He’s talked about his past companies. He’s talked about his time at Amazon. He’s even talked about Jet v. Amazon. Now Marc Lore, founder of Jet, is talking about what really matters: his customers, his employees, his investors, and his retailers. Sure, “Jet v. Amazon” makes a great headline, and Jet is poised to take on the ecommerce market with gusto, but there are a whole lot of pieces to the puzzle that need to go together before Marc and Jet storm the e-commerce castle.
Those pieces, Lore is quick to admit, are the people who are making the whole idea of Jet possible.“At the end of the day, people are what drive an organization—an idea is just the seed,”
Marc Lore shared with American BOSS Magazine in an exclusive interview.
“There’s nothing better than employees who are passionate about their work and investors who are passionate about your idea.”
Diapers.com—the largest online specialty retailer for baby products, co-founded by Lore in 2005—taught him a lot about what customers are looking for from e-commerce companies. It turns out that just a little extra effort in the form of handwritten notes and colorful delivery boxes went a long way in terms of building a loyal customer base.
“We loved the brand we created,” Lore said. “We had to ask ourselves ‘How can we create a customer base that has passion for the brand, in a way there’s emotion involved?’ We geared our customer service towards creating an emotional connection with the customer. Customers fell in love with the brand too.”
Although Lore and his co-founder Vinit Bharara sold the company to Amazon in 2011, these customer service lessons live on in Jet. The company’s customer care center, located in Salt Lake City, has a team of 60 people training to be ready for the launch of the e-commerce site. Lore revealed that a lot of investment—both money and time—has been dedicated to bringing the customer service team up to speed.
“We’ve come up with a really cool brand around how we’re going to approach customer service,” he said. “We’ll still do the handwritten notes and special touches that people know from Diapers.com, but we’ve got a few surprises up our sleeve as well.”
It would be difficult to provide exceptional customer service if you didn’t have passionate, motivated employees. Luckily, Lore’s staff are both.
Jet employs a “great combination of new and old”. The first people that asked to join up after he pitched the idea of Jet were people with whom he had worked in the past who shared the same personal core values. Although Lore mentioned that it was fortunate these old friends wanted to join up, it is clear that Jet is and will be a great place to work, largely because of Lore himself. New faces came through great recommendations from investors, connections in the industry, and general excitement about the future of Jet.
Although Lore’s excitement and dedication to Jet were evident throughout our entire conversation, it was palpable when he discussed its company culture. For him, it’s all about empowerment.
“You never want your employees to work out of fear—it’s about working out of love and passion for the job. If you trust them to execute, they will be self-motivated and passionate.”
Jet’s fun and challenging work environment lends itself perfectly to Jet’s mission to empower, and to empower people to “live brilliantly.” Lore provides a clear vision of the company from the top down, making sure there is constant communication about the high-level strategies so employees understand what their role and mission are in the big picture.
The company’s new office in Hoboken, New Jersey is just one way Lore encourages his vision of Jet. With no desk or office of his own, Lore wanders the expansive, open-concept office with his laptop, spending most of his time talking to employees one-on-one. He asks what they are working on, and if they are happy.
“I engage with as many people as possible. I think it helps connect what they are working on to the bigger picture and strategy.”
And engaged his employees are. While the floor plan is open-concept, there are small rooms for brainstorming and collaboration. These small rooms are taken over by teams, each named after a superhero. Prime real estate can be fought over and won in competitions that are aimed at bringing levity and fun to the often-challenging workdays a startup just about ready to launch experiences.
It’s not just uncommon for a startup to launch as big as Jet already is, it’s almost unheard of. You need to raise a substantial amount of capital to do so, but first, you have to have a big idea that addresses an opportunity just as large. Lore learned from his time at Diapers.com—which he said was not established in a way that business was scalable in the future—that he had to predict the speed at which he anticipated Jet growing.
This meant obtaining a significant amount of capital even before launching. Lore was able to do so successfully, with about $220 million raised as of February. Even before launching, the Wall Street Journal has valued the company around $600 million. Needless to say, investors are greatly anticipating the official launch, which is set to be sometime late this spring.
Just like within the company with his employees, Lore will have an open and transparent relationship with the company’s investors, and plans to publish all relevant data into an app that will display real-time information to Jet’s investors. It doesn’t get much more transparent than that.
It would be hard to talk about Jet’s business model and Marc Lore’s approach to company culture without mentioning Jet’s retailers. The company’s relationship with these B2C entities is vastly different from what is normal from the e-commerce sites we are all so familiar with.
In short, Jet will not compete with retailers. The company will allow them to market directly to the consumer.
“We view it as more of a partnership,” Lore shared. “We’re giving them the tools to target their profitability, and set their own profits for each piece of merchandise they sell.”
A Thinker for our Generation
When asked where he finds inspiration, the answer came easy.
“I spend a ton of time thinking. I don’t read, I don’t watch TV: I think. I think of better ways, different ways to do things all day. If you want to invent something, you can’t get steered in a certain direction by the media or the press, you need a clean sheet.”
This approach has no doubt worked for Lore, making him one of our generation’s most successful thinker, business innovator and disruptor.
How Jet Works
Jet is an ecommerce site, but it works very differently than the ones you are familiar with like Amazon. It’s a wholesale shopping club—membership based, like Costco—it just happens to be online. Jet will make its money from these membership fees, allowing the company to pass on more savings to customers. And if a customer is willing to combine orders and wait a few days more to get their items, sometimes leaving the instant gratification of online shopping at the door, he or she could save a bundle on shipping.
Jet’s Powerful Website
There were several unique challenges to building the Jet website: the computation power necessary to re-price things in real time alone is enough to stump the smartest on the team.
“Things are dynamically priced depending on what is in your shopping cart,” Lore shared. Calculations have to be incredibly fast to keep up with the shopper.