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Doreen Bloch: consumer plus intelligence equals Poshly

Doreen Bloch

The gregarious Doreen Bloch, member of Forbes best-of-the-best 30 under 30 list and CEO of consumer intelligence company Poshly, strutted her business savvy last week at FEM Tech.

The Palo Alto native studied at UC Berkeley from 2006-2010, graduated a semester early, and moved to New York City where she worked at finance company Second Market. It was at this time, during a visit to a local drug store, that inspiration for Poshly struck.

“One of my most meaningful inspirations for creating Poshly stemmed from my personal vexation over the cosmetics shopping experience never feeling quite personalized enough — I wanted a more data-driven way to shop,” Bloch said over e-mail. “I figured if I could gather data from a diverse set of individuals, it would be possible to correlate product preferences in a more robust way.”

Shortly after this, Bloch put up a website where people could share data about themselves in exchange for prizes. She had $85 in her bank account when the first investors rolled in. After that she raised $2 million.

“It may not be easy, but creating your own company is possible.”

Poshly is a data mine field, providing consumer information to companies (think Eucerin, Benefit cosmetics, InStyle), which it extracts through entry-question giveaways on its website. Members win all sorts of things, like the gloves Rhianna wore in her Riri perfume ad, jewelrey, and countless beauty products. Users enter these contests by completing a survey about their consumer habits, and can take as many surveys to enter as many times as they want.

Bloch talked about the gender gap in the business, noting the game women have to play with venture capitalists to raise funding. She also talked about the low percentage of female CEO’s, which currently rests at 4.6 percent for Fortune 500 companies.

“It is important to me now to show others, especially fellow young women who simply don’t have enough role models, that it can be done,” she said over e-mail. “It may not be easy, but creating your own company is possible.”

Melisa Lin, founder and CEO of Nommery, talks to FEM Tech

Nommery team

Melisa Lin, founder and CEO of restaurant meet-up site Nommery, chatted with FEM Tech earlier this month about her journey from Berkeley student to owner of one of the most promising start-ups in the industry. 

Nommery has its roots in SF Foodies, the other meet-up community Lin started years ago, back when she worked at Veritable Vegetable, the country’s oldest organic produce distributor.

“There was a point when I was thinking, should I be trying to advance my career in the food industry and progress further there, or can I build something out of this community that is exploding,” Lin said. The group was holding 100 events a month, and filled entire restaurants on some nights.

But before Veritable and SF Foodies, Lin was a student at Berkeley studying mostly, well, food: besides selling her own, homemade granola, leading organic gardening at People’s Park and basically majoring in food (B.S. In Conservation and Resource Studies with a focus on Sustainable Food Business), she also helped found the Student Food Collective, the vegan food-haven located on Bancroft.

A veritable violinist (she’s performed on tour in Europe with the Stanford symphony and at the Davis Symphony Hall in San Francisco) Lin says her love of music taught her the discipline needed to get Nommery off the ground.

“As a performer, you learn how to present yourself in front of a large audience, learn how to command, learn how to project your voice.” This skill has invariably helped in talking to big names, like, for instance, the CTO of Coffee Meets Bagel, a user of and mentor to Nommery.

People First, Company Last

Nommery sprouted in a backwards way, launching with a consumer base already established, with little question as to its viability.

“Having a community first, and understanding what they want and building it for them makes it worth it, because you’re saving time, you’re saving money on developing. It just seems like a no brainer to me.”

Lin says there are three things to have established before looking for funding: the minimal viable product (your website), sales and marketing. Sales will prove the viability of your product, which will particularly capture venture capitalists’ interest.

Logging onto Nommery, there are a handful of restaurant meet-ups created by different hosts at different price points. The cheapest meal is a non-inclusive RSVP of $5; the higher priced reservations can climb up to $300, but that includes everything from appetizers to the tip.

She describes the mood at restaurant meet-ups as “warm, open, excited.” The meet-ups have attracted many food business executives from companies like CISCO, Walmart and OpenTable.

“I’m just kind of awestruck, still,” Lin says. “To go to an event and dine with someone, and not have them mention who they are, and then go on LinkedIn later and see that they’re the VP of eCommerce at Walmart, is kind of mindboggling. It’s amazing how down to earth they all are and how humble they all are.”

Nommery has plans to expand into Chicago, New York and Los Angeles as well as overseas in late 2016.