Every week, a customer or reporter asks me, “Kate, why did you start DITTO?” I usually respond with a quick one-liner about how I wanted to make buying glasses easier but after spending more time reflecting, I realized there are three deeper motivations that drive me:
1) I was craving soul-satisfying work.
I previously worked on Wall Street and in private equity. I remember one day watching a coworker excitedly zip through a financial model for a potential investment and remember thinking “Wow, I just don’t feel like that about this work”. I became jaded that we did more financial engineering than true value creation, and I was craving soul-satisfying work that involved getting my hands dirty and building something valuable. I decided I needed to be a hands-on operator and build a product I believed in. Even though I could be making a whole heck of a lot more money in finance, I have never looked back once.
2) I love a good challenge.
I knew one of my cofounders, Dmitry Kornilov, was going to make a great partner when I asked him his favorite quote and he responded, “It is possible”. Nothing gets me fired up more than someone telling me it can’t be done. The fact that eyewear has the absolute lowest online penetration at just 2.8% just sounded like a personal challenge. The reason it’s so low isn’t rocket science: people want to try them on to see if they fit before they buy. Virtual fitting isn’t a new idea but it’s never been executed well enough to actually solve the fit problem. The reason is because it’s hard. How do you get accurate measurements digitally without a super awkward user experience? How do track features with only noisy webcam data? How do you render products cost effectively and photo realistically in real time? These are questions I literally couldn’t stop thinking about until we had answers.
3) I want to be a great leader.
Are great leaders made or born? I think the answer is both. I have always been naturally influential. Part of the reason is because I’m 6’ tall, and the other reason is because my parents taught my two sisters and me to be strong, independent, confident women who can articulate thoughts with conviction and “thrive in a man’s world” as my Dad would say. But simply having leadership traits does not make a great leader. To me, greatness is about being competent and hard working enough to be respected, passionate enough to inspire our team, our vendors, and our customers, and smart enough to build a team of people that is even smarter. The last two years that I’ve been working on DITTO have been an incredible learning opportunity for me and the road to greatness is still ahead. But I'm motivated to keep striving. I love reading books about great leaders and seek out advice and feedback of how I can be better. I hope I look back on this blog post in a few years and smile knowing I’ve led DITTO with purpose and passion. Now that's success.