Helping brands build sustainable products with Novi Connect found Kimberly Shenk

The below is a full (unedited), machine-generated transcript of a Youtube session / podcasting episode I recorded with Kimberly Shenk of Novi Connect in the fall of 2021. You can view the video/listen to the podcast on YoutubeApple PodcastStitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.

Erasmus Elsner 0:06 
Let’s just take it as it goes. Welcome back to another episode of Sandhill Road. I haven’t been recording for five weeks now, can you believe it? And I’m super excited to jump right back in with a great guest. She’s a former Air Force captain, Kimberly shank, who’s the founder of Novi connect, Novi Connect. It’s, it’s an interesting business model. It’s a b2b marketplace, or a SAS enabled marketplace, we’ll find out which one of the two that basically helps brands to connect with the suppliers for sustainable materials in a rather complex sort of supply chain market. And we’ll unpack all of this. So Kimberly, really excited to have you on the show today.

Kimberly Shenk 0:45 
Yes, thank you. So excited to be here in chat with you.

Erasmus Elsner 0:48 
And as you’ve just been through the whole fundraising journey, right, just closing on a major funding round led by Greylock, you probably have the two minute or five minute or 15 minute elevator pitch, depending on how long the elevator ride is, why don’t you just give us the top of the show notes on what Novi Connect does and sort of how you got into the space?

Kimberly Shenk 1:11 
Yeah, absolutely. Well, the the high level is that we all feel the pressure of the future of consumer goods is transparency and sustainability. It’s actually it’s like the most significant trend we see in beauty, personal care, home goods, everything we touch, eat free use. So that is fundamentally actually changing the way brands design and develop consumer products. So sustainability and transparency requires incredible amounts of data. And it introduces this like whole level of complexity and how you source materials and develop products. And so what Novyi is, is this end to end product development platform. So what that means is we help brands source and purchase transparent and sustainable materials. And then also design products using those materials so that they can go to market with better products for humans in the environment.

Erasmus Elsner 2:02 
It’s an interesting story on how you got to found Novi connect. And if I look into your history there, you started off in 2017, I think with something that looks completely different. At first, it’s a company called Naked Poppy, which curates and sells cosmetics with sustainable ingredients. At the time when you know, the fundraising round, led by cowboy ventures was announced, you sort of also announced that you would spin out with Novi connect, talk a little bit about you know how that came together? And why decided to go all in on on Novi at that point?

Kimberly Shenk 2:41 
Absolutely. So yeah, I co founded that back in 2017, with jelly fish rot and her and I had this, this thesis that, hey, you know, we need to be able to bring better products to market that are healthier for humans in the environment. And there’s got to be a way that we can do this with data. And so we started this company together to take a tech angle on bringing products to market in the personal care and beauty space. And it’s I got very close to product manufacturing, which I had never done before. I’ve always been on the software side of things and ended up finding firsthand all of the difficulties. We couldn’t find information on materials. We talked with brands, were also struggling to find information on materials around transparency and sustainability. And so to solve this problem, we actually started to build the beginnings of Novi, which was more around data management at the time. But then we had a close connections with brands, retailers, suppliers, it’s we’re investigating and figuring out how to solve this for our internal problem. And they began approaching us before we had a user facing product to ask if you know, they could be a part if they can have access to it. And that’s kind of when we knew we had something. And so that was the time where you know, every startup goes through, do we pivot do we spin this out, and we ended up deciding to spend no V out as its own company to focus on that problem. And naked Poppy was one of our obviously very early customers in there.

Erasmus Elsner 4:03 
And help me understand what the marketplace or the the E commerce angle of naked Poppy is. And it says it’s for on the go women who seek high standards in hand vetted Luxe and long lasting clean makeup. The site at the moment mainly sells third party products, but also its own. And that’s how you got to take this closer look into sort of the sustainable materials space, right?

Kimberly Shenk 4:30 
Absolutely. Yeah, it was this unique angle where we were developing our own line and they’re still developing multiple products in their own line and also selling with third party vendors. And the whole premise was bedding down to the very materials used and every one of those products and that’s exactly where the problems that started to happen. You talk with these brands, and they have little transparency and we were struggling to get transparency and there was a clear solution that this you know this industry is very antiquated and how information is shared and how sourcing discover materials. And so that’s kind of the problem we set out to start solving

Erasmus Elsner 5:05 
for the outside, or we think, okay, it’s pretty straightforward. You look at the ingredients or the materials, and then you basically know what’s going on. But there’s a lot of secrecy in this industry, it’s a pretty low POC industry, this whole supply chain, especially for sustainable products, maybe unpack this a little bit and sort of the problem space that you’re that you’re trying to solve.

