Sat · Jun 18

Recognizing Bad Advice

A two-part interview with the founders of Remix and Le Tote.

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In this episode of Startup School Radio Kat Manalac talks with Remix founder Sam Hashemi and Le Tote cofounders Brett Northart and Rakesh Tondon.

All three guests in this episode are solving problems that aren't directly theirs. Sam feels the impact of his public transit planning platform as a commuter yet he doesn't plan the routes himself. Brett and Rakesh worked in investment banking and now they run Le Tote, the "Netflix of Women's Clothes". User feedback and mentorship has been integral to the success of both startups however, parsing advice related to solving another person's problem brings its own set of challenges.

Kat : You have four founders working on Remix. What does the decision making process look like?

Sam : That's something we were really worried about at the beginning because all of the traditional advice had said to have two to three founders, that four people is just going to be so hard and that you're going to get to these roadblocks where two people want to do one thing and two people want to do another thing.

Kat : Have you seen that be the case at all?

Sam : We haven't really, and the way we generally learn is just try things and see what happens. We said, "Hey, (we have) four co-founders, obviously two to three is the YC official recommendation, why don't we just try four and see what happens. And it turned out it worked great. We knew each other really well beforehand, we knew how each of us thinks, and...we understand the perspective that each of us brings. So usually we don't get stuck, we talk through it, we figure out the two or three experiments we have to run, or we look at who has the most expertise and we'll just default to them and start evaluating. So for us it's actually been fantastically successful.

Kat : From a consumer perspective, Le Tote is awesome, but as a company, it sounds like there are a lot of logistics at play. How do you tackle that? What are some of the hardest bits of it?

Brett : This has evolved over time. When we started, a lot of the advice we got was terrible or irrelevant. I think it's probably good advice for certain businesses at certain points in time, but a lot of it is irrelevant for your business at the point in time or phase of the company you're at.

Most people told us just get this to a third party logistics company as quickly as possible, offload the operations because you don't want to have to deal with that. But for our business, it helps us build a really healthy moat around it if we can figure out how to turn things around quicker, make them smell good, look good, feel fresh and new, fits you really well. It helps us build this competitive advantage relative to other people that might think about coming into this space. We've spent a lot of time and effort up front building out the infrastructure to do this and that's everything including developing all the warehouse management software ourselves.

It’s a massive undertaking but a lot of the systems out there were these really clunky old school on-premise solutions that weren’t flexible and honestly most warehouses still see returns as an edge case and the irony of that is, particularly with women’s fashion, returns account for about 50% of the sales...So having built that gives us a great leg up as we build for the future. And then, (there’s the challenge of) actually building out facilities that make sense for this type of business…A lot of the companies that go through YC don’t have to deal with physical goods, particularly physical infrastructure around those goods, so we’ve got an interesting challenge in that we’re building software to recommend great items, we’re building our own algorithms, we’re building warehouse management software to move items, so there’s all this stuff that we’re trying to manage and it’s definitely complex, but longer term, it really helps us have that advantage.

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