Sarah Friar – CEO of Nextdoor and Co-founder of Ladies Who Launch
Kara Goldin: Hi everybody, it’s Kara Goldin from Unstoppable. And I’m so excited to introduce you to my next guest, who is also a friend and a neighbor, sort of next door. I’ll give you a hint about it. Wow, I just threw it all into one sentence there. Sara Friar, is the CEO of Nextdoor, and co-founder of another great group that I am going to get her to chat a little bit more about, Ladies Who Launch.
And just a little bit about Sara. So Sara is the CEO of Nextdoor, the world’s largest private social network for neighbors. And prior to Nextdoor, Sara was the CFO at Square, another one of my favorite companies. Under Sara’s leadership the company launched it’s initial public offering in 2015, and added 30 billion… Whoa, crazy… in market cap, wow. Before Square, Sara was senior vice president of finance and strategy at Salesforce, another one of my favorite companies. She’s also held executive roles at Goldman, and leadership positions at McKenzie in both London and South Africa.
A little other tidbit, she’s from Ireland. And we’ll get her to talk about being an immigrant as well a little bit, because I love that whole topic. And she’s also on the boards of Walmart, and Slack which is super, super inspiring. So currently Sara is also the co-founder, as I mentioned of Ladies Who Launch, a network that mentors and inspires women entrepreneurs and business owners along the way.
And today we’re going to talk about how she got to where she is, and what she learned along the way. So welcome Sara.
Sara Friar: Thank you Kara. And how fun to be interviewed by a neighbor, someone I get to bump into on the trail all the time. [crosstalk 00:02:03]-
Kara Goldin: Well I’ve been wanting to do this for a while. And we’re recording this during, hopefully the last couple of weeks of shelter in place. Maybe, I’m being optimistic, but I’m hopeful. So during our exercise, more than six feet away, I said to Sara, we’ve got to do this. And let’s just do it over Zoom and get it going. Because I think especially during times like this, hearing from somebody who is just such a leader will help us all.
So take me back a little bit to really where did you… I mentioned that you came from Ireland, and you ended up coming over to the US, tell me a little bit about that experience.
Sara Friar: Sure. I mean, I don’t want to bore you all too much. But yeah, I did grow up in Northern Ireland. I grew up during the troubles. So I think one of the learnings for right now as I say a lot to my husband, as we worry about things like the impact to families, and kids, and so on, is kids are incredibly malleable. They bounce back. The human condition is such that we kind of bounce back from things, I believe much faster than we often worry about. And so what Northern Ireland gave me was a lot of resiliency. It also taught me a lot about community. I’ve talked in length in other places, but my mom was a local nurse in our community. So she was in fact the person who showed up when you were having your baby in a farm stuck in the middle of nowhere and couldn’t get to the hospital. My mom was right there to catch that baby for you. And my dad was the personnel manager of the local mill, which was what our whole village was founded around.
So from kind of earliest days, I definitely felt the strength of community around me, why we had to invest in it. And I think it feels like actually a big coming home, to come to a platform like Nextdoor where everything we stand for is all about community. So Northern Ireland was certainly an interesting place in the 70s and 80s. I will tell you know, my best friends are still there. And one of the silver linings of shelter in place has been how many House Parties we’ve done, not quite [inaudible 00:04:19], but we House Party every Sunday morning. They’re all having drinks. They’re all having wine and I’m having coffee. I have thought to crack once in awhile, but an 11 o’clock glass of wine feels a bit off. But they’re also really good grounding in the midst of all the crazy of running businesses and so on to just go back to those girlfriends that you had when you were literally one, two, three that stayed with you through 18. Because they know you so deep in your soul, that I think it’s a great way to always bring yourself back to what’s important in life.
Kara Goldin: That’s awesome. Well my daughter was going to school in Dublin for the last year. And so we went up to Belfast and it was amazing to finally go up and see that part of the world. And actually, I’m huge into street art. And so the street art in Belfast is, I think some of the best that I’ve ever seen.
Sara Friar: Murals. Yeah.
Kara Goldin: Yeah.
Sara Friar: They’re deeply historical. I could bore you senseless right now, but I literally wrote a whole set of papers for my General Studies AF level about the murals of Ireland. And really quickly, they’re very… the Irish, so the Catholic side, have a lot of female imagery. So Mother Ireland, and you see Mother Ireland everything from kind of a very young beautiful woman, all the way through to kind of the old crone, and the kind of haggard woman taken down by this oppressive other country that claimed sovereignty. And then on the Protestant side, it’s very masculine imagery is what you’ll see. Right? Because it’s led by King Billy crossing the Boyne, and a lot of male-
Kara Goldin: That’s so true. Yeah.
