With Scott Orn

A Startup Podcast by Kruze Consulting

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Scott Orn

Scott Orn, CFA

Beth Stevens of Opendoor - Legal & Compliance at a Fast Growing Startup

Posted on: 04/02/2018

Beth Stevens

Beth Stevens

Head of Legal - Opendoor

Beth Stevens of Opendoor - Podcast Summary

Beth Stevens of Opendoor comes by to talk about her experiences running Legal & Compliance at a Fast Growing Startup. Before joining Opendoor, Beth ran Legal & Compliance at Earnest and did the same for Sidecar. Beth has a wealth of operational knowledge. She always shares her philosophy and tactics to make sure women & minorities get equal time and equal opportunities at startups. Beth is not your lawyer and she is not giving you legal advice. Please consult an attorney for any specific legal guidance.

Beth Stevens of Opendoor - Podcast Transcript

Scott: Welcome to Founders and Friends podcast with Scott Orn at Kruze Consulting and my very special guest today is Beth Stevens of Opendoor. Welcome, Beth.
Beth: Great, thanks. Glad to be here.
Scott: I’ve been trying to get you on podcast for about a year now, so maybe two years.
Beth: I’ve been a little busy, but yes. I’m excited to be here.
Scott: Beth runs … Well tell them about your background and I have a joke after you say what your title is.
Beth: Great. So I am … Titles are funny at startups, but I am the head of legal, but I actually run the legal team, the real estate brokerage team, and the insurance team at Opendoor.
Scott: Oh my gosh. So huge responsibility. So I would always be like “Hey come on the podcast.” And I was waiting for you to have the lame excuse of “Compliance won’t let me.” But I knew you were compliance, so I knew that wasn’t gonna happen.
Beth: I do run the compliance team too.
Scott: So Beth and I have been friends for 10 years, we went to business school together, incredibly smart person, now incredibly successful person, awesome to have you here. You’ve worked at law firms, you worked at a bunch of startups, so I kinda wanna go through all the war stories. You also have some really good tips for startups that are out there listening. But first, how did you end up at Opendoor? Retrace your career.
Beth: I always like to start at the beginning. So I did my undergrad at Northwestern. Go Cats! And then went out to D.C. first. So I had a government job first and then went to Booz Allen Hamilton, which was a huge government consulting gig. And what I realized there, the work was great I had a lot of opportunity to do cool stuff, but it was the same thing day in and day out, and this thread is relevant to how I got where I got, but it was really boring. So I went and did my JDMBA at Northwestern, which is where you and I met, so I’m a lawyer and Kellogg grad, and ended up doing the classic law firm thing. Law firms are not for everyone, they were not for me. Don’t understand their model, they make way too much money, it’s really inefficient and dumb, although I value them now as in-house counsel.
Scott: It’s like great to have them when you need them, but they’re expensive sometimes.
Beth: Yeah, when you need the perfect answer they’re a great place to go. There’s gradations of lawyers so I don’t wanna give them too much of a bad rep. But then I realized that I was an in-house lawyer and so I spent almost a year looking for an in-house job, I was a general litigator, and ended up at Side Car, which was an early ride sharing app, it was one of the first, and then Lyft came, and Uber pivoted to do what we now know as UberX. So joined that early stage, I was the second attorney and ended up probably about three months in, the G.C. left, the general counsel left, and I became the G.C. so it’s just being lucky and rolling up your sleeves and doing the grind. I was there for almost two years getting that company through all of the regulations getting passed, all the crazy insurance stuff that was happening.
Scott: I remember you going to tons of city council things and knock-out, drag-out across the country. You were flying everywhere to battle it out to protect ride sharing.
Beth: That’s right. I testified before Congress and then I testified before Washington D.C. City Council, that one made it on NPR which was pretty cool.
Scott: Wow! That’s awesome!
Beth: And then I remember I did a red-eye to Chicago. Uber and Lyft had probably 20-30 people doing what I was doing all by myself.
Scott: Oh my God.
Beth: But that’s part of the fun of startups, right? You’re just grinding it out. So I got the opportunity through a buddy of mine who became CTO of this new startup called Earnest, to join when they were pre-series A, they were seed round. So I jumped at that and became general counsel of Earnest. I was there for about two years, I left two years ago and joined Opendoor. So again, you never know where the job opportunities are gonna come from. Like who knew the CTO knew a lawyer, right?
