Podcasts

Building an Extensive Product Catalog with Nick Pinkston

Like many industry-rattling businesses, the idea for industrial parts marketplace Volition was born out of inconvenience and inspiration. As a lifelong hardware builder, Volition founder Nick Pinkston is well-versed in the inefficacies of ordering parts from a catalog. During his time as the head of Plethora, a full-stack CNC machining shop, Nick experienced major sourcing pains and concluded there had to be a better way to connect buyers with granularly spec’d parts. 

Around the same time, Nick saw the power of aggregating millions of components under one site. He drew inspiration from his contemporaries at Octopart, GitHub, and GrabCAD, each of which employed marketplace elements.

Nick believed a true marketplace model could work wonders for the complex, nuanced world of industrial parts. And so he created Volition — a B2B marketplace for industrial components. 

The niche B2B marketplace opportunity 

B2B marketplaces have benefits for everyone involved. Operators can add so many products, they become one-stop shops for their niche. Buyers can buy everything they need in one order. And suppliers can focus more on manufacturing and less on selling. Sourcing industrial parts is notoriously laborious, and the industry was starving for marketplace-level convenience. 

Nick explains: “Let’s say you’re a mechanical engineer, and you're designing a robot. You’ll need a servomotor to make the robot move around. There are probably tens of thousands of servomotors, so you must narrow that down. Then, you’ll have to identify a bunch of specs that will work for your project, like speed, horsepower, and unencoders. Once you’ve got it down to about five options, you’ll narrow it down by what you want to optimize on. Price? Reliability?” 

All that granularity, all that drill down, for just one part. At this level of detail, you can imagine how time-consuming it would be to source parts when hundreds are needed. As Nick set out to create the marketplace mechanical engineers were looking for, he recognized that creating a product catalog of tens of millions of components would be his company’s greatest value proposition — and also its greatest challenge.

Product catalog: why Nick boiled the ocean 

The value of any marketplace is its ability to efficiently connect buyers with the items they’re looking for. Volition’s big challenge was to do this in an enormous and detailed product catalog. The general ethos for marketplaces is to start by offering a few products. But Nick saw that suppliers already had narrow offerings. For Volition to be successful, Nick would have to go bigger. As he says, “Quantity has a quality all its own.” 

But managing quantity also has incredible technology and data challenges. For Nick to offer the breadth, depth, and granularity of products the industry wanted in a marketplace, he had to create a search function that would narrow down results from a catalog containing millions of products. 

Three things made Volition’s catalog management more challenging than other large horizontal marketplaces.

Specs 

Specs are essential purchasing criteria for Volition’s buyers, but they present an incredible technical challenge for its marketplace platform. In a product catalog of a million products, you can have tens of millions of specs. “A socket head screw, for example, can have many thread sizes. And each thread size can have five thousand combinations. The result is a data explosion.” To meet its buyers’ needs, Volition had to hyper-organize its product catalog and hyper-define its product attributes while making them searchable.

Even standard search criteria opened a Pandora’s box of specs. For example, Volition couldn’t just provide results by price. There had to be options for minimum order quantity, unit size, and pack size. 

Terminology 

To make searching even more complicated, industrial parts can go by many names and metrics, depending on the industry or location of the buyer. For example, two buyers could be looking for the same product but using different terminology to search for it — like horsepower or kilowatts. The marketplace needs to be intelligent enough to deliver results based on both metrics.  

Technology 

Merchandising is imperative to Volition’s success. But standard product information management systems (PIMs) couldn’t support the volume of products or granularity Volition needed. So, Volition created its own PIM. In Nick’s words: “We had to boil the ocean. And that meant we had to create a nuclear weapon for data.” He estimates half of Volition’s funding went towards data technology and the engineering to build it.

The investment paid off: Volition can stand up to big dogs like Amazon and Ali Baba precisely because of its finely defined product attributes.

“Buyers can’t use an Amazon or Ali Baba unless they have a part number or a specific name. We’re extremely spec-based. Data aggregation is at the core of our model.”

Why building trust is critical (and how to maintain it)

For buyers and sellers of industrial parts, the stakes of losing trust are high. As Nick quips, “What's the difference between a doctor and an engineer? A doctor can only kill one person at a time.” For the mechanical engineers buying industrial parts, it’s imperative that product data is correct, specs are accurately defined, and suppliers are vetted.

Trust is a major reason Amazon and Ali Baba could never provide the assurance Volition can. “At a tradeshow, I went around to the suppliers, and 30 or 40 percent told me that they were on a marketplace like Amazon 10 to 15 years ago, and they were driven off by all the knockoffs.”

The risk — for suppliers and buyers alike — is too high. Could a supplier risk association with a catastrophic safety failure caused by a dupe? Can buyers trust the safety rating on products sold by a miscellaneous Amazon seller? “You got to be really careful with parts. If you’re making some amazing machine, you don’t cheap out on motors because you might either ruin the machine — or a person.” 

How Volition controls quality 

To put buyers at ease, Volition certifies that everything is from a real source, maintains a level of product catalog curation, and only works with known suppliers. Unlike the marketplace giants, niche marketplaces like Volition can maintain control of the suppliers they onboard. 

“Buyers already know the parts are high quality and coming from a high-quality place, so there’s no questioning if the parts are good. The reality is many suppliers have horrible websites, and buyers don't want to interact with them."

And for suppliers, the benefit of being on Volition is that they can focus on what they do best: making the part. 

“We work in the industrial world where a lot of suppliers are way more into making a better motor than they are at putting that motor on the internet to display its specifications and run ads on it. That stuff is not their favorite thing to do. And that worked for us: As a new marketplace, we didn’t have any revenue at first, so we couldn’t offer them anything other than an easy experience.”

Advice for marketplace operators: start narrow

Today, Volition is the only industrial parts marketplace designed specifically for hardware development needs. The end goal of Volition isn’t just to become a marketplace. It’s to start as a marketplace and then embed Volition everywhere in a business — from design inside CAD, to ERP systems, to spend management, and beyond. While integrated industrial parts purchasing is the dream, Nick knows Volition needs to get there one step at a time. The advice he gives to future marketplace operators is to get started using a phased approach

“Start narrow and try to get buyers and suppliers transacting as soon as possible. It's fine to get some dirty thing working if the commerce works. You can always replace your dumb thing with a better, more mature thing in the future.”

Episode links

Learn more about Volition: govolition.com

Connect with Nick on LinkedIn or Twitter

Definitions: What is OEM? 

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Transcript

Nick Pinkston: [00:00:00] Don't trust the supplier to do the data that shows up on the front end for us. I think we might be pretty unique in that. So I'm not sure that's general advice, but for our use case, it was like, you know what, sometimes you just got to boil the ocean. And so that means you got to make a nuclear weapon, you know?

