As we approach the time of giving, local startup Guusto steps in to make the process of gifting a whole lot easier. Use the mobile gifting app to instantly send food and drinks from your phone so that this holiday season you’ll be the all-star at the office or the worlds most thoughtful person – all with one tap of your phone.
Tell us about your business and what inspired you to create it
My name is Joe Facciolo and I am the co-founder of Guusto. This is my second venture with long time friend and business partner Skai Dalziel.
Guusto is a mobile gifting app (iPhone & Android) that allows people to instantly send food and drinks from their phone. We are taking the idea of picking up the tab at lunch for a client or buying a friend a drink and allowing you to do it when you can’t be there in person. And to really make someone’s day, we donate one day of clean drinking water for every gift sent.
Skai and I were very fortunate to have travelled a lot in our 20s. Those experiences created lasting friendships, many of which were forged over a drink or a meal. We can really relate to the emotional connection that often occurs when dining with others. But with limits on time and geography it’s impossible to be there for all of those bread-breaking moments.
Our first business, Whistler Tasting Tours, which still operates, taught us a lot about working with restaurants and finding the win/win/win (customers, merchants, us).
It was a combination of those experiences that inspired us to create something that would enable people to carry on making thoughtful connections without being present.
What has been the biggest challenge with your business and how are you working around it?
The biggest challenge early on was getting Guusto to a place where it was a tight enough product to approach big brand restaurants. Not surprisingly, they are careful whom they align with. Restaurateurs want to feel like they can trust that their partners will appropriately represent their brand. Onboarding those first few merchants was interesting. However, in the last two quarters we have really picked up steam.
Guusto now offers over 1000 restaurant locations in 250+ cities across Canada. We work with big brands like The Keg and Cactus Club, medium sized local brands like the Donnelly Group (The Bimini, Library Square, etc) and Sequoia Group (Cardero’s, Sandbar, etc) as well as boutique locations like Lift Bar & Grill and Kobe Japanese Steakhouse. There’s really something for everyone!
How has Vancouver’s rising startup community played a role in the development of Guusto?
Guusto joined the Wavefront Venture Acceleration Program about 8 months ago. They have been a great resource for us and helped to accelerate our success by offering mentorship, affordable office space and access to over 1000 unique handset devices for testing. The startup community in Vancouver is booming and it’s truly a great time to be a part of it!
What core problem is your company specifically solving and/or what’s the main value you provide?
Unlike regular gift cards, Guusto gifts are instant, thoughtful products (i.e. a drink, dinner, dessert, etc.) redeemable at any partner restaurant across Canada. The gift recipient doesn’t have to worry about carrying a card around and they can use it when and where it’s convenient with any smartphone (no app required). Plus, people can feel good about the positive impact they are making when sending a gift using Guusto. You are literally making someone’s day!
How did you end up becoming an entrepreneur and what challenges did you personally overcome to succeed?
Skai and I both serendipitously moved back to Ontario in the summer of 2008 and started brainstorming what our next move was going to be. Within a month we came up with the concept for Whistler Tasting Tours, wrote the business plan, made some calls and decided to move west to make it happen as entrepreneurs.
One of the biggest challenges I continue to face is finding the off button. It’s possible to work so much that it’s a disservice. It’s healthy to hard code personal time into your life but it’s not always easy. For a long time Skai and I would feel guilty if we weren’t working. But at some point productivity and overall demeanor starts to suffer. Allowing ourselves to take personal time let’s our lights shine brighter and ultimately helps us succeed.
What entrepreneur has inspired you the most for running your business and what makes them so special?
We have been lucky to have a number of great mentors over the years. However, if I had to pinpoint one, it would be a gentleman by the name of Steve Sabey. He took an interest early on in our first venture and has been a sounding board and brand/personal advocate ever since. He is happy to give advice and perspective when asked and is also a great example of an entrepreneur who has found success, but truly remains a great human. Something I’m striving for.
What Vancouver celebrity/influencer would you most be excited to have as a member of the team and why?
I love basketball and have always been a huge fan of Steve Nash. He is truly one of the greatest point guards of all time. It would be pretty exciting if he were on the Guusto team!
If you could tell your younger self something what would it be?
It’s okay to fail. If I had known and accepted this at a younger age it probably would have accelerated some learning’s and opened some doors earlier on.
What are some accessible resources used and winning habits you have developed to learn and grow as an entrepreneur?
I have never been more successful than when I am myself. Being genuine and creating relationships in a genuine way has been a winning habit for me. People invest in people (time, energy, money, etc). I’m also a gym rat. If I don’t get 4-5 workouts in a week I go bonkers. It keeps me centered, reduces my stress and allows me to function at a higher level.
What’s your advice for current or future entrepreneurs?
As my co-founder Skai says, “stay hungry, stay humble”. As our mentor Steve Sabey says, “take risks”. I might also add, “don’t be afraid to fail”.
*End of interview*
The Guusto has the right team and experience in hospitality to slowly disrupt the outdated world of gift cards. The bottleneck in the process are the merchants that are slow to adopt new technology so it will be interesting to see how the team works around that moving forward.
*Vancouver Entrepreneurs is a weekly feature on the city’s most notable entrepreneurs and startups that are making a local and even a global impact. If you think your venture deserves to be on the series, send an email to paul(at)vancitybuzz(dot)com to explain why you’re a fit.