Get ready to listen to what Nathan has accomplished and then listen again to what his age is. Yes he is one of those guys: an Outlier, an adventurer. Great story of stepping out and how that can lead you to a business with amazing growth and an even better future. Would you be willing to head to where the entrepreneurs are to launch a business? Not sure I would but that’s why Sourcify is doing so well.
Transcript: (note- this is a new tool I am trying out so it is not perfect- it does seem to be getting better)
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Cool voice guy: 00:04:33 The number for e-commerce dotcom forward slash momentum welcome to the e-commerce momentum podcast where we focus on the people the products and the process of commerce selling today.
Stephen: 00:04:48 Here’s your host Stephen Peterson welcome back to the e-commerce momentum podcast. This is episode 272. Nathan. Now if you listen to this guy and you’ll be like this dude knows what he’s talking about. Man I can’t believe it. And then we’re going to wait till he does say he’s 23. Did he say he did this stuff at 19. Did he say yes all those things. Yes. Did he go to China at 16. And you know. Yes. All those things. Yes. And I think that’s what’s so cool about them and that’s why he’s having such incredible success again. He’s not afraid because he doesn’t have the boundaries that we’ve all been you know cautioned with he’s just willing to try it and go take them and get the most from it. Take advantage of it I guess. What I was trying to say.
Stephen: 00:05:37 Am I just blown away very impressed. And I just love what his company does because some of the challenges that he’s solved are challenges that I’ve come up against myself and private label and it’s very very cool the service they offer and he’s going to give you a discount. And again I do not benefit. Steve doesn’t benefit in any way other than you having success. Let’s get into the podcast.
Stephen: 00:06:02 Welcome back to the e-commerce boom in a podcast very excited about today’s guest because I’ve been watching him from the sidelines and I see I see action not like you know in a negative way. I mean just like real positive action in a lot of activity and a lot of people talking about it and I just think that that’s so important to figure out you know what’s happening in this world and anybody who can buy me time who could save me time I’m in. And Nathan Resnick Welcome Nathan.
Nathan: 00:06:31 What’s up. Thanks so much for having me.
Stephen: 00:06:34 You know we have a mutual friend Greg Mercer and that’s how I got connected with you actually was somehow it came through his group or something like that.
Stephen: 00:06:42 And your name came up a couple different times and I just saw that you like this this is good business taken up.
Nathan: 00:06:54 I mean it’s really been incredible. Greg is a great guy and you know really just a matter of continuing to grow.
Stephen: 00:07:00 I think you align yourself with the right people and good things happen and you do the right thing and you get a good reputation. So let’s talk about your company and then the excitement of it and then we’ll go backwards because I want to hear how you got into this company. But I want to make sure people hear the company name and the good news that just came out totally.
Nathan: 00:07:17 So you know my name is Nathan Resnick. I run a company called Sourcefire. We’re the fastest growing e-commerce sourcing platform helping hundreds of companies manufacture products around the world both big and large I mean everyone that’s just starting out is using salsify to bring new products to life or even 8 going on 9 for your company you are using salsify to add price visibility to their product array. I guess the exciting news you touched on is we’ve just gotten a Y Combinator so we’re in their program right now which has been an incredible experience. I’m actually up here in San Francisco for Waikawa inheritance. It’s just been incredible to be in that program.
Stephen: 00:07:54 It’s very exciting. And so eight in nine figure that’s big big sellers but that doesn’t mean that salsify is only geared towards large sellers right. I think the other way I think the other extreme. It’s a niche advantage for smaller sellers because they don’t have a team they don’t have a department to help develop right.
Nathan: 00:08:13 Exactly exactly I mean so I would say probably about you know almost 75 percent of our users through salsify are smaller sellers than it’s growing and you know as these smaller sellers continue to use us and grow with us the bigger sellers are taking notice and realizing wow I can you know save money and save time when manufacturing is sort of fine. So it’s really caught on on on both sides of the spectrum and you know those a nine figures are even the marketplaces themselves. I mean we’re talking and we’re stuck com top hat an easier you know market places that are doing over a billion dollars in sales and trying to help them control some of the supply side of the marketplace. You
Stephen: 00:08:56 know and we’ll get into what sorts of it does. But I mean specifically it helps you that manufacturers in China specifically or other countries too.
Nathan: 00:09:05 I guess I would say it’s all across the world. I mean you know our growth really develop the global sourcing platform. So we work with factories across Mexico across Thailand Vietnam India acts and I mean really all across the world.
Nathan: 00:09:20 I will say that you know most of our base in terms of the factories that we prevent are in China. We’ve got an office in Gwangju so if you’re ever in the Gwangju you’re definitely let us now lay them out for a stroll with I’m just wandered down there.
Stephen: 00:09:34 But it’s funny because today it’s in China. You know look back 20 30 years it would have been in another country. And you know I think that part of the reason big companies are attracted to in the old days the only way to go and vet these companies was to go and visit yourself right there to send teams. It was granted it was you know there’s communication issues and so now the fact that this is available I think is a big deal. So we’re going to get there. We’re going to go into the details I’m going to let you pick your whole thing Steve doesn’t benefit other than listeners get a discount Steve doesn’t benefit so let’s go. How you got into this. Now you’re not an old dude like me your younger guy. How did you get into the e-commerce world.
Nathan: 00:10:17 Yeah that’s a great question and you know for me I’m going to jump back to high school and I’m I’m 23 years old and are 20.
Stephen: 00:10:25 But you’ve heard me say socks older than that Kelly loaches like what’s he talking about socks older than us. Yeah.
Nathan: 00:10:31 So you know really my whole story starts in high school because you know I guess I wanted to be different and so my freshman year of high school I started studying Mandarin Chinese and really it took off during my junior year of high school where I actually made the decision to become a foreign exchange student and I made that decision to live in China with a host family that didn’t speak English and attend a local Chinese high school. I
Nathan: 00:10:53 mean I was one of we had 48 students on my program. So I was one of 48 students in the world to fully immersed in China for a full year.