And so like, that's what we've had to do for data is make like a nuclear weapon for, for data, you know, to just like, maybe, maybe we haven't boiled the whole ocean, but we're certainly evaporating lakes. Um, at this point

Niklas Halusa: 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, Nicholas Alusa, co founder and CEO of Nautical Commerce.

Welcome to Operation Marketplace. I'm your host, Nicholas Alusa, CEO of Nautical Commerce. On the pod today, we have Nick Pinkston. Welcome.

Nick Pinkston: Yeah, it's great to be here, man.

Niklas Halusa: So I've been super excited about this one. Uh, [00:01:00] I, as a wet behind the ears venture associate. Uh, managed to once coax Nick to a coffee and, uh, I didn't do my job at all of trying to give him money, but instead, uh, spent an hour being mesmerized by, uh, everything Nick's done his cold status as a maker space, uh, founder and, uh, and pioneer as somebody who has a really deep understanding of how things are built.

What people in the B2B world, you know, think about buying modern tools, about how they think about their supply chain. Um, and, uh, and, uh, he's a real specialist and expert and leading light in the space. He now is building or has built a B2B marketplace called Volition and, uh, is having a huge amount of success.

And so we are here to hear his story of how to both build B2B marketplaces, how to think [00:02:00] about them and, uh, and where Volition is going. So with that said, first of all, we'd love to hear the story of, of why your marketplace is called Volition. And. Of course, also the story of how you, uh, decided to build this.

Nick Pinkston: Yeah. Awesome. Um, well, yeah, I mean, great to be here. Um, so I mean, essentially the, the name volition actually comes from the idea of like by one's own volition, you know, you have like the willpower to do something and, you know, the, the real reason that I think about it that way is because I feel like that hardware engineering and all the things around making a physical product kind of live like 20 or 30 years ago.

And that means like. The tools are really low leverage, like in the software world, 30 years ago, you know, you're like, still doing, like, just all this background work that now is automated. Right? But that work is still happening in the manufacturing industrial space. And so I wanted to, like, enable the creative power of.

You know, the, you know, engineer or the sourcing people, the [00:03:00] obstacle manufacturing, the entire one, I wanted to increase their ability to, uh, you know, have agency in the world and do stuff. So volition is, you know, we didn't call it like all the parts dot com or, you know, something that was very literal. Um, we thought like, no, the real goal here is, and we can get into this later is to really change how products are developed and brought to market and later maintained in the entire thing.

So it's a, it's a big, ambitious thing. thing. And I wanted a name that would cover so we wouldn't get typecast as lots of parts dot com, you know, um, basically. So that's the idea of volition.

Niklas Halusa: And when did you  figure out that you need to build this business? And why did you decide that you're ready to take this on? that you see, uh, see an opportunity here.

Nick Pinkston: Yeah, I mean, you know, it's funny. Volition has been an idea in my mind since, um, probably like 12 years ago, funny enough. And at the time, my friend Hardy was running a company called GrabCAD which was sort of like a GitHub for hardware, and so all the 3D files and the [00:04:00] collaboration, it was Very like GitHub and, um, you know, I've always told Hardy, I'm like, Hey, like, why don't you go to all the vendors and get all the real parts on here?

And because at the time it was mostly people's like projects, you know, which were not like commercial projects, but more like maker projects. And then the closed ones would be the actual commercial ones, but none of the part manufacturers were on there, you know? And so he was like, nah, we're focused on this other thing.

Like that's not what it, but it always in the back of my mind that like, oh. There should really be a GitHub with all the parts on it, you know, so I thought of this from like the tools perspective, which is kind of always my perspective. Um, and then, you know, I had started plethora my last company, which was a full stack machine shop from inside the design tool all the way to our own production facilities and after and we would do assemblies and we had all the parts to make our factory and all of that was sourced from all those same vendors.

And it was a huge pain for both us internally. And all of our customers. And so I thought, well, you know what? It's not just get hub to actually do this thing. You need to be able to buy this stuff. Like there's not actually a thing also. So [00:05:00] we were talking about, uh, Sam Rizal of Octo part. So Octo part actually had been kind of like a kayak.com. 

And this is. Early Y Combinator, probably 15 years ago, one of the first classes, they aggregated all of the electronics components vendors at the time, and they were kind of like a search engine. You would still check out on their site. So it was more of an affiliate, not a marketplace model. But I looked at that and I was like, yeah, I want Octopart, but for mechanical.

Um, and again, It's very hard, and I can get into all the reasons, but essentially, like, so there are a few different threads combined, like, I had my own issues personally growing up, you know, building hardware and stuff myself, and I've been through all these catalogs, and like, both, I'm kind of obsessed with those catalogs, but also want to make it better.

We have the payment plethora. Of, you know, us and our customers thought it was a pain. And then I was inspired by both GrabCAD and especially Octopart and how to like, bring millions of components onto the same site and make, and make a good experience with it. So with their powers combined, that's kind of how it, um, how the idea started at least.

Niklas Halusa: And so you said [00:06:00] something very specific there that you wanna build the GitHub of parts. I assume you're not using that word lightly and you're not saying just a giant catalog and. Knowing everything that you did in terms of building IP in your plethora of days around understanding CAD files, understanding CAM from, from those CAD files or building those.

Um, I know you have a pretty deep understanding of what it takes to describe an object. And to understand what it is and, and, and, and how it fits into somebody's, not just what the part is, but how it fits into somebody's bigger system. So can you explain why you use the word GitHub and why it's, why it's different to going and just saying, you know what, I want to know You know, the world's catalog.

Nick Pinkston: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think that like half of GitHub is the repository. So that's the kind of catalog code, right? But I think, [00:07:00] you know, there's also all the collaboration integration with the rest of your tools, right? I mean, I think the issue also is like a catalog, but like, how does it work?

You know, I actually don't think GitHub is very good at show me the libraries other than like, if it's like a make file or some, you know, dependency manager or something, um, you, you can't really find anything on there. So I actually think it was kind of bad at that. Um, we actually abolition are very good at that.

So our whole thing is trying to find the correct part. But like, what does it even mean? Once you have a part? How do you know? How to use it, you know, so there's all this supporting documentation that we end up pulling. So the 3D files, the spec sheets in some cases, like software that goes with say, a, um, you know, a servo motor to program it or something like this.

You have to have all that stuff there and make it intelligible. And ultimately we want teams to actually, like, use volition, you know, on a team basis in the same way you use GitHub. You know, I, I think that like we, we are basically like start as a market. Place and then add in all of these like tool like features.

So then it's like [00:08:00] not just a marketplace, it's like plugging into everywhere in your business, essentially from design inside of CAD to the ERP systems, spend management, you know, all the different areas that you have to, you know, innovate with.

