from big screen to boardroom
Superstar startup founder Gwyneth Paltrow shares entrepreneurial journey at Venture Houston
If you're a startup founder, you might have some things in common with movie star-turned-entrepreneur Gwyneth Paltrow, who took the stage at Venture Houston this week.
Paltrow was joined with her investor Dana Settle of Greycroft in conversation with Melinda Spaulding of Texas Southern University as moderator. The duo discussed everything from their working relationship to the opportunities they see here in Houston.
Recognizing that, at the time, her decision to start a company was a bit confusing, Paltrow explained on the panel why she felt drawn to business and entrepreneurship. She described growing up in New York, idolizing her friends' parents on Wall Street, and she connected the dots between artistry and entrepreneurship for the audience.
"It struck me recently that the soul of an artist and the soul of an entrepreneur are actually very similar," she told the crowd. "When you're an artist you have this idea that you want to put out into the world and you think you're the only one that can do it — you have something specific and unique to add and you know you're going to do everything you can to put it into the world and to have success.
"And so you have to have this like abject, ridiculous self belief and you have to persevere through everything," she continued. "All of those qualities are exactly what you need to have as an entrepreneur."
The big difference between being an actor and an entrepreneur , Paltrow added, actors have to wait for someone to give them a job — they can't execute unless they get the part.
"I loved migrating over to being an entrepreneur," she said. "I had very strong feelings and instincts and a passion to connect people to great stuff and information — and I could do it on my own terms. I could do it on my own timeline, and nobody was barring or impeding the execution of those things."
Making the transition into entrepreneurship in such a public way came with its own unique set of challenges for Paltrow. While getting in front of venture capital investors wasn't a challenge, getting them to take her seriously was, she said, not even just because of her fame. The people in the room couldn't understand her company.
"The companies that are doing things for women, investors are having a hard time understanding them. I think that's true through and through," she said. "And it was certainly true when I went to go raise money. Everybody took the meetings, I think to get a selfie for their wife. ... And then they'd be like, 'no, thank you.'"
Greycroft — specifically with Settle — was an exception to the experience. Greycroft invested in Goop in 2019 and HX Venture Fund invested in Greycroft in 2020.
"Not everybody's for everybody. And finding the right investor for your company is so important," Settle said to the crowd. "I think getting those really trusted signals from other founders and other funders is the best way."
Since the event was hosted by HXVF and located in Houston, the topic shifted to the Bayou City and what Paltrow has observed of the ecosystem.
"Houston really has an opportunity to define who you all want to be as an investment community. And I think it's really exciting. You have such a massive influx of people coming here. I think you're set up to to support business in a way that, you know, unfortunately, we don't do in California — we make it a little tough," she said.
"I think it really becomes about articulating who what the community, what what do you want it to be? Who do you want to attract? It doesn't happen out of thin air. There has to be intention around how you articulate what the mission is in Houston for this community and start to talk about it and welcome those kinds of entrepreneurs and and define what you want it to be," she added.
Besides her relatable hatred of Excel, Paltrow shared part of her journey that founders from all backgrounds can identify with — identifying your own strengths and weaknesses.
"I have to be confident in where my strengths lie, and be able to index into those and know that I'm the expert in that domain," she said. "In the group dynamic where everyone brings their expertise to the table is really what makes it work.
"We have this thing as women where we have to do everything and it has to be perfect. It's impossible and it's not true," she continues. "Know your strengths, lean into them, don't be afraid to articulate what your strengths are not, and ask the questions you need to ask."
Settle agreed with Paltrow, adding "The best CEOs that I work with are the ones asking the right questions."