Stephen: 00:11:02 The second pullback their second who suggested this. I mean they didn’t come in one day and like you know wake up in this dream I want to go to China. What were your parents directing saying hey this is the future. What was it that click here. It
Nathan: 00:11:16 was my neighbors. I
Nathan: 00:11:18 had a neighbor who had a very you know global background and so he had done this program the year before me and he took me to lunch at this Chinese restaurant. And he’s like you know speaking near fluent Mandarin and the waiter Italian all these unbelievable stories. And I’m like you know I’m like man and you know I think I’m going to check this program out. And it was called school year abroad for anyone that’s looking into studying abroad or has kids they’re looking into studying abroad. It’s a great way to start in high school and you know at first my mom was Nathan that sounds great you should go for it.
Nathan: 00:11:49 And then when I got in the program she was like I don’t know a whole year.
Nathan: 00:11:55 And it was you know for me I think really what pushed me to go was I had a whole older sister I knew what I was going to do in high school that junior year. If I stayed in Maryland where I’m from. And I realized you know let’s just take this shot and see what happens it’s only a year and at the time I was 16 years old. You know I went over there just with a completely open mind because I didn’t even know what to expect. You know I’d read about the Chinese economy booming and growing so fast and I wanted to be involved and I always had a very international global mindset. I not read. You know entrepreneur magazines or ink magazines and and really was fascinated by these entrepreneurial stories. And so I figured you know hey let’s let’s let’s go to China and see what is actually going on on the ground floor. And I went over there and it was it was my life. I
Nathan: 00:12:43 mean it was crazy because I remember the first two weeks they put it in this orientation that was supposed to help us get comfortable with the culture and just the scene over there and we were like maybe probably two three hours outside of Beijing and they put us in this like dorm where it had concrete floors you know no Internet no nothing. I’m thinking myself Oh man like what did I get myself into like a person from the outside world. And that’s what I thought the program was going to be. I
Nathan: 00:13:11 mean when we went on some amazing hikes those first two weeks and really got to you know connect with other students in the program but it wasn’t until we got back to the outer skirts of Beijing where we found out who are host families were going to be in. I mean you know I was extremely fortunate to have a host family that welcomed me with open arms and that you know even to this day I talked to them on chat about once a week. I mean it’s just incredible to grow and connect with people on such a global scale like that. And by the end of that year I mean you know they really felt like like real family. I mean I call my host mom mom I call my host dad dad and I had a younger brother who as you know seems like a real brother to me now. So
Nathan: 00:13:52 it’s been a you know incredible experience to see this come full circle and in China you know that year in 2010 when I was living there we started selling you know basically knockoff products on eBay and yeah this was a quick learning experience. And you know here’s the thing when you have you know beats headphones for example let’s say Bede’s needs a priest you know 100000 units. The factories that are producing that are 100000 units they can’t produce exactly 100000 units. I
Nathan: 00:14:24 mean there’s going to be some run off and there’s going to be some products that don’t pastorate you know to see inspection. And so for us we do a lot of these markets and find these you know basically run out of products that either didn’t meet the card or were very similar or sometimes even you know seemed exact and sometimes even came from the same factories and we did start flipping them on eBay a bit and soon realized that that wasn’t scalable because we were infringing on someone else’s trademark. But you know that was really my first dive into e-commerce is selling his products on eBay.
Nathan: 00:14:56 And from there you know I just continue to become excited by the power of these factories. I mean you know you look at anything that you’re wearing you’re using and I’m pretty confident that you know at least some bit of it has come from a factory in Asia and then diving into you know a factory supply chain like if you’re producing watches you know you’re probably doing with the actual watch assembly factory and that assembly factory is going to have their own smaller factories for the strap for their hands for the case. All those little parts come together to this assembly factory to make up that product. And so for me that was always so exciting and just fascinating and you know by the end of that year in 2010 not only was I speaking Mandarin fluently I mean we were studying Mandarin for about four to five hours a day that year. So
Nathan: 00:15:46 it’s not like we were just in the classroom or at home in the classroom and at home I’d be my host family didn’t speak English so if I wanted something it had to be in Mandarin and so it was an incredible experience to really dive into another culture and immerse yourself. I
Stephen: 00:16:02 mean it was just incredible to think how much of an impact that has on my life today and you know from there I guess movie before I got back from but I have some questions there so let’s stay there I do want to stay there for a second because it’s very interesting to me you know if you think about having kids would you encourage for this kind of because you’re going at such a young age before you decided what you were going to do in the world right. I mean you didn’t know what you were going to do for the next you know a lifetime and so you went early would you advise that to your kids someday.
Nathan: 00:16:36 I would say it depends on you know your kid I would say you know for me I was always making the most of my experience over there and always kind of adventurous and wanting to know more. There were some you know classmates over there that have had I mean you know I was with 40 other students from around the world and some other students didn’t really go with the open mind per se and didn’t want to explore the actual culture and see and I mean some of them would still you watch netflix movies and they can watch foreign movies whereas for me you know I’d be walking to markets at night or you know playing soccer with my host brother really just trying to your side and make the most of my time there.
Nathan: 00:17:15 But I would say it is definitely a big commitment and kind of just crazy to think about going that young. But at the same time I mean you know I would ask like why not. You
Nathan: 00:17:25 know especially if you know you want to add more excitement and kind of give a global perspective to your child. I think it’s a great opportunity and the world is also becoming you know much more globalised and I see that you know every time I go back to China like when I was there in 2010 you know I’d be riding my bike to school for about 15 minutes to class every day and I would get probably you know a dozen plus you know LA while whites remark that you know Chinese people say to foreigners it’s a welcoming remark per se but then when you’d speak Mandarin you know. You know years ago in Beijing people would be blown away that you could speak your language as a foreigner and you go there now you know you go to China and you get very few you know laowai remarks and even if you speak their language you know not nearly as many people are kind of blown away by your ability to speak your language and I think that showcases that globalisation has really sparked in China which I think is a good thing.
Nathan: 00:18:26 You know you have a lot more foreigners living there and you have a lot more international opportunities there do you.
Stephen: 00:18:33 You took away boundaries from basically any. I mean it doesn’t sound to me like you’re intimidated in any way. You do a lot of travelling correct. Right
Nathan: 00:18:44 exactly. I mean I’m traveling internationally probably every other month or so.
Stephen: 00:18:48 And so by that experience you’ve basically seen that there’s not there. You know they’re the same as us just you know the country is different or whatever. I mean you’ve got all that behind you at such a young age. That’s a big impression. To me that’s that’s probably the biggest thing because I have you know all these preconceived notions that have been trained you know for 30 40 years. You know I know never been there but I know because I’ve been you know I’ve seen the media I’ve seen whatever you can sit back and say No no no no it’s not like that. There are parts of it that might be but here’s a way to I’ve seen it.
