Discover more from Consumer Startups
💰 nate: Conquering the non-Amazon world
+ how a consumer payment app is tackling the non-Amazon world
Hii 👋 ,
Welcome back again :) I decided to post twice this week since I slacked off a bit in the past weeks.
A couple of housekeeping notes before we get started. First, check out this link to check out some previous posts. Second, if you would like to meet other members of the Consumer Startups community, make sure to fill out the form here.
These days, I buy everything from Amazon, from books to groceries. I appreciate the number of selections on the platform, and most importantly, I simply don’t want to deal with the hassles of putting in my payment information and the risks of having my personal information stolen.
Still, there are many products I really like outside of the Amazon universe. There is a long tail of non-Amazon economy that represents more than 60%+ of US e-commerce.
This is precisely the problem that an Amazon veteran, Albert Saniger, is addressing at nate.
👶🏻 Albert’s early entrepreneurial journey
A Spain native, Albert grew up in an entrepreneurial family. His father, a former professional soccer player, is a serial entrepreneur who has worked on many products from technology to CPG. His mom runs her own SMB business in the hair health space.
Influenced by his environment, Albert also started hustling at a young age. He would sell sample products that other companies sent to his dad in the neighborhood.
First startup rodeo
His first real business started after graduating from college. Albert had already moved to the US during that time, but he struggled to find a job in the city he wanted to live in - NYC. Out of necessity, he decided to start his own company, an apparel business. The first year was extremely tough as Albert was still trying to learn the ropes. Fortunately, the business started to pick up in year two, and he was able to scale it from just selling polo shirts to selling a whole line of sportswear to multiple countries on different continents.
💡 Amazon and the idea behind nate
After years of grinding, Albert eventually sold the apparel business, moved back to Europe to pursue his MBA at London Business School, and subsequently joined Amazon to work on the Private Label team.
This Amazon experience provided him with a much clearer understanding of the things that matter to customers the most - easy (or no) check out and unlimited selection. Amazon offers a consistent experience that removes all frictions for customers to purchase products. Albert quickly realized there is an opportunity to provide a safe and consistent experience for the non-Amazon world.
“How can I create this experience for the other 60% of us in the world, to make sure that the ecosystem doesn't become a monopoly or a duopoly.” - Albert
There are two ways to solve this problem for the non-Amazon world - 1. Integrate with every single retailer in the world which would probably take 100+ years 2. create a universal shopping app, the only viable solution.
Around the same time, Albert witnessed the rise of companies like UiPath that were doing robotic process automation and thought intelligent automation could be the key to solve this inconsistent and frustrating buying experience in the non-Amazon world.
🛠 Build, build, build
Step 1: meditation retreat and crafting a culture 🧘🏻♂️
To make sure he is fully committed to this idea, Albert decided to go on a meditation retreat in Bali for a month to disconnect and take some time to think through the problem.
(Note: this is quite an interesting and common pattern I have noticed for founders before they embark on their idea)
He gained further conviction for the idea after the retreat and decided to build out a world-class team. Albert started the process by creating a culture that would foster innovation. It started with 5 leadership principles that Albert and his team still live by today:
Self-care isn’t selfish
Disagreeing is healthy
Make true promises
Forgiveness over permission
Always look forward
Step 2: finding the narrative 🗣
Albert had a good grasp of how consumers make buying decisions online from his prior experience building his own business and working at Amazon. He knew that he had to keep his head down building the infrastructural technology first before building the consumer product.
I have seen many consumer technology startups without a product struggle to convince their stakeholders to buy into the narrative. It’s an interdependent wheel - you need investors to attract employees, you need employees to build something to attract customers, and you often need customers to get investors. nate also struggled with this challenge in the early days, because they were building a deep tech while pitching to consumer investors, who were not used to seeing consumer companies with deep tech.
However, Albert turned it around and made this intersection of consumer and deep tech their strength.
“I made it my selling point, not only to investors but also to the team. When choosing a job, most people prefer consumer companies over enterprise businesses because they can also use the product. However, many of them also prefer deep tech because they understand the advantages of having that on their resume.” - Albert
This narrative worked out well and helped Albert and his team to acquire the initial capital and key hires to create this universal shopping app.
👑 Building an empire
1000 customers - leveraging the team
The intelligence automation technology took Albert and his team two years to build but it was well worth it. With the technology and a simple prototype, they were able to raise an $8M seed from Canaan Partners and Coatue. Now - it’s time to ship 🚢 …
The nate product is quite simple. Nate users browse the internet for products the way they would online. After identifying the product they would like to buy, they can simply share the product with nate, which then completes the purchase on the user’s behalf.
Similar to most consumer software these days, nate also started with a waitlist. Without any outreach, they very quickly acquired the first 1000 users. It happened rapidly due to two main reasons:
Every member on the team was a nate customer since the product is universal (note - you will be surprised how many consumer product teams do not even use their own product)
A very engaged cohort of Beta users who were spreading the words
Next 100K users - PLG and building a brand
Albert and his team noticed that a lot of early users were taking screenshots of their wishlists and sharing them with their friends. They decided to lean into this sharing behavior by making it super easy to create a wishlist through the nate app, share their wishlists with friends, and give gifts.
Building a brand:
To engage with their community and also supercharge growth, they hosted an epic scavenger hunt in NYC this May titled “the gift hunt.”
“It was an outdoor scavenger hunt, where New Yorkers explored their favorite city with friends and found gifts along the way. There was also a super fun party at the end.
We can justify doing these awareness heavy campaigns because the product is already spreading on its own.” - Albert
Current traction - nate launched publicly in October 2020 and has since doubled its user base every 6 weeks.
📖 The next chapter
As nate continues to grow, it is also becoming a fintech company. A couple of months ago, they just announced their “buy now, pay later (BNPL)” feature, a popular trend within the payment space. Not only can consumers now skip the checkout and buy online in a private way, but they can also split the payment into several installments.
“The launch of the ‘pay later’ feature was incredibly successful. We want to double down on more payment features in the coming month and make sure that we are uniquely positioned to serve people from a variety of angles so that consumers regain agency.”
Check out nate 🚀!
That’s it for today. See you next week :)