On the last episode of Recode Decode, Founder and Managing Director of Glossier, Emily Weiss, joined Recode Kara Swisher on 92nd Street Y in New York for a conversation about creating an online beauty business for consumers.
Weiss says that Glossier, which grew partly thanks to the desire to build a personalized relationship with each of its customers' beauty needs, is trying to revive "the humanity of things and the bonds you feel with people "who have been diminished by the rise of online commerce. She praised the rise of social media for exposing the fact that every consumer is an expert in the purchases he buys and does not need to depend on old brands.
"I think the consumer has once again had to break free from this idea that they did not know enough," said Weiss. "[Instead of] "Hey, you look good but you could be better, you really miss something", you know, and this industry is really based on a lot of rules and a lot of things like this are the way we do things. .. you can really think about the type of utility, and be able to connect through a subject like beauty and be able to help one another, to the four corners of the Internet. "
You can listen Recode Decode wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Pocket Casts and Overcast.
Below, we shared a slightly modified transcript of Kara's conversation with Emily.
Kara Swisher: Thank you very much. I heard that there was a queue waiting outside. I'm sorry if you were cold. Is everything alright? I'm excited to do that. The last time I was here, I was interviewing Hillary Clinton, so it is a step forward. Before that …
Emily Weiss: Is it the same chair?
It is not, she was sitting here, avoiding my questions. But you will not do it, right?
D & # 39; agreement. We have a lot and I say to Emily, I'm super interested in [this] business. I will admit that I am not the greatest beauty, as you can see, and I was wearing my elegant jacket tonight for you, Emily. But I want to talk a lot about the company, "because I think it's really important, not just the businesses run by women, but the companies, the startups and how they go.
What is Glossier?
I wanted to start talking a bit about Glossier's position right now. There is a lot about the origin of Glossier, and I want to get there in a minute, and I want to answer questions from the public. But let's talk about where Glossier is located.
Yeah. Glossier is a pretty unique kind of beauty business, which is also a technology company. It is sometimes difficult for me to answer this question: are you beauty or are you a technician? I think we are both. At a glance, we have approximately 200 full-time employees in three offices in New York, Canada and London.
We are about 70% women, our board is 60% women. Our team of engineers is composed of 50% women. This seems a little different from most tech companies. Last year, we exceeded $ 100 million in revenue. Very excited about it.
When you say that you do not know if you are a beauty or technology company, explain it to me because many different companies say you are a technology company or a media company. society, or that. Do you have to choose or how do you look at this?
We believe that we are building this people-based ecosystem. We have co-created since our launch four and a half years ago with our consumers. We can do it because we know who they are. We have a direct relationship with every person who buys something from us, unlike all the companies in place that have been built through retail channels.
We have never existed through retail channels. We do not intend to exist through retail channels. The reason being that we think that by using technology, we can do three things very differently from what all beauty companies have done in the past. One is the channel. The second is the discovery, and the third is listening.
Explain to them.
What I'm talking about, because the direct relationship with consumers is something that people are arguing about right now, Amazon has completely overwhelmed people by doing it, having people data, building relationships with everyone like retailers have not done it, and brands are defending themselves.
Do you want to own this relationship in the same way, or how do you think about it?
Basically, we simply think of the way you offer people extraordinary experiences. I think in this way we may look like Amazon in the sense that they are extremely dedicated to the customer. We are very attached to the client because we do not want to give birth to things that are not surprising. Since our launch, we've always relied on user-generated content and feedback.
That's how it started, right?
It's really like that it all started, yes, on a blog that started in 2010, everything was based on this premise that people would drive the buying decisions in the future. No algorithms, no upselling or cross selling. On the contrary, it is an upselling and cross selling. Help evangelize people's voices so that they can decide what they want.
At Glossier, we really took into account the comments of the users and asked them things such as the products to manufacture, where to go in terms of pop-ups, or countries, and basically we could actually change the relationship between brands and customers. Because, traditionally, my way of growing with beauty products and brands always went from one brand to another, telling customers: "You're not good enough." Say, "You know You do not know what you want, let us tell you what you want. "
Like some kind of "take this lip gloss and use it."
Yes, really dictatorial. Truly dictatorial and a bit like I really do not think I give people enough credit to be able to say, "Hey, actually, I like you, I know, I use this deodorant every day, so I I am an expert in this deodorant. "Seriously, as we are all experts of the things we consume and the things we use.
What we are trying to do is provide the tools, whether it's the physical products we've created in the last four years, or the digital channels we're creating right now and in the future, to help people use their voice. , to help people really use their voice and say, "Hey, how can I help someone else to talk about what he has learned about beauty and its products? " And, hopefully, inspire others.
This relationship, you are trying to fundamentally change the marketing relationship, "usually causes the business market to customers." Do you use their feedback to do that?
Yes, we usually have a pretty simple base, namely to do incredible things that can really stand the test of time. That equates up to now with the construction of these very modern essentials, which we hope will become icons in the same way that an iPhone or Air Jordan will become essential products in the world. Set of …
Then as Boy eyebrows is like an Air Jordan.
Hopefully, yes, in 30 years, Boy Brow will connect to a 15-year-old Middle Eastern man, to a billionaire from Silicon Valley and be intergenerational and socio-economic. We are very excited about creating quality things that make people want to talk to them.
Just a point. Up to now, 70% of our growth has been in proprietary, acquired, peer to peer or bio, because people basically want to share the fact that they loved their Boy Brow.
Right. Then you make products from that or you pull products from that?
Yeah, I mean, I would not say that our approach has been, it's something that really interests people, I think especially at this time of, like, machine learning and how we really get … For us so far, a lot of it was rather analog.
This has just been posted on the platforms we have, or on the Slack channel, where we have several hundred big customers and who say, "What face do you dream?" Sometimes that's how we make product decisions. In general, it's really an art and a science, and it really depends on the project and how we get involved with the office, what are we excited about?
Right. Well, do you consider that part of society is the creative part? Because you said art and science. The last person who said it was Steve Jobs, he was talking about the idea that it was not technology, it was an art and a science that together created the iPhone, or any other product. They thought that way and did not do it. But they largely bet on their creativity compared to …
Yeah, I mean, I do not know, we stay very connected. I would say that every team in the company represents about a third technology: engineering, digital product, data, design, then we have an internal creative team, we have internal research and development, development, and I think we're all very related to the customer.
