More than a decade ago, Tom Seery’s wife was the inspiration for the launch of RealSelf, a site featuring public reviews of more than 400 cosmetic procedures — but not because she was a customer of beautifying surgeries.
Seery’s wife, Krista, had gone for a basic facial and come home with a glossy promotion trying to sell her on the perks and value of a $1,500 laser treatment. She showed it to her husband and proclaimed, “I don’t believe anything in this brochure.”
At the time, Seery was working as an executive at Expedia, which had bought the travel review site TripAdvisor. He was enamored with the ability to provide honest, crowd-sourced advice for people making costly travel decisions. He was eager to expand that tool to the health sector, but realized that a site evaluating the full scope of medical procedures was too unwieldy. Krista’s experience turned on a light bulb.
If Subaru-driving, yoga-practicing, Northwest-loving women like her were being pitched spendy cosmetic treatments, Seery reasoned, there was a ready audience that went well beyond the beauty-obsessed enclaves of Beverly Hills or other tony hoods.
He envisioned building a resource that “would win my wife’s loyalty and trust,” Seery said.
And so he created RealSelf, a Seattle-based company for whom he is CEO and that in April announced that it had raked in $40 million in its first significant round of fundraising.
The site averages 10 million unique visitors each month and provides information on procedures including botox, liposuction, Invisalign clear braces and breast and butt augmentation. RealSelf explains the procedures, allows people to share before and after photos, reviews doctors and clinics performing the treatments, and provides advice from health experts. There are more than two million reviews and 20,000 registered doctors on the platform.
Seery said demand for the information is growing as the procedures become more widely available and less taboo. Millennials in particular have an “it’s your body and your choice” attitude.
Cosmetic treatments are “becoming more and more mainstreamed and less stigmatized,” he said, “but still very personal.”
There are procedures that RealSelf won’t review. The company has shut down conversations promoting dangerous treatments such as buying industrial silicon to self inject. And it stood behind the posting of negative reviews about the face-lift procedure company Lifestyle Lift, which sued RealSelf and then was hit with a countersuit. (The parties settled, and in a separate case, Lifestyle Lift paid New York state $300,000 for writing its own fake, positive reviews).
RealSelf gets traffic from more than 100 countries and plans to grow its international reach. And Seery is thinking about covering a broader range of health procedures, maybe adding elective medical treatments such as knee and hip replacement.
If Krista was the motivation for RealSelf’s original scope, could knee replacement reviews have an even closer connection to the CEO’s own joints? Seery laughed and wouldn’t say.
We caught up with Seery for this Working Geek profile. Continue reading for his answers to our questionnaire.
Current location: Seattle
Computer types: MacBook
Mobile devices: iPhone X
Favorite apps, cloud services and software tools: The RealSelf app, of course! Slack has been a great addition to the workplace, and our DevOps love Github and Bugcrowd.
Describe your workspace. Why does it work for you? I sit alongside my team at a standing desk, that is often in seated position. I’ve never seen the allure of being hidden in a private office. We’ve made a conscious effort to make RealSelf a diverse, open and transparent workplace, and that starts with me, so I always try to make myself available. In fact, as new people with different backgrounds and experiences join the company, I seek them out. I want different perspectives and ideas at the table because, as I learned a long time ago, I don’t have all the answers.
Your best advice for managing everyday work and life? Don’t let the business scramble the order of importance you put on health, family, friends and work. It’s a massive challenge, but I make sure to continuously strive to hold time with my family as sacred and my top priority.
Your preferred social network? How do you use it for business/work? At RealSelf Instagram has become essential for having a dialogue with our community and customers, learning about engagement, and picking up early on trends.
We’re also using Instagram for employer branding. We connect with current and future employees as well as the local community through @RealSelfLife.
Current number of unanswered emails in your inbox? Embarrassed to say three dozen! I am inspired by this question to get to zero before the year ends.
Number of appointments/meetings on your calendar this week? 42. End of year is always a crunch.
How do you run meetings? I don’t let a meeting happen unless there’s an agenda, pre-shared materials, and clear purpose and clarity on my role in the meeting.
Everyday work uniform? Not to sound like a conformist, but I dress like every other tech geek in Seattle minus the Allbirds shoes.
How do you make time for family? Sad as it sounds, I schedule it.
Best stress reliever? How do you unplug? My routine of reading to my boys every evening.
What are you listening to? My inner voice reminding me to be present, breathe.
Daily reads? Favorite sites and newsletters? New York Times, Wall Street Journal and GeekWire, of course!
Book on your nightstand (or e-reader)? “Black River” by S.M. Hulse
Night owl or early riser? By necessity I get up every day at 5:30 a.m., which makes 10 p.m. a hard-stop bedtime.
Where do you get your best ideas? Nearly always when talking with my super creative team members.
Whose work style would you want to learn more about or emulate? I’d love the opportunity to see Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings in action.