In the beginning, said Williams, “you fail fast and learn faster, and you sell things you don’t have,” but then “all of a sudden you figured [the technology] out … which is allowing you to sell it. … Consumers are starting to see the benefit or the vision that you always saw,” and that’s when Williams said he was able to draw on his prior experience working for large companies, like Lockheed Martin and Procter and Gamble, which he says taught him how to mitigate risk and build a team.
For Thinx’s Selby, building the team was job No. 1. Like Noto at SoFi, Selby stepped into her role in the wake of a CEO ouster. Thinx’s founder and former CEO, Miki Agrawal, was pushed out last year following accusations of sexual harassment and a culture of bullying and inappropriate conduct under her leadership. So far, Selby has met the challenge of steering Thinx into its next stage as a company, codifying employee policies and focusing on rebuilding the culture. In fact, she embraced the challenge, seeing it as a unique opportunity that similar sized companies don’t typically get.
“I really felt like the foundation of the business was really strong,” she said, speaking about the time she took over the company. “Especially when I met with the team. … I was really impressed with what they were able to do with this negative PR cloud around them … and then that gave me the opportunity when I decided to join, [to focus] on how do we change the culture, how do we change systems and processes, hire an HR department, ensure that we have the right cultural values that we hire and retain people by, and that I think will actually end up setting us up for success, because there aren’t that many companies…at that early a stage has to think about those things.”
The challenge of growing and transitioning a start-up was also a dominant theme in our CNBC Disruptor 50 companies’ responses to our annual survey, conducted from April 16 to May 16, 2018. Nearly 30 percent of the CEOs who responded said their biggest challenge to date as an entrepreneur has been scaling the company. An equal number said hiring qualified talent was their most difficult task.