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Believing in People Over Ideas with Mariam Naficy

90% of start-ups fail over the long run. So how does ecommerce and marketplace entrepreneur Mariam Naficy turn every start-up she heads into a success?

Mariam has been able to create lightning in a bottle multiple times in her career— from her early days founding and running eve.com to starting the successful creative goods marketplace, Minted, to her current company, Heretic Ventures. She has simultaneously broken and invented the code of what it takes to build an ecommerce company that catches like wildfire.  

One of the secrets to her success? Understanding and committing to the right people.  

How Mariam founded the first online makeup company

Rewinding back to the beginning, Mariam’s entrepreneurship journey began when she founded eve.com— the first online cosmetics company— in 1998. At this time, ecommerce was still in its infancy. 

“People weren't even selling shoes or clothes yet,” Mariam remarks. “We would go around and talk to VCs, and they would say, nobody is ever going to buy makeup online. That's not a thing. Like, women have to try things on before they buy them. So, there's no way cosmetics are going to sell online. This is a pretty dumb idea.” 

Despite a lot of nay-saying, Mariam trusted her co-founder. “I really wanted to work with a co-founder friend of mine. This was her favorite idea. Let's do it."

In eve.com’s first year, Mariam was on a major magazine's cover, invited to the Whitehouse, and made $10 million in sales. Eve.com took a coveted spot as one of the top 10 US ecommerce companies. Then, at 28 years old and a mere one year after eve.com’s launch, Mariam sold the company for $110 million cash. 

How to identify good startup ideas 

Mariam’s approach to choosing entrepreneurship projects is part acumen, part analytics. It’s important to note that Mariam uses no single recipe to build successful businesses. She cites three approaches that have worked for her in the past:

Pattern-fit approach

A pattern-fit business replicates a company based on a pattern you’ve identified that works in another industry. Mariam used this approach when building eve.com: “We saw books, CDs, and software sold online. And so we thought, anything could be picked and packed in a warehouse and shipped.”

Change in consumer behavior

Mariam takes an anthropological approach by looking for market gaps based on changes in consumer behavior. Specifically, she looks for cultural or technological shifts that open a door. This is precisely how Mariam founded Minted. 

“For Minted, it was a change in consumer behavior away from big brands and buying everything you wanted from a big expensive brand towards being more interested in the individual and unknown partisan. [..] I think of it as almost a study of humanity.  What's happening at the time in music? Shopping? You can triangulate what's happening in culture and put it together somewhat intellectually, somewhat instinctively [to understand that] there's a change happening here.”

Other successful businesses

Mariam also looks at other businesses that profoundly influence consumer tastes and behavior and tries to catch their wave. When founding Minted, she says she could tell design was becoming more important to people. “Apple was teaching people to care more about design. So was Ikea. When we founded Minted, it was right before Pinterest and Instagram. Those businesses put a lot of wind into our sails.”

Running an ecommerce business vs. a marketplace

Running a traditional ecommerce website and operating a marketplace are entirely different experiences. Since marketplaces often run asset-light and can have tens to thousands of vendors, they require novel means to manage everything from inventory, commerce, and shipping to fintech and product management tools. 

For Mariam, the most significant differences she experienced between first-party commerce and marketplace operations came down to two things:

  1. Balancing supply and demand 
  2. How she managed sellers 

Balancing supply and demand

With Minted’s marketplace, balancing supply and demand was all about pacing. Mariam set a rule for Minted to never let supply grow faster than demand. She wanted to ensure that an artist’s paycheck would rise or stay the same every year. 

With eve.com’s ecommerce site, balancing supply and demand came down to pushing. Eve.com required Mariam to be more actively sales-oriented.  

“At Eve.com, we were selling to the cosmetics companies, saying, ‘Please, give us supply. Don't worry. We're not going to gray market your goods. Trust ecommerce.’ [We] had to sell on a new company that nobody believed in.”

Generating sellers

For Minted’s marketplace, generating sellers came down to en-masse incentives. For Minted to work, Marium had to build relationships and trust with sellers (artists) en masse. Again, her approach to gaining sellers was based on her understanding of people and their motivations.

“Our hypothesis was if you have interesting judges and big prizes, people will enter the competition, and you will motivate entry into the community. The next hypothesis was, okay, I don't have sales for them, but I have cash. We gave them some cash. Then, I bet people are very learning-oriented as we're creatures that like to learn, and we're motivated by learning and advancement. So, maybe putting in peer critiques will be one more benefit that people would seek from our platform.”

