When Kim Stiefel first met her business partner, they thought they’d use their experience as marketers to build a brand. The idea was a subscription service for common clothing items—but they began to wonder whether or not this was something people actually needed.
“A big question that every startup founder really needs to ask is, am I actually solving a real problem? Or is this a manufactured problem?” Investigating the problem led them to realize an even bigger problem—subscription services for products were terrible. They gave you too much or too little of what you wanted and at the wrong times.
So they started Repeat, a company that offers an e-commerce platform that helps consumers easily get the things they need when they need them, while helping companies convert one-time buyers into regular customers. In
this edition of Founders Journey, Kim talks about that initial undertaking and the two-year journey that led them to an entirely different company.
More information: https://getrepeat.io/
Kim Stiefel is the co-founder/ CEO of Repeat; a headless commerce platform that enables Consumer Packaged Goods brands to turn one-time buyers into *repeat* customers by making it easier for customers to reorder products.
Repeat software leverages machine learning to analyze one-time shopper behavior, automate reorder notifications, and deliver personalized replenishment carts that aid in up-sell and cross-sell efforts.
DISCLAIMER: Below is an AI generated transcript. There could be a few typos but it should be at least 90% accurate. Watch video or listen to the podcast for the full experience!
Kim Stiefel 0:00
At the end of the day, you really got to get it out there. It’s like you just it’s like anything with products, right? You just need to ship it, learn, iterate, and do it again and do it better.
Alexander Ferguson 0:15
Welcome, everyone to UpTech Report. This is our Founders Journey series. And I’m excited to be joined by Kim. Again, this is part two of our discussion, check out part one, we could learn more about their product repeat at getrepeat.io which really is all around smart replenishment platform for CPG. Brands. This discussion? No, Kim, I want to dive a little bit deeper into your journey that you’ve been on this to three years, you’ve run this, this brand in this company, but you’re not new to running ventures or this environment. So tell me what, what’s your story? How did you get to where you are today?
Kim Stiefel 0:47
That’s a great question. It’s a it’s an IT we’ve had a very interesting, interesting journey to where we are today. So my co founder and I met at a startup in Venice back in 2015, was a marketing tech ad. It was the marketing tech startup. And it didn’t last, we had both been in the mahr tech ad tech industry for a while. And we’re kind of jaded by the whole thing. And and we thought, you know, we were ready to start our own company, we decided to actually launch a brand, we thought we could leverage our marketing chops to build that brand. Turns out, it takes a lot to build a brand beyond just marketing knowledge. And actually, it was an it was a subscription brand, where we were focused on simplifying what we felt like was the overly complex process of refreshing our basics, like T shirts and starting to use. So the idea was socks, t’s and underwear subscription make it really easy to get to refresh the stuff that we, you know, were the most. And in the process of building that brand. We were interviewing our customers and trying to figure out if this was a problem that we actually felt like really needed to be solved. Or if we were just manufacturing it right, which is a big question that every startup founder really needs to ask is, am I actually solving a real problem? Or is this a manufacturing problem? And so in, in the process of interviewing our customers, which we literally did through like intercom on our website, we realized, oh, wow, like subscription. Subscribing to products is not a delightful, great experience, right, like subscribing to services, like Spotify and Netflix, great. But when it comes to subscribing to products, you either have too much of it, or you don’t have it when you need it. And you end up churning, and then you’re probably pissed off at the brand, right? Like, because they probably sent you something that you didn’t need. And that’s not good. So in so we realized this after talking with our customers. And then the other interesting piece was we kind of asked ourselves, like, are we subscribing to any products on the internet? And the answer was no. Right? So why were we operating a subscription business if we weren’t even doing it ourselves. And so it was at that point that my co founder started to try to look for solutions in to enable us to achieve repeat without requiring our customers to survive to subscribe, and it just didn’t exist. And so we she kind of looked at me, it was like, what if we could leverage data to predict when our customer needs our product again, and then embed click to purchase links in email, and I thought it was genius. And we spun up a little experiment. And it worked. By the way, this is about two years of the journey was this. And, yeah, we spun up an experiment, and it worked. And it was at that point that we realized, okay, we can be a tech enabled brand. Not which, you know, isn’t the smartest thing when you’re building a company, you really want to pick a lane and focus. Or we can strip the brand altogether and bring this, you know, build actually build this software and bring it to market and power other brands that sell replenishable products on the internet. And so that’s obviously the direction that we went in. And then and that’s how repeat was born.
