2. Self-confidence is important, but not always focused on
3. Learn from the mistakes that will be inevitable
4. Don’t feel the pressure of trying to do it all (especially female founders)
5. Just do you
BONUS: Pick friends that will lift you up
We have a treat for you with this episodes!
Today’s guest is Robin Smith, the founder and CEO of a company called WeGoLook. She founded the company back in 2009 in Oklahoma City. In almost ten years, WeGoLook has grown to be international and has around 140 employees in their Oklahoma City headquarters. Robin discusses her background growing up in a rural Oklahoma town of about 300 people, and how she knew from early on that she had an entrepreneurial spirit. She also talks about her experience as a female founder, and some of the struggles she has faced because of that.
Robin also discusses what WeGoLook does and why she’s passionate about it. WeGoLook is an on-demand field services company. People dubbed “Lookers” are contractors through WeGoLook located in the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and other places like Singapore and Rome. Since the company was started almost ten years ago, WeGoLook has grown to over 43,000 Lookers. They are able to go to any onsite location to collect multiple types of data like pictures, videos, measurements, etc. The goal is to have global domination within the gig economy, of which they were one of the first major companies.
Robin also talks about how WeGoLook has uniquely and somewhat unintentionally been able to assist the insurance industry through claims inspections. WeGoLook is a very fast, alternative way to perform low complexity, high volume inspections, which can be essential in times of natural disaster for instance, where there are lots of claims in a short time span.
We hope that you enjoy this episode as much as we did, and we look forward to having Robin back on the Hive Five in the future.
Click here for details ▼
Keagan: “Thank you so much for listening today. My name is Keagan with BriteBee, and we also have Katherine Parker, Marketing Director of BriteBee on.Katherine: “Hey guys! Stop everything you’re doing, turn your volume up because we are VERY excited about our guest today on the Hive Five podcast.”
Keagan: “As Katherine said, we’re enthused to have Robin Smith, CEO of WeGoLook. Robin started WeGoLook back in 2009 and now she has grown it to over 140 employees and all over the world. I may be exaggerating a little bit, but I think it’s almost all over the world now. WeGoLook is an online platform that dispatches real people to perform tasks, verifying a person, product, place or thing. In the startup world, Robin has been there and she has done that. Thanks for being on Robin.
Robin: “Wow! Well thanks. What a great introduction. It is definitely my pleasure and honor to be here with you, so thank you.”
Keagan: “Well, thank you! We really appreciate it. I know that you are very busy, but we really appreciate you giving us some time to talk a little bit more about WeGoLook. So, let’s just get started on this idea of WeGoLook and what it is. Can you give us a little bit of sales pitch here of what you guys do and maybe a little bit of the story behind it?”
Robin: “Happy to! Thank you. Those that are not familiar with WeGoLook, we are an on-demand field services company, but we’re powered by the proprietary technology that we’ve created here in Oklahoma City. We’re able to dispatch over 43,000 independent contractors nationwide – we call them “lookers” – and they’re able to go to any onsite location to capture data and that’s the form of photos, video, taking measurements, answering custom questions, picking up items and more so we’re able to deliver that information back very quickly to our customer. We couple that with our call center or fulfillment center that’s based here. We have about 140 employees and we work with, you know, order asset verification, fulfillment, quality assurance, review, obviously account managers. So, what we’re able to do is offer our customers a very fast, alternative way to perform a variety of different types of low complex high inspections or tasks. So, you can kind of – when we get a little bit deeper into it – you’ll see how we fit into, you know, the automotive space, insurance space, banking, financial, and we’re able to actually augment or supplement a customer’s own field force by providing this additional group of people. It’s all part of the sharing or Gig economy, uh, to help them in a very cost effective and fast manner. So, I’ll explain that a little bit – that’s kind of high level – but to your point, we’re in four different countries with mass coverage, so obviously the United States, Canada, Australia, the UK, and we do have strategic lookers throughout other cities that are international. So, you know, think Singapore or Rome – some of the larger cities. So, we do have a good international presence and that’s our goal here is global domination. So, at a high level that’s what we do it very much so helping with property inspections, automotive inspections, heavy equipment, mobiles, courier services, we have licensed drone operators that are in our platform.”