For eve.com’s ecommerce site, generating sellers came down to one-on-one interactions. To convince sellers to come aboard Eve.com, Mariam had to negotiate with beauty brands one-on-one. “You're directly talking to your supplier one by one because you don't need such a big supply, right? So that's the big difference [between ecommerce and marketplaces.]”

Advice to marketplace operators: Look to your people 

Throughout her ecommerce career, Mariam has always had a cofounder and urges others to do the same. “I think if you're a first-time entrepreneur, it is really important to have a co-founder. The statistics show that you're much more successful with your first business with a co-founder.”

Mariam also urges founders to build a team they believe in — and then actually listen to them. 

“If you committed to being part of a team and the team you picked and believe in wants to go in a specific direction, I don't think it's a bad thing to listen and go in that different direction. Certainly, it was the right move [for me.]”

Ultimately, Mariam encourages entrepreneurs to first determine who they want to be on the bus with. Only then should they decide where they want to drive the bus to.

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Transcript

Niklas: Welcome to Operation Marketplace, a series where we talk to the people behind marketplaces, we dive into their mission, how they found success, and talk about the hurdles that they faced along the way. I'm your host, Niklas Salusa, co founder and CEO of Nautical [00:01:00] Commerce.

Hello and welcome to another episode of Operation Marketplace. I'm your host, Niklas Halusa, founder and CEO of Nautical Commerce. Today we have a real superstar of not just marketplaces, but of tech in general. Somebody who's, you know, both seen the dot com boom when Silicon Valley is a, is a, is an infamous, uh, period.

Um, and, uh, and then all the low periods in between then, um, had a huge amount of success with, with minted and call it the second wave of. um software businesses Welcome to the show Mariam Nafisi. Thank you. Very fun to be here So just to kick things off would love to hear a little bit of your story of not just you know How did you end up in?

The, the tech business, especially so early on. And, uh, you know, what are you working on nowadays?

Mariam: So I, I grew up overseas. I'm I moved around a lot because of my dad's job [00:02:00] to throughout the Middle East and Africa. Um, I went to American schools mostly, you know, I did not really have anybody in the, in the family who, uh, was a business person.

So I, this was a very kind of a funny thing that I ended up in entrepreneurship, but I had started in business out of, you know, Out of Williams College in banking and consulting and I think came to the conclusion pretty quickly that I wouldn't be given a ton of why would I would that I wasn't maybe the right personality fit to go inside a large corporation and work my way up and that I may not be very good at politics and I didn't like politics very much.

And also on top of that, that I probably wouldn't be given the kind of responsibility that I, um, felt at that young age that I deserved or that I should maybe warrant. And that was like, When I was maybe about 26 ish, 27. So that was sort of my thinking after having seen done a tour through a bunch of different companies via consulting and banking, but I started my career in [00:03:00] investment banking, so I was financially.

Trained then went back to Stanford business school kind of grudgingly. It was like, do real entrepreneurs go to business school? I'm not really sure. Um, but back then in the day, and I was in a class of 98 grad from Stanford, there was still an advantage because a lot of stuff that you have access to right now, um, a lot of information was not actually very transparently available, how to raise money, how to negotiate with venture capitalists, how to build a net, like really building the network.

I, and I also. Um, being very honest as a, a female in Silicon Valley, I thought, well, if I have the Stanford GSB on my resume, I will end up with much, a much better chance of getting plucked out of the, like basically getting the context I need to raise capital. So I, I, uh, started my first business in 1998, but I would say the reason why I went into, um, entrepreneurship was for the reasons of wanting to work for myself.

And because I found it fascinating to build products and see what people's [00:04:00] reaction was to the product instead of to me personally, I actually thought it was interesting to be in a bit of anonymous, at least at that point. I thought I could be anonymous more and that if I built a great product, people would use it regardless of who I was.

So you could separate yourself from your product. If you were dealing with dealing with consumer products and the U. S. The U. S. Given our population, Yeah. Um, is a fantastic Petri dish for developing consumer concepts and consumer marketing. And, um, I felt that, uh, it would be really fascinating to try, you know, to try to come up with a product that other, other people like.

So my first product was actually a book, which I'm embarrassed, embarrassed a little bit to say that I wrote a book to pay for business school and it was all about consulting and banking.

