Alexandra Chong: Founder of LuLu

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Bio:

Alexandra is Founder & CEO of Lulu, a private network for women. Alexandra created Lulu to bring private conversations among women online and to unleash the huge value of girl talk. 


How did you get into the tech industry?

I graduated with a law degree from the London School of Economics, and I went to work in the legal department of a music licensing start-up. When the head of marketing left, I started filling in for her in addition to my day job, and I loved it. I realized pretty quickly I wanted to start my own business.

Tell us about Lulu. What inspired the idea and what is your vision for the company?

I was hunting for my own idea when I went to brunch with a group of girls the day after Valentine’s Day. It was a table of just women sharing stories about guys, relationships, sex, beauty recommendations, health, and careers. It was an incredibly candid conversation, and the tone would have changed by adding even one guy to the mix. I concluded from that brunch that women needed their own network for sharing with other women – and that nothing like that existed.

My vision is to create the world’s largest private network for girls to share their experiences and get information to make smarter decisions. We’ve started with relationships, but our goal is to expand into all areas that matter to women.

What strategic partnerships have you implemented that have attributed to Lulu’s success?

It’s been less about partnerships and more about finding product-market fit.

We knew that we were building a product based on gossip and girl talk, and we decided college sororities and fraternities would be a perfect place to test! We ran a beta at two colleges in Florida and hired sorority leaders to spread the word on campus. The product went viral from there! Within just a few weeks, we had 40% of girls and 60% guys on a campus on Lulu! Once we realized that strategy worked, we scaled it across campuses in the US.

What industry trends are you noticing and how do you capitalize on them?

One massive trend is mobile, which is why we’ve put mobile apps at the core of our business. Young women access the Internet through mobile. Their constant companion is their mobile device; it’s how they entertain themselves throughout the day, how they communicate with friends, and how they research their next major decision. We built Lulu mobile first to be where young women are spending their time and to take advantage of all the things that mobile can offer, such as location and messaging.

Another big trend is privacy and anonymity in social networks. Lulu was one of the first private networks, and now we’re seeing a big wave of anonymous apps like Whisper and YikYak. It’s clear that young people want to share in a way that’s more private than Facebook and allows them to control who and when they share their identity.

Finally, it’s not really a trend, but I’m a big believer in the power of women. Women dominate social networks and control the vast majority of consumer spending, yet no one’s building products specifically for them. We built Lulu to fill that gap.

Life Motto?

Never take no for an answer.

Lulu’s Motto?

Unleashing the power of girl talk

Your greatest success as founder of Lulu? Most difficult moment-how did you overcome and what did you learn?

My greatest success has been creating what the New York Times described as a “Take back the Internet moment for young women.” We think of Lulu as creating a movement and empowering women to make smarter decisions – starting with relationships. It’s not just a product; it’s something much bigger.

Most difficult moment was pivoting from out first version of Lulu, called Luluvise, to our current version of the app. We first built Lulu as a website where women could communicate about multiple things. It was too comprehensive and didn’t catch on. We then scaled it back and built it for mobile, and that’s the version that one in four US college women has on her phone today.

Your advice to an aspiring entrepreneur?

Find something you’re truly passionate about. The start-up life is a rollercoaster, and when you hit the low points, you need to be doing something you really care about to keep yourself going.

Favorite travel destination?

My home country of Jamaica

One food and drink left on earth, what would you choose?

Jamaican patties and coconut water

What literature is on your bed stand?

Whatever my co-founder, Alison Schwartz, recommends. Before creating Lulu, Alison was a literary agent, and she’s the most voracious reader I know!

Role model - business and personal?

Business, I’d have to go with Richard Branson. He’s a legend.

Personal, as a Jamaican and former pro athlete, I find Usain Bolt inspiring.

Current passion?

I’m still learning how to kite surf. It’s addicting!

Most interesting headline you've read this week?

Here's What Happens When Female Superheroes Dress Themselves, courtesy of Upworthy

What's next for Lulu?

Our vision is to bring Lulu to women everywhere. We’ve started with the US, but our goal is to expand internationally and across all the verticals that women care about.

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Lulu launched in February 2013, and now has millions of users and billions of profile views. The New York Times wrote that Lulu has started a “take back the internet movement for young women.” Lulu also received a nomination for TechCrunch's 2013 "Fastest Rising Startup" Award. Alexandra speaks frequently at conferences and in the media.

She has appeared on Business Insider's "Coolest People in New York Tech" list in 2013 and 2014, and she was recognized by AdWeek with a Changing the Game Award for creating an entirely new business model.Before Lulu, Alexandra served as Global Head of Marketing for Upstream, one of the world's largest mobile marketing companies. She holds a BSC and an LLB from the London School of Economics. Alexandra grew up in Jamaica, where she played tennis professionally and represented Team Jamaica at the Federation Cup and Commonwealth Games.