Keagan: “I want to hear about where you started, where you’ve come from. From my understanding, you are a small town girl.”
Robin: “I am.”
Keagan: “How did we get from small town girl to nationwide, worldwide WeGoLook?”
Robin: “I would say growing up in western Oklahoma, there were about eight kids, sometimes 12 kids in my class. I think that was the most we ever had. Growing up on a farm, you know, my grandpa had bought a National Geographic book for me and it was – I loved it. I wore out the pages on it. I remember in second grade I started making yarn belts on the playgrounds and selling them for about fifty cents each and realized very quickly if I conned my friends and into helping me that I could make more of them, and we were shut down by the principal and that was always kind of fun. Then later in a spelling bee, several years later, I learned the word entrepreneur and I thought it was fascinating because before that I really just thought I’d end up being a farmer’s wife with five children all on the same basketball team. Anyway, that was kind of where I started my view of the world and as I grew, and definitely went out, I always had that entrepreneurial spirit of starting companies and kind of making my own – forging my own path.
I’ve had other companies prior to WeGoLook, but I will say that in 2009 I had a friend that was looking at a high end projector on Ebay and thought that the seller was misrepresenting it and he said, ‘I wish I had someone to go look at that for me.’ I did some research and couldn’t find any service provider that was doing that. You have to keep in mind back in 2009, a lot of people were buying on Ebay and online was just really getting the foothold that it obviously has now with everyone – online dating, people purchasing cars – and I thought it would be a great way to create some sort of company where you could dispatch someone very quickly on behalf of the buyer. Let’s say you wanted to purchase a pinball machine in Kentucky, but you live in California and you needed it quickly. This data, current information so you wouldn’t become a victim of fraud or misrepresentation. I wanted to be able to send someone quickly to that location of the pinball machine and video a working demonstration, you know, plug it in, talk to the seller, take measurements, and take current photos and delivered all back in almost real-time to the buyer to help them make a more informed decision. So it was really a – you know – ‘hey, how can we help better price your risk really in that manner?’
That’s how I started. I launched it for people just like you and I listening – also the listeners – for anything including online dates. I had a couple of bad experiences at the time. You could check out, you know, puppies, if they were in a puppy mill. You could have someone go check on your grandmother in a nursing home. I started thinking, you know, property owners that own secondary properties and in other states if there were repairs being made, you would want to verify it. I had all these huge ideas of, ‘Oh my gosh, this very contingent, robust workforce could do anything’ and that’s really what motivated me to start and begin the platform. Launched December 2010. I was Super Gung Ho, went out toEBay, showed them what I did. I really felt like – you know – I was like, ‘this is such a great product!’ I thought for sure that everybody would just jump on board right away, and of course they were like, ‘you’re too small, you don’t have the business numbers and your platform can’t scale, but thanks.’ It was kind of a moment for me of, ‘Okay, I had all these great ideas, but I didn’t really think about how to go to market other than just thinking it was so amazing. Everybody would love it.’ So, I had to start doing some guerrilla marketing – I really went after like property inspections and automotive inspections, words that people were familiar with because what I had created didn’t have a word. This was before Uber, or before Uber was well known and nobody really understood. Later, I could use the word ‘Uber of inspections’ and people got it, right? So, it was kind of fun and those challenges were unique.
When superstorm sandy hit, I had been doing some work for a smaller bank for commercial property inspections and we had customized the data capture for them because they needed a nationwide footprint but didn’t have the ability to do so. Anyway, they called me in and a very large bank had properties there that needed looked at and we said we could absolutely do that for them. I knew I had a famous certified looker on the ground. He hopped on his bicycle, performed those property inspections in this very large bank, he loved the reports, and then got me into CVRE, Butler Burger, and in some others, and that’s when the light bulb went off for me for B2B. Growing up on the farm out in western Oklahoma, I had always just assumed these great big companies had the best technology, had all their systems in place, were running full steam ahead smoothly, quickly – and that is actually the opposite of most large companies. You find out that their technology is archaic and they’re very, very slow to move and they’re unable to make changes. Sometimes one of my clients tell me it takes us six weeks to put on the calendar, a meeting to talk about an app. We can actually white label our our mobile application, our platform, everything we do so we can offer all of this to small and midsize companies that don’t have the resources and we can change it very quickly. When I realized that there was this need out there, I really started focusing on those kind of large opportunities. So when after you start thinking about insurance, we’re actually augmenting or supplementing field adjusters in a traditional carrier, very large legacy carrier. This is a great example – and you just interrupt me, I get excited every time I talk about it.”
