Kalodner, CEO, SocialNet.com
Our special guest today is Elizabeth
Kalodner, CEO, SocialNet.com. As CEO of SocialNet.com,
Liz Kalodner has built the site's member base from 60,000
to almost 1.5 million members through aggressive product
and marketing strategies, most notably, the "Win a Date
with Our CEO and make her mother happy" campaign.
Prior to joining SocialNet.com, Elizabeth was senior
vice president and general manager for Walt Disney Records,
the children's audio label of the Walt Disney Company.
Under her leadership, the division introduced over 75
new products and achieved an unprecedented top 25 titles
on Billboard's Kids chart. In her 10 years at Disney,
she also served as vice president of new business development
for Disney Consumer Products as well as vice president
of marketing for Disney Licensing where she oversaw
merchandise programs including "Beauty and the Beast"
and "Aladdin". Prior to Disney, Elizabeth spent several
years in marketing at Kenner Toys.
Elizabeth holds a B.A. from Harvard University and an
M.B.A. from Columbia University.
Moderator: Hi Liz, thanks for chatting with
to be here.
Moderator: Why don't you
start off by telling us about what you do at SocialNet?
I generally say that I get up too early and go home
too late, but I really try to do a couple of key things
run the operations of the company on a day to
day basis, keep the shareholders informed of what's
going on and always look toward the future.
Moderator: How did SocialNet
come to be?
Elizabeth: It was
founded by a guy who came out of Apple's E-World project
(which he worked on with the people who then created
Talk City) and another guy who came from IDG; they wanted
to use the Internet not as an end unto itself, but as
a tool. That's why we encourage people to meet online
in order to meet offline.
Moderator: How were you introduced
to the company?
Elizabeth: I was
called by a headhunter who was conducting the search.
Though my background was in the kids' business (Kenner
Toys and Disney) and in the commerce business, and clearly
SocialNet was in the adult service business, he and
I both felt that my brand building skills and experience
in relationships kinds of businesses (Disney is all
about relationships to characters) was applicable.
Moderator: How would you
compare the SocialNet atmosphere to that of Disney?
similar. It's got the same kind of entrepreneurial spirit
and the same hope that we can change the world. I expected
a small internet company to be quite different from
the big corporate world, but in fact it has not turned
out that way.
guest-Alison says: Can you
describe your average day at SocialNet, if there is
such a thing?
Elizabeth: I think
like everybody else's average day, it pretty much consists
of talking on the phone, writing and answering Emails
and going to meetings. Doing an online chat is a definite
highlight. One of the great surprises to me about working
for an internet company is that there is hardly any
travel and, actually, much less time on the phone. Business
is run by email now.
guest-Sandy asks: What do
you like best about your job @ SocialNet?
I have to say that I've enjoyed the last few months
immensely as I've been the object of our "win a date
with our CEO" promotion. Essentially, I've been dating
"on the company." Not too shabby. Otherwise, I would
say that my favorite part is releasing new features
to our users. I come from a consumer background, not
a business to business to business one or a technology
one, so I get a big kick out of introducing new elements
to the site that really make a difference to people.
Moderator: I'll definitely
ask more about the promotion, but I'd like to know how
you and your team decide which features your users would
really a collaborative process that involves people
from different disciplines sales, marketing,
product development, engineering and especially customer
service. Everybody weighs in with their thoughts and
we spend a lot of time evaluating the competition.
Moderator: And now about
Were you reluctant to participate at first? How have
you been enjoying it?
Elizabeth: I really
wasn't reluctant at all. I just thought it was going
to be fun, and it has. My life is sort of an open book,
Moderator: How successful
has the "Win a Date with our CEO" promotion been?
tremendously successful in terms of brand building,
and it has made our online marketing much more efficient.
Interestingly, the radio press has been the most successful
in driving membership. TV has not been quite as effective.
guest-Angie asks: How does
your mother feel about the promotion?