Scott: Also you’ve been on the front lines of the ride sharing evolution, the fintech evolution, and now Opendoor is like this fintech-y I don’t even know how to describe it.
Beth: It’s real estate. Real estate. Now I’m doing real estate. I like heavily regulated stuff, it’s interesting and it’s hard. But you’re still doing all the classic startup stuff. You will never see me go work at a SAS company. As important as those are, and they need lawyers too …
Scott: Well you also … the challenge makes
you A: it’s fun
and B: it makes you incredibly valuable. You know? You’re able to figure this stuff out.
Beth: Yeah, and regulated startups need lawyers. They value them more. So I’m more integrated into the day-to-day operations.
Scott: And talk a little bit about Opendoor now. I think I know what you guys do, but maybe what the company does.
Beth: Yeah, for those of you that are listening that don’t know what Opendoor does, we are empowering people with the freedom to move. Okay, what does that mean? But we’re breaking apart the traditional home buying process. So today, when you wanna go sell your home, one of the biggest barriers to sell it is finding a qualified buyer. And what I mean by a qualified buyer is someone that has the financing to by the home. And that’s a really tough process, and you go through time to list, maybe not in San Francisco, but in other markets, your home might be on the market for 30, 60 days. You’ve got showings, you gotta get the dog out, the kids out for that 2 P.M. Tuesday showing that your agents have lined up. It’s incredibly inefficient and really painful for people, and you can’t move because you got a new job, or the kids need to get into a new school district, or all the hundreds of reasons why people move.
Scott: You can’t buy your next house without clearing … I mean most people, like I couldn’t buy something … First of all I’m not a home owner yet, so I’ll be using that someday, but you don’t know when you’re gonna be able to buy your next house until the existing one sells.
Beth: That’s right. And that’s the hardest part, is you can’t carry two mortgages for a lot of our customers. And then there’s a large group of our customers that are like, “Man, I don’t wanna deal with this, this is a hassle.” So what Opendoor does is, sellers will come to us and say, “Hey, here’s my house, I wanna sell it to you.” And we’ll say “Great! Here’s an all cash offer for your house, when would you like to close?”
Scott: That’s amazing.
Beth: Right? So it’s a great experience for the seller, they get out of their house with an all cash offer, and we hold the property and turn around and list it and sell it to buyers. We’re not flipping, we’re not changing bedrooms or doing any of those shenanigans, but we have all day open houses, so we have a proprietary technology system that allows you to text to enter, go in and view the home at your leisure. You can have an agent or not have an agent. We’re really agnostic to that. We have good partnerships with real estate agents in the markets that we are in. So today we’re in Phoenix, Dallas-Fort Worth, Las Vegas, Atlanta, Orlando, Raleigh-Durham, and we’re about to launch … this year is gonna be a lot of growth. We’re gonna launch a lot of markets this year.
Scott: That’s a lot of markets, already, 10.
Beth: So stay tuned. Phoenix and Dallas-Fort Worth are our original markets, and they’re two of our largest markets.
Scott: And it’s like you take care of everything for the seller but then you also have a new relationship with the buyer, right? You now know that person and can work with them. Or maybe next time they move, you’ll work with them. Do you guys keep track of that stuff? Lifetime value of the customer.
Beth: Oh yeah, come on, it’s a startup, of course we do. We live and die by the metrics. No, absolutely. And the really cool thing is we can do stuff that other people can’t do when you’re buying from an individual consumer. What we see in some of our home builder partnerships is there’s a real need for multi-generational family homes in the markets that we’re in.
Scott: Like grandma and grandpa?
Beth: Yeah, yeah. Or we’ve had some retirees, where it was a woman and her husband and then the sister whose husband had just died and they wanted to move in all together but they needed the right space to do that. So we actually bought their two homes, and sold them a third home and closed all in the same day.
Scott: Oh my God.
Beth: And only we can do something that unique because we’ve got that set up and that system set up to work.
Scott: You guys have visibility across the market. You know the Phoenix market or Dallas market right? So you know what’s … I heard someone talking about how travel companies, like the Expedia’s of the world have so much information, they know exactly what’s happening in any given market, it’s kind of similar for you guys.