Keagan: “Keep it going!”
Robin: “When you’re – think about inspections, okay. The old way – or the way some people still doing it – sending out a very experienced claims adjuster or a field adjuster and they’re driving a fleet vehicle. They’re typically paid a little bit more and they’re trying to fit it into their schedule. Well, using geolocation and the technology that we have, we’re able to, once that order comes over and our system, literally have that in the hands of nearby lookers from wherever that incident occurred, within a few seconds, someone can grab it and go take photos or measurements based exactly on that schema set, so if it’s an uncontrolled intersection or controlled or parking lot or highway, whatever it is, they’re only capturing the data points for that specific instance and then they send the data over in real-time to our quality assurance team who reviews it. We create the scene diagram, verify everything and have it back to the claim file within an hour or less. You can imagine the types of efficiency that is gained there, not only just by price but by closing the claim out faster.
So, I love the fact that we’re leveraging technology combined with our field force and our call center to create these new process flows for our customers. We’re really kind of disrupting their own traditional internal process and I love that because while we’re kind of butting up against trying to replace people, well allow those people and especially in the insurance and auto andeven banking, financial, the appraiser and the adjuster, that whole network is aging kind of and it’s shrinking and so, you know, have them perform those more complex tasks and user experience at a desk and let technology really work for those, the large portion of it. So that’s really where we are coming in. I want to give you just one other really great example. I love it. Just thinking of banking and financial, we have a customer and they perform loans, obviously originate loans for their customers on vehicles. Well, we’re mobile and the old way the customer would have to bring their vehicle if they wanted to get a loan on it or turn it in or have any kind of loan on it – Bring the paperwork in, the title, work with a loan officer at some branch, right? A brick and mortar location. Well, we can meet a customer at any location, whether it’s their home, place of business, on their lunch hour, Starbucks. If a document has to be notarized, we can dispatch a mobile notary. If the customer only speaks Mandarin or Spanish, we can dispatch a looker that’s bilingual and we can – we all work around the customer’s schedule and we can go take photos, current condition of the vehicle, have the documents executed using our application, upload all that information including the documents to the sales department at the bank. They can see that everything is as correct and in the documents were executed properly and they can fund the customer before we even make it back to the Fedex to drop off the originals for them. So, it’s so fast and kind of driving and finding these small bits and pieces of ways we can come in and help – it’s so fun here creating these solutions. That’s what we’re doing at a high level for our B2B customers. Of course we still help consumers. We are Ebay Motors’ official inspection arm and so we help individual consumers everyday, but I love it. So that’s kind of what we’re doing is helping customers with new solutions.
Katherine: “Robin, that’s amazing. My head is spinning and I have so many questions. I could ask questions all day long. I just can’t imagine that you had all of these thoughts in your mind and now they’ve come to life and grown to this crazy, huge company that is just blossoming. I do want to talk about you being a female founder. As a woman myself, I’ve had people approach me and they’re like, ‘Please tell me you’re a founder. Please tell me you’re a female founder’ and I’m like, ‘I’m not a female founder. Why are you so interested in it?’ People are all about female founders for several reasons. How was your journey as a female founder? Did it make any difference that you were a female? What struggles were there?”
Robin: “Well, this is all personal, so it may be applicable to other people or not, but this is part of my journey and it’s all been an evolution, right? So you’re talking about the ideas that it’s all just been pivoting in working towards a solution, but as far as being a female, I would say that in the professions that I’ve been in, whether that was working for the Washington Post, having my own job where I worked with a lot of car dealers, working in radio and media and now insurance, most of the decision makers are men. Most of the key stakeholders are men – and I understand that. I respect that. I work with that. I do think that women have to work a little bit harder, but once we are proving what we can do, it’s definitely at that point, just kind of a door opener. If you can get your foot in the door as a female and show them what you’ve got, you really kind of stand out. So I would say being the only female in the room sometimes helps me. But at other times I would say it’s a lot. You have to work a lot harder to get there.
