Katrina Lake of Stitch Fix on Building Diverse Teams

Here is David Gelles’ profile of Katrina Lake for The New York Times. To read the complete article and check out others, please click here.

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While working at a venture capital firm, Ms. Lake saw that many entrepreneurs were “totally unqualified, totally normal people.” That inspired her to be one herself.

Katrina Lake has enjoyed storybook success as an entrepreneur.

After graduating from Stanford University in 2005, she worked at a consulting firm and a venture capital firm before attending Harvard Business School. With her M.B.A. in hand, she moved to San Francisco and founded a technology company, Stitch Fix, in 2011.

Stitch Fix has upended the traditional shopping experience. Customers fill out an online survey about their likes and dislikes, then a company stylist assembles a box of clothing and sends it out. Customers keep what they want for a fee, and return what they don’t want for free.

The company grew fast, and last year, Ms. Lake took Stitch Fix public. Though Stitch Fix priced its shares below the expected range, the stock is trading above its offering price, and the company is now valued at nearly $2 billion. Ms. Lake remains chief executive, making her one of the most prominent female executives in Silicon Valley.

Yet Ms. Lake has faced adversity along the way. She says she was constantly underestimated by investors, and has been publicly associated with an instance of sexual harassment allegedly committed by Justin Caldbeck, a prominent venture capitalist whose previous firm, Lightspeed Venture Partners, invested in Stitch Fix. (The firm and Ms. Lake signed a mutual nondisparagement agreement in 2013, and Ms. Lake has not spoken about the episode publicly.)

This interview, which was condensed and edited for clarity, was conducted in the Stitch Fix offices in San Francisco.

So you grew up in San Francisco?

I did. One of the very few. They say there are more dogs in the city than children under 18, which is a crazy statistic. The city has changed a lot in the time that I’ve lived here. My dad is a doctor in the public university system. He’s had, I think, exactly two employers in his whole life. And my mom is a public-school teacher.

What was your first job?

It was either Banana Republic or a smoothie shop. Or it would have been lifeguarding. I don’t know, actually. At Banana Republic, I learned that so much of your work experience is enjoying the people you work with. Optimizing for who you’re around is important.

What did you think you were going to be growing up?

I thought I would be a doctor, and I even took the MCAT. But I didn’t really imagine myself going to work 9 to 5, or 7 to 7, whatever you do in a hospital. I kind of just delayed that journey, and I got a job in consulting. Then I worked at a venture fund for two years, and I went to Harvard Business School from there.

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Here is a direct link to the complete article.

David Gelles writes the Corner Office column and other features for The New York Times’s Sunday Business section, and works with the Well team to expand The Times‘s coverage of meditation.

To learn more about him and his work, please click here.

 

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