Sara Friar: [crosstalk 00:06:10] and it’s fascinating to see those things try to merge. And talk about learning right from my mother’s knee, two communities who were at war, but when the shit hit the fan, frankly… sorry I probably shouldn’t swear on your podcast.
Kara Goldin: All good.
Sara Friar: It was your neighbors who took care of you. And right now, it’s actually those same neighbors, because my parents have never moved. And the neighbors have never moved. It’s who I check in, like when I need something really kind of last minute desperately for my mom and dad. It’s those same people who I’m still texting or calling and saying, “Hey could you run and get this prescription for my mom?” Or, “They’re really short of this, could you go to the supermarket for them?” So it’s an incredible background.
Kara Goldin: Has Nextdoor developed an office there?
Sara Friar: We have an office in London. So we are in 11 countries, quite a lot [inaudible 00:07:02], but our base right now is London. We do have one person in Dublin though. He’s our wonderful compliance person, we love dearly. I’d love to see us build out a presence. But you know with tech companies, more and more it’s a big debate, post Covid 19, how much do we really need people physically in offices? Or could we actually start to make more use of people at a distance? And I think there’s incredible talent for example in a place like Belfast. Tech talent, and just overall business talent that’s probably not getting utilized the way it should. So maybe this will actually be a silver lining for [crosstalk 00:07:36]-
Kara Goldin: How do you think people are feeling, I mean you’ve got a lot of friends there still, about Brexit and everything going on with that?
Sara Friar: Yeah. I mean, for Northern Ireland, that is a very tough topic. Because it brings back all of the potential for violence and war again. So what’s been great about the last… since the Good Friday Agreement, so the last 20 years, has been the fact that the border kind of disappeared. It’s still technically there, but you would not know it. Like, when you drive from the north, I live on the border. So you’re just driving. And the only thing that changes, frankly is that in Ireland, the street signs are green. Like the thing that tells you how fast you can go, and they’re in kilometers, so they made it on to the metric system. And in Northern Ireland, everything is still red, and you’re in miles.
And the idea, like if you think about what happened with the border. The minute you have a border, and someone patrolling a border, then you have someone who is a potential target for the other side. And that’s how these things have escalated. And so I think there’s a lot of trepidation still. But there a pragmatic crew. And I think in the end, people are trying to move on and recognize that we don’t want to lose lives, and we don’t want to lose economic health and prosperity. And the minute we fall back into war zone, that all goes away. So my hope is we’ll find a pragmatic solution in the end.
Kara Goldin: I totally agree. So we’re going to jump in, and right before we come back to Nextdoor, so you started in finance. And were you at Goldman? Or…
Sara Friar: Yeah. Goldman was the first role in finance. I’d been at McKenzie. So I was actually an engineer. Always have loved numbers, always joked that I’ve never seen a number I didn’t like. And that’s the thing you’ll hear me say to my teams all the time, it’s like, “That’s a number with that context.” Or, “Let’s torture the numbers some more, because they’ll give us great insights.”
So I started at McKenzie. I came out to the US to business school, actually, to Stanford. And ended up staying, that’s when I joined Goldman and really kind of started a finance career. And it was somewhat unintentional honestly. The head of the Stanford business school who’s still a dear friend to this day, was in fact, angry with me for not going into an operating role, and particularly because then was the height of the tech bubble, so he thought that I was nuts.
But again, not [inaudible 00:10:08] I had debt that I had to pay off, and I needed a visa, because I am an immigrant as you pointed out. And I really wanted to stay. And so I took a pragmatic step saying, if I go to a place like Goldman, first of all I will get paid more in cash, not equity, so I can pay off all this debt stuff. And they would help me [inaudible 00:10:28] company, would help me with my immigration. And the idea was, I’d do that for two or three years, it’ll be a great grounding, great way to start your career. And then I would jump off the ship, and go into the startup world, or more the operating side.
And you know, a decade plus later, I was still in finance. Which, I think a lot about as I build a company now, what is it that kept me there? And how do I use some of that pattern for my own employees. Because, what Goldman did well was they always stretched me. There was always a new… every time I would get comfortable, they would throw some new curve ball completely out of a different part of the organization, a different form of coverage, I was [inaudible 00:11:10] analyst for a long time. But it was incredibly stimulating. And so I certainly don’t regret that period of my life. Although I think I’m a much better operator, than I am a stock market analyst.
