Two female tech entrepreneurs created a fake male co-founder in an effort to get around the condescension and sexism within the industry.
Penelope Gazin and Kate Dwyer struggled with creating Witchsy, their own online marketplace for artists in the beginning.
The pair, who are located in Los Angeles, used their own money and had minimal tech skills as they faced doubt from outsiders in regards to launching their business.
‘When we were getting started, we were immediately faced with ‘Are you sure? Does this sound like a good idea?’,’ Dwyer told Fast Company.
‘I think because we’re young women, a lot of people looked at what we were doing like, ‘What a cute hobby!’ or ‘That’s a cute idea.”
Penelope Gazin and Kate Dwyer (together above) struggled with creating their own online marketplace for artists in the beginning. So they created a fake male co-founder, Keith Mann, in an effort to get around the condescension and sexism within the industry
Their business, Witchsy, is a curated online marketplace for dark-humored art. Pictured above is one of their products
As they were trying to build their business, which is a curated online marketplace for dark-humored art, they faced several obstacles.
First, a web developer they hired to build their site tried to delete everything after Gazin declined to go on a date with him.
After a while, they noticed a pattern of receiving condescending toned emails from outside developers and graphic designers that they enlisted to help them.
The duo claimed that often times those individuals were male and were slow to respond, were short in responses and somewhat disrespectful in their email exchanges.
For instance, a developer began an email with the words ‘Okay girls…’ in response to one of their requests.
The ill-mannered treatment they received from outsiders actually gave them the idea to create and introduce the third fictional co-founder, Keith Mann.
The pair (above together) used their own money and had minimal tech skills when they launched their business. They said they received condescending toned emails from outsiders they enlisted to help them. But once they created a fake male co-founder, things changed
‘It was like night and day,’ Dwyer told Fast Company. ‘It would take me days to get a response, but Keith could not only get a response and a status update, but also be asked if he wanted anything else or if there was anything else that Keith needed help with.’
The pair continued to use Keith to interact with outsiders after finding out how using a male’s name changed the tone of conversations.
Gazin noted how one developer in particular showed more ‘deference’ to Keith than he did to her or Dwyer.
‘Whenever he spoke to Keith, he always addressed Keith by name,’ Gazin explained to Fast Company. ‘Whenever he spoke to us, he never used our names.’
Gazine and Dwyer continued to push on with their dreams for their company instead of being deterred. They even had fun
‘I think we could have gotten pretty bent out of shape about that,’ Dwyer told Fast Company.
‘Wow, are people really going to talk to this imaginary man with more respect than us? But we were like, you know what, this is clearly just part of this world that we’re in right now. We want this and want to make this happen.’
The pair had success in using the fake male name to interact with outsiders and said it changed the tone of conversations. They said in the first year, Witchsy sold about $200,000 worth of products and they managed to turn a small profit
The use of a male fake third co-founder has paid off for Gazin and Dwyer.
Witchsy sold about $200,000 worth of art in its first year and paid its creator 80 per cent of each transaction.
Dwyer said they have managed to turn it into a small profit.
Plus, earlier this year they received an investment from Rick and Morty co-creator Justin Roiland. They are working with him now to create exclusive products for Witchsy.
Gazin and Dwyer aren’t seeking to get rich off their site.
The duo just want to offer a platform for artists to be able to sell their work without censorship.
In the last year, Silicon Valley has had high-profile cases of sexual harassment in the tech world.