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We all have our celebrity crushes that we follow on social media. For some, it may be Justin Bieber, for others it's Taylor Swift. For Goxip Cofounder & CEO Juliette Gimenez, having to open up Twitter, Instagram and Facebook just to follow and read up on her favorite celebrities like Justin Bieber, Ashton Kutcher, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift and the like started to eat up too much of her time.
This was the initial inspiration that led her to create Goxip, a mobile fashion commerce platform that aggregates celebrity and community content from different social media channels and blogs, and allows you to use a proprietary image recognition technology to detect and purchase the fashion item in any picture you come across.
While Goxip's initial prototype started out by only having the celebrity newsfeed that integrated the different media platforms to provide you with trending entertainment news, Juliette's extensive retail background having worked in established startup retail players like Groupon, LivingSocial and CDiscount gave her the idea to integrate the image recognition feature that would allow people to shop right away.
Juliette shared, "Asia, particularly Southeast Asia is a truly mobile first market but brands and retailers are struggling to get mobile traffic to convert. We are helping solve this problem by offering a single feed aggregating all celebrity content for the region's insatiable celebrity and Instagram culture. This will allow an easy snap and shop option geared towards convenience and retaining conversions and help unlock a portion of the population still not shopping online."
We got the opportunity to chat with Juliette Gimenez during the RISE Conference, where Goxip ended up winning the Breakthrough Pitch Competition.
The First 1,000 Goxip Users
As I started my interview with Juliette, you could see the energy overflowing from her as she started sharing about the origins of Goxip, and how they acquired their first 1,000 users and 10,000 fans.
Juliette recalls emailing and messaging all her friends and asking them to download the Goxip application. She shared, "At this stage, you have to leverage the power of social media. You should also ask lots of people for feedback to keep improving your product." The lesson here? Early on, do things that don't scale.
This initial hustle would go along way as Goxip would pickup a bit of steam in the Philippines.
Juliette shared, "When we launched, Filipinos suddenly started liking our Facebook page. Before we knew it, we had over 10,000 likes from the Filipino community without doing any paid marketing."
Currently, Goxip features approximately 1 million products having signed selective partnerships with blue-chip names like Shopbop, Nordstrom, TopShop, ASOS, Macy's, Bloomingdales, Ted Baker and Zalora.
Juliette added, "We are unlocking a whole new segment of people that haven't shop on certain retailers but are interested in certain pieces of clothing. Our algorithm can sort by country, brand and price point."
From Investment Banking Into The Startup World
While Juliette's go-getter attitude and contagious energy seems perfect for the startup world, she wasn't always into startups. Right after she graduated from university, she went the investment-banking route.
But even then, her relentless work ethic would lead to multiple promotions and bonuses before she would realize that it wasn't the type of lifestyle she wanted.
She shared, "When I was in my 3rd year as an analyst, it was during one night I had stayed late in the office when I looked around and felt, 'I doubt anyone would cry or care if I quit'."
That was the moment that led Juliette to reevaluate her career choices. She shared with me, "I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to leave a legacy, and I loved working with people." Right after leaving her ibanking job, Juliette would be invited to join uBuyiBuy.com, a group daily deals site that would get acquired by Groupon.
She recalled, "We learned so much from Groupon Hong Kong and the hands on experience of how to scale our business. We were six people at that time then we scaled up to 120 people. Now that took some scaling skills to do."
Afterwards, Juliette would help kickstart CDiscount (Under the Cnova Group) Thailand, which people refer to as the Amazon of Thailand. She shared, "Within one year and two months, the entire company listed on NASDAQ. We just went crazy. It was like magic."
Scaling in the eCommerce Space in Asia
Juliette's experience with both Groupon and CDiscount would make her realize that, "Thailand is where the boom is happening. A lot of people in other countries still don't know that they can buy things online but it's quickly changing."
In order to keep up with this demand and in order to scale quickly, Juliette learned the importance of becoming a hiring machine and really finding great talent that can help keep up with the growth of a startup. She shared, "You always have to have talent ready in your company to take on new projects, build new business channels and new revenue streams.
