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Elizabeth's full bioAnita Borg

1 What do you do at SocialNet?

2 How did SocialNet come to be?

3 How were you introduced to the company?

4 What are the differences in atmosphere at SocialNet and Disney?

5 What is an average day at SocialNet like?

6 What do you like best about your SocialNet job?

7 How do you decide what features to offer SocialNet users?

8 How do you like being a feature on the SocialNet site?

9 How successful has the "Win a Date with Our CEO" promotion been?

10 How does your mom feel about the promotion?

11 What is the toughest experience you've had in your career and how did you deal with it?

12 Was it difficult to go from Disney to a start-up?

13 Is there anything more difficult about running an Internet business?

14 Have you ever been intimidated by technology?

15 Do you have any role models or mentors?

16 Did you always know you were headed in this direction?

17 What are your plans for the future?

18 What are some of your favorite features of SocialNet?

19 Can you share some SocialNet success stories?

20 Has the SocialNet system worked for you?

21 Do you have any advice for aspiring GirlGeeks?

Elizabeth 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 us today!

Elizabeth: Glad to be here.

Moderator: Why don't you start off by telling us about what you do at SocialNet?

Elizabeth: Well, 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?

Elizabeth:Extremely 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?

Elizabeth: Well, 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 benefit from?

Elizabeth: It's 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 the promotion...
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, though.

Moderator: How successful has the "Win a Date with our CEO" promotion been?

Elizabeth:It's 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 winners.

Moderator: You could webcast your wedding on the SocialNet site, LOL!

Elizabeth: Not a bad idea.

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 from it?

Elizabeth: I've 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.

Moderator: Absolutely.

guest-Angie asks: Was it a difficult transition going from Disney to a start up?

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?

Elizabeth: Well, 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?

Elizabeth: Great 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?

Elizabeth: Well, 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?

Elizabeth:I started 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?

Elizabeth: There 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 system.

Moderator: That's amazing! What a great story!

Moderator: How has the system worked for you?

Elizabeth: It's 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: Fantastic!

Moderator: Liz, we're almost out of time...

Moderator:: But before we go, do you have any advice for aspiring GirlGeeks out there?

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 it works.

Moderator: ;-) Sure will.

Moderator: A special Thank You Elizabeth Kalodner for chatting with us!

Elizabeth: Thanks for having me!


 
 
 
 


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