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Instagram: a never-ending scroll of dog pics, music videos, nature landscapes, and funny comics. That's my feed, anyway.

As it turns out, the social-media platform is also a surprisingly effective startup incubator--and not just for so-called marketing gurus or lifestyle influencers. That's according to a Fast Company story published on Monday about women founders on Instagram from Glossier's Emily Weiss to Away's Jen Rubio.

In a startup world that's incredibly male-dominated--women CEOs receive roughly 2 percent of venture capital, and founding teams including a woman entrepreneur win only about 20 percent of it--women founders with devoted social followings can gain a huge advantage, especially when fundraising. Weiss's online footprint, for example, was a huge selling point for investors: She was able to directly showcase her ability to capture customers with a popular, self-built aesthetic.

For Tyler Haney, the 30-year-old founder and CEO of Outdoor Voices who appeared on Inc.'s cover just a few months ago, it's more about personal branding. The Fast Company story highlights a moment when Haney was struggling to assert her authority with an obstinate recruiting firm. Frustrated, she took to Instagram with a sweaty gym selfie and venting caption: "I may look sweet and people call me cute... but underneath it all I am a BEAST. It's wild how many people try to chip away at this strength on a daily basis."

The post racked up almost 6,000 likes. Notably, I just googled "Tyler Haney," and the first result wasn't a story about her impressive entrepreneurial success. It was her Instagram account.

In other words, it's a double-edged sword: Haney's online persona drives interest in her business, not necessarily the other way around. Imagine sacrificing precious time from your CEO duties to carefully curate a personal social-media presence that's proving crucial to your company's growing popularity. It'd practically double your workload.

Be relatable, but not overbearing. Successful, but not too successful. Photogenic, but only in an authentic way. The same unfair standards that many women founders encounter in real life become amplified on social media, and your ability to cultivate a following could be directly tied to the growth of your business.

But you know, no pressure.

Published on: Apr 23, 2019