Niklas Halusa: So I have a little bit of, I think, context on my end for understanding what that might look like.

Uh, uh, because I like to build my own computers. Okay. So, you know, the, the tool for the consumers, they are something called PC parts builder and, uh, and what they call sort of parametric filtering of all the, all the components and do they fit together, do they match, et cetera. But when you talk about being able to discover parts and, and having them fit into whatever you're working on. Can you put that in the context of somebody who, you know, the user story of somebody who is looking for something who has a problem and needs to find something?

Nick Pinkston: Yeah. I mean, there's a few different users and there's a couple of different stories for each one of them, you know?

[00:09:00] So, I mean, I think. are my main inspiration of starting the company is the, you know, you're a mechanical engineer and you're designing, let's say, a robot. And a big part of robot is the precision motors that actually move the robot around, right? Called servo motors typically. And so, you know, you might say, well, the first thing the server needs to do is have enough, um, Payload enough like horsepower to actually move the robot around.

So, you know, you might go through and say, okay, I'm looking for servo motors and there's many different kinds of brands, manufacturers. So first we have to like search you into the, the rough space of here are the servo motors, but we probably have tens of thousands of them. So then it's like, okay, well, it's not enough to say servo motor.

Do you have to say a bunch of specs? You know, so you might say I need it to be 20 horsepower. It needs to have a unencoder, which is the thing that says what angle it's at. Maybe it's speed. It's at. And so you inspect all these things. And in the end, it's like, okay, here's the five most applicable ones.

What do you want to optimize on? price? Do you want this thing to be more reliable? Does it need to work in a wet environment? You know, there's all these Things you might want to know. And that's actually [00:10:00] where typical marketplaces like an Amazon or something, don't do that, you know? So they can't use Amazon or Alibaba to really do it unless they have like a part number or a specific name of something.

It can't really do the specs. And so we are at vision, extremely spec based because of that use case. That's the engineer when they're first designing it. Now, say you're a maintenance person and you just like, you see something with a part number. You're like, I just need that part number. So we have to support.

That use case, too. And then there's sometimes in the middle where there might be a big part list and it might say, like, I need quarter 20 socket head screws stainless. And so, okay, that's not a part number, but it's a pretty specific thing in a sourcing person, like a purchaser might go through and say, okay, socket head screws and they'll say, okay, And they'll drill down to what it is, right? It's really like, how do you, Find it. And then the second part is how you buy it. And that's a whole other thing, depending on what you're doing from a credit card to a P. O. And everything else. 

Niklas Halusa: So if you talk to any distributor today, [00:11:00] one of the reasons that they give for not being able to do some of this online is because they don't have the data.

Right? And I assume the more specific you want to get into use cases, which in this world is unbelievably heterogeneous. You know, the more that you have to have structured data around what you're buying and what it is from all kinds of sources. Can you talk a little bit about how you've managed to go and fill the catalog of, of not just your items, but also understanding, you know, what information do you need?

Sure. And how to structure all that information to make it actually searchable and usable and filterable and everything.

Nick Pinkston: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I know it's, this is the hard part really. I mean, I would say, you know, of all the things we do, but I bet half of our investment money has gone into data technology.

You know, um, and the engineering to build it. So, I mean, we looked at what's known as like a product information management system, and we looked at a bunch of different ones. And, you know, when we said, like, Hey, like, can you do [00:12:00] tens of millions of products? They just kind of laughed and said, no one does that, you know?

Um, and so we're like, okay, I can't even handle the size. Let alone can each one have, you know, 50 different specs on it. And by the way, can you do, you know? All these other things. And so we, we quickly realized that like, okay, we're weird. Like we, we have a lot more products than most people deal with and a lot more specs for each product.

And so this is not a thing that they're used to doing. So then we had to roll our own. And I mean, essentially, like you're saying, like, you know, we work in the industrial world where a lot of these people are way more into making a better motor than they are at like putting that motor on the internet to sort of display its specifications, run ads on it.

You know, all of that stuff is not their favorite thing to do. And so our big thing was like. We're some new marketplace and we don't have any revenue at first, so we can't like offer them anything other than an easy experience. And so, you know, whatever they've got, we will take, you know, whether it's like their website itself, specs, I mean, maybe they have a product feed or something, most of them don't.

Um, and so the first thing is just data [00:13:00] acquisition, you know, so you really have to like in bulk be able to do that. And there's a lot of like, you know, just saying, what is the data you actually want? And there's a lot of subtleties, like even something like. price. Well, at what quantity? Minimum order quantity, unit size, pack size, like all these different things you have to pull out of whatever their data is telling you or not telling you and then try to make a harmonized user experience based on that data that can like fail gracefully, you know, and there's a lot of complicated commercial, even just the price and quantity stuff can get really hairy.

Um, let alone like the product specs that are like, I think we might have. A few hundred thousand attribute types, so literally not just the spec, but like the type of spec. So like thread size and then under thread size, there might be like 5000 thread size combinations. Um, you know, so it's like literally each one of those 100, 000, hundreds of thousands of.

things has its own many thousands of values most of the time. So it's this huge data explosion. So that's actually the hard [00:14:00] part is every vendor, like maybe on the to keep the motor thing, maybe one person calls it power. Another one is, you know, maybe they call it horsepower or maybe you're in Europe and they're calling it like kilowatts or something and it's just the unit or you have to blend all that together.

But proper unit conversions and everything else and say, okay, when someone clicks the filter or types in horsepower or kilowatts, it's going to take them to the right motors, you know, and that process, I mean, we call it merchandising just because it's like all the things that take raw data and put it so a user can view what they need to know if it's the right.

So a lot of this is just, yeah, thinking of the user journey and thinking, how can we actually display the right stuff to someone who's buying, but that's a lot of consistency and it's a lot of like harmonization of all that shit to get it into some, um, you know, real interface that works for the user to find it. And that is extremely hard. 

Niklas Halusa: In principle, we're talking about marketplace. And if you, if you take the, you know, by the book definition [00:15:00] and separate out marketplace and drop shipping. The typical argument is that marketplaces has the suppliers or the vendors take over a bunch of responsibility. They have their own experience.

They do their own work and everything else. It sounds to me that the, where you are today, correct me if I'm wrong, you still take the, the, the, the bulk of the responsibility away from the suppliers to go and onboard the data and everything else. Do you see a world where in this. You know, extremely sophisticated, complex master data management system.

Your suppliers will, will get to the place where they can start to, you know, take their own actions, take off that load from you, or is this the only way to build a store like this?

Nick Pinkston: It's interesting. Like in many ways, like you want to get all the information about their products. Cause of [00:16:00] course the OEM.