Beth: Yeah, absolutely. And it’s just really exciting stuff. I mean there’s a lot of data out there about the housing industry and what’s going on in any particular market, and then we get the information on the ground, working with agents, working with customers, and just being there buying and selling homes.
Scott: Wow. So I’ve always loved this concept because there was this guy, I’ll probably butcher this but Wayne Huizenga, did something like this for cars. He owned Blockbuster too and owned the Miami Dolphins. I think it was like Car Nation, I’m totally butchering this, I wanna look it up. But he provided instant liquidity for the car market. When you used to sell a used car you would have to put an ad in the newspaper and all this kind of stuff, and then …
Beth: Well that’s what CarMax does, right?
Scott: CarMax! I think it’s CarMax. I think he had something before CarMax.
Beth: Got it.
Scott: But I don’t think anyone could do this cause the capital costs we’re too high, but you guys have … I’ve seen the announcements, you have huge capitol lines with Wall Street right? You can buy a house and not have to worry about it and you have the funds.
Beth: That’s right, it’s just like any asset backed security. Lending has this, all of the fintech companies are just like lending money out of their pockets, they have access to the capital markets, and they have debt structures, and so do we. We can borrow at a cheaper rate then I personally can to get a mortgage on a house.
Scott: That’s crazy. Because Opendoor is collateral as the loan. So did you help set that stuff up when you came in from Earnest? That’s right up your alley.
Beth: Yeah, we have a really strong and awesome capital markets team, and they had already done a lot of the leg work. And one of my colleagues on the legal team, which I hired after I started, has deep experience in single family resident ABS, so she has come in and done some really exciting stuff, so it’s cool. Yeah, that stuff is not my bread and butter, but I know how to hire.
Scott: I was looking around … a while back I was doing a project for something else and I was looking at, there’s a bunch of REITs that started in the down turn that bought like 5,000 houses. And they’re publicly traded, it’s pretty interesting. So you’re in the real estate world now but you know a ton about fintech, what are some of the lessons along the way? You and I are talking off mic there’s a lot of good stuff that you’ve seen at early-stage startups, Opendoor’s probably like a mid-stage startup, I don’t know.
Beth: Yeah, we did our D last year.
Scott: You’re already on D? Wow. That’s good, it’s moving fast.
Beth: So I think the universal message is, particularly for early entrepreneurs, before you get a lawyer in-house, are to be thoughtful about what you’re agreeing to and what you’re signing up to. And I recognize, I’ve been in early-stage stuff, I recognize that “Man I just need to get money in the door, I don’t care what the terms are.” But really stop and think about it and say to yourself, “Do I wanna give away, for example, these investment rights, or information rights. If this thing is successful and I’m sitting there and I’m the next Mark Zuckerberg, do I still wanna have to give this old investor all of my financials, or maybe our relationship has spoiled and I no longer wanna be giving it to them.” I’m making up scenarios but …
Scott: Yeah, but people who see that stuff can sometimes have off the record conversations with other people, even though they’re not supposed to.
Beth: Right, exactly.
Scott: And word gets out on how well you’re doing, or how bad you’re doing, or when you need financing, things like that.
Beth: That’s right. So you wanna be really thoughtful about the rights that you’re giving away for your non-major investors and major investors are typically defined in your deal docs of having invested a certain size. These people are usually your board members, so they’re gonna see the stuff anyways. And you obviously always know to be thoughtful about that. But then it’s the additional money that comes in that’s kind of follow on money or other investors who can’t be lead investors or major investors, that won’t ask you for extra rights. Or you’ll do a convertible note series where they’ll ask you for extra rights. Just be thoughtful about it, you don’t have to say yes.
Scott: What do you say to people who … like maybe they’re a small fund. So they’re only doing a small part of your round but they have a fund and they need to report back to their investors. Pretend you’re the G.C. of a small company right now, what would you say?
Beth: I think it’s a business to business conversation. So what I typically do is coach the CEO or whoever is having the conversation with the investor of like, “Hey, we want to get you what you need to be comfortable, but we also don’t wanna have these longstanding obligations that follow us around. So let’s talk about what do you actually need?” And when you approach it with that business hat on of “What do you need? And why do you need it?” People are like “Oh, yeah I need it for these reasons.” The first stop for many people is just to ask for the kitchen sink. Because people will give it.
