Making Physical Retail as Easy as Opening an Online Store - Ali Kriegsman and Alana Branston | Transcription

Transcription for the video titled "Making Physical Retail as Easy as Opening an Online Store - Ali Kriegsman and Alana Branston".


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Intro (00:00)

So there were a bunch of questions about you guys kind of like pre-YC. And I think maybe the easiest way to do this is like flow through from there. So like before you guys were in YC and then fellowship and then core and then now. So going all the way back, Phil Thomas asked, what did you learn from the fellowship and that you applied during the main YC core program? Yeah, I think so we did the fellowship in winter of 2016 when Kevin Hale was running it. And so I think for us YC fellowship was all about like figuring out product market fit and like figuring out what we were because we didn't know.

Startup Experience And Business Operations

Fellowship and YC Core (00:36)

When we got in we were basically the concept was this like cooler curated Etsy. So everything was online. We would find these cool emerging brands sell their product online and like have like a content element to it. And so it wasn't really working. We had like some brands selling with us but there was like clear problems. And I feel like fellowship for us was about like acknowledging that this wasn't working. Kevin's good for that. Yeah, he really is. So acknowledging that wasn't working. And then it's almost kind of gave us permission to just totally tear that down and try a million other things. I think before we kind of got into YC and just got into that whole mentality. We were like, this is our company and this is what we're doing and we're going to just keep doing this until it works. And I feel like Kevin and like the program in general basically allowed us to be like, okay, this isn't working. Let's try like literally 15 other concepts and see and get something with some momentum and go with that. And so I feel like we basically used I think it was two months that program and we were just ran like experiments every week. So we're like, okay, what if we and that some of them were ridiculous. What was the worst one? Okay. There were so many bad ones. The worst one was... So we were selling all of this like beautiful dishware and like all hand made like emerging brands on our site. And Kevin was like, why don't you go to restaurants and see if they need help designing their stores and like if they need like a programmatic like interior design solution or like a way to replenish like forks and knives and stuff. So we spent the entire day, the two of us like bopping around to different Brooklyn restaurants and being like, how do you like find your mugs? And this is like a business where they have like like razor thin margins. So like what do you think about like if everything was handmade and like way more expensive and like probably breaks were off? And they were like, no, we would never use this. Yeah. And we also knew nothing about the restaurant industry and like there are programs that they, some guy pulled out his phone and was like, here's an app where I can order like 800 limes on demand if I need it. Like this has been figured out already and we're like, okay, we're not gonna do this. Yeah. So that was definitely the worst, the worst one, the funniest one. Funny. And then like, so by the time you started working on your product as it is now, that was before YC core, right? That's what you applied with. Well, there was a whole like chunk of time after YC fellowship where we had realized that this editorial magazine model wasn't working. And we in the spirit of YC asked our users. So we asked all of the brands that sold on our platform what they wanted. And it turned out that they actually needed more help selling offline than they did selling online. So they weren't really looking for another like multi vendor online marketplace or another Etsy or anything of that nature. A lot of them made boatloads of money doing like craft fairs and selling in retail environments or doing pop ups or markets. And so what we did was we listened to that and we said, okay, what if we basically just started doing this as many times as we can as frequently as we can as inexpensively as we can just to see if there's a there there. So I'll let Alana take over how we found our 18,000 square foot parking lot, but we basically ran outdoor pop ups, pitch tents in Rainier shine in this almost 20,000 square foot parking lot in Williamsburg for six consecutive months.