Kimberly Shenk 5:27 
I kind of like to give the example as baking a cookie, because I think we can all resonate with that a little bit more when you think about just basic stuff, like what flour am I going to use, of course, you can use flour that is potentially manufactured with a bunch of additives, and you know, corn starch and whatever is added into that or you cannot use flour that’s organically milled or you know, whole wheat flour or whatever think about chocolate, you can use, you know, milk chocolate that’s off the shelf with a bunch of corn syrup in it, or you can find organically sourced Fairtrade chocolate. And so all that means is that as you’re sourcing those materials, there’s actually hundreds of different suppliers out there that create that flour or that chocolate. And when we think of consumers, we turn over a cookie label on what we’re buying in a store. And we kind of just see the word flour and chocolate, and we’re like, okay, great. But when we think more into terms of how it what it means to bring a sustainable or transparent product to market, it means getting to the core of who made it and how did they make it and sourcing from better suppliers who make make better flour and better chocolate. And so the reality is, is that the data needed to vet a material against the complex standards of sustainability, transparency, clean, all of that information just lives offline and in unstructured formats. And so when the industry at large is so fragmented, when you think about it, they’re the chemicals or materials space is this $5 trillion global industry, operating offline, you know, it’s very antiquated in the fact that the information is not digitised the brand, trying to do this across 1000s of ingredients and hundreds of products, it starts to become nearly impossible to do manually. And so that’s the core problem. It’s tremendously difficult to do this responsibly. But technology is here to solve those kinds of problems.

Erasmus Elsner 7:19 
And this brings me a little bit to your background, which I think is not what you would expect for a company like this. You don’t have a chemical background, actually, you’re an MIT trained data scientist, former head of data science at Eventbrite, right? And this gives you this data lens and data perspective with which you you view the space, right?

Kimberly Shenk 7:39 
Absolutely, yeah. So I think the core thread for me is that I’m super motivated by serving others and serving a greater good, that’s why I joined the Air Force when I was younger, and went to the Air Force Academy ended up falling in love with math there. And that’s when I became a data scientist in the Air Force studied at MIT focused on machine learning, and got to do a bunch of cool stuff of logistics and top secret security clearances, but was very fascinated with how AI was being used in tech. And it wasn’t called AI at the time I was in school, but just the concepts behind that. And so that’s when I, you know, I left the Air Force as a captain decided to start my second career in tech, did build the data science organisation at Eventbrite and worked at various other startups focused on data. So when I think about the thread of my very mission driven focus is just, you know, ethos, and then also my background in data, it kind of felt like this amazing combination, or amalgamation of everything I’ve done to solve such a large problem for society, which I think, from my perspective, the mission is literally to get better hands, products into the hands of consumers so that we have healthier people, people and planet. And that’s, that’s really what we’re trying to do at Novi. I heard

Erasmus Elsner 8:51 
you talking about this on a different podcast. I think your dad was a firefighter. And it gave you this missionary over mercenary attitude to life in business. Very early on the business model of Novi connect, I was trying to understand it. And there’s this notion of SAS enabled marketplaces. And I looked at the pricing page of NaVi. And the way that it looks at the moment is that you have more of a SAS pricing than typical marketplace b2b marketplace pricing, for you’d have a classical take rate, how would you describe your business model?

Kimberly Shenk 9:23 
That great question. So I like to think of this as a powerful marketplace in data engine embedded in our design software. So we’re making essentially the process of product development exponentially more efficient by taking processes that typically live very separately. So if you think about the traditional workflow, the business defines what product that they want to, you know, I want to create a face wash and I want it to be vegan, and they make all these requirements about the product. And then they hand it over to an r&d team, which is usually a bunch of chemists who are trying to develop the product that they have a lot of, you know, got to follow a lot of standards and things that were set By the business and then that’s passed off to a sourcing team. And so all that to say is there’s so many handoffs communication breakdowns back and forth and contributes to tremendous inefficiencies in how brands develop products. And when you overlay this new complexity of transparency and sustainability, it’s actually just breaking. And so putting that all together in one powerful system is actually streamlining, something that typically takes 18 months from conception to shelf to nearly half the time. And so we view this new world and this gets to the business model where we have all these activities in one place, because they’re so interdependent, they require the same data. And so we are in part of the transaction. And that’s the piece of the model that, yes, the SAS software actually predominantly is free. And of course, if you start to use it more as a business enterprise, that’s when you start to see those upgrades. But a lot of this design you can do in the free version. And that’s on purpose, because we see that as the thing that starts to drive the ordering and the procurement. And that’s actually where we live in part of our monetization.