Scott: Exactly. That’s a good lawyer trick right there.
Beth: Yeah, exactly. So you won’t know until you test it where their comfort zone is and what they actually need. So just ask the question. And you can always do that in a way … you don’t have to be a jerk. And you don’t have to push super hard …
Scott: Especially if they’re gonna invest money in your company.
Beth: That’s right.
Scott: You want the money
Beth: That’s right. But there’s nothing wrong with saying “Hey, I really wanna understand why you need this, because it puts an administrative burden on my team to collect it for you and get it for you.”
Scott: That’s the right way of saying it, yeah.
Beth: And they don’t want you spending money on that, they want you spending money on finding product-market fit or scaling and growing or whatever stage you’re at. So that’s one way to be thoughtful about it. But this message kind of holds true to not only your equity investment experience, but it also holds true if you’re raising debt money, if just generic contracts, you would not believe the SAS contracts I see that have crazy things in them. And if you don’t have a lawyer that’s okay, just read it. Most people are smart enough if they’ll spend the time reading it, they can be like “Wait a minute.”
Scott: What are some of the crazy things you’ve seen? My favorite is the auto renewal, and I’m like “Take that out, I’m not auto renewing unless you send me an email and tell me what the new price is” and all that kind of stuff.
Beth: Auto renew is the devil, is the mantra I say with the teams. Nothing should ever auto renew. You’re not gonna win with AWS and Google, so don’t try. But on some of the smaller SAS companies you can kill auto renew. And you just have to explain “We can’t support this.” So auto renew is a good one. Indemnity is one that is tricky.
Scott: Yes, talk about this.
Beth: People see capital letters and just stop reading.
Scott: This is a great one, cause I have some strong opinions on this, yeah.
Beth: So indemnity is okay, and you need to be thoughtful about “What’s the risk that I’m accepting?” So if you have customer personally identifying information, or sensitive information that you’re sharing with that third party, you may want your indemnity levels to be a little higher. You also wanna think through “What insurance do I have? What are my liability coverage that cover whatever risk is in this agreement?” And then be thoughtful with the other partner of “Hey I can’t indemnify you for everything that you’re fault.” If you’re working with, I don’t wanna name names, but if you’re working with a SAS partner that owns the system, is responsible for it’s data security, and they’re holding your customers information, they don’t get an indemnity for not doing their job and protecting that information.
Scott: Are you able to get that? Cause I’m coming from the other side of the equation, we have indemnification and our staff … our insurance actually requires indemnification, so I’d say 50% of the companies, that’s the only thing they come back on our engagement letter, and I always say, and it’s the truth, I’m like “We can’t change that, cause that’s what our insurance policy requires.” And 98% of the time, they’re fine with it. But I get a little annoyed or tired of people asking for me to always lower my indemnity, but that’s kind of what you’re advocating on the other side, as a client. Ask for it, see if you can get it.
Beth: You don’t know what the other person’s gonna say. I got an agreement at some place to be unnamed, and the indemnity was something super low, I think it was $250 or something ridiculous, so we pushed back and they immediately popped it to 1 million. And their answer was, “Well we just wanna see what people will ask for.”
Scott: If they’re even reading it.
Beth: Yeah.
Scott: That’s kind of back to
your point: read the contract.
Beth: That’s right. Not everybody’s a good guy.
Scott: Yeah, I know.
Beth: And they will try to take advantage, and you’re particularly vulnerable when you don’t have an attorney that’s looking out for you. Or you don’t have time to spend on these things, because again, you’re trying to find product-market fit and you’re trying to grow your company, and hire, and do all the things that you have to do in an early stage company. It is worth the time, or at least you find the things … Like the auto renew is a great example. Or trying to make sure that you can get out of that contract for convenience. That’s another phrase I like to stick into contracts, instead of signing up for …
Scott: Oh, interesting.
Beth: A year term, three year term …
Scott: For convenience.
Beth: Exactly.
Scott: I’ve never even heard of that.
Beth: Yeah, that’s
Scott: Wait, how does it read?
