Alexi Suvacioglu of @ Because,: “Die young as late as possible ”

“Die young as late as possible — this is what you allow your customers to ” — this is a great metaphor for our mission here at Because. It highlights that there is a difference between longevity and wellbeing. The quality of life is equally to more important than the quantity (i.e. the years) of life. As a part of […]

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.

“Die young as late as possible — this is what you allow your customers to ” — this is a great metaphor for our mission here at Because. It highlights that there is a difference between longevity and wellbeing. The quality of life is equally to more important than the quantity (i.e. the years) of life.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alexi Suvacioglu.

CEO & Cofounder @ Because, a personal care direct-to-consumer company focused on older adults. Prior to Because, Alexi founded and sold 2 venture funded companies, the most recent one of which was acquired by RetailMeNot– the world’s largest digital coupon marketplace. Alexi also led eBay’s North American AdCommere business and spent 6 years in technology consulting at Accenture. Alexi holds an MBA from Stanford University and a BA from Kings College London

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

My co-founder Luca and I grew up in Italy, in tight knit families where no topic was off limits and family members were the caretakers when health challenges arose. We have fond memories of home made pasta meals at large tables with loud voices and lots of laughter. Many conversations were dominated by health even when we were too young to grasp its importance, like Aunt Mary having diabetes or grandma Irene breaking her hip.

Communication with parents and across different generations around health and caretaking can be hard, and we saw the opportunity, given our own upbringing and subsequent work in technology, to fill this gap. It’s a controversial statement but nobody cares about older adults, they are the forgotten generation. I want to change that and set out to build a mission-driven, global company that could serve our parents and grandparents, and ultimately ourselves. I want to enable millions of older adults to lead vibrant, independent lives.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

Focusing on the ‘forgotten demographic’ — there is no innovation with and for older adults. We cut against the grain and the adage of “capture the consumer while they’re young”. We are building a venture that serves older adults and their needs at scale. It’s a wonderful challenge — can you name one large direct to consumer company today that does this well?

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

As good founders we took on testing the products ourselves. Many ventures in Silicon Valley create products that are purely software, or otherwise sell some ‘smart’ hardware device like a bike or skateboard. We were a little different in this regard. We wanted to create the best incontinence pull up on the planet (low tech technology!) and we went through some disasters. Part of the testing implied peeing in our pants whilst wearing a pull up on. You can do this in a protected environment like a shower but we knew that we needed to experiment in a real setting. So we started wearing protective underwear all day long and for 3 weeks. First we couldn’t do it….it’s hard to do one of the first things you are taught not to do as a child. Second, we tried in the bathroom, but we forgot to bring some change of clothes… yes, mistakes do happen, and as a consequence we had to jump back … in the shower! Sometimes it also happened while we were driving. The products on the market were unforgiving and an accident is likely (don’t try this at home!). In sum we really experimented, and this experimentation was invaluable and helped us see the world from the perspective of our customers.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

On the one side, I believe my co-founder Luca and I have been mentors to each other. When you try to build a company you face all your deepest weaknesses. Luca and I have been able to build on each other’s strengths and perspectives. The fact that we both come from an intense professional sporting background helped us build a real team spirit. Luca is able to hone in and understand one’s strengths in a way very few people can — from hiring to choosing the best vendors — Luca ensures we partner with the best.

On the other side, through my time at Stanford Business School I’ve been fortunate to meet and now work with and learn from the best in their fields such as Mike Volpi of Index Ventures, Ramy Adeeb of 1984 Ventures, and Heidi Robinson, our COO here at Because, just to name a few. The breadth and depth of their expertise drives value tremendous value.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

Disruption is useful if it helps fast improvements and inexpensive adoption. Disruption can be dangerous if it leaves people behind. For example while social media helps people stay connected, at the extremes it seems to also further alienate them and therefore make people feel further left behind and unhappy. Another example is Uber. It created a lot of jobs, made simpler and cheaper for people to move around. Nonetheless, then it became so prominent, and at the edges drivers felt the sting of too much competition.

