Saw this in Ad Age, which captures how RealSelf is aligned with the shift away from generic web content farms to niche social communities :
The internet is a content-serving engine that, increasingly, will reward those ventures that can deliver hard-to-find niche topics integrated into local search, local commerce and hyper-topic digital communities.
Rich Barton is one of our early investors, and long-term board members, who has a consistent and inspiring investment thesis. He supports startups, like RealSelf, that bring much needed transparency to a market. In his words, “if it can be rated it will be rated. If it can be free it will be free, and if it can be known it will be known” in today’s social media-enabled world.
Yesterday Rich visited with our team during our “Tasty Tuesday” lunch ritual and shared his history with RealSelf, passion for the deep soul-fullness of our product, and personal belief we can become the next great media brand that lasts for decades.
Rich Barton delivering a key point that the mobile-enabled web has enabled a revolution, without violence
Rich explained, “what gets me so excited about RealSelf is that it fits with this thesis I have that I call ‘power to the people.'” which is founded on his belief that tremendous value is created when you unlock important information that was traditionally only known by an elite few. Consumers can now access the key insights needed to make better, informed decisions due to social media and the instant access granted by powerful, mobile-enabled devices.
Rich touched upon how his key investments in startups marry up a clear social purpose and a great business model. “It makes me really excited that I know at RealSelf —as well as Zillow, Expedia, Avvo, and Glassdoor–we are doing things that are really good for people and empowering. And, we are doing it in vertical industries where there’s lots of money so we can actually make a good living and create valuable businesses.”
Later Rich tweeted his wrap ups:
When I first walked into the RealSelf office, I was impressed with the full-sized cabaret-style lighted sign in the lobby spelling out CONFIDENCE. Wow – this office is cool! The furniture was modern and sleek, the reclaimed wood wall screamed Seattle. I had actually been in the same building a week earlier to meet with another Seattle start up. They had garage doors in their office that opened up to a conference room. I have worked in some pretty amazing tech companies in Seattle. I was part of the Amazon HQ move from PacMed on the hill to the now overly-populated South Lake Union district. I was with Concur Technologies when we moved from a very small building in Redmond to take over part of the old Microsoft campus. I had also just left Whitepages in downtown Seattle following a $2.5M office renovation. But there was something special about this place. The brick archways and the hardwood floors were cool, but there seemed to be a buzz that I had never felt anywhere before. It wasn’t a busy-just-to-be-busy buzz. It was the buzz of pride. I had a feeling that the employees who worked there felt like they were doing something important…something that made a positive impact in people’s lives.
So you can imagine my curiosity when I sat down in the conference room called “authenticity” and noticed a fake boob sitting on the table. What the….?! As I sat there through the standard tech company interview loop, every person that came into the room absent-mindedly picked up that fake boob and proceeded to squeeze it as if it were a stress ball. “What is going on?” Finally, I had to ask. “Is that a silicone boob implant?” <Straight-faced reply> “No, it’s actually a saline sizer. Silicone would feel much different, more like a gummy bear.” At that point, I had to decide. Am I comfortable with this subject matter? Is this company’s product something that I can get behind and support? I am going to be convincing people to work here, after all. As the conversations continued, my interest started to pique. How could a company focused on people’s vanity be doing any good? That’s when I started to learn.
It wasn’t about vanity (okay, some of it is!) but it was more about helping people regain their confidence. This was something that resonated with me. I had been feeling pretty unconfident as of late and it felt good to have a conversation about supporting a community and helping them find the answers they need. The idea is to create a space that allows users to have open and honest conversations about stuff that bothers them about their bodies and learn about their options to fix them. Without judgment.
I learned about the mom that had the mommy makeover and finally felt confident to swim with her kids for the first time. Her kids were 9 and 12. I learned about the women that had a breast implant after she lost her left breast to cancer. I learned about the gentleman who had life changing experience with a Gastric Bypass surgery. These stories were inspiring! They also offered the users the opportunity to make a decision to *not* have a procedure done. The site offered doctor reviews and ratings for procedures and surgery buddies. Seriously?! Where else would someone find this information? You certainly aren’t going to chat about it over the fence with your next door neighbor. They even had a giving back campaign which supported plastic surgeons traveling overseas to complete procedures on third world country citizens with deformations who would not otherwise have had the opportunity.
Finally, the light had come on. This company wasn’t like the other Seattle tech companies. This was personal! This company was doing some amazing stuff. They had just hired a new CTO to come in and make the data more robust. They had busted through the wall in their office and expanded to meet the company’s growth. They had a board of directors that read like the “Who’s Who of Seattle” list. The decision was made. I wanted to work here. And thankfully, it turned out that they wanted me to work here, too! Talk about a boost in confidence! That was almost three months ago and I haven’t looked back once. If you are interested in learning more about finding your dream job at RealSelf, visit our careers page. realself.com/jobs Who knows? Maybe you’ll get to squeeze the saline sizer, too!
– Jenny Chynoweth, Director of Talent