Beth: It’ll be in your termination language, and you’ll have all
these things: material breach, other things in it, then you’ll do semi-colon, or if there’s a roman numeral you put it in, for convenience of either party.
Scott: That’s … we let people terminate immediately, and we terminate immediately, but we support for 30 days, cause that’s the right thing to do and help people. But it does, actually I found, having that mutual termination is actually really helpful, it actually makes people feel really good on the front end, and you don’t wanna be in a bad relationship. If you’re in a bad relationship … when accounting is super near and dear to the company’s hearts, if it’s not working, you both should get out of that relationship. I’ve seen other accountants drag their feet and not let people terminate cause of the contract, and it really hurts you know? The other thing I’d say is, speaking from experience, you’re right that not everyone’s a nice person. And we’ve been very lucky, we’ve had very few kind of those bad experiences, but in the cases where we’ve had em, we are so glad that we have a good engagement letter, because it takes the stress level down from like a 10 to like a 1. And there are people out there who really try to do terrible things, or threaten terrible things thinking you’ll crack or whatever, when it’s not your fault. Or you didn’t do anything. Sometimes you work with people who are not very good at what they do. They will sometimes try to … they don’t realize they’re not very good at what they do, or they do and they wanna blame it on somebody. So having that engagement letter, or that contract is your best friend.
Beth: And that’s a really great point about professional services, which is slightly different than what I was talking about with SAS services. If you’re using a recruiter for example, because you need to hire a bunch of engineers, read that recruitment agreement.
Scott: Oh God, big time.
Beth: Those are probably the worst. If there are onerous terms that that recruiter will not work with you on, then you might wanna find another recruiter. There are really great recruiters out there who are on your side and will help you. They still should get paid for the work that they do, even if you guys can’t find a candidate together. And you can work that out with them, but if they’re gonna hold you on the hook for years and years and years and charge you even if they didn’t introduce you to the candidate, find a different recruiter.
Scott: I totally agree. We’ve been lucky, we have a couple people we work with who are very good, and super ethical. If anyone needs those names, let me know. And that’s the other thing, I say when you work with a good service provider spread the word, cause you’re helping them. Yeah the SAS auto renew is …
Beth: It’s the devil.
Scott: It’s that lifetime value of the customer.
Beth: Oh it’s the devil. And remember they don’t care, right? There’s no drain on their resources for them to have another customer, in the same way that a professional services agency, like Kruze Consulting has.
Scott: Or they set up the impossible to navigate cancellation thing.
Beth: Absolutely.
Scott: One other thing, so as always, a lot of the best stuff comes out early when I don’t have the mic going cause we’re excited to see each other. You had a bullet point about being thoughtful about equity when you’re a startup, and equity firm play. How do you think about that?
Beth: This is gonna change over time, but if you’re an early founder and you’re thinking through “How do I wanna grow my company? And how do I wanna be thoughtful about it?” You wanna make sure that you’re planning, and able to give employees stock options without giving away the farm, and having enough in your pool, and the pool is what the board will authorize for you to issue in stock options to employees, having enough in your pool that you can continue to give refreshers, to keep people motivated and to keep people staying with you. The reality is, when you’re an early-stage company, you can’t necessarily compete with the Googles and Facebooks and Apples of the world in terms … and even larger startups who are able to offer RSUs or restricted stock units, you just can’t and that’s okay. You have to find other ways to compete, and it doesn’t mean you give a million or a half a million options away. What you try to do is be like “For these roles, what kind of options do I wanna give? What’s market? What’s reasonable?” And then “What’s the appropriate cash comp that goes with it?” And then think about “What are the other things that attract people to working here?” The vast majority of people that are going into startups are going because they’re excited about the mission, or they’re excited about their growth opportunity and their career trajectory. Or they’re excited about the chance to be the next Snap or whatever. Whatever’s cool. Lyft, etc.
Scott: And they’re excited about building whatever the company does, you know?
Beth: That’s right, that’s right. So if you’re early-stage don’t skimp on those people processes, and thinking about “How should I be compensating people in a total package?” And then “What are the non-monetary things that are meaningful to folks?” So giving people more opportunity to advance, or giving people management responsibilities. All of the things that people get motivated by.