Niklas: I've actually seen that as a very common thing that entrepreneurs do early in their careers is write a book. So there's something about the.

[00:05:00] Wanting to put something out there in terms of ideas. That seems to be a theme, but I cut you off, please.

Mariam: Oh yeah, no, no problem. Uh, yeah. So the, the book was just really a little mini consumer product. It wasn't really a business. And then, um, and then from there, I, um, I basically from there went and, um, started, you know, started bigger companies.

And so the first business was this. com first, one of the first. com businesses in the U S it was called eve. com. It was the first cosmetics company online. And, uh, it was at a time when people weren't even selling shoes or clothes yet. And we would go around and talk to VCs and they would say, nobody is ever going to buy makeup online.

That's not a thing. Like women have to try things on before they buy them. So there's no way cosmetics are going to sell online. This is a stupid, literally, this is a pretty dumb idea. Um, and we also, uh, so we, we did that. And I would just say that the analysis didn't look good at first, but because I really wanted to work with a co founder that [00:06:00] a friend of mine, and she really wanted to do cosmetics.

I decided. You know, I want to work with this person. This is her favorite idea. Let's do it. And, and that was, that's how we ended up doing it. Um, and, uh, this was at the, you know, the land grab moment where there were no, believe it or not, there were no e commerce businesses in cosmetics before we launched.

So try to imagine nobody shipping cosmetics, that's where we were, and nobody, there weren't platforms you could use, you had to code hand build everything. So we, you, you had to spend quite a bit of money to actually launch an e commerce company because you had to build everything from scratch yourself.

There weren't all the tools that you have now. To quickly launch, you know, a consumer business. Um, and it was a pick and pack business. We went and convinced all the cosmetics companies to give us distribution and then had to design, like start to design a website. I was got a piece of paper out, started drawing websites that was like.

You know, there [00:07:00] were no, there was no Figma. There were no ways to actually design these things. Um, within a few months of even getting started building it, we were approached by LVMH to try to buy the company because they heard about us coming and they were worried about us because they had, um, they were launching Sephora into the U S for the first time.

And here was this like pair of entrepreneurs who had a, you know, Word was traveling. It was a ton of buzz around us. And, and we were like on the cover of a magazine. We were at the white house. It was, it was really, really as a 20, I'll just say back that by that time, I was 27, 28, it was a very, um, crazy moment.

And then, um, you know, we were approached again to sell the company and we ended up selling only one year after we launched the first year. And this is in 1999. The first year of our business, we had 10 million in sales and that, in that, in those days, there was so little e commerce online that that put us into the top, probably, [00:08:00] probably top 10 commerce companies and on the, in the, you know, in the, in the U S uh, and then we sold the business for about 110 million in cash one year after we launched and two weeks before the Nasdaq fell apart, um, Two, two companies, first Idealab, then to LVMH.

And that was my first experience. That was my first entrepreneurial experience.

Niklas: I wish you that kind of timing luck for all your businesses. Me too. That's either fantastic investment instinct or, uh, a lot of karma.

Mariam: Yeah. A lot of luck too. So we. Yeah, so that was the first business. Then I launched Minted, which was a design marketplace for independent designers, active community of about 20,000 designers and artists around the world.

I founded that business and then I brought on someone and made, uh, made her into a co-founder, and then I basically handed the business over about 15 years later for her to run Melissa Kim. I, uh, sold a pretty big stake in the company to [00:09:00] a private equity firm in 2018 after running it for about 15 years.

And then, um, moved to the chairman, to the office of the executive chairman, you know, and then decided to raise Heretic Ventures, which is a, uh, a fund. And I can get into that, but basically Minted's job is to unleash the creativity of artists and designers around the world. So our job is to find, use the, use the design competition structure to source, um, designers and artists from around the world who are very talented.

And who may not have any other way to get to market. And then we, um, bring their life to their work to life in the form of paper products, artwork, other things that we can make and ship to consumers on demand. So it's been a big, um, it's a, it's a pretty big business now.

Niklas: What was the process for you to You know, pick up these ideas or these directions.

Mariam: I mean, I think that the ideas have come from a, to a couple of different, have come through a couple of different ways. One is [00:10:00] with either like a pattern fit business where you see a pattern that works, you know, in one, uh, industry. And you say, I think if I take this pattern, I replicate it and analogize to, uh, something else, that's a really interesting way to start a business.

