Tracy Lawrence

What 90 female founders just taught me

Published 3 months ago • 3 min read

I just re-discovered something I didn’t know I had lost: the feeling of belonging in the tech industry.

Last week I had the opportunity to facilitate a female founder retreat for Pear VC. The incredible Mar Hershenson, Mada Seghete, and Vivien Ho gathered 90 women in the desert of Palm Springs for 3 days of connection, vulnerability, and more than a sprinkle of magic.

But arriving at the retreat, I felt like a poser. A washed-up founder in the dressings of a coach.

When I sold my company a few years ago (4 now!), I felt so much shame and grief. It was so potent that San Francisco reeked of it for me. I had to escape the stench and flee.

I thought that being a founder was the only way I would belong in the tech industry. But this event showed me another way to belong: by being human with one another. Vulnerable. And in our humanity, where our companies didn’t define the entirety of us, I found my feelings of connection.

Work events often strip us of humanity. We lose the magic of our quirks and wear the mask of our role. It feels safe and is required. This week we were invited to take the mask off and show our true faces to one another.

In the hot springs, as we connected over Buddhism, theories of consciousness, exploring work cultures in Asia vs Spain vs America, we wove our threads of humanity back to one another. In the yoga dome, we danced as our favorite female icons and laughed like little girls. Lying on the grass, we sipped cacao together and meditated, connecting to something higher.

One of our dinner topics was to “give your standard 30 second intro” and then “give your REAL intro if we really knew you.”

My standard intro: I built a tech company over a decade, raised $40M in venture capital, scaled to 300 employees, then sold in 2020.

If you REALLY knew me: I made no money off the sale and left SF grieving my exit. I had a hole in my heart post-exit trying to figure out who I was. I lost my magic. I’ve spent the last 4 years since the sale finding my magic again.

I noticed how different I felt giving the standard intro. It felt safe. A little lifeless. Like I was behind a wall. The real intro made me emotional, I felt some fear of being so vulnerable, I was afraid of how the other women at the table would judge me.

But they didn’t judge me. Instead, they entered the waters of vulnerability with me by sharing their own stories behind the mask. It wasn’t just me in the pool alone.

And that’s when it came undone, this idea that I was separate. That being a coach meant I had “failed out” of tech (I have a gnarly story, right?).

Underneath it all I believe humans have the desire to be truly known. While we may get this with our friends and family, it’s rare professionaly to find someone willing to step up to the window of our soul and look at who we truly are. To find 90 women in tech willing to do this was even more magical.

This trip helped me break the story that being a coach makes me an outsider. It helped me unveil the deeper truth: that I have a set of experiences and deep love for founders. That I want to ensure they aren’t alone on their journey of building. And in this phase of life I can make that the center stage in my work.

Coming back into the tech ecosystem as a coach isn’t shameful. It’s delightful.

Even if I become a founder again, I will still find ways to support this community that I love so much. The community of people who jump in the arena with full hearts and take their shots. Who dust themselves off over and over again after falling....subject to public judgment. A group of people who are so deeply curious about the outer world and their inner lives. And a group who have such diverse backgrounds but come together seeking one goal, one purpose, which they build their lives around for years.

This group has a tenacity that’s beyond belief. Founders also have the craziest insecurities that you’ll never see unless you’re lucky enough to get admission into their inner world.

I feel so blessed that founders grant me a ticket to entry into the messy underbellies of what they are building. Under the mask, I love the richness of their struggles and wins, losses and passions. It’s the inner jumble that I thrive in witnessing and helping founders sort through.

Coaching is my current incarnation of the love I have for anyone brave enough to build. Today I claim my role :)

Do you ever feel like you don't belong in tech? How did you re-connect (or did you)? DM me, I'd love to hear your journey.

113 Cherry St #92768, Seattle, WA 98104-2205
Unsubscribe · Preferences

Tracy Lawrence


I help entrepreneurs and leaders find simplicity and joy at work through mindful, emotional intelligence, and culture hacks. Use techniques I've trained top CEOs to do in the amount of time it takes to order a coffee ⭐️ Exited Founder turned Executive Coach 📈 Raised $40M and managed 100s of employees 🧘‍♀️

Read more from Tracy Lawrence

When I sold my company, I felt like a failure. My initial efforts to build my company came from a desire to support local restaurants and a love of sharing meals with other people. But as the company grew, my own erroneous expectations for success warped my desires into shame. Shame that we couldn’t raise our Series C. Shame that I couldn’t make my employees rich. Shame that I couldn’t pay my investors back. My misinformed expectations muddied my motivation. I believe my journey could’ve been...

28 days ago • 4 min read

At dinner with my friend Maria last week, her husband Gary asked a profound question, “Who is your wild one? Where do you allow your wild one to show up and where do you suppress it?” Oddly that very morning, my coach helped me meet my wild one. She came up as a visual. She looks like Neytiri from Avatar. Credit: Loren Groves & AI She’s feline, a hunter, and very wild. Looking at her felt exhilarating but also a little scary. What the heck do I do with her? The Origins of the Wild One The...

about 1 month ago • 3 min read

Let’s step backwards in time 7 years. News had broken out about a few famous VCs who were accused of sexually harassing several female founders. Needless to say, the environment was tense. I’m at a friend’s house for brunch where she gathered 25 female founders. A smaller group was huddled conspiratorially around a table. I overheard one of them say, “Let’s out every male VC who’s a jerk. Now’s the time, we should publish their names.” I remember feeling both the desire for justice but also a...

about 1 month ago • 3 min read
Share this post