Knows more than anyone about them. The issue is, is like, can they even do that for themselves? And I would say that, like, one of the things that we do is like, you know, not we're just on a marketplace, but really, I think aggregation is at the core of our model where it's like, it's not like, you know, here's the 20 airlines and the three that, that, you know, do a flight.

To your location. And then it's like just showing you. It's like, no, it's like there's 500, 000 suppliers and there is this extreme long tail of like I make underwater servo motors for basket weaving or whatever. And there's 10 guys. They don't use the Internet and they don't want to. They don't want to do anything about it.

You know, they're like, what do you mean? We just talk to customers. They tell us what they want. Like, you know, it's in many ways like I had interviewed some former people at the Amazon industrial team, which, which, You know, then turn into Amazon supply on that Amazon for business. And so that really didn't work.

And I was asking like what they, you know, sort of like retro on that was, and, you know, they were saying like Amazon, you know, having the suppliers do everything [00:17:00] meant the data quality was really inconsistent and low. And that meant that they basically would have to solve this problem. And they said, and we can never solve it.

Um, and so I sort of took away from that and have since even more so learned, like don't trust the supplier. to do the data that shows up on the front end for us. I think we might be pretty unique in that. So I'm not sure that's general advice, but for our use case, it was like, you know what? Sometimes you just got to boil the ocean.

And so that means you got to make a nuclear weapon, you know? And so like, that's what we've had to do for data is make like a nuclear weapon for, for data, you know, to just like, maybe, maybe we haven't boiled the whole ocean, but we're certainly evaporating lakes. Um, at this point,

Niklas Halusa: you're speaking the opposite language to every, yeah. online recommendation of how to build a business like this.

Nick Pinkston: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. And it's funny because everyone's like start narrow and it's like, cool. Every supplier already has that narrow stuff. And you can call an expert who is better than us in every way at telling you about what a servo motor can be used for an old robot that already exists.

So imagine your market already is [00:18:00] extremely long tail. And the real thing you're doing is allowing people to explore it all. That's a different problem, you know, and so then, you know, they say that, uh, what quantity has a quality all its own, you know, and so we really have to live that. And so, like, even one of our core values of the company is leverage because we knew we would have so much data to have to do this thing to really kickstart the whole thing that we'd have to do these, like, absurd, um, you know, kind of both technical and team things in order to do that, you know?

So, yeah, I'm sure most people shouldn't do that. Um, I think we had to do that. You know, it was the thing that, you know, when I talked to Sam at Octopart, I was like, Hey, why'd you guys only do electronics? He's like, yeah, we tried mechanical, but the amount of variables like attributes was so high. We just couldn't do it.

And the, you know, maybe he didn't say this, but I infer as well that the OEMs and electronics that make chips are a little more sophisticated than the guys who make the chips. Bolts, you know, so like they've got a lot more money and a lot more, um, sort of sophistication to do this data work than like the bolt guys that like don't need to do it at all usually, you [00:19:00] know?

So like, I think it's like a, a tougher market for those people to self-serve, you know?

Niklas Halusa:  Yeah. So, I'm, I'm German originally, so I'm extremely familiar with the, you know, the, the obscure German parts manufacturers that are some village. And they're typically named after the exact part, you know, this is, this is Schrauben Maschinenfabrik Hessen.

And, and, uh, and, uh, you know, no, for sure they're not online, they're not, you know, focused on software. They've been selling the same thing for, you know, decades. And it works, and they make money, it's a family owned business, you name it. I can see how that's significantly different to people who, to your point, go and sell circuit boards and chips and everything else.

Now, this is actually one of the reasons why Um, my business exists is, is, you know, the way that I tell this story is the fact that that is credibly ridiculous. That on Alibaba, you can sell, you can buy a ventilator, a phone case, some [00:20:00] mangoes and a motor all in the same basket, all in the same experience with to your point, no trust in whether the data is accurate, whether it's honestly whether the supplier is legitimate and that the expectation is typically in our, in our space, it's somebody who saw, well, you know, why are you going up against Alibaba?

You know, why are you going up against Amazon business? You know, isn't it all going to be sold? And the story that I always tell is like, you know, particularly for B2B, B2C2, I think is going this way, but particularly for B2B, first of all, the level of trust because of the size of the purchase and the criticality of the purchase is, is way higher, the amount of heterogeneous information and buying behaviors.

You just won't be able to find this stuff in a single generalized experience that was built 20 years ago to sell, you know, books and, you know, books and phone cases. 

Nick Pinkston: Yeah. Yeah. No, I mean, [00:21:00] I, I fully agree. And I think that like, you know, it's, it's funny, like our suppliers, a lot of them, I would say I went around to the suppliers one trade show and I was like, hitting like hundreds of boots over this time. 

And so I would say 30 or 40 percent of those booths told me that, Oh yeah, we were on a marketplace like Amazon, like, you know, 10 to 15 years ago and all the knockoffs and all the people claiming to be us or whatever. Drove us off the marketplace.

So I would say that there was this time when like industrials went in, they hated it. And then they also didn't like working with like big blue that like they couldn't even get on the phone and an industry that just always wants to get on the phone, you know? And so, you know, our, our suppliers are typically people who are coming on to.

Like a marketplace, either after they've never done so before, or after they were on Amazon and left, you know, and, you know, we call like Alibaba, like the Wild West, because it's like, I mean, it is an amazing thing. I mean, these sites exist for a reason, but it is like, you really got to watch out. And like, you know, there's an old joke in engineering, which is, um, what's the difference between a doctor and an engineer?

And it's a doctor can only kill 1 [00:22:00] person at a time, you know? So, like, you got to be really careful with these parts. And so you're making some amazing machine. Don't don't like cheap out on the, you know, the nice motors that do it because of that messes up, you know, you might either ruin the machine or a person, you know, so like, there's a lot of risk in this stuff.

And the suppliers are actually like, great. There's no knockoffs on your website. Everything is certified to be like known from a real source. They're fine competing against people. They consider their true. Competition, you know, um, that they consider legitimate, but like, they think it's like, Oh, there's some knockoff thing.

You're saying actually has all these safety ratings and doesn't that's like actually dangerous. And so we don't want that. And so we don't even let those people come on, um, you know, who are in those categories. So there's a little bit of curation from us too.

Niklas Halusa: Yeah. Even if you look at something like, you know, Amazon, I think one of the things that I don't know if the impact is actually that big, but is in the, in the, in the social Let's call it conversation now is the fact that all the different suppliers that might be selling the same product mixed in the warehouse, uh, in [00:23:00] the same bins, as a result, may not even know, you may go and you're going to say, I want to buy this legitimate thing from anchor, right? But you don't know whether, whether into that box was mixed, you know, a secondary tertiary.

