Online commerce is splitting into haves and have-nots as software eats up not just the world, but the mall. For every meteoric success story like Warby Parker’s or even Zulily’s, you have the bumpier narratives of Shoedazzle or Gilt, or the quiet defeat of hundreds of subscription commerce startups you’ve never even heard of.
We’ve brought together some of the leaders in the space to talk about issues like mobile, customer acquisition, the Pinterest effect and how to succeed in a post-Amazon world. Warby Parker’s Dave Gilboa, Everlane’s Michael Preysman, Nasty Gal’s Deborah Benton and Wanelo’s Deena Varshavkaya will join us at Disrupt New York to shed some light on how the Internet can do better than brick and mortar.
And speaking of purchasing stuff online, buy your Disrupt NY tickets here.
Founder, Warby Parker
Dave Gilboa is the Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Warby Parker, a transformative fashion brand offering designer eyewear at a revolutionary price while leading the way for socially-conscious businesses.
Prior to Warby Parker, Dave was an Associate at merchant bank Allen & Company and, earlier, worked at Bain & Company. He also served as Special Assistant to the Founder and CEO of the TriZetto Group, and has held strategy and business development roles at Genomic Health and Crescendo Bioscience.
Dave has worked extensively with non-profit organizations, and serves as a founding member of the Entrepreneur Board of Venture for America, an organization dedicated to mobilizing graduates as entrepreneurs in low-cost cities.
Born in Sweden and raised in San Diego, Dave graduated with a BS in Bioengineering with Honors from UC Berkeley and holds an MBA from Wharton Business School.
Michael Preysman is the founder and CEO of Everlane.
Prior to starting Everlane, he was an investor at Elevation Partners for both their New York and Menlo Park offices investing in media and entertainment companies.
Michael enjoys sitting at the intersection of design and technology.
He graduated from Carnegie Mellon with degrees in Computer Engineering and Economics.
Deborah is a seasoned consumer retail executive with a specific passion for industries focused on women. As president and COO of Nasty Gal, a global online retail destination for fashion-forward, free-thinking women, Deborah is focused on delivering an incredible shopping experience to each and every customer as well as ensuring the company has the infrastructure, resources and technology required to scale the business through tremendously rapid growth.
Prior to Nasty Gal, Deborah was COO of ShoeDazzle, an online women’s fashion retail site that provides stylist curated selections within personal showrooms, where she oversaw Merchandising, Client Services and all sourcing and operations. Earlier, Deborah served as Executive Vice President, Operations and Inside Sales at Teleflora, managing a $100 MM P&L and over 125 employees across multiple departments.
Deborah began her retail career as part of the pre‐IPO team at eToys as Director of Customer Service Strategy, managing large-scale call center and operations initiatives. Deborah’s business career began as a management consultant at the Mitchell Madison Group. Deborah holds an MBA and BA in Health from Queen’s University (Canada).
Deena Varshavskaya is the founder and CEO of Wanelo (“wah-nee-lo,” from Want, Need, Love), an online community for all of the world’s shopping. Wanelo is democratizing and transforming the world’s commerce by reorganizing shopping around people.
Originally from Siberia, Deena launched her first web startup straight out of college, only to learn that she loved designing websites, but knew nothing about design. She then pursued user experience design working for a social network and later established her own design agency.
After realizing the need for a radically different shopping experience that empowers the individual, Deena launched Wanelo in late 2010. Today, Wanelo is an advertising-free shopping environment with hundreds of thousands of stores and is a growing movement of millions of people.
Image via Judy Baxter
Warby Parker co-founder Jeff Raider has teamed up with his old friend Andy Katz-Mayfield to bring a little of that Warby Parker magic to shaving, with the launch of Harry’s. In other words, to take a market that is dominated by a small handful of players pushing artificially priced products (with no respect to the quality of the product), bring it online to help remove the friction and high costs from distribution, give the product a sexier name and look through smarter design, and presto! Success.
Of course, Harry’s is not the first to catch on to the web’s ability to enable mass distribution of a sexier product at lower retail prices (better margins) — and capitalize on the magic of viral marketing. Dollar Shave Club has been offering a quality shave for $2/month for over a year now, backed by a memorable, Old Spice-y ad pitch.
But the Harry’s founders think there’s still room in the shaving market, especially for those taking the direct-to-consumer approach. Like Warby Parker, by designing, manufacturing and distributing its products itself — essentially creating its own unique supply chain — Harry’s thinks it will be able to offer a higher-quality product at a lower price.
After a year spent testing dozens of other products, the founders partnered with German engineers to use a “Gothic arch” model that aims to keep blades sharp without the penchant to become brittle over time, and an industrial design firm to help make sexier-looking handles, reminiscent of classic ball-point pens and/or vintage pens.