Katherine: “That was going to be my next question was do you feel like being a female founder – after you were successful – do you feel like being a female founder gave you any kind of leg up or extra attention?”
Robin: “It really hasn’t. I mean, nobody’s featured us as a female founding company – I was kind of surprised about that because in technology there’s actually a really small pool of female founders, right? Of course we’re in Oklahoma City, which is another strike against us because we’re not in Silicon Valley or down in Austin, and I always thought it was kind of a great story of what we’ve done here. We’re changing the way the world works with this economy that we have this big community within the sharing economy, and I’ve just been surprised. I don’t think it’s helped me any. We haven’t received any kind of grants or anything because I’m a female founder, but I just kind of think I’ve always just tried to persevere and keep going and not look at whether I’m a male or a female, and I just am going to work based on my skillset and do what I can do. But I would say it hasn’t really helped me at this point.
Katherine: “Yeah, that’s interesting to know. I mean, it all boils down to integrity of work and it sounds like you’ve definitely got that. I think it’s super awesome, as a female, that you’ve done all of this as a female and I’m sure that there are some females out there who are probably listening and want to dive into entrepreneurship. So, take that as encouragement that it obviously can be done, and that you’re a great example of that, Robin.”
Robin: “Well thank you, I appreciate that. I hope to inspire anyone, whether they’re male or female who wants to work really hard and I think it, again, comes down to the person – but to your point, I think sometimes you do have to work harder as a female and that’s okay. We learn more and I think that, you know, doing it that way. So in one way is that part of the journey that is beneficial overall is evolving as a person, right? Because you always need to learn and grow as a leader and in a business owner for sure.”
Keagan: “I want to ask you a little bit more about guerrilla marketing. I feel like guerrilla marketing is relative to the person doing it and what they actually think that means. Were you knocking on doors? What were you doing to just try to get some kind of traction? Were you doing it in Oklahoma City or were you having to go out other places to try to get a little bit of traction? Someone to believe in you.”
Robin: “I was definitely doing most of it behind the computer screen. If you start thinking about just optimization and how people search for things online, you know, creating content – and my content was by no means stellar. It was very functional. I am not an author and the idea behind that was just to optimize on different pages for different key terms or word searches, and so using – whether that was Slideshare or Youtube or just any kind of webpage itself and articles linking to it – that was my whole goal and it worked because I was able to really go after property inspections and auto inspections with that without having to pay for it. Also getting on different types of forums and reading about – you know, task rabbit kind of came around at that time and it was a novel concept of people going and putting together your furniture, picking up cupcakes for your kids class, or picking up your dry cleaning – but it was the sharing economy. So I would make comments on articles and they have raised about $40,000,000 total. So I would make comments on some of those articles right at the bottom. So anyone who was really interested in it might come across my comments. When you say gorilla marketing, it’s definitely intercourse. Now there’s instagram. This was before instagram or before, I mean Facebook was not a big thing. Then you can really target facebook ads now and go after that too. But – you know – Twitter’s come along way in the last nine years.”
Keagan: “I mean this has been almost 10 years in the making. It’s crazy. Two thousand nine – I feel like that was just a few years ago. But it’s been almost 10 years since you started this idea.”
Robin: “Yeah and what’s funny is I thought, ‘okay, I’m going to give this five years and really give it a good hard five years.’ I believed in it and felt like I would have international presence, which I did. I mean I had an international presence in 2012 but not at scale, not like what I want. I kind of feel like I’ll never really get to where I want. Last January, I had Crawford and Company, which is the world’s largest third party administrator of claims that came in and bought an 87 percent stake of WeGoLook. Now, our parent company and my COO and I still retain the remaining percentage, but now we have presence in width through Crawford. 70 countries they have offices in and partner countries over 140, but we have a lot of resources now to help us build the kind of technology that I’ve always wanted to and have the analytics and the business intelligence behind it and those kinds of metrics and then having that experience and the ability to go out to have those key connections. That’s been a huge partnership for us within the insurance space since that time. So that’s been a real success story. Went and raised my series A in October 2014, raised a little over $3 million in that series A round. That was a big step for me, so I’ve had huge milestones along the way that really kept me motivated to hit the next one. I’m excited to see what in two years, what I’m talking about.”