All of our Internet Promoters note the comments and comments of every customer who responds to it, constantly taking a Slack channel, which everyone from my assistant to a trainee can read every day, just to keep in touch with the customer . Sometimes it's a single comment or sometimes a macro-trend that translates into innovation.
Can you give me an example of that?
Let's see, I mean, what really strikes me and that I find hilarious is when we launched our Cleaner for milky jelly …
Milky Jelly Cleaner.
… and what, Milky Jelly Cleanser. This is our third best selling product.
Yes, I know about Milky Jelly Cleanser. I went to your Los Angeles store …
And she says she is not a beauty girl.
No, I do not use it, I do not use it, I do not use your milky.
D & # 39; agreement.
I went to your store in Los Angeles and I noticed a lot of people excited about your Milky Cleansing Milk.
It's great. Well, a lot of them said, you know, we said, "Who would play your face in a movie?" They said, "Emma Stone, Eddie Redmayne, Julianne Moore.
Do you really answer that? They did it, and I found it very interesting because they all had fair skin and red hair, and we said to ourselves, "Okay, that 's it can -be a bit like a wash for sensitive skin, or something that … "
I would say it's pretty artistic, artistic and scientific.
Yes, so that's what you went with?
Yes, we helped …
It's interesting, because in the Los Angeles store there was a mirror that said, "Things are getting wet …"
"That they appear."
And I was not wet at all on this mirror, and I was never wet, but I hope one day if I use a milky jelly, it does not matter. So what did you do then? "Okay, let's do a face wash Emma Stone."
Well, first of all, it influenced the people we shot for the images. So we passed a red head that looked a lot like Emma Stone. But more importantly – I mean, I'm a little facetious, it happened and it's certainly a contribution.
But what we learned from people was that something in a comment said, "Hey, why do not you cut the water with 50% rose water? It would really add a little hydration, it would feel amazing. "We thought:" It's a very good idea, so let's do it. "I think that's a good example of how you can be a beauty company up and pay Google, like, I do not know, $ 100,000 to serve the main terms or trends of beauty research, or you can read any of the five DM that Glossier receives in one minute.
There may be a nugget that says, "Hey, why not cut rose water, get 30% rose water?" And it's like a moment aha for us.
And your customers like to do that? Love to be heard. Because it's interesting, it's a bit like Tom Sawyer painting the fence, you ask your customers to tell you. Do they feel then part of it, or do they …?
Are Glossier fans a cult?
I mean, they kind of … like backstage, we already had two people obsessed with you, and everywhere you have a lot of fans who are very attached to the brand. I would not want to use the word sect, because it's a loaded term. But it's a bit of worship, do you see what I mean? What is it? It's a big fan base.
Yes, listen, when I was growing up, I loved the beauty, I went to the mall, I went to the CVS, and I tried the beauty brands. Even when I was growing up, and that could be just about anything, 15 or 20 years ago, we were still in an era where, again, the brands really controlled how you felt and stayed in place for a short time. since. Let us not forget that companies have rejected the idea of creating social media teams.
It's like five years ago that some companies were saying, "Oh, we're not going to invest in Facebook, or you're not going to do it, hire a social media publisher." There was a real lack of transparency. between big business, whether it is beauty and other brands, retailers, mainstream brands. Major lack of transparency in the past, a significant number of obstacles to overcome before you can actually connect to a company.
If you think about the brands of the future and consumer behavior, you will see that 80% of Millennials say they trust the criticism of a stranger on the Internet as much as the opinion of a loved one. You have people who say, seriously, you who say, when a postmitter does not arrive there, guess where you can go?
You can go on Twitter and love tearing up Postmates for your 200 subscribers, or your two million followers to see and hear. The client has never been so right as she is right now. She never wanted to be more involved in the things that she buys from the point of view of value, how can I be heard? I want to be seen and heard. My opinion counts.
I just did that with Home Depot and I got a free dishwasher, and it works, I'll tell you. It is useful to have a lot of Twitter followers. Most of mine are like nerdy guys, but it's okay. When you talk about this idea of social media and its use, why do you think it is? Why do you think beauty has been transformed into that, or are they somehow largely male-run societies, largely …? What do you think is the reason?
It depends on what you mean by people. I think that in general, it is a very emotional category and beauty is a great connection vector. More and more …
Why do not they? What I mean is why do not they have this done, it's done in a …
Well, I'm thinking of technology. Instagram was not launched two months after the launch of Into the Gloss in 2010. YouTube and its rise to power of the beauty influencer have only really happened in the last five years. A, it was not possible. But B, I think the consumer has once again had to break free from this idea that she did not know enough.
Or that it is an industry based on fear and disgust.
And exactly that: "Hey, you look good but you could be better. You really miss something, "you know, and it really is this industry that is based on many rules and is kind of like this. I think it's a very exciting time because of, obviously, it's a scary time in some ways, because of what social media you basically see, and we see a lot of disconnect.
But what is interesting is what is possible when you can really think about the type of utility, and be able to connect through a subject like beauty and help each other across the Internet. .
Among these social networking platforms, I guess Instagram is your most powerful vehicle or not, I do not know.
Yes, I mean, it's … Yes, Instagram was launched four years ago and currently has about 1.7 million subscribers, and almost half of them are not even in the US United.
What is Glossier's Instagram strategy?
How do you use it? What is your way of thinking?
I mean, we think it's sort of our first social media channel. Many customers write to us, so again, we receive five DM per minute, to which we respond. We really care about this one of the customers. Our customer experience team is currently part of our marketing team. It's not a bit like a dark corner of the office where you have to like listening to evasion, as if to answer the question of where people's parcels are.
An impressive number of ideas are for us ideas that they must filter throughout society. For us, Instagram has been an amazing tool for displaying a lot of user-generated content. We are showing a lot of other brands because what Glossier is here is not just about selling Glossier products, it's actually increasing the entire cake of this 450 billion euro industry that is, 750 billion over the next five years.
What interests us most is to create this democratized conversation. What we do a lot on our Instagram channel is really celebrating people's stories. We are really saying that we are trying to find people who may be using Boy Brow or a Glossier product. But we really want to do, it's sort of evangelize all this person's routine, and all his discoveries, whether it's a product of L'Oreal or MAC. We do not see them as competition.
If you think of other categories of consumers, be it a suitcase, a mattress or something like that …
So, Casper, far away.
