Mauria Finley and Claire Hough, Women Entrepreneurs, Citrus Lane
I really enjoy talking to all the women entrepreneurs that have crossed my path over the year. Speaking with Mauria and Claire was like taking a trip down memory lane. Although our paths had never crossed before, they were involved in the dot.com world in the bay area from the mid-90's so I knew the companies they worked at, the story behind many of them and the feeling of exhilaration that we all had at that time. To hear their stories and their eventual departure from that world to create their own start-up after all that experience under their belt makes me want to give them a high-five. What is also an added bonus is that these two women, in the tech world who used the internet as their platform to launch an ecommerce business called Citrus Lane and were funded by Greylock.
Mauria was raised by a single Mom in Texas making her way to Stanford as a computer science major. She did a lot of teaching on the side when she was there. After graduating Mauria embarked on a journey around the world returning back to the bay area when her trip was over where she took her first job out of college at Netscape as the product manager working on the browser. Next she jumped ship to AOL to become the manager of communities which was a totally fun experience where chat was just starting to ramp up. Next stop was Good Technology that built mobile hardware for mobile devices. There were ten people when she got there soon becoming 250 before selling to Motorola which in turn sold to Visto. It was 2001 and hardware for software was cutting edge stuff.
After three jobs and a nice exit she took some time to travel again coming back to the bay area when her journey was over. She went to work at Paypal working in the consumer management area where she launched the daily deal. Mauria also had a board seat at Say Now which was eventually bought by Google.
Claire lived in Korea until she was 14. For political and education reasons her Mom wanted to educate her children in the US. They didn't speak a word of english and landed in the Berkeley area of California. Soon figuring it out she went to Berkeley doing her undergraduate and graduate work there. Claire worked in semi-conductor companies after graduation where they were in need of analytical software system to track their floor systems. Although she was doing software her degree was in operations research with a slant towards optimation engineering. At her job she ended up doing lower level back end software for a data base company for seven years before getting recruited to Netscape in 1995.
At Netscape all the engineers were on one floor eating lunch and dinner together everyday. They wanted to base their business on service and tool products. Those were the days when manifestos would show up on her desk and she would have to figure out how to build those products. They would release the product and 20,000 people would download it in 12 hours and then they would be on to something else. She finally ended up running the security area at Netscape before it was sold to AOL.
After AOL bought Netscape, Claire went to work for Sun Microsystems. Really hard work and very bureaucratic. It was interesting but she went with the theory that life is too short and she was too entrepreneurial to deal with the bureaucracy and jumped ship to Napster. Berteslmann was in the game at that point and she helped re-architect the business and security system to productize the model to create revenues. They built it and were told not to launch it instead they declared bankruptcy. Claire helped them sell what was left of the company before moving to Blue Martini software.
In 2000 Blue Martini went public and then collapsed in 2001. It was the time of the big bubble. It was an ecommerce play. The company moved to Nexttag and she stayed on for another six and a half years. Claire did a variety of jobs including general manage and president of the travel and education business before it was sold and they brought in a new ceo. It was at this time she wanted to do something new. She was married with two teenagers.
Mauria had this idea for Citrus Lane, a highly targeted, curated specifically for each customer baby and childrens products delivered monthly to your door. Mauria has two kids of her own who are four and 22 months. She was looking for the right partner to do this with. Claire was introduced to Mauria through a guy that had worked for Claire at Netscape. He didn't think Claire would want the job because she had hired over 500 people for an executive team in her past but they met and totally hit it off. Their lives have changed from working in these large companies to becoming real entrepreneurs, creating a market, a brand, a product to doing support work for the staff and even cleaning the toilets. You know what, they love it.
They raised capital after 3 1/2 months of proving their model with a seed round. Greylock invested. Citrus Lane are care packages for parents. They send a new package every month that has a theme in the box with really well researched products geared towards the age of your child. They try to maintain value and people really appreicate it. You get full on products from a bib to a sippy cup to a diaper cream. 3/6/12 month packages. They are finding that not only are people buying them as gifts they are buying them for themselves. They both know from their past careers that listening to their customers is key.
I seriously love this story. Two super smart women who have worked in some of the top companies in the bay area who got off that track to create their own. I am seeing more and more women jump off that track and be their own boss. These two women are role models for the next generation of women entrepreneurs.