NYLP: Welcome to the New York Launch Pod, a podcast highlighting start-ups, businesses and openings in the New York City area. I’m Hal Coopersmith and in this episode, we are speaking to Lisa Skeete Tatum, the founder of Landit. Landit is a fantastic platform that helps women increase their success and engagement in the work place, particularly at inflection points, while also helping companies invest in their female employees. As you will hear, Lisa is dynamic and energetic with a very interesting background. She worked at Procter and Gamble, GE Capital, as a venture capitalist and General Partner, at Cardinal Partners, graduated from Cornell University with a Bachelor of Science in engineering, an MBA from Harvard Business School, a Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute and on the Board of Trustees at Cornell University. There is so much more and that’s just the tip of the iceberg, so let’s go to the interview.
Stepping onto the Launch Pod we have Lisa Skeete Tatum. She’s the founder of Landit. Welcome to Launch Pod, Lisa.
Lisa: Thank you, Hal. It’s great to be here.
NYLP: What is Landit?
Lisa: So Landit is a platform geared to increase the success and engagement of women in the workplace. And we do that by providing each woman with her own personalized Playbook to help her move forward in her career. And it’s really looking at the millions of women who will find themselves at an inflection point. And that could be either at a company and they’re trying to figure out how to more successfully navigate. There are some who are feeling stuck and are trying to figure out how to get out of it, which is where I found myself. Or perhaps they are in transition and are trying to figure out what’s next. And realizing that as you progress in your career, the more challenging those inflection points become. So much so, that as we sit here today, you have the largest number of professional, educated women not firing on all cylinders, but they want to be.
And on the other side, you have companies, you have boards, you have VC’s (I used to be one) who’d love to hire more women, love to have them on my board. First, I can’t seem to find them. But more importantly, when I do find them, how do I invest in their retention and development. And we looked at that and said, it’s actually not a supply issue or a demand issue, we hear that all the time. It’s actually market failure. And so our goal was, what do we put in place to enable more smart, relevant connection, and then what would be that Playbook that we would give to her to enable her to essentially guide through the different continuums in her career. And for companies, it is a turnkey way for them to invest in a more positive woman’s experience, and in the development and retention of their diverse talent. And that, in essence, is the platform.
NYLP: What are some of the obstacles preventing women from firing on all cylinders in the workplace, and how does Landit help them overcome those?
Lisa: So, the number one question that we hear, and that I’ve actually asked myself, we all have, which is, where do I start? So I want to make something happen, I’m motivated, I have skills, I have a track record, but I don’t even know where to begin. And so we set out to answer that question, which is, first, what should you be doing that fits with you? How do you develop your brand? How do you develop, manage, and nurture your network? How do you continue to develop your skills? How do you access a great coach? And so these are all the key elements to success that, one, often people don’t know, and if they did know they’d have to go here, there, and everywhere to try and knit it together themselves. And so our goal is to actually pass someone. So it’s like, I’m ready, you know, I’m ready to go, just point me in the direction. And so our goal is to give you what you need when you need it so that you can reach your “it.”
NYLP: How does someone know that they’re at an inflection point in their career?
Lisa: Oh, you know. Because you feel it. That feeling of dread when you’re stuck. Or it’s like, gosh, is this really the right thing? Or, I want to do more but I don’t know how. And it’s those types of questions that we all will face, or have faced, that signal that you may be at one of those critical junctures.
NYLP: And so how did you come up with the idea?
Lisa: So, it actually stems from my own personal experience. You know, as you know, I started off as an engineer working for Procter and Gamble in engineering product development, and then ultimately in their Prestige fragrance business. I got recruited away to join a start-up. That’s where I caught the bug and said, “Gosh, how do I do this for more people?” And that’s when I discovered the world of venture capital. And, I loved that, I did that for about 11 years, and realized that I felt myself living this double life. So I had my VC day job, but I’ve always been committed to creating access and opportunities for others. And I wanted to figure out a way to combine those two, and that’s when I got stuck because I had no idea what that looked like. Everyone expected me to know what that looked like, including myself. And I felt pretty crappy. And about that time, as I was trying to figure out what my next move was, I realized just how many women around the globe were in the same position, just trying to figure it out, not wanting anyone to know they don’t have it figured out. And about that time I was accepted as a Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute, and you have to have a project that you think is going to have an impact on the world. And my project was really me. It was Landit. And how do we put together a solution that could, in essence, unlock the potential of women around the globe?
