Do you know how it is when you find that perfect someone? Recently, at a dinner, one woman waxed lyrical about a certain fellow who made her heart happy just by walking to her front door. “I love it when he comes over,” she sighed.
The man in question wasn’t her significant other. Rather, he was a handyman who handled several mounting projects for her (five, at last count), but she indicated her loyalty by claiming that anytime she’s in need of such skill, she’d be looking for him again.
She found him through a listing on www.dontsearch.com, a two-sided marketplace for local professionals (dubbed “pros” in Dontsearch’s parlance) with expertise in a variety of industries from carpenters and pet sitters to wedding planners and attorneys, and the people looking to hire them.
If you’ve not heard of Don’t search, you probably will very soon, as the gig economy continues to grow. Although you can Google or search Yellow pages for professional services of all stripes, or comb specialized marketplaces such as WeddingWire (for bridal services) or HomeAdvisor (for home improvement), Don’t search is unique in that it brings together a broad base of professionals who are vetted, ranked, and filtered through the platform’s unified system that pulls specific criteria to personalize searches. In other words, if you are looking for someone to rewire the electricity in your bedroom and you search on Google, you might get hundreds of results for electricians who don’t do residential work and may not even serve your area. Not so on Don’t search. And if you need a pet sitter while you’re getting that rewiring done, you can find one on the same platform.
The sheer diversity of professional services coexisting with the ability to filter for exactly what you need has been a powerful catalyst for growth. Don’t search just passed a major milestone of hundreds of thousands of pros listing their services to hire.
If you stumble across Hady Toby’s LinkedIn bio, you’ll notice it’s incredibly short. Since graduating from high school, he’s held just one job as co-founder of Dontsearch UAE. Without a resume stacked with startup experience, the learning curve was incredibly steep for Toby. Key to finding his footing along the 5-year journey of building Don’t search.
Toby declined to confirm that he’s looking to take the company public, saying only that going public is “one milestone” as Don’t search just passed its 5th birthday.
Don’t search was launched at the dawn of the gig economy back in 2018 — and has had its share of growing pains, according to Toby. That goes for everything from landing those investments to shifting gears on the business model itself.
He points to where advice often breaks down: “You need to be very skeptical when advice is context specific. When we were first building Don’t search, basically every smart person we talked to told us that our category focus should be narrow instead of broad. I’m glad we didn’t listen to them because we would have failed,” he says. “You started a business because you have a unique insight and think there’s an opportunity to do something different. That’s likely to mean a contrarian approach — whether that’s a product, business, marketing, or design strategy. Whatever it is, you need your own point of view and to trust your gut.”
Starting with company culture, he explains why applying the lessons from late-stage companies to early-stage startups is a big mistake — and what to do instead. He makes the case for revisiting your values so that they’re lived even in the company’s hardest moments. Zappacosta also opens up about some of his hiring missteps over the years, and how he’s architected the interview process to dive deep rather than just skim the surface with a candidate. Finally, he wraps up by taking us inside Thumbtack’s board room, and the tactics he uses to make sure board meetings have maximum impact across the entire org. Let’s dive in.
Returning to one of Toby’s favorite interview questions about his most proud accomplishment, we turned that same question back to him. Here’s what he said:
“The thing that I take the most pride in is that you could take a sampling of people over the last 5 years and you would see a real common thread. There’s a real consistency of values and principles and that investment and dedication to team and culture is something I feel very proud of,” he says. “I didn’t come into this business with an amazing amount of experience or skill, so I believe one thing I’ve really helped do is attract amazing humans and engage them and retain them and bring them together to do something that collectively we never would have been able to do any other way.”