Who's That Gal: Christina Dorobek of LevelUp
We know we're not the only ones who ask our favorite restaurants and convenient stores "Do you take LevelUp?" and miiiight even walk away if they do not accept that payment method. Well, today, you're going to meet the gal who is the brains behind it all!
Name: Christina Jean Dorobek
Occupation: Chief Sales Officer at LevelUp
Hometown: Los Angeles, California
Current ‘hood: South End, Boston
Favorite summer activity: Roof deck lounging (this is so not a thing in LA) with a glass of rose and a good book
Currently reading: The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
Tell us a little about your background.
I grew up in Los Angeles and came to Boston for my undergrad education at Wellesley College. I ended up falling in love with the seasons and ability to walk everywhere, so I stuck around! Every May, when there’s still snow on the ground, I question my decision to leave the west coast behind. I’m an avid reader, karaoke singer, sweets lover (ice cream or donuts please!) and excited panelist at the next Ladies Lounge event.
You started in the nonprofit sector. How do you think that inspired and/or prepared you for your current role?
My experience at the Center for Women & Enterprise gave me my first foray into “startup life” and sales. Beginning my “sales” career in fundraising, enabled me to reimagine selling, not as a telemarketer or pushy car salesman, but as a key skill that spans sectors and job functionalities. This has helped me bring a unique approach to the way I sell and to the way I train and support my team.
CWE’s mission to empower women to become economically independent through entrepreneurship made me realize how important it is to me to work for a company to have a strong, clearly defined mission. At LevelUp, we are working to transform the payment industry. Coming to work every day excited and challenged by not only my role but the broader goal and mission of the company is a must-have for me.
Whether or not you’re vetting for new clients, what is a day-in-life of Christina like?
In one word, busy! I’m more of a night owl than a morning person so I get to the office between 8:30 and 9:30 every day and am typically there for the next ten hours. The day is a combination of internal and external meetings. Most meetings include writing on a whiteboard -- it’s what makes any meeting I’m in feel “official.” I try to squeeze in a workout every day to keep me sane and strong. And this time of year, there are a lot of iced lattes keeping me fueled throughout the day.
What would you consider your sales “tactic,” or approach that works for you?
There are numerous sales methodologies out there -- the Challenger Sale, SPIN selling, the Sandler method -- and there are good tactics to learn from all of them. My primary sales approach has always been to focus first and foremost on building rapport. This breeds a lot of benefits throughout the sales process: 1) people don’t buy from people they don’t like 2) when your prospect thinks of you as human they’re more forgiving of any mistakes you make in the sales process 3) you’ll get more honest information on your prospects needs, budgets etc.
I’ve had reps crush their quota, not by creating artificial time limits (another sales tactic to keep in your pocket), but by calling a client and saying “I have a shot to be the top rep, what can I do to get you to sign in the this quarter rather than next?”. This tactic only works if you’ve developed a strong relationship. You’ll also be able to leverage my favorite sales tactic -- referrals!
You’ve been at LevelUp for eight (8) years, since its infancy! Can you walk us through the beginning stages of the company, and generally talk to its growth, of which you were a major player! (note: casual $85M in capital and services over 200k locations).
I always say that startup years are like dog years so I’ve really been working at LevelUp for 56 years. The company began as SCVNGR, a player in the location-based gaming space along with Foursquare so my first few years at the company were focused on building out our University vertical which offered text-message scavenger hunts and self-guided campus tours. Some of you may have even played one as part of college orientation.
In 2010, we had our first start with the restaurant industry. Buffalo Wild Wings turned to SCVNGR to drive customer engagement at 739 BWW locations with the goal of increasing customer visitation and spend. The campaign worked and we saw impressive results on player engagement, social impressions, and more. In turn, BWW shared that the campaign had driven an increase in same-store-sales over that time period. We drew correlation between player engagement and increased spend, but without access to the transactional data, we couldn’t prove it. This realization led to the launch of of LevelUp in 2011, leveraging our team’s expertise in mobile technology and game mechanics and tying that into payment.
Today, LevelUp boasts the highest app usage in the restaurant space and works with all the top movers and shakers. We power the mobile experiences for emerging brands like sweetgreen, Dig Inn, by chloe. as well as established national chains like Potbelly, TCBY, Steak ’n Shake and Tropical Smoothie Cafe. All the while staying true to our mission of connecting people to places and using game mechanics to motivate customer behavior in the real world.
In an article about four major necessary traits of someone in a startup, you were quoted with the answer of "confidence." Would you still include that trait if asked the same question today?
Reading that article was a total flashback -- what does “confidence breeds versatility” even mean? ;-). I would still include confidence as a necessary trait but with one major caveat. I look for the type of confidence that is earned and rooted in hard work, not to be confused with cockiness. Another key trait of startup success is to fail fast so your ego can’t get in the way of seeing when you’ve made a mistake and course correcting or seeking help when you need it.
What is the most empowering thing about being a woman in tech? What about one obstacle?
The most empowering thing about being a woman in tech is being in a position to hire more women in tech and promote continued diversity. Being female is just one small dimension of the tech industry's current diversity issue. It's the responsibility of every company in the industry to strengthen their efforts towards building teams diverse in race, gender, gender association, and physical and mental capabilities. I can only speak to the obstacles of being a woman in tech from my personal experience and the biggest challenge I face is assumptions based on gender. For example, I have a softer, more stereotypically female style of communication and often end emails with a request for peoples thoughts. My goal in doing so is to facilitate conversation and foster inclusiveness, however, because I’m a woman, this is often misinterpreted as a sign of insecurity or lack of confidence.
What is next for LevelUp?
Our recent raise will help us grow our business in two key ways. One, we’ll continue to invest in our Agency business, exploring expansion outside of the US as well as developing more features and functionality for our restaurant clients. Two, we’re opening a new “freemium” offering to restaurants that leverages partner apps like Chase Pay, Yelp, and other, to drive more order volume. We’re looking for our first team member to help build out this new business line and hiring like crazy on the sales team. If you know any good people, please tell them to apply at https://www.thelevelup.com/careers.