How many times have you been home on a Friday night craving Chinese take-out at 2 a.m.?
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Jonathan Zabusky’s been there, too.
The Seamless chief executive joined the company in 2008 after a career on Wall Street gave him the foundation to tackle a career in entrepreneurship.
After spending years on the Street working in investment banking at Barclays (BCS), Lehman Brothers, and others, Zabusky decided to take his life in a completely new direction, and admits he hasn’t had the most straightforward path.
“Wall Street and private equity was always just a platform for me to end up where I’ve been right now,” he said. “I won’t say it was a master plan, but the underpinnings you learn on the Street – the analytics, what it’s like to deal with public companies, are all something to build off of.”
He said he was always looking to revolutionize an industry…he just didn’t know which one or how.
Then he found Seamless: A company that took a seemingly established industry and turned it on its head.
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“Sometimes the best problems to solve are the ones people don’t know exist,” Zabusky said. “People have been using paper menus, they’ve been using the phone for a long period of time, they’ve thought that they’ve had (all their problems) answered. The problem for them is you’re always constrained by the number of menus you have.”
And that’s where the Seamless revolution came into play. Now, Zabusky said people have, not just a drawer full of crinkled paper menus to sift through when hunger strikes, but a whole indexed and cataloged solution at their fingertips.
“It really puts the world’s largest menu drawer into their hands and they’re like, ‘Wow, there’s all these other restaurants. I’m only used to ordering from three places: I got one pizza place, one Chinese place, one Indian place,” he said.
There was just one problem: Zabusky was trying to revolutionize an industry heavily reliant on discretionary income during one of the nation’s worst financial crises.
Still, that didn’t put a damper on his determination – he said his philosophy was simple: Everyone still has to eat.
He said in fact, during the time people were cutting back on the extras, like $20-$30 bottles of wine for dinner, the delivery market was actually expanding.
“I won’t tell you it was easy,” he said. “But one of the things that we did was make sure we had a very broad offering of restaurants covering everything from Chinese to Indian to upscale food.”
Finding Passion in Communication
They key to success, Zabusky said, isn’t necessarily about where you’ve been or where you’re going. It’s about following your passion.
For Zabusky, it’s not about hiring people to work at his company who are good at selling their own accomplishments. It’s about hiring people who have followed in his footsteps: People who can handle adversity and never back down from a challenge.
Rarely does he hire based on a resume.
“Growing a company, the outside world sees a pure growth story, that’s all good,” he said. “I’ll tell you, when you’re building a company and growing it, there are so many bumps along the way. I like to hire people who have dealt with adversity either personally or professionally and when times get tough, that’s really the measure of a person who’s going to be successful growing in an entrepreneurial adventure.”
If there’s anything his years on Wall Street and his work with Seamless has taught Zabusky, it’s to be a good communicator. He said being open and honest with people is the most important thing in a career, and one of his biggest lessons.
“I tried to paint a very broad vision (for Seamless),” he said. “I believed in what we were doing from the very first day and really articulated that in a way people can understand.”