Harry’s is also using the Warby Parker branding playbook by giving its razors familiar, “people” names; yet, instead of “Chandler” or “Beckett,” Harry’s razors have names like “Winston” and “Truman.” The idea is to give them that boutique, classic feel so that you, the average consumer, believe you’re getting quality without paying an armload. To that point, the company then sells its razors individually (at $10 and $20, respectively) or in sets that come with three blades and shaving cream for $15 and $25.
Harry’s is also using the same Warby Parker policy of you-buy-one-we-donate-one to add that feel-good aspect of shopping at their online store. “For every pack of Harry’s blades that you buy, we donate one blade (or an equivalent dollar value) to an organization that supports our mission of helping people to look and feel great,” the website reads.
Yet, unlike Warby Parker, Harry’s opts to offer less choice — you’ll only find four products and two different types of razors — in favor of providing a less overwhelming experience for the consumer. Warby is all about enabling choice and personalization for those in the market for a new pair of specs, while Harry’s is just going for a higher-quality product.
The founders have been unimpressed by the quality of shaving products at the higher-end of the market, so they redesigned the product: “Our handles were designed to blend simplicity and modern ergonomics, and our shaving cream comes from the same chemists who make creams for high-end brands,” they said. “With the goal of offering a set of modern shaving products made with respect for the tradition of a good, clean shave.”
For shavers, that will either sound bombastic or strike a chord with your inner dude who wants to look cool in the way that a brush and a straight raiser look cool without dealing with the potentially disastrous consequences.
There are plenty of similar, inexpensive products out there, so Harry’s is not without competition. Dollar Shave Club, for example, offers its cheapest razor at $1/month, which gets you a handle and two blades, with replacement blades regularly shipped directly to your door. Harry’s isn’t going for the subscription model — and even if its “sets” offer comparable (and in some cases cheaper, depending which blades you’re comparing) prices and three blades — it may lose points with some by doing that.
But, considering the inelastic demand especially for the more hirsute among us — a man’s gotta shave — there will be plenty of opportunity to win over those looking for alternatives. After all, how many guys really feel tied to a particular brand of razors? Most just buy the one that’s cheapest and gets the job done without making their face look like it was mauled by a raccoon. So, offering a branded experience that seems hip and purports to be tied to a good cause could seem appealing in juxtaposition for those not tied to Gillette et al.
By taking the luxury, modern-design approach, Harry’s may have upped the appeal factor. Although it remains to be seen whether or not the Warby model can work as effectively in the shaving market, if anyone is going to apply the “Warby Parker for X” model to shaving, who better to do it than one of the guys responsible for Warby Parker?
Find Harry’s here.
Sometimes it’s nice to share a good book, and if you know me then you know that most of the books I’m buying are comics and graphic novels. These are a few of my absolute favorites this year and I recommend picking up a solid, meaty hardcover and hanging onto it for a few years. You know, like the old days.
My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf – Backderf explores his life in suburban Cleveland where he grew up with a young Jeffrey Dahmer. The story is all true and it’s a fascinating look at what happens before the terror of mental illness and horrible decisions takes Dahmer down a path of absolute darkness. We’re lucky that Backderf was the chronicler of Dahmer’s early years because this heartfelt picture tells you what the boy was like before he let his desires control him.
Parker: The Score by Darwyn Cooke – The Parker novels by Robert Westlake (writing as Richard Stark) are some of the most fascinating pieces of crime fiction you can read. Rather than milquetoast detectives spouting hardball wisdom, you get a calm, collected criminal who treats a heist like a job. These graphic novels feature some of the best Parker stories in graphic novel format, adding a nice taste of 1950s-era design to the proceedings.
Don’t Forget This Song by Frank M. Young and David Lasky – If you’ve ever wondered how the Carter family came to be – and didn’t want the saccharine stories of pious gospel singers making it big – this is the book for you. It tells the real story behind the group’s success and eventual ascendency from turn of the century troubadours into mavens of the modern music business.
A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle’s and Hope Larson – L’Engle’s classic in comic form. It’s great for kids who, for whatever reason, don’t feel like reading about the eternal mysteries of the universe as explained by precocious kids who live in the Heartland and instead want to see those kids, odd little Charles Wallace included, in a great graphic novel.
Robot Dreams by Sara Varon – This is my favorite kids book of all time and it’s great for adults as well. It’s a bit old by now and Varon has another title out about cupcakes, but this is the one to get for the kid or kid-like adult in your life. I won’t spoil the story but let’s just say it involves raccoons, ducks, robot friends, and a team of really mean monkeys in a boat.
Continued here: Gift Guide: Graphic Novels Worth Buying In Print
“After I became an investor at Facebook, I started looking at every single music service out there,” said Sean Parker today.