Selling off-line (04:33)

That's the worst. The idea was that we wanted to test this concept without spending a lot of money and like that's kind of what we did from the beginning. And so we were just looking for the cheapest possible space to run these things. And it works the same way it works now, like the brands would pay a weekend fee. They'd come up, they'd come up in person and sell their product. And so we looked everywhere in the first place we ran it was at a bar. There was like a bar with like a big courtyard. And so these brands we had like 40 brands a weekend on a good weekend and they'd pay like about $300 a weekend and that would give them a table and a chair that we provided. It's like very luxury. And they would basically come and like set up their product like a little booth and we would just like run a market for Saturday and Sunday. So our weekends and our like it was just this is all we would do. And so we did it at this courtyard and then we wanted a bigger space. So I found this like massive like overgrown. It looked like a toxic wasteland. Like it was totally overgrown. It's like this asphalt parking lot sitting on top of a swamp. So it's like primo. It's like you cannot develop on this property. Oh, good. But it was a very good location. It was like in Williamsburg in Brooklyn. Right out of the subway stop. And so we just called like the phone number on the parking lot like gate. Yeah. And so they made a deal with them. We got it for super cheap where we could use it every weekend. And yeah, we ran it from like April of 2016 till the end of October that year. And it was a total nightmare because we were outdoors. It was like rain or it would be like the middle of July in New York City and like really. Yeah, because it would be so hot and it would be like to stand out. It's probably like inhumane. Like it was crazy. There were a few weekends that were inhumane. Yeah. But the good thing was that we were like starting to actually make money and the brands are making money. And we were like starting to prove out the model and we could see like, okay, we now know like we've proven that like brands want to sell in person. They'll pay to sell in person. There's definitely this like lack of, you know, easy to access physical space. And yeah, I feel like we're able to like prove that that summer. Okay. And then so at what point did you decide like, all right, let's do YC. So at the end of October, we were like, this is crazy. Like we can't do these markets anymore. And so we started, we were like, what would be like a more long term solution. And so we started looking at actual physical retail spaces like like normal with inside. Not swamp. Yeah. Yeah. And so we found a store which we still have now. It's like a great store in Williamsburg. And we basically moved to the same model, this like membership based model to the store. And so the brands would pay this monthly fee. They'd get access to space, but the store was totally run by us. So they didn't have to show up and it allowed us to like work with larger brands. And so we really felt like that model was working even better. Like we were on to something bigger or like this isn't just going to be like another like. We booked it out in less than two weeks.

How did you find your first customers? (07:47)

It was crazy. Yeah. Like we had, I want to say like 35 brands paying the membership fee within 12 days of announcing that the store was going to open. Wow. And so these are all people that were doing the parking lot version. Some of them were, and then some of them were brand, a lot of the parking lot people were like, "Peeze, we're going to go and see you again." No, some of them were from the parking lot. Yeah. They're a lot of, honestly, I do want to call it. There are a lot of brands that have stuck with us like from the very big. Which is amazing. Yeah. Yeah. But mostly it was new brands. Mostly new brands. Yeah. Because it was kind of open the door to like other types of like slightly larger brands that like maybe wouldn't sell on a parking lot all weekend. They're not carried in Sephora all over the world yet.

How do you guys price? (08:29)