Katherine: “We’re excited to see it too! A minute ago you made a comment about Oklahoma City being a strike against you and I want to expand upon that a little bit for our listeners. When you were starting this business, what spurred you to start it in Oklahoma City versus a big city like Chicago or New York or L.A.? You’ve been a big part of Oklahoma City startup community.”
Robin: “Yep. There’s two schools of thoughts and I don’t know if a strike against me wasn’t really – what I was trying to say is in the startup world, you don’t get a lot of the media attention that some of the startups in San Francisco or – that’s all I meant. I would say that of course I’m from Oklahoma, right? I grew up here, born and raised here. My family’s here. This is where I live. I love Oklahoma. I love the state, and part of the conditions of when we went through the acquisition with Crawford was that we were able to stay here in Oklahoma City. I didn’t want us to have to ever move our corporate office anywhere. We are committed to staying here and improving and creating career paths for all the employees that we have here. With that being said, I love the state, but there isn’t a huge – I mean we do have some, it’s coming along – but as far as like angel investors or people who are really looking at tech investments don’t typically come to Oklahoma City, but it’s getting better. I would say here in Oklahoma City, I can be a big fish in a little pond which is obviously a competitive advantage versus being a little tiny fish in a big pond out in silicon valley. So there’s two schools of thoughts there. I was just saying, I thought it was always interesting to not ever be picked up by a big news outlet about our story because we really are making such huge – we work for some fortune 500 and 100 companies changing the way that they handle their internal processes. It’s pretty cool, and we do that out here in Oklahoma City. What we’re doing is awesome and we don’t have the tech background but that’s what I’m here for. It just has all happened and we love it here and we’re going to continue to grow here.”
Keagan: “Wow. We don’t have much more time and I feel like that we have scratched the surface. I have another 100 questions that I want to ask. First off, I want to get on recording that you agree to do another interview with us.”
Katherine: “I was just about to say ‘Podcast – Part 2.'”
Robin: “I’m happy to! You guys, we have so much – There’s so many cool things going on over here. We’d love to share it with you. Anytime I get the chance to talk about the team that’s here – and if you ever guys want to come on site and do something live with some of the people here, we’re happy to do that as well. You’d love it.”
Keagan: “Oh Man. We just love learning and honestly it’s so encouraging for us too, as a new startup only a few months into it just to hear some of the things that you’re saying and also to see where you are now is just so encouraging and we just want other people to see that perseverance, hard work and honestly just keeping it going. Just keep moving forward is what can really help you get there.”
Robin: “Yeah. Don’t stop even when you think you should, don’t do it. Even when you’re doubting yourself, don’t stop. Keep at it.”
Keagan: “Yeah, and in our next episode with you, we’re gonna have a counseling session. You and me, we’re going to have a counseling session and we’re going to talk about all these hard times that you’ve gone through in the last 10 years and really get down to show people that they’re not the only ones that are going through it.”
Katherine: “I’ll bring the tissues.”
Robin: “And the Margaritas, okay? So let’s go somewhere we can drink.”
Keagan: “That’s right. Okay.”
Katherine: “Tissues and Margaritas. I love it.”
Keagan: “That is hilarious! So we do want to get to five key takeaways. One of the things we want all of our listeners to do is take five key takeaways from you – things that you believe are very important for people, whether that’s just in life, in business – whatever that is, give us those.”
Robin: “I’m happy to. I don’t know – You help me count them. I’m going to say number one: Innovate within yourself. It took me a while to realize that when you’re trying to find change in your company or your business process, sometimes it means changing your thoughts and your belief systems and the things that you’re doing. Also, it’s not just all about work, it’s changing everything and always keep trying to learn new things. So focus on on that self growth also in change.