Nathan: 00:19:23 Exactly.
Nathan: 00:19:24 I mean I think in China specifically like you know you have the media kind of portray the country as a very you know communist country and it is but at the same time you know on the ground level there you don’t kind of feel that effect of communism I mean it feels a lot more capitalistic in some sense because you’re bargaining for so many different products. You know everything is in some sense a negotiation there and not all the prices are set. And even there I mean as a foreigner and I think to an extent as you know if you are a citizen of China I think you do have a lot of freedom. I mean you know the government does keep a close eye on its people and there are restrictions on the internet like you can’t go on Facebook and Google. But at the same time I mean I think there still is a lot of freedom in China.
Nathan: 00:20:12 I think that the kind of perceived connotation of communism you know internationally when you look at China is is in some sense not correct because I remember when I was going there you know for the first time eight years ago people thought they wouldn’t be able to contact with get in contact with me if people thought I’d be you know basically isolated isolated exactly the way were isolated in this country and really you know it wasn’t I mean the freedoms they had there were just as much as they had here in America pretty much very cool.
Stephen: 00:20:45 All right. Just fascinated by the whole thing. Love the idea of expanding your mind early because that’s the impressionable years right and that not having that fear going forward it gives you a huge huge advantage and hence the reason your business is doing so well because you don’t have any fear. All right so things are go well. What happens next.
Nathan: 00:21:04 Yes I get back from China. And you know I finished my senior year of high school in America you know ended up having the opportunity to come out to San Diego California for college at the University of San Diego. And for me the decision really sparked from I had a buddy growing up whose dad was a Navy SEAL and so I used to you know come out to San Diego every once in a while and when it came time to know visit colleges and see different schools I figured San Diego would be a great set of weather girls.
Nathan: 00:21:31 Come on they come la you know movement right by the beach and surprise you.
Nathan: 00:21:40 The call is really enjoying my time on the beach. It’s still you know that experience in China. Always wanted to figure out how to intertwine my experience in China with with my life and with business and so it came hand in hand where you know literally one day in my freshman year of college I had this concept to invent the first leather watch strap without holes and it worked like a zip tie like those belt buckles that you see that kind of slide you slide the strap through the buckle in the buckle catches on notches and a strap and so know I saw that belt buckle and I think go check the time on my watch. And you know I wasn’t a watch guy by any means and a lot of people think oh you started a watch company you must be really into watches and for me it was a matter of starting the business.
Nathan: 00:22:31 And for me I was more motivated by the brand. And so I ended up launching this company called yes man watches and I was young and I still have young so I don’t necessarily I didn’t really think of you know negative connotation that the word yes man has. But you know for me and for my friends in college you know we were thinking in terms of everything starts by saying yes and we were the guys that were you know Cliff jumping between classes or surfing before class and really trying to make the most of our day. And you know that’s kind of the brand that we created in that aesthetic that we connected with. And so that whole process of bringing a product to life was it was crazy. I mean that was you know I you know sold the wholesale products basically through eBay before and some smaller Shopify stores but that leather watch strap that I created was the first you know custom product that I had manufactured and what you just saw that we were selling through Shopify and we launched on Kickstarter.
Stephen: 00:23:28 OK. So you know so you should launch a campaign which is a big deal. How successful was Kickstarter for you.
Nathan: 00:23:34 Kickstarter was a you know incredible process in back then it was a lot more organic than it is today in terms of you know nowadays you have people spending a lot of money on ad budgets to drive traffic to starter you know for us in our first campaign. Had 35000. You know it wasn’t a ton per se but it’s a lot of money. Yeah I mean for you know a 19 year old it was you know to enable us to fund production and actually grow brands so what was really exciting and you know what we didn’t even realize in the first year really was that you know by the time we got through Shopify in our first year and got on Shopify we had done just over six figures in sales in our first year and we were like wow like you know we were just sun.
Nathan: 00:24:16 We were the Sun watches you know we weren’t necessary focused on the numbers per se. Gross margins were amazing I mean I think on the watch as we had about an 83 percent gross margin and you know sunglasses that we ended up selling we had about a 94 percent gross margin. And so the margins were great. And at that time you know on social media there is a lot more organic reach where you can post something on Facebook and a lot of people that liked my page would see it or I could post foot on Instagram and a lot of people you know that were through their feed would see it whereas nowadays you know both those platforms have created you know advertising to basically make people spend money for people to see what you post. And so we grew up a lot organically.
Stephen: 00:25:04 And how did you drive traffic. I mean Shopify is not easy to drive traffic right.
Nathan: 00:25:09 Exactly and so we grew. You know a lot through social media marketing and really what that entailed was giving give away like hosting giveaways of different brands. We do like collaboration where we both post on our Instagram page and they would tag people in the comments. And so it’s a lot of different ways that we did. And for us you know the UAE is just a cost of a watch plus shipping which wasn’t much. And it enabled us to grow through social media like that nowadays. And I think that strategy is pretty saturated in terms of it’s a lot harder to get organic reach on the social media platforms. But you know really we through social media and we also did impersonal events. This is called kind of a Funny Story where we host or we sponsor like Hard Rock hotel pool parties or they had a town in downtown San Diego. This
Nathan: 00:25:59 is a California thing you guys say California in Vegas. Yeah. And I wasn’t even 21 at the 12 always walking carrying boxes of product that we were bringing in.
Nathan: 00:26:11 And you know people were getting drawn and we were sans sunglasses for you know 30 or 50 dollars a pop in like on a Saturday at the Hard Rock Hotel downtown. We could do like 2500 almost 3000 dollars in sales on a Saturday. And I was like Oh wow. Well this isn’t you know hard money and it’s pretty fun sun and drinking some beers. So it was a good time. And that’s you know another way we grew as just through a lot of different events.
Nathan: 00:26:36 But you know the event marketing is very hard to scale out and so we really kind of continue to shift our focus towards social media and sound to Shopify in a bid on Amazon as well. We do know we put our records on Amazon.