Okay. So to put a finer point on that, Brian Chappell asked, "How did you actually find your first customers?" Like so you filled it quickly, but how did they even find out about you? So to answer that, I'd say we, when we launched the digital like shoppable magazine version of Bulletin, we would just reach out to brands that we loved. Yeah. So what can we do a profile on you and a long interview and original photography and make this beautiful page for you? And they'd be like, "Yes." So we would do that. They would see zero sales on our website. But it was a really like no one had anything to lose in this situation. And so through just maintaining those relationships and then eventually moving into the market model, we reached out to those brands that had been on the editorial site. They said, "Oh, I know these two girls that I worked with on this previous iteration of a company would recommend other brands to do the parking lot." And it was honestly, we always had a great referral number. Okay. And I think that was how. And I think with opening the store, it was basically tapping the network of brands that had been doing the pop-up. And then creating a nice little email and sending that to brands on other e-commerce sites that we thought might want to sell in person. We obviously looked at New York now, renegade other sites that did this like IRL sales thing that we were trying and just always had very, I would say like very successful outreach with potential customers. And I think we still do. And what was your strategy around pricing? How did you figure that out once you opened the store? As far as the membership, being everything. Yeah. I think we had an idea of what brands were willing to pay from the markets. Like we could look at an existing market and see like, okay, this one is a massive one and they were charging $1000 a weekend. So we started very low. And yeah, I think we had an idea of what they would pay from that and then move that over to the store. And even now we keep that number like very accessible for brands. Like we like the idea of brands that are emerging to be able to partake in this and you get like a very wide range of brands that would sell in the space. Which is kind of cool. Okay. Because yeah, I mean like what kind of scale are we talking about? Like what are, do you even know the annual revenue numbers of a lot of these brands? Of the brands. I would say on the smaller end you have brands that have literally just started like they maybe sell their products on Instagram. And like they probably couldn't even tell you what the number is revenue wise. Which I think is kind of cool to have like a certain percentage of the products in the store be like this very homespun vibe. But there's, I mean we have brands that sell in Sephora. We have brands that are like big brands that are doing, or I wouldn't say big brands, but maybe they're doing like 10 million a year in revenue. Okay. So they're still you know out there building their brand, but like they have manufacturing figured out and distribution and yeah, just like a much more established brand. Okay. Got you. So Adora had a question for you about store expense. Yeah. She one of your group partners. Yeah. For fellowship and core. Okay. We love Adora. She's been there from the, from the beginning. Oh gee. She asked you about a couple things, but one of which was store expansion. So for you guys like, how do you think about opening up new spaces? How do you find them? Do you think it will work in every city? What are your thoughts? Yeah.

Understanding demand (12:03)

For us. So we have started in New York City, obviously we have two stores here. We'll be doing one more store in about a month. So we'll have three stores for 2017. And yeah, I think we, it's tempting to want to just do this very quickly. We have so much demand from these brands that want to get into spaces. It is expensive to open a store. There's like real cost behind all of this, obviously. So definitely trying to be careful there. But I think now that we have these two successful stores, we'll have the third opening soon. It gets easier for us to look at the data to understand what's performing, what products are performing, what neighborhoods work best for us. And I feel like even now we have such a good idea of what a successful store looks like. As far as square footage, as far as location, the types of neighborhoods. So we're getting smarter about it. And I think as the company grows, it's easier for us to actually look at things like customer data to understand what the next city is. So we have our online business still, understanding where those customers are from, helps us decide, okay, maybe LA is the next place that we're going. And yeah, just be smarter about it, not go crazy. Yeah. I will say when it comes to how we pick actual stores and the availability of stores, real estate is in crisis right now, in particular retail real estate. And I mean, you can speak more to it, but we don't really have a dearth of real estate people reaching out to us to have us help them make their spaces successful.

Age demographics changing (13:27)

And which is really exciting that both ends of the marketplace when it comes to having a wait list in Williamsburg and in Lolita for our two stores and then also having this pool of real estate folks that want us to open bulletin spaces for them and with them, it's really exciting. Okay. So can you contextualize that a little bit for people? Because I don't think it's totally obvious. I'm trying to think, maybe it was in Carol Gardens where there's just like strips on main drafts of stores just vacant. How did that happen? And how are you guys making money off of that opportunity? Yeah. I mean, it's good for our business, but I think everything started to change a little bit as people's shopping behavior has changed. I think Amazon definitely plays a role in it. I don't think it's the entire reason that everything has changed so much. I think people have less of a reason to go to the store for their normal utility kind of purchase. And so I think those traditional retail stores do get hit because of that. And then for us, it does turn into an opportunity because I think all of these property owners or brokers, they'll cut deals with us that we would have never gotten nine months ago. Like if you want to do a short-term license agreement and test out a location and do it at a discount with the option to renew, there's just so much that we can do now because of what's happening. What's happening meaning like a single store is just way too expensive. Yeah. There's basically a mismatch between the cost of real estate and how much it traditionally costs a brand to take on a lease, also restrictions around how long that lease should be. Brokers and property owners want five to ten year leases. They want long-term leases. But for brands, you can see by all of the hundreds and hundreds of brick and mortar stores, thousands of brick and mortar stores belonging to big brands that have closed this year alone, that they're not, the store is not their profit center anymore. And so it just, it surely does not make sense to like throw tens and tens and thousands of dollars behind a lease every month and do build out and staff and maintain it when there's, you know, who's to say that that will actually yield crazy revenue for them. Right. I think it's not obvious if you live in a big city. Yeah. Because like, what are you talking about? All these stores are opening up everywhere. And in reality, most of them aren't even making money. They just look cool to be in Soho. Yeah. Well, there's been a crazy spike this year. I just read a report in how many stores are opening. Like there are a lot of brick and mortar stores opening. But I think that's only possible because real estate like players are realizing that the terms that they've set for their inventory to date is just not going to fly anymore. Yeah.

