StyleFeeder – a “lean” success story


Philip Jacob wrote an interesting blog post recently called StyleFeeder: a retrospective.  Philip was the Founder & CTO of StyleFeeder, which was funded by Highland Capital Partners & Schooner Capital.  StyleFeeder was acquired by Time, Inc. last year (Jan 2010).

StyleFeeder is a perfect example of how a startup can achieve great levels of success with a fairly limited amount of resources.  The company was started in 2005 and raised $4M in funding in May of 2006.  The team included 7 people, plus a half-time office manager.  Although the acquisition price was never officially disclosed, a journalist at The Wall Street Journal pegged the deal “well into eight figures.”

Here are some key takeaways from the blog post:

The Pivot…what are you good at?

StyleFeeder started out as a social sharing site or like a “ for clothes.”  Philip was able to anticipate some of the challenges of this business model in advance and thus, started to invest heavily in their recommendation engine.  Philip notes:

“Our investment in innovation and technology stands out still as one of the key differentiators of StyleFeeder.  While our competitors invested in other areas, leading edge technology was one zone where we really stood out.  You have to do what you were good at… and we were good at building product.  So we did that.”

Running Lean, hiring smart

Per above, StyleFeeder was operating with only 7 employees plus a part-time resource.  As a company, they instilled a “no passengers” rule which Philip describes in his post:

“I had a “no passengers” hiring rule which basically meant that everyone has to be both an individual contributor, able to do their job without support and capable of handling a team (or contractors, or vendors, etc.). We divided our efforts and learned to trust each other to get the job done.”

Be patient… stay focused and learn

Over the course of time, many different companies expressed interested in acquiring StyleFeeder.  I’m sure it is a challenge for most entrepreneurs to turn down a potential acquisition that could be life changing, but Philip talks about this experience and how he stayed focused… and learned from each situation… which ultimately led to a very positive outcome.

“We received offers from four different companies (three of which are public companies); I won’t disclose who these companies are as I intend to honor my NDAs. I learned a lot from this experience: the cost of distraction, the importance of a simple deal structure, what matters to a buyer, how to build leverage and so on.  Turning down a written offer from the CEO of a public company is not a bubbly fun experience, especially when that offer could set you up pretty well in life.  However, it pays to be patient and cold-blooded in analyzing deal terms.  I had to learn that.  It didn’t come naturally at first.”

As a next generation eCommerce company, StyleFeeder was a unique company in the Boston area a few years ago, especially one that was focused on the fashion inudstry.  We are starting to see more companies pop up in Boston that intersect fashion with eCommerce which is great to see.  Companies include: Rue La La, Gemvara, Krush, & Open Runway.  Plus, we can’t forget Daily Grommet & Fashion Playtes, who also overlap.

Philip announced that he is moving on from Time, Inc., so I can’t wait to see what he is up to next…

Leave a comment

Testimonials prev next

“Dissero has been a valuable partner in sourcing several key senior members for our marketing, sales, and product teams.  They’re very effective at understanding our needs and culture, and they make the interview process efficient by sending us highly qualified candidates.  They also provide helpful assistance throughout the process of closing candidates and ensuring a successful transition into the business.”

Sheila Lirio Marcelo, Founder & CEO

“Keith and Eric possess a focus that is unmatched in the Boston tech community for product and marketing focused hires. We worked with their team to fulfill a very specific product profile that quite frankly would be difficult to find in our ecosystem. They helped us nab the most exemplary candidate that exists. Period. We are so pumped now to have not only a new, totally kick-ass co-worker alongside us, but an awesome talent finding duo in Keith and Eric. We plan on working with them for years to come for our recruiting needs. These guys rock and they make me very proud.”

Ryan Durkin, COO

“Dissero empowered us to recruit high quality critical hires without taking too much time away from running our business. Their services are invaluable for any start-up going through a hyper growth phase.”

Hayley Barna, Co-Founder

“Dissero is an exceptional recruiting partner which operates with the highest level of integrity and values.  WordStream relies on Dissero for filling many of our most critical and strategic roles including a recent successful search for a VP of Product.  Without fail, every candidate we see has been well vetted and meets the core requirements of the role, and most importantly is a great culture fit for our company.”

Ralph Folz, CEO

After spinning our wheels for months on a few key Product searches, we engaged Dissero.  Eric and Keith did an excellent job delivering high-quality, interested candidates who fit our requirements and our culture.  We have worked with many agencies; Dissero is top-of-the-heap when it comes to delivering results efficiently.  They’ll be our first call next time we have a tough search.

Matt Zisow, COO
Quotes from the Blogosphere prev next

“On one hand, of course, you’re joining a startup for the upside.  Not just financial upside, but also the upside of making an impact in an organization, working in small teams with other exceptional people, involvement with cutting-edge technology, and working with other motivated people.”

David Beisel, NextView Ventures
Blog: GenuineVC

“The difference between an A team and an A+ team is the difference between a million in revenue and a billion in revenue.”

Paul English - Founder & CTO, Kayak
Quote from an blog post

“People and Product are the two most important things a company has.”

Fred Wilson, Union Square Ventures
Blog: AVC

“Startups don’t succeed with people who deliver at a minimum acceptable level. “

Eric Paley, Founder Collective
Blog: Anything's Possible

“It’s all about the team – The first 25 hires at a startup are CRITICAL! They will set your culture. They will be the reason you reach (or fail to reach) your milestones. They will be responsible for hiring everyone else.”

Josh Kopelman, First Round Capital
Blog: Redeye VC