Jai Al-Attas understands what Millennials want -- to work for and with companies that do social good. To answer that need, Jai created a marketplace for corporate experiences and partners with local nonprofits to share those experiences with individuals in underserved communities. I sat down with Jai to understand how it all works.
LM: Let's start by giving me a snapshot of you and the company.
JA: I am Jai Al-Attas, born and raised in Australia, but I've been living in L.A. since 2016. I'm the CEO and co-founder of Loqules. We help companies such as Uber, Salesforce, and PayPal attract, engage, and retain Millennial employees and clients through social-impact experiences. For example, we curate experiences with professional athletes, head chefs and artists, then we invite people from disadvantaged backgrounds to share the experience with the companies' employees.
LM: Why did you start this company?
JA: I started my first company at 16. It was a punk rock record label in Australia called Below Par Records and after having success with U.S. bands like Yellowcard and Brand New and Australian bands Kisschasy and Something With Numbers, we were acquired by EMI before my 24th birthday. I used a portion of my acquisition money to direct a documentary, One Nine Nine Four, on the music I grew up listening to, 90s punk rock. I got to interview Blink 182, Green Day, NOFX and Rancid, among others, and Tony Hawk narrated the film. The reason this is relevant is because it wasn't the material things that I bought after selling the label that made me happy, but rather the times sleeping on floors, touring with my bands around the world, or getting to ask my heroes every question I'd ever had. It was those experiences that shaped who I am, so Loqules was born out of wanting to help people fully shape their stories through impactful experiences.
LM: What is your favorite part about starting Loqules?
JA: It's easily the people's lives we've impacted along the way. We've essentially created a platform in Loqules, where we can use our experiences to inspire and motivate people -- to show them that their current circumstances shouldn't dictate their future -- and paid for by our corporate clients. In 2016, we helped raise over $500k for our nonprofit partners, including United Nations Women, Tony Hawk Foundation, and SurfAid. Last year, we helped a formerly incarcerated woman, Michel'ei, find employment alongside Chef Ella Freyinger through a program we created. It's not just a job to Michel'ei, it's a career that she's passionate about, and she's killing it. She's done experiences for us with Uber and UpWork where she has shared her story, has moved into her own apartment from A New Way of Life, and is now becoming an advocate for LGBTQ Pacific Islanders in the greater Los Angeles area. Michel'ei is truly inspiring, and her story is the beginning of us using our platform to create real, tangible change in local communities.
LM: Describe the aesthetic/branding for Loqules.
JA: I grew up surfing and skateboarding in Australia, and that's actually how I found punk rock as a kid, through the 90s surf/skate videos. I still surf and snowboard today -- skate not so much -- but am very influenced by the lifestyle aesthetic that comes from the surf, skate, and street cultures. When we were building Loqules, we didn't want to think of ourselves as a technology company but rather a lifestyle brand, so that's how we ended up with our name, brand, and ethos.
LM: Talk to us a little bit about why you think Loqules has been so successful.
JA: Timing is one thing. Seventy-five percent of Millennials prefer experiences over material things, so the space is hot with the Millennial dollar taking charge. However, I don't think we really found our true calling until we pivoted from a consumer marketplace into a B2B model. When AirBNB was coming into the experience space, a lot of friends would ping me and ask if we were worried, even though we'd already been doing that for nearly two years. Whoever was in charge of AirBNB experiences in Australia went to our site and tried poaching our experiences directly through our platform. None of this phased us, because of our aha moment: teaming up with local nonprofits to bring the experiences paid for by corporations for their clients or teams to underserved people. We created positive social impact, and more important, human connection. Millennial employees demand that employers make positive social impact. The L.A. Times wrote about what we were doing in our communities. Everything clicked and we haven't looked back.
LM: What is your take on the future of Loqules?
JA: In 2017, we created one job opportunity for a formerly incarcerated woman. In 2018, we're going to create over 20 employment opportunities for people from disadvantaged backgrounds, and as we scale our membership product, partnerships, and Creative Futures program into other cities around the globe, we're going to be the leaders of for-profit companies that use cool experiences to create real impact with tangible outcomes. It's an exciting time, and I can't wait to help the communities and companies along the way.