In between her stint in Groupon and starting CDiscount, Juliette also spent some time in LivingSocial where she oversaw the sales of the company in Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines.
It was through this experience with dealing with different types of people from different countries where she realized the importance of understanding each country's culture, habits and people.
She shared, "How to motivate a Thai is very different from how to motivate a Korean. Koreans have a strong 'man' culture so as a women entrepreneur, you have to work you way to finding the right formula for yourself and to get people to follow you."
Exciting Times for Goxip
All these people, retail and scaling lessons that Juliette learned working in Groupon, CDiscount and LivingSocial are all coming in handy with Goxip, which has a goal of becoming the fashion company that has no inventory, just like how Uber has zero cars and AirBnb owns no rooms.
She shared, "The interesting thing about being an entrepreneur is that you don't actually know if your idea will work. Hundreds of people will tell you that your idea sucks and that it's too difficult, that image recognition won't work but you just have to keep pushing and trying."
She added, "You got to listen to customer feedback and analyze the data as well. It's an everyday war. Listen to the customer then troubleshoot."
'Troubleshoot' would the one word that would perfectly describe what the Goxip team had to do the day before their public launch at the RISE Conference after they realized that processing all their data would take them 6 days before they could launch, when they only had 3 hours left.
Juliette recalls, "Our engineers were hungry. We were all tired. But we needed to find a way to upload just enough data to launch the application so people could start downloading it. It took us a full-blown one-minute for us to realize what was happening. But it was fun; it was fun."
The Startup Roller Coaster Ride
While stressful moments like the day before the RISE Conference seem to be a lot more frequent when it comes to startups, startups also have their fair share of fun moments.
Juliette recalls the time the Goxip team was trying to figure out how to distinguish between a female or male jacket. She shared, "There's a lot of fun moments when you don't know here the problem comes from then slowly you understand. I'm very lucky to have a good team."
For Juliette, managing the roller-coaster ride of starting a startup is a lot easier when you enjoy every moment with the ones who are riding the roller coaster with you. She shared, "As soon as you start a startup, you are putting yourself in a never-ending ride. So cheer, cry and shout with the person who sits next to you."
One example of Juliette enjoying the ride was the time she made a promise to her team that she would become a full-blown vegetarian for a week if they hit their numbers for the month. She shared, "Trust me, I've been a meat eater since the day I was born. So this was really big for me."
Starting-up is a marathon, not a sprint
Juliette highlights the importance of consistency and perseverance when it comes to starting a startup. She shared, "For a good team to perform well together, consistency of each person is very important to keep the whole performance up. And as an individual, persistency is crucial to drill a problem down to the very core root and keep hustling until you reach the bottom. Only from there you can build things up and not try to solve things by putting on a plaster for a fast solution."
While you will inevitably face all sorts of problems on a daily basis from recruiting to user acquisition to product development, you have to stay the course and not quit.
Juliette shared, "There's always one moment where we want to give up. Trust me. But you can't just shut down."
She cited Jack Ma's story of when they first launched Alibaba and tried raising money from over 200 VCs and getting flat-out rejected. But now, Alibaba is a billion dollar company with the biggest IPO in the US. She added, "If Jack Ma went through a journey like that and built the company after 15 years, we just can't give up."
Juliette's advice to startup founders, "The moment you want to quit and throw the towels, go take a deep breath and remind yourself the very first moment that you fell in love with your idea and go back in the room and apply your passion, not fear."
It's Juliette's dream to have dinner with Ashton Kutcher, and ask him what he looks for when investing. Her fingers are crossed that Goxip will help make this dream come true.
Author's note: I ended my interview with Juliette energized to work on my own startup. Her passion and energy were just so contagious. While I've seen how hard it is to start a startup, there are people like Juliette who definitely know how to enjoy the ride :)
---About the Author---
David Ongchoco is a student entrepreneur and avid storyteller from the Philippines studying at the University of Pennsylvania majoring in what he likes to call, LIFE. He is currently working on expanding his for-purpose organization YouthHack. It's David's goal to make an impact in the lives of as many people possible while constantly learning new things every single day. If you have any interesting startup stories, David can be reached via Twitter @DOitChoco. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org.