NYLP: It sounds like a very daunting project that you’ve undertaken, and you’re doing a great job with it.
Lisa: Well, thank you.
NYLP: So how did you get the start in terms of building this platform? Where did it all come from? Where did you pull all the resources from?
Lisa: So, the idea actually started with, as most great ideas do, what’s your personal pain? And so we sat down and we said, well, what is it that I’m glad I’m had, I wish I’d had, or that I was fortunate enough to have the sponsorship? And what are those key elements for success? And our goal, knowing that it is such a big challenge, that there’s not just one solution or one feature. And so our goal was to knit those key elements together in a way that didn’t seem daunting, that kind of gives you what you need when you need it, and really kind of pass you through. And so that was our goal, which was really, what’s a Playbook? What do the guys know? What do other successful people know, and how do we bring that to everyone or anyone on the platform. And that was our approach. And then the fun started, which was pulling those elements together, whether it is building your personal brand, or building your board, or having access to a coach. And knitting that together in a way that it’s really one size fits one, as opposed to one size fits all.
NYLP: And when you were developing this Playbook, where did you decide, okay, this is the Playbook that people should have.
Lisa: So, there is a formula. So, we tell people, you know, if you’re applying to business school, there’s a formula that they look for, or in a company, or even as a venture capitalist. There is a basic formula for success. There are elements that are tried and true. The challenge is, not everyone has access to those. So we went back to the basics. And if I learned anything as a VC it’s don’t do any nice to have’s. Do the key things that make a difference. And so, that’s how we came up with, okay well, what is important for moving forward? Whether, again, it is building your network, it is having continuous skill development, whatever it may be, we said, let’s distil that down and let’s sit those things together. And then it’s like, okay, well I better go find me some technology experts. So I had invested in plenty, I’m an engineer myself, but wanting to put it together in a way that was seamless, that was scalable, but also leverage the right human touchpoints at the right moments. And so that’s how we thought about bringing this notion of a Playbook together, because after all you’re talking about something very personal for someone, so you have to have both the technology as well as the human component. And the challenge was how do we weave those together. I’d say what we’re very intentional about with Landit is really, as I said, about democratizing access. Because if you don’t know what you don’t know, if you don’t know even the rules of the game, how do you even play successfully. And so this notion of level-setting, and of democratizing success, that’s at the core of Landit. And so I’m very much proud of the fact that we’re able to deliver that through the platform.
NYLP: What are the rules of the game?
Lisa: Oooh, so this notion of sponsorship. So, knowing the distinction between a mentor or sponsorship. Or knowing…
NYLP: What is that?
Lisa: So a mentor is someone that you bounce ideas off of. It’s someone where you, in many cases, drive the relationship. A sponsor is a door-opener. A sponsor is someone that talks about you, not necessarily to you. And as you progress, that role of having a sponsor becomes more critical. And if you’re not aware of that, if you don’t cultivate that, I think that contributes to often why people get stuck, because it’s a sponsor that has the ability to open that door or push you down a path that perhaps you don’t think you’re quite ready for. So that would be one key component of the rule of the game, having a coach. I don’t know any successful person that doesn’t have a coach, but I didn’t know that. Like, if you don’t know, then you don’t even know that that’s an element or an ingredient.
NYLP: What types of coach?
Lisa: An executive coach. And that could be coaching you on, maybe you’re in a new position or a new team, maybe it’s on executive presence, maybe it is, you got some negative feedback and how do you process it, or maybe it’s a framework. Whatever it may be, there is tremendous value in having that objective expert that can help you frame and come up with a strategy and move forward. But most people kind of figure it out on their own. And so you can imagine the mistakes that you can avoid, or how you can, again, accelerate, through a situation if you have that in your corner, if you have the coaching in your corner. And this whole notion of a personal brand.
NYLP: And finding the right coach too, which is something that you help out with.
Lisa: That’s exactly right.
NYLP: How can someone find a sponsor?
Lisa: How can someone find a sponsor?
NYLP: Because a sponsor sounds, the way that you described it, sounds like the best thing in the world.
