Interview with Lockerz Founder and CEO Kathy Savitt about Gen Z

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Women 2.0 talks to Kathy Savitt, Founder and CEO of Lockerz, a social commerce site with the mission of being the homepage of Generation Z (born between 1992-2010). Kathy has decades of experience at Fortune 500 companies, including Amazon.com, where she served on Jeff Bezos' elite senior counsel of advisors. Kathy has raised nearly $70 million in VC in the past two years, largely from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, which is known for rarely funding women-led companies.Women 2.0: How did you get the idea for Lockerz? Kathy Savitt: During my time at Amazon.com and American Eagle Outfitters, I observed a sea change in consumer shopping and buying behavior, particularly among teens. I soon became extremely interested in what this change meant for technology companies, content providers, retailers and marketers.

After months of self-funded research, my interest became a full-blown obsession with Generation Z (born between 1992 and 2010). This demographic, which includes my youngest daughter, was essentially “curating” its online experience, as well as product choices, rather than allowing them to be dictated by brands or media. They were shopping, communicating, and consuming content simultaneously, from multiple sources. They made decisions based on the opinions of friends, not on what was being pushed to them from traditional marketers or even online customer reviews.

I was perplexed as to why no company or site was seeking to embrace the fundamental shift that was occurring -- a major market void. I started Lockerz based on a desire to create something of real value for this incredibly important and influential group of people, who I believe will have the power to transform the world as we know it.

Women 2.0: What interests you so much about Generation Z?

Kathy Savitt: I believe Gen Zs are the future consumers, philanthropists, business and political leaders who will most significantly change how the rest of the world lives.

“Technology” does not mean laptops, smartphones, and the like. More Gen Zs carry a mobile phone than a wallet—increasingly their phones are their wallets. As a result, their notion of technology skips over the utilitarian straight to the stuff that makes my brain hurt.

Individualism, not conformity. Gen Z categorically rejects badge-brand dressing -— they bring the iPod approach to the mall. Fierce individualism comes with prolific “expression.”

One-to-many communication is more common than one-to-one. Gen Z is all about sharing -— I often refer to them as Generation Share. Ricocheting ideas lead to hyper-innovation.

They enjoy achieving and quests online. Their world is increasingly game-ified. Uniquely, Lockerz creates hundreds of micro-achievements by rewarding its members for social expression, as well as their influence.

Thought-leadership is not a function of age or experience. Instead of waiting for ideas to filter through generations, Gen Zs are tastemakers in their own right -- often before they’re out of elementary school.

Women 2.0: How did you build your team?

Kathy Savitt: My goal in building the Lockerz team was to create a place where risk-taking is celebrated and good ideas are built up rather than torn down. How to do that? My only hard-and-fast rule is: No Dicks; No Divas. This simple mantra might be a bit coarse, but it’s extremely effective as an edit-point for behavior at a startup. Diversity was also important. I wanted a team that was balanced in terms of gender, ethnicity, age and background. While I didn't set out to check certain diversity boxes, I think the nature of our company and the culture I wanted to create led me in that direction naturally.

Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to cross paths with some of the most talented people in business, from HR executives, to marketers, to software developers and engineers. Lockerz is made up of people with whom I have worked in the past, as well as those who came to us as unknowns.

Bottom line: I assembled a team of people who I admire for their intellect and ability to think creatively and get things done.

Women 2.0: How did you build your product?

Kathy Savitt: Everything about Lockerz is driven by our Gen Z customers, which is why it’s so different from other sites. We started Lockerz with 50 members, one college student in each of the 50 states. We maintained constant dialogue with our small membership base, as well as a small group of Gen Z advisors who would eventually become what we now know as our Lockerz Advisory Board (LAB). With this input, we proceeded to start building what would be the first iteration of our business. The site grew more quickly than anyone anticipated, expanding to 3,000 members in just three weeks. Today, we have more than 45 million unique visitors monthly.

Women 2.0: How did you find your mentors, advisors, investors?

Kathy Savitt: As I mentioned, I have had the good fortune to work with some amazing leaders and thinkers over the years, and always sought to find new ways to work with people I value and respect. One of my most trusted advisors with regard to Lockerz is Greg Maffei, the CEO of Liberty Media. Greg is a personal friend as well as a business colleague. He believed in Lockerz from day one, and proceeded to invest personally, as well as through Liberty Media. John Doerr and Bing Gordon at KPCB continue to be great advisors and champions for Lockerz and for my leadership at the company. I am so proud to have them on the board of directors of Lockerz.

More generally, my years working with Jeff Bezos were profoundly impactful. I learned a great deal from him, and took to heart his relentless focus on the customer experience. And finally, my father, Everett Jassy, who was my first mentor, and continues to be the most influential and beloved.

Women 2.0: What are some mistakes you've made and learned along the way?

Kathy Savitt: Being a startup, there are many small missteps that you course-correct immediately. At Lockerz, we like to say that we “embrace our wrongness” on a daily basis. Perhaps the most significant challenge for us was in the very early days of the company.

We built a site for several hundred thousand users, and when we scaled to tens of millions in a matter of months, we didn’t have the architecture to support it.

Another example surrounds the launch of our shop last summer. Our original shipping model was “sell now, buy later,” a popular model with deal sites that results in longer shipping times (10-17 days). We found out quickly that this didn’t work with Gen Z, as they are accustomed to 2-3 day shipping models. We turned this around and adapted the shipping model a short time later.

Women 2.0: You recently announced your Series C round of funding. How will it be used to grow the business?

Kathy Savitt: The funding will be used to support our long-term growth goals and our vision to become the homepage of Generation Z, including specific key areas like increasing engineering resources, product development and key site features.

We’re continuing to drive towards realizing our mission to become the homepage of Generation Z. We’re doing this by focusing on some key areas. One of them is our mobile experience. As our mobile traffic continues to grow significantly, we want to be the most valuable app to our audience on their phones. Next is the use of our PTZ (points) graph, which is the asset we’ve created for members to earn rewards and drive down the prices of brands offered on our site.

We envision the utilization of this system off of Lockerz, since it’s scalable for other vertical applications. Finally, we want to expand how members can earn, share and get rewarded for Decalz (akin to badges) on Lockerz. Decalz have influenced content consumption and purchasing decisions among our members, and we want to continue making this a social experience.

About the interviewee: Kathy Savitt is Founder and CEO of Lockerz, a social commerce company. Created from Kathy’s vision to create the homepage for Generation Z, Lockerz has grown from 50 members to nearly 18 million members in less than one year. Kathy believes that the power of Gen Z as cultural disrupters will significantly impact both prior and future generations. Lockerz is funded by Liberty Media, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, DAG Ventures and Live Nation Entertainment.