How I Got There: Startup Founder | Emily Rotolo (COL ’12)
Posted in Student & Alumni Stories
Emily Rotolo studied English in the Georgetown College of Arts & Sciences and is now a Sales & Partnerships Leader at SounderMind. She previously founded SimpleForms and was the CEO of the company at the time of her interview. Learn how Georgetown shaped her path, what led her to her current position, and more insights regarding her company and the broader startup industry:
What activities at Georgetown did you find the most valuable and why?
I was originally recruited to play Softball at Georgetown, and overall in my life, it has had the most impact. However, special to Georgetown, I’d say that being a part of GERMS would be the most valuable. The responsibility and structure were great introductions into the career world where both are crucial. Being able to take and follow directions from your director or your coach, as well as learning how to work together in extremely stressful situations.
How did you find your current position?
I started it. I lived with a problem and decided to be the one to create the solution, instead of assuming someone would do it for me.
What does a typical day look like for you?
My life is insane. At any one time I’m doing 100 things. Currently this week, I am trying to close the remainder of our $750,000 round. We’ve successfully raised $525,000 to date with another $150,000 committed. With $125,000 left to go, it requires a magnitude of work for what is referred to as “Due Diligence” because it’s the end of the round a majority of information that this angel group is asking for is already done. Anything from financials, captable, taxes, team contractors, etc. can be requested along with lists and pages of questions investors want you to respond to.
I am also currently hiring a CTO, COO, and lead developer. I’ve been a solo founder for the last two years and we’ve reached the point that we need to “level up” and divide and conquer. This will allow me to move from Product, where my weeks include Sprint meetings, Scrum meetings, building requirements, and Q/A prior to pushing code. That doesn’t leave me much time for Sales, bizdev and Marketing which are my main “focus” as the CEO.
What surprised you the most when you started working?
How much I already knew. I took internships at startups while I was at Georgetown and they propelled me forward into my career.
The Art of Asking (a Ted Talk by Amanda Palmer) was my absolute favorite. I tell any audience I’m speaking to to watch it. The things you can do if you learn to ask will propel you forward more than you could ever imagine.
What skills are most needed in your role?
Networking. As I am the “nontechnical founder” for a Saas Software company my biggest job is to network and position our company appropriately. Everything else can be learned or hired but being able to get in front of the people you need to is 100% crucial.
I pride myself on my ability to get doors to open. As a 2 person startup we’ve already integrated with 3 publicly traded companies because I was persistent and put myself in front of the right people.
What are the best ways for students to learn more about your industry?
For Startups, there are some great newsletters I highly suggest receiving. I’m really big on Inbox Zero and not adding spam to my business email so that nothing is ever missed, however I do take Angels List, First Round Capital, and Pitchbook’s; they deliver gold!
If you could go back and change one thing, what would that be?
I probably would have been a sociology major honestly – however, your major really really doesn’t mean ANYTHING! so don’t worry about it!
I’m not sure I’d change anything. I love the trajectory of life since Georgetown. There were definitely some down times, feeling lost, unsure what I wanted to do, as I was also pre-med at Georgetown, so it’s a big deviation from my original plan and I am so so happy for it.