Long-term leases for retail stores as a young person. (16:43)

I feel like a lot of it comes down to like what the, what brands are using the stores for now. Yeah. And then it's not going to change. So rather than it being like, you know, kind of an old school retail brand signing a 10-year lease and being like, we want our customers to come here and like buy product, I think you see a lot of these like newer players and direct to consumer startups that are using it as more of a marketing channel or as a way to interact in person with this like massive digital audience that they've grown. And so in those scenarios, like it doesn't make sense for them to sign a 10-year lease. Like that's doesn't like, if you are comparing it to like a Facebook ad or like some other kind of marketing, you wouldn't buy like a 10-year Facebook ad or something like you would. Yeah. It makes more sense for it to be targeted and short-term and something that is experiential and more on the marketing side than like, yeah, like your major profit. But real estate like hasn't caught up to that yet. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So do you use weird time? Are they, are they catching up to you? Like are you guys this like arbitrage right now until the market changes or is this always going to be an opportunity? I think that you'll see a lot of these direct-to-consumer startups, especially the ones that have been around longer and you already see people like, were we doing this? Where they have like more traditional longer-term leases and I think that totally makes sense for them. But I think you'll see a mix of both. I think like it's nice for the customer to have this kind of influx of rotating stores and experiences. But I think for like the smart direct-to-consumer startups that like nail the experience and nail like the purpose of their store, it like you can kind of move into a long-term lease. And that's actually like what we're starting to do with our business. Like we started off with these six-month license agreements where we would test out a space and in our Williamsburg store and our Nolita store, it like the, it works well for us. We've kind of nailed the experience. And so now we've moved to long-term leases there. Wow. Okay. And so like we have like much more reliable supply or we can book out brands like months in advance and not be kind of like shuffling all over New York. Which is like, which is not a pack of bags. We're going to Carol van Mersler. Yeah, we don't want to be there too bad. Yeah. Do you guys have, did you have to get fancy with your fundraising? Because this is kind of non-traditional, right? Like having all of these leases and stuff. Is it different than a normal startup raising money? I think for this stage, it didn't seem to be too different. I think we definitely ran into a lot of questions about like, ooh, this is like a physical thing and a real estate thing. There's a lot of questions obviously. But I think we had enough traction and data to show that like, okay, the unit economics of this like shared retail space works and that it is very scalable because of the membership model. But yeah, I think any time you're dealing with real estate or anything, I think we work definitely paved the way. I feel like we work with their co-working model, granted, you know, their light years ahead of where we are and it will take some time to get there. But I think that, you know, given how well they're doing and their valuation and just how like prolific they are and how many spaces they open up, it's like, oh, okay, physical space isn't necessarily like the scary devil, like end all of it's not going to kill us. So yeah, luckily we had them as a roadmap. So speaking of killing, Adora asks, why did old department stores like just die off? Like what's your thought? So many reasons. I think it's a few different things and Alana kind of touched on this the way that the internet has just changed how we shop. The internet will win at a series of things that stores will always fail at. Like with the internet, you can get anything you need immediately. There's a wide selection. You can toggle for a specific price in a specific location, a certain delivery date. I think with department stores, like that's what they still do. It's like when you walk into a department store, it's just like a massive empty space with a ton of different product categories. It's not tailored to a specific customer. There's no like experiential or discovery element and it all just seems kind of ad hoc because there's like kitchenware with like maternity clothes with baby clothes with like fancy handbags. It's just like this never ending. Yeah. And it's like if I wanted to explore product like that, like if that's where my head's at, I'm just going to go on Amazon or I'll go on the internet or I'll go on I'm not going to like physically show up. So I think department stores have failed because the things that they're good at or the things that the internet is good at and the internet will just always win because it's right at your fingertips. I think the other thing that department stores aren't good at is just product selection and replenishing the store with fresh new product. They can't be super reactive. Oftentimes they're buying a ton of product upfront. They're doing like crazy flash sales to offload products that they can make way for new product. But that just seems to cheapen the entire department store experience. So I feel like they're just kind of stuck in this weird middle ground where the things that they're doing to try to improve or actually hurting them in a lot of instances. I don't know if you'd add anything to that. I think in a lot of cases too they have these massive footprints and these stores have been around for like a long time. So it's no easy task to be like, oh, let's just renovate hundreds of stores across the country that are massive. They're in a very difficult position. Where you're innovating is not easy. Yeah, for them. We're obviously at an advantage of people very new and having like two small stores. But I think for us, we're able to see like, okay, we know that we can compete with Amazon and the internet with experience. And with these stores that are experience driven and that are built around a certain community.

