Picture of Kyle Walker Co-founder and Chief Acquisitions Officer at Foundry

Innovating at Large Scale for a Big Brand

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Kyle Walker is the Co-founder and Chief Acquisitions Officer at Foundry, a platform that acquires and grows lasting brands. Before starting Foundry, he climbed the ladder at Amazon for about seven years, starting as a Strategic Account Manager and leaving as the Head of New Business Strategy. Throughout his career, he’s created and helped launch over 10,000 digital businesses, founded three multibillion-dollar global Amazon programs, and played a role in many of the Amazon technologies that brand owners keep in their toolkits.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • How Kyle Walker got started at Amazon
  • How Kyle’s previous experience at GNC and Dick’s Sporting Goods influenced his work at Amazon
  • Kyle talks about innovating at a large scale for Amazon and the brand’s focus on intellectual property protection
  • The importance of good communication for remote teams and growing brands
  • The evolution of private label brands on Amazon and the growth of direct-to-consumer sales on the marketplace
  • Foundry’s brand acquisition goals
  • How to get in touch with Kyle

In this episode…

When Kyle Walker joined Amazon, he thought that his experience from two other e-commerce companies was going to create an immediate impact on sales. But, he soon realized that scaling a large, established company was different from scaling a small or medium-sized brand.

At Amazon, Kyle was afforded the opportunity to innovate, develop, and build many new products and programs — and become an expert. Over the years, he learned the right systems and frameworks for building and implementing successful projects that solve customers’ problems at a large scale. Now, he uses the lessons he’s learned — like the fact that a small change in conversation rates could have a big impact on sales volume — to help grow his clients’ businesses at Foundry.

In this episode of the Innovations and Breakthroughs Podcast, Rich Goldstein is joined by Kyle Walker, the Co-founder and Chief Acquisitions Officer at Foundry, to talk about what it takes to innovate at scale for a large brand. They also discuss the importance of good communication, getting intellectual property protection, and the evolution of private label brands on Amazon. Stay tuned.

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by Goldstein Patent Law, a firm that helps protect inventors’ ideas and products. They have advised and obtained patents for thousands of companies over the past 25 years. So if you’re a company that has a software, product, or design you want protected, you can go to https://goldsteinpatentlaw.com/. They have amazing free resources for learning more about the patent process.

You can email their team at welcome@goldsteinpc.com to explore if it’s a match to work together. Rich Goldstein has also written a book for the American Bar Association that explains in plain English how patents work, which is called ‘The ABA Consumer Guide to Obtaining a Patent.’

Intro (00:09):
Welcome to innovations and breakthroughs with your host Rich Goldstein, talking about the evolutionary, the revolutionary, the inspiration and the perspiration and those aha moments that change everything. And now here’s your host, Rich Goldstein,

Rich (00:33):
Rich Goldstein here, host of the innovations and breakthroughs podcast, where I feature top leaders and the path they took to create change past guests include Rex’s RA James Thompson. And Steve Simon said, this episode is brought to you by my company, Goldstein patent law, where we help you to protect your ideas and products we’ve advised and obtained patents for thousands of companies over the past 27 years. So if you’re a company that has software or product or designing one protected, go to Goldstein patent law.com, where there are amazing free resources for learning about the patent process. And you can email my team@welcomeatgoldsteinpc.com to explore if it’s a match to work together. You can also check out the book I wrote for the American bar association that explains in plain English or patents work. It’s called the ABA consumer guide to obtaining a patent. I have with me here today. Kyle Walker, Kyle is a chief acquisitions officer at Foundry brands. Uh, before that Kyle was at Amazon for over seven years and at Amazon, he was the head of new business strategy. And in that capacity, he created and helped launch over 10,000 digital businesses on Amazon. He founded three global, he founded three global multi-billion dollar Amazon programs, that’s billion with a B a and helped inform many of the Amazon tools and technology that brand owners use today. I’m really pleased to welcome here today. Kyle Walker. Welcome Kyle.

Kyle (01:57):
Hey, thanks for having me.

Rich (02:00):
Uh, my pleasure. And so, um, it’s actually pretty great. Um, because the episode just before this is with, um, Stephen also from Foundry, um, and so it’s, it’s kind of fun. You guys work together at Amazon and I got to get his perspective a bit over there, um, you know, from, from his experience and what he does and now we get to chat a bit. Um, and, uh, and so, you know, that’s, that’s a ton of fun and I’m just, I’m curious though, let’s just dial it back to a bit of origin story, kind of, um, how did you get into the world of Amazon? Like what led you there to begin with?