Supplier who might be setting that knockoff and, and to your point, you really don't want to take that risk when you're building a car, when you're building a bridge, when you're building a, you know, things like this. And so you mentioned earlier that there are people who are buying. By part number, and there are people who are discovering what's that, what's that mix?

What's that ratio between the two?

Nick Pinkston: Yeah, I mean, it's interesting. Engineers are far more trying to get a part and then get a part number where the sourcing people it's like, it's like, you know, half of it as well. Part numbers, or we would call a distinction between a part number and a known item. So like a known item is like, you know, whatever, some highly specced thing.

There probably only is one of them, [00:24:00] or sometimes a trade name, like some kind of gorilla glue or something, you know, where it's like, yeah, there's just this kind of gorilla glue and you don't have to put a number. So like, those are two different things. We get a lot of, in our industry, a list of parts is often known as a bill of materials or just.

Bomb B. O. M. And, um, and so we'll get bombs with, um, you know, all the part numbers are either internal part numbers and so not useful for us or they are a bunch of like descriptions of something. And so then we have to go through that. So I wouldn't call that discovery, but certainly it has a lot of the same like parsing stuff that we have to do on search with it, you know, and then there's people that, you know, our, our, um, our users on the mechanical side are very visual and often the terminology on this stuff is really diverse.

Even in like different regions of the United States, people call things different things and different parts of the industry call things different things. So it's, it's interesting without the image actually is very useful. So our homepage is like a lot of icons where, you know, you can see like a motor shaped thing and you can click it [00:25:00] and then you see a bunch of different stuff that you might not know that a stepper motor that's really flat is called a pancake stepper.

For instance, um, and so like you were able to see like, oh, that's a stepper motor, but it's flat. And so, you know, going to be easier to install in certain locations. So that visual is a big deal. About 20 percent of people of our search behavior are visual searchers and about 80 percent are, um, are text searchers.

Um, and that includes part number and, you know, all the different texts you could put in a search box.

Niklas Halusa: If I sort of pull that thread forward, is, is your method for getting into, for example, engineering. Departments to try to get in as early as possible into the prototyping phase into the building phase. Where the discovery is still being done, or are you selling, you know, as a general tool straight into a manufacturer?

Nick Pinkston: What we would say is like the customers we go [00:26:00] after, we actually can start at any part in the, in the mix. So like, we don't do extremely mass produced consumer items, essentially because, you know, like, for instance, like, um, like. Say, in my last company, um, plethora at Tesla, like, at Tesla, we didn't put any parts on the actual model 3, but we made the system that would, like, assemble the sheet metal and bolted together and test the motors and things like this.

And so that was, um. You know, one off components. Now, a lot of our current customers, they actually make, um, you know, a unit that's like 2 million. That's like a robotic welding cell or something. And so, like, okay, there's a robot, there's a table, there's all the sensors and, you know, it's a big thing. And there might be 6000 unique components on there.

Half of them are applicable to us, for instance. And so they are. You know, changing about half those parts out for whatever unique use case that is working at. So that is cost of goods going into it. Not just the engineering of the cell itself, but it is both. They might be [00:27:00] developing a new version of a cell and that's kind of like engineering spend.

But then there might be like integration spend where they're like. You know, putting clamps for a specific work piece and all the pneumatics to cycle those, you know, and so it's, it's actually a blend of all sorts of different stuff. It's what we don't like, though, is like, if you're buying a million of one part, you're probably going to talk to the OEM and you're going to negotiate a deal with all sorts of like, you know, contract elements in it.

That is not appropriate right now for our marketplace. And we think that, like, the phone is still often the best way to do that, you know. Um, there's sort of an in between where it might be like, you know, are we really gonna buy it now on 100, 000 machine tool, you know, probably not. But like, if we gave someone a lead, then we can get an affiliate off of it.

So, like, then we think about that too, because, you know, you probably want the service plan for the thing and you want to know who your local dealer is. And there's a lot of other sort of commercial stuff that you get into with these big units, you know, so we play mostly on very high mix, very, um. [00:28:00] 

Niklas Halusa: And so how do you get over that trust barrier?

Obviously, you come with a certain legitimacy yourself. But to your point, if I'm buying a 2 million part for my new robot, I am going to get a seriously mean scowl from my boss or my CFO or my CEO. When I try to bring up that, I'm going to buy it off a brand new marketplace, particularly when that CEO probably had a terrible experience with Alibaba 15 years ago on the first time around.

Yeah. How do you get over that? 

Nick Pinkston: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I would say there's a couple things. I mean, one, our suppliers are actually already known and we don't hide them. And so, you know, part of this is like, Oh, I know these guys like, sure. It's like the issue is a lot of these suppliers have horrible websites. So like, you know, a lot of people just don't want to interact with it.

And it's funny. Our website is actually better than the site we're getting the data from. And so in some ways, like if you're like 25 and need to make some purchases, you'd prefer to just go to the [00:29:00] easy website. Um, so that's part of it is that they already know the parts are high quality and coming from a high quality place, you know, so then it's not like, oh, are these parts good?

Which would be the real question. It's like, okay, I know where they're coming from, you know, and the thing is like, okay, um, we really look at this. you know, in the same GitHub analogy, it's almost like developer led growth or marketing. So like, you know, our developers are mechanical engineers and people like on the IC level a lot of the time, or maybe like the team lead.

And we get in there because, you know, you don't just go into like the COO and say, we want to change all the sourcing. Like they're just going to say like, well, does your stuff work for us? And like, then you're going to go back down. So, you know, we would always go in at the bottom and then do a land and expand to other teams.

And then once enough people that are using it. Then you can talk to the CEO about getting like 50 people in a room to do this or something, you know, but, um, but, you know, we're pretty early in our GTM right now. So I'm actually running the same playbook. I did it at plethora where, you know, essentially you take the Pepsi challenge and [00:30:00] it's like, Hey, like, uh, do something with one of the other vendors and do it with us and then see the difference.

And then it's very clear. And then, you know, then they dip their toes and here's a few hundred bucks. And, you know, it's crazy. Like, you know, People will just go to your website that you've never heard of. This happens to us every day, and they'll buy something that's like $2, 000, like a motor. And I'm just like, that is pretty wild that, like, you know, I could, like, put an ad on Google.

Someone clicks it and then gives me 2 grand. They've never heard of us. No one's heard of volition, you know, um. Kind of crazy. But yeah, so like we're able to do that. And then I have, you know, your number, your address and everything else. And so I can start being like, Oh, um, that is sort of legion for me.

And now we've adjusted our ad mix. So we're just getting people from mainly our target segments. And so then I can be like, okay, let's, let's get them as an accountant. If they seem like the kind of, um, you know, kind of company that would buy, you know, a million dollars a year of these kinds of components or something.