… you choose what … well, it's difficult. The competition is fierce because you choose one every 15 or 10 years and it's your choice.
So, if you do not make this sale, you have to wait another time, you know, how long to get a new mattress.
While, as we all know here with beauty products, personal care products, I have in my bag five different brands of balms. I think it's very important to encourage the conversation one more time, one point is everything.
Yes, I bought my last mascara 15 years ago, but I'm fine.
[[[[previously: Emily Weiss wants Glossier to own the beauty conversation online]
Let's talk about you, Instagram, what works for you or what other platforms? Does Facebook itself know that it has Instagram?
Yeah I think so. I think we're investing primarily in Instagram, but what's really exciting to us right now is designing our own platform.
You talked about it. When does it come?
Yes, so I think you will start seeing things very soon this year.
What is it soon?
Well, I'm not going to say that to 700 people sitting here.
You know, because my team would kill me.
D & # 39; agreement. I thought we liked to share customer feedback, they could have ideas.
You can find me after. Listen again if you think about beauty and these platforms, and what people need in terms of beauty. This is a very subjective category, where there is not a single good answer. There is not a single source of truth. My best mascara could be your non-mascara.
That's about right.
Or your bad mascara. It's really about finding the person you trust. If you look at how people are looking for beauty products today, and potentially fashion products, or other more subjective categories, your best choice is to go on Google and type in "Best mascara". It's only on page seven that you find non-SEO, non-brand, no compromise, no dah, dah, dah, just a human whose opinion …
You learn more about this human. They also had a wedding where they needed a mascara that did not drip, and their eyelashes were short and sparse. Or anything. It is a difficult journey. You are like in the country of 15 tabs. It's like, 30 minutes later, you're saying, "Oh my God, I finally understood."
This corroborates what happens in stores, because 50% of Internet users go to a store, ignore the seller and take out their iPhone, send an SMS to a friend and say: "I am in Sephora. What mascara should I get? Or they go on Google search. When you think about the type of social network, they are really networks, they are not public services.
We think a lot about what would happen if there was a social utility in which people could really connect to quickly find the information or inspiration they needed. That's what we're working on.
It would not be based on experts?
No, there is no expert. Surprise …
Cause a lot of what's happening on YouTube.
… we are all experts. Each of us has his opinion of what we have staged and is thrown in the trash because we found it was nil, or we have used it for 30 years.
How do you differentiate between the experts and the people who could invade such a network? As you know, social media seems to have been used in the last election to spoil things. You can see abuse in social media.
How are you doing that? "Because a lot of things have been founded. As for YouTube right now, beauty products are experts.
Yeah, I think that there is something interesting to follow, and I think that again comes in a kind of perverse incentive when you are a little motivated by, do you like or by the idea of you, or do you get rewarded for being yourself, as opposed to rewards for content that really helped someone?
As thanks, it was an excellent recommendation. We think a lot about the possibility of really positive spaces on the Internet for women. We think a lot, say the majority for women or for women. We think a lot about the value of utility, to a sort of social utility in the future of more utility-based networks.
Utility is an interesting term, which means that it is useful for the user.
Yes, useful for the user.
'Because Mark Zuckerberg called Facebook utility, when I met him in 2000, five. Then I said recently, "Well, maybe it should be regulated as a public service." But the question is whether it's a public service. it is a useful place, as opposed to a social place or place of comment.
Right. You come with the desire to obtain information or inspiration from someone you trust and that will make things easier.
What does it do for your business then?
I mean, I think what's interesting for us is A, we sort of accomplish our mission of giving a voice through beauty, to really empower people to say, sit down a little bigger and say, "That's what I know. That's what I think. In addition, I thought it was really important to know how we could continue to love listening.
We started with a blog, where it was very manual, very analog, twice a week. It's not really a good way to help people find who or what they need because you only get 54, 88 pieces of content a year.
How can we provide people with faster and better matches? As a business, how are we going to be able to listen, on a large scale, to the comments of users, or people who are talking about what fears beauty and what they want beauty.
What are you already doing by retrieving incoming mail? Are you just pushing him away, presumably? You already receive this message from customers, is not it?
Yes, but today it is not the case, we have not done enough to somehow increase our capacity …
… to organize that so that we can make sense of it.
Probably then you could sell them anything, correct? Or not? Is not it even in your thought process?
Well, we do not think about that because I see them as two very different things. For me, it's about software that democratizes beauty and allows people to share everything they've used and learned without interruption, without advertising. Yes, no interruption and no limitation or censorship. And I see that others are able to continue to create material and physical products that hopefully continue to represent. Let's hope people say, "Oh, yes, it's exactly what I wanted, thank you!" But I do not think much about pushing the product somehow in an environment where people are not looking to buy things but just looking for answers.
Your one hundred million dollars are based on the products you sell?
What is your company selling the software, correct?
Correct, the material.
Equipment. I am sorry. Hi! I live in Silicon Valley for 20 years, I should have that right. So you do not marry the two to bring them together, the idea?
No, I think it's all about listening again so as not to have to manually look at each comment and say how many times someone said "conditioning", is not it? ? We can say, okay, people are really excited about the conditioning. Are they satisfied with the products they use or is there an opportunity to do something better?
And it's interesting because even today, we say no to love 20 out of 21 ideas, every time the question is asked, can we really deliver something better than what exists? This facial cleanser I was describing, which we were supposed to start with a facial cleanser, was sort of the goal when we launched the company in 2014. But I looked at what we had after 20 iterations and I said: really better than what exists? And the answer is no, it 's as if someone needed another beauty product, like, agree? That's why we kept it all together, we have a total, we're launching a new one every two months, we're 29 products now.
Yes, you only have 29.
This is not so much the case when you look at other beauty companies, whether they are established companies or new startups. Et une partie de cela est due à notre canal, nous vendons tout directement afin que nous n'ayons pas à nous soucier de l'espace disponible sur les étagères et à remplir une télécabine avec un tas de choses juste pour pouvoir obtenir les biens immobiliers.
This is true. Donc, cela vous empêche de mettre à l'échelle, correct? Vous avez des fonds de capital-risque, vous avez combien d'argent? 86 millions de dollars.
Ce qui est une grosse somme d'argent. Alors, cela vous empêche-t-il de vous mettre à l'échelle ou pas? Parce que vous n’avez pas non plus évolué à l’international de manière aussi agressive que d’autres startups.