Elizabeth: She has
been a great sport about the whole thing, and she tells
me she is enjoying her "15 minutes of fame."
Moderator: I'm sure she is! It seems like
a lot of fun!
Elizabeth: I think
she's very hopeful that I might marry one of the contest
Moderator: You could webcast your wedding
on the SocialNet site, LOL!
Elizabeth: Not a
guest-Ann says: What is
the toughest experience you ever had in your career
life? How did you make it through and what did you learn
been lucky not too many tough ones. I would say
that raising money for an internet company in this economy,
though, has been a challenge.
guest-Angie asks: Was it
a difficult transition going from Disney to a start
Elizabeth: Not really.
As I indicated, the atmosphere is remarkably similar,
and I have to admit that operating an internet service
business is easier than operating a retail manufacturing
business. Any time you don't have to talk to WalMart
is a good day!
Moderator: Is there anything
more difficult about running an internet service business?
the greatest difficulty is absolutely hiring enough
good people. Silicon Valley, as you know, has been a
tough place to hire people; we've been basically lucky
with some great, great people, but we've always struggled
with getting enough talented engineers.
Moderator: We definitely need more engineers
out there! That's what GirlGeeks is all about, empowering
and inspiring women interested in tech!
guest-Carin asks: Have you
ever been intimidated by technology and if so, what
did you do to change it?
question when I arrived at SocialNet, I knew
virtually nothing about technology. I remedied that
by asking lots and lots of stupid questions, and I still
do that today. Sometimes our engineers roll their eyes
at me, but I'd rather keep asking then pretend to know
what I obviously don't.
guest-Doreen says: Did you
have any role models or mentors when you were starting
out? And do you have mentors now?
I've had a couple of mentors along the way, most prominently
my boss at Disney for 7 years. She really taught me
about having a vision and about being decisive. It's
really important to make a decision and move forward
even if you don't necessarily have every last bit of
information. If you've researched the problem, your
decision is probably a good one and that's much
better than continuing to waver about a problem.
guest-Aline says: Did you
always know you were headed in this direction?
out with a marketing career with the specific intention
that I wanted to go into "General Management." I double
majored in marketing and finance in business school
so that I would have the appropriate background. So,
I guess that's a yes.
guest-Sumita asks: What
are your plans for the future?
Elizabeth: At the
moment, simply continuing to make SocialNet a better
and better service.
Moderator: What are some
of your favorite features of the site?
Elizabeth: Our symmetrical
matching is really the best feature and very few other
services have it. It means that if someone appears on
your match list, you also appear on his or hers. That
way you're corresponding with people whom you know have
some interest in you. I also like our "Emma" feature
Emma scans the database "at night" and emails
you with new matches.
Moderator: Care to share
some of your favorite SocialNet success stories?
are many, but one of my favorites is the woman who saw
a guy at a children's birthday party, thought he was
cute, but was too afraid to talk to him. She then started
corresponding with a guy on SocialNet you guessed
it same guy. That's what really works about this
Moderator: That's amazing! What a great story!
Moderator: How has the system
worked for you?
those kinds of stories that make it all worthwhile.
If I'm ever having a bad day, I just read the email
that we get from our users. I realize that we really
are making a difference in people's lives.
Has it worked for me? Well, it's certainly starting
to. I'm now dating one of the winners from our contest,
and he's a terrific guy.
Moderator: Liz, we're almost out of time...
Moderator:: But before we
go, do you have any advice for aspiring GirlGeeks out
Elizabeth: My advice
is always to figure out what's important to you in life,
and then go after it. Don't get swayed by what's important
to other people. After you do that, proceed with the
best job you can do maintain your integrity,
treat people fairly and keep asking questions.
Moderator: Wonderful advice!
Elizabeth: I hope
Moderator: ;-) Sure will.
Moderator: A special Thank You Elizabeth Kalodner
for chatting with us!
for having me!