Niklas Halusa: Now, this isn't your first rodeo. So it makes sense that on the first time round. You know, somebody is looking for something very [00:31:00] specific. They can't find it. You know, I can see the story there where they, they're going, they need a place to find a new place that they feel like is reliable. How do you deal with?

The problem of, or the fear that they then say, you know what, I bought it the first time at Volition. Cool. I tried it. It was a nice, you know, you, you, you end up being a lead tool, the bulk of the purchasing coming from, um, going direct to the, uh, to the OEM. 

Nick Pinkston: Yeah, I mean, I think that for some stuff they should just go direct to the OEM and then we get an affiliate fee for that.

So that's like a model that like we're still getting used to, but what we really do is we target companies that are constantly changing parts. So like, that's why we don't do consumer stuff. Like the highest growing segment of the industrial space is actually build to order machines and highly customized machines.

Because essentially. The more competition in a space, the more you're tweaking every little thing to [00:32:00] get costs down. And that means you're making a machine either fully custom or you're customizing a machine. And all that customization is all one off components. You know, like you want to make a factory line, you're putting, you know, millions, tens of millions of dollars into the fixtures to make that line.

And you're only buying it once and the maintenance parts, you know? So like the issue is, is these people have like two buyers to buy. Tens of thousands of line items. There's no way you can go to like hundreds of and they don't want to talk to you about 10 bolts, you know, like, so what we end up letting you do is, like, in the robot example, they're going to talk to whoever the robot vendor is, you know, or whoever who who sell 100, 000 dollar or more.

Robotic systems. And they're going to do that deal direct. We don't expect them to do that. Although they might find the robot on our site because we have all these robots on the site, but, um, but then everything else that you're like, you know, the 10, 000 items in this thing, they're going to buy from us because they don't want to go to a hundred different websites that they're not, they don't have time to do that and they're not going to go to [00:33:00] hundreds of OEMs and try to talk to someone, you know, they're, they're going to get the long tail done with us.Yeah. And so I think we've spent a fair amount of time on the, on the, on the supply side.

Niklas Halusa: I think you, this is actually a good segue to get to the buy side. Obviously mentioned that you spend half, you spend like half your money on, on just making sure that the PIM, the supply side, the data, and it's called the foundation of the marketplace.

It, you know, works, what does it take to, to be successful with a B2B buyer online?

Nick Pinkston: Yeah. I mean, I think that for manufacturers, it's a lot of like people, people think that they're so cost based. And in some ways that can be true, especially with consumer goods, but you know, in the industrial world, you know, this is all finance stuff and pretty expensive.

So it's actually more about like, are you reliable? You know, and does this actually, um, plug into my processes? You know, like there's an interesting thing that goes on specifically with us, which is the, um, the mechanical [00:34:00] engineer and the sourcing person that works with 'em often don't talk that much. And it's sort of like, Hey, I built this prototype and it works.

Here's the bill of materials. Go buy all that stuff. And then the sourcing person is like, well, it would be nice if you bought things. Um, you know, you spec things that were actually viable in quantity. And so then there's this kind of back and forth between, hey. Do you really need this? Do not, you know, and so on.

Niklas Halusa: I think there's an old, uh, there's an old Steve Jobs interview or video or something where he has a long, where he has a long diatribe about exactly this and how he built Apple to make sure that everyone, including QA was part of the design and the purchase process. So that you don't have this endless, endless loop.

Nick Pinkston: Yeah, no, you're, you're totally right. And so I think that that is broken in the majority of companies in, in some respect. And so, you know, a lot of it is like the reason we did so much data is so you could literally put in a part and then find these similar parts. So, you know, we have companies that come to us, like we have, we have one bill of material, 16, 000 line [00:35:00] items, and, you know, they want us to look at all the parts they're doing and show all the similar ones.

And then their engineers are going to go back and be like, Hey. Are any of these actually either fully drop in replacements or are they like, you know, with slight tweaks to our product, we could cut a bunch of cost out of it, you know, that that kind of stuff. And so there's a lot of opportunity there. But in the end, like, not just this more spec based thing, but even like all the compliance stuff, like the engineers hate all the paperwork of like, spend management systems.

So they're like, I want like 10 bolts. I don't want to fill out a form to do this. And so some places. Have a pretty heavy span of management thing that we have to plug into and we just do it for them, you know, so there's a lot of stuff where it's like, how do you make it easy on their internal processes that you see less, of course, in the consumer world where there's not those processes 

Niklas Halusa: speaking of processes, how much do you have to pick up the phone? Talk to people, you know, how much of this is still human versus somebody going in there to your point, buying something. 

Nick Pinkston: So we, we very rarely give [00:36:00] people like, like true, like engineering tech support and you're looking at them. I do it. Um, so like literally our support people, uh, you know, Are mainly just handling like order issues and, you know, whatever, whatever stuff like this.

But, um, but, you know, I, I, some, it's funny, some people literally send a picture being like, Hey, I got this part. Do you guys know where I could get this? And like, I actually might know. And even if it's like another website, I'll still give them the website just to like, make them successful, you know, just to do.

And then I'll be like, okay, add that vendor to our big vendor list that we should contact. But yeah, it's like, we don't really do. On the phone sale of parts, we do on the sale, like account management stuff about like, are they successful and so on, you know, but it's not like I've got a deal of a million dollars of parts.

That's really like the RFQ process and that that's more like you're talking to an OEM or possibly a big distributor to do 1 big. Thing, but like, that's not the part of the market that we serve. Like it's, it's in many ways like very consumer and it's like, there's, you know, probably some young person who's designing a thing and [00:37:00] another one sourcing a thing and they're just, they want it to work like Amazon or, you know, something like this, that they are used to using on the consumer side, but the industrials don't offer, you know, I mean, Amazon wouldn't say it's a great experience, but at least they're used to it.

You know, um, there's not a lot like that in the industrial world. 

Niklas Halusa:Yeah. So I think I have a feeling, a little bit of. Of the end to end life cycle here, you have your, you know, your vendor database. So I assume, you know, it's a, it's a, it's a big exercise in legitimacy and understanding if they're, they're real and trustworthy and everything else.

Obviously you are, you know, tens of or hundreds of millions, uh, large catalog and attribute sets and all the merchandising that goes around it and making it possible to search. And then it sounds like you have quite a, you know, you, you have some foot also in the RFQ process, you know, as part of connecting to procurement system, buying system, what chunk of all of this, have you gone and built yourself and, [00:38:00] and how much did you figure you can get off the shelf? 

Nick Pinkston: So, I mean, a lot of the, let me, we try to do things off the shelf as much as possible. Like why invent things that are probably built better than you will do yourself. Our, our problem was that a lot of the, um, like the PIM systems or whatever, just weren't able to do it, you know, and we wanted to really control the front end of our system.