Starting point, hand-curated experience. (22:48)

And so being able to start from that point and build from there, it makes it a lot easier for us to do that from them obviously. So there's the one advantage. It's heavily curated, right? Yes.

What keeps your customers coming back? (23:00)

And I think it's a lot easier for people picking vendors rather. So how are you deciding like what goes in a store? So Mike Malcow, I mispronounced everyone's name and I say it on every podcast. Sorry, Mike. It's okay. How do you know what users want at these stores? It's honestly, it's a ton of data feeding into our selection process. So we look at Instagram. We look at the posts that are performing well, not only on our Instagram, but like what is going on in the zeitgeist of Instagram right now? Like what is our customer looking at? What is she liking? What is she engaging with? So even just there, so you segmented to female buyers at this point in time?

What Do We Love That Didnt Work sephon Carl Souliers (23:41)

Yes, for both of our stores. We obviously look at sales. Like we, this like successful store didn't crop out of nowhere. Like as we've told you, we had markets that sold product. We had this initial version of the store before we turned it into this editorial theme that sold product. Like we have three years of data around things that have definitely not performed well. And then the things that have, have done pretty well. So that information has been really helpful. And then Maggie, who I mentioned earlier, basically goes through all that data and looks at the brands that are applying to sell with us. And she says, okay, this brand is great, but like these are the five products that will perform best or like we're really low on this product category. I think it should be this aesthetic over this one because last month like this crafty look like didn't do well across five different product categories. So it's very, there is like a lot of data being fed into the decisions, but we always have like our own human touch on what we think we in ways we are our customer. So it's like, not like what do we like, but we, you know, it's a little bit of our taste thrown. So there's something that you both loved and didn't do well at all. A product. Yeah. I'm sure. Oh, yes. I can think of something. So I was in LA for a period of time in 2015 during our editorial version of a book. And there's this amazing, amazing designer. His name is Andrew Han, first name Andrew spelled normal, Han spelled H A A N. He does these insane, beautiful, like hand drawn geometric prints on graph paper. And I did this whole photo shoot with him, this long interview. He's like the kindest, most lovely, unbelievable man in the universe. And we put his stuff, his, his work in our Williamsburg store. And I think he's so, and granted their, their expensive. They take a lot of time. Yeah. They're around like two, like 125 to $250 depending on the print. And he sold two and like that was that. And that was just kind of us like loving him and loving knowing how much labor went into these prints and like how detailed they were. And we thought they were absolutely stunning and they just didn't perform. But has art performed well in the past? Prince do well. Yeah. And what we've learned with both of the stores and just in general is these like the lower price point products work for us. And so we've kind of made the entire vibe of the store this very like accessible price point. Yeah. Like less than a hundred bucks type stuff. Yeah. Even, and then like our average order value right now is like 40 bucks. And so I think it's, it adds to the experience of it where like anyone that walks in can buy something. It's not this like exclusive and accessible place we were just looking around being like cool. And so yeah, I think everyone kind of like puts a smile on everyone's face. Yeah. And knowing who our customer is and what her disposable income looks like based on our information, it's like, you know, I don't think there's a world in which at this point we'd ever create a store like that because that's just not she, she can't shop with us. And so should we do that? So that's funny. Okay. So going back to applying for YC, both of you are non-technical. Is that accurate? Okay. So what is your advice? So Deepak asked, what's your advice for non-technical founders applying to YC?