And eve. com was that, right? We saw a lot of pick and pack happening for books, for CDs. Which is, which just sounds so antiquated now, but you know, music used to, you know, used to, obviously, I don't know the age of all the readers, the listeners, but we saw books and CDs and software being sold online, like software in packages being sold online.

And so we thought, well, anything could be picked and packed in a warehouse and ship. So that, um, that was more of a pattern fit idea. 

Whereas the, the idea of crowdsourcing through a design competition, it was very hard to prove that that was going to work. That was more of like a hypothesis, like build it and they will come kind of idea.

So it really depends. Usually what I'm looking for is a change in a pretty [00:11:00] substantial change in consumer behavior that gives me a break to get into the market. So there'll be something culturally that has shifted. That that or technology technologically that has shifted for me to be able to break in and wedge in.

Um, so with Eve, it was, of course, just the fact that the Internet was there. How exciting was that? I was. You know, 27 and I think I tried Amazon for the first time when I was 25 and fell in love with Amazon. Um, you know, sitting in my kitchen thinking, is there a book that's actually going to arrive in my mailbox if I do this?

And, um, super, that was like a huge moment or for minted. It was really a change in consumer behavior away from big brands and buying everything you wanted from a big expensive brand towards being more interested in the individual and unknown partisan. And being willing to, to shop from, and the recession played into this a little bit, people didn't feel the need that they had to go to some like big branded company and buy an entire [00:12:00] outfit from that brand.

So I'll look for, um, I think of it as almost like a humanity study, like thinking about what's happening at the time in music. Shopping all sorts of behavior. And you can sort of triangulate to a moment, like what's happening in culture at that time and put it together, together, somewhat intellectually, somewhat instinctively to say, there's a change that's happened here.

Design also, I could tell design was becoming much more important to people. Apple was, uh, teaching people to care more about design. Ikea was, when we founded Minted, it was right before Pinterest founded and before Instagram. But we could just. We just felt, and those businesses were really put a lot of wind into our sails, but we just felt like design was, um, becoming more important, for example.

Niklas: And now, one of the things that you said earlier, I found quite interesting, which is that the cosmetics angle came from your co founder at the time. I've actually had a few questions around that, but the first one, maybe that stands out to me is the decision to go for a person [00:13:00] over an idea. If you look back now, if there are some trade offs to be made, and there always are, right?

Do you feel like that's a trade off that you would recommend to other entrepreneurs?

Mariam: I think if you're a first time entrepreneur, it is really important to have a co founder and the statistics show, of course, that if you're, you're much more successful with your first business with a co founder. I think the limit though, it caps out at three and starts declining if there are more than three co founders, something like that.

But there are a lot of good statistics that you can look up on that. Um, so I think, you know, quantitatively, yes, it's better to have co founders. And then in terms of choosing what to do, I mean, if you committed to being part of a team and you think that's good to begin with, and then your team wants to go on a specific, you know, the team you've picked.

And you believe in wants to go in a specific direction. Uh, I don't think it's a, I don't think it's a bad thing to actually listen to other people that actually go in a different direction. [00:14:00] And certainly it was the right move. I had wanted to start a survey, uh, online survey company, sort of like SurveyMonkey actually, cause I like analytics a lot.

Uh, I love surveys and analytics. Um, so I would have probably really nerded out on that, but. I'm really happy. I listened to my friend and did cosmetics. I'll be honest. At the beginning, I thought it was not the best idea because so much of the cosmetics market share was in the hands of Estee Lauder, which is one big giant company.

So if you do your Michael Porter five forces analysis, and you look at like, how much concentration is there on the supply side? How much on the demand side? It did not look good. I mean, a business school case would say, don't do not go into this business. What happened actually was Which, what Michael Porter doesn't say in this is that sometimes you have imperfect information about a market and there's latent demand or something happening that's hidden.

So you can't actually just empirically go to the market and say, this is, these are the facts and therefore this is a bad business. It turns out that [00:15:00] because the lotter companies had such a huge control over the department stores, because they had the money to put people into department stores, the ground floor, the little brands could not break in there.

So therefore there was all this really, um, hidden demand for small brands that was not evident in market share. So the minute we launched, what began selling was all these tiny little brands, artisanal brands that people had started reading about in magazines, but they could not get in Cincinnati. They couldn't get it in Cleveland.

