0-100 in 8 months: Glassjar takes on US market

It’s not often that we get to witness explosive growth, but George Smith, CEO of Glassjar, makes it look so easy.

In January 2014, UC Innovators organiser Rachel Wright put us in touch with one of her students who she described as promising. At the time, George and the team were working towards launching Glassjar in February, 2014 as a tool that allows roommates to automatically manage shared expenses and collective payments online. George put it like this: “We’re helping people stay mates with their roommates.”

Launch day came and went, and it looked like just another startup that lasts for six months. But then we began noticing momentum. New team members were added. Group shots in matching T-shirts were uploaded to Facebook. GlassJar’s logo popped up on Sparkbox’s site – the same VC firm that invested in Xero and Snakk Media. They were inducted into the growth accelerator Lightning Lab and excitement grew as they prepared for Demo Day 2014.

A room full of investors turned into a bank account with seven zeroes, and then in August 2014, a picture appeared on Glassjar’s Facebook page of Goerge Smith, Glassjar’s CEO, in front of the Golden Gate bridge. They had made it to Silicon Valley.

Although he manages to keep his cool, it’s been a busy first few months for George Smith, and the rest of the year shows no signs of letting up.

“It’s been an awesome experience,” George wrote from San Francisco, “and with feet on the ground in the US, we’re about to start moving even quicker.”

This rapid acceleration has been catalysed by the Lightning Lab programme in Wellington. “We were ready to take the next step with Glassjar and the Lightning Lab was the perfect facilitator for that,” George said. “It [Lightning Lab] gave us seed capital, mentorship, office space, Dan and Sam, connections, the ability to work with other teams, and access to follow on funding.

“The choice [to be part of it] was very easy.”

The camaraderie with other teams participating in the Lab was something that George found very helpful. Before the Lab, he was just another startup CEO fighting his own battles in his home town of Christchurch, but once he was in the programme, the other teams knew what he was experiencing and were able to offer support.

Going through the accelerator has also had a significant impact on the Glassjar team. “We’ve grown substantially,” George said. “We’re all a lot smarter and more experienced having come out of the Lab. Furthermore, we’ve been joined by Jack Ewing (Web Dev) and Seb Petravic (Design Lead) who have been an awesome addition to the team.

“Together, we’re working really well, our cultural fit is amazing, and we’re having a lot of fun.”

Like the boys behind Cloud Cannon, George found that the biggest challenge in the Lab was dealing with the rapidly changing environment. That, and perhaps Dan Khan’s humour, George added.

The next big goal for the startup is to enter into a US-based accelerator program.

“These programs have all the same benefits as the Lightning Lab but give a lot more upfront capital and their Demo Day opportunities are much stronger,” George explained. “So with our Lightning Lab round, we took enough to get into one of those programs, but left some wriggle room just in case.”

The capital Glassjar has acquired from the Demo Day investors as well as any investment before then, such as Sparkbox’s contribution, will be used to propel the startup in to the US market.

“It’s all about user growth,” George says. “We want to get into a US accelerator program and move to secure US based funding as soon as possible.

Watch this space!


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