Markkula Center of Applied Ethics

Hurry, Hurry

An Interview with Gina Pastega

One thing that characterizes many start-ups is speed. There's the dash to get the product out before competitors, the rush to offer the hottest add-ons or to modify the product for the newest platforms. And in Internet retailing, the technology delivers the ability to create new offerings with a few mouse-clicks. The speed is both an asset and a potential ethical pitfall, as Pastega comments:

In the old days, when retailers only put out catalogues, you had to put your Christmas book to bed in March. On the Internet, you can throw a product up on your site for a week, and if you don’t like the way sales are coming in, you can take it off. Speed and expectations are extremely tight. I think that's true of a lot of start-ups, whether software or retail.

When you're working at that high rate of speed, you have to be creative and you aren’t necessarily going to go through normal channels that have been set up for years. It's very exciting, but there are dangers. Sometimes I hear from friends at software start-ups that they have to put out a product that maybe isn’t the best, but they need to hit a deadline. I haven’t come up against that directly, but I can see how it happens.

When I surf around on competitors' sites, I see how easy it is to put something together that isn't really accurate. For example, I've seen one site that offers oranges from Oregon. I’m from Oregon, and I know there are no commercial citrus growers up there. It's easier at smaller companies and companies that may not have the experience to put something out that’s not necessarily factual.

Still, I'm excited to be in a space that's changing so rapidly—not doing the same things that have been done for upwards of 100 years. [In the Silicon Valley], we’re in an area that is a center of economic activity. From my point of view, there's going to be a lot of shakeout …but at least there is never a dull moment.

Gina Pastega is merchandise manager of gourmet foods for eLUXURY, an Internet retail site that features prestigious brands. The major shareholder in the company is LVMH - Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton. According to Pastega, eLUXURY is not a typical start-up because its HR policies and structure had already been developed through another area of the LVMH retail division, the Duty-Free Shops (DFS). But other aspects of the company, such as its pace, reflect the rest of the start-up environment.