Whether you love it or hate it, Valentine’s Day is one of the most widely celebrated holidays worldwide. Consumers splurge on everything from candy grams…
POTOO Celebrates 6 Years!
Blogs | August 13, 2020
Reflecting On 6 Years of Protecting Brands Online
POTOO celebrated its 6-year anniversary in July, and I thought it would be timely to sit down with Scott Albright, EVP of Sales, as well as co-founders Fred Dimyan (CEO) and David Veber (COO) to discuss POTOO’s journey from 2014 to today. From its humble beginnings, impressive achievements to date, and future outlook, I got a glimpse at what makes POTOO such a special company and a necessity for eCommerce brands.
First — POTOO is such an interesting and unique name… how did you ultimately decide on it, and what was the inspiration for starting the company in the first place?
David: When Scott, Fred, and I first realized how important brand protection was in the online marketplace, we were working at an electronics company and had the opportunity to build an internal solution for this specific issue. When we started to share our approach, we were surprised nobody had thought of using technology to protect brands online. We initially thought we’d come up with a name that was really specific to the services that we offered, but then I realized the POTOO bird lives in the Amazon, is critical to the ecosystem there, and serves as a great metaphor for what we do as the bird has fantastic camouflage. We make sure our brands are out in front, they get protected, and we work hidden behind the scenes to eliminate unauthorized third-party sellers to protect brands.
How does POTOO uphold and enforce this type of camouflage? How do you remain “behind the scenes”?
David: We work in partnership with our brands and act on their behalf, so we do not approach any 3P vendors as POTOO and say “hey you need to work better with these brands.” All of our brands want what is best for their consumers, so we simply enforce the criteria they have in place with their distribution partners or ensure compliance with the relevant marketplace policy. We try to be subtle and discrete rather than immediately issuing subpoenas and cease and desists.
Can you talk about POTOO’s growth from where you started to where you are now?
David: Well we started at zero customers, then grew from one, to two and more from there. We’re really proud of our humble beginnings. The first year we just barely scraped by with enough and then in 2019 we were humbled to be named the fastest growing technology company in Connecticut with 2600% growth in just 3 years.
You said that POTOO was just able to scrape by its first year. At what point did you realize the company was going to make it and really take off from there?
David: I think it was when we landed our first Fortune 500 brand. When we started working with these enormous companies with such a high market share and had a product and service offering which enabled them to create a better experience for their customers, we knew we were on to something incredible.
How have you seen the online marketplace grow and change since POTOO got its start?
Scott: We’ve seen a ton of changes in the marketplace and we’ve done a really good job at adapting our product quickly to meet new requirements from our brand partners. We started out with just Excel reports and now offer a fully developed, data-driven analytics platform that fuels growth for our clients. When we first started out, the majority of our focus was on storefront management, then we slowly migrated to brand enforcement, and are now offering category data feeds. We’ve expanded coverage from the US market to over 200 platforms globally!
Do you see POTOO continuing with brand enforcement in the future or do you see the company pivoting to another focus area?
Scott: Well I think a little bit of both — though less pivoting and more building on top of. You’re always going to see clients needing brand protection online, but with the growth of brand volume through marketplaces the questions our data can answer is really special.
Fred: And to add to that, the marketplace has changed a ton in the past 6 years and it’s going to change even more dramatically in the next 6 years. eCommerce has grown so much in importance and now there’s really no denying that these brands need our services now and will continue to need them in the future. When we were first starting out, we’d have to explain what the online marketplace was and why Amazon was important. We don’t need those slides anymore. People are slowly discovering new online marketplaces, like Facebook and Instagram, and the transition has been even more rapid with Covid.
How has Covid-19 raised the popularity of buying online and how does that affect a brand’s need to ensure its products are protected?
Fred: The pandemic has really forced people who were not fully using eCommerce to navigate the online marketplace out of necessity — we would expect much of this behavior to stick around after the pandemic ends. With the increase in traffic/demand comes the increase in supply — there will be additional items for sale in the marketplace thus increasing the potential for rogue listings. Many brands have not thought of actively managing the marketplace – so POTOO is very well positioned to help them grow.
What are other indicators that suggest the online marketplace will continue to grow in the future?
