This week Series W talked to Giorgia Rossi, co-founder of LookBooker, about working with close friends, getting that first round of investment, and what the LookBooker team looks for in early joiners and MBAs:
LookBooker is an online platform that is revolutionizing the way consumers book hair, beauty and wellness appointments. Search by service or curated neighborhood and then compare and instantly book an appointment 24-hours a day from any web or mobile device. By simplifying the process for female and male consumers and also offering streamlined B2C solutions for salons, LookBooker is quickly becoming the leading aggregator of this space. Launched in 2014 by two former McKinsey & Company analysts, LookBooker is currently available in New York City and Singapore. For more information (or to book your next appointment!), visit www.lookbooker.co.
How did you develop the idea for LookBooker?
We started LookBooker as users in need of the service we now provide. We were working long hours as consultants in multiple cities and couldn’t fathom how it was easier to book a round the world flight, takeaway food, or doctor appointment door than it was to book a haircut. We’re passionate about small businesses, and as soon as we realized that the inefficiency of offline appointment making was a pain point for salon owners too, we knew we had to build LookBooker!
What has it been like founding a business with a close friend?
It’s been fantastic and in ways that I couldn’t have imagined. Renee and I were friends outside of work, neighbors and peers at McKinsey for years before we started LookBooker. We knew what each of us wanted out of the experience, our relative strengths and weaknesses and importantly how to motivate each other when we were feeling down or scared (which can happen a lot). For me the best part is having a best friend to share the super high highs with (we have a victory dance that we have done on the street on multiple occasions) and to be buoyed by during the super low lows.
What was your professional alternative to LookBooker? Why did you decide to take the plunge?
I didn’t have one! When Renee and I left McKinsey we did it to build LookBooker – we had been kicking the idea around for long enough and it had percolated to a point where it was all we could think about. I remember on our last project at work (and actually the first time we were working together with the same client!), Renee and I were pulling these insane hours but still finding discreet moments to meet up in the kitchen or the cafeteria to work on the LookBooker prototype and plan. By the time we took the plunge, LookBooker was all we could think about and neither of us really considered doing anything else.
How did you get your first investors on board? What would you do differently?
We were extremely lucky to have had the support of a number of our mentors and clients (!!) from McKinsey join us as our earliest supporters. We raised a few hundred thousand dollars out of the gate and have since then raised close to $1mn now. I wouldn’t have done much differently but I would say that I am glad we listened to the advice of those who’d taken a similar path and brought on some wonderful strategic angels on board. I’d also encourage people to raise more than they think they need to and to be wary that sometimes it’s easier to raise money for a great idea than it is for a great idea with small numbers!
What has been your greatest WFIO (we’re f*****, it’s over) moment so far?
Ohmygosh. It’s hard to pick. If anyone isn’t having those moments on a regular basis they are either lying or not doing it right. Part of being an entrepreneur is having a blind belief that your business is not going to die so we think less about it being “over” but have WTFHWD (WTF have we done?) moments all the time. We run a two-sided marketplace and are always running experiments on both sides. In the pursuit of finding the 100% approach on something we often have to stop doing the 80% one, risk being stuck with a 10% one and always force ourselves to try new things – that’s when the real WTFHWD moments hit but that’s the kind of agility and innovation you get an unparalleled opportunity to play with that you don’t get in a big company.
What did you look for in your first hires?
At LookBooker we’ve done a lot of work on what we value as a company and we have a set of four core values which underpin everything we do – including what we look for in the people we hire. Firstly, we look for people who want to push boundaries, who have big dreams (individually and for the company) and who won’t stop until we reach them – we call this valuing changing and challenging. Secondly, we look for people who care about maximum impact for our clients and who are willing to live and breathe a company mission that seeks to make the lives of our clients and users more easy – we call this being industry lead. Thirdly, we value people who GSD. We want people who are as committed to growth as our existing team is, who are fast and iterative, who work hard and smart and who won’t give up. Ever. Finally, we believe we are building a great team and want to hire people who can act as a team, are motivated and motivating, are resilient, are committed to teaching and learning and are just inspiring to be around. It sounds like a lot but we’ve been lucky so far!
What do you look for in MBAs joining LookBooker?
I would say that we are looking for the “fit” with our company values for our MBAs as we are with our permanent hires. It’s important for us to give an MBA student an opportunity to work on something that is interesting to them but it’s also critical for where we are at as a company that those interests line up with where we are on our trajectory. We are trying to hire people who will turn into our future city managers and our future executive leaders so we want to make sure we are setting someone up for success from day 1 with the hope that they will stay on with us beyond the Summer!