Kara Goldin: And how did you then jump over to Salesforce?
Sara Friar: Yeah, so at the end of a decade, I had my two children. So we shouldn’t forget that period of your life, where you kind of do it all, and it’s kind of, frankly a little nuts. And the financial crisis had happened, and I really started to lose some faith in the why of banks, and the financial system. I wasn’t really sure I believed what the purpose was. And so going through that kind of, more crisis mode, I felt blessed enough, but sort of just said, “Okay, I’m going to take a step back. And I’m actually going to take some time off. I’m going to really spend time with my kids.” [inaudible 00:12:05] should do in life.
And of course the minute I sort of quote unquote retired, being the personality that I am, I was getting a lot of inbounds, of people saying, “Oh wow. I’d love you to come be the CFO, or whatever.” And then I got completely into both kind of FOMO and fear. So FOMO and the fear of missing out on something, but also this kind of fear of not being good enough for anything. I would say all the time to my husband, “I don’t think I’m qualified for anything. I don’t think I can do anything else.” And he was like, “That’s crazy.”
And so thus began a pretty frenetic two to three month period of my life, where I was trying to decide what next? And I think some of the best pieces of advice at that time… One was to go back to [inaudible 00:12:55] principles. So not just what do you want to do? Because people tend to talk about their career in terms of a title, but what are you actually really good at? And I think getting to the essence of yourself is hard. I would say I’m very numerous. I do love analyzing things. I’m also a big communicator. I think I’ve learned that over time I can be a good leader, because I think I can motivate people well. I probably wouldn’t have said it at the time, because frankly I hadn’t really managed that many people. But I think getting to the essence of your skillset, so both what you’re good at, what actually is needed in the world, like what gives you passion, and what you’ll get paid for, finding the intersections of those pieces of your life, I think, is really important. It’s actually there’s a whole framework called [inaudible 00:13:48], that’s exactly on that point.
The other thing that was going on in that period, which is worth a note, I think it’s too big for this podcast, is I had a very dear friend at Goldman, and she had time off because she was dealing with breast cancer. And I’d hike a lot with her, and you know I love to hike, since we meet on trails all the time. But I think hiking with her also brought about a very profound personal piece to, of… Wow this life thing isn’t necessarily super long. I wasn’t being faced with my own mortality, but I was definitely watching her struggling with what it was like to know that potentially you were going to die. And I think the coming together of those two things really made me rethink the willingness to take a big risk and do something different.
And then the long story short, Mark Benioff had been a mentor when I was at Goldman. I kind of talked to Mark about different alternates. And Mark being Mark was like, “Just come work with me. Why would you go work for all these startups? You’ll learn far more at Salesforce.” And Mark is a great talent collector. He doesn’t overly worry himself with what’s the role, or where are they going to fit? It’s a little Darwinian. He collects people that he thinks are smart, and can do stuff. And then he kind of throws you in, and then you kind of create your job in a way in that company. And I think that’s part of what’s made Salesforce an incredible company. Not just in terms of the financial outcome, but in terms of the culture, and how that company has been creative and innovative [crosstalk 00:15:24]-
Kara Goldin: Well obviously Benioff is a great leader, but I think you’re not only a great leader, but you’re also a builder. And it’s interesting, I didn’t realize that you initially went to school to be an engineer. And I think that’s super interesting because you had that kind of in your blood, or some sort of passion for building, right? And then you went on to do the finance side, and really were instrumental and being part of fairly early team at Salesforce to go and build that, which is so huge.
And then, you went over to Square which is the twitter company, so [crosstalk 00:16:06]-
Sara Friar: [crosstalk 00:16:06] he doesn’t like to say it publicly but [crosstalk 00:16:11]-
Kara Goldin: Definitely when you moved… were you still at Salesforce when you went over…
Sara Friar: Yeah. So I was. I’d been at Salesforce for about a year and a half, and frankly, I was in no way done with what I needed to do. And I was having a complete blast. And to your point, Salesforce was I think about 5,000 people on it’s way to I can’t remember… Salesforce is now, 30,000 people. But it was in hyper growth mode, and suddenly Square came knocking and was 200 people. And showing up, even from Salesforce, where I had a team of probably 100 people, and showing up at Square and I think I had like seven people on my team. I could not do what most of them did. I was the CFO, but I had the payroll person, the head of chargebacks, which is something I grew to learn a lot about, but didn’t really know anything about when I joined Square. And then the controller, [inaudible 00:17:17], and they were all doing jobs that are incredibly important, but it was not my expertise.