Stephen: 00:26:50 So you didn’t start with Amazon. You know you sit back and you think about the event marketing and all those different things that you did. They do help you though as as new marketplaces as new tools come how those concepts you know while it’s not an event it could be an online event. Right. Or whatever there are other ways. So I don’t think that that time is misspent. I think it’s tuition and you get paid for it and you got beer and I’m assuming there were some women there I’m sure.
Nathan: 00:27:19 Yeah. And that’s kind of a big dynamic with event marketing is sometimes it’s hard to see a direct return unless you’re selling products there on the spot. Whereas you know if you’re creating a paid ads funnel you can track someone all the way through your funnel you know if I give someone if I meet someone at an event and tell them about my brand it’s very hard for me to actually track them all the way through the phone. I mean maybe I can give them like a coupon code that I can use on our site or something but it’s a lot harder to track someone at scale through events or off line marketing than it is through online marketing. I think that’s why you know a lot of the e-commerce world has continued to push this this you know online marketing dynamic where you track someone really from the first time the click on your ad all the way through a purchase and you know reselling them across different files as well.
Stephen: 00:28:11 So let’s think about this so the other thing that you said it’s interesting to me is that you went to Amazon but that wasn’t the first place she went. Now in the real world today that’s what people are doing. It’s Amazon right. I mean it’s completely flip flopped. But at that time why not Amazon first.
Nathan: 00:28:29 You know I think really the kind of dynamics behind the decision were we were you know trying to create our own brand experience.
Nathan: 00:28:37 And I mean Amazon I think is now you know if you’re to start selling a product you want to head towards Amazon just because you know they have so many buyers on their marketplace. But for us at the time it was about creating a brand experience. And you know I figured we should create our own custom Web site and you know own all the experience and so we went with Shopify because it enabled us to you know not only streamline our payment processing and logistics in some sense but also enabled us to create a custom online experience so we put a good amount of thought and design into our Web site and launch through Shopify but I would say you know it’s a different dynamic because on Shopify you know you put up a shopify store and the buyers aren’t there for you whereas if you start making a product and Amazon you know you’re going to start seeing buyers come in because they already have you know tens of millions if not hundreds of millions of buyers on the marketplace.
Nathan: 00:29:32 And so it’s a completely different dynamic as e-commerce entrepreneur where you’re thinking about where do I want to sell my products. You know if you had that Facebook marketing expertise or social media marketing expertise you know selling through Shopify could be a good option. But if you don’t get so we know how to drive traffic to your Shopify site and it’s going to be a lot harder to scale than it would be perceived.
Stephen: 00:29:56 You know rank a product on Amazon where I think it makes perfect sense and you know the biggest challenge is people needed an immediate return right day. They got this product they launch they need the money. Well we can wait and build it out on Shopify and hope or we could build it on amazon and get an immediate return. The challenge I see right now is a ton I mean a ton. Every one of my friends that’s on Amazon millions selling millions. Want more control because you know the good news with Amazon. It’s got millions of users. And you know the bad news with Amazon is they mandate rules and you know they’re making the rules because they’re looking at the big picture right there. Look at Steve’s business or Nathan’s business they’re saying hey this is where we’re going to let you come along.
Stephen: 00:30:40 So in fairness it’s their rules. The bad news though is sometimes they don’t. They don’t align with yours. And so they want to get off and do their own thing and they think Shopify is the thing. But exactly what you’re saying it’s easy to get the Web site. It’s easy to get the images all that jazz over now that’s really become automated. Right. But but but that piece of driving traffic having a website with no sales it just sucks. I mean it’s depressing. Yeah exactly.
Nathan: 00:31:06 I mean I think you know kind of that his marketing conference in and a few months ago and they are talking about push pull content and right now you know about two thirds of the world’s Web site traffic a lot of times is driven through Facebook group. And if you know two thirds of your traffic is being drive through to traffic sources Google and Facebook. You know Facebook changes their algorithm. Google changes their CEO ranking algorithm. It’s going to have a massive effect on your business. And I think it relates to Amazon sellers as well where if Amazon changes the way it wants to rank product then you know if you’re if you’re a Protestant alignment with that new way the rankings are going to be hurt and you your business is probably going to take a hit. And I think that’s probably one of the scariest parts of you know completely focusing on one market or completely focusing on one traffic source is you know even with Facebook’s recent advertising update like if your advertisements don’t align with their new update your cpc or CPA is you’re going to go up across the board and that’s going to have a drastic effect on your business.
Stephen: 00:32:15 It reminds me two things. One when I was with Gary for an event he told me he’s like Steve you have to be on every marketplace because you never know which ones going to be the next big one or the one that’s going to hit. So that was his advice you must be on everything. And number two I think a good example of the algorithm change recent that a lot of people are still stinging from is on eBay eBay has changed their algorithm. And so you know Google’s stop showing their stuff all that stuff happened and what you did doesn’t work today what you used to do. So you have to stay current and it’s an enormous win and we have a large eBay business here for us to modify. It’s an enormous undertaking but yet what do you do. Right. Otherwise you have no sale so I think it’s sound advice. So let’s let’s pull it forward. Right so you graduate from school. What kind of degree. I
Nathan: 00:33:06 got a finance degree.
Stephen: 00:33:08 Okay that’s a great degree. That’s a great degree. I thought you’re going to say like I.T. or something like that. So finance is a wonderful degree goes across all concepts you could actually read financial statements which is pretty important in any business. Yeah that’s a big deal especially when you’re out there in that VC world. You absolutely have to understand that right.
Nathan: 00:33:26 Exactly 100 percent. I mean you know for me in college I was continue to be driven by entrepreneurship.
Nathan: 00:33:33 Being an entrepreneurship club that we had or you or university and I ended up you know helping and working with a lot of different e-commerce companies like original green and cube Kilimanjaro and helping with a lot of different Kickstarter campaigns and really trying to create a name for myself and this Indiegogo ecosystem. So
Nathan: 00:33:50 I mean I graduated but I can’t say I was top of my class you know.
Stephen: 00:33:55 You know what I mean. I think all that stuff doesn’t mean a lot any more. I think again if you learn something I hire. I used to hire people I retired but I used to hire people and always was looking for somebody who learned something I didn’t care where they were. Do you know something can you. Can you advance our business and that’s really important. How about how about as you grow your business. You know you’re still in the California marketplace is it is that where the talent is. I knew we were doing a little talk at the preconference about Texas and Austin and some of the marketplace that’s moving there it’s really shifting there. I mean it’s like little California really has been a talent for what you do.