Kyle (02:39):
Yeah, it’s actually, uh, a little bit of a, uh, kind of a funny story across the country, but I was working in, uh, my wife and I lived in Pittsburgh and we had just recently had our first child, uh, Jack or our oldest son. And we came home for Christmas. Uh, I was working at GNC at the time. It works for Nike, which is originally what took us up to Pittsburgh and then sporting goods and, um, was working at GNC at the time and, and really happy there. We loved Pittsburgh, uh, and then, you know, came home for that first Christmas and, and realize that, you know, having, uh, having your one-year-old that starts to walk and talk and have personality and can be around great grandparents. Um, you know, that we wanted to get back a little closer locally happen to have a good friend whose wife worked at Amazon, ended up having a brief conversation.

Kyle (03:37):
And, uh, from the, from the time that he said, Hey, you should send me your resume. My wife works at Amazon to moving from Pittsburgh to Seattle, uh, and taking that job took about three weeks. Um, so it was a, it was a crazy fast, um, you know, move and decision, uh, but it just made so much sense. You know, we were closer to family, the opportunity to work at Amazon. Um, you know, didn’t know a ton other than I knew I had a great boss. I knew I seemed to have a great team that I had interviewed with. And I just felt like, uh, one of the things that I learned during that interview process was, you know, it was kind of the first to have this specific job in that specific area. And one of the things that I continued to always tell my, my team or, or the people that I managed going forward was you always look for jobs where, you know, you have a floor where you have requisites to be successful and that you go in there.

Kyle (04:39):
And even if you do it a slightly differently, you know, you have the background and skills to add some value. And then you look for, I want a job that doesn’t have a ceiling. Um, and so given that nobody had done it before, they were kind of looking for this new path to do this specific role. It kind of seemed like both of those were present. I’d spent a lot of time in, e-commerce both at sporting goods, where we were buying for the, for the website and buying for the e-commerce group, which as buyers, you know, you’re always constantly working on, you know, coffee and the experience and, um, the content and seeing how all of those things come together to create a digital experience. And then at GNC was really working in e-commerce operations, which was everything from customer service to visual merchandising, being a go-between between the merchants, the marketing team, the store operations, all of that.

Kyle (05:32):
And so having that background from those two roles I thought was going to be super helpful when you came to say Amazon. And so that’s how the whole process kind of unfolded. And, you know, it was a, it was a whirlwind of, of a great seven years after that with, um, you know, a lot of opportunity to, to own things, develop things, build programs, build teams, um, and that kind of became, I, I became fast at, or became known for. And so it just came about every year and a half, uh, 18 to 24 months, you know, there was another project that came up and, and Hey, let’s point Kyle at it and let’s go see if we can figure it out and I’d build a team and we’d kind of go at it and see what we could learn. And you realize after doing that, but building anything is just the system of applying those same kind of core questions and core frameworks to another set of problems.

Kyle (06:28):
Like you have to know what problem you’re trying to solve. You have to work backwards from how it impacts the customer. And then you have to design the process and goals to go out and achieve those things. And, you know, one of the things we always talked about was we a at a time at Amazon focusing on how you turn inputs into outputs. So we focus just as much on building the process and aligning around the framework that we were going to use to build this business. And once you kind of figured that out, you can kind of point it at a number of problems. I’m sure my wife probably gets annoyed that, you know, we pointed at household problems today, but, um, it kind of sticks with you a little bit.

Rich (07:09):
Yeah, very interesting. Um, and so, I mean, you said that when you got to Amazon, you, you, you thought that your experience would be useful. Um, you have experience at, um, she can see index that would be useful at Amazon. So did it prove to be, what did you answer a new paradigm there?

Kyle (07:28):
Uh, I think there were certainly a lot of things I learned. I mean, I can still remember going into my first meeting and thinking, uh, one of my first meetings I met with some of my team members and, you know, was trying to come up with this new idea of how we could kind of merchandise our product category a little bit differently. And I remember having a conversation and, you know, we said something like, Hey, by the way, if we did this, you know, we think the impact could be, and I forget exactly what the number is, but, um, it was an obscene really high number in the millions. And, uh, you know, which would have been, would have equated for like half of GNC’s entire e-commerce revenue, right? Like it was a number that big. And I just remember them saying, if that’s all we’re going to get out of it, I’m not sure it’s worth our time.

