Interview with Mona Bijoor (WG ’05), Founder and CEO of JOOR
Wharton Journal: What is JOOR, and how did you come up with the idea behind the business?
Mona Bijoor: JOOR is the premier online global marketplace for wholesale buying that directly connects brands and retailers. I came up the idea after having worked as a strategy consultant for Elie Tahari and CHANEL and then within buying departments for 2 global retailers. As a buyer, I was running to showroom appointments, managing stacks of line sheets and hand writing all my orders. It was through those real world experiences that I knew there was an opportunity to develop an online sales channel that could materially improve and complement the wholesale buying process.
WJ: Many startups struggle with the “chicken and egg” problem inherent in building a two-sided marketplace. How did you overcome this challenge? Who came first, the brands or the retailers?
MB: We knew that we had to have brands first because they would attract the retailers, plus I had a few very strong brand relationships. That combination led us to go after the brands from the beginning.
We leveraged our relationships and went to a few of those designers who supported the JOOR concept even before we had a website. They loved the idea and it gave us the momentum to build the initial concept of the site. We targeted the brands that, in turn, invited the retailers to join the network. That is how we got the initial kindling in our marketplace. I think it’s important to look at both where your strengths or connections lie, and how those relationships can help build the market.
WJ: What is it like being part of the startup ecosystem in NYC?
MB: It’s amazing to be a start-up in NYC right now. There is so much energy in the city because of it. We find other start-ups to be very supportive and collaborative when it comes to sharing best practices on hiring, culture building, and dealing with rapid growth in general. It’s become a really strong and vibrant community.
WJ: You’ve now closed two rounds of financing totaling $5.5M from investors including Battery, Lerer, and Forerunner. What was most effective about the manner in which you approached capital raising?
MB: We tried to be very selective of the investors that we brought into the business. We looked for experience in marketplaces and fashion. But we also looked for investors who could bring real value to the business whether it be branding, relationships or product advice. We wanted our investors to be interested in financing the business but also really excited about what we are doing.
WJ: What aspects of your Wharton experience have been most valuable for you during the process of building JOOR?
MB: The Wharton experience was incredibly valuable from a people perspective. Throughout the process of building JOOR, I’ve brought on classmates and alumni to work on the team. We continue to get support from professors and classmates whether it’s words of encouragement or legal advice. The Wharton community is still as valuable now as it was when I was on campus.
WJ: Thanks for speaking to the Journal! Any final words of wisdom for all the aspiring entrepreneurs at Wharton?
1) Get meaningful traction in your business before you raise capital
2) Trust your gut. Don’t work with people that give you that weird feeling
3) Don’t think financing is the end. It’s actually the beginning in some ways. Financing is just a means to a hopefully a much bigger end.