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The Co-Founder of Retail Tech Company Upside Shares Three Secrets to His Success

Alex Kinnier reminds readers that there's nothing wrong with following your own advice.


Alex Kinnier is the co-founder and CEO of Upside, a retail technology company that helps consumers get more value on the things they need while simultaneously allowing merchants to earn more profit on every transaction.


Alex began planning his company when he saw how Google Adwords revolutionized the online shopping experience by using anonymized historical user data. As Google optimized brick-and-mortar businesses, their economically inefficient static pricing and curation were having a hard time keeping up.

Drawing from his work experience at Google, Alex realized that he could create the same optimized shopping experiences in our neighborhoods that we've come to expect online. Seven years later, Upside has 50,000 locations on its platform, reaches 30 million people and is valued at 1.5 billion dollars. Here are the three things that Alex contributes to his success.

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1. Create a business model that ensures mutual benefit

When Alex founded Upside, he made sure the product was a win for businesses, consumers and his bottom line. Its profit-sharing business model is structured so that when Upside brings its merchants a customer or a purchase they weren't expecting–and can prove it–his company and the merchant share in the profit earned on that purchase. Users get cash back for choosing that business and businesses get more profitable sales. It's a win-win and Upside doesn't get paid until both make money first.

Related: How to Give Customers the Digital Experience They Crave

2. Empower teams to think for themselves

Alex kicks off all new employee orientations by telling them to always do what's right and not necessarily what they're told. Having people follow orders means at least 50% of the brainpower in that equation is sacrificed. But because Upside's culture empowers everyone to weigh in on a decision, it maximizes the company's probability of success. If people don't know what the right decision is, then they need to ask questions. This creates an opportunity for everyone to learn.

3. Prioritize measurement as you grow

Alex believes entrepreneurs must prioritize measurement so they don't delude themselves into thinking they're making an impact when they're not, or develop a culture of personality where people blindly believe in the founder's direction. Measure everything, set goals and then measure against those goals so that you have a rational set of factors to judge whether your business is actually succeeding.

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