It was a side comment, made at the Spotify event in New York, as he shared a stage with long-time adversary, Lars Ulrich from Metallica. The two announced that the band’s music was finally coming to the platform. (More on that here.)
But it’s a very revealing side comment and reminds us that Facebook, even when it was still a fledgling college-only social network (much smaller than the 1 billion users it is today), already had people behind it with much bigger ideas of where it would eventually go. It seems that one of those places was in building a music service of its own.
This was something that Facebook was considering as far back as 2008.
“We believe, based on discussions with a number of sources, that Buzznet, iLike, iMeem, LaLa, Last.fm, Rhapsody and other services were contacted and provided with a document (sometimes referred to by sources as an RFP (request for proposal), other times called a term sheet) that outlined certain goals of the new Facebook music service,” Mike Arrington wrote here. He speculated that this was partly fueled by MySpace: Music was the one thing that MySpace was offering users that Facebook was not.
As it turned out, MySpace imploded on its own, and labels didn’t really want to make music with Facebook. And, perhaps, nothing was good enough for Parker, who had cut his teeth in the music business with Napster.
Nothing, that is, until he saw Spotify.
“This company knew that product and experience dictate the design,” Parker said about his first impression of Spotify. “They were stubborn in a good way and got the deals that enabled Spotify to be a success in the first place.”
That was what led him to invest in the service, and it almost certainly played a role in how Spotify eventually became one of the first music companies to integrate its streaming service with Facebook’s open graph — and the only one that was allowed on stage with Facebook to show off how well it worked when it was launched in 2011.
Spotify’s Facebook association has been a big part of how well the company has grown in the U.S., where, it revealed today, it now has 1 million paying users. The company also reported a wider global user base of 5 million paying users, and 20 million users overall.
Yes, today’s launch of a discovery platform, complete with the ability to follow influencers and artists — along with the ability for musicians to push music directly to their fans — interconnects with Facebook, Twitter, and (for good measure) Tumblr.
But today Spotify also seemed to carve out a stronger place for itself, more than ever before, as a platform of its own. That gives it some distance from Facebook.
As Facebook looks for more ways of engaging its users, and developing new revenue streams, will that journey take it back to a replay of its old music strategy?
An interesting thing has happened over the years in places like New York City and San Francisco. When you walk down the street, it’s difficult to find someone not wearing a t-shirt that sports a technology startup’s logo or slogan. It is what it is, because we are who we are, us geeks. But in the past year or two, since I travel a bunch, I’ve started to see the trend move to other places in the world.
You see, people who use services from companies like Twitter, Facebook, Google and Tumblr are proud of that fact and they want to show it off. The best way to show off a part of who you are is with fashion. Now mind you, I’m certainly no fashion expert, but even I can spot a fashion trend. It’s like those Hammer pants, but cooler.
When I visited the Facebook campus in Menlo Park last week to learn more about its Games team and initiatives, I saw a sign on a window and asked what it was. “Oh, that’s Store. It’s new,” I was told. It’s the size of a small coffee shop.
Interest piqued. On my way out, I asked if I could jump in there for a few minutes to see what it was all about. What I saw was what you’d typically expect from a company swag (or is it schwag? whatevs) shop: t-shirts, mugs, hoodies, jackets, hats, stuffed animals and more. But the folks who work in Store were just opening up the place, unpacking everything, so I wanted to see what they had going on.
I laughed about the name of Store and one of the folks who work there said “Yeah, we dropped the “the”; we’re just Store.” Yes, this was an obvious, and witty reference, to the famous line by Justin Timberlake’s Sean Parker character in the film “The Social Network.” At Facebook, like any company, you’ll see people walking around campus wearing such swag, but apparently there was a massive demand outside of its walls from visitors. Family members, friends and boyfriends and girlfriends. So why not open Store? It even has its own sticker.
This might seem like nothing — a non-story if you will — but I feel like the way that technology has infiltrated our everyday lives and vernacular, is quite impressive. It shows that we’re evolving as an industry, that it’s OK to be really smart, OK to work really hard and long hours and more importantly, it’s OK to have a little fun and take a poke at yourself. See what I did there?
Also, it’s a great way for employees to show off how proud they are of what they do, who they work with and what their company stands for. It’s a culture thing, and I like it. It’s kind of like people who can’t wait to get to Apple’s campus to buy an “I visited the mothership” shirt. Facebook is social, after all.
Also, selling t-shirts and mugs to 1 billion users could be a nice stream of revenue. Just sayin’.
Disclosure: I purchased one Facebook t-shirt for my fiancee and one sweat-jacket for myself. Cost? $38.
Read the original here: Facebook Has A New On-Campus Swag Shop Called “Store” (No “The”)