Founder of Because Market Luca Gualco is a “former professional water polo player” who became an entrepreneur after retiring from the sport.
Upon retirement, Luca Gualco finished his doctorate in economics. Then he began a career in “banking, developing financial loan opportunities to help people cope with their financial burdens.”
However, Luca Gualco wanted to take the leap to the next level. In 2005, he started Ferrari Financial Services, “developing financial instruments tailored to Ferrari’s client base.”
In 2010, Luca Gualco went to Stanford to get his MBA, where he also taught economics.
Upon graduation, Luca Gualco moved on to “help lead growth at startups including Uber, WeWork, and Acorns.”
Sometime later, Luca Gualco started Because Market with his co-founder. The company has a mission “to help older adults live active and vibrant lives.”
According to Luca Gualco, Because Market stands out because of “human connection.” Their scientists “had to focus on the human side of the data.” Their learning was also helped by their teammates who knew how to take care of an older adult.
Luca Gualco says that their team members talk to their customer base a lot, and they “base how we meet the needs of older adults” on these “thousands of weekly customer conversations.”
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We use the customer feedback to make changes to our products and introduce new ones. Luca Gualco, Because Market
Jerome Knyszewski: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Luca Gualco: Human connection. We couldn’t have built Because with the mindset of a younger audience.
We had to immerse ourselves in another demographic.
We realized that this was the context in which everyone in our team had to operate. Even the machine-learning engineers could not operate looking at the data in a vacuum.
Our scientists had to focus on the human side of the data.
The fact that most of our teammates knew what it takes to care for an older adult was a big accelerant in our learning.
We also deeply understand the changing needs of older adults, thanks to the connections we’ve developed with our customers.
This urge to create a relationship with our customers likely goes back to the days when we used to go from store to store to shop for personal care items for our aging relatives.
It was frustrating to know that their needs aren’t being met, and we knew that if they were having these experiences, it was likely a much broader issue.
We decided there had to be a better way and that we were going to create it.
Fast forward to today.
We base how we meet the needs of older adults on the thousands of weekly customer conversations, emails, texts and chats that our team members have with our customer base.
Our executives regularly do field calls, respond to emails and reach out to customers with questions.
We use the customer feedback to make changes to our products and introduce new ones.
They are our greatest focus group and their first-hand feedback helps us develop products with their personal needs in mind.
Jerome Knyszewski: Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Luca Gualco: Alexi, my co-founder, and I both played professional sports. Growing up in Italy, there is no such thing as burnout.
Either you play and play hard, or you probably don’t have the right mindset to be on that team.
Being two co-founders with that mindset helped a lot. The “why” we do what we do is what pushes both of us.
So, my advice: don’t forget your “why.”
We make sure that we are meeting the needs of our customers daily and seeing them happy is the impetus to never giving up and to keep striving for more solutions.
We can’t sit here and say the journey to get off the ground isn’t tough, but we know that the destination is well worth it.
Reaching our goals and making our customers happy is the fuel that keeps us going.
In fact, since launching our adult incontinence products, we’ve also added cleansers, barrier creams and other skincare items, oral care, supplements and a line of CBD products.
Jerome Knyszewski: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Luca Gualco: We have heard many times that VCs mostly give you money but they don’t really help you.
We are humbled by how much all of our investors are committed and connected to our cause with genuine belief in our mission.
From Mike Volpi at Index to David Weiden at Khosla, we have been supported by partners that helped light the path to what we have become.
I think it’s safe to say we are forever grateful for our personal family and experiences who brought this need to our attention.
If we weren’t introduced to the issues that existed within the adult care industry, we would not have been able to find a solution for their needs or the many other people in the world who are facing the same problems.
Everything we do at Because is with older adults in mind. One of our guiding principles is to be ‘customer obsessed’ and we mean it.
