Building An Online Community That Works

“At its bare minimum, what Chairman Mom is combating is loneliness and isolation. We all know that is the biggest problem in our country right now and the biggest casualty of the trillion-dollar social media industry.”

Sarah Lacy is building an online platform where women can discuss the most important issues they face in their personal and professional lives, without fear of judgement or abuse. So, how did she create a supportive online space for women to connect with each other? A safe place where community comes first?

Today, Sarah joins me to discuss the Chairman Mom community, explaining what inspired her to create the platform and how it works. She offers insight around the toxicity of ad-based social networks and describes what makes Chairman Mom different. I ask Sarah about the success of her Mama Bear newsletter, and we talk about how it helped build an audience for Chairman Mom prior to the site’s launch. Listen in to understand how and why anonymity works on the platform, facilitating conversations that may not happen anywhere else.

The Startup Pregnant Podcast Episode #088

Some quotes from the episode

  • “That guilt and shame women feel is like the patriarchy’s voice in our head, and I just felt like the antidote to that was more women getting together in small groups and having conversations and seeing that these things that feel so personal are really universal.”
  • “There is so much power in women getting together and comparing their stories.”
  • “I wanted to be able to build something that would be community-first but wouldn’t have the toxicity of a social network.”
  • “Silicon Valley is really good at solving problems. Typically, whenever Silicon Valley leaders tell you something’s too hard, what they mean is they don’t care.”
  • “We wanted to break this abusive relationship that women have with social media. We wanted to provide a place where our goal every day as a company is for a woman to come on to the site and feel better about herself every time she uses the service.”
  • “North of 80% of women had seen mom shaming online. More than 60% see it regularly. And as a result, only 4% of women would consider asking advice online.”
  • “What I have a problem with is the toxicity that comes with an ad-based business model. When you run an ad-based business model, you have to addict people to your product. You play psychological games with them.”
  • “[The subscription-based model] allows you to make your users your customers. They’re not a commodity you’re selling. It’s really transformational.”
  • “We doubled the size of the audience when we launched publicly, and we definitely saw more activity. But we didn’t see any change in the type of activity. We didn’t see people get meaner, we didn’t see different kinds of questions. It was astounding how much we just saw more of what we were seeing before.”
  • “There’s a lot of reasons you have to have really good anonymity, or you’re just not going to get the right questions and you’re also not going to get the honesty of answers.”
  • “There’s restrictiveness around gender that, even when it’s well-meaning, can be really painful for people who don’t fit in that bucket.”
  • “At its bare minimum, what Chairman Mom is combating is loneliness and isolation. We all know that is the biggest problem certainly in our country right now and the biggest casualty of the trillion-dollar social media industry. I don’t think it’s exclusive to moms, and I don’t think it’s exclusive to women.”


Sarah Lacy is the Founder and CEO of Chairman Mom, an online community for professional women. A journalist for nearly 20 years, Sarah is known for her fearless, outspoken reporting. She is a sought-after speaker, frequent guest on national television, and the author of several books. Her most recent release, A Uterus is a Feature, Not a Bug, was published in November 2017. Sarah describes herself as ‘an unapologetic feminist, mother, and supporter of women.’



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