They couldn't get it. They just couldn't get these brands. And that just took, that just took off. Um, so you have to be careful with these frameworks, but I think to your point, I'm not really answering your question. So coming back to that, I would say, um, I would say, uh, generally, yes. If you have huge conviction about your teammate or your, or this person generally, yes.

If you, I would, I would generally put the person or the team. [00:16:00] above the idea generally. That's, I'm being very general though, because it's not just anybody. It has to be the right special person.

Niklas: Yeah. So the attitude of you'll figure it out. Smart people figure it out.

Mariam: Yes. Who do you want to be on the bus with and then decide where to drive the bus to?

That's generally any way going to be your experience as an entrepreneur, right?

Niklas: And the second one there was, There's sort of a trend now, and it's funny that you said that about surveys, that sort of, you know, would have kind of presaged my question around, you know, what would you have done given your degree?

The trend clearly now is, it sounds like, you know, Eve was consumer, um, products, consumer cosmetics. Skincare and then body shop. Same, same story again, minted is a shift, but I think probably directionally a similar buyer. And, uh, and again, a very strongly a consumer product and a focus on artisanal. Is that something that you had a passion for [00:17:00] regardless, or is that something that you've curated a passion for now that you've become, you know, a bona fide expert in the industry?

Mariam: I always had a hobbyist passion. Like in high school, my mom would really, um, I spent a lot of time in the mall looking at clothes, even though I couldn't necessarily buy them. I would look at read magazines and fashion. I was really interested in fashion growing up, um, and cosmetics and the beauty industry.

But, um, also when I was living in these other countries, like, I don't know, we were in Beirut, we were in. Dar es Salaam, my mom would take me to all the markets and we would see a lot of design from other cultures. And we would always pass through Europe on the way back to our home leave, you know, our, our home base, which was DC, Washington, DC.

So I got, I was exposed to so much beautiful architecture and design and crafts. And I didn't even realize that this is what was happening to me. I would grow up in these very international [00:18:00] environments with people from all over the world and go. Into markets and shop with my mom and my sister. And so I think I just absorbed a lot of that passion for that.

And now as you're talking, I thought, yeah, you know, I think one of the things that I do have sort of a little bit of an unfair advantage now is I have a lot of contacts in these fields. And also the, what I really love is bringing the, um, is sitting in between the technology industry, like the high tech industry and the New York media and style industry.

Sort of industries, LA, New York, uh, design and style industries. Um, and I, I will have to be a chameleon, which is what I had to do when I was growing up, right? Every, everywhere I moved, I had to like fit into some new country. But when I, when I'm in New York or versus when I'm in Silicon Valley, I have to really change what I talk about and how I show up in these different groups, like, uh, Friday, I met with a top editor, [00:19:00] uh, You know, in New York, uh, of a magazine, a shelter magazine, and I was really, you know, I think speaking her language more.

And then, but it's really, some of the stuff is not relevant to the people I'm talking to here today in San Francisco. So it's really about changing your, um, being able to fit in, in these two places. And of course, you probably know this, it seems like you probably, you're a international citizen. Once you are a international citizen, you move around.

And you finally come to rest in a place. Um, you don't ever really fit in anywhere else again. Does that make sense? Cause the problem is you've seen too much as an American. I've seen a lot overseas, but then, so that doesn't, that makes me feel a little bit out of sorts here because I've seen a lot overseas and then on the other hand, when I'm over there, I'm not really from there either.

And I would say the same thing, New York, San Francisco, you always feel a little bit like you're not. [00:20:00] Either from the, um, style design fashion, uh, industry or, nor from Silicon Valley, you're kind of in between and that's my bread and butter, right? That, that, that, that's one of the things, reasons I think this, I keep doing this is that I enjoy it and I have, uh, I see myself hopefully as a bridge between the two to like bring concepts together that, you know, that really rely on that bridge.

Niklas: Yeah. I very much had the same experience where, where though it's, it's true in general to talk about being yourself. At the same time, I think you learn that people have different, both traditions, different morals, different social behaviors that they expect. And, you know, they value different things. And so it's, you know, the ability to, let's call it express sides of yourself or express different interests and different scenarios, um, or different ways of, of, of emphasizing points or values or whatever else in different scenarios, um, I think goes very [00:21:00] far.

And I think actually is. Something that, you know, not to go too far off point is something that I think is often a point of learning for entrepreneurs in tech, because they're particularly focused on the way that technology works. But technology is, uh, except for the people who build dev tools is, uh, is, is, is a means to an end, right?