En fait ça dépend. Dans l’espace D2C, je ne vois pas grand-chose qui soit devenu international, mais pour nous, nous nous sommes toujours concentrés sur deux choses et je dirais que je suis très fier de cela. Ou je dirais trois choses. On est, croissance très intentionnelle. Donc, si nous voulions générer 5 fois plus de revenus en une nuit, nous pourrions simplement aller dans des magasins multimarques.
Conditionneur, par exemple.
Nous pouvons simplement distribuer partout, non? Cela ruinerait vraiment notre capacité à penser que nous pourrions créer de la valeur à long terme, je pense, avec cette relation client individuelle. Donc, croissance intentionnelle, encore le même exemple de croissance vraiment intentionnelle. Deux je dirais est le focus. Nous avons dit non à beaucoup de choses, y compris l’ouverture de centaines de magasins, par exemple. Des centaines de magasins Glossier, même si nos deux magasins se vendent incroyablement bien et sont très populaires. Et puis je dirais que la troisième chose est juste la qualité. Encore une fois, je pense qu’il n’a jamais été aussi difficile de créer de la longévité, que ce soit dans les relations, dans les produits physiques, dans une ère de mode rapide, de contenu rapide, juste le temps d’attention des gens et des consommateurs.
C’est très nerveux.
Oui, c’est très nerveux. Et ainsi de penser que vous essayez de construire quelque chose qui va continuer à se reproduire, ce n’est pas un MVP, ce n’est pas une itération, c’est créer un objet physique qui va grandir avec les gens au fil des décennies.
À travers les décennies.
Et cela nous a vraiment permis de rester concentrés.
Avez-vous la pression de vos investisseurs? Encore une fois, 86 millions de dollars, c'est beaucoup.
C’est beaucoup d’argent, vous savez, mais nous avons vraiment réussi à nous en tenir à notre plan. Depuis quatre ans, nous enregistrons une croissance à trois chiffres avec des taux de répétition vraiment étonnants. 50% de nos revenus de l’année dernière ont été générés par des clients fidèles, et notre NPS, même si notre revenu net a augmenté. Nous avons donc eu plus d'un million de clients devenus clients en 2018, et vous voyez généralement une baisse de NPS, n'est-ce pas? Il est plus difficile de maintenir la qualité et ce genre de recommandation pendant que la nôtre monte. Et encore une fois, je pense que tous ces résultats proviennent de ce dévouement obsessionnel envers le client et de la prise de la bonne décision pour les personnes.
[précédemment:[previously:[précédemment:[previously:Les investisseurs de Glossier ont injecté 52 millions de dollars supplémentaires dans la célèbre marque de beauté]
Alors parlez un peu de la gestion. Vous avez eu quelques rotation du management récemment, beaucoup d’autres startups se sont produites, c’est ce qui s’est passé à chaque démarrage que j’ai couvert. Certains réussissent bien, d’autres pas, et c’est une transition difficile pour les petites entreprises d’agrandir. Je suppose que votre objectif est que, même si vous avez une croissance intentionnelle est de devenir plus grand, est de devenir plus grand?
Bien sûr. Nous pensons, comme je l'ai mentionné, à la longévité, c'est 60 ans plus tard.
Donc, passer de cent millions à un milliard est vraiment difficile. Pour arriver ici, ce n’est pas facile mais c’est beaucoup plus facile qu’ici et de nombreuses entreprises, dont Nasty Gal, font partie des entreprises les plus performantes. Au même moment, Rent the Runway avait des difficultés, puis il se dirigeait vers une offre publique. Quelle est la pression sur vous en tant que jeune cadre? Ou c'est votre premier emploi, non?
Non, vous avez eu d'autres emplois …
Eh bien, j'ai eu d'autres emplois, certainement le premier emploi de PDG.
Tout d’abord, si vous avez des conseils, faites-le-moi savoir plus tard.
Non. Je suis un chef de la direction qui a échoué.
Deuxièmement, écoutez, je me souviens avoir lu il y a longtemps que l'un des premiers livres que j'ai lu il y a cinq ans, avant d'être publié, était le livre de Ben Horowitz. La dure chose des choses dures.
Et je crois que c’est une citation de lui: «Personne ne vous prépare à devenir PDG, vous devenez PDG en devenant PDG». Certes, il existe des défis en phase de croissance auxquels chaque startup est confrontée et je ne pense pas que ce soit mon cas. ou la première fois que quelqu'un d'autre au rodéo expérimente ces choses. Mais je pense aussi que ne pas battre un cheval mort, mais rester très concentré est quelque chose dont, encore une fois, je suis très fier. Donc, il n’ya pas eu ce genre d’attention ou de pression, nous avons un excellent conseil. Il n’existe pas d’approche de ce type de croissance à tout prix, que ce soit en interne ou en externe, de la part de nos investisseurs, car ils croient réellement aux ambitions à long terme et au potentiel de la société.
Votre président de longue date et votre directeur des opérations sont passés au CFO, à gauche, non? Parlez-en un peu, quelle a été cette expérience et que recherchez-vous maintenant? A bunch of people left, you’ve hired a bunch of people, pretty much all women, which I applaud you for, but what has happened there and how do you think about what you need to take to the next level?
Well we’re certainly a growth-stage company now. So, I think about it a little bit like we spent the first let’s say two or three years making something that anyone gives a shit about, that’s like your goal as a startup at first, you know? And now, our goal is really to build an enduring business. There are a lot of mechanics, and a lot of biz ops and processes and people processes, I mean people alone is such the heartbeat of a company. We have a hundred part time employees just in retail. Just in two stores in addition to our 200 full time employees. So the needs of the company have changed and to the point about learning how to be a CEO, my job changes every quarter. I have a whole new set of responsibilities that I’ve never faced before. And so I lean on mentors, like Katrina Lake who joined our board last summer.
She’s the CEO of-
CEO of Stitch Fix who had took it public. She’s one of very few female CEOs who have taken their companies public. And generally found a lot of success in surrounding myself and talking to people who are basically like two steps ahead, right? All is well and good to read books by Howard Schultz and amazing leaders who are 2,000 steps ahead, but I find what’s most helpful where we are right now is to find people who are a couple years ahead to really help see around those corners and make sure we’re making smart hires for the next…
So you’re looking for those CEOs now? Or COO now? Or not? Not everybody has a COO.
Yeah Yeah. We’re looking for someone in that sort of COO/president role.