What is your advice for Non-Technical Founders Applying to Yc (27:16)

I would say, I mean, for us, so we applied three times. So we applied for fellowship. We applied a middle time where we didn't get eggs. We had just pivoted to the market thing. And then we applied the third time and finally got in. But I think to be able to like one be persistent and keep applying, but I think for us, we were able to show a lot of traction every like six months when we were applying. Like even when we started, like Ali and I were still working at our old job, but like we had built all this stuff and built this whole like editorial site. The second time we applied, like we had this whole new model and we had like revenue and it was like, it was, yes, we had just pivoted, but like we had done a lot in a short period of time. And then I think the third time the big difference was we had a ton of traction. We have been working on it for over a year. And I think we were finally able to make the argument that like this is very scalable. And then for the non-technical side to be able to like really explain and like explain confidently that we didn't actually need that at this stage of the business. So I think obviously like, you know, most YC companies like have a technical co-founder and that's like a massive part of their business. I think for us at that stage, like we were really able to explain why we like weren't really at the stage just yet where we needed it. And I think we were approaching the stage where we were going to need it. And now we have a bunch of remote developers that are really amazing when they're building everything for us. But yeah, I think we were just able to really show that like for the stage of the business, like we're okay without a technical co-founder. So. >> Same advice for you, Ali. >> Yeah, I would say the same thing. I think definitely speaking confidently to why you don't need that person. I mean, I think something that we always really emphasized was like we were cobbling together like pre-existing platforms that did what we needed at the time. So for us, it's like we're focused on building a profitable business and why should we spend time building a technology when we don't even know what it needs to look like yet. We clearly from telling you our story, we had no idea what we were building. >> We didn't build anything. >> They got it and didn't build anything because it would have taken a ton of time and a ton of money and Alana and I both from the get go, we're like we want to create something that from day one, someone is handing us money to give to them. We want to create a service. We want to create a product that we know people need from the start and then refine the service and the product around that customer. So now we're building this platform after learning for the past two years.

Building retail as a service (29:54)