Kyle (08:15):
And that kind of blows your mind for a second. And then you take a step back and you realize that, uh, you realize the scale of you realize the scale of Amazon is that, look, if we improved conversion by 0.0, zero 1%, that could be billions of dollars, right? Like, you know, it doesn’t take a huge shift if you do it at scale, translating to millions of sellers or billions of products or whatever it is. And so, you know, that was certainly eye opening was how to think about problems at scale. Um, instead of trying to solve a problem once or twice, you were thinking about how do you do this without human intervention and do it millions of times repeatedly over and over with some kind of logic. And so that was certainly a paradigm shift. Um, but taking a step back, you know, a lot of those, a lot of those skills that were referenced were also things that were used to build like the Amazon renewed program, which is one of those big global multi-billion dollar programs now, which really started based off my experience at GNC kind of, uh, the visual merchandising and the promotion that we did to kind of drive our business.

Kyle (09:32):
It really came back to, well, we’ve got this great selection of, you know, high quality certified refurbished product on our website today. We, we had just purchased woot who, you know, knew everything about kind of that secondary market for products. And we just struggled to merchandise it in a good way, but we saw the customers responded to it when we did. And so this whole, the whole renewed program, which started as a program called certified refurbished was really born out of, Hey, let’s take a set of products that we know are popular, that we know customers are looking for in five when they’re available and let’s merchandise them in a different way. And pretty soon, two weeks later, as we’re kind of tracking the data and looking at this, we’re like, oh my gosh, we just hit a home run here. Like this is, this business is growing like crazy.

Kyle (10:27):
Um, to the point that, you know, in the span of two weeks, it went from, Hey, this is a fun little side project to, oh my gosh, this is something that we need to do constantly. And how do we double down and how do we go faster and how do we build a whole program around, um, which obviously now is, you know, a huge global program. So there were certain things that you pick up and you translate from, you know, the old world and you kind of see things differently in a new space. And there were certainly, uh, as you mentioned, things that kind of shift the paradigm a little bit to like the scale and volume of, of Amazon.

Rich (11:03):
Yeah. And interesting too, is like, you mentioned that, um, um, you know, you would, um, um, when you’re innovating, when you are creating, uh, the idea, um, you’re thinking about how it could be done at scale. Right. Um, but then you had mentioned to me another time that, um, that, um, actually scaling to the Amazon level, wasn’t even like your department, you would hand it off to really grow it big. Like, I think you mentioned that you would, you would create it to a level of maybe where a hundred thousand users might be using this feature of this product, um, et cetera. Um, but in the Amazon world, like that’s a whole nother level of scale going beyond that. So what was, what was probably scale in the previous world that you worked in, um, now kind of just the laboratory. So the laboratory, um, would be a huge scale for other people, other companies.

Kyle (12:03):
Yeah. There’s definitely a lot of truth in that I think, um, you know, I think if you asked most Amazon leaders to really be objective and look back at kind of their careers and what they learned and, and where they, where they were successful and where they, you know, maybe would go back and do things differently, generally speaking, it always revolves around how did you kind of prepare yourself and prepare the foundation of that business for eventual scale and, and automation. Right. And so one of the things that, you know, I can share from building exclusives and building, uh, Amazon launchpad was, you know, this was, this was kind of the early days of, of people creating brands on Amazon. And one of the challenges that you have is how are those brands presented and how are those brands protected? Which obviously is something that you’re very familiar with.

Kyle (13:01):
Um, and so when it came to both of those things, both of which had a manual solution available to us to, to be able to solve, but we would constantly get asked by the, by the, the leadership that own, those specific tools they would say, well, that’s great. If you could probably do this 50 or a hundred times, you could probably do this a thousand times, and it wouldn’t be a manual version. You could just staff to solving this problem, but what if you could hit a home run and what if everybody wants this tool, then what are we going to do? And instead of, you know, anticipate or taking the data points two years later and going, Hey, all, all 1000 or 2000 brands in the program loved this, let’s figure out how to scale it. We were having those conversations at the infancy of the program.