Lisa: I’d say it’s one of the key ingredients. Well, often it’s just identifying…So we ask a series of questions. Who is it that you know that you admire? Or who is it that you know that has a skill or an experience that you would like to have? Or who is it that you have a personal connection to? So it’s about cultivating. But, again, you recognize that role or that position. And it’s not necessarily someone in your current workplace. It could be someone that you know in your community. It could be someone that perhaps you’re on a non-profit board with. They exist in many different places.
NYLP: I checked out the platform, and there are some very interesting things that are the elements there, and maybe we can go over some of them.
NYLP: But it was a brand identity.
Lisa: So developing your own personal brand. We know that whether it’s your personal brand, executive presence, it’s a key element to success. It’s one of the things that women notoriously do, which is undersell themselves. And part of your opportunity, how you show up, has to do with how you’re perceived, and how do you present your accomplishments or your successes or even your failures. And so there’s a script to that, and there’s a formula for that. And our goal is to help step you through, what is your brand statement? What is your brand score? How do you develop those key elements? How do you show up? How do people perceive you? So there’s a whole piece on your personal brand because that’s the most important brand there is. That’s the brand of you.
NYLP: Another interesting component was having your own personal board of trustees.
Lisa: Absolutely. I think most people think of a mentor. I have to have a mentor. And I’m a huge supporter, obviously, of people and of development etc. But what you have to do is codify your network. You need a mentor. You need a sponsor. You need a connector, a point expert so that you can have the right ask of the right person. Often, I’ve never seen a mentorship program that’s extremely successful because it’s too heavy. You know, will you be my mentor? Will you solve everything? And that’s actually not how it works. It is having the right ask of the right person at the right cadence, and the ability to reciprocate. And you have got to it that serious. You have to invest in your network and a two-way street.
NYLP: I found this one of the most fascinating aspects of it because you wanted people to pull a diverse group for this personal board. How does someone approach another person and say I want you on my personal board of advisors?
Lisa: So I get that question a lot, and I say you actually don’t ask someone. It’s like saying, you know, can we go steady when you go on a date. You actually don’t ask. It’s how do you form a relationship. And part of that is, well what is it that either I can ask or what is it that I can give to that person, and what is that role? And it’s showing up kind of with an agenda. It’s showing up being credible. And it’s also showing up knowing that you also have something to offer, and you foster the relationship, and you stay engaged. But you never come right out and say, hey, Hal, will you be my mentor? Or could you be my sponsor? It is, I’m showing up because I have an ask of you, or there’s something that I can do for you, and let’s keep that relationship going. But it comes from knowing, what role does that person play on your board.
NYLP: And so, someone goes to Landit. What is your target audience for the platform?
Lisa: Landit is for anyone who’s looking to more successfully navigate their career. And so whether it is someone newly minted, someone who’s mid-career, or someone perhaps who’s more senior and is looking for the next chapter. It really is about helping you manage the continuum of your career. Something that’s portable, something that’s personalized, and the more you tell us the more we deliver things that are relevant for you. So it really is relevant for anyone, and we see that on the platform. We have people from around the globe, we have all ages, we have all careers, all industries, and we want it that way because it’s a universal issue.
NYLP: And how does Landit, the platform, apply to different people in different stages in their career, and across different industries? These teachings work for everyone, or are they catered to certain individuals?
Lisa: So the elements work for everyone. So your personal brand, you need that whether you’re just starting out, you’re mid, or you have achieved a level of success. Your network is something that you never stop cultivating. Learning is something that we all have to keep evolving. You know, every day as an entrepreneur I’m learning and making mistakes and evolving. And so it is, what do you need at that moment? We provide the scaffolding if you will. And the Playbook and the goalposts for that. And then it’s your own personal experience and where you are that allows us to tailor that. But the elements, the core elements, they’re the foundation.
NYLP: How does Landit help someone find their next step in their career if they want to switch careers or move on? How does that happen on the platform?
