They were featured on Forbes Next Billion-Dollar Startups!
Meet the founders of Squire, a barbershop app valued at $750 million, Forbes reports.
Songe LaRon and Dave Salvant are both New Yorkers who had a penchant for entrepreneurship. LaRon grew up in an artistic family, his father being an actor and his mother an artist turned personal trainer, both still struggling despite working in their chosen fields.
“She knew Basquiat, that kind of crows. She used to run in those circles, but she wasn’t an artist enough to make a career of it…I knew I wanted to be successful financially and not have the struggles my parents had financially,” LaRon explained.
After attending UCLA for undergrad and then Yale for law school, LaRon got a job at a law firm, working as a corporate lawyer. Salvant also grew up in New York, in Coney Island and Rockland County, earning a bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York at Albany before pursuing his M.B.A. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After graduation, he became a private banker at JPMorgan and a sales associate at AXA.
In 2010, the two men met at one of the parties Salvant regularly threw for young Black professionals in Harlem.
“We were in our mid-20s and making money for the first time,” said LaRon. “He became one of my best friends,” Salvant added.
The two then decided to go into business, creating a booking system that mirrored those for online restaurants tailored to the barbershop community. In 2015, they created Squire Technologies, naming it after the squires in Game of Thrones, a show they watched together faithfully every Sunday. While neither had a coding background, they brought on a software engineer, Yas Tabasam, who they met at a tech meetup, and together they built an app.
While signing up barbers individually to use their system was pretty easy, they had trouble getting customers to download the app initially, causing several issues, including double-bookings. They eventually paid a graffiti artist to draw “Download Squire” all over Manhattan, paying the artist a few hundred dollars. Eventually, they realized app downloads were the least of their worries, as barbers complained that the software was doing little to help them run their stores.
In 2016, LaRon, 37, and Salvant, 36, decided to spend $20,000 to buy out a barbershop lease in Chelsea Market.
“That gave us a test kitchen to develop the software. This was a huge gamble,” Salvant recalled.
While they didn’t cut hair, something that would’ve required a license in New York State, the duo did everything else, running the front desk, keeping the shop neat, ordering supplies, and dealing directly with customers. It was then that they learned the machinations of running a barbershop, adapting the Squire app to meet the needs of the barber community.
It worked, and since then, the software has grown, selling software and services to more than 2,800 barbershops across the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. The app now offers shops the ability to rebrand the app using their logo, offer basic booking and payment services, help divide receipts between multiple barbers, manage tip payouts, and handle payments for chair rentals. Currently, the monthly subscription is about $100 to $250 monthly plus transactional fees. They waived fees for subscribers during the pandemic, still raking in nearly $4 million in revenue.
Now, the company is on course to triple that revenue this year, recently raising $60 million this past July at a $750 million valuation. The company has now raised a total of $143 million in equity and been featured on Forbes Next Billion-Dollar Startups, an annual list of the 25 fast-growing, venture-backed companies likely to reach a $1 billion valuation.
“A lot of us realized that – wait, a barbershop is very different from all these other industries, and there are these different needs for different software. One of the knocks against vertical software companies is, ‘Really, how big can these businesses become?’ We think really big,” said Yoonkee Sull, Squire investor, and partner at San Francisco-based Iconiq Capital.
While investors were previously leery of technology developed specifically for small businesses, companies like Procore, a software for construction sites publicly traded at a $13.8 billion market cap, and ServiceTitan, which offers apps for plumbers and tradespeople. It is now valued at $9.5 billion, which proved investors wrong. Now, both of these companies are investors in Squire.
“If you can do it for plumbing, you can do it for barbers,” says LaRon.
In 2017, Troy Payne, former software engineer at Gilt.com and TripAdvisor, took over as head engineer for Tabasam, and currently, there are 60 people on the Squire tech team, including 36 engineers. With the company growing rapidly and the breakout valuation being 60 times this year’s expected revenue, both LaRon and Salvant are just focused on continuing to get better.
“It’s growing so fast that I don’t think revenue across the year is the point that they value the most. The name of the game is more growth,” said LaRon.
To download the Squire app, visit www.getsquire.com.
Congratulations, Songe and Dave!
Photo Courtesy of Forbes