“If there are more than two VCs who are bald in this room we are toast”

How Melody McCloskey forced the Valley to fund, accept, and applaud StyleSeat

By Sarah Lacy , written on July 3, 2015

From The Pandoland 2015 Desk

Melody McCloskey's StyleSeat isn't just underrated now, it was underrated when she launched at TechCrunch Disrupt back in 2014.

People doubted that the beauty vertical would be big enough - or easy enough to crack without a pricey feet-on-the-street sales force.

Both concerns proved very wrong. As Bessemer’s Jeremy Levine said at his PandoMonthly interview, verticals are the ultimate new hotness-- particularly when it comes to software tools for small businesses. From that interview:

You look at the homepage of Craigslist, there are 80 links. And each link is to a different category or topic and every one of those links is going to be a really big business. And there are already many of them. So there's a link for tickets on the front page of Craigslist. That is Stubhub, which is a multibillion dollar division of eBay. There's a link for housing. That is Airbnb, which is a multibillion dollar business. And what Craigslist does poorly is, it's difficult to do anything. And as you splinter these marketplaces off into their own sellers to be so damned efficient, it doesn't even feel like a marketplace anymore.

And according to research by Intuit, a whopping 32% of small businesses use cloud-based services to run their companies. Intuit expects an astounding 78% of small businesses to be cha-chinging in the cloud by 2020. That’s just five years away. And this from a category of the American economy that has mostly stubbornly clung to pen and paper for decades.

More surprising in the case of StyleSeat: According to McCloskey she’s done it without a sales force. There are more than 320,000 professionals on her platform across more than 15,000 cities and more than $1 billion in appointments will be booked via StyleSeat this year. And even still she has to defend the business to the (mostly male) tech world. “Even though we are the market leader, I still get a lot of push back when I talk to investors saying ‘When are you going to launch into other verticals? When can this actually be a big business?’” she told me on stage at Pandoland.

Beyond insights into the surging world of vertical commerce and the untapped market that men on Sand Hill Road don’t get, McCloskey offered insightful advice for young women coming up in markets like Silicon Valley. Just watch the video below...

(Another fun reason to watch: It was the last of 15 or so interviews I did in two days at Pandoland and am basically on fumes.)


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