Erasmus Elsner 11:03 
That’s the typical come for the tools stay for the network kind of model right? on growing the marketplace. Let’s talk a little bit about the Novi connect MVP. And I could imagine that, given that you’ve started, you know, building, building out this idea of naked puppy, that you had an MVP in mind already, when you spun out or maybe even had some some code already. How did that come together. And you obviously, as a technical person, you probably like like to get your hands dirty on on some code every now and then who’s programming this first MVP and, and who’s working on that now,

Kimberly Shenk 11:39 
I built the first MVP. I’m not a front end developer. But I did use no code applications to get the front end version of the software off the ground. And I built the first data model, which powered it, you know, behind the scenes, which I guess you would traditionally call the back end. But essentially the very first version of this, we like to call it like a LinkedIn. So there was the software, very, very lightweight version of the workflow software. And then the LinkedIn part was finding material from the supplier and then connecting with them. And we, we kind of pitched it as if you’d like more sophisticated ways to search and more access to data, you can kind of upgrade in that model. And that that was initially how it took off. And when we started to see that my no code application could no longer handle the the critical mass of customers we had, we started to hire out an engineering team to build the next version.

Erasmus Elsner 12:34 
It’s really cool. Now getting to the first customer today you have, you know, sizable customers, I mean, there’s so for which I think you have a really as a flagship customer, and you’re, you’re doing sort of the public facing chemicals policy for them, helping them with that. But how did you get the first sort of logos to join you?

Kimberly Shenk 12:54 
Actually, a lot of it. So this was a little bit of where we ended up early days partnering with a lot of brands, because at naked Poppy, we, of course, were selling brands, third party brands. And so we had this ability to get tonnes of feedback and have early adopters in that sense. And that’s what led us to have an early partnership list of four who, in a really great network effect model, which maybe we could, we’ll talk about later. But they ended up sponsoring the use of our software for all the brands that they sell in their store to meet the new standards that we had co you know, worked on to help Sephora attain. And so it’s very powerful, because we have all the underlying data, we could help mitigate the liability of self recording with Sephora, but then also, it’s just a really great network tool for us to leverage to get our product and software into the hands of more brands,

Erasmus Elsner 13:42 
and talk a little bit about metrics and sort of the growth that you had, I think it was a 300% growth in the first half of this year. And sort of what are the key milestones that you’ve just recently hit?

Kimberly Shenk 13:55 
Yeah, so we I mean, we ended up releasing our very first MVP in April 2020. And we opened up more broadly still remaining in stealth, from a marketing perspective more in October 2020. But we’ve seen tremendous growth in a short amount of time, I mean, over 300% growth and customer base just in the first half of 2021 alone. And I think that’s a testament to the fact that we’re a very demand driven go to market growth model. We’ve seen so many network effects that we’ve been able to do this without being very public remaining installed from all of those things so far.

Erasmus Elsner 14:28 
And it’s amazing. And now talking about my favourite topic, as we’re obviously here on a venture podcast, that’s the fundraising journey. And you started out with a 1.5 million seat led by defy partners. I think the partner there, Brian Rothenburg, he was a former colleague of you at Eventbrite if I understand it correctly, talk about this first round, and then also about the most recent round from from Greylock.

Kimberly Shenk 14:52 
Yeah. It’s tremendous because if you think about how this all came together, I always tell this story where when I was first joining Eventbrite, I was was deciding to go to Eventbrite or PayPal, and I didn’t know Brian at all. And he was somebody that helped in the closing call of getting me to Eventbrite convinced me to come. And so that was like the very initial development of my relationship with Brian, we worked very closely together at Eventbrite. But fast forward to that Jele bisher, at she was the former chief marketing officer of Eventbrite, and her and I co founded Nikki Poppy, and we stayed very close with Brian. And as we were navigating, taking Novi out and you know, spinning it out of of naked, Poppy, he was just like instrumental in helping us think through the how the structure that and how that should go. And so of course, you know, shortly after it made a lot of sense, he had been very close to the business and what we’re building and the relationship was already there. And so that was pretty much a no brainer to raise our seed round, very, very early stage for nobody.

