Interview With theCut App CEO On Modernizing Barbershop Experience
Two millennials are attempting to revolutionize the barbershop experience.
Obi Omile and Kush Patel are the cofounders of theCut, an iPhone and Android compatible mobile app that connects barbers with new clientele, and allows you to hand pick who can give you the best cut in your area.
Modern Treatise spoke to Omile, the CEO of the startup, who along with Patel, the CTO, has just wrapped up the first public investment opportunity for the app, raking in nearly $100,000 from over 400 investors.
Omile spoke to Modern Treatise about their venture.
Modern Treatise: Start by telling be about the inception of theCut; what is it and how did it come to be?
Obi Omile: TheCut is a mobile platform modernizing the barbershop experience. It’s an app that connects barbers and clients in a seamless way, reducing time and friction for both parties. The idea came to me through personal experience. I moved to North Carolina to start a new job and I had gone almost a month and a half without a fresh haircut – which for me is entirely too long. I had just started working at a software developer and that was like the first time I realized that technology can help solve that problem. And so I ended up moving back home to start another job and I went to a barbershop with my brother and we spent almost three to four hours just to get our hair cut, and that was again the second time that I realized this is a real problem that needs a solution. I started speaking to my cofounder, Kush, and he had similar experiences in L.A. and New York where he was working for some of the largest tech companies in the world. He actually cut his hair bald after a terrible experience and he went on strike and grew his hair out for two years later just because the haircut was so bad. So we got together, we spoke about the problem, we figured we were the right guys to solve the problem and here we are two years later.
MT: Can you tell me about your education and your professional experience and how that has aided in your endeavor here?
OO: I got my degree from James Madison University in economics and after the summer following graduation I interned for a startup as a data analyst and that was kind of my first experience into an early-stage company and how the different job functions and people of the company sell together. I got a job in North Carolina shortly thereafter – after learning how to code – and I worked there as a software developer and so that was the first time I had the skills necessary to solve the problem. My cofounder, Kush, he got his degree from UVA and he’s an engineer by trade. He interned for some startups and also Microsoft and most recently he worked at Yahoo, but he’s a tech genius and wizard that I was able to bring onto the team to build out the best part of the app today.
MT: Okay, can you tell me a little bit more about that team dynamic; how you guys are able to work together to create the best product you can?
OO: I think it works because we see the product and the experience from two different sides; I come from more of a business background and he comes definitely from the technical side of things. But we’re both digitally native so we know how to design a great experience that’s intuitive. We go back and forth, however I do trust him and I trust his experience and opinion when it comes to technical matters, so there’s not much of an argument going back and forth because he knows more than I do in certain situations and same thing on the business side like, he has his questions and he has his input, however we just never really step on each other’s toes because we both respect everyone’s skillsets and how to work well together.
MT: So let’s get back to the app. Explain how the process works, from the initial barber-client connection to payment.
OO: It’s one app that both barbers and clients can download, and when you download the app, you get to note whether you’re a barber or client and at that point you’ll experience a different app. On the barber’s side, he’s able to create his profile, upload his haircuts, create his services and set up his time and location and in under five minutes he’s good to go. Almost immediately new clients can book appointments with the barber. As a client, you and I will download the app, once we create our profile we can discover barbers within our local area – everybody near us – and we can read our barbers’ profiles, reviews and book and pay all with just a few clicks.
MT: Would you compare it to a networking platform like LinkedIn, perhaps?
OO: I would say it’s more of like – for clients – think of it like an Uber experience and then for the barbers it’s more of like an OpenTable doc where they’re able to manage their business and schedule and also the different relationships they have with their clients.
MT: Introducing mobile pay is pretty transformative for the barbershop market. I don’t think I’ve ever paid for a cut with anything other than cash and I feel like there’s something nostalgic about handing your barber a $20 after he blesses you with a fresh fade. Is TheCut trying to have that transformative effect and how do you convince shops and clients that’s the way to go, especially when it means introducing service and processing fees?
OO: For us, I think it’s really us providing a solution at a time when the demographics are changing. So the nostalgia behind cash has always been there, right, that’s the way things have been done. However, what we’ve seen recently is, less of us are carrying cash. So for us it’s like, the convenience of being able to pay at the point of purchase versus having to ‘okay, now I have to go to the ATM to go get cash to pay my barber,’ and then if I go to the ATM I have to worry about ATM fees. Being able to just pay directly through the app is huge. As a barber, providing a service to customers, if your clients don’t trade cash and they only trade cards, you have to be able to facilitate that. So that’s where mobile pay comes in and we just provide a more seamless experience.