Alexander Ferguson 3:58
I love it reminds me of not exactly the same but like how Slack you know, it’s just the element of it doesn’t quite work a good adventure go this way. But underlying technology built to solve a problem like okay, this, others need this, which led you to this
Kim Stiefel 4:11
slack one day, I hope.
Alexander Ferguson 4:13
Great. That’s the direction where you’re headed. Now, obviously, funding is a piece of that to be able to grow any insights you can share, like some of the common mistakes one could make when trying to seek funding to make that happen.
Kim Stiefel 4:25
I’ve made them all let me start there. We have raised a couple rounds of funding. We’ve raised the pre seed, and more recently a seed. And I’ll probably be raising again soon. Always fundraising really? Yeah, I mean, I think the common mistakes or the mistakes that I made that if I were talking to a founder today I was just thinking about raising their first round is really being a little too hesitant to get out there and practice pitching and you know and spending like way too much time perfecting a deck that you know at the end of the day, you really got to get it out there. It’s like you just did it Like anything with product, right? You just need to ship it, learn, iterate, and do it again and do it better. Right? And so getting out there and really like, practice pitching, I think is like probably one of the most important things you could do, like super early on. So that would that would be my biggest piece of advice. And also just that, you know, you’re gonna hear a million nose before you hear yes, isn’t me. I mean, everybody says those, but until you’re like, in it and experiencing it, it’s really hard to like, it’s it’s hard. It’s difficult. And, but like, at the end of the day, that’s the game and you just kind of keep going and learning and you get better every single time.
Alexander Ferguson 5:36
Yeah, building a team once you have the funding, that’s the next big element. Any lessons learned when it comes to building a good team? And oh,
Unknown Speaker 5:45
yeah, um, I really like this idea of
Kim Stiefel 5:51
like, Adam, grants givers, takers, matchers. Right. Which is like, this idea of you have people that will give you have people that will take and then you have people that will call out the takers, right. And so you really want to build a company with givers and matchers. I like firmly believe that. So I think like the biggest piece of advice and something that I think about a lot is I really look for people that are givers are what Adam Grant calls matters. And I also I also think it’s like a really important to build teams that have people that look in microscopes and people who can telescopes like you need both, right? You need, you need achievers that really want to get stuff done that like are looking at the details and thinking about the details like crossing T’s and dotting eyes. And then you need people looking like through my telescopes, like real strategic thinkers connecting dots. And the combination of the two across different functional areas of the business, I think is like key to building a really great team. So it’s balance.
Alexander Ferguson 6:45
Right, right. And I imagined that that developing that team continues to change and grow as as you grow yourself, how big is the team today?
Kim Stiefel 6:53
So we are six people today 66 person team today and potentially eight by the end of the year. So right now,
Alexander Ferguson 7:03
once you’ve got the team, then it’s about, okay, you’ve got the base ad the customers and clients any insights on getting the first couple clients and then being able to scale from there?
Kim Stiefel 7:12
Oh, yeah. So I think I’m, again, kind of similar to like pitching, right, pitching investors, you’re going to question everything, when you’re building something from the ground up when it’s your baby. And I think like, again, just like acquiring your first couple of customers, that you just got to get out there and see. And, and, and and like, you know, in the early days of acquiring customers, it really is about it’s a combination of sales and customer development, it’s actually more customer development than it is sales, like really trying to determine what is the problem? Is the problem salient enough that this buyer is going to either, you know, stop using what they’re currently using and use my software or, or, you know, in the case like ours, like, there really isn’t anything that does what we do, at least yet. And so it’s a matter of like, okay, we think that we are solving a real problem. But like until we’re out there pitching to customers, and until we hear them say like, yes, like I need a solution to XYZ, you don’t really know. So in the early days, it’s less about selling, it’s really more about being obsessed with the problem and learning about the problem. And then I think like as far as scale goes, and you know, we’re at 40 customers right now. So we’re not we’re by no means are we you know, at a point of scale, I think 2021 for us is all about scale. For us. 2020 was all about, like the best. Some of the best advice I got earlier, actually earlier this year was like just bear hug your customers like just literally like until you’ve got and that’s what we did. We only lost a couple customers. We came into the year at nine we were ending the year at about 40 We lost a couple environment. It’s a just straight bear hug, you know, let
Alexander Ferguson 9:00
you go. You’re saying you’re sticking with not letting you go?