Erasmus Elsner 15:49 
And then the series a one year later, pretty successful traction until then, and I’m quoting here, Mike from Greylock, will lead you around here, saying that demand for clean, transparent, sustainable products has forced modernization across the entire CPG supply chain. And Kimberly has the unique combination of firsthand empathy for this problem and the data science DNA to build the network that will push this industry forward. So how did you manage to convince Mike, that you’re the person that can build this chemical marketplace? Or ingredients or materials marketplace? Was it a longer conversation? Did you run a whole process for the Series A? How did it work?

Kimberly Shenk 16:31 
was actually a very quick, you know, experience, to be quite honest, I think a lot of this was he, you know, Mike had already had a thesis in the chemical space. And that was really important to me, as I was, you know, starting to pick my head up and talk to potential investors just had done a lot of research and understood the shifts in the industry. It’s a very complex industry. And if you find somebody brand new to the space, it’s it takes a lot to educate. And so that wasn’t there. I mean, we talked about our approach to solve this from the demand side perspective for brands, that’s I think, when it clicked, and he was all in. And so yeah, we didn’t talk to too many people, we only focus on people who’ve done research. And it was just very fortunate that Mike was early in those conversations, and we hit it off right away.

Erasmus Elsner 17:15 
That’s, that’s always good if you have someone who’s been thinking about the problem space and sort of knows the levers, and then understands your business model. And now, going back to the business model, and to the marketplace, I want to dive really deeply into the marketplace model there. Because it’s not a simple demand supply side marketplace, it actually has four different parties, its brands, its retailers, its suppliers, and its manufacturers, and they all play a slightly different role. Let’s start out with sort of what constitutes the demand side, which, as you said, your demand side first marketplace, starting with the brands and the retailers, as far as I understand, maybe unpack each party and sort of how they play into this dynamic. What are the frictions in this marketplace?

Kimberly Shenk 18:05 
Yeah, it’s actually super interesting, because you’re correct. When you think about a traditional marketplace model, there’s a very clear demand and supply side. And I think what we saw early on is that the ecosystem that holds up this industry is so complex. And if you only solve for a small subset of it, you’re actually not going to be able to solve the problem and infiltrate. And so when we think about demand versus supply, actually, what lives on the demand side is the retailers, the brands, and the manufacturers. And I’ll tell you why the manufacturers live there. And the supply side is strictly material suppliers. So when we think about retailers, it’s kind of the pointy end of the sphere, in terms of they are a retailer still has a consumer base, right, they still sell to a consumer, but they do that by, you know, putting third party brands and vendors on their shelves, and a lot of these retailers to uphold their end of the bargain to the consumer, they are starting to create standards, Target, clean, clean, and so forth. You know, all these different things because they want to make and so there’s also this really, really great marketing angle to this where a retailer will have a standard that a brand will aspire to meet, because they know they’re going to drive more business because that’s where consumers are going. And so when we partner with retailers, a lot of it is we bring them and we help them get their standard so that it’s propagated across the industry so that every company can start using it as their North Star. And then also we partner with retailers because they at the end of the day want brands to be compliant. So they help bring us brands. They bring our software to brands and it’s a really great first part of our growth model and network growth engine. And then when we get brands on the platform, in order to build a product, a brand is typically working with a third party formulator and that’s where the word manufacturer comes in. And so brands are desperately trying to meet all the different complex industry standards and they will bring their manufacturer on to the platform to co develop. That’s again Then a tremendous network opportunity for us because manufacturers work with hundreds of different brands. And so they end up bringing us brands and we start to see that flywheel go. And I think this attests to why we’ve seen so much growth. But then the interesting piece of this is actually brands and manufacturers bring us suppliers. And so they’ll either introduce us to suppliers, which is exactly how we got Dow Chemical onto the platform. Or they will say, Hey, can you go help us find a supplier that meets, you know, XYZ standard, and because we have this great, you know, critical mass of demand and makes that conversation with a supplier very easy to bring them on. And so that flywheel just starts to continue to spin. And that’s kind of how we, we’ve seen that growth go.