But you want to firmly remain CEO.
Right. I figured. The only answer to that was yes and if you said no it would be bad.
How does Emily Weiss feel about being CEO?
How do you feel you handle the pressures? What do you feel you do well and not do well? Because you’re one of the few, you can put the female CEOs in tech related companies I think on one hand.
Yeah. Female CEOs in public companies went down last year, in total number. Last year I think it was 4 percent of venture deals went to female CEOs, 2 percent of venture dollars went to female CEOs. The percentages are even lower for women of color. We have such a long way to go. For me, I don’t spend too much time thinking about that, I recognize the responsibility I have as a female CEO, but I really just focus on continuing to build a great company that brings a lot of joy to people. I’m just going to keep doing that.
So you don’t think about your role as a woman leader, at all? You don’t have to, I just-
Listen, of course. It’s apparent, it’s apparent in rooms at conferences it’s apparent in rooms around tables with companies, it’s not apparent at Glossier because we’re overwhelmingly female. But I think the most important thing just as an executive that I’ve learned, and people say this but it’s really true, is getting really good at knowing what you’re good at, and what your value at is to the company. And so for me, I really lean into customer sort of touch points. I really lean into brand marketing, to product, to digital product now, and I love to learn and I’m incredibly curious about other functions of business and experts who come in to lead those functions. And I think that’s been really important is honestly, just a core value of Glossier, is just curiosity. And the interesting thing about when you’re curious, it goes hand in hand with humility. If you’re curious, it means you’re saying, “I’m really wondering about this, I don’t know about it.”
I don’t hear that much from people I cover. Not at all, in fact. Never once. This is the first time. “I think I’m great and I think I can do anything,” that’s what I usually hear and it’s usually inaccurate.
One of the things you talk about, here’s a question which I thought was interesting, how do you look at your own personal brand in this? Because a lot of people do affiliate Glossier with you and you with Glossier and it’s an understandable thing, companies do get affiliated with their typically charismatic CEOs. Talk about that a little bit.
That’s interesting. So, I guess there’s a spectrum, certainly in terms of if I think about companies whose founders I know or am friendly with. Across tech, across brands, across media. I’ve always thought of myself as kind of more of a conduit for connection. And that’s really the role I like to play. I think fundamentally the most pleasure that I derive is, A, making people happy. So meaning creating something that makes someone smile. Creating a product, delivering a package, creating an experience, something that makes people smile. I think I also, I guess in some ways, really stay behind the scenes. I like to really play matchmaker for people internally. One of my favorite things is helping people realize their potential.
So, an example of that is a woman who stopped me on the subway a few years ago, and said “I love Glossier” and I said “Well, what do you do” and she said, “I just graduated college, I’m not really sure what I’m going to do.” And I said, “Well I’m hiring an assistant, do you want to come interview for it?” And then she became my assistant and I realized very quickly that she was a good assistant, even I don’t think she’d tell me it was the perfect fit for her. But she was amazing at physical products, at hardware. She was amazing at ingredients, just as just a consumer. Just really an amazing sense. So I moved her into product development and she created three of our best selling products. Cloud Paint, Haloscope, lip gloss. So many huge glossy products, she was 22 years old, she had never been in a lab before.
And I think maybe that’s a benefit of being a female executive or a woman who didn’t go to business school, went to art school, in so many ways “shouldn’t be here.” Like, this is not the path, but why not? Why couldn’t this person who seems to have this great instinct be really good at this thing? So, to answer your question I tend to stay pretty behind the scenes to try and do as much as I can to enable that magic to happen. Whether on a personal basis, internally or on a customer facing basis with a store experience, with a canyon room in LA, you can go into and be like, “Why isn’t this in a store?” Why am I an a canyon, you know?
Right. I thought that. That’s what when I went into a canyon, that’s precisely what I thought. And then I ran out.
But did you get a selfie?
I did not. I’m sorry, I’m not a shopper. I had to recently go with my sons to something called Golfwang and I’m still recovering from that.
Wang. It’s Tyler the Creator’s store in LA, it’s a pop up. Boys have their own thing going on and it has to do with $150 sweatshirts. And really expensive sneakers, like a lot of them. A lot of pairs. It’s really very expensive. In any case, I’m losing my train of thought.
So, I want to finish up on the business and then I’m going to get to questions from the audience. What don’t you think you do well? What don’t you want to do? What do you think you either need to improve on or what don’t you want to do as a CEO?
One thing that I’m very, very excited for is to create this new paradigm of commerce that is much more emotional. So, in some ways, I think Amazon really solved buying, but it killed shopping in the process. And increasingly, the sort of humanity of things and the connections you feel with people or the information you want from people, and the kind of human experiences are going to I think be harder and harder to come by. I was in a mall in Tampa over Christmas break near where my parents live, and it was packed. It was packed with people hanging out. People on first dates, families who were in town going to Auntie Anne’s, and people swarming the Apple Store. I’m not saying that all that means you need more stores, but I do think it’s interesting this disaggregation that’s happened where shopping is the purview of Instagram.
What is Instagram if not HSN? If you really think about it. How many of us are just scrolling, looking at our friends, and people we follow and say, “Who makes that lamp in your room?” You know? “What sneakers are those?” I’m not talking ads, right? I’m talking this is the new QVC or Home Shopping Network. So, at the same time then you’re kind of clicking over to sort of Amazon turning into this fulfillment-
Right. Which they do beautifully.
Algorithm. Which they do beautifully and no one will already compete on that, they have solved it. But with 10 percent of commerce in the U.S. happening online, that means 90 percent more commerce that is probably going to move a lot online. And you do need these kinds of conduits for people to be able to influence and inspire and have that human connection closer-
Oh merchandising. I interviewed years ago the guy who started Crate & Barrel, and he took a 20 cent plate and sold it for $8 because he put it in a beautiful setting, he made people feel good about it, which was kind of awful to do but, nonetheless, he was creating an emotional feeling around it.
Yeah, just how are these human connections going to develop, like you said? 10 years ago Facebook said, “We’re facilitating connections, that’s what we’re doing”. Now you see studies coming out saying actually, people are very depressed through this process. And so where is that all leading? And I think a lot of it is going to be this intersection of topic-based networks, or topic-based communities, and inherent in this is how are you solving this kind of beauty conundrum where it’s not about a perfect answer, a perfect score, a perfect algorithm, it’s like a head scratcher. And so you need people to populate this kind of emotional space around beauty.