Like I kept saying to Jack, if you’re looking for an accountant, and kind of a traditional CFO, I am just not your person. However, I do think the whole CFO role can be much more re-imagined to be a true partner to the CEO, to be much more of an operator. And again Jack, a little bit like Mark, does not pigeonhole people. He is all about throwing stuff at you. Within about six months, I had half the company at one stage, and that was… we had made a personnel change, and so some of it was… you know, I said, people like when you’re in the thrust of crisis mode, and particularly around people and how you manage. I have a little two by two in my head which is like what am I good at? And what am I not good at? And what am I passionate about? And what am I not passionate about?
So if you’re not good at something, and not passionate about it, and it’s important, you need to go hire someone like yesterday. So that should almost be your first place, if there’s something you’re really good at, and really passionate about and it is important to the organization, in some ways you can hold on to that for long periods of time. Maybe ultimately you need to hire in that spot. But starting to parse how you’re going to organize where you need help, where you can do it yourself for a period of time. Even though that you’re good at it, but not passionate about it, it’s fine to do for periods of time. And what I often find, it’s the people keep doing it, and it kind of sucks the life out of them. It takes away their joy, which is an incredibly… don’t underestimate how potent joy is to give you longevity in a career, or at a company, or doing what you’re doing.
Because, every job at the end of the day, you are exhausted. I always feel wrung out. But I want to feel wrung out doing something that I really loved, as opposed to if the highs are getting lower and the lows are getting lower, that is a red flag that you’re not going to be able to keep up this marathon. So you need to be very careful to also off load some of those tasks over time. When you’re really good at something, the organization will struggle with you, because the org will want you to keep doing it, because you’re really good at it. But I think you need to be very mindful of your own morale and your own joy to keep up that energy over time.
Kara Goldin: And so how do you do that? So let’s say you’ve been working in finance for the last 10-15 years, and kind of doing the same stuff, and good at it. But you want to go into an operating role, and sort of switch gears to ultimately grow. What do you think is the best quick steps to be able to do that?
Sara Friar: Yeah, so I mean, first you kind of really need to look yourself in the eye and say, “I’m ready to take a risk, and make a jump.” When I first came out of Goldman, I would have endless copies of people who were mulling on this idea of, but it kind of was clear within about half an hour, that they’re not going to take that risk, which is totally fine, by the way. But I think you have to know that you are going to have to take a leap. It’s like standing on the diving board, there’s only one way to get in the pool. There’s no other… you can’t crawl down it. You have to jump.
I think the second thing goes back to what I said earlier about really thinking about the essence of who you are. What you love to do, but also what you’re good at, and just giving yourself space. If I gave you a project that said, “Kara go do some research on what is Hint good at and so on.” You would go off and you would take time, and you’d have some meetings, and you could interview people, and so on. And yet, when people are asked to do that about themselves, they don’t follow. It’s almost like they don’t think about it as something they should give any time to.
So I actually ask people to figure out when you’re at your best, for me it’s the morning, and set aside half an hour, an hour depending on where you are. I mean, I don’t need to set aside an hour every morning to find myself at the moment. But I do try to be diligent about once a quarter taking a step back, and frankly writing it down. Going through, what are you working on? Where are your skills? How are those progressing? So I think that’s a very tangible step.
So first of all, decide that you’re really thinking about taking that risk, and then second, get to the essence of you. And a lot of it is not just in your own head, but you should go interview people. Like literally ask people, “When you think of me, what do you think I’m great at?” [crosstalk 00:22:13]-
Kara Goldin: What are you missing? No I think that that’s completely valid and great feedback to get from anybody as you go along the way. But also working for great people that actually, you said it about Jack, and I think I shared with you a few years ago when I saw him onstage. And he brought you up, and that you were so huge, he believed in the success of Square. And I think having somebody that really doesn’t force you to stay in the lanes, and kind of allows you to grow along the way. It’s just so critical. Working for the right people, I think, is just absolutely critical, which you’ve done.
Sara Friar: Yeah, and by the way, it doesn’t just happen randomly. There has to be the beginning where you take a risk, and you work with the person. But very quickly in organizations you can kind of see who are the [inaudible 00:23:13] that truly delegate, get you out over the edge of your seat, so that you’re really in that learnings zone. And when you find those people, run to them. And offer [inaudible 00:23:24] like, “Hey, I’d love to work for you.” Don’t be shy on that front. And I do think following people is also completely okay and a good thing to do. You want to be careful that you’re not doing it out of just purely kind of a comfort blanket motion. But I think if you’ve found a great manager, particularly in a world where people now do change jobs more frequently, I think following them to a couple of places can actually be great for your career too.
