I´m Talita Lombardi from Brazil. I have this blog, StartupsStars: “Everything about Start-ups: for those who have one, for those who want to have one or for those who are just curious about it”, but it´s in Portuguese, I´m starting writing posts in english too.. at least once a week. Today I have a great interview from Silicon Valley with Kate Endress, @KateEndress, CEO at DITTO. I met her when I was there visiting California, she´s amazing person and I could feel her love about DITTO.
Welcome to Startups Stars @KateEndress!
Talita: When did you decide to be an entrepreneur?
Kate: “I’ve always been very independent and enterprising. As I’m sure my mother would tell you, I’m not a rules person and from
the time I was a little girl, I was constantly questioning why things are done the way they are done. When I went to Ball State University, I was immediately drawn to their nationally ranked Entrepreneurship program. It was at Ball State that I started my first business – an online recruiting platform for college sports. I fell in love with the idea of building something new for this world and getting to work hard with a small group of dedicated individuals to defy odds and build a sustainable business from scratch.”
Talita: How was the creation of DITTO part of your life?
Kate: “I am a huge online shopper. I buy groceries online and even bought my wedding dress online. Yet, eyewear was one category where I just wasn’t comfortable buying online because getting the right fit is so important. The idea of virtual fitting has been around for awhile but it has never been executed well enough to truly solve the fit problem. Through classmates at Stanford Graduate School of Business, I was introduced to some extraordinarily talented engineers, Sergey Surkov and Dmitry Kornilov, and together we built the first augmented reality tool that solves for fit. We let you create your DITTO, our name for a video of your face from your webcam that lets you try on glasses to see if they actually fit. You can turn your DITTO from side to side which lets you get a sense for how you really look in those frames. Plus you can share your DITTO with friends to get feedback or ask one of our stylists for a personalized recommendation.”
Talita: As a woman CEO, How was winning the confidence on the men who work with you? When I was manager in Recife, It was really hard in the beginning to keep the seller´s guys with me, but after It was a great experience.
Kate: “ There are two keys to winning over any group, be it of men or of women: confidence and competence. I have always been naturally influential. Part of the reason is because I’m 6’ tall, and the other reason is because my parents taught my two sisters and me to be strong, independent women who can articulate thoughts with conviction and “thrive in a man’s world” as my Dad would say. When I first had the idea for DITTO, I really did my homework. I interviewed hundreds of people buying glasses in the store and did a lot of research about the current players and industry dynamics. This gave me a deep sense of confidence that we could solve a real problem for people. Additionally, it showed by two cofounders that I was competent and could execute on our shared vision.”
Talita: DITTO Raised $3M from investors, amazing! Tell us about the process.
Kate: “Thanks! Fundraising is absolutely necessary if you’re not cash flow positive but certainly not as much fun as working on your business. We started fundraising once we had a prototype of our technology and had gotten several brands to commit to selling on our fictional site. This showed investors we had built something difficult to do and gotten some market validation, which went a long way. I used my connections largely from Stanford to get introductions to dozens of venture capital firms who I know invested in multi-brand ecommerce sites. We applied to several business plan competitions. Our current investor, August Capital, had a partner who was a judge at a business plan competition. They have proved to be an incredible partner for us.
I wrote an article for VentureBeat with some specific advise about how to fundraise right which might be helpful for your readers:
Talita: Can you tell me and girl readers why it´s good to be an entrepreneur, and trying to start an idea to change the way of doing something, like you are doing at DITTO. I think it´s amazing, I hope you guys come to Brazil soon.
Kate: “Being an entrepreneur is not for everyone but it certainly was a good fit for me. Startups are incredibly stressful because there is way too much to do and not enough resources to do everything well. It requires an inhumane amount of hours to vet an idea and get it off the ground. And you’ll have people doubting you every step of the way. It requires deep inner confidence, multi-tasking skills and most important, the ability to manage stress. The upside is that I get to work on truly soul satisfying work. We are building something new for the world that solves a real customer problem. It’s challenging and exciting. I also love working closely with our hand-selected team of passionate, dedicated dreamers. Everyone has skin in the game and everyone works with an energy you just don’t find at big companies. I also love that I control my schedule. Each day, I get to decide what to spend time on which is liberating.”
Kate, I loved your participation in the blog, certainly helped a lot of my readers! If you ever need something in Brazil, let me know, I´ll be here for you! I wish the best for you and your company!
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