So like you couldn't just buy something and use their front end. Like we, we needed. Heavy spec based interfaces and ones that to a lot of consumer buyers kind of seem overwhelming, you know, like, but in the engineering world, they're like, no, we want to see all the data, you know, but I think that you'd really fight some systems.

So we built the front end systems ourself and then, you know, even things like our cart, like, you can check out with many. Um, you know, suppliers in the same cart and there's a lot of specifics on how that works that like we couldn't use a cart off the shelf. I mean, we're kind of a weird company. And so in many ways, like we had to build like a lot of our systems, you know, to do that.

So the majority of the site [00:39:00] is made that way. 

Niklas Halusa: You just described some of the things that I tell people all the time they're going to run into when they build marketplaces and they don't believe me. And then they realize that, for example, no cart off the shelf actually works or handles it their way, particularly not in B2B where.

You then also have to potentially worry about, hey, do you have. Partial payments. Do you have partial delivery? Do you have, you know, all kinds of customization data you need to add to it? It gets, you know, multiple payment methods. It gets super complicated. 

And so what advice would you give to somebody who's starting a marketplace now of how to get this whole thing rolling? How do they? You know, what's your view on the cold start problem?

Nick Pinkston: Yeah, I know. I mean, it's like, I mean, our specific cold start was that like, I had a few hundred account relationships and so I had them all fill out surveys of like what supply they wanted. So I know that they would actually buy it. And then I went to those suppliers and got them on the system, you know, although.

“Got them on the system” is doing a lot of a lot of work in that sentence as far as like, you know, how to [00:40:00] do it. I mean, I think that the classic advice we talked about earlier is still true. I just didn't take it as much as I should have probably because of our specific problems. But I think it is true to start narrow and try and try to get buyers and suppliers transacting as soon as possible.

And as far as technically, I mean, I always feel like that. It's fine to get some dirty thing working and to make sure that all the commerce and stuff works. And then you can always replace your dumb thing with a better thing. At some point in the future, you know, that's more mature. we threw out a lot of our code from the very beginning.

Cause we were just trying to get something working at all. And, you know, also a lot of it was the data code. And so we ended up like having a few different versions of that before we got something that was truly like, I mean, literally a thousand times more productive than the current workflows to do so.

So I think. You try to keep it simple, but I'm like not the guy to talk about who like is a good example of keeping it simple, honestly, because because we had such a huge thing to do from the beginning.

Niklas Halusa:  I also know from your Plethora days that I have a feeling this is not the first time you've gone and done something that nobody else wants to bite off.

Nick Pinkston: [00:41:00] So, yeah, I mean, I think it's like right on the edge. Plethora was too far on the edge and that was like super painful. And like, this is actually like, OK, cool. It's like we bit off this huge thing and we're like slowly able to swallow it, you know, which is nice. I think Plethora was more choking involved, to not abuse this analogy.

Niklas Halusa: How should B2B buying, procurement, everything else Look in the future and, and, and how does volition fit into that future?

Nick Pinkston: No, sure. I mean, it's, I'll speak more to our industry. Cause like it's, it's too hard. I don't know all the industries, so it's hard to say. I mean, at least for us, I think that we're going to see a bifurcated world of, of, of how people, um, interact with this.

So like when I go to, you know, some of these like industrial conferences, you meet all these people that are like technical, um, application engineer type people. And I think those people are still going to be super valuable. Like, my website is not going to walk your factory floor and tell you how to, um, you know, cut metal [00:42:00] faster, you know, so like all these local people that go into your factory, I think they're very useful.

And I think that, like, even if you are really smart and you work at your factory and you're trying to improve stuff, you don't know all the different stuff and you can go on volition and you can find all those different things, but maybe you need to be convinced. And I think sales still really does have a big place.

Like, Physical sales. And so I see that's one side. And then of course, I think there's like digital companies like volition that are going to have this very data forward thing of, we can explore everything. Cause you know, the person's going to walk into your factory only represents like a few brands. And so they're going to try to sell you one of those.

And so I think that like both of those approaches are valid. Like I mentioned earlier, like a lot of times they should just talk to the OEM, like, especially for really complicated product products, talk to the servo company, it's like now. Often the OEM will talk to you, but they won't sell it to you. And so that's an interesting thing where you can talk to tech support at, you know, Bosch or something, and they'll talk about sensors, but they're not going to cut a random [00:43:00] person an order for 100 parts, you know?

So then you have to find the distributor and then you'll come to us as well. Or maybe you found Bosch through us. Like, we haven't made this yet, but we were thinking of, um, actually just finding the best tech support for every product at these vendors and just allowing a button that would just call you and call them.

Um, so you could like. quickly talk to them and then maybe understand more of what they were saying, you know, about that, just to know like what content we should put in the site. But yeah, I see a bifurcation in interface, like enablement of people to help you. And then even more so, like, you know, I think that you're going to, um, have the site.

And of course, you know, everyone's talking about the AI applications of this. I think there is like some in between agent helping you. That's like read all of your product content and stuff, but. That I still ain't walking the floor. So, like, in our perspective, like, actually, it is good. And I almost feel like that, um, you know, this is a question I've had for a while, and I'm not sure I believe this, but, like, what is a distributor?

Where did they come from? It's like, kind of a question, right? Like, back in the day when, like, [00:44:00] you know, the industrial world was happening, um, you know, The catalogs were a thing, you know, like, um, what was it before series? There was 1, um, blanking on it. But anyway, so say the series catalog, you know, they're aggregating maybe it's like 50 to 100000 things in that catalog and they had a huge warehouse in Chicago and this whole mechanism.

Right? So you had to have. All the OEM relationships store, all the products, finance, the products, take the orders for fill yours is full stack. And I think because of this stuff, we're going to see disaggregation of a lot of this. Like I could imagine that like, instead of having these local dealerships of all these, you know, in our case, like the machine tools and cutting tools and you know, all these products that possibly salespeople will be disaggregated and there'll be more like cloud consultants who know.

All this different stuff and you might hire like a consultant who then uses volition and then also knows the OEMs and they figure out the solution. So, like, because it's like, the distributors are often drop shipping everything [00:45:00] now. Um, you know, a lot of stuff is being drop ship. So, okay, they're not doing that.

They're not doing the finance. They're making the factories do the finance. So we're, we're seeing in our world, the OEMs build a lot of fulfillment and finance capacity of themselves and even doing their own e commerce. And we're seeing that like that previous thing distributors were doing, which was like, you know, financing the inventory and all that other stuff.

They're not doing that anymore. And so. You know, you've got to have kind of a Bob's conversation with some of these guys. Like, you know, what is it you say you do here? Um, on some of this. And I think the real thing they do is if they have a network of salespeople and they really understand their products, I think they can add a lot of value beyond just what say volition could do alone.

