Dalia Mitra: Hi Dave, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me. I know you are super busy as the new CEO of Shopventory. You seem to be really enjoying it and I would love to start by learning a bit more about how your past experiences complement your new role.
Dave Carlson: Hi Dalia. To start, I was at Echostar / The Dish Network for 12 years, and spent 6 years abroad in Holland, managing the Sales, Business Development and Operations teams in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. In this role I was responsible for the purchase and management of very valuable equipment. That meant managing a large amount of inventory. We had to carefully oversee purchasing, inventory turns and pricing since in the electronics industry products and parts start to decrease in value the minute they are manufactured.
I left Echostar to start a web services and business incubation company called eonBusiness. We started a company called AllAboardToys.com and you have to imagine a 22,000 square foot warehouse packed with inventory. We had shelves all the way to the ceiling and I managed the purchasing, inventory and customer service as CEO from 1999 to 2007.
Historically, I have invested in and been involved with SaaS (Software as a Service) companies, and that is exactly what Shopventory does. That, coupled with my passion for running my own businesses and managing inventory made Shopventory a very attractive opportunity to me.
DM: Sounds like a great match. How did you initially learn about Shopventory?
DC: In addition to being an active mentor and investor in Techstars since 2007, I am also on the selection committee. Every time a new class starts, I am always interested in mentoring two to three companies but I like to ensure the match is right. This year, after speaking with the Techstars Managing Director and learning Shopventory was a SaaS company, it seemed like a great fit. I felt I could help them given my past experience.
DM: You got involved right away. What took them to the next level for you? Why did you choose to come out of retirement and work with them?
Retirement is a funny word. I was technically retired from the operational stuff. Even in “retirement” I was making investments, providing guidance to the companies I’ve invested in and also did some consulting. I guess you could say I was semi-retired but I am always involved in something - sometimes volunteer work. I don’t think I can ever retire. Even when I’m 85, I’ll still be doing something in the business world because I love it.
My teammates, Rares and Bach, are incredible developers and really great guys. They wanted a CEO and over time, during my mentorship at Techstars, I learned more about and gained further interest in Shopventory. I sensed a great team dynamic and also saw where I could clearly help them on the business side. The opportunity was too great to pass up! I wanted to take more hours out of my day to be a bigger part of the Shopventory opportunity so I joined the team full-time.
DM: And here you are. Now, as CEO, what are the first three items you want to tackle?
DC: I may have more than three but I think these four are essential for success. When I look at investing in a company, I need to answer questions to understand the size of the opportunity and I am using those questions to ensure we are hitting our goals:
Are we understanding, listening and solving our customers’ problems? We must meet the needs of our customers.
Is our software the solution that addresses the needs of our customers? We have to continuously get feedback to be successful.
Is our software so easy to use that customers want to pay us for it? We cannot make it too complicated.
Are we a smart product? Inventory management tools exists but what those tools lack is inventory optimization. That means providing intelligence around the inventory to make our customer smarter, more efficient by managing their inventory the best they can.
The theme that is evident here is that we must be customer-centric. Our customers have to be passionate about Shopventory for us to be successful. To do this we have to listen to our customers. I have called dozens of customers to understand their experience with Shopventory and to learn what we can do to do a better job of solving their problems. Above all, if we are not listening to our customer, we will not be successful.
DM: Trying to achieve this takes a lot of time and energy. With a small team that is based in different cities, is it a challenge to streamline your goals and work?
DC: Today, you have online tools to help employees coordinate their work. People have to be accountable and meet deadlines that are agreed upon. We also over communicate to keep everyone on the same page and to ensure we are doing what we promised.
As a small team, communicating is easy and everyone is on the same page. But as a small team, we do struggle with not being able to do everything we want to as fast as we want to. We want to move faster, build more, achieve goals quicker. As a startup it is part of the challenge but we are working on it.
DM: Given goals and growth plans, where do you see Shopventory in one year? In three years?
DC: Well, in the first year, I want us to be in a position where as far as internet-based solutions for mobile POS are involved, Shopventory is the service everyone turns to for inventory management. One of my co-founders Rares said, “I want everybody to say ‘I love Shopventory’ when asked what they think about us.” He is so right!
In three years, I want us to BE inventory. I want people to say, “Intelligent Inventory Management IS Shopventory.” We want to be the central hub for inventory management on the internet, regardless of platform, payment processor, e-commerce site, storefront, etc.
In regards to our software, we want Shopventory to be in a position where purchase orders are generated for the vendor automatically and our customers have the ability to pay vendors through our system. We want Shopventory to have the ability to intelligently order based on historical data, seasonality, even the weather, while finding new products from vendors for retailers to carry. At the end of the day we want our customers to be able to reduce costs, increase sales, and save time.
DM: I am very excited to watch this all develop. You are so passionate about the product. In the startup world you are so busy, with so many moving parts and everchanging landscapes. What inspires you to tackle every day at Shopventory with such vigor and drive?
It’s my personality. It’s what I love. I’m driven by solving problems and handling conflict. When I diffuse a situation, there is most likely a positive outcome. Shopventory solves big pain points for retailers. I hope we impact and reduce the number of businesses that go out of business because the number one reason they go out of business is a lack of cash and that cash is often tied up in inventory.
DM: Agreed. Dave, thank you so much again for chatting with me. I am very excited to watch Shopventory grow!