Could Amazon copy and outmaneuver Glossier?
Which I think your point about buying and shopping is a really smart one. Which gives me the idea, could Amazon algorithm you? Like essentially figure out and copy that in a way? And then would you ever consider selling? I’m assuming you’ve gotten many, many inquiries from the big beauty brands.
Yeah I mean, M&A is really the way that these giant beauty companies innovate.
Yes. They bought the shave guy, they bought-
Yeah, last night Elemis sold to L’Occitane for $900 million. So it was 6.4 revenue, I think? Innovation really has come for the last decade from M&A. We believe that there’s a real channel opportunity here in terms of being direct, it’s something that these beauty companies have not yet done. Who’s to say they couldn’t? But they’re very hamstrung by the relationship with the big retailers. And when it comes to our growth, we’re very focused on we have an inherently profitable business model. We have a lot of runway in terms of investment, we have an amazing team, we’re hiring more amazing people every day. So we don’t really see any reason to-
But who are you worried about, in that case? Would it be Amazon?
I mean, maybe but we don’t spend that much time thinking about competition. We really spend a ton of time thinking about customers.
So there’s no plans? That’s not your exit role? Would it be to have an IPO?
I’m not sure what the future holds but whatever it takes to continue to build this for a very long time and into into a very big company is what we’ll do.
You can’t do an IPO now because the SEC is apparently shut down, so… I don’t even know what to say about that.
Alright, I’m going to ask some questions to you from the audience. “Glossier’s success has largely been built on a close and direct relationship with the customer, how do you plan on scaling your people-first approach as the company grows to service more and more customers?” Yeah, so are you going to get like bots or something like that?
Bots that talk to you.
No. I would say that the number one way to do that and to listen and to serve people better is, obviously, a lot of technology, a third of our company is tech it will probably go more to 50 percent in terms of our tech team. I would also say so much of how we serve our customers is actually our customers talking to each other. If you go into one of our two stores, or even if you look in our comments section on an Instagram post, people are answering each other’s questions. I think the ability to even just empower our customers, it’s not through rev shares or anything like that but just they’re really doing a lot of that work for us.
And you want to take that on to your own platform, more of that?
Sure, yeah, exactly. Any sort of tools that we can give to help the beauty conversation grow about Glossier and about just any other products, that’s what we’ll do.
Bien. “How do you attract top female engineers?” That’s a good question.
I think for one just having top female engineers already-
Yes, but someone asked me, “How do I get more women in tech?” I go, “Hire them.”
So how do you attract them? I would assume that, a woman led company would probably help. But what does that make up on your team?
Fifty percent female engineers out of all of them.
The challenges of building a great team in a tech startup
“What has been the most challenging aspect of building a great technology team?” That’s this next one.
I think, actually, the most challenging aspect of building a great technology team is that I’m not a technical founder. So I’m not Patrick from Stripe or Peter from PayPal.
I’m so glad.
I think part of it has just been the fact that it’s not my strength, is the number one challenge, but I’m fortunate that our leadership and so many of our team, they know what they’re doing. They’re amazing.
Right, yeah. You can hire people like that and then order them around. “In the age of Trump, ugh, how do you see…” I’m just reading from the question. I heartily agree! “How do you see the world of beauty and health intersecting with politics?” This is from Adriana. That’s interesting.
Well Trump could use Boy Brow, but go ahead. Seriously.
How do I see it intersecting with politics? I think we talk a lot about the democratization of media, I think that’s definitely happened with social media. There’s certainly a giant democratization of beauty where everything is being flattened. There’s no one-
So celebrity. Do you worry about the growth of the celebrity, they’re all starting makeup. I know Kylie Jenner’s been very successful, but Rihanna, I think, has one?
Yeah, incredibly successful. We actually recently hired the product developer who did Fenty, who did Nars before that. So she’s on our team so we have more great products coming soon. I think using your voice. I think the biggest crossover for us is speak up, use your voice, talk about-
It’s often been celebrity based, a lot of the makeup selling, essentially.
Yeah. A lot of makeup selling. But at Glossier, it’s something we’ve always stayed true to since pre-launch day one, is every single person is an influencer. And I think that that is so the message right now for politics, for seeing all these women going into Congress. You’re starting to really understand, more than ever, I think, the power of your voice and the importance of your voice and how necessary it is to speak up.
Yeah, absolutely. So you would have, say, an Emma Stone inspired cleanser, but not Emma Stone as the spokesmodel?
No. I mean, yeah, honestly she’d be way too expensive anyway.
Advice for entrepreneurs raising their seed rounds
Attends. “What advice would you give to someone starting out to raise their seed round investment? Thanks, Wendy, The Beauty Buddy.” What is that? Okay Wendy, thank you.
I think my advice, this is my advice, not I think, because people ask me this all the time, my advice to someone seeking out their seed investment is to understand, and I’m going out on a limb here, this is just my observation, I believe that a seed investor is really betting on you. They are betting on the entrepreneur. They’re betting that I can give you this money, and I’m not sure what you’re gonna really make of it because there’s gonna be so many twists and turns and you’re so early, there’s no product market fit. It’s just an idea. It’s a spreadsheet and a bottle of wine. That’s what you got.
And so I think it’s really about how do you sell yourself? And it’s not to sell yourself to be right all the time. If anything, it’s to say, “Hey, I will tell you really honestly where this could go really wrong. I will tell you honestly what my blind spots are, I will tell you honestly step one, step two, step three.” And I think it’s getting people onboard with you. I think that’s really the secret no one talks about. They think it’s all about your deck and it’s all about who you know and all those things.
And I do think who you know does have something to do with it, but I will also tell you that when I was first raising our seed round of two million dollars, five-plus years ago, I didn’t know any of these venture capitalists. I didn’t even know what a venture capital was. I knew I needed a million dollars in order to pay for materials that would make beauty products and go produce beauty products. And it was a lot of cold outreach and getting people onboard. And 11 out of 12 people said no, or 10 out of 11 or whatever it is. Isn’t it like that Lady Gaga quote that’s like, “There can be 100 people in a room and if only one…” whatever.
So there was one Kirsten Green in the room and she was in SF.
Did sexism play a part in it, because every female entrepreneur I know has that moment. I mean, Katrina Lake had that moment.