So yeah, I think there is who you are, the essence. Be willing to take a risk, find out the essence of who you are, find great people to work for, and then you’ve got to [inaudible 00:24:02]. The only other thing I’d say is, often when people are that moment, I tell them, “Hey by the way, the first thing you go to, is probably not going to work out.” And [inaudible 00:24:12], “What is she talking about?” But what I’ve seen is that often that first thing you go to, particularly if you’ve had a longer piece of your career somewhere, it almost feels too jarring for you. That often people go for a year, year and a half, and it’s actually the jump they make after that, becomes almost the thing that has the longevity to it.
And it wasn’t that I didn’t think Salesforce wasn’t for me, but it wasn’t perfectly what I was looking for at that time. What I loved about Square was I did passionately loved finance, I love that industry, and I love tech, and being able to find that overlap of both, where I could use both skills. Which, with Salesforce I got the tech piece, but I kind of lost the finance, yeah I worked in finance, but it wasn’t the same as being in the finance industry.
But don’t get so caught up in that first thing you go to. Just think about a place that’s going to maximize your [crosstalk 00:25:06]-
Kara Goldin: It’s interesting because when I was at AOL, way back when, I was there in the pretty early stages of it. I wasn’t there from day one. But, it was less than 100 people there at the time, until it was thousands of people. And I realized that once it got to a certain size, and that they needed people who were actually executors versus people who were disrupters, developers, and so it actually had nothing to do with the company. It had more to do with me, saying what I ultimately wanted to do.
And so I talk a lot about this. And I see a little bit of you in that as well. And then you made a jump from Square once it got moving a little bit more, to your first CEO role, which I was so excited when I heard the news. So tell us all about Nextdoor. I feel like everybody knows about Nextdoor. I am the biggest Nextdoor advocate. I tell people all the time about Nextdoor. And they’re like, “Well why would I use Nextdoor?” And I’m like, “For lot’s of different things. Everything from, “hey can you help me find a mechanic, or somebody to power wash my driveway?” to “I didn’t realize that you went to the same school.” In our area where we are in Marin County there always seems to be, “Hey I saw a coyote walking down the street, just be careful.” There’s just all kinds of great stuff that is on there. So talk to me about that. You weren’t the founder, you came in afterwards. And so talk to me a little bit about… You’ve been at Nextdoor now, is it two years? Or a year and a half?
Sara Friar: A year and a half. So yeah, and I definitely get to stand on the shoulders of giants. Because we have three co-founders, Nirav sits on our board, Sarah is a board observer, and then Prakash still works alongside me, on my executive team. And we get the benefit of their perspectives a lot. And what they started out to do was incredibly hard. But they wanted to create a graph, a local graph, of people who actually mostly don’t really know each other. In fact the founding drive is a pure research study that showed that something like 27% of Americans didn’t know a single neighbor. And the number that even just said, one, was also a pretty dramatic percentage.
And yet when you look at research on the other side, this idea of strong weak ties. Mark [Vendetti 00:27:59] wrote a lot of the research on it. The idea of the people who are not related to us, or not our friends. Not like my girlfriends in Northern Ireland, but are the people we bump into day to day, the barista, or the UPS person, or the local crossing guard. They have an incredible impact just on how we feel, our health, the way kindness impacts us. And so I think a lot of us have kind of thrown that away in this new connected world where everything is very global. I think we’ve forgotten about this power in proximity.
And the crazy thing about Covid 19 is [inaudible 00:28:42] this a lot, pre the Coronavirus happening, and I think everyone now is kind of back in mode. Like, “Oh yeah, my neighbors. I remember. Those are the people I want to help.” Maybe they’re elderly, or those are the people who’s kids go out and draw chalk drawings that make me happy. They’re the people I can lean on in an emergency, but also just the people that I can lean on to worry about [inaudible 00:29:05].
So when Nextdoor came calling, again it was not a very easy decision. I loved my job at Square. I would get calls all the time. And I’d say, “No. I have the best CFO job ever. There’s no better CFO job out there.” But I was definitely intrigued by a CEO job, and I was definitely intrigued by this idea of community. And if I can go to the first… not just for the sake of being a CEO, but I do feel that you can’t be what you can’t see. And I think we have to set up role models for our girls, which we’re doing, to show that women can lead.