Nathan: 00:34:34 Right. I mean so here’s the thing you know sources are you know main expenses definitely people and you know we’ve got less than eight players for sure and recruiting is hard. I mean especially here in California when you get out calls with former engineers at Google or Apple and you know they’re used to being paid you know 200000 plus salaries for a made to senior level developer if not more. And you know as a startup and as a company that’s trying to grow fast it’s very hard to compete with those bigger companies because the benefits are amazing the salaries are you know as high as they’re going to be almost. And it’s just hard to compete. And so I think you know in terms of talent I do think there are some amazing people here in California for sure but I would say you know the ecosystem here especially in the San Francisco Bay Area is crazy.
Nathan: 00:35:28 I mean you know the amount of money that some people are being paid in the amount of capital that’s going into the ecosystem is it’s amazing to see. But you know for us being based in San Diego and being based in Gwangju it’s a different dynamic. You know even I was talking to one of our operations managers the other day and saying you know look if we if we hire more product managers and account managers in China we’re going to be paying about almost a third less per team member than we would in California. And that whole dynamic really comes to light as you’re trying to grow and realize that you know there are some amazing people around the world and I think the more remote or more international you can make your team you know the more opportunities you’ll hire. When it comes to talent because you aren’t going to be locked down to one market makes perfect sense.
Stephen: 00:36:23 So when when did the idea of source safari come to you. I mean what was it that you know or did somebody else bring it to you. I mean what was it that got you there. Right. So you had product you were doing well with it you tried all these different things. You start on Amazon. It’s a sunglass business. Did it stay going.
Nathan: 00:36:43 So you know he was the dynamic where yes men grew. You know a six figure Shopify store you know was unable to impress.
Nathan: 00:36:51 Yeah it was in college I mean I was enabling me to have some you know good money while I was in college and realized that I was always excited by the manufacturing side of the table. You know the marketing and that side of the table I wasn’t like I was into it but I wasn’t as excited as bringing new products to life and I mean I’ll tell you the most exciting day for me as an entrepreneur was when we got the first prototype of our original watch. I mean to have that feeling of having an idea you know a few months prior a few weeks prior whenever maybe and then seeing that idea come to life and actually being able to hold it in your hands is incredible. I mean I remember I was tracking on DHL and one of my classes. And though I refresh the page and it was like delivery and I was like.
Nathan: 00:37:37 Like it’s here go out. That was like a 10 minute drive from campus. So I literally ran out of class like you know I’m gone to the bathroom ran out rushed home and there was the packet and I was like oh this year it was like my heart rate was going up just opening up our first prototype and just that moment of pure excitement and adrenaline and some sense of being like wow like you know this is a product that was in my head a few months prior and now it’s in my hands and you know I ended up not even making it back to that class and my backpack was in the classroom the whole afternoon because I was just you know went straight into a photo shoot but I call my buddy was like Hey I like the watches here you know we’ve got to start taking photos let’s do this.
Nathan: 00:38:20 And it was just that excitement of creating a business like that and bringing a product life. And
Nathan: 00:38:25 so for me as I had that feeling I realized that I wanted to enable more people to have that same excitement and so I started helping a lot of different companies with their supply chains and helping people bring products to life.
Nathan: 00:38:41 And so that was always the exciting side of the business for me and so ended up selling you know that yes man watch company to another e-commerce entrepreneur before I graduated. It wasn’t a big acquisition but you know enabled me to have some cash when I graduated Stokoe.
Nathan: 00:38:57 And I started as a kind of as like a sourcing agent basically and you know to tell you the full story is pretty funny my first web site that I ever launched that was around the sourcing and manufacturing industry was find watch manufacturers dotcom and literally all we did was connect you know companies or entrepreneurs that wanted to start their own watch companies with watch factories and you know for me I’ve been in the watch industry for a few years by then and knew you know pretty much every watch factory that you wanted to work with. And so you know our main my main kind of business at that time was helping people start their own watch companies and so that was more of a consultancy.
Nathan: 00:39:41 And at the time in San Diego I had a lot of friends that were starting software companies and I realized that software is a lot more scalable than a consulting because you know with a consulting company you are exchanging your time for money whereas the software you know you’ve got a scalable product that can grow without you having to spend every minute on it.
Nathan: 00:39:59 And so I realized that we could automate the process of bringing our product to life or cutting manufacturing costs through software. And that’s really where the concept for Sourcefire stand.
Stephen: 00:40:12 You know sit and think about you know learning fluent Mandarin learning the watch business as you said you knew all the watch manufacturing companies and you could literally speak their language. Figuratively I mean literally speak their language. That is a massive advantage but it’s perfect alignment for your. And you got a finance degree. So it’s a perfect alignment of all the training that you had at a whopping age of 20 or something like that whole life Stahl 20 years have prepared you for this moment and you took action on it.
Stephen: 00:40:47 And I think that that I mean it just blows my mind to think about how cool that must feel. How cool. I mean what do your parents say. I mean now they get to be sitting there looking and you know I mean I’m a dad so I’m always you know I’m proud of my boys. I have two boys. I’m proud of them no matter what it’s like when they they kind of set a direction and they follow through with it I think that’s the biggest deal for me as a dad.
Nathan: 00:41:13 Totally.
Nathan: 00:41:13 I mean you know I think I’ll tell a story that I think reflects how my parents feel and I think reflects the action that you know people need to take as an entrepreneur when they’re trying to grow a company and you know so when I graduated college I had always wanted to travel and so it is like a trip I bought a one way ticket to Athens Greece and went around Europe for like four or five months and was just living it up. I mean literally having the time my life and exploring so many amazing countries and places. So I got back home in Maryland you know without a job and had the concept for source of my in my head. But you know this was I guess is pretty much a year just a year ago about a year and one month ago.
Nathan: 00:41:56 You know got back in December for the holidays and my mom was like you know Nathan what are you going to do. Like you should get a job. You know you can’t just live at home and you know be a stay at home son. And so I started actually started applying for jobs and I was like you know this doesn’t feel right. And I know I have this concept that I want to start. But the problem for me was in my environment in Maryland I didn’t know many entrepreneurs and I wasn’t connected to many entrepreneurs whereas in San Diego you know most my friends are entrepreneurs or started Umphrey’s and so you know I basically stayed home for a month and a half trying to figure things out and kind of trying to figure out if I could start sort of find you know understand how I would do that. And you know when I talk to friends about starting a company in Maryland and I’m not saying that you know the entrepreneurship scene isn’t there. I just don’t think it’s there to the extent that it is in California.
