Gemvara CEO Matt Lauzon Steps Down: Thoughts on Startup Legacy and Future

11/27/12Follow @gthuang

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Lauzon says he staggered home and spent most of the summer fly fishing, thinking about what to do with his life, and thinking about his parents. “They sacrificed so much just for me to get here,” he says.

He came back to Babson with a completely different attitude. His academic performance soared (GPA of 3.8/4 his last two years), and he started thinking seriously about business ideas.

One big idea was to create the future of jewelry shopping. Originally called Paragon Lake, the startup he hatched with fellow Babson student Jason Reuben (who’s no longer with the company) was all about bringing customization and personalization to the retail experience, both online and offline.

If you walk the streets of your hometown, especially in middle America, you’ll probably find the local bookstore is gone, Lauzon says. Same with the local shoe store, and the local electronics store. The exception seems to be local jewelers. “It’s one of the last standing pieces of traditional retail,” he says.

He was particularly intrigued by the customization aspect—that consumers could design their own rings, necklaces, pins. And he wanted to create a better experience of buying jewelry online. “What drives me is awesome [user] experience,” he says.

When we met earlier this year, Lauzon took a few minutes to show me a glowing e-mail sent by a Gemvara customer. To him, running a company is not just about developing a better business model or technology. It’s about the trust and emotion packed into every purchase. “We want to be their jeweler for life,” he says.

Culturally, Gemvara seems to be about emotion over metrics. Lauzon drew me a graph of how people make decisions over time. At first they are emotional, he explained, but then rational thinking takes over; finally, they revert back to their gut to make their final decision. But surely, I said, companies have to take into account metrics—who’s buying, from which pages of the website, and so forth.

“You need both,” he admits. In fact, on Pinterest, the online pinboard that has caught fire in the past year, Lauzon said he had only one person in his list of people “who are really, really cool.” That person is Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos. An appropriate choice, though not exactly the most touchy-feely guy in the world. But obsessed with both customer experience and metrics, yes.

So where does all of this leave Gemvara? Depending on whom you ask, the company is either crushing its sales numbers or … Next Page »

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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  • Eric Sockol

    Matt

    Good luck on your next venture – lets me know if someone is crazy enough to paint a wall in the middle of the night at your next gig.

    Eric

  • Anonymous

    Matt,
    We all know that you will continue crushing it on your next (ad) venture :) Good luck with everything and if you do move out of freezing Boston, there’s no better place to move than sunny California.

    Alex

  • Helmut

    All the best and good luck for the future.

  • John

    This looks like a 51 million dollar fiasco. I could get a couple of kids with Photoshop and make a better website and sales experience for $500K. Lots of complaints on the better business bureau site and other websites. Ouch!!