ho in their right mind would become a founder of a startup company while the world is facing multiple crises—not the least of which, a suffering economy? Specifically, in the US, companies are operating at a limited capacity, people are in the streets protesting for social justice and racial equality, we are all still fighting a global pandemic, and it’s an election year. So, the question remains, why now?
“No crisis should be wasted.” — Deepak Chopra via Breakfast Club Interview
We have all read stories about start-ups like Venmo, WhatsApp, and Airbnb, that were founded during times of economic recessions. This time is different; and we are not them. While we do not want to downplay the accomplishments of our successful, more mature start-up company peers, I do want to establish that our journey is similar but not the same.
In December 2019, Hana and I sat down like we do every year to discuss how we wanted to approach the following year, as well as make any adjustment to our 5-year plan. We were on a family trip in Dallas for New Year’s when we decided that building a company focused on a new way of shopping was not only going to be in our future, but in the future of the global market. Of course, at this time we had no idea that over the next 6 months the world would completely shift, that the economy would reach its worst point since the Great Depression, or that the fight for social justice would make its way to the forefront due to the continued unjust killing of unarmed Black Americans at the hands of the police.
Our original focus was how we could improve the consumer experience of shopping online. It is evident that consumers want to have more control over their shopping experience. They want to shop from any given device they are using at any given time, and have products made available in a number of ways. Consumers also want shopping to be more personalized. According to Global Web Index, 31% of consumers want brands to offer customized or personalized products [and experiences]. Personalization is the key to “ensuring that you are attracting, acquiring, and encouraging customers to make a purchase.” Convenient and personalized shopping has taken on a whole new meaning. And so, our journey begins.
“As a start-up, you have to survive to make it to scale.” — Unknown
Six months into our journey we have doubled down on our commitment to our mission and our resolve has never been more concrete. The world is drastically changing and with it everything in the economy as well. Brands and retail companies are struggling through this difficult transition, and rightfully so. Without the current disrupted environment, changes may be slower to come across the wide market. For the remaining brands and retail companies that are left to adapt and survive, the reality is that we are now on an accelerated path to change. Tomorrow’s new market leaders will have to focus on personalization with scalable AI and machine learning models that optimize their offerings at scale.
As first-time founders — Black founders — we are driven by a will to succeed that cannot be easily profiled or measured by your typical Silicon Valley investor. In our mission, we are carrying the mantle of changing the world, the same way every other start-up does. We also carry an additional mantle of joining the small group of Black founders who seek to set an example for communities of people who look like them. We rise daily to set an example in our village — one that says we push forward, even when you are surrounded by voices and images who tell you that you are not as valuable, and that you are not worthy of achieving great things. We want you to know that you matter. Your voice matters. Your dreams matter. Your life matters.
As we move into further developing our product and brand, we do so knowing that our mission on paper is the same one we hold in our hearts. We look forward to empowering you to design the world as you see it and manifesting that reality.
This is why the time is “now.”