When Brian Lee and Jessica Alba (yes, that Jessica Alba), co-founders of eco-friendly e-commerce startup The Honest Company, spoke this afternoon at the South by Southwest, they didn’t make any big announcements or drop any (metaphorical) bombs.
Nonetheless, Alba kicked things off with one surprise — she mentioned that today is Lee’s birthday. (She didn’t say how old he was, but you can do the math.)
So I guess it was appropriate that the interview itself was largely celebratory, looking over The Honest Company’s history and what’s made it successful, with a big funding round last year and $150 million in revenue. (Lee said the startup has had some “profitable months,” but it’s more focused on growth right now.) Lee and Alba also looked to the future, specifically Lee’s comments that he’s starting to think about going public.
Interviewer Lindsay Blakely of Inc. pointed out that Lee’s last two startups, LegalZoom and ShoeDazzle, didn’t IPO, so she asked: Will the third time be the charm? Lee replied, “I love LegalZoom, I love ShoeDazzle, but The Honest Company definitely has a deeper meaning for us.”
As for going public, Lee said it’s a possibility, but he emphasized that the company doesn’t need more funding.
“If the public markets are open, we may or may not take advantage of them, but we don’t have to take any one path,” he added.
Alba also talked about her involvement with The Honest Company as chief creative officer, a role that she said covers things like product development, design, and marketing. She described herself as someone who has “my hands in everything in and around the business,” particularly on the creative side, but she also acknowledged, “I’m not balancing any kind of sheet and I’m certainly not paying a bill and I barely know how to work the alarm at the office and I always lose my key.”
And would she want to stay as involved if it becomes a large, public company? Alba said that the idea “kind of freaks me out.”
“I live kind of in a fishbowl anyway, and I feel like that’s even more of a fishbowl,” she said, adding that she tries not to think about it too much and isntead focuses on growing the business. On that front, Alba noted that The Honest Company big plans for international expansion this year.
There session ended with audience Q&A. Many of the questions were requests for entrepreneurial advice, which prompted Lee to note that when starting LegalZoom, he initially pitched 50 different venture capitalists and received 50 “No”s.
“In 2001, I would have hit you up for 50 bucks,” he said.
Knowing that lends a little more weight to what was probably his memorable description of what makes for a successful entrepreneur — “the person who can take the most pain.”
“It’s painful, there’s a lot of sacrifice that you’re going make,” he said.