A big thing for me was self-confidence. I did not feel like I knew what I was talking about when I was going to speak with some of these very large companies sometimes because I don’t have experience in a lot of different verticals and you can see we touch many industries. Then I started thinking about the guys over at Airbnb and Uber and, and neither of them had any kind of experience within transportation or hospitality. That wasn’t their career path, but they saw a need for a better customer experience. They leveraged technology to do that at a lower cost and they disrupted those huge industries almost overnight. When I really sat back and thought about that, it hit home with me and I was like, ‘You know, that’s what we’re doing with field inspections. That’s exactly what we’re doing’ and when I had that moment of clarity and kind of self-confidence, I was pretty much unstoppable.
I quit doubting myself. That’s another thing. You’re going to make mistakes and don’t dwell on them. Learn from them, but let them go and keep going. You’re going to totally make mistakes and some of them are gonna be expensive -whether it’s money or emotionally expensive – but that’s all right. That’s part of it. It is a rollercoaster and there’s nothing like the high, high, high of being an entrepreneur and there’s nothing like the low, low, low, so if you don’t like either one of those and you want something stable, don’t get into you having your own business.
Another thing I would say is – especially Katherine as a female – don’t feel the pressure of trying to do at all. I see people go, ‘Oh, you can have it all. You can have a perfect home, the perfect yard, the perfect family, the perfect church life, civic life, you can go to yoga. You can do all these things.’ No, you can’t. Not when you have your own business – it’s not going to happen. You have got to decide what is most important to you and what those priorities are and pick them. You can’t be the best granddaughter and daughter and mother and dog mom and employer and person that works at all the school functions. It’s not possible. So pick what’s important. Give yourself a break. Enjoy what you’re doing. Take a deep breath and just try. The worst thing that’s gonna happen is you’re going to fail and know you did try. I can’t imagine going through life not giving it a shot. You can always go back and do what you were doing. If you’re good at your job now you can get that job elsewhere or go back. You’ve got those talents. So I would just say just do you and don’t worry about it.”
Katherine: “You just do you.”
Robin: “That’s all I can say!”
Katherine: “I love that. I love that. Y’all, I don’t even know what number we’re on. I’m so caught up in this conversation that I have chills on my arms – and like you said, the startup world is not for everybody, but oh my gosh. It’s so much fun!”
Robin: “It can be. It can be.”
Keagan: “I was going to ask… Will you be my friend?”
Robin: “Sure! You guys come by and grab some coffee.”
Katherine: “I kind of thought we already were friends.”
Keagan: “My wife is probably shaking her head right now.”
Robin: “That’s another thing. Pick your friends who lift you up and you can have these therapy sessions with and understand what you’re doing. So, sure, go for it. Let’s do it.”
Keagan: “That is hilarious. Well, I’m going to tell everyone we’re having another and the next one is going to be called ‘the therapy session with Robin Smith.’ But, but Robin, if other people want to know more about you, they want to know more about WeGoLook – which I’m assuming you probably want them to know more so about WeGoLook than you – so how do they reach out? How do they get to know more about how they can be involved?”
Robin: “I feel like WeGoLook and I are morphed into one so they can obviously email me. I’m just Robin@WeGoLook.com. Go to our website WeGoLook.com. You can find me on LinkedIn. Please know – and I’m not trying to sound, I’m not boasting – I have over 30,000 followers so I can’t connect but you can follow me and then I can follow you back and I can also take messages on there but I can’t connect anymore with anyone. That’s a rule they have, but I would love for people to follow me and engage with me. I’m real active on Linkedin and love it. So that’s a great platform to connect with me on. Definitely go check out our website. We’ve got a cool video on there that tells you why we do what we do. It’s the very first thing in our header and super proud of it and it really shows you what we’re doing. It’s pretty awesome.”
Keagan: “That’s awesome. We’ll make sure to put that in our show notes as well as your other information to make sure that people can get in touch with you. We want to also remind people to subscribe to our podcast and also give a review on what you thought about Robin Smith and there should only be good things. It was amazing. I don’t even feel like we hit the surface so we’ll definitely do some more, but we want to remind everyone, don’t forget if you are looking for insurance quotes that don’t sting – which everyone should be – we are the place. BriteBee.com, click get a quote and you’ll find qualified agents of your choice. I hope everyone has a wonderful day and we will see you all soon.”