Rob LoCascio is the founder and CEO of LivePerson, a leader in Intelligent Engagement Solutions that help thousands of top brands and websites around the world monitor and connect to their consumers online. Rob is a serial entrepreneur and sold his first company, IKON, in 1995, before founding LivePerson in 1998. He is also the founder of the LivePerson Cares Project, which includes a project that feeds 8,000 families in New York, earning him the title of “Person of the Day” by The Huffington Post in 2010. Robert holds a B.A. in business administration from Loyola College.
Sramana: Rob, tell me a bit about your background. What is the beginning of your personal story?
Rob LoCascio: I grew up in Long Island. My grandfather and father were entrepreneurs, and my entire family was entrepreneurial. I went to college at Loyola University and graduated in 1990. I started my first business out of college. I had about 10 credit cards with a $5,000 limit each, and I put about $50,000 on my credit cards in order to start my first company.
The idea behind my first company, IKON, was interactive kiosks for college campuses. I saw digital video back in 1991 and thought that it could be applied for commercial purposes on college campuses. I felt it would be a good advertising venue that would allow school groups to promote themselves.
Sramana: You were doing video advertising?
Rob LoCascio: Yes. I saw a demo of the military using video for training in 1991. I happened to be in [Washington,] D.C. and a friend showed me the training video directly off a hard drive. Most video back then ran off of a CD-ROM. I took that technology and applied it to the university environment. I then went to local companies and got advertising. My first client was Lacrosse Equipment in Maryland. Towsen University was the first to use the kiosks. It was free for them, but I kept the money from the advertising.
I built that company up to the point that I had six schools as clients by 1995. I got a call from Northwest Airlines at that time, who was one of my advertisers on the kiosks, asking me if I could build them a website for college students. I realized that the world was changing and that the kiosk was going nowhere while the Internet was going to be big. I was running out of money anyways so I decided to shut down the company, move to New York City, and started the beginning of LivePerson. I lived in a 500 square foot place. I had a desk, a couch which was also my bed, and a computer. I showered at a health club, but I only had to pay $400 a month.