What is Snapette?
Snappette is an iphone app that helps women discover great fashion in the world around them. We’re making it easy to find or share user-generated photos of in-store products.
Did you arrive at HBS with the intention to launch a startup, or did it happen organically?
No, I actually had no intention of doing a startup! I wasn’t part of the Startup Tribe, or the Tech or Media clubs. In fact, my background is in consulting and finance, and before HBS I was in private equity. My motivation for going to business school was to take a break and think more about what I wanted to do next. Initially, I thought I was going to be on the business side of a fashion / retail brand or a CPG company. But as I began talking to more people at these companies, I quickly realized it wasn’t going to be a good fit – I wanted something higher energy. It became clear that no matter how hard I worked at one of these firms, I was only going to be able to progress so quickly. Then the Rent the Runway women came to HBS and gave a talk about their story. I remember thinking, “if they can do it, so can I” – after all, we were very similar in age, background, and interests. In short, their talk got me very excited about trying to start something on my own, specifically something at the intersection of fashion and tech. After spending a few weeks iterating a few ideas of my own, I met my future co-founder, who had the idea we ultimately ended up pursuing.
To what extent did your time at HBS help you realize your entrepreneurial ambitions, and would you recommend business school to an aspiring entrepreneur?
HBS was very helpful in that it provided a strong community of people interested in startups and tech. This was particularly important for me given my lack of prior exposure to the space. By leveraging the entrepreneurship community at HBS, I was able to connect to the right people and gain access to the right resources. More broadly, the HBS experience gave me the time to work on a major project on the side – something which would not have been possible had I been working full-time. Deciding to quit your job to take a shot at building a startup is a very big leap, so for me, being at HBS provided the ideal platform to begin working on a new idea, which ultimately enabled me to pursue it full-time.
Tell us about your decision to leave HBS and move to Mountain View, California.
There really wasn’t much of a decision-making process! Really, one thing led to another, and before I knew it, I was packing my bags and making the move. The back story is that Dave McClure [of highly regarded startup accelerator 500 Startups] learned about our startup, and then tweeted about us, and that set in motion a process which eventually led us to move to California during the summer after our first year of school. The culmination of our summer experience [at 500 Startups] was Demo Day, where we pitched to investors. The point of Demo Day was to raise capital, and with the momentum we gained from our subsequent capital raise, the logical next step was to stay in California and pursue the business full-time.
You previously worked at McKinsey and Berkshire Partners. Has the transition from a highly structured work environment to the world of startups been challenging?
One of the things that has been challenging, is that in my prior jobs, there were very long hours, but there was always an end to it. When you’re doing a startup, at the end of the day, it’s your baby, and you’re the bottleneck, and things will only move as fast you move. I’m working more than I’ve ever worked before, but I’m happy to be working. When I wake up, it’s like “oh crap, I have so much to do, how am I going to finish everything?” It’s a mix of ups and downs, but it’s definitely a very rewarding experience, unlike anything I’ve ever done before.
Lack of prior entrepreneurial or startup experience is a stumbling block for many b-school entrepreneurs when it comes to credibility with potential investors. How did you overcome this?
I did get a lot of grief from other startup people for having started my MBA – but surprisingly, I didn’t get a lot of this from investors, including both angels and VCs. VCs actually saw it as a strength. Certainly, it depends on the type of product you’re building. For our product, prospective investors didn’t see the fact I hadn’t worked at a start-up as a huge barrier. My differentiator was having a deep understanding of retail and fashion. Additionally, I think I was viewed differently because I’m female. There’s a growing consensus that the entrepreneurial path for females is different than that for males. Most women are unlikely to start something straight from undergrad. Most of the female entrepreneur success stories involve women who pursued a traditional path such as finance or consulting, and then went on to attend business school. These are women with lots of ambition, who enter finance or another field to gain experience and confidence before doing something on their own.
Any other advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
You just have to do it. Go all in. More tactically, look at accelerator programs. In my experience, I didn’t even know about programs like Y-Combinator or 500 Startups. Learning about and participating in these programs can put you on an entirely different trajectory – it certainly did for us. Being part of 500 Startups forced us to have a product out by August to be competitive. This was tough because I was accustomed to having everything perfect before moving forward. But in the world of startups, you just have to produce something, put it out there, and improve it along the way.