How CommerceIQ Founder Implemented Learnings From Jeff Bezos to Create A Unicorn
CommerceIQ powers profitable retail e-commerce growth for consumer brands by intelligently automating all aspects of e-commerce across channels
While familiarity and trust makes offline shopping the preferred mode of shopping even today, the pandemic has surely forced many to move online. The long period of being at home and ordering online has resulted in habit formation. This has led to an exponential growth of e-commerce and an uptick in the number of e-commerce and D2C players grabbing this opporutnity across the world.
In addition to that, this new trend has given rise to B2B platforms in the e-commerce space. One such player is CommerceIQ, an e-commerce management platform, that recently announced the closing of $115 million Series D financing round, bringing the company's total valuation to more than $1 billion. The startup was founded in 2019 and is headquartered in Palo Alto.
Guru Hariharan, founder and CEO, CommerceIQ, tells us how he was absolutely convinced from the start that this is where the market was going and CommerceIQ needed to exist. Since his days at Amazon and implementing Jeff Bezos's "hands off the wheel" vision, where algorithms were driving the buy-side half of retail e-commerce, he knew that the brands or manufacturers needed to make that shift too.
"While I had that clarity of vision on where the world is going, timing is never a sure thing. Ten years, absolutely. Five years is a good bet. Seeing the progress we have made in the last three years is tremendous," he said.
Identifing Market Potential
After building out the algorithmic vendor management approach of Amazon, Hariharan knew there was going to be an insatiable need for platforms that can help brands gain intelligent automation on their end and transform from manual and siloed to an algorithmic approach to sell through online retailers. "We started off just sharing data insights on their Amazon operations that they couldn't get elsewhere. Then that quickly turned into a demand to automate common actions and consolidate across more functional teams in their Amazon business and other retail e-commerce channels," he said.
The startup had an early decision to make, that is, if it was going to be a product core with a great services muscle, or if was a services core with a product muscle. "There was a lot of money in the market, with immediate revenue available if we took the latter approach. But it took a lot of determination and focus to not chase every dollar and build a strong product core. Our product team is now 150 people strong, and we're doubling that this year," he said.
Today, the startup is building the first complete, unified platform for retail e-commerce management. "It is all about connecting and intelligently automating market and category insights, retail media management, supply chain, and sales management. And we do this across all the leading retail e-commerce channels including pure-plays like Amazon and Flipkart, along with omnichannel retailers like Walmart and Target," he said.
Overall, CommerceIQ powers profitable retail e-commerce growth for consumer brands by intelligently automating all aspects of e-commerce marketing, sales, supply chain and analytics across all channels.
The pandemic, experts say, has accelerated e-commerce adoption by around five years. "And, we play in the retail e-commerce segment (brands selling through Amazon, Flipkart, etc.) where 85 per cent of all e-commerce spend happens. So we have massively benefited by e-commerce becoming a 'must have' for every CPG," he said.
He also feels that the unicorn valuation and the traction with large consumer brands is a validation that his and team's vision of building a retail e-commerce management platform is a winning play. "But now comes the long hard work scaling and delivering even more value for our customers. We are building to be a $1 billion ARR business and we're keeping our eye on that prize," he said.
Hariharan sums up the company's team culture in three words. IQ, EQ and LQ. "IQ is not just about raw intellectual horsepower, but to take ownership of results and have a bias for action. EQ is equally important and no matter the role, it is critical to be customer-obsessed, hiring and developing top talent, and winning together as one team. Many companies think about IQ and EQ in some form, but in a hypergrowth startup where we are building a whole new category, I strongly believe that the "LQ" or learning quotient of our team is a real game-changer, where people are naturally curious, eager to dive deep, and not afraid to take big bests and innovate," he said.
The company is growing rapidly and now has well over 200 employees. "Hiring for culture fit and really ensuring that we're living our values daily is one of the most important things I keep an eye on as CEO. Our team works hard for our customers and each other so it is very important to me as the founder that we take care of the 'whole life' of our employees and include many wellness perks from monthly "recharge" days to physical and mental wellness," he said.
Milestones and Vision
The company's milestones so far include getting its first 20 customers successfully, building out a true multi-product platform with high NRR from cross sell and upsell, and its recent unicorn valuation.
For CommerceIQ, North America is the biggest market, but it is also serving multi-nationals in India, UK, and EU. Going forward, it envisions tapping the tremendous opportunity in working with locally-based companies in those geographies. Further, the startup is also building the retail e-commerce management platform and will be adding new products to it this year. It will also be expanding its product capabilities within each of its retail e-commerce channels.