Inc.: What was some good early advice you got, and how did it serve you?
Sheila Lirio Marcelo: I was racking my brain about whether starting Care.com was the right thing. A mentor of mine said, "Sheila, you've got to ask yourself, are you in the pain business or the pleasure business?" What he meant was, is solving consumer pain something that I am passionate about? He was asking me to really dig down, because entrepreneurship is a huge commitment. You've got to come from the heart to decide what you're about.
You spent time as a strategy consultant. How did that experience help you in entrepreneurship?
It taught me how to take on any problem that comes up. Size up the addressable market for these widgets. Figure out why there's a process breakdown in this inventory line. You face that problem, and you dig deep getting to the data and using the power of logic to solve it. Entrepreneurship is similar, except you actually have to execute on the solution.
Before going public in 2014, Care.com raised more than $110 million in venture capital. That's not easy for any founder, but especially not for women, who get less than 3 percent of all VC money. How did you overcome that hurdle?
During our IPO road show, we flew into this private airport. I went straight for the coffeepot. Our CTO, a male, shook hands. Our CFO, a male, shook hands. When I got there, I offered people coffee. They thought I was the assistant. That happens. So my goal is to change people's unconscious bias. By putting them on the spot in a polite, respectful way, it makes them say, "Huh, the next time I look at a woman, I'm not going to assume she's the assistant."
What else do you suggest women founders do to be taken more seriously by investors?
Women need to feel very confident in their numbers, and they need to feel solid about their business plans. If you need to practice your pitches with friends, you should. Also, if you're not fully confident about the numbers, find co-founders who are.