Erasmus Elsner 20:39 
Interesting. So you have two different kinds of flywheels within the supply chain, if I understand it correctly. But on the monetization, let me drill down on this, as far as I understand you’re currently only charging on the demand side,

Kimberly Shenk 20:53 
actually, no. So I think what’s interesting is we bring a lot of business to our suppliers, and we monetize accordingly on that, but our value is also embracing financing to brands. And so that’s why we’re placing a lot of emphasis in the transaction. And so behind the scenes, what you’re not seeing is that’s actually where a lot of our focuses and a lot of our business model is

Erasmus Elsner 21:12 
interesting. Okay. And let’s talk a little bit about the supply side, on the manufacturers side, I saw there in the copy on the website, it says that your trade secrets are safe with no v, and you have differential model where you verify certain ingredients and sort of the lineage of these ingredients and the data. But that’s not revealed to to the demand side, talk about this friction and this characteristic in the industry.

Kimberly Shenk 21:41 
Yes, this is actually one of the most important characteristics and gets to the data problem at the core. So if you think about this, from the suppliers perspective, if I want to know, for example, if a ingredient is diggin, I have to know something about the manufacturing process that that supplier went through to create that material. And it doesn’t matter what the material it is, you know, it could be an ingredient, a chemical, it could be a package, whatever. But that manufacturing process is actually very proprietary. You know, you don’t want to post that online and have all of your competitors in the supply industry see it or they’re just gonna knock off your innovation. And so this is where things start to get really tricky. When you think about we we’d like to talk about it and no transparency without disclosure. So we sit as this verification are third party engine where we ingest all of that proprietary information on behalf of suppliers and those that don’t want to share IP. And then at the end of the day, honestly, brands come to us and like I don’t want to shift through 1000s of pages of documentation and manufacturing flowcharts to see if this thing is Vian. I’d love for somebody to do that for me. And if I can trust that nobody has done all that work and has all that data. Great, I pass that off to you. And so that’s kind of where we sit in that. And that’s what’s been so compelling to get suppliers onto the platform, which is actually largely why they’ve been resistant to digitise to date is because the amount of information that they would have to put online in a public forum in order to digitise is actually a really risky for their business. And so we are when we say that we’re, you know, not traditional in the sense that you don’t just show up to a website and buy something, it is a closed customer platform where we do make sure that everybody that’s coming on is a legitimate brand and not you know, a suppliers competitor.

Erasmus Elsner 23:26 
Now, that’s super interesting how you’re acting as this certification agent, in a sense to ease this friction in the marketplace, right. And it’s super interesting.

Kimberly Shenk 23:36 
And I won’t say on that point, just really quickly from the certification angle, because it’s very important, we like to call ourselves Switzerland and the fact that nobody has no point of view, we are very traditionally a data platform. And so we don’t tell you, this is no BS definition of sustainability. And we only use standards that are developed by third parties. And so of course, retailers are a biggest bucket of that, because that’s where, you know, consumers are trending, but there’s a lot of third party certifications, scientific standards, and those can all be coated in and so we have all those regulatory everything you can imagine, so that if a brand wants to vet any material against any of them, they can do that in a way where they define their own standard for sustainability are super

Erasmus Elsner 24:17 
nice. And I like the analogy. I don’t know if you if you can tell from my accent, but I’m actually Swiss saying, Oh, I love it. Talking about competition, which is always, you know, a big topic in startups, I tried to find competitors. The only potential competitor that was sort of top of my mind was the Sequoia backed company called note, Ki k n o. W D which is sort of a chemicals b2b marketplace, but maybe I’m just not really seeing the different competitors in that space. It seems like you’re pretty much on an open field. They’re really trailblazing the segment.

