By Tereza Nemessanyi (Co-Founder & CEO, Honestly Now)
Editor’s note: Last week, TechCrunch announced Honestly Now raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Golden Seeds and Canrock Ventures. Co-Founder and CEO Tereza Nemessanyi authors a guest blog post special to Women 2.0 about the process.
As I sit down to write this, I’m nervous. Really nervous. Our team is jamming to complete the data migration from 1.0 to 2.0. In 1 hour 7 minutes, the announcement is set to break in the press. It will tell the world, or the part of the world who cares, that Honestly Now has a new product, and got funded.
So -– why am I shaking? It’s certainly not our team. They are off-the-charts awesome. I am sure they’ll pull it off. And if there’s a glitch, we have contingency plans. It’s not the product. We know it won’t be perfect at the start. And we plan lots of quick releases, to get it to “good enough”. We’ve listened to feedback, poured our hearts and souls into it, and it’s a major step in the right direction.
Is it the messaging? A little. We’re trying to change the world here.
When you’re transversing different areas, it’s hard to get people to “get it”. A Q&A site? A social game? An expert network? A social network? A women’s thing? Well, no. But, yes. Er, kind of. So we tweak, dial up, dial down. Instrument the machine. Read tea leaves.
What makes me tremble is how badly I want this to succeed. I told a reporter my crazy goal: one billion honest moments. One billion honest moments will make the world a little better. It’ll help a whole bunch of people feel confident in their decisions, and not feel alone like I did that chilly October day a few years ago.
Standing in front of my bedroom mirror, I did not recognize myself. I hadn’t slept or eaten in days, 15 pounds under my regular weight. My baby was crying in her car seat on the floor. I was trying to decide if I should wear Mom’s red satin blouse. Her favorite color.
It was the outfit I’d wear to deliver her eulogy, in about an hour. This was following a battle with cancer that started and finished with breakneck speed. And was only months after delivering Dad’s eulogy. It all happened so fast, we didn’t even have time to bury him. His urn was still in the living room –- it seemed, waiting for her. We’d be taking them both today.
In a moment of forgetting, I instinctively turned to ask, “Hey, does this look okay on me?” -– to Mom. She was the one always there in my darkest moments. But now, not. The dissonance of her not being here slammed my body with full force. My best friend, my biggest fan, and my single truth-teller, was gone.
Her loss hurt most when I had decisions to make, whether big or small, and it continued for weeks, then months. A year passed, and I still felt it. It wasn’t that I always did what she said. But I did value her opinion, deeply. And always, her affirmation — her “You go, girl!” Both were irrevocably missing.
Mom and Dad were political refugees who defected from Czechoslovakia in 1967. Unable to speak openly under threat of persecution, they landed in the U.S. eager to speak their minds –- and were totally unfiltered by American cultural norms. As the eldest child and a striver, I was on the front line of their feedback. They were eager to dish it out, and nothing was off-limits.
Without them, the silence was deafening. Should I suck it up and make decisions on my own now? I tried. But that was depressing. I just couldn’t feel great about decisions I’d made in a vacuum. To me, decisions were inherently social. How do I know what’s possible if I don’t talk about it?
I started reaching out to friends for advice on all types of personal decisions. They were nice, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that they might be whitewashing the truth. Our relationships were conditional, after all. That honest voice was missing, and as a result, total self-confidence was elusive.
I started to realize many women are alone, for a wide and complicated variety of reasons, while making decisions. This erodes our confidence. And I learned about the science behind social decision-making. When we enlist the help of others, not only do we feel better, but we actually make better decisions.
It turns out we enjoy and gain from giving advice, too. Across the board, our stress levels go down, and our health improves. Women understand this instinctively. The question emerged: could we leverage today’s technology, so no one ever again has to be alone when making an important personal decision? Could we make people, across the board, feel more confident, by calling on each other when making our decisions?
The answer was a resounding Yes. And we built it: a bite-sized chunk of market research on yourself, creatable and accessible anywhere and anytime, in a dynamic multi-player game experience. It had to be snipe- and snark-free, with an expert layer providing excellent, actionable personal advice. We wanted the act of helping each other and solving your problems with great advice to give you a dopamine rush.
We put out a beta website. Some aspects outperformed our expectations. Others failed. We decided to be bold and blow it up and rebuild the front-end, based on everything we learned. We fell in love with what this new product would become.
We talked to lots of investors along the way. Lots didn’t get it. Many said come back later. And some great ones totally got it, and signed onto the vision. We expanded and upgraded our team.
So today, we’re ever-adjusting, and will for a while. But oddly, somehow ever closer to that very first honest moment –- being alone, needing honest feedback, and no one there to give it. So –- one billion honest moments? I say, game on. Anyone care to join me?
Honestly Now is powered by Experts across all fields, to give their advice and power their personal brands over social media. Is that you? We welcome awesome Women 2.0 members to apply to be experts here.
Editor’s note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below.
About the guest blogger: Tereza Nemessanyi is the Co-Founder and CEO of Honestly Now, a Q&A social game which helps us make awesome personal decisions, together. She is passionate about women in high-growth entrepreneurship, and frequently write and speak on the topic. Her blog Mashups, Markets and Motherhood has set off a number of discussions across the industry. Tereza is a wife, mom of two kids, and an entrepreneur and thinks each is the best job on earth, and savors every day. Follow her on Twitter at @terezan.