And of course, we’re going to have screw ups, and not everything will be perfect, but in the end we’ve got it dead in the seat because I spend a lot of time with Ladies Who Launch, giving amazing women out there who are entrepreneurs… like a lot of, “Go for it. Take a risk.” And there I was, maybe not going to take the risk myself. So there was just a moment where I felt it was the right thing to do, when I where I was at in my career, but also just personally, like how I wanted to show up in the world, and mentor in a broader way. If nothing else, just through showing.
On the community side it was super intriguing. Because it linked back to that whole beginning of life, of Northern Ireland, being with community. I do think that even as I’ve kind of settled at the seat of Nextdoor, I find even just personally my willingness to talk to someone in the street, smile at someone, offer help even when I maybe don’t know the person, has gone way up. Which is kind of the old me before I became, not so much jaded, but more afraid in the world. When you were a young woman and you [inaudible 00:30:50], I would still be talking to people, and then that weirdo would follow me home. And so I feel like I really shut that part of myself off, out of self preservation. And it feels really good at this stage of my life to reopen that whole feeling up. And it does have a remarkable impact on your health, and how you feel.
And so if I can give that gift back now to this local graph of neighbors today in 11 countries, 260,000 neighborhoods. It’s not small numbers anymore. I think we can have a remarkable impact on the health of society, beyond just the pure utility of it.
Kara Goldin: I think that’s absolutely true. So you’re obviously in a bunch of different countries, but in the US if someone wants to go on, they just go to Nextdoor.com, there’s no charge for it. You just put in your address. I know the whole drill.
Sara Friar: We’ll hire you.
Kara Goldin: Yeah, it’s super, super easy. And as I tell people, as active as you want to be, you will get the most of out it.
Sara Friar: Right. That’s exactly right. You don’t know until the moment. You might lose a pet, you might need some advice about… right now I’d love some advice about what to do with two teenagers through the summer, because everything that I thought we were going to do is no longer happening. So I’ve been noodling on what’s my post out to my neighborhood. Because we’re going to have to do things that are local, and so again it comes back to this power of the local graph is really shining through.
There’s also, I mean, where the meld of Square plus Nextdoor comes together is small businesses, which is been a place I’ve been so passionate about for the last decade plus of my life. And it goes back to being builders. I love how small businesses, local businesses are such builders, and the way they come up with their concepts and their ideas. And I think the way we’re going to get them back on their feet right now is bringing neighbors to the party. Like literally, how can you help this restaurant? Well maybe they’re not open but let’s do pick up, or let’s do delivery. How can you help your hair salon? I have literally bought Patricia, my amazing hair stylist, you might not believe it, but out of all her products. She didn’t want me to buy a gift card, she’s not open. So I’m like, “What else can I do?” And I think that I see this all the time right now. That there’s a lot of neighbors wanting to help neighbors, because it’s in our best interest.
Kara Goldin: Absolutely.
Sara Friar: To make sure those local businesses survive. We don’t want to live in a totally mundane area with no local flavor, and those businesses are so fragile.
Kara Goldin: It’s so funny, I was just thinking about this. My mom, when I moved to New York, right after college… My mom said to me, don’t forget if you need to go to a dry cleaner, or the grocery store, just be sure to go local. And she said it a few times to a point where I was like, “Why? Are you nervous that I’m going to go far away or something? And something’s going to happen to me in New York City?” And she said, “No, because your neighborhood will be safer if the businesses around you survive. And so even if they’re a little bit more expensive, that’s okay. You need to continue to build that.”
I mean, it’s funny because I’ve told so many people this story about her, and her comments. And she really believed it. And she believed that… I think what’s so interesting about Next Door is that you guys have been I think on the forefront as we went into Covid time, you guys have really been in the forefront of the importance of a virtual community. So I get advice for power washing my sidewalk from a neighbor who lives a few doors down from me, who I have never met. I’ve emailed back and forth, or they post, “Oh I had this guy come, and he’s super nice. Great.” And it’s so interesting to think about that, about Nextdoor. You guys have just been really operating virtually and talking about virtual without actually even using that word, maybe.
Sara Friar: Yes.
Kara Goldin: It’s fascinating. So what do you think is the current state of businesses as we’re hopefully exiting, or maybe 70% exiting towards this new future, what are your thoughts on the new ways of business as we’re going forward?
Sara Friar: Yeah, I think as leaders, the term I use with my team all the time is what is the emergent theme? So don’t just think about back to normal, let’s don’t even use phrases like that, because it implies that it’s just going to all be the same again. And I think first of all that would be a complete missed opportunity if that does become the case.
