The founders of Guusto, Skai and Joe, grew up together in a small town about an hour North of Toronto, ON. They both went to the University of Western Ontario, where Joe graduated with a degree in Psychology and Sociology, while Skai graduated with degrees in Engineering and Business (from Ivey Business School). After school, they travelled the world together for a few years before landing back in Whistler, BC, where they started their first business.
It Began with a Drink
While running our first startup, a Dining Tour in Whistler, we noticed a lot of people calling restaurants to send a bottle of wine to their friend's or client's table. So in 2013, Guusto was launched as a consumer app that allowed you to send a drink when you couldn't be there in person. Pretty cool, right?
Our Guiding Light
We also wanted to build purpose into the core of the company right out of the gate. So we partnered with the One Drop Foundation, an initiative by Guy Laliberte (founder of Cirque du Soleil), to donate 1 day of clean drinking water for every gift sent. Our business has changed and pivoted dramatically over the years, but this purpose, this “Why”, has been a guiding light through all the challenges and kept us motivated to really show up everyday.
Entering the Den
We took our pitch to Dragon's Den back in 2015. The experience was not quite as intense as the dramatic final cut. We were filming for well over an hour and actually shared user testing data (e.g. 90% of customers would not send gifts if app download was mandated) that addressed the Dragons' main concerns. In the end, they just wanted more equity than we were comfortable offering.
First to Raise Equity Crowdfunding
It was around this same time that we started getting a few early adopter HR professionals using the app to send gifts to employees. They were absolutely loving it, so we figured we'd offer them the chance to own shares in Guusto. We went on to become the first company in Canada to close a round of equity crowdfunding. So instead of traditional Venture financing behind us, we have an army of brand champions who love using Guusto and sharing it with their networks.