Sarah Ware – Co-Founder of Markerly

[quote style=”boxed”]You need to be able to laugh without being offended and take criticism without folding. Know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.[/quote]

Sarah Ware is a young serial entrepreneur currently living in Washington, D.C., and is the co-founder of Markerly. Previously responsible for leading a traveling team to launch the LivingSocial product Instant (now online ordering), she’s a self-spoken social media junkie. Her formal education includes The American University of Paris, Georgetown University, and The University of Tampa.

What are you working on right now?

Markerly, a social lifestyle sharing and bookmarking community.

Where did the idea for Markerly come from?

Pinterest! I loved how easy it was to bookmark localized content on a webpage, but I don’t spend much time looking at pretty pictures. I read a lot, and I wanted to do the same thing–but with text–and make it really social.

What does your typical day look like?

I’m not a morning person, so it always starts with coffee. In the mornings I answer emails, take phone calls, and go over weekly and daily goals with my team. The afternoons are spent focusing on connecting one-on-one with our users via Skype and email, and bringing that feedback to the team to figure out what to put on our to-do list and what features we should build (we are building a lot on the backend). The evenings are heavy on product development, analyzing stats from Mixpanel and Crazy Egg, and setting up A/B tests. We love A/B tests.

How do you bring ideas to life?

The law of attraction. You are what you think and believe. Listening also helps a lot. We’re building this for the masses, so we really like going over feedback and piecing together the most common recommendations/pain points so we can make the product better. Users love seeing their suggestions built and we see a spike in promotion when we build things based on their insight.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

The ability to analyze the context behind why a user shares or reads a certain article. Right now, data collection is so general and is not user specific (people actually pay for the mumble-jumble of data collected from a family computer!). There’s so much more detail to dig into. Localized content provides a lot of insight into people’s identities. An article might be pro-Obama, and a user could choose to highlight, like, save or share the sentence that contains an anti-Obama sentiment.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

Out of all my odd jobs, being a cashier and a barista has been the worst. I remember an incident when I was working in McLean, Virginia, at a coffee shop. I asked a customer who was decked out in Chanel if she’d like her latte “to stay” or “to go.” She looked at me and said, “Do you have a brain? What do you think? Figure it out for me.” In a split second I concluded that anyone speaking in that tone probably had nobody to meet and nothing to do all day long, so I politely gave her a “to-stay” cup. I was right!

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

Regarding Markerly, nothing yet. We’re only four months in, and so far, I’m happy with all of our execution choices.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Be nice! So many people in this community get an ego and think, for whatever reason, that they are better than the next person. You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.

What is one problem you encountered as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

A large company viewed us as a competition and tried to bully us around for a while to stymie our growth, thinking we’d give up. Instead of giving them what they wanted, we kept our momentum going. It’s tough to start a business when a big company has threatened you so early on, but it taught us to think even bigger. We’re okay now, and though no one wants to deal with experiences like that, it wasn’t all negative since it really made me realize Markerly’s true potential. When a big company views you as a threat, you’re doing something right!

Aso, it’s important to distinguish between people you can trust only on paper and those whose words you can trust. Keep the people whose words you can trust close, as they are far and few between. But make sure everything’s signed, regardless of who you’re dealing with, because unfortunately, in this world, you still just never know.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

When I was working at LivingSocial and doing expense reports, all I wanted was an app that integrated with Google Maps on my iPhone so I could accurately assess and report my mileage. You’re routing to the place anyway, so why not share that route with Concur–or whatever–in real time? That’s not just a cool idea; it’s also easy to build. Boom.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?

Education. That’s my real passion. There’s so much reform that needs to be addressed in that industry. I’m a huge advocate of charter schools, and I’d like to build my own one day, or contribute to one.

Tell us a secret.

I’ve always wanted to play a villain in a soap opera.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

The Glass Castle. It’s not a book about status, and everyone needs a break.

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?

  1. @ShashiB is a social media “guru,” and that’s an accurate description!
  2. @StartupTechGuy, because Nibletz is awesome and always covers startups.
  3. @CindyGallop, because she likes to “blow shit up.”

When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

I laugh a lot–a few times an hour. Most recently, I literally LOLd over my dog sniffing at the window as a food cart drove by. I laugh as I type a lot too. If I write “LOL” it’s usually true. Hopefully this means I’ll live a long time.

Who is your hero?

My heroes are all the soldiers/marines who keep our country safe and risk their lives for us every day.

Where do you see Markerly in two years?

Every day we share articles. They are here today and gone tomorrow. We don’t know who to follow based on what they share, and we can’t browse someone’s library to see all their shares in particular categories. We are bombarded with articles, and we want to get straight to the point and back to task. And we want to be able to reference the main points of what we read when we need to–and easily (certain stats and quotes). Not only does Markerly allow you to do all that and personalize what you share with highlights (and more soon), but we are also going to be scoring everyone based on what they share with their social networks. We are opening up a new world where you can really read vicariously by browsing libraries, and nothing is ever gone. There’s no value-add to sharing today. Markerly is the smart and personal way to share all of your favorite content online. I’m not kidding when I say all of our users are very intelligent! In two years, the movement will be well underway.


  • Archives
  • Promotes to our community
  • Distributes to other communities
  • Provides stats on your reach
  • Makes bookmarking easy
  • Makes organization easy
  • Makes reading more efficient for the person you share with
  • Makes referencing and searching of any previous article you shared easy
  • Provides recommendations based on what you highlight so you can discover new articles of interest
  • Will soon see everyone’s score based on the quality, quantity, and topics that they share

Really, what’s the point of sharing any other way? We are working on a lot of back-end things that will make it even more of a utility for some other pain points we all experience when browsing the web today. I can’t really touch more on that yet.

You led a team at LivingSocial that launched Instant, which failed, and has since turned into online ordering. What would you have done differently if you were managing the project?

Well, Instant was a startup within a startup. Anything like that inherits risk, and the whole project was a trial-and-error thing. I think that the mini-pivot was necessary and I’m totally rooting for them all the way, however, it’s always been my thought (and always will be) that reservations would have complemented the brand much more than a Seamless/Eat24 model. I think this because no matter what anyone says, LivingSocial really has a more niche, affluent, lifestyle-driven audience. I’ve seen it and I know it. Reservations just really complement that get-out-of-the-house-and-pamper-yourself type of clientele that LivingSocial has. That’s just my two cents.

What advice can you give to other female entrepreneurs trying to make it in the space?

Don’t be sensitive! You need to be able to laugh without being offended and take criticism without folding. Know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.


Sarah Ware on LinkedIn
Sarah Ware on Twitter @WareSarah
Markerly on Twitter: @Markerly
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