Lisa: So one of the elements that we have is our assessment. Because I realized even when I was at my inflection point, it’s, okay, VC was great, now what do I do? And often we think what we’ve done in the past is the only thing we can do in the future. And in many ways, we wanted to remove our own bias. And so what we do is kind of skinny that down and say, okay, well what are your core skills? And what are your interests? What are your motivators? What’s your personal situation? Because if it doesn’t fit with all of you, it’s not going to be sustainable. And then we use that to say, well, based on all those things, these are the possibilities. Because we really are about, what are the possibilities that fit with you, and then connecting you with those possibilities. So for companies, they could be internal opportunities that perhaps you didn’t even know existed. And for individuals, it is, oh, well I didn’t know, you know, one of the things if you look at my assessment it says I could do event planning because I am awesome at giving parties in addition to being an entrepreneur. So it’s about what are your possibilities and then connecting you with those. So that’s one way that someone would think about finding their “next”, or their “it” within Landit.
NYLP: How does Landit differentiate from other career resources out there? Let’s say a LinkedIn or The Muse.
Lisa: So how we’re different is the fact that we are integrated with a different feature. So, you know, as we look at success and what it takes to stay engaged and to develop and to retain, it’s not a one solution, it’s not just coaching, it’s not just your brand, it’s not just the job or the opportunity. It is the knitting together, and that know-how that’s the secret sauce. We’re very personalized, so again it’s not a one size fits all, it’s a one size fits you, ’cause it’s yours. And it’s the notion of pathing, because we literally give you a to-do, give you a plan. Do this, then do this, and this is how you develop it. And I think it’s that personalized, living, breathing Playbook if you will that differentiates us from some of the other wonderful companies that are out there.
NYLP: How much does it cost to use?
Lisa: So Landit is free for the individual.
Lisa: It is free, 90% plus things on the platform. We do have premium services, whether it is coaching or revision, rewrite your bio, your LinkedIn, etc. The curation, the tools, the know-how, the access, that’s all available to anyone on the platform. For companies, we provide them with a package, and that package includes the tools, it has a set of services pre-baked, and they pay that for each individual or each woman who participates under the Landit program or the Landit pilot, and they pay that up front.
NYLP: And what do you foresee as the way that Landit is going to make money?
Lisa: The companies obviously pay as an investment, and there are individuals that pay for the service as well. But when we look at the individuals that come on the platform, our goal is, as I said, to democratize career success. For the companies, Landit very much is about engagement, it’s about improving the woman’s experience in the workplace, and it’s about retention and development. And we’re able to do that through our platform in ways that currently are not available in this scalable, integrated fashion that we present. And I think that’s why our solution resonates so well within the enterprise.
NYLP: Are corporations going to be the main source of revenue?
Lisa: They are, and that’s our major focus.
NYLP: What happens when a company does purchase the platform for their employees?
Lisa: When a company invests in Landit for their colleagues or employees, they get all the tools in Landit, they get the bundle of services, the coaching, the review, they get module skill development, and they get the analytics behind it. We also convene the, I’ll call it the cohort in the company around expert sessions. So it really is about development. It’s about pathing. And it’s about knowing what their needs, wants, concerns are and being able to communicate that to a company that enables them to effect change. And so we bundle all of those things together in a turnkey way that enables them to, again, touch and impact many more folks in the organization that before, perhaps, they would not have been able to invest in. And so that’s how we make it a win-win, for the company, for the individual.
NYLP: How do you curate all the content that’s out there? Because I looked at it and the content really is great.
Lisa: So we have a couple of basic philosophies. So even our name, Landit, is all about action. And so everything that we put on there is, it has a purpose, which is to give you something that you can act on today, something that is relevant. So, many of the things we write, many of the things we partner with are the best of class. When you’re talking about changing the world and moving the needle that requires partnering with other best in class folks. So that’s part of what I call our brand promise, which is that when you come to Landit, you’re going to get the best, whatever the best thing is, the best techniques. Our goal is to bring that to you in a digestible, bite-size way.
NYLP: How did you find the coaches?
Lisa: Yeah, so we… I love our coaches. So we were able to partner very early on with some world-class firms that had not only amazing experienced coaches but coaches that get our mission, which is, if you really want to affect success early on, then you need to bring access to high-caliber coaching earlier on in someone’s career. So not just when you’ve made it to the C-suite or are on your way, but when you’re at an inflection point, and you may need that external expert to help you frame a conversation or think about something differently. So we said we want to go with folks who are certified, that have a track record, so that we can bring, again, the best caliber to the women and the companies that are on the platform. So we went early on and made those partnerships.