I mean, in terms of emerging themes that I see, definitely profoundly different perspective on local. I do think more people will work from home because in this great experiment that we’ve all been in, and frankly I was not a huge supporter of work from home, pre-this and now I’m like, “Wow. We are so productive.” And so I can imagine more people working from home. Maybe it’s not five days a week, but maybe it’s three days a week or something. So I think your appreciation and your need for local is going to skyrocket.
I think there is an emerging theme around the more conscious consumer. So I think the other thing we’ve all learned sitting at home, is maybe we don’t need all the clothes in our wardrobe. I certainly don’t. I don’t know if I need all the high heels I have, although I’ll be hard pressed to get rid of any of them.
Kara Goldin: Where I have not put on zip pants for 60 days, and I am so proud of that. I am living in my Lululemon workout pants all day long.
Sara Friar: I would cut my high heels every day when I leave and put on my flip flops. But just this idea of a more conscious consumer. And part of it will be drive by economic need. We are going through a much tougher time from an overall global macro backdrop. But it will be interesting to see… the trends we see on the platform that speak to us are things like bartering are on the rise. For sale and free which is our classifieds business is skyrocketing, part of it is because everyone is been at home, so there’s not a garage, spare bedroom that hasn’t been cleaned out. But I think that people are also viewing it as a place to potentially make a little bit of extra money on the side. And I think that’s good for the world. Right? It’s a much better idea of reuse, repurpose, recycle.
Beyond that, it’s interesting to think about things like privacy, as we bring people back to work, are we going to insist on health checks, and temperature checks? We’re going to want to… to do this all safely, and I actually think this is a place where someone like Governor Newsom is doing a good job. We know how much testing we need to do, but we also need tracers, so if someone tests positive, we can also quickly trace who they have interacted with, so we can create a little quarantine zone. So that a hot spot doesn’t suddenly emerge.
But there’s big ramifications for privacy in all of that. I heard someone say at the beginning of all this, there’s no way US people will ever wear masks. That’s just not something we do. And it’s just not true. Turns out we’re very creative with our masks, which I do love, including for Hint. But again, it goes back to this idea that humans are very malleable and very quickly will respond. And so the privacy angle to me is also kind of an interesting one. Interesting in that I think it has both pros and cons as we come back. But those are just some of the things that are top of my [crosstalk 00:38:42]-
Kara Goldin: Well I think health is… I’ve been talking about this for the last 15 years. It doesn’t matter what your gender is, where you live, how much money you have, what your education level is… if you don’t have your health, and you touched on that a little bit, it really drives decisions. And so the mask decision I think is… there are people that are like, “We’ve got to go back to work now. We’ve got to do this.” But I think it really… health or this appearance of health, I think is kind of the core thing that sits out there or people. So it’s very, very interesting.
And I’m sure people are looking in terms of community as well. I saw a posting on Nextdoor the other day saying, “Can we all work together to get testing in our small little community, in [inaudible 00:39:42] Kentfield area.” And it’d be great to do that. So anyway.
Sara Friar: I mean the one other side of health that I would love people to think about that are listening is there has been this wonderful sense of togetherness and help. And so I think a lot of parts of our community, particularly the elderly or those that are more ill, have kind of in some ways come to the forefront. In the same way that this whole crisis has brought to the forefront the people who are truly on the frontline, the doctors, the nurses, but then the less obvious like the grocery store clerk, or the person who works in an elderly home for example. But how do we make sure that as we do go back to the office, whatever that looks like, that we don’t forget about them all again? There’s an incredible loneliness already in those parts of our communities, and I think it could be even more exacerbated by what’s going on. If there’s a feeling of like, “Wow I was lonely before but now I can’t even really leave home.” Like my mom is coming up to 80, she has really severe chronic COPD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder. So she is someone who cannot afford to leave the house until there’s a vaccine. And I worry very deeply about her feeling like society has kind of thrown her to one side.
And loneliness is often not a disease we talk very openly about. We talk about diabetes, we talk about obesity, and we talk about opiod crisis. But loneliness is an incredible insidious disease in all of our communities. And so I just hope that we’ve learned something from this crisis, that doesn’t let us forget the people who really do need our help even if it’s just a quick phone call, or a quick check in, a couple of times a week.
Kara Goldin: Yeah and I feel like I also hear it from friends of mine who are living alone through this process, and they don’t go into the office, and that was really their socialization. And so I think that that’s just so critical to be aware of that.
So last but not least, by any stretch, Ladies Who Launch, so talk to me a little bit about this imitative and how do people come and get more involved in this?