And learning how to. Say, okay, I have this fancy thing. I have this piece of technology, but I can make your life better or outcomes for you, um, needs, uh, needs that ability to, you know, I think what they call code switch, um, uh, and remember that you've got to have empathy for, for, for, for both sides. And now you've, you've gone in and seen a bunch of now, um, ways of building [00:22:00] Digital commerce.

Let's call it right to your point. You've seen the, the, the, the, the very much good old days, pick and pack everything from the ground up yourself. Websites are just the most bare bones. You know, here's the thing. And here's the way you buy it, uh, uh, through to, you know, what is called the, the, the, the much more modern age where things have become mobile first.

And obviously the, the whole marketplace concept has developed. Um, yeah. And so what, particularly on the marketplace point, which is obviously what we're really focused on in this podcast, um, what's been, um, different between, you know, the way that, that you, for example, had to build minted in the way that you have to, had to build, which I think was largely falls in the marketplace category, um, versus the way that you had to operate for, um, both body shop and, and, and [00:23:00] Eve, um, And, uh, and, uh, you know, it's relatively open ended, but you know, what, how did you have to operate?

Mariam: 

With Minted, we had to really think about how to build a supply and demand in keeping the right pace of each side, pacing it in the right way. So, uh, you know, once we had some success with Minted, we started with a few design competitions, artists started to enter those. But if we ended up taking too many.

Artists into the community faster than the pace of the sales growth. You know, we would end up with a lot of impatient and unhappy people. So, so we set a rule, for example, that said we'll never grow supply faster than the growth rate of demand. So that every year, your paycheck as an artist on minted would rise.

Either stay stable or rise, assuming your market share stayed stable on your, on our site, which wasn't overall something we could guarantee, [00:24:00] obviously, but we could, in general, the feeling you could get, you got, you got, you had your media on average, right? People would see rising paychecks because we could clamp down how many suppliers we built, we pull into the marketplace, uh, to be lower than the pace of growth of the, of sales.

The other thing that you have to sort of do is you're always selling. It's not, you know, you're always selling, right? So you're, you're, um, it, it, at an eve. com, you were selling to the cosmetics companies to say, please give us supply. Don't worry, we're not going to gray market your goods, trust e commerce.

So that was the selling you had to do there here with, um, and, and you had to sell on a new company that nobody believed in with, with minted, um, you were kind of constantly trying to, um, We were trying to build leverage in the relationship that was a little bit more indirect because here you're dealing with thousands and thousands of people who you will not, you will not talk to directly, but you have to create these [00:25:00] hypotheses of leverage you're creating that will eventually have this effect.

So it's very strategic and hypothetical. And then you test. So like. Hypothesis is, um, in the beginning was, um, if you have interesting judges and big prizes, people will enter the competition and you will motivate entry into the, into the, into the community. Next hypothesis was, okay, well, I don't have sales for them, but I have cash.

We gave them some cash, but I bet people are very learning oriented as, as. We're creatures that like to learn, and we're motivated by learning and advancement. So maybe if we put in peer critiques, it will be one more benefit that people would seek from our platform. Peer critiques, artist critiques. So it's hypothetical.

It's not like we could go out and sort of negotiate that with one by one. 

Whereas at Eve or Body Shop, you're, you're directly talking to your supply one by one because you don't need such a big supply, right? So that's a, that's a big difference. Um, so thinking about motivation. And, um, [00:26:00] levers in a more sort of, I would call it systematic way. Systematic way is more marketplace-y. I mean, you're never really in direct control.

Niklas: On your point on that, that's something that I often talk about with folks who are, you know, asking some, what is the fundamental, you know, stripping away all the questions around technology on, on marketplaces, what the problem is.

Problem is you don't sell anything. Problem is you are a piece of real estate and you're asking other people to go and sell things. Most of whom you have to your point at best indirect leverage for it. You can't walk into the warehouse and say, fulfill it faster, do it better, change the operating process.

Um, and you know, here's your guaranteed pay. You have to find a way to make it somewhere between easy and enjoyable and, um, and, uh, you've got to think about what the feedback loops are around the supply side, as well as the customer side. And you've got to be able to be able to sit in your watchtower, [00:27:00] right?

