TR: Please tell us something about ‘Birth of a Unicorn’ that is not in the summary. (About the book, character you particularly enjoyed writing etc.)
HW: This answer is more about what influenced my writing style – I grew up in New York City in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, and my father was an important figure in Wall Street finance. As such, it has been ingrained in me since childhood that real life was supposed to be like a Clive Cussler novel – with tons of ups and downs, real adventure and daily excitement, good and bad. When writing this book, one of my main goals was capture that essence of what it feels like to live a life this way – because it really *is* like that for entrepreneurs.
TR: I did not know that a billion-dollar company is also referred to as a unicorn and I imagine there are others who don’t know this either. Can you tell us about this and why “Unicorn”?
HW: “Unicorn” in Silicon Valley vernacular refers to two things — first, a billion-dollar valuation on a company. The second is a “rock star” employee. Hang around Silicon Valley enough and you’ll hear people talk about how they need to “catch a unicorn to build a unicorn”, ie, get the one-in-a-million team together that will guarantee you billions. So, the book is about the “birth” (as painful and long as that can be) of me, as a “unicorn” employee that creates successes, and Evernote, the “unicorn” billion-dollar company.
TR: I can’t help but think of the metoo movement happening and wonder if as a woman, as a leader, your experience has been like working with men. Do you care to tell us about this?
HW: I have had the great fortune to work with brilliant and exceptional humans throughout my entire career. I consider many of them amongst my closest friends, and I have been supported by and supportive of them for 10-20 years in many cases. Because I’m in the tech field, most of my colleagues have been male, and there have been a few hiccups along the way, but most of the issues I have encountered haven’t been from my coworkers.
TR: Many people dream about being able to work from anywhere around the world. You have lived the “laptop lifestyle” working remotely. Can you tell us more about this?
HW: I can’t remember a time in my life where we weren’t going on a day trip for the weekend, or heading out for some work trip of my father’s – schoolwork in tow — so I grew up with the idea that if you want to go somewhere, you just do it. When I was younger and didn’t have much money for travel and I had the itch to go somewhere, I would join in on friend’s road trips, sleep on the couch, and volunteer to cook. As an adult it just morphed into saving money, finding the best deals on flights/hotels – eventually buying a boat and an RV, and making sure I had steady work that was location independent.
TR: Where did you get the inspiration for your cover?
HW: “Inspiration” was actually the inspiration! The idea of the lightbulb is classic to signify an idea, and the filament of the bulb being a unicorn’s horn was the artist’s choice, but I loved it immediately. I chose the pastel colors to show that it was a “softer” type of business book than one would expect, and the shading of the filament shows that there is light and dark within.
TR: How much time and effort went into your research for the book?
HW: The book covers a span of 13 years of my life.
TR: How long did it take you to write this book from concept to fruition?
HW: Writing the book to publication took around 3 years – Around 6 months to finish the initial draft, a year to work with alpha-readers to get it up to snuff, 6 months to find a publisher and then another year working on getting it ready to publish.
TR: What are you currently working on?
HW: My day job – I work full-time as the Digital Solutions Lead of TheDifference, where I get to work on amazing projects, and then in my spare time I’m the co-founder of Serenze Global, a 501c3 non-profit with the aim of providing technical education to underserved individuals. 100% of author proceeds of this book are donated to SerenzeGlobal.
TR: Why didn’t you go deeper into Evernote’s day-to-day operations?
HW: I wanted to tell a type of story that hasn’t been told before. You can pick up any number of business books that tell you that X business did Y and received an ROI of this, but unless your widget is exactly the same as their widget, it isn’t applicable to you. My aim is to create a book that would give you – for the business decisions that I do show – what went into them, and how they would apply to anyone. Also, I still would love to see Phil Libin write about Evernote someday – he’s an excellent writer as well.
If there’s enough demand for it, though, I wouldn’t be opposed to writing an interview-based book from all of us for the history of the early days.
Originally appeared here.