Sara Friar: Thank you. So we co-founded Ladies Who Launch, we being Kelly McGonigle and myself, my co-founder about five, six years ago. And it’s oriented towards female entrepreneurs starting, running, growing their own businesses. It’s very much Main Street, it’s not about tech, although we welcome all. But we’re really thinking about the cupcake maker, the local maybe tax person, the woman who wants to start her own baby clothing more organic, but really geared towards those women. And there are three pillars to it. Interest in my community was one. The second was education and the third is inspiration.
And so we did set it up as an event series. And we’ve done events all over the world. We’ve been to Sydney, London, we just did one in Stockholm last year. I came off one in Belfast right before shelter in place went into action here in the US. So it really was about bringing women together in local communities, to drive support and mentorship for each other and then also to get amazing female entrepreneurs, who really have not seen too much success to talk to them. And you of course did that, and did that magnificently here in San Francisco-
Kara Goldin: I loved speaking there. It was great.
Sara Friar: You were amazing, you are [crosstalk 00:43:27] but we’ve also had to pivot too, because we were in real life [inaudible 00:43:37] space non profit. And so thanks now, we have a fantastic executive director who came on at the beginning of the year. Julie has really quickly pivoted us to things like we are going a lunch series to play off the pun in our name. So Ladies Who Launch, and we’ve kind of come through the crisis with a lot of our women, from the initial like, “what the hell do you do?” In the first couple weeks, to, “How are you not thinking about taking your business back out of shelter in place?”
But I think it’s unlocked for us, scale that we didn’t have before. So again, in learning all this, we don’t want to just go back to doing what we did before. I think with Ladies Who Launch, we’re really going to think about, “Okay now we can do a lot virtually as well.” Now it shouldn’t totally [inaudible 00:44:21] because there’s a lot that happens in real life, particularly when women can get together one on one or three on one and get mentorship. We don’t want to lose that special [inaudible 00:44:30]. But I think this gives us a whole new way to unlock the way to get our message out in the world.
Like we did a podcast last week with [Remy 00:44:39] who is based in Australia, and runs a non-profit called [inaudible 00:44:44] with the founder, CEO of [crosstalk 00:44:50] actually. And we would never be able to have a chat now with those two women except that we could now do it virtually, and have them come in from all parts of the globe. So I think it’s a good learning for us, in how to pivot to [crosstalk 00:45:05]-
Kara Goldin: I love it. That’s great. So I ask everybody, all of our guests two more questions. First of all, what is your favorite Hint flavor?
Sara Friar: Oh I am definitely, I’m much more of a citrusy Hint flavor gal, so I still like kind of my more lemons, and my grapefruity flavors. I don’t love [crosstalk 00:45:27]-
Kara Goldin: We have both of those.
Sara Friar: I know. I have them in my fridge. So, yes.
Kara Goldin: And what makes you unstoppable?
Sara Friar: So when I knew I was doing this podcast, I actually did this as a pop question at the dining room table for my whole family. And two things that we actually did what makes everyone unstoppable? But for me the two things that we felt stood out, and I feel stands out… one is hard work. I don’t want to underestimate the power of working hard to get to what we want to do. And the second is to be persistent. My kids would say, they’d be like, “Mom never gives up.” And part of it is, even when I’m hiking, I always want to take the path that goes further up the mountain, or gets you higher up.
And so I think when you put those two things together, that can hopefully create and unstoppable force.
Kara Goldin: I will add one more thing, your attitude is you are always very positive. You don’t brush things under the rug, you’re really trying to power through things, and look at things. And because of that you’re so inspiring, and really contagious. And I mean that. Because I think that that is really, really important for people to try and figure out, how do you get there? Because I think that’s… People want to work with that. They want to be led by that. And I think it’s just super, super important.
Sara Friar: That’s definitely true. The world belongs to optimists. I say that all the time to my whole team.
Kara Goldin: I totally agree. So where do people… well first of all Nextdoor.com, Ladieswholaunch.org
Sara Friar: .org. Yeah Ladieswholaunch.org.
Kara Goldin: And then Sara Friar on social?
Sara Friar: I’m actually @thefriley is how you’ll find me on Twitter, which I tend to use more. On Instagram it’s Sara.Friar. You can find me through Next Door there too.
Kara Goldin: Amazing. Well thank you so much Sara. This was really, really inspiring. And I learned a few things as well, and very, very excited to see you again on the trails. Thanks so much.
Sara Friar: Thanks a lot.
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