NYLP: And you also have job postings, too. How are you getting job postings?
Lisa: Yeah, so, we have, as I mentioned, several amazing corporate clients, and they post opportunities with us. We also have folks that come to us saying we’re looking for women, or we’re looking for diverse talent, and then we’re able, whether it’s our fellowships or our re-entry programs, we’re able through our network to pull those in, and then what we do is parse them based on what we know about the woman. So I know that none of us want to receive things that have no relevance. So based on what we know about you from the assessment, etc, we can actually serve up to you, whether you’re in a company or outside of a company, opportunities that may be of interest based on what you told us is important to you.
NYLP: I love this idea. It seems like it should have existed all the time. What’s been the reactions that you’ve had to Landit?
Lisa: The reaction has been, it’s been incredible. I think it touches people very deeply because everyone either again has experienced it or knows someone who is going through it and has wanted to either help them or felt, perhaps, helpless themselves. So it resonates literally whether it is with companies or with individuals or even other stakeholders. They all get it. And we hear stories such as, thank you for helping me tell my best story, or companies saying thank you for giving us a tool that enables us to invest in the talent that we value, or for reenergizing the people that perhaps are mid-career and maybe think that we don’t care, and we really do care. And so it really has been… It makes me get out of bed in the morning because it’s so incredible to know that we are making a difference.
NYLP: How are you getting new users?
Lisa: So our users are from our enterprise clients and also from word of mouth, so people who’ve heard about it or who’ve used it and referred it to others. We get great notes of people who’ve referred it to people in their families, people overseas, etc. So it’s great, it’s really great to see.
NYLP: And why did you decide to focus on women?
Lisa: So we always say that we develop tools for success, we just happen to be focused on women because that’s where the acute need is. That’s where you see, even though we’re 51% of the workforce, we’re only 16% of upper management. Or you see 90% of women experiencing workplace navigation issues. So our goal, even though it applies to anyone, you can’t have half of your population disenfranchised in the workplace. And so, going back to kind of the whole VC experience stuff, you go where the pain is. It’s something that I’ve experienced and it’s something that we want to address head on. This has been talked about since I, not too long ago, entered the workforce. And so we’re really about action. We want to do something about it. No more talking. What are actionable solutions that are actually going to make a difference. And that’s where the Playbook comes in.
NYLP: Based on these actionable solutions, what do you predict the results will be?
Lisa: Besides world domination?
NYLP: Which is fine. Which would be great.
Lisa: No, our goal is to truly unlock the talent of millions of women around the globe. And not in a way that… Landit’s not defining what their “it” is. It is helping them figure out what their “it” is and then succeed at doing that. And so being able to bring their whole selves to the workplace. Enabling companies to retain their best talent because their talent wants to be there and get the most out of it. So that’s our goal. You know there’s… If you were to just increase by 5% women firing on all cylinders, it’s almost a trillion dollar impact in the U.S. alone. Just in the U.S. And we literally have 20% of our users are international. And so when you think about all of that talent sitting on the side, or not kind of bringing everything they have, or the competitive loss to a company, we’re talking, you know, a significant shift in what the workplace and success looks like going forward.
NYLP: And you mentioned companies retaining the talent. How can the platform help companies retain talent?
Lisa: Absolutely. So, because we are turnkey because everything is knit together so it’s kind of a one-stop solution, it enables them to either invest in talent they’ve already identified or address what we call the forgotten middle. So often companies show you a lot of love in the beginning, not too much for the big bullets in the middle, then if you make it through and you’re an executive you get lots of investment there. So we give them an ability to reach multiple folks earlier on, multiple touchpoints. Or we can be a continuation to an investment they already make. So, when you think about the things that we know work, coaching, building your brand, your network, learning, the fact that we knit all that together and give that to them in a solution where they can then spread that through the organization, it’s a win-win overall.
NYLP: So the companies will sign up employees for Landit.
Lisa: That’s exactly right.
NYLP: You mentioned the impact that Landit has in the U.S. alone. How can Landit translate into different companies? I imagine there are cultural differences.
