Building a media company can be one of the most rewarding and invigorating processes for any entrepreneur. There have been multiple successful founders, such as Arianna Huffington, who started the Huffington Post Media Group, which sold to AOL for a whopping $315 million.
When I met Tiffany Pham, I sensed in her the same level of vigor and hustle that successful media founders possess. Tiffany is the founder of Mogul, a website connecting women to trending content, including stories, products, and jobs personalized to their interests. She started as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse and moved on to be a part of multiple media companies and produce films such as Hermit. Her credentials also include being named to Forbes' 30 Under 30 list, receiving Cadillac's Innovator Award in film, CBS's All-Star Award in digital media, and many others.
In other words, for barely being 30, Tiffany is doing something right. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to discuss Mogul with her and her aspirations for the platform, which is used by millions.
1) What inspired you to start Mogul? What was the journey you undertook?
The inspiration behind Mogul harks back to my family and history. My family had been in media for generations, and early on, I made a promise that I would dedicate my life toward our family legacy of providing information access to the world.
I also initially learned the English language through media, as a young girl. Reflecting back on that experience, I discovered what a powerful tool media could be for learning, for change.
Thus, after graduating from Yale and Harvard Business School, I went on to hold multiple roles within media simultaneously: at CBS, within TV and radio; with the Beijing government, collaborating with the vice mayor on a new venture bridging cultural gaps between the U.S. and China; and producing feature films and documentaries highlighting social issues that needed more global awareness.
Young women around the world would read about my three roles, and as time went on, I would receive hundreds of letters--and eventually thousands of letters--per day, asking for advice. "What articles are you reading every day?" they would ask. "What videos are you watching?"
I realized then that we needed a platform whereby millions of us could exchange our insights from the ground level, where we could share our careers, our lives, our journeys. And from that exchange of information, we could gain access to knowledge from one another and become that much stronger, that much better.
Every day, I would, therefore, work on my three jobs, and then at night, at 3 a.m., I would sit down at the kitchen table and just teach myself how to code Ruby on Rails.
Ultimately, I built the first iteration of Mogul, a worldwide platform that now reaches more than 18 million women across 196 countries, enabling them to connect, share information, and access knowledge from one another.
2) What was the strongest challenge you initially encountered at Mogul, and how did you overcome this?
For the first two years, building the organization's internal infrastructure to support our external growth was our strongest challenge. We had to retroactively build the infrastructure because I was a one-person team upon launch, supporting a million users on my own within the first week.
Over time, I was able to onboard the rest of our now world-class team, bringing on many with whom I had previously collaborated. Our departments--Product and Technology, Content and Community, Marketing and Monetization, Courses and Business Development, and Operations and Growth--are now led by some of my greatest friends and business collaborators. Now, our infrastructure has been fortified. We consist of more than 1,500 influencers, 2,500 global ambassadors, 3,500 Mogul mentors, 20,000 partners, and millions of users worldwide.
3) What are some key insights and guidance you can provide other entrepreneurs soon launching their businesses?
Talent: Collaborate for access. Find industry leaders with whom your interests might resonate, and obtain warm introductions through mutual connections. Learn what opportunities might enable you to collaborate with them in order to learn from them. Whatever task you're given, whatever partnership you agree to, ensure that you overdeliver for them. Earn their trust, and build a genuine friendship.
Technology: Establish your vision of what you would like to accomplish in 10 years, then backwards from five years to now. Whatever it is you would like to create, rapidly prototype this idea. Then, listen to others and incorporate their feedback.
Community: Be kind. Be authentic. Be generous. Stay in touch with why you wanted to start this company in the first place, why it's important for the world.
4) Your Mogul mentorship and courses cover many significant topics across both life and career. How should Millennial women prepare themselves throughout the earliest stages of their lives for important leadership roles?
Great question. Early on, it's important to identify what type of leader you would like to be, in what industry, and figure out where your weak spots are. Hone your skill sets in those areas through collaborations or side projects, if your present role within an organization doesn't seem to enable you to do so.
For example, if you need more management experience, but are an associate at a company whereby managing a team is not currently possible, contact nonprofits around the city within your industry and offer your expertise for a special project for which they need volunteers; if the opportunity is available, manage the team of volunteers for this project. But remember to also ask for such opportunities at work. If you don't ask, you don't get.
Finally, always be resilient. You will hear noes--but know that they are "not right nows." Keep going until you hear a yes.
5) How is Mogul creating a social impact on women and thereby contributing to communities globally?
Mogul provides women worldwide with access to information, enabling our users to realize that they can be more than what their societies say. Partnering with organizations such as the United Nations, we serve as a key agent for advancing gender equality and quality education.
Every day, women around the world write to us, telling us about the impact Mogul has had on their lives. For example, one young woman from Pakistan wrote to us saying that there, a girl's life is all about marriage. But Mogul helped her by pointing out ideas to her that she could be more than what others say. And now she's kind of a feminist, and she loves, loves, loves this Mogul.
Another woman uploaded her invention to Kickstarter and received little traction during the initial stage of fundraising. But when she posted her product onto Mogul, it became the No. 1 trending item that day, and she subsequently received incredible support and backing to fund her product. She wrote to us, saying she was in awe at Mogul for democratizing PR and giving women their voice.
6) What is your future vision for Mogul?
With Mogul widely regarded as the next-generation media company for women, we aim to continue accelerating change across (1) information access, (2) economic opportunity, and (3) education.
What are your thoughts on the work that Tiffany is doing? Tell us in the comments!