Jerome Knyszewski: Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The Pandemic has changed many aspects of all of our lives. One of them is the fact that so many of us have gotten used to shopping almost exclusively online. Can you share a few examples of different ideas that eCommerce businesses are implementing to adapt to the new realities created by the Pandemic?
Luca Gualco: By nature, e-commerce was tailor-made for a time such as now, with the COVID-19 pandemic impacting our day-to-day lives.
Our customers, older adults, are one of the most vulnerable groups to the dangers of COVID-19.
We’re able to offer them incredibly useful necessities for their incontinence needs, for every part of their day, all without having to go out and risk their health.
With the addition of CBD products to treat their pain and anxiety, both of which could be exasperated by the times we’re living in, Because is able to help them even more.
Jerome Knyszewski: Amazon, and even Walmart are going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise retail companies and e-commerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?
Luca Gualco: Because Market is so personal to its customers. Before Because, incontinence products had not been innovated in decades.
Now, there is a one-stop shop with products developed with feedback directly from our customers.
The personal attention to individuals and their needs is what these larger e-commerce sites and brands can’t touch on, and an area Because excels at.
Jerome Knyszewski: What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start an eCommerce business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Luca Gualco: When starting any business, e-commerce or otherwise, it’s important to define and know your target audience.
This obviously includes what they’re interested in, but it is just as important to identify what makes them tick, what annoys them and how they want to be communicated with.
When you have a general idea of what your e-commerce business is selling, the next step would be to find market research (or conduct your own if you can’t find specific enough data) on your target audience and you can build your marketing strategy from there.
Because Market is so personal to its customers.
Jerome Knyszewski: In your experience, which aspect of running an eCommerce brand tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
Luca Gualco: Many e-commerce startups have a hard time estimating their scalability, especially when they might receive an influx of demand they weren’t ready for.
While shipment delays and out of stock products are bound to happen to any e-commerce company, customers only have so much patience, especially in a world where two-day free shipping is practically the norm.
We believe that beyond satisfying customers with quick service and quality products, customers actually want something more.
They want to know they are being heard.
In the beginning, we found ourselves with some frustrated customers and we didn’t understand exactly why.
We soon learned that older adults often don’t understand e-commerce technology.
We had one such customer who was upset she was being charged on a subscription basis — she started off wanting to cancel and being completely unwilling to think differently.
We had an agent handle the call with her who was kind, sweet and very attentive.
The agent explained very simply how you could adjust your subscription to your needs, walked her through how to do that on the online portal and helped the customer understand that the choices were hers to make.
The customer ended up adoring the agent, admitting she loved the product and wouldn’t get off the phone!
We learned that older adults just want to be listened to and heard. That personal experience is often lost in today’s modern world.
Jerome Knyszewski: One of the main benefits of shopping online is the ability to read reviews. Consumers love it! While good reviews are of course positive for a brand, poor reviews can be very damaging. In your experience what are a few things a brand should do to properly and effectively respond to poor reviews? How about other unfair things said online about a brand?
Luca Gualco: While we can’t always control what’s on the internet, it’s always good to maintain a professional demeanor.
Some brands can lash out at their customers for leaving poor reviews but we see it as an opportunity to grow!
We listen to our audience and adapt to their feedback.
For example, we have received comments about how customers prefer more color options in their incontinence products.
We quickly listened to what they had to say and we’re planning to release a new underwear product with various colors this year.
It’s all about adapting to the consumer, not forcing the consumer to adapt to us.
The idea behind our company is that we want to bring awareness to the struggles that older adults go through, especially during a time like this. Luca Gualco
Jerome Knyszewski: You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Luca Gualco: The idea behind our company is that we want to bring awareness to the struggles that older adults go through, especially during a time like this.
We would like it to be more widely known that the older adult should be taken care of and supported, and we hope that our products and our business help emphasize that message.
Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?
Luca Gualco: You can check out the assortment of products we offer at our website and follow us on Facebook.
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!
Luca Gualco: Thank you!