHunt
Where do you draw the line on things that matter vs. things that don't?
Nancy Lublin
Nancy Lublin@nancy_lublin · Founder & CEO, Crisis Text Line
@andrewmettinger I'm actually very good at that. I'm not one for grudges or second guesses. When I do sleep, I'm out. Something matters if it has a relationship to one of our KPIs...or the team. Culture, morale, learning--that all matters too. So, sometimes something is worth doing, even if it doesn't make sense via the math.
Theoharis Dimarhos
Theoharis Dimarhos@theo_dimarhos · Marketing+Biz Dev at AngelouEconomics
You've talked about Foundations and how difficult they can be. Do you have any favorites that tend to be more openminded?
Nancy Lublin
Nancy Lublin@nancy_lublin · Founder & CEO, Crisis Text Line
@theo_dimarhos Omidyar. They give more than money. They have given us time, headhunting services, and a family of other orgs to learn from and share with. And, they allow portfolio orgs to be honest about whats working and whats not working.
Jay Archambeau
Jay Archambeau@jayarchambeau
How has your life changed, would you say, since establishing CTL? Personally, professionally -- either or both.
Nancy Lublin
Nancy Lublin@nancy_lublin · Founder & CEO, Crisis Text Line
@jayarchambeau I'm using new muscles professionally. I'm trying to push the entire mental health space, not just Crisis Text Line. Those politics are hard. (Dress for Success and DoSomething.org were one-of-a-kind. Crisis Text Line is part of an ecosystem, in some ways.) On a personal note, I really need to model self-care. I am lousy at this. I'm currently carrying about 30 pounds that I shouldn't. I consider ice cream a food group. And I don't exercise enough. I feel better when I take care of myself--but I often put myself last. Somehow, it feels selfish to take care of me. But as CEO of Crisis Text Line, I need to model good self-care because the entire team (including volunteers0 needs to do this! So, now that its about other people, I'm hoping I can be better at it. (Ooof. That was a very personal and revealing answer.)
Jay Archambeau
Jay Archambeau@jayarchambeau
@nancy_lublin That's entirely awesome and real. Thank you for sharing your truth. I would surmise that being a mom has a huge part in this as well. I'm a parent also. Kids and others come first. That's just how it works in the natural order. Here's to self-care - absolutely. Cheers.
Ted Xiao
Ted Xiao@txizzle · Founder, Machine Learning at Berkeley
Hi Nancy, what are your thoughts on applying recent advances in NLP and Machine Learning to a criss hot line?
Nancy Lublin
Nancy Lublin@nancy_lublin · Founder & CEO, Crisis Text Line
@txizzle One of the things I am most proud of here is how we prioritize the queue. Most hotlines (and customer service in general) handles things in chronological order. This is stupid. We should all behave more like a hospital emergency room--the gun shot wound should be taken before the sprained ankle. So, here at Crisis Text Line, we use NLP to auto-tag every message. Someone who says "I want to die" or "I want to kill myself" becomes #1 in the queue. Then, we layered on machine learning. About 8 months ago the algorithm started reading #kms and putting that top of the queue. (Apparently, its shorthand for "kill myself.") And, even tho we don;t counsel in other languages, the algorithm is reading things like "quiero morir" and making that top of the queue. So, yes. NLP and machine learning have made us faster and better. We now handle imminent risk texters in 1.8 minutes. *mic drop
Tong Xiang
Tong Xiang@tong_xiang · software engineer
Nancy! If you could instantly have another degree (with no opportunity cost! of time, money, whatever, you'd just have it and the knowledge now)--what would you want to have?
Nancy Lublin
Nancy Lublin@nancy_lublin · Founder & CEO, Crisis Text Line
@tong_xiang I think maybe comp sci? But I could learn those skills now, and don;t need a degree to do it. (I think Ive also demonstrated that you can be a CEO of a tech startup without writing code yourself...so long as you know enough to be dangerous and ask the right questions.) Maybe math? I suck at it. And, I'd like to stop saying "I suck at math." Plus, if I could count cards I would be a way better poker player. But I think the real answer is probably architecture. I love building things. I relish the idea, the options, the making, the revising. In some ways, being an entrepreneur is like being an architect...without the math.
neeharika sinha
neeharika sinha@neeeharika · Google, Threadchannel
Hi @nancy_lublin great meeting you here. I like your passion to build things that matter. I was curious to know how do you motivate others to be as passionate about the cause as you are? What struggles have you faced in on boarding people on a cause based idea?
Nancy Lublin
Nancy Lublin@nancy_lublin · Founder & CEO, Crisis Text Line
@neeeharika Not hard to motivate others! When you build shit that matters, people love what they do!
Charles Kunene
Charles Kunene@charles_kunene · Co-founder & Product Designer @Obaa
1. With regards to Dress for Success, I'm curious to know where the idea came from and how you discovered that there was a need for your service. 2. As a follow-up: How did you decide where to expand to and identify areas with the greatest need. Were there demographic and economic factors that you looked at?
Nancy Lublin
Nancy Lublin@nancy_lublin · Founder & CEO, Crisis Text Line
@charles_kunene Same answer to both questions: things should be built (and expanded) based on real user need. Just because you can make the ketchup purple doesn't mean you should make it purple. Just because you can build a cool feature doesn't mean its worth building. And, just because you could expand to Guam doesn't mean you should. "Being international" or "National" is not better than helping more people in one market like Detroit. I would have been happy for Dress for Success to just help more people in NYC--but I had tons of inquiries from all over, from people who demonstrated genuine local need for the service. I prefer to build things for humans, things that matter. So, we expanded.
Charles Kunene
Charles Kunene@charles_kunene · Co-founder & Product Designer @Obaa
Often we hear that there's pipeline problem that is keeping women from participating in tech, in your experience, what are the biggest hindrances to women entering tech and also, once they've made it, remaining engaged and empowered in male dominated workplaces?
Nancy Lublin
Nancy Lublin@nancy_lublin · Founder & CEO, Crisis Text Line
@charles_kunene AHHH, THE VAGINA QUESTION! I was wondering how long it would take to get that one. (4 minutes in, eh?) Yeah. Its real. Try layering on the women thing that I also run "charities." Ugh. So people (who don;t know me) assume I'm soft and sweet...and naive. I freaking hate being underestimated! And I hate being underestimated for those two reasons.
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
If you were to start all over again what would you focus on first?
Nancy Lublin
Nancy Lublin@nancy_lublin · Founder & CEO, Crisis Text Line
@bentossell This morning? My hair.
Theoharis Dimarhos
Theoharis Dimarhos@theo_dimarhos · Marketing+Biz Dev at AngelouEconomics
Thanks for doing this Nancy. How do you approach a big corporation (where you don't know someone) for a sponsorship?
Nancy Lublin
Nancy Lublin@nancy_lublin · Founder & CEO, Crisis Text Line
@theo_dimarhos Cold call someone in the c-suite. Tell them how you can help solve something that maters to them.