MT: And you get both options, you don’t have to pay with mobile pay.
OO: Exactly, you get both options and we did that for that reason – so we don’t like scare off too many barbers who may not want to go completely card right now, we give them an easy way to transition.
MT: There are other booking apps out there, some targeted to barbers like theCut. How do you stand out from the rest?
OO: What we do well is our ability to drive new customers to barbers. So we really provide value in that region that the other services cannot. I think we’re able to create content that is more meaningful and that resonates better with the demographic of the consumer they’re trying to reach, so it’s really easy for us to acquire the user base that barbers are interested in. Secondly, the app is probably the best on the market. If you go and ask any of our users or any of our potential users they’ll tell you they tried other apps and the simplicity in theCut and the branding behind it – the community we’ve built – is second to none.
MT: What is the most recent feature the app has been updated with and how has it improved user experience?
OO: The most exciting feature we recently released was the barber commenting ability. So we gave barbers and clients the ability to comment back and forth regarding appointments. So if I booked an appointment with a barber, I can now comment and say well okay, ‘my appointment is in a couple days, this is the haircut I want, I’m just gonna give you a heads up,’ then a barber can comment well okay, ‘I can do this but I can’t do that,’ or he can let you know ahead of time if he’s going to need to cancel – that can all be done through the app and so we’ve seen really big interest from that.
MT: And is there something that you have been getting requests about in terms of a feature update that we can expect in the future?
OO: Definitely. So we have a few things, in terms of no show policies – that’s more on the barber end. On the client end, we’ve been literally exploring some different AI integrations where you can possibly see different types of hairstyles. So we’ve definitely been coming up with ideas in that respect.
MT: In two years you’ve amassed a user base of over 100,000, – 9,000 of which are registered as barbers. Do you feel this presents a reasonable opportunity for someone in need of a cut to find a suitable barber?
OO: Absolutely. And the most recent number is that’s more than 11,000 now. So we have 11,000 barbers signed up across the country so as a client, I would feel very confident that if you download our app you can find a quality barber within the next few minutes.
MT: Is this app intended to be exclusive to barbers or if hairstylists started using it would that also fit with theCut brand?
OO: Definitely. Anyone who does great hair work is welcome within our brand. But we have stylist on our platform currently. I’d say about 25 percent of our users are female – and that includes both stylists and then the women who visit barbershops.
MT: Okay, that’s good to know. And If I’m correct the app also reports to be growing at 26 percent each month; where do you see theCut in terms of engagement and user experience by the end of the year?
OO: I think by the end of the year our target is at least half a million users. About 40,000 of those will be barbers. We think we’ll be booking upwards of at least a million appointments on a quarterly basis.
MT: And I want to talk about investment a little bit. TheCut has utilized crowdsource funding and has surpassed its minimum goal on the platform Republic, raising over $65,000 from 252 investors (at the time of this interview). How does it feel to reach that goal and what strategy does the company have to invest that money?
OO: It’s incredibly humbling. One half of those investors are actually our users, so for them to really commit in the brand in such a way means a lot to us and really validates what we’re doing and motivates us on a daily basis to go out here and build the best business for our community. In terms of how we’re going to use those funds – mainly marketing and to build out these other features that we’ve been kind of been discussing. But allowing us to travel to more places around the country to get our name and our brand out there – that will be what the bulk of those funds is spent on.
MT: So, right now theCut is available in the U.S. and its territories and Canada. Tell me about the company’s plans for expansion.
OO: So we are available in those countries you just named; we actually have barbers today in Canada, Puerto Rico, Japan and a few other countries who have been able to access our app by some roundabout way. But in terms of officially supporting, our goal by the end of this year early next year is to be in Canada, U.K. and possibly Australia; we’ll see how things go though.
MT: Is there anything else that you wanted to add about your app or anything that I didn’t ask that you wanted people to know?
OO: Definitely join the movement today. We’re building something transformative and we think we’ll change the game forever. Definitely tell your friends and family to download theCut if they’re interested.