Last spring, Alley hosted a fellowship, All In, a program dedicated to giving resources and opportunities to entrepreneurs of all different backgrounds and industries that are working on incredible things. Our first cohort included Seknd, a company led by two ex Google employees. We had the privilege of sitting down with Alyssa Min, Co-Founder and CEO of Seknd, and former Product Marketer at Google. In this interview learn about Alyssa’s journey of leaving a job at one of the most highly sought out tech companies to starting her own company and winning L'Oreal's Women in Digital Award.
Alley: I’m going to jump right into it, why did you decide to leave Google to start your own venture?
Alyssa: I was working at Google for about four and a half years. I worked in a variety of product marketing and strategy functions for consumer products like Google Maps, as well as more B2B oriented products like ads marketing. I was always interested in skincare as a hobby. I was always on the lookout for the latest products and latest brands. And I actually started a side hobby where I had an Instagram account. And I started profiling different products and brands that were really interesting to me. It actually quickly caught on fire. And what I ended up doing was starting a side business where I was selling one to two week trial sizes of products to people in the community. When that happened, I had this moment of like realization where I was like, oh, people really want to try products before they buy them and commit to a full size purchase. And so I took the side hobby and thought, you know, is there a way to apply technology and machine learning to actually better understand user preferences and what consumers want, as well as different products and brands that are out there. And so when I had this idea, I took it to my friend who was also at Google. When we started realizing we were spending more time and our energy thinking about this problem than our day job. It seemed very apparent that it was time for us to leave and try to start a company together.
Alley: What is Seknd?
Alyssa: The whole idea is really to help consumers understand which products are the best for them, not based on subjective things like reviews or influencers, but really looking at what makes a product special. And that's really you know, the ingredients that make up the product. And so by looking at the ingredient lists and applying machine learning to understand which products are the best for a specific individuals, were able to give more data driven and hopefully more intelligent recommendations to users. And the special thing about Seknd is that once you receive those recommendations, you're then able to try a one to two week trial size of that product. And so the idea is, try before you buy and be the judge of what works for you. The mission of Seknd is to be a second opinion that both consumers and brands can trust. What we mean by that is to be a platform that really serves both consumers and brands, and an equitable way. For consumers, we want to provide data driven recommendations, and allow them and empower them to make purchase decisions that are really right and catered for them. For brands, we want to help them be successful. We want to help them reach and target the right consumers and audiences, and ultimately drive sales and help brands be more successful.
Alley: What are the biggest challenges in your industry?
Alyssa: I think the biggest challenge in the skincare industry really centers around the notion of transparency and trust. And what we mean by that is consumers are craving more transparency than ever. We know that they're more interested in specific ingredients. We know that they're really doing their due diligence on products before they purchase. Brands also want trust with their consumers. It's not enough to just have giveaways or influencer reviews. They want to establish authentic and real relationships with their consumers so that they're able to save, serve and cater these consumers over time. And so what we see is this idea of transparency and trust that are playing in the industry. And there isn't really a distribution channel today to really cater to both in the same way.
Alley: What was your biggest obstacle so far, starting and growing your business?
Alyssa: The biggest obstacle that I think we face thus far in our company journey is really thinking through, you know, the mechanics of a marketplace. So there's always a supply and demand. But when you're just starting out and you're scrappy startup with, you know, no capital and just two founders, it's hard to know which to tackle first. Luckily, we had a really great traction with gathering skincare supply. And we're now at the point where we're really looking to gather traction and meaningful interactions with our first customers and consumers.
Alley: What is the biggest lesson you've learned so far from growing your own company?
Alyssa: The biggest lesson I think I've learned so far is really I always heard this from other entrepreneurs when I was thinking through whether or not I wanted to take the plunge but it's really about the importance of tenacity and perseverance. We experience it, you know, reaching out to brand partners. We experienced it fundraising for the first time and, you know, it's just like the little wins that are really important to celebrate and to really recognize as a team. I do think there is a difference between like, knowing when something's not working versus knowing when you need to just kind of push through for that first, yes. But I think the Hallmark probably of a great entrepreneur is learning that kind of nuance and understanding that there is a fine line between the two.
Alley: What has been your biggest accomplishment so far.
Alyssa: Our biggest accomplishment so far has been winning the Women in Digital Award from L'Oreal. For us, it's been a great honor to be recognized by L'Oreal in this way, and we've had a great opportunity to meet and speak with L'Oreal executives, different brands within the company. And it's really helped us to validate what we're doing and we've had a lot of mentorship, especially from other female leaders, which is incredibly important obviously in this day and age of technology.
Alley: Do you have any advice for individuals who are looking to start their own company?
Alyssa: My advice for individuals looking to start their own companies is actually just to start. And that's always just the hardest step is taking that first, I think step of courage. And it doesn't need to be big. I think, you know, big ideas often start small. And so whether it's, you know, a small side project, or, you know, you go out and survey 100 people about what you want to build, it's really about validating the idea that you have and seeing that first potential. So I would say, don't be afraid to do that. Don't be afraid to, you know, scrap things and start all over again. It's really about, you know, the intersection of your passion as well as the opportunity