To your point of not having a direct relationship and, and, uh, You know, uh, be able to figure it out with data. What are the exceptions, you know, what's, what's, what, you know, what I need to focus on, where can I, you know, use, uh, the survey company that you never created, uh, to be able to go and, and, and, and, um, and, uh, and, and get a feeling for how to build these hypotheses.

And so finally, um, since, uh, uh, I know we were having a bit of a shorter session today. How did you, in your, in your minted days, how did you go about building all your tech stack? What did that, what did that look like?

Mariam: Well, I just wish you'd been there a long time ago, because that would have been a lot easier.

Um, we, we hand coded the site the first, because the problem is the customization app was not available [00:28:00] from anyone and it's still really, it doesn't really make sense for anyone to really, I think, build such an advanced customization app. And make it available for license. So that was the core app of the site.

Um, the, uh, the marketplace came late concept came later fermented. Had we, you know, it wasn't there at the beginning that people would be shipping directly to consumers. It's come later. Um, but it makes a ton of sense for us because now if you're an independent artisan, you can actually go sell your ceramics, your, You know, all, all, all these, all of these independent products that you make yourself that minted doesn't make on the marketplace.

But that came afterwards. So we can coded the entire site. I hate to tell you. And now we're replacing pieces of it piece by piece painfully going through all of that. Um, and then, um, and we can't talk about what I'm doing next, but we could just tease it and say that I'm building a marketplace now, and I'm using your technology, which.

I'm [00:29:00] very happy about, uh, because, um, when we did this review and we said, where can we find a good platform that does both e commerce and marketplace? Uh, you know, you guys were top of the list. So that's, that's an example of like how much things have changed since the days where I launched eve. com, where it was.

Fully coded. I mean, I think eventually Eve found out about ATG and used ATG 1. 0, um, which is like the first, uh, version of ATG, um, but otherwise, unfortunately, I've, I've been a little bit until this moment. I've been a bit too early and therefore have had to, you know, we've had to build sites ourselves.

Niklas: Yeah, you can see how far this industry has come that I think ATG is officially sunset. Oh, really? Okay. I didn't even know. But really appreciate the time. Um, just as a, as a, as a last closing thought, um, what advice would you give to folks who are, you know, on the journey of either Building a, you know, thinking [00:30:00] about building something or building something like a marketplace or on a journey where they're going to be operating for something that exists and, and, you know, have to sort of understand, okay.

You know, what will make them be successful in a world where you're, you're, you're, you're connecting supply and demand?

Mariam: Well, the first thing that popped to mind is really your team is everything. And so it comes back to people, which is kind of where we started when we were talking about my co founder, I really think it's about who's going to get you through, who, how are you going to get through a very difficult journey and it's with the best and best, uh, people, um, best and mean in every, in all ways, Competency, but also culture.

Um, and then I think in terms of, um, in terms of other advice, uh, I would just stay very, very close personally to your consumer on both sides. And as a marketplace, you know, they always say, you say you have two sides, but really in every marketplace, there's one dominant side that drives decision making.

If you look at eBay, [00:31:00] Amazon, you could sort of see where the dominant side was for each of these businesses. Um, And so you, you say you have two sides, one's going to be dominant culturally inside your company. But I, I really believe in staying as a founder, especially when you're trying to get market product market fit.

And maybe even beyond that admitted I used to, and I still actually have an inbox filled with, I, but in the beginning, the first two years, three years, even I would read all of the consumer feedback pouring into the site myself. And there was nothing more clarifying than that. So I think trying to stay super close to the primary data, um, and then engineering your metrics, focusing super hard on metrics design, uh, is what I would, I would say, because it's about the information you're getting and being then, of course, having the courage to change directions, if that's what's staring you down.

Niklas: Yeah. I appreciate, um, first of all, the, the, the advice. And I think [00:32:00] I would agree that people should listen very closely to, um, Um, that point around, um, around having a granular feeling, feeling of everybody who's participating in your ecosystem and that there's really no replacement for, for listening to the customer.

Um, but otherwise I really appreciate you making the time. You know, I think we're, we're lucky to have somebody who's had this much experience in the industry on the show. Um, and, uh, we wish you the best of luck on Heritage Ventures and everything that happens in the future.

Mariam: Thank you. And thanks for being a great partner. We appreciate it.

Niklas: Thanks for tuning in to Operation Marketplace. This show is brought to you by Nautical Commerce, the end to end marketplace platform. If you have any questions about optimizing or starting a marketplace, hit the link in the description. We hope you enjoyed the show. See you next time.