Anne Dwane, Zinch, Woman Entrepreneur

Images Anne Dwane was introduced to me by a reader of this blog and that alone makes for a good story.  Donna thought I should know Anne.  Social media has changed all of our relationships. I have met face to face, talked to on the phone and have had skype conversations with women all over the world who are creating new companies and through technology we are all connecting with each other.  I love it.

Back to Anne.  Anne started out in NYC and left the concrete jungle for the Fingerlakes area of NY where her father bulit his practice as the local obstetrician.  Anne graduated high school and went to Georgetown.  After graduating Georgetown she was hired into the research arm of Nabisco.  It was the early 90's.  She was doing research on chips ahoy before moving into the brand management area.  At the time, the CEO of the company challenged every department to come up with a reduced fat product.  Remember Snackwells?  I do.  I remember that when that product hit the market people had this idea that they were low fat and would eat an entire box at one seating.  After years of dieting, I knew that this was not a good idea. 

Anne was involved with the Planters Peanut brand at the time and coming up with a reduced fat solution for a peanut was not so easy.  KKR had just bought out Nabisco and huge levels of middle management were cut out.  Lucky for her, she remained and so at 25 years old she found herself responsible for this new product. She went down to Virginia to work on the solution working with a patent they had. The product ended up being a reduced fat product with a great concept solution it just tasted terrible so scaling at market didn't go to well.  One time purchases were about all they were getting.  That job was an unbelievable training ground for management. 

It was 1996 and Anne saw the world changing.  She went to the President and recommended that they should create something on the web called Nabisco direct so that they could sell directly to their consumers and create more brand loyalty.  He thought it was a crazy idea until two weeks later when he was at a cocktail party and someone asked him what they were doing on the Internet and he responded with the idea of Nabisco direct.  You have to love that story.  Anne decided it was time to move on and went to Harvard Business School for a MBA. 

After graduating in 1998, she went to work for Paul Allen in the research tank doing diligence on everything including Tivo. Then she got a call from a woman who she had graduated with at HBS with who had an idea to start a site for the armed forces that would allow them to stay connected.  Together the two of them started Military.com.  They called it community but it really is a social network.  The military moves all over the world but wants to remain connected with the people who have crossed their paths.  They didn't want to change their behavior but help the way they stayed connected.  It was a huge success and Monster.com bought them for $65M.  As part of the deal, Anne went to work there for the next four years growing the business. 

One of the original investors of Military.com suggested that Anne meet with two young founders who had started Zinch.com which is a kind of a linked in for young people.  She loved what they are doing and joined forces.  They match kids to the right schools and scholarships based on their profiles.  For instance, your profile might say that you are from Boston and that you are interested in the Sciences and little did you know that a particular university is interested in growing their student body with kids from the Northeast and are giving scholarships based on the Sciences.  The process is tech driven.  They work with over 900 colleges and universities that are telling them who they want to recruit. 

They have raised $4m so far after initially boot strapping the company.  Anne believes that in an analog world GPAs and test scores used to be the only proxy for admissions but in a digital world that has changed.  It is about finding the right fit and there is more transparency in the process.  Universities and colleges pay them to find the right students.  It is much more efficient than direct mail.  It is very measurable and free to all the potential students. 

Anne is all business.  It is not surprising at all that she has had success already with one business sold under her belt and has moved on to CEO of another start-up being there from the very onset.  I also love that Anne is doing something in the education world.  I meet so many women who are all drawn to changing the world of shopping and fashion and I personally want to see more women enter the education space.  More women like Anne in education will be the key to creating companies that will disrupt a platform that needs a total shake up.