In sectors dominated by retail store distribution disruption is often blocked. Big brands buy their way onto the shelves for years. The process is very long and costly. Once a brand like Gillette for example, reaches a protected position with mass distribution, they keep selling the same products for decades, without much innovation (adding a blade doesn’t really count). Innovators with good products but low traction in the market have no chance of convincing retail chains to give them a chance without deep pockets to buy their way in. This is when new channels like ecommerce and direct to consumer can positively disrupt the big incumbents (like Dollar Shave Club and Harrys ultimately did with Gillette).

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

“Die young as late as possible — this is what you allow your customers to ” — this is a great metaphor for our mission here at Because. It highlights that there is a difference between longevity and wellbeing. The quality of life is equally to more important than the quantity (i.e. the years) of life.

“If you don’t fail you are not going fast enough” — mistakes are part of the DNA of a young venture. Indeed, don’t let a failure go to waste. Instead use it as an opportunity to improve the business and learn. Our investors often remind me of this. We are still too small to settle for incremental tweaks in our business, swing for the fences and the home runs.

“You never learn anything when you speak, only when you listen” — we all have our own perspectives and biases. To avoid this “know it all” trap, It’s important to learn from our customers and from my team. The only way this will happen is for me to talk less and give the necessary space for the voice of stakeholders. It may seem counterproductive and wasteful to just sit there and listen, all entrepreneurs are driven by a sense of action and urgency. If you resist the urge to interrupt a customer they will tell you how to solve the problem they encountered interacting with your product or service.

Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?

Lead generation is indeed key and many consumer facing businesses today like to have loud and pompous taglines and claims. Their messages grab your attention (“The ONLY pill you’ll ever need!”) but ultimately almost all fail to deliver on their promises. This erodes trust from Day 1 in the customer journey. As such, the most effective strategies are those that underpromise and overdeliver. I believe we all have fairly good BS radars so the best strategies are to keep it real — acquire leads the way you would like to be acquired yourself. Would you like to be duped into buying a pill that can cure ALL your possible ailments?

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

We’re just getting started. Improving the lives of older adults is a trillion dollar market and there really are opportunities everywhere we look. We’re an ambitious bunch and we’re excited for what’s next with our customer’s leading the way.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

“Essentialism — The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by Greg McKewon, a fellow Stanford alum. Greg does an excellent job highlighting the importance of prioritizing and distinguishing the “trivial many” from the “vital few”. This applies to all aspects of life but is especially critical to businesses. We often find ourselves adding more to our agendas and increasing our to do lists. Very rarely do we simplify or remove things from our lives. It is important to ruthlessly prioritize what we’re doing and narrow our focus and effort. This applies to myself at the leadership level but also to the company overall. This thinking has helped us in many businesses activities such as determining whether to launch our brand in a new geography. As Gregg explains, “If it isn’t a clear yes, then it’s a clear no” … so commit yourself to only the clear yes things.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“It’s always about the people”. Life is but a collection of people that come together in various aspects and stages of your life. Be careful and try to be as picky as you can be in who you let in your inner sphere. On the work side, it’s also about the people — they will make or break a company. Hire people that you enjoy and admire and that are better than yourself.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire 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. 🙂

I want us all to take care of our elders: make the time, listen to the stories, learn from their experiences, support their journey. They’ve looked after us in our youth and built the backbone of our country and society — it’s now time to give back, and there is so much we can learn from their lives. I’m fortunate that my personal commitment to this movement aligns with my passion for entrepreneurship and building businesses, and I firmly believe that a business can do well financially and also do good societally. We’ve touched the lives of 100s of thousands of seniors and we’re just getting started.

How can our readers follow you online?

Because Linkedin profile

Alexi Linkedin profile

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.
We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.