Kyle (13:53):
So that by the time we would say, well, in PR in the next three months, if 30 people show these three or four signals, then we’ll know that this probably appeals to the broader population. And in that case, you know, we could start the work sooner to get it on people’s kind of technology roadmap. And then in a lot of cases, what we were doing was we were using our team’s insights and experience from doing it, seeing what worked, what didn’t work, and then trying to deconstruct that into, you know, some type of software automation that, that worked the great example of that. Uh, and since you’ve talked to one of my co-founders now at Foundry, and one of my, uh, esteemed colleagues from, uh, our Amazon days, Stephen Haney was, you know, we started promoting all these brands a lot. That was part of the, uh, the levers that we pulled to, to help these continue to grow and become more sustainable.

Kyle (14:54):
And one of the ways that we did that was participation in deals, which prior to 2016, I guess, uh, all happened manually through your account manager. So if I was your account manager, rich, I’d have to go in and you’d say, I want to run a deal on X you’d probably send me some kind of Excel spreadsheet. I’d go take that data from the Excel spreadsheet. I’d put it in the deal tool and I’d process the deal you had to have that manual step. Literally within 12 months, you know, Stephan and his team had launched automated deals that qualified the products that people wanted to see on deals connected back to the sellers that sold those specific products and then made it accessible in seller central to go, Hey, we think it’d be a good idea if you ran a deal on this product, cause you’d probably do well and they could click one button and now the deals live.

Kyle (15:50):
And now you’ve, you’ve taken a learning that was highly manual that we had to use business instincts to kind of say, Hey, this is a lever. Then we measured it. And we said, yeah, it actually has an impact, the positive impact. And then we said, how do you make this into an automated tool, which then becomes a lot of algorithms and data and logic to, to kind of figure out the right structure and then you build it into a UI and then you start, you know, educating the seller community, that those things are coming, that they’re going to be available, and this is how you use them. And so that’s a real life example of kind of taking a, uh, super manual process and turning it into something that’s scaled to everybody. And that process happens, you know, thousands of times, all the time in marketplace, there’s, there’s constantly tests running, uh, to, to be able to find those, those specific areas that they can develop.

Rich (16:44):
Yeah, absolutely. And actually in my conversation with Stephen, he was mentioning how Amazon had during his tenure, there began to prioritize IP for those unique processes. So if someone created a unique process of that nature, Amazon would look to, to protect it. Um, uh, you know, so that I’m saying this coily the next biggest competitor, you know, I didn’t use that process. There was no one as big as nearly as big, but, but apparently, uh, yeah, I mean, I guess it, it became part of the business goals who also protect IP for some of those processes that were created.

Kyle (17:23):
Oh, for sure. I mean, I think, I think Stephan alone has, I forget the count, but nine or 11 patents on, you know, processes that he drove while, while at Amazon. Um, and you know, there’s, there’s so much that goes into it. I think, uh, you know, one of the interesting pieces that you always read about is, you know, as you think about data and kind of your digital footprint, you know, there’s, there’s a lot of data out there. Um, I think the challenge that I faced, uh, you know, while at Amazon was how do you take this data to use act, to use, to inform actual business decisions? Because you can get to a point where there’s, there’s so much information, you know, everywhere, um, and you know, being able to develop your own set of metrics and be able to develop your it’s, why it’s taking a step back to what we talked about earlier, it’s developing the framework and aligning around the framework that we’re going to use to evaluate this business is almost as important as, as what the metrics say, because in a lot of ways, you know, you’re defining the game that you’re playing and how you’re going to score that game.

Kyle (18:33):
That’s, that’s more important than what the score ends up being, because if the score, you have no frame of reference, if you just have a score, if I just say, oh, it was 65 to 52, you’re like, I don’t know what sport we were playing. I don’t know if that’s a close game. I don’t, you know, you don’t have the context. And so we spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to do something, replicate it. And then as you said, that becomes a process that, you know, can be patented or, or creates IP around it. Hmm,

Rich (19:04):
Absolutely. And I guess the, the, the key adamant, it’s something that’s similar. I think between what you’re describing and what I do is a lot of times finding that context, finding the big picture. Um, it’s, I mean, I hear in this conversation and also my conversation with Stephen, a lot of zooming out, zooming in, zooming out to, to, to see like, well, what’s the big picture? What does it all fit inside of? What’s the, you know, what’s the construct for it all. Um, and then zooming into the details of implementation,

Kyle (19:36):
Um, a hundred percent, I think, uh, you know, we, we always talk to Amazon about working backwards from the customer. And when you start putting that perspective on things, it allows you to view things in a, in a different way. Um, and when you think back from the customer, it also allows you to see all the variety of pieces of the puzzle, kind of coming together to create that experience. Like you, you know, I’m sure you work with a lot of brand owners that want to protect IP around, around their products, but the way that they actually transact, uh, is much more complicated than that, right? They’re, they’re selling a product. The product happens at some transaction level. Then there’s the fulfillment element. There’s a customer service element. There’s a social listening component to it. There’s marketing that brought them in the front door. Like pretty soon you start adding this, this big funnel and all the pieces have to fit together.