Oui, écoute. I’ll be really honest with you. One thing that is just true is, it should be hard. It should be hard to build a business, it should be hard to raise money. It’s just hard. If it’s not hard, I don’t know why. But it should be. It should feel hard. So whether you’re a woman or a unicorn or a man or whatever, it’s gonna be hard.
I’m fortunate — well, I don’t know fortunate, I guess it is, but I’m certainly fortunate to have gotten the funding. I did not have, I didn’t face any sort of overt … overtly sexual harassment or, I don’t know-
Not just sexual harassment, in general, not backing women entrepreneurs.
I do not know. I was so heads down and just about knowing it was gonna be hard and, will I ever know whether or not it was harder because I’m a woman than it would be if I’m a man? I do not know. But I was just focused on winning.
Right. The reason I’m asking is because it cannot be that all men are so much smarter than women that they get all the funding, correct?
No. I mean, it’s a lot of pattern matching, right? I mean, the industry is based on a lot of VCs who used to be operators and the people who used to be operators 20 years ago in tech companies were men and so I think it’s just gonna take a lot of work for this shift to happen, but it’s already happening.
Il est. There have been some changes in how you come up with funding. I mean, I’ll never forget when a VC once, I was like, “Why don’t you have more [female] partners? Why don’t you have more investments?” He said, “Well, if there had been a Marcia Zuckerberg instead of a Mark Zuckerberg,” and I said, “You’re such an idiot. I have to walk out of this room right now.” Because it was like, “What are you,” it was-
There needs to just be-
It was pattern matching.
We just need to build more companies that are big companies that are paving the way. I think a lot about two things, I think about the what, and I think about the how. I think about what we’re building at Glossier, what we’re putting out into the world, what value we’re creating, what we’re disrupting, what we’re transforming, and just as important as all of that is the how we’re doing it.
Because in 10 years time when we are in the world, operating at a very big scale, I want startups in the valley or startups in New York or startups in Idaho to be sitting around a table saying, “How should we build our tech team? How should we hire? How should we do this?” And think, “How did Glossier do it? Because they’re clearly doing something right,” and be able to look under the hood at the how we’re doing it and say, “I’m gonna do it like that.”
Although often, women-operated companies and operated by people of color are often seen as the exception rather than the rule. It’s the same thing with movies. Like, how did Black Panther get so good? Maybe you weren’t backing them in the first place and so they never got the chance. Tu vois ce que je veux dire? So it is important that Kirsten started her company. I think she sees around corners precisely because she’s a woman.
“It seems as though Glossier’s average customer is a younger millennial. How do you think about growing with the customer through different life stages, ages?” Although, I did see a lot of mothers and daughters in your store.
Yeah, it’s interesting. I mean, I think the average age of our customer is late 20s. In our stores, you see a lot of much younger customers. But Glossier is for everyone. We do have a lot of women in their 60s, women in their 50s, people who are, just two hours ago, someone whose 11-year-old daughter had every single product. I’m like, “Did you even know she had all?” He was like, “No.” Like, how is she paying for this stuff? So it’s-
Exactly. One of the things, actually, that we’re most proud of is Glossier is one of the first brands that is being passed up as opposed to passed down. So people who are in their teens or early, are actually saying, “Hey mom, you should really try this brow product,” and that’s been really rewarding.
Intéressant. I’m never gonna have that happen. Although I have an awesome set of Ninja Turtle t-shirts and stuff. “If you have an awesome product but a small social media following, do you think it’s worth spending the energy increasing followers or focus on other methods of selling direct to customer?”
Well if it’s a beauty product, beauty is so social. And again, going back to how we grew, it was so much about people who had great experiences with the product. Think about every happy customer telling 10 of their followers, telling 100 of their followers. So I would say it’s more important to put something amazing out into the world, such that people will want to talk about it. In all of the fancy ways of growth hacking and ways that you can grow, I still believe that word of mouth and having someone really like something enough to go tell a friend is the most traditional and the most everlasting in terms of-
Yeah, you can’t buy love, right?
You can’t buy what?
You can, well, no, not really. D'accord. “Could you describe your prototyping process for Glossier’s first products? How did you come up with the formula, how did you test it and how is Glossier’s marketing strategy evolved since its inception?”
First of all, is everyone in the office excited about it? So again, that’s kind of the litmus test, is, looking around when you’re showing, and this goes for anything in any business. If you’re all in a meeting and everyone’s not into the idea, clearly there’s an issue. So for us, it starts with looking around and seeing if everyone’s like … and then we know were’ onto something. Every product’s different. We have products that take six months to produce and to get right, we have products that take two and a half years to get right, like, the face wash took forever.
What was quick?
What was quick? So if we’re doing a new flavor for balm.com, which many of you might have, my personal favorite is Birthday Cake flavor, if we’re doing a new flavor, that’s the quickest. That might be six months or something because the formula’s already created and it’s just about switching the flavor. Whereas something like an OTC product, over the counter product, has an entirely different regulatory and testing schedule, and that might take a year and a half or two years for a sunscreen, for example, or an acne product.
And what is the one that, your favorite one that went through? Do you have one besides your-
I think the balm is amazing. I also, I’m so proud of our perfume, our fragrance Glossier You. In an industry where typically you spend millions and millions, I’m talking 30 to 100 million dollars launching a perfume, we spent zero marketing dollars launching this fragrance and just made the most amazing scent and it has just incredibly high reviews. Like, perfumes are usually really divisive. Ours has just consistently so much fandom and love, and it’s really turned into this cult classic product that I love and I’m really proud of.
All right, last question. “Glossier is able to cultivate and create this community and culture through your product and experiences. How does that community and culture translate to your team at Glossier and how do you hire people that share the same mindset/energy you have for the company?” And do you actually want to the same mindset, I would ask?
There are elements that I think are critically important. Like, for example, really being devoted to the customer, being super curious, very inclusive. And being inclusive actually is a great point. It’s not about sameness. Inclusive is about welcoming different, diverse opinions, being able to say, “Hey, you disagree with me, I disagree with you, but I’m including you in this conversation because we’re gonna hash it out, we’re gonna get to the right answer.” So I think those things are incredibly important at Glossier and are traits that some of our best leaders really exhibit, consistently. And I would say from the point of culture, culture is kind of the thing that you think is totally normal, but then you go somewhere else, like, to a different company, and you’re like, “Whoa. My company is so different.” It’s not better or worse, it’s just things you take for granted that are in the fabric of the company.
