Episode 15: Alex Collmer and Melissa Wong

In our 15th episode, Gil talks about category creation with two experienced B2B operators in the retail operations management and creative intelligence categories.

Panelists for this episode include:

  • Melissa Wong, CEO, Retail Zipline and one of the influencers in the retail operations management category
  • Alex Collmer, CEO, VidMob, and one of the pioneers in the creative intelligence category

 

You’ll walk away from this episode with great insights around hiring your first employees, building a culture, and managing risk.

Let’s look at some of the key takeaways from this episode.

Takeaway 1. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes

You’re bound to make mistakes when you set out to create a new category.

Maybe you wait too long to launch and end up missing out on valuable customer feedback.

Or you overspend on a campaign that you thought would do great, only to be disappointed with the results.

It’s usually through these mistakes that you’ll learn what you need to do to improve your business.

For Melissa Wong and her team at Retail Zipline, that’s exactly what happened.

She recalls an occasion where she booked an appointment with her co-founders to meet up with a Fortune 100 company about a potential business deal.

Everyone was excited about the opportunity.

But that excitement quickly turned into panic once they realized that they hadn’t prepared an actual presentation for the meeting.

It was a simple mistake that ended up costing them the deal.

And from that point forward, everyone worked hard to develop a better sales process to ensure something like that never happened again.

That brings us to the next takeaway in this episode.

Takeaway 2. Your first hires can make or break your startup

Every problem you face on your journey to creating a new category will need to be solved by your team.

That’s why you need to focus on hiring the right people from day 1.

These initial hires set the stage for your company’s culture and performance.

As Alex Collmer of VidMob mentions in this episode, you have to find the right balance between hiring the right people and being willing to recognize when people aren’t the right fit.

It can be a pretty hard thing to do, but it can also be the difference between success and failure.

Equally important is knowing how to select the right cofounders on your team.

You can’t build a category alone.

You’ll need to have co-founders who are just as passionate as you are about your product and also have skills that complement yours.

Besides that, your co-founders should also have industry-specific experience, technical skills (if you’re not technical), and a shared vision of the future.

Takeaway 3. You can create a category even if you hate taking risks

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be a crazy risk-taker to build a new category from scratch.

It’s possible to build your category as someone with an aversion to risk-taking.

That was the case with Melissa Wong at Retail Zipline.

After spending ten years working in retail, she decided to start the company because she identified a problem that needed to be solved.

She was the classic reluctant entrepreneur.

Rather than taking the risk of starting a category and hoping that things would work out, she spent as much time as possible figuring out the right problem to solve before jumping in.

As a result, Zipline reached product-market fit very quickly, achieving almost 0% churn since its launch.

There are many more useful insights and stories covered in this episode of category creators, so be sure not to miss it.

BONUS!

Alex Collmer shares some life lessons he learned from starting his first business at 19 years old.