Stephen: 00:42:48 It’s a different it’s a different type I mean imagine there maybe there are I don’t know what Maryland is known for but whatever they are there. Lane that’s there. But if you want to develop software it’s California or Austin or wherever. Yeah
Nathan: 00:43:01 exactly. And so you know that was kind of the dynamic where you know I wasn’t in an environment that was very that was pushing me forward as an entrepreneur. And so I said look you know I’m going to move back to San Diego. That’s where my entrepreneurial friends are. I’m going to apply to this nonprofit incubator called Nexus in San Diego.
Speaker 18: 00:43:21 We ended up you know being incubated through a company and enabled us to grow a lot through the San Diego ecosystem. And you know really tweak that jumps. I moved back to San Diego and rented out an apartment on Craigslist and just started working out of my kitchen basically. You know I think that the life of an entrepreneur is a lot of times people think it’s more glamorous than it is. I mean you know I still get up at 530 in the morning and start working by six and I’m usually you know working you’re speaking team in China until almost 11 30 at night.
Nathan: 00:43:56 So I think realizing that you know especially going into this incubator in San Diego and even going into Y Combinator you know you have a lot of companies that go into these programs and even people that think you know I’m in this program now I’m going to be a success. And what they don’t realize is that you know you’re still going to have to put in the work. You know there’s no magic to success. Everyone has their own path and great mentors can answer some very hard questions but at the end of the day you’re still going to have to put in the work.
Stephen: 00:44:26 You know you sit and you think about though going all the way in. I mean moving move into California’s all in. I mean and I think what you’re saying is hey if you really want to do if you really want to be that entrepreneur if you really want to be whatever it is and if whatever version of the entrepreneur for you you’ve got to you’ve got to make that commitment. And I applaud your parents for chronic giving you the motivation you know and giving you a chance. But to me that’s what’s so different and you have some success. So let’s talk source EFY. Let’s talk about what it does and what it doesn’t do because you know some of it’s not a perfect system I can’t imagine it is right. There’s always that that there’s going to be a gap. Expectation vs you know deliverance deliverables whatever.
Stephen: 00:45:13 So let’s talk about you know the concept in the past was we would send somebody over to China they would find a manufacturer then they would find other manufacturers and eventually try to piece it together and then try to find shipping companies to get product to you blah blah blah blah blah a long time.
Stephen: 00:45:27 This takes a lot of effort. Long time. You’ve got a system where basically it vets manufacturers because you’re there right. I mean walk us through.
Nathan: 00:45:41 Yes so you know basically what we built out right now is the fastest way to bring a product to life for manufacturing costs. The way that we do that is you just go to source fights try source for dot com. You can submit you know any project or product that you want to manufacture we’ve produced everything from hair extensions to beds in backpacks and sunglasses and hats and shoes and all that we produce in over 100 different product categories. But you basically go ahead submit your product. We then send that product out to factories that we’ve prevented. So far we worked with over 700 factories. Most of our factories meet the same certificates as like Disney Wal-Mart V.F. Corp. all these big they’re making products for them companies right.
Stephen: 00:46:23 I mean that’s a big deal. Exactly
Nathan: 00:46:25 . I mean you know for us for example a lot of investors ask you know how do you guys that all these factories that we say look you know most of the factories we work with have already asked certificates or BSEE certificates or have work with these bigger retailers.
Speaker 18: 00:46:39 We go in and validate the certificates you know see the factory floor and see what’s going on and understand the dynamic within that factory. And then once we do that and have that understanding of their business we then you know enable them to start using Sourcefire and start getting unique clients to store Suffian so you submit your project that product is sent out to factories that produce in that product category those factories cement price quotes back to our platform. You see those price quotes on our platform and then can be we start communicating with factories through our platform or through we chat or WhatsApp or you know whichever way you want to communicate. And we’re working on API integrations with those other platforms so it can all be streamlined. We have project management tools like a calendar so you can understand when samples should be done you know when production should be started and all of that.
Stephen: 00:47:29 And you know that’s a big deal. I mean you know I’m or thinking myself wait a second you could go to L.A. I mean and let’s be fair somebody could go to Ali Baba right now and search watered Alaska. These are kind of water glass and say hey I want to manufacture water unless you put that in. And all of a sudden there’s going to be you know eight thousand places that also wore eyeglasses right. And then there is little you know little gold standards and all the rest of this jazz you get to start doing the filtering and then you get to start communicating get to decide which ones. And you’ve got to start communicating at start that process right that time. You got to go through and start developing a relationship and then who leads the expectation. I’m a new seller trying to bring products to market.
Stephen: 00:48:09 I don’t know is two weeks enough is a week and I don’t know what to expect. All those different things you’re saying that with this product I’m going to be able to say hey this is the time line and it’s real clear right. They know that there’s a deadline. They have it looming on them and to me those are valuable valuable tools. Exactly
Nathan: 00:48:28 . And that’s one of the best dynamics right there is if you go to Alibaba for example you know you search for a product whenever maybe you’re going to get thousands of results thousands. You don’t know which company is legit. You know who’s who. And most of those companies are trading companies wholesalers or feeder factories not act.
Stephen: 00:48:45 Explain what that is because I don’t think people understand what that means.
Nathan: 00:48:48 Right. So a trading company is basically a middleman between you in a factory and so you know trading companies make money by taking their own margin. So I would say trading companies margins probably on average like 20 to 30 percent or so depending on the product and product category. And basically the scary thing about working with trading companies is you’re paying through the trading company so they can disappear you know pretty easily if something goes bad with that product or it goes bad with that production run.
Speaker 18: 00:49:18 And a lot of times you know these trading companies you ask these factories from the Alibaba side of the table for Alibaba you know they’re ranking these factories just based on who pays them the most you know. Right. When a company to be listed on Alibaba. They’re paying about 300000 renminbi a year to be ranked for a high you know search volume keyword and so you know for Alibaba it’s and pay to play a game where their goal is to get as many companies on their B2B marketplace as possible so they don’t care if you’re trading company. If you’re a wholesaler you know they just want you onboard and you know create a gold supplier account so they get their money. And for us we don’t make money from these factories. I mean for us right now we only charge the buyer a company side of the platform and so it’s a different dynamic for us.
