Q+A with Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, Senior Vice President of Consumer Strategy & Innovation and Head of Moonwalker Ventures
Former Gilt Groupe Co-founder talks new ventures, trends and advice to startup founders
Alexandra is a serial entrepreneur who has spent her career in fashion, beauty and luxury, including co-founding Gilt and Glamsquad. She recently spoke at the Startup Grind Global Conference 2019 about what led her to go from an entrepreneur, to becoming an intrepreneur, joining Allergan where she helped build the Moonwalker suite of ventures alongside BCG Digital Ventures.
Today, she is announcing the launch of the most recent new business of the Moonwalker ventures: Regi.
In a sentence, tell us what Regi does.
Regi is a booking platform that provides consumers with access to medical aesthetic treatments and curated beauty services. Featuring a personal concierge, Regi makes it easy for beauty enthusiasts to access and experience all that their city has to offer.
Who are the key users? What market friction does Regi solve for them?
Launching initially in New York City and Los Angeles, Regi is for the seasoned beauty enthusiast as well as anyone who enjoys an occasional visit to a spa or salon.
This platform addresses two important gaps in the medical aesthetics market–discovery and access. If you look at the consumption trend in this space, you will find commonalities. These trends are informing what we are doing with Regi.
Can you tell us more about the trends you’re currently seeing in the health/beauty space and how Regi speaks to them?
Consumers are now accustomed to having everything at their fingertips — with digital apps and services providing access to just about anything imaginable. But there was no one place where a beauty enthusiast could discover and book both a massage and an injectable treatment within one platform.
We like to think of Regi as providing the convenience and curation of Resy paired with the eventual personalized intelligence of Netflix. Regi has a live, dedicated concierge team that consumers can access through direct line or by text. In addition to facilitating booking appointments, this concierge team can address medical aesthetics inquiries and assist consumers at the beginning of their medical aesthetic journey.
How was Regi created? What led to this idea?
Project Moonwalker is a Digital Ventures unit within the biopharmaceutical company Allergan. This division is fueling Allergan’s medical aesthetics business with digital innovation and thought leadership in order to change consumer perception and engagement. Incubated at BCG Digital Ventures, Moonwalker’s ventures, Spotlyte and Regi, address two fundamental consumer barriers. The first being the lack of information and expert insight, and the second being access to medical aesthetic treatments and providers. If we can remove these barriers, the medical aesthetics market will undergo staggering growth. Spotlyte, which launched in September 2018, is the first digital venture from Moonwalker. It is a curated editorial site which educates consumers on beauty and medical aesthetics.
Through curation, the mission of Regi is to provide consumers with discovery and access to beauty treatments and services at a local level. Regi helps consumers facilitate connections to beauty service providers and easily connects them with Allergan approved health care providers who can administer medical aesthetic treatments. The vision is to create a digital platform that can help consumers elevate their regimen, with medical aesthetic and curated beauty treatments.
How does Regi disrupt the current market?
Regi is the first and only site where consumers can discover a hand-picked selection of the best salons and spas in their city and book beauty and medical aesthetic treatments directly or with the help of Regi’s Concierge Team, all while elevating one’s regimen.
Are there any compelling technical elements to Regi we should be aware of?
There are several unique elements to Regi. One of the most important is Regi’s network curation. Regi provides a trusted network of beauty service providers that have been vetted, which offer services from manicures to medical aesthetic treatments. The user-friendly, mobile responsive site is easy to navigate, allowing users to browse treatments by category, find local hidden gems and secure appointments with providers in addition to offering an in-house concierge for a seamless booking experience.
Additionally, the platform provides personalization through a curated dashboard featuring services and treatments you have received, so you can see your beauty regime in one place and help guide future services.
What was your biggest challenge in creating Regi?
Regi is the only site that offers access to treatments and services at salons, spas, medispas and the offices of dermatologists and plastic surgeons. There is great technical complexity in consolidating into one site the availability of many diverse places with different types of booking systems, including some locations which operate their bookings manually.
With Moonwalker, you were able to create an amazing beauty brand that was trapped in a highly regulated, pharmaceutical world. What is the secret to finding disruption in unexpected places?
I always think about the consumer — what does she (or he) want? What problem needs to be solved for the consumer? For all the ventures in which I’ve been actively involved, I am the consumer which makes much of the consumer thinking intuitive, although gathering data is also important whenever possible of course. It’s important to ask questions like: What would make the consumer happy? What would excite that consumer? What would create loyalty and viral/WOM behavior?
You mentioned the power of brand with Allergan and Botox earlier. Can you talk more about the importance of brand in your eyes when building a new startup?
Building a brand overnight isn’t easy, for some brands it takes decades. One of the most important things a brand should strive to get right at the early stage, is to establish trust with consumers. Once there is trust, the rest can follow. I really believe that. Often trust comes with the founder or founding team.
What advice would you give startup founders in the audience about attracting and hiring, in particular, female leaders?
For just over a year I have been building a team of innovative, non-traditional, trained disruptors all on a mission to provide consumers with qualified information and greater access to medical aesthetics. Of the 60 or so people we’ve hired, 65% are female and, of course, this makes me proud — but it wasn’t forced. I always look to hire the most qualified person for a role and I also care deeply about individuals being a good cultural fit.
Do you have that one question you ask yourself before making a big business or life decision?
I don’t know that I have a question that I ask myself, but I have learned to pay attention to my gut instinct. I have learned that if something seems too good to be true, it usually is.
What is the best way for the average startup to work with a corporate? What do they need to know?
It will depend and vary based on the sector, the company and how open-minded the company’s management team is. Startups will need to recognize that, in certain areas, a big company may be inflexible, and there is likely a reason for that. The smarter the startup can be on understanding the “why” behind any perceived restrictions, the more effective that startup will be in serving as a changemaker.
What is one piece of advice you’d give to people that are considering making the leap to become founders?
I always say to my team, “If you don’t ask, you won’t get.” Don’t let fear be the thing holding you back from pursuing an idea — it’s ok to fail. Many great entrepreneurs and business leaders fail countless times before finding success.