And honestly, at Glossier, I think one of the things that we do is, we weave a lot of fun into what we do, and I’m not talking like, beer pong/startup fun, but we unveil or strategy every year at Camp Glossier. We take hundreds of people to two days of cool — we make cool merch, we do amazing activities. We had a kickoff 2019 dinner that was kind of like, I was joking as I stood there, it looked like a vow renewal ceremony of working at Glossier. It was like a big wedding, like, a big Glossier wedding. And it kind of was. It was like, the new year, it was like, “So, you’re all back, we’re recommitting for the year ahead.”
But we put a lot of heart and soul into what we do and I hope, I recently was sitting next to, at that dinner, actually, a young woman who’s an engineer who just started, and we were talking about how important it is that onboarding is democratized. Onboarding is all of our responsibility. It’s not just about two hour training. It’s not just about, here’s a memo. It’s about going up to someone in the bathroom while you’re washing your hands and being like, “Hey, are you new? I’m so and so, I do this.” And so I think that’s also something that’s very much unique to our culture.
And what about diversity itself and bringing a more diverse culture into your company? Do you feel that you’ve done enough of that? That’s something that is talked a lot about in tech companies, but is never achieved. And one of the things I’ve always, the excuses you always get, especially on boards — and, now, you have a more diverse board — is “standards.” Like, “We have to keep our standards up.” And I always notice and I always say this, that the only time standards are mentioned is when it comes to women and people of color. That’s the only time they use the word, “standards.” And it’s never that dumb 10 people who are on the board of Twitter who screwed the whole thing up.
And it’s often the case that some of these companies, that I’ve noticed, that they’ve failed because they lack a diverse group of people talking to them. That’s the reason there’s bullying on Twitter, it’s because most of the people who work there have never been bullied. They never understand people have problems.
If you’re not the person in the room working on the product, started with the devices, Alexa and Siri, you can say, “Help, I’ve been raped,” and they’re like, “What is rape?” It’s crazy. So-
But not just that, but thinking about, because beauty’s always been that way in terms of people of color and things like that. How do you look at that?
For us, it’s intrinsic to, it’s a core value that we have in terms of inclusivity. We have a people of color group at Glossier that is actually involved in a wide variety of decisions in the company. I also think it’s something that’s never finished. So when you say, “Do you do enough of that-”
I meant in products too, in terms of making products.
Oh yeah, for sure. Very inclusive of shade range. It’s just something that’s baked into everything we do. With that being said, I would say you’re never done, right? There’s always more that we and others can be doing. And I think for us, it’s something that in particular, certainly with women, it’s something that we’ve really tried very hard with, and increasingly will try to make sure that we’re representing customers, the population. I think the best products, whether they’re digital products, when you talk about Twitter, I think it’s fascinating.
I remember, wasn’t it with the Apple Health, it would track your Blood Alcohol Level but wouldn’t track your period at first? I think there’s so many product decisions that it’s like, it’s just good business, also. It’s like, why are you not including the right voices around the table to be able to build better product?
That argument doesn’t work, interestingly enough, in Silicon Valley. It’s fascinating when you show them, study after study.
Yeah, I don’t know. But I think for us, it’s something that-
You can’t even appeal to their greed. It’s so entrenched. It’s really fascinating. Usually you can, ‘cause they really like money there.
So last question, I have one from a friend of mine who really likes your products, what is Glossier’s “non-makeup makeup look” signal about the millennial, gen Z customers they’re selling to? Do you think you have a non-makeup makeup look? I’m ending on a makeup question.
Pour sûr. One of the things we wanted to ensure with our products is very user-friendly products, so, things that don’t require 15 brushes and are super tricky to use and are gonna be complicated and aren’t gonna be able to just be intuitive. So intuitive products have meant certain decisions around making things that are blendable, that are sheer, that are layerable.
That being said, we really encourage our customers — and our customers span tons of different kinds of makeup wearers. We have people who use Boy Brow who wear 50 makeup products every morning and spend two hours on her routine, and people wear Boy Brow as the only product she uses. So we’re really excited about that and also continuing to build products for all different kinds of looks. So that’s something that I’m excited for you all to see this year, some of the things we’re coming out with where it won’t be so no-makeup makeup, but will still be incredibly intuitive, incredibly user friendly and very fun.
D'accord. My very last question, there’s a lot of entrepreneurial women and presumably men here, what would be the one piece of advice you’d give them to do that you’ve done well and one that you would not do?
I think the one really practical piece of advice, particularly when you’re starting and there are so many questions, just, everyday is like, where do I begin? Vraiment. And I think one of the most, the trickiest thing is honestly yourself when you’re in that stage because there’s just such analysis paralysis, and there’s such a feeling like you’re missing out, like, there’s an answer that you don’t know. Like, there’s some playbook or there’s something and you’re missing. You don’t know, you can go find the answer.
And I think the piece of advice I would have there is, just do the next right thing. Like, it’s truly a journey when you’re starting out and you’re an entrepreneur. The next right decision, every time. Just keep thinking, what’s the next right decision? And I think that helps you get somewhere, that really helps you just get some momentum and leads you in the places you’re supposed to go. Because you cannot possibly chart that journey. You just could not map it in your mind.
What was the second part of that question?
One thing that you would not have done, that you’d have taken back? I ask every entrepreneur this.
One thing that I would not have done, that I would’ve taken back? Title inflation. This is very specific, but I was actually talking to our people person, our HR person, we call People Team, to say, “You need to write a blog post on Medium or something that’s like The Secret Killer to Startups: Title Inflation.” You’d think it’s running out of money or having bad product market fit. I actually think it’s this very specific thing, maybe I’ll write a blog post about it, but just don’t give out titles. Don’t give out titles, don’t make people VP, SVP, Co-CEO, Whispering Operator Extraordinaire. Just don’t do it because if you’re gonna build something for many years, you’re gonna have to unwind that and it’s gonna be really painful.
Yeah, so Thing 1 and Thing 2, that kind of thing?
Thing 1 and Thing 2?
Yeah. You’re way too young for that.
No, just marketing. Marketing. You’re in marketing, you’re in sales, you’re in finance. Go do finance for years. Because it’s just, I’m getting very … But it’s good advice, I’m telling you guys. If anyone here or anyone listening is thinking, is starting something. Just areas.
D'accord. All right everybody, Emily Weiss from Glossier.