Last month, I along with 3 other bootstrapping entrepreneurs were chosen by Marc Lore for a little mentoring. If you aren't familiar with Marc, he founded Diapers.com which he sold to Amazon for $550 Million and then followed that up with Jet.com which sold to Walmart for $3.6 Billion.
We were able to ask Marc 5 questions and I want to share his responses here because they were pretty damn great answers and can really benefit others IMHO.
Hey Darin, sorry for the delay. You had some great questions, hope my answers help.
1. A comment that we’ve heard from VC’s is that they don’t want to get involved in a “fashion” brand with inventory. When you were at Diapers.com or Jet, how did you mitigate inventory risk?
VC’s always give you a reason why they don’t want to invest, but it’s often not the real reason. Plenty of fashion brands with inventory get funded. So, either you haven’t found the right VC yet, (which is possible given you need to have at least 30-40 VC discussions), or the underlying fundamentals of the business are not strong enough to warrant investment. Also, the best way to mitigate inventory risk is to show you can sell it. Accelerate top line and inventory won’t be a concern.
2. When you were raising capital initially, did people doubt your ability to scale? How did you prove them wrong specifically? You must have been up against some very big players like Huggies, Pampers etc. What differentiated you from the competition?
I’m sure there were people out there who doubted our ability to scale diapers.com because I took a leap of faith on a category that is traditionally a loss leader. But I had a vision to take the stress out of keeping diapers in stock, and believed we could differentiate the company by creating a lifeline for parents by offering premium service and speedy delivery. That’s why it’s so important to have a strong customer value proposition and work backwards. For example, with Diapers.com, we offered free overnight delivery, a free 360-day return policy, sent thank you notes in shipments and made sure the customer had a fantastic experience at all costs. I’d encourage you to ask yourself what you can do to create an unforgettable customer experience. It may seem expensive, but you’ll create a loyal and passionate customer base.
3. We’re raising capital now. Would you recommend raising $750K-$1M from an angel or much more from VC? Both opportunities are available; which would you choose?
I would do a round that includes angel investors that could add value, as well as VC’s. It’s always better to be on the safer side and raise more capital when you can because the market conditions can change fast and I don’t think you’ll ever regret raising more money. Get smart angels on board as well as a VC that would add value to the board and you help think about the next round of financing. You always need to be thinking about the next round.
4. When you look at an e-comm acquisition for yourself or Walmart, what’s the one key metric you look for as a guiding light such as top-line growth, gross profit, net margin, top line category growth, number of customer reviews?
In my opinion, the most important metrics are what I call The Big 5:
- NPS (net promoter score)
- Lifetime value of a customer (I often like to see the expected profit to be generated over the life of a customer to be at least 3-4x’s the cost to acquire the customer as a rule of thumb)
- Contributed profit margin (profit after all variable expenses including shipping, fulfillment, customer care etc.)
- Top-line growth rate
- Quality of the management team
5. Do you have any advice in putting together a pitch deck?
Also, if it’s helpful, here’s an outline that I like to use.
Who Are We?
Mission / Vision
The Market Opportunity
Our Solution / Demo
The Ask / Financing