Kimberly Shenk 24:55 
Exactly. I think the the fundamental differences obviously we’re demand driven and so we solve this for the demand side. And when we think about our largest competitors in that space, its consultants year after year, brands have spent hundreds of 1000s of dollars to hire a consultant to do one off tasks to go out and try and research and find information and pretreated as a project. I think the reason that that connotation of competitor comes up as we as sure we do actually classify as a b2b marketplace, because we had the sourcing aspect and the procurement aspect, but it’s the piece of that is we built that product design system on top of that. And so the fundamental belief here, and what we’ve seen is that you don’t source a material one by one, you design a product built off of a combination of materials. And so that complexity is actually the piece that we’re solving, the analogy I like to give is, you wouldn’t show up somewhere and say, Clay, that glycerin looks awesome, on paper, I’m just gonna buy 1000 gallons of it, because you might get it put in your product and some chemical reaction happens and the whole thing blows up or it falls apart, you know. So you have to go through an iteration process to design the product. And you might try 10 Different Gluster ins to find the perfect one. And so that’s where we live to be a part of that. So that when you’re ready to make your sourcing decisions, you can do that through the Marketplace on Novi

Erasmus Elsner 26:15 
understood now talking a little bit about data signs. And I’m reading here from from a TechCrunch article that says nobody has an AI driven platform that it says can ingest and manage manufacturers proprietary data at scale. And obviously, you as a trained data scientist, you’re probably always very cautious when using the term AI. And so I’m not sure that this was the TechCrunch journalist using that word from the outset, it looks like you’re building really This proprietary data set. And that sort of the value really lies in the originality of the data that you bring to light rather than, you know, an AI or machine learning algorithm that runs on it. Maybe speak a little bit about this data angle.

Kimberly Shenk 26:58 
Yes. Well, for any fellow data scientists listening, anyone that’s in data science knows that the most important part of a model is the data itself. And so that is a very, very important component of this is building that huge proprietary layer of information and data. But you’re right AI is how you use that information to you know, its modelling. And a lot of our modelling actually comes in two different places. The first is our recommendation engine. And so that’s getting back to that design software, we’re helping brands uncover and find materials based on their requirements. And it starts to get very interesting when you think about it from a formulation perspective, and some of the chemical properties and attributes that go with every single material out there. And so recommending different materials is how that shows up. And then the other places, honestly, when we talk about our financial in the FinTech layer that we’re building, it’s risk modelling. And so you can think about the massive amount of information that we actually capture on brands is they’re developing their entire roadmap of products out into 2025, on Novi, and what they’ve done in the past, and, you know, we capture even other information as we’re thinking about facilitating the transaction between the supplier and so that amount of information is also used in a lot of our modelling exercises.

Erasmus Elsner 28:15 
Let’s talk a little bit about the next steps for Nova, you just cleared this series a, I think, the way I understand it, you’re the sole founder of Novi, and you now have to start bring people in and scale this company. How’s that going? So far?

Kimberly Shenk 28:30 
I think the tremendous thing here is that there’s a new appetite out there. And I don’t know if this is COVID driven, or just because you know, trends and consumer behaviour in general are driving this, but there’s a new appetite for people to really want to work at mission driven companies. And I think a lot of what we’ve seen in tech in the past is trying to bring a mission to a company that potentially isn’t really that mission driven. And what we’re doing is at the core, everybody that’s here wants to see a more sustainable future. And we’re finding a lot of talent and attracting a lot of talent because of that, that mission component and people that are actively looking to work on products that drive sustainability. So from that perspective, I think, of course, there’s always the hiring challenges that any startup has. But it’s been very refreshing to see that be something that’s like one of our competitive advantages.

Erasmus Elsner 29:24 
And I heard you talk about, you know, the training in the military, that they sort of first have to break you down in the training, to then build you up and to sort of, you know, create this team spirit and that you tried to emulate this some extended Noby. So how does it look like the boot camp at week one in Novi?

Kimberly Shenk 29:42 
Yes, I love that. It’s it’s definitely more of an analogy, but I do like to think of it as like we are our culture here is all about being owners and being very transparent about things that are happening. And so with that ownership and transparency, people are able to get to the core Get super vulnerable about the fact that we’re solving extremely hard problems and solve them together. And I think the analogy there is, you know, you’re broken down to a very vulnerable place in the military through training, because things are really hard. And you learn how to with other people build back up to solve and become extremely productive team. And so we use a lot of common analogies and thoughts. And we’ll do readings, and there’s a lot that we leverage from that to like, get our mind focused on the fact that this is a marathon and not a sprint. And I’ve said that many times before, which is like, you can sprint up this, but you won’t finish the marathon. And so we’re all here to really get down, get, get into these difficult problems that’s together and be here for the long haul kind of thing.