What tech do we need to do retail as a service in this way? Like how will our customers work with us more easily and more efficiently through this technology? Like what do the elements actually have to be? I guess the advice I'd give would be if you're building software, get a technical co-founder. It's really important to have someone buy your side to go through the ups and downs. If the product is going to be tech from the start, I don't really know why you would outsource that. But otherwise if you're doing something unconventional like us, we were doing a retail real estate business. Just really go in there, ready to explain why the tech isn't necessarily first and foremost right now. I think by showing everything that we had cobbled together was impressive on its own. We have Squarespace doing this and Shopify doing this and there was six different existing platforms that were really doing the job. I think our biggest bottleneck was figuring out all of these things about the business and about the next space and real estate. It had nothing to, like technology wasn't holding us back in any way. So I think proving that helped. I think that's a really great piece of advice. Like something that people even on the technical side should consider because so often they're like, "Well, should this be in Ruby or Python?" And like, "How much machine learning do I need before I apply to YC?" And for the most part, no one is using their product. Yeah, you just need to get it out there and see how people would use it. Yeah, if we had spent a ton of money building some beautiful editorial platform and we'd be out of business, we would have run money. Right. This is the easiest way to find silverware for your own. Yeah, I think this. Just push your butt in and out there. That's so good. Do you remember what the actual numbers are? This is such a common question I figured I'd ask. What did your growth look like before YC when you applied successfully? So before we applied to YC, so this would have been October of last year. Our growth numbers were great then because that's when we started to do the markets every single weekend and then we had just launched the store. So that summer, our revenue was doubling every month because we had more and more markets coming up and all of those were fully booked out. And then we had just launched the store. So we had six months of space to book out for that and all of that's prepaid. So our numbers looked really good because of that. And I just kind of tangentially.

Growth Challenges And Learnings

Retail changing (32:33)

Do you guys have counterintuitive opinions about retail? You think the market's changing in a way that most people don't? I have everything swings like a pendulum. So I think about the store that we're opening for holiday for example and the entire ethos of the store is bringing back the nostalgia of going with your girlfriends, your family to the mall and getting these mall buy-ups. And walking out with a ton of shock bags on your arm and piling it into the trunk. And I feel like with so many things going on right now with the state of our country and how the internet and all of this attention being on the internet and all this time spent being on the internet has just kind of reached a tipping point where I feel like people are looking and being like, "Hmm, I don't know if I want to be staring at my computer all day or staring at my phone all day or in this internet world 24/7. I feel like there is going to be a pendulum shift away from this and toward interaction and being in person and connecting face to face." And so I don't know when that's going to happen. Obviously these things happen in like decade-long chunks. But I hope it comes soon. And I think that that definitely informs how we approach retail and how we approach building our stores. Like in our holiday store there's going to be like a lounge area, an activation area where people can like explicitly do events and do workshops and do things where there's like community building and actual human interaction. So I don't know if that's necessarily counterintuitive, but I feel like a lot of people are figuring out, trying to figure out like how do we make Instagram more shoppable or like how do we make our newsletters more shoppable or like how do we do this? And it's like my greatest joy in life is walking by our Nolita store on like an odd hour on like Tuesday at like 3pm maybe and seeing that it's packed and just being like, "Wow, they're like, we're not wrong and they're women that like actually want to physically show up in a store and the customers communicate with each other." And they all, I always get DMs on the bulletin Instagram about how much they love our retail staff and it's like, "It warms my heart and it just makes me confident that like this could be the direction retail is going in and if so we're on the cusp of it." Yeah, I totally agree with that. I think you also see a lot of trends in like in-store retail design right now where people are getting like magic mirrors and like these crazy screens in the store and like you can connect your online account and like just all this technology in the store. Connect your online account. No, I know, I know, I know. But I think that's something that we have really shied away from. I think that like we really like the store to feel like this you know in-person experience and it's not about like kind of going back to the internet or like somehow having a screen in your face again. And so I don't necessarily know if that would be counterintuitive but I think for us, yeah to approach the store design in this like new way where it is about the community in the store and about the experience in the store and not about like another. Well is there a future of your star without any employees? I don't think so. I think that's for us it's such a big part of the experience. I think there's some technology that we are thinking about that will like ease the checkout process where like the point of the employee being there isn't to rig them up which is what they part of what they do now. So I'd like to free them up even more where they can to spend more time interacting with the customer. But yeah I think like the in-store team is such a huge part of the experience and like makes up probably like 50% of the like positive feedback we get. So yeah. We still need humans. I'm sorry. Unfortunately. Alright. If you weren't working on Bulletin right now, what would you work on? You can work on it together. Okay well will we have like gone through Bulletin or would it just be like Bulletin never happened? Oh alright alternate reality. No so today. Okay literally today. Shit goes crazy somehow. It's a little bit ended somehow. And it will it's still going on. Say like you can't restart it. You have to do something else. Okay. Okay. Okay. I definitely I think I mean I don't want to speak for you. I feel like we're both at a place where I don't see us ever going back to like a normal job or like working for someone else again. I don't know what I would do though. Like I feel like this is just so sad. I just haven't thought about anything else. I love the insane stuff.