Kim Stiefel 9:02
And we’ll do right by you. Right? Like, like tell us like what’s not working? What can we do better. And so again, that gets into like, it’s customer development, all about customer development and being maniacally focused and completely obsessed with the problem. So
Alexander Ferguson 9:19
going into 2021, you already gave a alluding to your next big challenge, which is to to scale, how do you see kind of your mentality going into next year of what you need to do?
Kim Stiefel 9:31
Oh, focus, it’s all focus. It’s a Yeah, to get it’s pretty easy to get distracted by shiny new things and ideas. And there’s so many cool things that we can do and build. And so it’s really a matter of if we’re going to scale this business it’s going to be because we’re focusing on the right things at the right time. And we have the right people in the right seats. Right. So it’s like two fold. Like my focus is right people right seats, focusing on the right thing at the right time. That’s it. It sounds really simple. It’s an that simple, because you got to layer in their capital to ensure that we can like continue to operate and grow the business, which is also a focus of mine. And, you know, something I’ll be thinking about in 2021. But yeah, I think two biggest things right people right seats, and focusing on the right thing at the right time.
Alexander Ferguson 10:17
Love it. And when this episode airs, I’m sure already that that scale be happening, the funding will be in it’ll be it’ll be pray. That’s what the focus is. And then then, you know, we’ll
Kim Stiefel 10:29
No, no, no, yes. 100%. No, absolutely.
Alexander Ferguson 10:32
Last question I have for you came, I’m looking forward, because it’s not I feel like you over definitely a forward looking individual you’re looking, seeing where insights and come through? Overall, what kind of tech innovations do you predict we’ll see in the next year, short term, and 510 years long term?
Kim Stiefel 10:50
Oh, yeah. I mean, I don’t know, I’m not one of those people that can predict like, 510 years long term, and maybe it’s because I’m thinking I’m thinking about, like, my business. And really, again, it’s all about, it’s all about focus. I mean, I think in terms of, of the space that we’re in, I think we’re gonna see, you know, certainly, personalization is incredibly important. And really making sure that there are software tools that help brands to build better relationships with their customers. And the way that that’s going to be achieved is through data. Right. And, and so like, you know, I think that that’s, you know, going to continue to be a place that, you know, our will continue to see innovation around that. I also think headless commerce is really interesting. I think that’ll be, yeah, it’s this idea, being able to, like build anything on the front end, and then leverage some like, platform on the back end like Shopify, right? So you don’t need to know. I mean, that’s simplifying it right, you just kind of have control of the front end, and you’re able to then, you know, tack that onto a back end like Shopify, or WooCommerce, or, you know, big commerce, etc. So I think like headless commerce is like a big thing. And yeah,
Alexander Ferguson 11:58
that’s, that’s the future. I like it. I like the prediction. Well, definitely for those that want to check out repeat, go to getrepeat.io and you can be able to get a demo and see how the platform works using in your own CPG brand or check also part one of our discussion here if able to break it down. Thank you again for joining us. Our episode today was sponsored by TeraLeap. If your company wants to learn how to better leverage the power of video, increase sales and marketing head over TeraLeap.io to learn about the new cut product customer stories. Thanks again everyone, and we will see you next time. That concludes the audio version of this episode. To see the original and more visit our UpTech Report YouTube channel. If you know a tech company, we should interview you can nominate them at Uptechreport.com. Or if you just prefer to listen, make sure you’re subscribed to this series on Apple podcasts, Spotify or your favorite podcasting app.