Stephen: 00:50:05 You work for me if I pay you. You worked for me not that factory.
Nathan: 00:50:09 Exactly. So our goal you know isn’t our goal isn’t to get you know thousands or hundreds of thousands of factories.
Speaker 18: 00:50:15 Our goal is to just get the best of the best. You know we just want the high quality of the the factories that you know provide great customer support and that communicate well. So it’s a different dynamic. I will say you know what. Alibaba has done for China is incredible. You know you look at other countries like Mexico Vietnam and there’s really no market place out there that is bringing all those factories online. And I think without Alibaba you know the trade between America and China wouldn’t be where it’s at today because it’s opened up so many of these companies to foreign buyers and so it is you know you’ve got to give Jack Ma and his team credit for what they’ve built Alibaba. But you know even so if you look at the B2B marketplace that most foreigners know them for.
Speaker 18: 00:50:59 It hasn’t changed in like you know five 10 years. And they make most money now from tarball in Timor which you’re like basically the Amazons of China in some sense and that’s a BDC play that they have within China that is doing it extremely well. But you know there’s a lot of room to improve on experience that Alibaba has created and you know really that’s where salsify comes in to really streamline that experience and an elite to bring a product life faster and and more more affordably.
Stephen: 00:51:30 Well you’re slicing and dicing it for us here doing a lot of the you know I mean your algorithm does a lot of the work right. It basically says hey you know in this category these are the five recommended factories again the recommended not because they pay you. It’s just because we’ve seen them or we’ve had customers who’ve used them. I mentioned that plays a big role is experience right. So every time somebody brings a product through you and they get developed in that factory does what they say they’re going to do on time and you guys get to see that it’s got to move them up on the list saying OK this is trustworthy.
Stephen: 00:52:03 This is experiential trustworthy. We sign it.
Speaker 18: 00:52:08 And that’s our own internal vetting process in terms of look you know the factories that we’re clients better and you work with buyers more. Are we going to get more connections through our platform. So you know for us we have some factories where we’re starting to become their main client source whereas right now for example look at the factories that attainable how to factories get clients right now. You know they either are on big marketplaces like Alibaba or global sources are made in China or they’re going to trade shows and each one is going to cost them about you know fifty thousand dollars or so per year. And for them the lead flow is horrible. You know they have to spend so much time and money qualifying that leads to see which buyers are legit and that’s why you know a lot of foreign buyers you know you go in Ali Bob and Sinnett you know a few dozen requests to different companies because you know the reason the response rate isn’t so high is because those companies also have to do due diligence on the inbound requests. And
Nathan: 00:53:04 if a company gets you know if a factory gets 100 inbound requests from Alibaba there’s only about a 2 to 3 percent chance that that buyer goes into production. And so you know it’s frustrating for these factory bosses to have teams of 10 20 30 plus people that you know spend all their time qualifying these buyers and trying to get someone to place that the production run that makes perfect sense so they want to affiliate with you to that.
Stephen: 00:53:31 So that makes a big deal because you’re bringing real buyers. So let’s talk costs so it’s 500 bucks four hundred ninety nine dollars. If I want to bring a project right so let me make sure I understand this my product is protected correct.
Nathan: 00:53:44 Yeah exactly. So you know we’ll sign and we’ve got our own internal and years with factories. You know we have the buyers interests in mind. Who’s going to have your back.
Stephen: 00:53:54 And so it’s Forder ninety nine dollars so I want to make this water glass which is a very nice water glass. And so I go through the process to find the product requirements put my information in and then you somehow secretly through your system finds the last manufacturer’s right ones that have been proven to make good glasses before and they submit bids through your system again. This is all done through some kind of content management system that you have.
Nathan: 00:54:22 Right exactly. Just through a platform.
Stephen: 00:54:24 OK. So your platform. And then I get to see the bids come through.
Stephen: 00:54:28 And then as they come through the next stage would be the samples right will be you know and then you guys help with that process. What I what I appreciate is the fact that you’re actually helping the timeline that you’re helping set expectations on both sides. And I think that that’s a big big deal because communication is so difficult.
Speaker 18: 00:54:50 So I guess I just want to touch on the communication a bit a bit because you know I’ve talked to so many different e-commerce companies and larger retailers and you asked buyers on both sides of the table and you say hey you know how do you track your price from runs right now. And the good ones maybe haven’t mapped out and excel sheet or Google Calendar whereas the ones that aren’t are so organized. You know if I asked them what is your sample supposed to be done are ones production supposed to be done they’re going back through tens of e-mails and their e-mail changes when that date is.
Stephen: 00:55:21 And it’s a big deal. And so you know how many holidays they have a year that the world shuts down. Right. Those things there’s one coming up right. And so what happens is you’ve got a plan for all that right. And it’s such a big deal. And so then again you’re monitoring production updates so that data is kept back and forth. So I guess are our triggers that you know. And this is your system automatically notify me hey you know we started production that kind of stuff.
Nathan: 00:55:47 Know one of the things we’re working on right now is on madé notifications and reminders where you know let’s say a production line supposed to be done in two weeks we’re going to automatically follow up with that fact and say hey you know how is this production going you know do you have any updates with photos or anything we should know about because you know that’s something that I think everyone knows that you have to be top of mind with a factory when going into production with them. And so we’re automatically enabling you to do that through our platform.
Stephen: 00:56:15 Another big deal. All right. Because this stuff gets away from when you’re fighting. You know think about a lot of the companies they’re small. They don’t have teams and so you know when you’re wearing every hat the stuff gets away from it. So the product comes in then I get to review it and make sure I’m happy and then I get to review do I get to offer feedback about that company to you.
Nathan: 00:56:35 Yeah exactly. So we have our own internal review process and you can give feedback on the factory and then the product as well like you know we offer to see Jackson kind of the whole dynamic of importing that product. We work with two major freight forwarding partners flex poor and freighters that help you import that price to your Amazon FBA warehouse or your third party logistics partner or your or your own internal warehouse so it really is up to you. But for us you know we’re trying to handle the and process and then also working on integration with Shopify and big commerce and different ERP systems to enable us understand when you should go into production based on your your inventory levels and production to really get and complete.