Um, but I do think that some of them are going to need to get with it. And it's like, if you're not, if you're not actually able to talk about the specifics of this with someone and really understand Know their world. I think that something like volition will start eating your lunch. If you don't get either technical in some way, or you don't get more digital in another way, in a way that we're not doing, [00:46:00] you know, so like, I don't know.

That's just sort of my thought is like, I feel like that maybe distributors are going to be like disaggregated in a certain, which is probably true of the, of the buyers, first of all, too, right. If you don't start using something like volition, somebody is going to figure out how to build the same part for less.

With fewer people with higher failure rate, you name it. 

Nick Pinkston: I mean, this is what we saw in software, right? I mean, it's like you, you have people that are doing like all of this, you know, very, um, you know, heavy code without open source and all this other stuff. And then suddenly, like, you know, 2 kids in a coffee shop make something better than you're like team of 50 people can, but like bureaucracy and old.

Systems. So, you know, I, I really want to bring that to the world of hardware. Cause even now hardware, as they like to say is hard and that still is true. And I think the physicality is part of it, but I also think that like the culture of software and the entire industry and how its tools are made is actually more of it.

Like if, you know, [00:47:00] because you can't just snap your fingers and have parts show up physically, but you can almost do that. You know, like a plethora, we would send you custom parts in a few hours if you wanted to pay for it. And you can right now get a courier to go to, you know, Home Depot or whatever and get your bolts.

So like, we're almost there. So it's actually all the other stuff that really makes a tool to coordinate all of that, really the step of making things faster. So, yeah, no, I totally agree. 

Niklas Halusa: It's actually, there's an interesting parallel to be drawn between this. The way that you model out the way the B2B industry is supposed to look or will look and the way that the B2C industry, I think, is evolving where this, the supply world, right?

Where things come from and what things are is and should continue to separate from who is influencing the buying decision, right? Where in B2C world, it's, you know, it's the influencers and the content spaces and that's who we trust. That's the expert. That's the one [00:48:00] who knows everything about hiking boots or knows everything about tents, where it's a little bit the same story from what you're describing the B2B world, where honestly, the, the person advising you on what you should buy and how it fits in and who the legitimate brands are, et cetera, doesn't need to be the person who also sits on all of that supply.

It's kind of not the same skillset, managing inventory and everything else. And, and managing catalogs from being a consultant and that their choice should be a world where, you know, distributors need to go figure out how to, you know, become a little bit more like instead of, you know, third party distributor, fourth party, I think is what they call it in logistics, where they become, you know, relationship managers, advisors.

Uh, and, uh, and effectively do that higher level thinking and where the buying and the catalogs and the specs and the supply should really aggregate to, [00:49:00] you know, somebody like you, who then has a skill set, understanding skills and understanding what things are, where you can get them. And making that entire process predictable.

Nick Pinkston: Totally. Yeah. I mean, you know, another analogy that I'm not sure people will get is like the Bloomberg terminal, you know? So it's like, there's like one information source, you know, or at least one interface where all these sources plug in, in the finance world. But there's a ton of different people advising people on what to buy, you know, in, in the case of stocks and portfolios and whatnot, and all the other decisions you make around finance.

And so finance is like the most. Um, you know, commoditized from an instrument perspective, like every share is the same, um, and, you know, and, and very transparent by government mandate to a certain extent. And so like, that's the smoothest laid on marketplace. It's like the original marketplace, as far as a literal place where you're trading slips of paper on a floor.

And I, and I look at that and I'm like, yeah, like, I feel like volition is sort of the Bloomberg of parts right now. Like we've [00:50:00] got all the, all the, you know, every price for a SKU at what time, and, you know, we're like a little futures market or something. 

Niklas Halusa: Really appreciate the time. Just to close out here, what's on your, what's on your docket for, for 2024?

Nick Pinkston: I mean, you know, it's funny, like all of our stuff right now is just grow, grow, grow, honestly. So like, a lot of this is like, you build this system, I mean, you know, in our history. Um, you know, just getting that data and supplier network was this huge lift way harder. I mean, everyone told us it would be hard and I thought so, but it was even harder.

Right? So then, you know, last year we started getting into our go to market. And so this is really like maturing that a lot. So, like, most things I do now is like, is just read like growth hacker books and, uh, you know, play around with Google ads or talk to customers. You know, I mean, very meat and potatoes kind of stuff.

Nothing too fancy, um, you know, in that way. Um, for volition and like, you know, we've had all these customers that, um, you know, have wanted to try this thing for a while and we're [00:51:00] slowly getting it, you know, I think that, like, I don't want to go from 0 to everyone's using it. And then, you know, something inevitably blows up.

So when I wanted to take like a metered approach to doing it, but yeah. That's our year. And then I guess for me personally, man, I'm I'm very excited about industrial policy coming on this year. I feel like in the industrial world in broader than volition, you know, there's been a lot of stuff around the world of investing in the industrials.

And so, you know, it's very good for us because all these factories being built are going to be built with all these parts and all the machine tools that go into them built with all these parts. So good for us. But, um, you know, I do this because I want the industry to be good, not just to build a good business.

And yeah, I'm very excited about that. I think people are now realizing that manufacturing matters after no one could buy anything a couple of years ago, you know? Um, so that's been good for us. So in 2024, yeah. Is it like the year of manufacturing? I don't know. But, uh, but yeah, I'm excited for that this year.

And I'm feeling a lot of stuff going on with it. 

Niklas Halusa: You took the words out of my mouth in terms of 2024. If you build [00:52:00] something big, you better be really thoughtful about how you roll it out, especially if you build something critical, where can somebody find you if they want to work? Volition, if they want to invest, if they want to be a customer.

Nick Pinkston: So our, our website is, is just go volition. com is, you know, how to find our website for me. Um, you know, I'm, I'm just Nick Pinkston everywhere. I think I'm the only Nick Pinkston that gets any Google juice. Thankfully I have a weird last name. Um, also Twitter. If, uh, if people want to talk about anything like this, I'm always down on Twitter.

Um, at, at Nick Pinkston, um, I was lucky to grab all the addresses early, but yeah. And then I, I'm happy to help anyone who wants to do stuff in marketplaces too. I always tell people that, um, or industrials or manufacturing in general. So hit me up on, on that stuff. I'm pretty easy to find online. Like, I think my LinkedIn has my email too, if you go to the contact thing.

So I'm easy,

Niklas Halusa: which case I look forward to shooting you questions about. Industrial policy on Twitter and really appreciate the time.

Nick Pinkston: Awesome. Yeah. Great to be here, man. [00:53:00] Thanks for inviting me on. 

Niklas Halusa: 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.