Scott: I found that … I think that’s an awesome point about the new responsibilities, or new opportunities, cause I find … and we do that here really aggressively, cause it helps people become more of a well-rounded professional, and they see the bigger picture really quickly. And it’s also just more fun to come to work when you have some variety. So we have the philosophy of giving people … Everyone at Kruze Consulting, not everyone, but the people who are ready for it take on a functional role, they either help with recruiting, or they help with finance, or they help with marketing, or whatever it is, so that you get a different slice of things. Sometimes you see the very best of people when they lock into that extra functional thing and they start kicking ass and it spreads throughout their whole … so I love that, it’s not just about money. I find that it’s almost never about money, it’s almost always about how people feel and the vibe in the office, and “Am I growing? Is my career progressing?”
Beth: That’s right. And I think the other thing too is like, the number of options you give can be a signal for how much you value the person. So that’s why you wanna be thoughtful about it without giving everything away, because your board members are gonna be like “We just raised the pool, why are we doing this again? What are you guys doing?” And you don’t wanna have it so dilutive that those things have no meaning when you’re DEF or going public. So be a little thoughtful about it and think about it more holistically, as a percentage of ownership is a great way to think about it. But I think you’re exactly right in terms of … it was the thing at my first job, that I hated, and I was so bored because it wasn’t exciting. And I always knew what my day was gonna be like. One of the things I love about being a general counsel at a startup is I have no idea what the day is gonna be. It’s the deep end of the pool all day long. And I tell everyone that comes to work for me, “This will be the deep end of the pool, I may occasionally throw you a life preserver, but you’re gonna have to figure it out. I hope you’re okay with that.”
Scott: We do the same thing. I always say we hire for people who take action. That’s a very kind of unique skill with accountants. The stereotypical accountant would prefer to sit back and think about things, and so … you saw the whole office, those people all take action, they get stuff done. Occasionally, you have to be okay with them making mistakes sometimes. They’re gonna make mistakes. We message that to our clients, that we prefer people take action and get your stuff done. But it’s like the same thing, we definitely are the deep end of the pool and I love it. I actually love seeing people swimming for the shore in the deep end, or whatever the side of the pool, and you’re like “Ah, they’re gonna make it, they’ll be okay.”
Beth: I mean look, I make mistakes, everybody makes mistakes, and that’s okay it’s just “Did you learn from it?” And “Did you apply your learnings to the rest of the team or the folks that needed to learn from it?” So mistakes are fine. Failure is fine. We work at startups, those have to be okay things.
Scott: That’s so true. So another thing that I wanna talk about, how did you go from the law firm to a startup? You talked a little bit about that at Side Car and then you … but I remember you looking around and from my perspective, you took kind of a job that was … you were a pretty badass person, and you took kind of a lower on the rung job than I would have expected.
Beth: Yeah, it didn’t feel that way at the time. But yeah. I was probably, gosh, I must have been a sixth or seventh year associate, somewhere around that ballpark, maybe six. And I knew I had to get out of the law firm. I knew that that was not where my career was gonna go. And the benefit of being in the Bay Area was there are so many startup folks, and having gone to business school, I have a ton of contacts. So I think I literally applied to every in-house job, I had coffee with everybody. All of the people from our JDMBA program, the Kellogg program, I toyed briefly with going into business, going in to corp. Dev which is what lawyers do when they’re tired of being a lawyer, and just did the grind. It probably took about nine months, I worked with a recruiter, my resume is probably at every single company here. And I just got lucky and got asked to interview with Side Car, and ended up going through their outside counsel first, before I came in-house.
Scott: I can’t believe that they introduced you.
Beth: Yeah, well they had me interview with the outside counsel first before I met the G.C.
Scott: That kind of makes sense.
Beth: Which was interesting. Well they were looking for a number two, their G.C. was incredibly busy, with all the regulatory issues. And the guy I met, we just clicked. It was one of those you don’t know what you’re applying for jobs, and the recruiter posting is like “ Oh well, I haven’t tried this one, let’s see.” And it was for the number two position. I wouldn’t necessarily characterize that it was beneath me, it was actually …
Scott: I knew you had a good strategy. You were getting in where you could get in and …
Beth: That’s right.
Scott: Which I advocate, I think that’s really smart.
