Girl Power

Natalie Massenet and Arianna Huffington

Natalie Massenet and Arianna Huffington

First Natalie Massenet, now Arianna Huffington. In less than twelve months' time, two super fabulous female entrepreneurs have inked high-profile, multimillion dollar deals for the companies they founded, using the internet as their launch pad. Natalie started online luxury retailer Net-a-Porter in London in 2000. Arianna, of course, founded eponymous news aggregator Huffington Post in 2005.

Both women are game changers who began from scratch, trusted instinct in the face of adamant naysayers and have personally netted millions as a result. Natalie pocketed $75 million in April 2010 when Richemont bought out the portion of Net-a-Porter it did not yet own for $530 million. Figures have not been made public in the Aol-Huffington Post transaction, but based on the Company's investor base and reported valuations of earlier rounds, Arianna will likely take home somewhere between $15 and $50 million cash and stock in the $315 million deal. She also is said to have a multi-million dollar annual contract to stay on and run Aol's collected news services.

Of course money is not the only--or necessarily even the best--metric of success, but numbers do help to frame scale and scope of accomplishment. So a few more: in 10 short years, Natalie, who is 45 years old, has built a company from 3 people working out of her London apartment to 700+ in London and New York. The company ships to 170 countries, has 4 million users monthly, first turned a profit in 2004 and grew throughout the recession. In July 2010 it celebrated its 10 year anniversary by moving into impossibly chic new headquarters--44,000 square feet.

As for Arianna, who is 60, in an even shorter five years, she has built Huffington Post into a website that is visited by 26 million unique visitors monthly (closing in on the New York Times' 35 million). In 2010 the site was profitable for the first time--on revenues of $30 million. This with 203 employees. And now she'll oversee sites with approximately 300 million visitors--and 300 new employees. And--she was cited as the 28th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes in October 2010.

Natalie and Arianna are very different from one another. Where Natalie is reserved, just shy of being demure, Arianna is spirited, outspoken, often funny. But both are passionate, warm, keenly intuitive, sharply smart and articulate. And what is enormously refreshing is that neither can be described in terms that used to be hashed and re-hashed when discussing successful women--shrill, harsh, mean or back-stabbing. They are delivering stand-out results and playing nice. This, in the end, is the real, completely unquantifiable, measure of their success, what truly characterizes their inspiring wins as game-changing and makes them applause-worthy.

Luckily, for anyone looking to learn from Natalie and Arianna, both live squarely in the public eye. There are multiple online appearances, conversations and articles in which they describe, discuss and display the leadership qualities and philosophies that propel their success.

A quick summary of Natalie's path--from Vogue UK paired, naturally, with a slide show of her impeccable style--is here. Just this past weekend Vanessa Friedman published an interview with her in the Financial Times, which you can read here (online registration required), and last July, on the occasion of the Company's anniversary, Imran Amed, of The Business of Fashion, conducted a terrific interview with her at the new headquarters. The interview is here and an accompanying walk through the new office space is here.

In July Arianna also conducted an interview, in which she discussed founding the Huffington Post and her perspectives on journalism and media, with Henry Blodget of Business Insider--which you can watch here. A supplement, in which she discusses the value of partnerships, is here. And in December 2008 she had a longer conversation with Charlie Rose, which is here. For insight into her wit and humor, her banter with Jon Stewart is here and a quick tongue-in-cheek talk at the recent TEDWomen event in Washington--on the role of sleep in leadership--is here.