Lisa: Certainly there are nuances, but the fundamental elements are the same whether you’re in the U.S. or the U.K. or Asia, your network, your brand, your skills, all of those things are the same. They’re universal. There may be nuances within a company, but what you as an individual need in order to succeed in that sponsorship, that transcends cultures, locations, etc. And we see that just by the nature of the makeup of the folks we have on the platform. And, quite frankly, the international companies… Like there’s no such thing as “a U.S. company,” you know, everyone is global these days. And we have companies that have employees that are in different locations that are on the platform, and this is an easy way for them to knit together a common experience, a common investment, a common development tool.
NYLP: You mentioned that 90% of the platform is free. What is the cost for the paid functions of the platform?
Lisa: So a coaching session on Landit is \$250, which, given the amazing caliber, it’s quite a deal in that regard. And then we have revision services that range for, whether it’s redo your resume, LinkedIn profile, starting at \$245. So we’re quite competitive with those other existing solutions in the marketplace.
NYLP: Maybe you can speak from your own experience or for a friend, but if you had Landit at an inflection point for your career, aside from creating Landit, what would it have been like for you?
Lisa: It certainly would have made those transitions, and I’ve made plenty, so I’ve gone from chemical engineer to VC to entrepreneur, it probably would have come earlier in my career, and certainly I would have taken advantage of some of those things such as building your board, etc, much, much, much earlier, and then that in turn would have accelerated, perhaps, maybe even saved some of the pain that we all go through when we do these pivots. So, I wish I’d had Landit. And actually that’s where it came from, where it was like, gosh, what do we wish we’d had, or what are we glad that we had, so…
NYLP: What’s your favorite part of the platform?
Lisa: Hmmm. My favorite part of the platform is what we call keeping track of your accomplishments because it’s the one thing that we do, we universally, so poorly, but it’s something that is so critical to success. So looking every week, what did I do? Whether it was a personal accomplishment, a work accomplishment, something for my brand, and not suffering from LIFO, right, so last in first out, it’s time to talk about performance appraisal or to negotiate, and it’s like, well what did I do? What did I contribute? So this notion of keeping stock and being your own best advocate, it is something that everyone needs to do, and I’m really proud of how easy we made it to do that. So that’s my favorite.
NYLP: And we talked about how well received Landit was at the outset. Raising money, was it difficult for you?
Lisa: It’s always challenging, for sure, for sure. But I was fortunate that I had, from my previous relationships, I knew some folks. And I tell people that when you’re at the seed stage, often they’re investing in you because there’s not much there. You have an idea, and you’re on a mission. And so, it’s challenging for sure, but I was really, really fortunate to get some great investors around the table, both individuals as well as firms.
NYLP: And we talked about a personal board of advisors, but your board for Landit also has some incredible people. Oscar Salazar, the co-founder and CTO of Uber, Paul English, founder of Kayak amongst many other names. How is it possible to get those folks on board?
Lisa: Yes, Oscar, Paul, LeAnn, Sheila, Blair, Christie. It’s essentially going to them when we were percolating this idea and saying I have an idea, this is what I know, these are the questions that I have, and I was actually just going to them for advice, making the ask, you know, I need help. And it was through that where they’re like, huh, again either you’re talking about someone I know, or yes I can help, or I believe in you. And thank goodness they came along for the ride. Especially in the beginning when you’re trying to put the pieces together, so, I’m very, very fortunate. Just amazing folks in my corner. And as an entrepreneur you need it, you absolutely need it.
NYLP: Absolutely. What does success for Landit look like?
Lisa: I will measure success in two ways. So, we want to be the largest destination for professional women to find their “it” around the globe. So really simple, really straightforward. But equally important, I want women to feel empowered to bring it. Whatever their “it” is in the workplace, I want them to feel like there are no barriers that they have the tools and access they need to reach their “it.” And if we are doing that, then, darn it, I’ve achieved my mission and then some.
NYLP: Well Lisa, it is a wonderful mission that you have. It is an incredible platform. Thank you for stepping onto the New York Launch Pod and sharing your time with us.
Lisa: Thank you Hal, thank you so much for the opportunity.
NYLP: And if you want to learn more about the New York Launch Pod you can visit nylaunchpod.com, or follow us on social media @NYLaunchPod, and we look forward to hearing from you.
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