Where for art thou, Romio? Tarik Sansal's P2P startup launches this fall
By: Anthony Noto
Tarik Sansal is no stranger to launching startups.
The 45-year-old entrepreneur previously founded OnTargetJobs.com, a roll-up of niche recruitment sites which generated $160 million in revenue. He also started InvestorPosition.com, a digital destination focused on careers in banking.
Now, he's gearing up for the fall launch of Romio, a platform that allows users to find and book local services through a trusted network of experts and friends.
Led by Sansal, and based in the Flatiron district, Romio aims to democratize digital commerce among peers across major U.S. cities over the next year.
To learn more about Sansal, we decided to feature him as the latest entrant in our "My N.Y.C." series. Here's what the Chinatown resident — and University of Westminster graduate — had to say about Silicon Alley:
What do you like most about the city?
In one day, you can meet lots of people from completely diverse cultures and backgrounds going through dramatic life events. From an architect from Ohio in town for a $10 million deal and going through divorce to a waiter aspiring to be a Broadway star who got up at 4am for an audition only to be told at 3pm, after waiting all day, that they had already picked someone for the role.
It's like taking crash courses on life psychology, world culture and seeing movies unfold, but as true stories – and sometimes the most interesting people can become close friends. I happened to once meet the new most interesting man Augustin Le Grand at a restaurant and he has since become one of my closest friends.
What is it about N.Y.C. startups that set them apart?
I strongly believe that you now can launch a big company in the SoLoMo (SOcial, LOcal, MObile) space in New York that traditionally could only have been started in Silicon Valley. New York City gives you a true advantage when it comes to starting a company, because you have an accelerated depth of opportunity around you. Neighborhoods are nestled into each other, which exposes you to a variety of people and experiences that gives you a great testing ground which has a direct impact on your business. New York offers endless opportunity to raise support and bring on the best talent. Being in New York, allowed Romio to develop a strong core team.
Do you have a favorite restaurant/coffee shop/location that you like to frequent?
When I first came to New York, I stumbled upon Indochine and the story behind it is truly inspiring. After the original owners had to sell, one of the bus boys that worked there, who’s originally from Vietnam, was able to save enough money and bought it. Since then, it’s become one of the greatest places in New York but maintains a relaxed vibe and humane atmosphere, which is in line with what Romio is all about – it’s a platform that delivers high quality local services with a trusted, personal touch.
Were there any major lessons you learned about starting a company in New York?
Thanks to Google and Facebook investing heavily in high quality engineering teams here, you now can find engineers and investors, from angel 50K to networks of millions, to venture profiles, to sales, business development and talent. Being in New York, I’ve learned that great start ups need three key components - money from early to late stages, engineers from junior to senior levels and, most importantly, experienced thinkers who've been around the block as your team.
In New York, you now have a dense, diverse, competitive supply of all three across classes. I think it's now possible, and the time, to give birth to a major category leader in New York City that would have, in the past, only been started in Silicon Valley.
Is there one particular financial backer that you worked with that was especially helpful in getting Romio launched and why?
I've had the opportunity to be backed by amazing, entrepreneurial people with different experiences and backgrounds and I'm truly grateful to all of them, but one of them truly stands out. Nigel Morris gave me funding from an early stage to the later stages, with several distressed stages in between. He knows the tech and advertising business very well, but most important was how he kept pushing me to evolve Romio’s implementation as the market has changed, while staying true to my vision. This helped me to think more strategically, provided comfort to other investors to invest and he was an amazing mentor and friend through some of the most difficult times. He’s also consistently challenging me and my team to think about our role as a service in the local economy and society and know just how effective Romio will be for local communities.