Erasmus Elsner 30:41 
And there are so many things that you could work on and spend your day on. Is it like bringing on new customers, trying to work on the product, trying to understand sort of the needs of the industry better? How do you sort of prioritise for yourself in the morning, on what to what to focus on,

Kimberly Shenk 30:59 
there are two top priorities for us. The first is obviously network growth. And that’s just inherent for any marketplace model, we definitely want that engine to be running and building demand and supply. So that’s a very primary focus. And since I mean, the reality is, since the workflow software, the product design software is so core to growth, it is an acquisition method, and then also conversion, which gets us to the order the transaction on the platform, we focus a lot on the design of the software and the you know, just driving engagement in the application. So it seemed like two big chunks. But every day I wake up, those are my my two biggest priorities. And

Erasmus Elsner 31:40 
the President said that, you know, currently, you’re focused on the personal care, beauty industry, and that with a Series A, you’re planning to expand from these two categories. I mean, they seem like large categories where you could, you know, write them out a little bit more and but what’s sort of the the larger vision there.

Kimberly Shenk 31:57 
So actually, you know, the raw materials industry and beauty and personal care, like you said, is quite large, it’s actually a $500 billion market. So it is currently our focus, and we think about it, it’s everything from toothpaste, to haircare to cosmetics, it’s it’s quite expansive. And when you think about it, from a materials perspective, it’s everything from the tube, or the cap or the bottle all the way to the goop that goes into it. And all the materials have that goop. So for us, that has been primarily our focus. But the interesting piece about that, and this is just the nature of the industry is a lot of those materials are used cross category. And so we have seen natural organic growth into homecare into food into pet food, which is really crazy. And so for us, the the focus is once we really nail and this is a huge market to nail taking that playbook to these adjacent categories, but obviously not stifling that growth as it happens naturally on the platform. And we can service them. So

Erasmus Elsner 32:57 
yeah, it makes makes a lot of sense to, to nail it before you scale it, they always say but it seems like you have some some really strong product market fit in this core category already. And sort of for yourself, what’s sort of the long term vision? Do you want to have this as a life project for the next 1020 30 years, especially given the pretty quick journey at a naked puppy? Is that something that you that you think is your one baby? And that’s sort of also the reason why you went for the solo founder route, which is not always easy, as we all know.

Kimberly Shenk 33:29 
Well, I mean, you said it correctly, that this is my baby, I think sent differently. I think it’s actually interesting. When you wake up in the morning, I feel like you have all the skill sets and all the experience to charge at a problem that you’ve been uniquely designed to solve. So I think that this, to me is the end game. And the only thing that I plan to do for the rest of my career, I think on that front like, yeah, that it’s hard to be a solo founder. But to that point, you can also charge for it and make pretty efficient decision making as long as you surround yourself with really smart people, and can fill in those gaps and be asking questions a lot. And so that’s something I’m always challenging myself to do. But the long term play, I mean, this, this is a platform play. I think the entire consumer goods industry, we’ll be developing products on Novi. And so obviously, it’s a streamlined, efficient way of doing that. But when you think about a platform that supports the entire ecosystem, I think that’s something that will take years and years to develop. But it’s incredibly sticky. And I think that’s actually what’s really exciting is if you entrench yourself across the ecosystem, it’s really hard to rip that out. So

Erasmus Elsner 34:33 
yeah, it’s definitely once you have product market fit, you have a moat there. And maybe as the last point, and when people want to follow you on on Twitter on social media, find out more about what Novia is up to what’s the best place to go and stay in touch with the company who’s the target audience that you think could really benefit from today, just give a shout out to all the different sources and two ways to get in touch.

Kimberly Shenk 34:57 
So the target audience is this small to medium sized brand. Yes, that is selling mostly DC but also trying to distribute into the major retailers and we see a tonne of brands coming to the platform. Check us out on LinkedIn, at Novi connect on Instagram. We also for those suppliers that are trying to get traction into this ever growing category of up and coming indie brands that are taking over market share, definitely come to Novi List your materials. And then of course manufacturers who are trying to get into servicing more of these brands, but also developing products for the brands also come, there’ll be or follow us on LinkedIn.

Erasmus Elsner 35:37 
Wonderful. Thanks. Thanks, Kimberly, for taking the time today and telling us about what you’re up to.

Kimberly Shenk 35:42 
The pleasure to be here. Thank you so much.