What the YC Experience taught us (37:15)

I think I would love to do. I mean for me like the most fun part about what we do is like the store design and like bringing like life to these kind of weird old New York stores as weird as that sounds. And so I think something with that I could like I can be doing. Okay. Maybe yeah just designing other stores. So basically Bulletin. I don't know. I would definitely be writing. I write a lot for Bulletin across like our email and our social and like the editorial site that we once had. It's like it comes very naturally to me and it's one of those feelings. I know like coders get this way when they code. It like makes me high when I'm writing something. So I don't know maybe I'd write a book or become like a tech journalist or I don't know work for a good cause like a nonprofit of some kind and handle their communications. I think that would be really fun. What was the most meaningful thing you learned in YC? Do you have something? I was going to say I would say working when so Michael Sible was our group partner and I just feel like he was always so good about getting us to focus on like the one thing that we should be focusing on. And so part of that was just like him being brilliant and like picking the thing we should be working on. But I think getting into that mindset of like really really identifying like what your actual one issue is and not worry. Like I don't know I think like YC is it's a crazy busy time and there's so many things to be worrying about. As it always is when you're running a company and I think just always going back to that and being like okay like what is the one thing that you need to be working on and solving and like the thing that can actually affect your business and not getting bogged down with like the millions of other things you could possibly be doing. And he's so good about just like in this very soothing place like getting you to focus on yeah that one issue.

Having co-founders and not working for someone else again (39:08)

I think something that we learned in both YC fellowship and YC core in both instances we were working in isolation. I mean during YC fellowship we didn't have a team and then during YC core our team was mostly based here and we would go back and forth but work together in San Francisco. I think I definitely learned especially since it was such a pivotal time for us and we were growing and figuring out like what the one thing was like the ability to listen. I think in group office hours just the way that that's structured where you literally go around the room and listen to every single founder talk about the problems that they're facing you know you give suggestions if you have any like stake in what they're doing or if you have any expertise of like ways that you can help and I think just listening to each other like when you're together all the time in that very like pressure cooker environment you have to make very quick decisions you know you have demo day coming up like what are you going to present what business are you building like what is going to be the thing that helps investors understand that like this is the future and like they really shouldn't be missing out on this opportunity. And I think just yeah I think it was one of the best times of us like bouncing ideas off of each other and just amongst a group of really intelligent people that were doing such different things so yeah I think it made me a much stronger listener overall. Yeah I mean it's such an interesting experience thinking back where you I don't know it's like the one time where everything else in your life really stops completely. It's muted. Yeah it's so crazy and I mean I guess it always feels that way in a sense when you're running a company but I think this was like the one time where we had you know moved out of New York like moved out of our apartments and everything and yeah it's just such an interesting kind of experiment through words like what happens when I literally don't do anything else and when I'm living in like a studio like a 500th group of studio with my co-founder eating every meal together and it's just all you do and all you think about and so yeah I think like that level of intensity is just it was yeah really cool to do that and I think coming back here and kind of like returning to normal life like that obviously stuck with us but I don't know it was just like a cool thing to go through. Also pick a good co-founder.

Insight Into Y Combinator

What YC is like (41:04)

Yeah because if you end up doing YC and even if not like your stuff. Oh it seems like things are going okay still. Yeah yeah no I feel I think I don't know I feel very lucky. Me too. Alright cool. Thanks guys. Thank you. Y'all. Bye.

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