Dean Jones is your average 28-year-old guy.
After school, he went to Sydney University, got a bachelor of commerce and honours in finance.
After university, became an investment banker for Deutsche Bank in the corporate finance division.
After a couple of years, he was promoted to associate, and was earning a handsome salary of around $300,000.
But then, he left it all.
During his time at Deutsche Bank (DB), Jones was working on a side project of his own.
In 2012, he and his wife founded GlamCorner, an online rental service for designer fashion at 10-15% of the retail price of the clothing.
“I always gravitated towards the finance field… I liked the idea of working with companies to help them navigate their growth strategy and strategic development,” he recalls.
“During that time I worked a lot with emerging companies… that’s when I realised perhaps my calling was in the venture, startup space.”
In October last year he put it all on the line and left the corporate world to concentrate on his startup full-time.
“The business was growing to that point where we had a lot of momentum and a lot of traction. It was the right time to go out and speak to the market, speak to investors to take things up a notch,” he says.
“I had a good thing going at DB, and like any job in that space there is great career progression… and you’re leaving a pretty good salary… If you’re talking salary and bonus, it was about $300k, which is a lot to walk away from.
“People think you’re crazy.
“There you get that pay check every month, whereas if you move over into the startup space that security is gone. You have to be prepared to stomach that, especially in the short term.”
Using skills from his time at the bank, Jones says he was able to understand more deeply how the business functioned and what was needed to get it off the ground.
“Even though I don’t have a background in fashion or eCommerce, having my core experience in finance and investment banking taught me how to break down a business into: how does it make money, how does it manage its costs and ultimately how does it manage its growth strategy?,” Jones says.
“For startups it’s all about unit economics… over time as we built the business we kept this in mind. We knew if we did grow it to a point where we could go out and raise capital, the building blocks would already be there and we could talk to investors in a sophisticated way.”
Jones says when you’ve only got 30 minutes or are confronted by an elevator-pitch scenario you have to be able to identify and craft opportunities effectively.
“It also taught me what to focus those discussions on and try to communicate to investors the scale of the opportunity we have here,” he says.
In April, the company secured its first round of seed funding from AirTree Ventures, the third Australian business to do so after DesignCrowd and Pawshake.
While the amount of funding has not been disclosed, Jones says it will be used to develop the business’ in-house technology, increase its inventory and build a more scalable logistics platform.
“We’ve got 500 dresses and 30,000 social followers — that’s three times our nearest competitors in the space. We want to double that in the next 12 months,” he says.
AirTree saw the business as an appealing investment, off the back of the success of the US-based business Rent the Runway, which offers the same service and was recently valued at $600 million.
In a $6 billion market, where women spend $500 million online on clothing alone, this local startup could be on to a good thing.
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