Beth: I think there’s different tactics to take depending on what kind of lawyer you were. I was a general litigator, and it’s a non-obvious place to go, although if you look around in Silicon Valley, a lot of the G.C.s at early-stage startups and startups that have been successful were litigators.
Scott: Interesting.
Beth: A few were corporate. But when we talk amongst ourselves, we have secret groups.
Scott: Secret slack channel.
Beth: That’s right. Email. We’re still lawyers. We joke that a lot of us were former litigators, and I think the reason for that is you see across a lot of problems, and you know how to anticipate that a problem’s gonna occur versus a corporate lawyers core skill set is documentation …
Scott: Deals.
Beth: And thinking about deals. And they’re both equally good skill sets, they just have different approaches to getting a new job. So when you’re a general litigator, it’s not obvious where you fit at an early-stage startup so you gotta just do the grind. And I did it, and I got in, and the G.C. at the time, who’s a really great guy, ended up leaving. I guess I was there maybe three months, three or four months before he left. I was like “Okay, cool! Rolling up my sleeves!”
Scott: Yeah, let’s do this!
Beth: Doing it, and then eventually talked to the CEO about making me general counsel and all the things that go with it. I didn’t realize this at the time, but my mantra has become, before I ask for something like that, “Well what would a white dude do?”
Scott: Very good. Say no more about that.
Beth: I think women tend to not push or advocate for themselves, and wait for someone to say “You’re doing a good job, you deserve to be promoted.” Because it should be so obvious that I’m killing it. And instead you have to say to yourself, “Okay, what would a white dude do?” And he probably would have advocated to become G.C. the minute the old G.C. left. So you gotta find your right space.
Scott: I think that’s great advice though. I mean, Vanessa, you know Vanessa, my wife but also our founder, she’s aggressive. She wouldn’t have got this business going. She got this business to a really big scale by just being direct, and asking for what she deserves, and being a good problem solver. And it’s kinda that simple, you know?
Beth: And I think from time to time, not at Opendoor, but at other places, you’d see the audacity of some really junior people, it’s like “Wait a minute, that guy got that? I should get that.” So I mentor and coach a lot of women when they come to me and they’re like “Oh, I have this opportunity, but I don’t know why they want me or don’t think I could be successful.” And I’m like “What are you talking about? Stop. What would a white dude do?” They’d be like “He’d take the job.” You have your answer. So I think that’s just important, particularly for women or under-represented minorities to take a pause, ask themselves that question, do some power poses in the bathroom and then go for it.
Scott: I like the power pose. That’s good.
Beth: Yeah. You never get told no unless you ask.
Scott: And you know, I think also, people … at least this is how we operate, we’re fine saying no. We actually like the aggressiveness, it’s not like you’re gonna … It doesn’t get held against you. It’s like “Yeah, what a good idea.”
Beth: In fact, it’s an invitation to have a conversation about “How do I get there?”
Scott: That’s the way, exactly. So then you can get feedback and be like “This is where you need to improve.” And we have those conversations all the time. I think that’s awesome advice. We have a lot of really amazing women here, but part of it probably is that a female founder draws amazing women. I know we’ve heard that in interviews. But you’re doing God’s work, that’s really good.
Beth: And then when you’re in a position of power or influence the way I am, today you can call out situations or you can help pave the way for others, so you can see where someone’s continually getting interrupted in a meeting, or contributions aren’t being valid, or credit’s been taken, and you can help either them navigate that for themselves, or you can help self-correct in the meeting. A woman that works for me, who is incredibly smart, absolutely 100% knows what she’s doing all day long, was getting talked over by someone more junior than her in another group, and I did it to her once as well, and we were talking about it afterwards, and I said “You know you do this weird pause like you want me to jump in.” She didn’t realize it.
Scott: Oh really?
Beth: She would be talking and she would be about to start a conversation and then she’d pause. And I’m sitting there like “Oh do you want me to speak, you want me to say something? What’s going on?” And it was always on like conference call type situations, and I said “You did a weird pause, so I thought I was supposed to talk.” I didn’t know.
Scott: And people feel the empty space. They’ll talk.
Beth: That’s right. And she goes “Oh my goodness, you’re right.” So she stopped the pause and that problem has almost completely gone away in her partnerships with other team members.