Stephen: 00:57:23 And where do you say it because it says on your site that you’ve seen cost savings. Why are people seeing cost savings.
Speaker 18: 00:57:29 Praise visibility’s so you know for us we automate the process for you to understand what factories are going to quote for certain products instead of having to go out and get you know five different price quotes from five different factories. We do that work automatically for you through our platform. So okay that’s one way we give cost savings and number two you know these factories know that we’re serious buyers and a very high likelihood that when we make a connection between a company and a buyer or between a factory and a buyer that they’re going to go into production run. And so they treat the buyers that come through Sourcefire is very serious buyers. And so they’re willing to offer better pricing because they don’t have to spend as much time qualifying as buyers.
Stephen: 00:58:11 OK so let’s talk costs so it’s four hundred ninety nine dollars.
Nathan: 00:58:15 And that gets me what that gets you basically the process of bringing a product to live or you’re not going to nickel and dime for more. Now I mean you know right now that’s our pricing structures just per product category. I will say moving forward. The most exciting part of our business and what is really getting investors exciting excited is that we’re collecting so much data on what it costs to manufacture products where eventually we’ll be able to automate the pricing of products in real time where let’s say let’s say you want to start your own line of sunglasses and want bamboo arm and polarized lenses and you want 10000 units will be able to price out that product in real time based on the pass price data we have from factories.
Stephen: 00:59:01 So that’s really how you can really quickly develop because in that case you could be first to market. Right.
Nathan: 00:59:06 And if you don’t know that right Jacqui and that’s every single time and so you know we’re launching our own payment processor where we can handle payments between the company and our factory. And so when we have that data down you know we want to even charge that upfront costs will give you the price in those of those units right off the bat.
Nathan: 00:59:25 And if you want to go into production you know you can do so faster than anyone else and you’ll make a little percentage as that’s how you get that.
Stephen: 00:59:32 So so what if I make those sunglasses and things are great I want to continue that deal with that company now am my still dealing through you at this point or does it then move off to my own relationship with that company.
Nathan: 00:59:46 You know that’s your choice. I think every marketplace is going to have some drop off you know for us we try to add value up and down the supply chain that makes it so you’d want to continue to use our platform.
Stephen: 00:59:57 But it’s that one price per so as long as I keep making the same sunglasses there’s no additional today there’s no additional fees for that. Okay but then you know ideally if this worked why wouldn’t I want to do another project that’s how you look at your work and along came a lot dude. I love it. 500 bucks however and Steve does not benefit. Make sure buddy understands that you’re going to offer forty nine dollars off if you use the code will mentor him so the Web site is try Sourcefire dot com. There’s a start project there. What I also appreciate too is there’s a learning section right so there’s case studies I think case studies are so critical. Greg Mercer it reminds me of him case studies are so important because you started thinking that you’re the only one with these idiotic questions right.
Stephen: 01:00:45 Nobody else knows. I mean nobody or everybody else knows the answer answers right now it’s just me. And then you look at his case doesn’t you like. Well no. OK. You mean other people have you know aren’t as comfortable and to do that. So I think that that’s that’s really important so that stuff’s all free on the Web site. There’s a blog there for all that information and I absolutely think that you’d need to go and start thinking and looking at this and say Hmm I see some possibilities here and I love the idea that you can run that through just a time management piece that to me is worth the 500 bucks but you’re going to say. Forty nine dollars if you use the code momentum when you pay. And I think that’s very exciting. I’m very appreciative of that.
Stephen: 01:01:29 When when you think about the future right now think about what you’ve seen. Right. And we’re where the world has gone. When you look at where it’s going fastest to market is critical right time is because money is relative. It’s time. Right. I mean that’s really the only thing I think when you look forward what’s going to happen I know there’ll be another marketplace other than Amazon. You know there’s a couple trying something awork where somebody will hit it but it’s still going to matter is the ability to bring that product to market fastest. Exactly. All right. Anything else she’d like to add. I mean I’m going to put contact information to you also have Nathan Reznik dot com which is your personal brand and you get to see your travels and look and say oh my god he’s 23 years old he should be sitting on that beach.
Stephen: 01:02:25 That’s not nice that’s mean Max is mean and there’s a lot of great information about a lot of the success you guys have been doing at source support. Try salsify dot com. Anything else you want to close with anything else you want to add.
Nathan: 01:02:39 I mean I think you know I’ve always you know we’ve always got entrepreneurs back and we’re always excited to bring new products to life. So you know we’re excited to work with you and you know. Thanks. Thanks so much for your time. It’s been an awesome experience being on e-commerce momentum and I’m excited to listen when this goes live.
Stephen: 01:02:57 It’s very very kind. So I’m excited for people again Steve doesn’t benefit other than getting to see somebody have success and take action. I love when people say you know yeah I did this and it magically worked. It was exactly what Nathan said it would be great when I in my world I win because you get some success and they get some success. OK. So best way to get to is the best way to get your own salsify or is there another way or on your Web site.
Nathan: 01:03:22 You just go to try Sourcefire an icon that works. You know you can always hit me up on Twitter. Rez 94. I’m usually pretty active on social media on LinkedIn as well so feel free to ask me questions and you know always exchange to help.
Stephen: 01:03:38 Man I appreciate it. Thank you so much I wish you nothing but success. Take care.
Stephen: 01:03:44 Man what a great interview. What a great guy as a dad man. I’d be so proud of that boy just because he’s executed he’s actually done the work he’s taken and realizes very clearly that this isn’t you know glamorous this isn’t easy. I still got to get up and do the work. But look at him getting the reward from it. Man I just I just think that’s so incredible. I’m excited to try the service because if I can buy time if they can do some of that work that takes time that just a management piece for me because that’s just not my skill set. I see some real value there against say the 49 bucks and I don’t benefit at all use that code momentum. Awesome awesome service reach out to him if you have a question and take a look at their site because there are some really good information there and case studies you should be reading case studies to read Harvard Business Review case studies all the time and that’s how we get smarter and this is a good good way to do that e-commerce momentum.
Stephen: 01:04:38 Com e-commerce momentum Takan. Take care.
Cool voice guy: 01:04:41 Thanks for listening to the e-commerce. As all the links mentioned today can be found at combers momentum dot com under number. Please remember to subscribe and like us on iTunes.