(MoneyWatch) Seamless is an online food ordering platform that offers at-your-fingertips restaurant delivery and takeout. CEO Jonathan Zabusky joined the company in 2007 as vice president, strategic development.
Since then, he's re-branded and expanded Seamless into an international operation nimble enough to make it through the most trying circumstances, like Hurricane Sandy. A staple among urbanites, Seamless is now voted "One of the Best Free Apps" for smartphones and tablets. Seamless boasts 1.5 million users from over 11,000 restaurants in 40 cities including New York, London, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Rebecca Jarvis: What were you doing before you started your company?
Jonathan Zabusky: I joined Seamless in 2007 as vice president, strategic development. At the time, the company was called SeamlessWeb with a primary focus on the B2B space and had recently been acquired by the ARAMARK Corporation. I was hired in to work with the founders to realize "synergies" and the growth potential that they had paid for during their due diligence. I could see this potential right away. This service could revolutionize how consumers decided where and what to eat, with better information, and help small businesses expand their reach through the Internet and the emerging mobile platforms.
Prior to Seamless, I was a principle, strategy and corporate development for the iShares division of Barclays Global Investors, a position I held since April 2005. Before that, I worked at The Boston Consulting Group, MovieFone, Inc. and Lehman Brothers.
Coming to Seamless was an easy decision -- the opportunity was clear though the path toward realizing it would be a winding one.
RJ: How long did it take to turn your idea into a business?
JZ: My top priority at Seamless has been to build out the consumer-facing side of the business. By 2006, Seamless was ubiquitous among bankers, lawyers and other employees of large and small companies alike. Increasingly, they began to ask for the ability to use Seamless not only when they were working late but also at home and on the weekends. Seamless started offering the ability for members to place orders to any address, not just to the office, and use a personal credit card for payment, but growth on the consumer side was nothing spectacular.
In 2009, coming out of a very challenging economic environment, we saw opportunities to expand the consumer business. We accelerated growth by adding restaurant partners in high-density neighborhoods across the country, significantly improving on product experience and leveraging the Seamless' core asset, data, for customer discovery, loyalty and engagement.
On July 21, 2011, we rebranded as Seamless to more clearly reflect our core brand attributes -- ease, flexibility and ubiquity -- and to signal our commitment to growing consumer demand and building out best in class, differentiated mobile experiences. Today, our flourishing consumer-facing service has overtaken the corporate business (which also remains robust) in size, and we are everywhere our customer lives his or her life - at home, at work, on the road, and everywhere in between.
Of course, there is still a lot of work to be done. There is a $25+ billion market for takeout and delivery, of which only 10 percent has moved online. Our greatest challenge is educating the public -- that 90 percent who do not order food online -- on the benefits Seamless offers them in making their lives easier and discovering new, amazing places to eat in their neighborhoods.
RJ: What's your No. 1 piece of advice to entrepreneurs?
JZ: Surround yourself with diverse perspectives even if those opinions are at odds with your own. Build a team with complementary talents and experiences. This will help you approach problems from different angles and come up with much more creative solutions. It will also help you identify bad ideas or assumptions much faster.
RJ: If you could ask one person for advice, who would it be and what would you ask?
JZ: As much as it kills a diehard Jets fan like me (sad, I know), I have to say that I'd enjoy a sit down with Bill Belichick, head coach of the New England Patriots. Not only is he a master strategist, he knows how to build a first-class team comprised largely of workmanlike personalities and skill sets, coupled with a few star performers. But even the stars are humble and have a team first mentality. He knows how to hire and draft, and is always planting seeds for the future (think option value) by accumulating extra draft picks. He looks at attitude and desire to win as the key factors, beyond just a resume. Belicheck develops coaches and leaders and gives his team the authority to deviate from the game plan on the field as the situations dictate.
I would ask him -- what questions do you ask prospective free agents and draft picks? What answers, anecdotes and experiences do you look for? What are you asking of their references to prove or disprove your hypothesis on a prospective player or coach? Building a great team is as simple as filling it with the right people. At Seamless, we don't hire resumes. We hire people with the right attitude, passion, and a belief in our philosophy, and they must have a strong will to win. We'd never call ourselves the Patriots, but we would consider modeling our organization after them.
RJ: Are you hiring? How do you get hired by a start-up?
JZ: We are, and we expect to add 50 to 100 additional positions over the next year. Anyone who is interested in a career at Seamless can check out our careers page for available positions.
Seamless is a 12-year-old, established company that retains the nimbleness of a startup, so people who thrive in our unique environment are a great fit. We are always looking for people who are bright, ambitious and passionate about e-commerce technology platforms and the way they're changing consumer behavior. And of course, a love of food and a desire to help small business owners help, too!