Nina Faulhaber and Meg He are founders of ADAY, a new website boasting, ‘slick clothes for active women.’ Previously, they both worked for Goldman Sachs in London. We spoke to them about the Goldman analyst program, the banking lifestyle, their reasons for quitting and the healthy ethos of Silicon Valley…
So, you both worked for Goldman Sachs?
Nina: “Yes, I was an analyst in the Natural Resources M&A team and Meg was an analyst in the UK M&A team. That was where we met. I spent two years at Goldman and Meg spent almost three years there.”
What inspired you to go into banking?
Meg: “I grew up between the UK and China and I went to Oxford University for my undergraduate. I graduated in 2008 and so applied for graduate jobs at a time when banking was in massive boom. I remember asking everyone I knew what I should do at the moment and they said unanimously that the place to be was investment banking at Goldman Sachs. Goldman was the pinnacle of everything then.”
So why did you quit?
Nina: “I was really interested in technology and consumer internet and knew deep in my heart that I wanted to be close to where innovation happens. I left Goldman after two years and went to Index Ventures, a venture capital fund that invests in consumer internet and B2B enterprises. At Index, I was very focused on European early stage venture capital investments, which then inspired me to follow my passions and start a company.”
Meg: “Having interned at Goldman in 2007 — seeing what happened during the financial crisis of 2008 so shortly after I joined full-time came as a huge shock. My father was a software programmer and I’d always grown up around technology. When I started looking at other industries, I was reminded strongly of how I had always been interested and engaged with technology and the internet. I ended up leaving Goldman for a venture capital fund called Atomico, which invests in innovative technology companies. At the same time, I also applied to the Stanford Graduate School of Business for an MBA, so that I could move to California and be a part of that fast-paced innovation in Silicon Valley.”
Did many others leave Goldman at the same time as you?
Meg: “By the time I left, more than 50% of my analyst class had quit too. A very small number had been made redundant, but most had left for the buyside firms like we did.”
Did the firm try to persuade you to stay?
Nina: “They did offer a number of alternative options within the firm, but once they realized that my mind was set on moving they were incredibly supportive. There are a lot of Goldman alumni out there and they’ve been very helpful to us!”
So, you’re still in touch with Goldman colleagues?
Meg: “Absolutely! Someone very senior in the Consumer Retail group asked if he could help us when we set up ADAY. One of my favourite managing directors at Goldman Sachs was also one of our first customers and a number of our ex-colleagues and mentors have been in touch to see if they can invest. We were also included into Goldman’s alumni newsletter. It’s an amazing network to be part of and we’re honoured to received so much support.”
Do you ever have any regrets about leaving?
Nina: “I’m very happy for my Goldman experience but I don’t have any regrets about leaving. I’d always been a very active person with sport at the core of my life, but when I started in banking I didn’t work out as much and ended up with back pain and bad skin. My lifestyle now is completely different – and most importantly I’m following my true passion, I live healthily and work is fully integrated into my life.”
So, the lifestyle in banking helped persuade you to leave?
Meg: “When I was at Goldman, I had a gym membership and little time to use it (I had this theory that wearing high heels was great for exercising my leg muscles…). When I moved to the Bay Area, suddenly, life priorities shifted. There’s a focus on having a great and balanced life — people still work hard – 9am to 9pm (as opposed to 9am to 2am in banking) but there’s much more emphasis on staying healthy. People go on hikes and meditate, they eat healthy food, and companies support this lifestyle too. The whole idea in tech is that you treat your body and mind with care so that you can live and work well and that you have to do it for a long time too. It’s just a different world to banking.”
Weren’t you inspired by the lifestyles of people who’d made it through the hard slog of the analyst and associate years?
Meg: “We saw a lot of our older friends in banking, in banking and in markets, just get totally burned out. They’d go on holiday and just lie there on the beach because they were so exhausted and they were only in their early 30s. It was scary for us to see this — especially a culture in the banking industry motivates people to work so hard that they burn out. This then means they’ll leave, it’s not great for culture and it’s also very costly to replace them.”
And so, what are your plans for ADAY?
Nina: “ADAY launched 8 weeks ago and we’ve been overwhelmed by the positive response and obvious need for ADAY in the market. People are talking about us and telling us what they like and don’t like and we’re listening and integrating that into our product. Our aim is to build an online ecommerce brand that our customers fall in love with. We want ADAY pieces to become wardrobe staples and we want to continue to innovate and reinvent normal clothing to be fundamentally active.”
Meg: “At the moment, we are a team of eight and we’re very focused on bringing our business ethos to our way of life. When we look around us, we see this beautiful world of millennials — and many of us don’t define ourselves by the job we do, but rather by the way we live life. For example, I’m a yoga instructor as well an entrepreneur. I’ve got a friend who wears her ADAY trackpants to work in her hedge fund so that she can do Barrecore at lunch. That’s how it is — this is much more the lifestyles that we lead now.”
Nina: “Work and life are entwined rather than separate. It’s about pursuing your passion. This is the new world we live in. You’re never going to retire anyway, so you pursue your passions and live and love your life, instead of waiting until you’re 65 to get started.”