500 Startups has always been bullish about online commerce, despite economic fluctuations. The future of commerce is not in traditional brick & mortar stores, but in the innovative online plays from companies like Bonobos, Warby Parker, and Wanelo.
Wanelo founder and CEO Deena Varshavskaya is speaking at our upcoming COMMERCISM conference, so we asked her to share some lessons she has learned as an early-stage founder + her thoughts on the future of commerce.
Q. What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned since founding your startup or starting your career in the eCommerce space?
A. Startups are a series of black boxes. Examples of black boxes are building your product, hiring a team, raising money, public speaking – basically any new area of the company life in which you don’t have expertise. Think of these as black boxes because you don’t really know what’s inside (even though you’ve likely read about it, received advice on it, etc).
Black boxes can be scary and overwhelming, but a common trap is attempting to be perfect about something unknown. Due to all the available advice out there, there may be a perception that you can read all the advice and figure out the perfect path. The problem is that perfection is paralyzing.
I realized this when I was raising my seed round. At some point, I simply got overwhelmed with the pressure to figure out the perfect way to talk to investors and to structure my round. I essentially said, ‘Screw it, I’m just going to do it and I’ll accept the fact that I’ll make mistakes and won’t be perfect about it.’
Since then, I’ve seen this play out many times. If I allow myself to open each black box, get inside and take action, I have some successes and some mistakes, but I learn really fast. The key is to take action above everything else and not be afraid of mistakes.
Q. Who else in the industry should be on our watch list, in terms of innovation & growth?
A. There are three main drivers in commerce: value, convenience and self expression. There are companies that are innovating with each of these drivers in mind.
For example, Amazon continues to operate with what appears to be a 50-year vision in value and convenience. Fast fashion represents innovation in value and self expression, with ASOS and Nasty Gal being good examples. I’m also intrigued by the way Bonobos and Birchbox are questioning and reinventing the world of physical retail.
Q. What is the the future of eCommerce & why?
A. The future of eCommerce is social. As consumers are moving online, they are faced with an explosion of choices. The challenge is that they need a way to make sense of these endless choices and they are doing that through social networks. Social connections are incredibly powerful for filtering and finding relevance and we already use social networks for almost everything we do online, from music to images to news.
Shopping is no exception, but people need to recognize that shopping has a unique set of needs which platforms like Facebook or Twitter cannot address. The future of ecommerce is a social network that is dedicated to shopping 100%.
Ultimately, shopping will follow the path of the publishing industry. Publishing has evolved from major media outlets to separate blogs to RSS readers and finally Twitter.
For retailers, this means that in order to succeed they need to not only be online, but also be where consumers are now making buying decisions. They need to actively participate in social platforms.
Who else is leading the charge at COMMERCISM? Check out our complete speaker lineup, and join the revolution on 3-21-2014. Can’t make the conference? Be sure to tune into the Livestream here at 500.co.