Fred: Well, the hard evidence we have is that the infrastructure is continuing to expand dramatically. You have Amazon and Walmart investing billions of dollars to build out their logistics infrastructure, their warehouses, etc. and that’s just accelerating the framework that everything is lying under. Surprisingly, eCommerce is really small. It’s maybe 20% of all retail sales. In our new reality, offline Black Friday has already been canceled and I think you’ll see this shift continue to online promotions and seasonal events. I don’t think you’ll see people wanting to be in crowds, not just because of Covid, but simply the hassle of going to a store and dealing with a Black Friday crowd when I can just do it all from the comfort of my home. eCommerce is not just about saving money – it’s also about saving time.
How do you expect the online marketplace to change and accommodate increased demand in the future?
David: I think we’ll see a lot more competitors to Amazon, and we’ve already seen a lot of the companies we work with clamoring to find more channels to work with. We’ve adapted by adding more marketplaces to our dashboards and expanding globally. Right now, it’s just Amazon in the lead and there’s a massive gap between Amazon and whoever their number two competitor is. I think people want that solid number two to meet that target demand and I think we’ll see one emerge in the future. It’s something we’re working to get ahead of for our clients. As a company, we’re looking to expand and be ready to handle that continued growth.
What makes POTOO unique from its competitors?
David: One of the unique things about POTOO is that we were able to make it on our own and we’re structured in a way that isn’t reliant on a big outside investment. Our competitors have looked at us and are amazed that we’ve been able to grow step-by-step in a very practical, problem-solving way. We won’t be looking to be like a Silicon Valley startup where they get big investments from the outside and never turn a profit – we’re in this for the long haul.
Fred: To add on to that, when we were first starting out when we’d meet with financial service agencies, they were shocked and almost upset that we were profitable, but we were able to succeed because we’re a practical company. We execute correctly and provide a product that’s tailored to our brand partners, and have been successful at scaling it. You look at our competitors and they’re all reliant on investors and the pressures of meeting specific goals and revenues.
Why is it that POTOO was able to succeed without any outside investments and what are the advantages of not having to report to shareholders?
Fred: We did not create the business to get an outside investment. We recognized a phenomenal opportunity and felt we could execute best on our own. It really forced us to perform and continue learning about the marketplace. Our ability to act and move quickly is what makes us special. We can pivot so quickly because we can internally discuss the way we want to go instead of having to go to a venture capital or private equity firm and convince them to approve our ideas. Nobody knows the marketplace better than us, and our control of POTOO’s vision and understanding is what gives us the edge in creating the best possible service. That’s not to say we would never take outside investment, but it’d have to be in the best interest of the company and give us the room to operate in the way we’ve always been able to.
What else separates POTOO from others and how would you compare the company to its competitors?
Fred: We love what we do. We’re so interested in this exciting, dynamic space, and we got into this field because it was something we thoroughly understood. We were one of the first companies to compile all of this market data and start working with all of these brands. I think we really saw the future potential of the marketplace. It’s interesting to see the growth of the current Amazon and its expansive listing of products and offerings. We had a big head start on understanding Amazon and built our product with some of the largest brands in the world.
POTOO has over 550 clients including 8 of the top 10 brands on Amazon. Does it ever get challenging managing all of those accounts?
Fred: Having such a large portfolio of clients actually helps us spot trends and act upon them. For example, if you take a shoe company’s challenges around cross border sales or compliance problems with their re-sellers, it’s very likely a similar problem for another category such as computer keyboards or peripherals. We can often take the experiences of one similar company and apply it to another. The more we expand, the easier it will be to offer strategic advisory to our clients because our understanding of the marketplace will continue to grow with it — we try to create a culture of learning with our community.
Q: How would you sum up POTOO’s journey over the last 6 years?
Fred: It’s been an amazing and exciting journey. The next 6 years are going to be a lot more intriguing and complex because now we have credibility and experience. The industry has moved on as well and we can spend less time explaining why our services are important and can jump right into servicing our clients to help them navigate the complex world of eCommerce. We started from such humble roots with Shark Tank companies to now having some of the largest brands in the world as our partners. Once in awhile David and I pinch ourselves just because we’re so grateful and amazed at how far we’ve come. It’s been such a great ride and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for us.
To learn how POTOO can protect your brand and support your marketplace, schedule a free diagnostic today.
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