The CEOs of Etsy, Birchbox and Bevel Explain Why Being Underestimated is Actually a Good Thing

Birchbox Road Trip Atlanta - Day 1


If you're a business owner, it's likely at one point or another your business will be misunderstood or underestimated. Even some of the most successful CEOs have crossed paths with this frustrating reality.

But there could be an upside to being underrated, according to a few CEOs who spoke at Fast Company's Innovation Festival in November."Too many people let their lack of context cloud their judgment," Bevel CEO Tristan Walker says.

When raising funds for his shaving system designed to reduce and prevent razor bumps, he was told his product wasn't solving a particularly important issue compared to problems like acne.

Walker begs to differ and says if you get on the phone with 10 black men, eight of them will tell you it's important.

"People of color are the majority of the world," Walker says. "It's not a niche market."

Discounting companies that cater to so-called "niche markets" seems to be a common theme in business, and one that makes little sense to Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson.

He recalls that a journalist once asked him, "Isn't Etsy just [for] women?" He retorts, "Yea, 50% of the world's population who control all household income."

"It's so painful sometimes to be underestimated," Birchbox CEO Katia Beauchamp says. But at the same time, "It's a huge blessing."

She says being underestimated teaches you to work insanely hard and how to pitch your company to people who would never relate to your product.

And Walker adds that when you're determined to prove people wrong, it helps provide focus.
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