How Game Of Thrones Prepared Maisie Williams For Startup Success

"If you’re going to get into the startup world, you have to like to feel the pressure. I like to feel the fire."

Maisie Williams is being flooded with messages. Her friends, her teammates, her mom are all texting to see if she heard the news. She’s been nominated for an Emmy (again) for her performance as Arya Stark in Game of Thrones. She’s a little shocked. She’s very excited.

“When I was shooting,” she remembers, “Dom and I would have to FaceTime at 11 p.m. So many huge decisions were made over FaceTime.” She’s talking about Dom Santry, her cofounder, and all the product, community, and vision decisions they made for their startup, Daisie. “When I finished the show, I went straight to the office, every day, until we launched our MVP.”

For more than a year, Maisie and Dom have been working to bring Daisie to life. In May, it launched worldwide, as a community for creatives to share their work, find collaborators, and build the confidence needed for a lasting career.

"Now that the show has finished, people are asking, 'What if nobody cares about you anymore? What if everything goes away?'" Maisie says. "I have confidence everything is going to be great. Sometimes I get a real fire in my belly when people think it’s not going my way. Having that ability to be able to overcome it, though, is so important—to have that belief in yourself."

It's the type of confidence that can be hard to summon, but in many ways, it comes naturally to Maisie. She shared a few things she's learned about calling on confidence throughout her career.

Embracing uncertainty

When Dom first approached Maisie with the idea for Daisie, she remembers two thoughts rushing into her mind:

  1. This is a great idea.
  2. I have no idea how I can help.

She'd never worked at a startup or in technology. As an actress, she'd spent years bringing others' creative visions to life, but now it was time to define her own. And while the idea was something that made such genuine sense—helping creators learn how to share their work in the ways they intend it to be seen—Maisie wasn't sure how she fit in.

"What I needed to lay out, first of all, was knowing I could help," she says. "If I can believe that, and know why I would be involved, and what things I can do to help, believing in myself becomes so much easier."

For Maisie, that sense of understanding came when she realized Dom could own their product and tech roadmap, and she could focus on branding, marketing, and community building. It not only made sense, it made her even more excited to be involved.

"Being able to connect those dots in your head and visualize an outcome before you start the process—imagining how the world would look if you managed to do it—makes it so much easier to believe in yourself."

Realizing acting prepared her for this

Since starting Daisie, Maisie and Dom have raised $3 million from investors like Kleiner Perkins and Founders Fund. They've built a team. And 11 days after launching, they hit their first 100,000 users.

Now, rewind to when they were raising funding.

For many founders, it's a nervewracking slog. You stand in front of investors, over and over. You share a pitch that you've drafted, practiced, and probably over-practiced. You leave after an allotted amount of time, and you hope that you were memorable.

Luckily for Maisie, that's a lot like auditioning. And while Game of Thrones was only her second audition ever, her "cheeky, loud, and angry" performance launched a decade-long TV career. It also taught her, early on, how to summon composure, sell an idea, and earn buy-in from those around her—like investors.

It also proved helpful with other startup stressors, like hiring.

"Audition experience helped me look at interviews from an interviewee's perspective," Maisie says. "It taught me how to conduct an interview, get what you want from the meeting, and make a good decision. I've talked to people who are so passionate and excited about what we're doing with Daisie that I realize, halfway through, I've hardly heard a single thing they've said. But I can feel their passion for what we're building. It shows me how much some people care."

Finding balance throughout chaos

Building Daisie has been hectic and stressful, but exciting. There were whole weeks, Maisie remembers, when things went wrong or people felt low. But even through the most challenging times, she seemed to always feel certain that the stress would be temporary.

"Knowing that’s not the end, and knowing you can't succumb to it—having that confidence," Maisie says. "I just have this feeling, even if people are getting anxious, it’s going to be OK. Call me crazy, but I know it has to be fine."

Part of that resilience is the sheer faith she has in Daisie's mission and the passionate drive she brings to her work.

"I think if you’re going to get into the startup world, you have to like to feel the pressure. I like to feel the fire," she says. "When you’re this small, things can change really quickly, so it’s important to me to be really involved."

But another key ingredient in sustaining that focus is setting realistic, personal guardrails. That can mean ruthelessly prioritizing your time at work. Pushing hard toward progress when you're focused. Turning your attention to manageable tasks—like reading or research–when you're not.

"Now I get eight hours of sleep, every night," she admits. "That was a big change I made between V1 of Daisie and the Daisie you see right now. If I get a good night’s sleep, I'm so much more alert and present. You have to feel confident saying, 'This is what I need.'"

Sharing sage advice for other creatives

Maisie has lived both sides of the creative process—elevating others' visions and developing her own.

They're experiences that have shaped the way she manages her team and influenced how she encourages confidence in herself and the people around her.

"Sometimes, people will do things because of other people's expectations, not because it's their own vision for themselves," she says. "But if you can push to see yourself really clearly and know how you help a certain cause, then getting to the end point becomes so much easier. You find that core sense of why you belong...The sooner you can have that discussion with yourself, the sooner you can know what you want for your life, authentically."


Special thanks to Alexa Golik, a member of the Daisie community, for the illustration in this article.

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