What’s the inspiration behind Snailz? How did you get started?
My wife's frustrations booking nail salon appointments! She's very busy and her schedule often changes, so squeezing in the salon was very difficult. Especially if appointment times needed to be modified, or if she wanted to go with friends or our daughters. We discussed the idea for Snailz and she loved it!
You have invested in a number of companies. What do you look for in the founders you invest in?
Keeping an open mind and being willing to evolve your thinking while staying laser focused on the goal. Success isn't a straight line—it's a road of wild twists and turns.
You founded Snailz with your wife, Lori. How do you two work together?
In separate rooms! But seriously, we work exceptionally well together. Her strengths are my weaknesses, and vice versa.
How do you handle risk and competition?
Always be mindful of the competition and aware of what they are doing, but don't obsess. At an early stage, we need to stay focused on building the best product for customers and executing on that vision to succeed. The companies I admire most were not the first in their market, but instead, they executed the best and built amazing products that customers loved. Think about Google; they came years after companies such as Yahoo, Lycos, and AltaVista, but Google’s product was laser focused on delivering the best search engine possible and they won. Facebook wasn’t the first social network; companies such as MySpace and Friendster were in the market long before Facebook started. Facebook succeeded because they listened to what their customers wanted and evolved the product to meet their desires, while the others were rigid and inflexible, and ultimately disappeared.
What’s been the #1 (or two) top challenges you’ve faced while launching your company?
Assembling a team of like-minded, hard working, trustworthy people who can execute at a high level is by far the most challenging aspect for any young company. Working at start-ups is an unpredictable daily journey that is both amazing at some times and extremely stressful at others. Everyone handles this type of environment differently.
We’ve found that the best way to help team members succeed is to openly discuss challenges we are all facing. When team members feel that they are not alone and have support, they are more likely to flourish.
We discuss the challenging environment with potential hires to weed out the ones that will struggle. Having said that, some people like the “idea” of a start-up environment but really don’t have what it takes, and in those cases, it’s best to identify those individuals as soon as possible and part ways.
What’s your team culture like?
We like to work hard, yet laugh along the way. The team cares about each other in and out of the office. We’ve had offsite meetings at our beach house where we work all day long and then cook dinner together at night, go for walks on the beach, and other activities to enjoy some downtime. When in NYC, we’ll often have “happy hour” meetings out of the office where we brainstorm ideas and let off some steam!
Prior to creating Snailz, you had a successful career on Wall Street. What inspired you to pivot and start your own company?
Snailz was a great opportunity to apply all the knowledge and experience I've gained over multiple decades working with management teams and investing in technology companies. The beauty category is still largely untapped, and if we can be successful applying some of the successful strategies I’ve seen in similar categories, than Snailz can achieve wonderful success.
What is your superpower?
Awareness and intuition. I attribute the success I had as an investor in my ability to quickly evaluate a situation, the opportunity and the financial implications. When you are dealing with fast moving markets, decisions have to be made without delay and with a high degree of conviction.
What’s your kryptonite?
Tediousness. When you thrive in a high adrenaline, fast paced environment, the monotony of certain tasks can at times weigh me down.
Do you have any unusual routines or habits?
I bounce my knee repeatedly while working at my desk. I only have one cup of coffee a day!
Do you have any other hobbies/things you like to do in your spare time?
I need to get my workout in every day, no exceptions. Through the quarantine, Sean T’s Insanity workouts have been my go to. When I don’t have a lot of time, his Max 30 workouts get it done for me quickly. I also enjoy cooking and water sports, such as jet skiing and paddle boarding, but don't find enough time for either.
Do you have a(ny) mentor(s)? If so, what have they taught you?
Throughout my career I've always tried to work directly for people who were extremely accomplished. You learn a ton from very successful people.
Early in my career while in business development at Time Warner, I had the opportunity to work with Bob Pittman, who was previously the creator of MTV. He was leading the acquisition of the Six Flags Amusement Parks, which at the time was a run down, second tier operator known for rickety roller coasters and dangerous parking lots at night. I got to experience how he used his creativity and insight to dramatically reposition the company into the “family friendly alternative to Disney,” where 80% of the US can reach a park within a few hour car ride. He brought the Warner family of characters into the park, branded rides such as “The Batman Roller Coaster,” added a kids section with shows and the Halloween festivities, among other successful initiatives. It’s many of those lessons that I took with me as I progressed in my own career.
What is your advice for young entrepreneurs looking to start their own company?
Follow your passion and that will lead to success. Passionate people create great products and solutions.