Scott: We had a good one like that that Vanessa noticed, that I was blown away by, she sent an email to a bunch of the guys, she was like hey we have a Zoom meeting thing, we have a big conference room where there’s seats around the table, and then there’s seats along the whole wall. And she had noticed that the men were sitting at the table, and a lot of the women were sitting along the sides. I didn’t even notice it, and she’s like “Hey, do not take all those seats, I want women sitting at that table.” Because the Zoom picks up the table more than it picks up the sides. And I was like “That is a great observation.” That is one of those little things that people don’t notice, and then all of sudden you’re looking, if you’re in a remote office, you’re looking and everyone sitting at the table is a guy, except for the one woman founder, that’s bullshit. So she called it out, and that stopped actually.
Beth: It’s really interesting that specific point that you bring up. A mutual friend of ours, who worked at Goldman, they did a training … she was telling me about this, they did a training for women, and sitting at the table, plus your body posture at sitting at the table was critical to how serious people took you in the meeting. So for women what you wanna do, is you wanna sit at the table, you wanna lean forward and put your elbows on the table so your body …
Scott: Look at me, that’s how I’m sitting right now.
Beth: And I’m leaning back. And you wanna engage and you wanna say something impactful within the first five minutes.
Scott: I love it.
Beth: And most women don’t do that because we’re trained by society to be team players, to hand the ball, to share. And men are, these are gross generalizations, but men are trained to jostle, to grab the ball, right? So those are the things that you have to think through when you’re in a corporate situation. Those playground rules have translated into our adult lives.
Scott: It’s so true.
Beth: And if you’re in a position of power … First of all just recognizing is the first step. But as a woman, and as a senior woman in my org, I try to help others along, say like “You can’t really say that to people.” Or “Could you be more inclusive and talk not just about football on the weekend, but make sure that you’re checking in with the female team members and having a relationship with them too. It doesn’t have to be the same, but you’re a leader, you need to check in.”
Scott: It’s really good feedback. And that kind of stuff, also with like retention and growth, we’re very fortunate. We have some amazing women who just kicked ass in our organization. It’s from a purely capitalistic perspective, it actually pays off. And then from societal benefits … My mom was an entrepreneur, so I watched her grow a business. We actually make a lot better decisions when there’s a lot of women in the room. And I saw this at Lighthouse, cause we had two women partners out of five, I’ve seen this every stop on my …
Beth: Well the research shows it right? Like how many articles does HPS have to put out there before we start believing it?
Scott: It’s totally true, and there’s been times where you just make a better decision, you have a better dialogue, you make a better decision.
Beth: I mean the good news is the team that I work with at Opendoor are so amazing, and the senior team are so open to these kinds of … I mean that’s part of the reason why I’m there, I work with really thoughtful …
Scott: That’s probably why they hired you, they value it so then they’re like “Oh, yeah.”
Beth: But I work with really amazing, thoughtful people who always wanna do the right thing. And that once you’re there, talking about how do you pick where you go, once you get there, there’s so much you can do with that, when people wanna do the right thing.
Scott: And enable a lot of people.
Beth: Yeah, that’s right.
Scott: This has been an awesome podcast. I was joking that before I turn on the mics we’ve started doing second podcast to people, and you’ll be one of the second podcasts, so there’s a lot more we’re gonna talk about.
Beth: Oh man, I gotta come up with more content.
Scott: So maybe tell everyone where they can find Opendoor and give the quick pitch again so that they know when they’re buying a house or selling a house in one of those markets they can use you guys.
Beth: Yeah, absolutely. So it’s just, you can also check out our mobile app which is on Android and iOS. It’s Opendoor Homes in the app store. So check us out there, you can see the types of homes that we buy and sell in Phoenix, Dallas-Fort Worth, Las Vegas, Orlando, Raleigh-Durham, and Atlanta, and a lot more markets coming soon.
Scott: That’s awesome. And if you’re a female entrepreneur, or executive, or someone who needs a little help, or a little coaching, hit up Beth Stevens.
Beth: That’s right. And also Opendoor is hiring like mad, so check out our careers page too.
Scott: That’s really good. Alright thank you Beth, really appreciate it.
Beth: Thank you.

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