Kyle (20:33):
And I think, you know, as, as Amazon grew and Stephen May have mentioned this as well, but, you know, as, as organizations or teams grow, one of the challenges I had, for example, building exclusives, we went from, you know, a two person team to about a 70 person team in about the span of about 18 months. Um, you know, that stresses as a leader that stresses your ability to communicate amongst your team. Like when it’s one or two people, you just go over and pop next door and say something, and, you know, you guys can communicate clearly when you have a team of 70, how has the communication flow going? How as a leader, am I auditing and inspecting what’s going on within the business without, you know, micromanaging or whatever. Um, but I also have to go to leadership meetings and speak to our business.

Kyle (21:27):
And so there’s, this, this balance of your communication structure is always kind of evolving both laterally between business units, vertically, between your team, um, and the mechanisms we always talked about mechanisms, and, you know, that’s, that’s really the process that, that turns inputs to outputs. And so how are we measuring and inspecting those things to ensure that, you know, the business is functioning in a healthy way? Cause I think, you know, we always, we were always very open-minded to pivoting and doing things different. We just wanted to be very conscious of the signals that we got during that process.

Rich (22:07):
Yeah, no, I absolutely. And I think, um, that’s probably one of the reasons why Amazon is successful as it is. I mean, what I’ve seen just in my small business, uh, and, and scaling that is that I think there’s nothing more important to, to success than communication, like the ability to communicate within a team. It makes all the difference in the world of whether you’re going to actually accomplish the results or not. It’s like the communication and the project management, uh, is the difference between getting it done in two or three weeks and meandering around that for a year or so. And then, and then getting sidetracked to something else

Kyle (22:47):
A hundred percent. I think that’s a big reason why, you know, I was still at Amazon at the beginning of COVID, for example, and as we all kind of started working more remote and working from home and having less of those kinds of inner office connections, we didn’t really miss a beat in terms of operating our businesses because we’re so used to communicating and, you know, both across time zones. Cause we’re, you know, they were everywhere, um, globally, um, communicating with team members that might’ve been in different, you know, locations across the country, um, and how that communication structure works. So when it came to being remote, I can honestly say it didn’t, it didn’t have that much of an impact on, you know, immediately, like it was a fairly smooth transition. And now you think about what happens with kind of the future of the workforce going forward. You know, I think it’s forced a lot of those functions out into the world just to, to continue to, to exist. Right. Um, which is probably a positive thing. Maybe, maybe the in-person, uh, interactions, you know, going down is, is not a positive, but the ability and the quality of communication to actually get things done across time zones or across the zoom or across, you know, email or whatever that’s certainly has to, the communication has to evolve and improve as well. Otherwise, uh, you know, it loses some of its functionality.

Rich (24:16):
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, um, I guess in the past people would say like, well, w you can’t work at home, you need to be here so we can collaborate. Um, but then, um, you know, COVID shine the flashlight on just how poor the collaboration was, even when you’re sitting at the next desk from someone. And, uh, uh, and I think it really helped a lot of people to figure out kind of what works for, um, for collaborating on things, for communicating and communicating in the requirements for something the, uh, the action steps that are needed, the, um, kinda the, um, what, when certain milestones are met, like, there’s just so much to it that I think it’s just forced everyone to get better at, uh, you know, before they blamed it on, um, not being in the same office now, now, now they got to see where the real weakness is a hundred percent. So that’s awesome now. Um, so, um, um, the way you describe, um, your role at Amazon, uh, or kind of like your position that you you’d say that, that you are on the front lines, you’re on the front lines of the brand movement, um, you know, the front row seat, um, to the, uh, direct to consumer brand evolution. So tell me about that.

Kyle (25:37):
Yeah. So I joined Amazon about midway through 2013, um, and 2013. And, you know, maybe even into 2014, you were just starting to see kind of the beginnings of, of this brand revolution, right? You were starting to see a lot of the sellers. So I started as an account manager, my team managed about the top 20% of sellers on marketplace. And, you know, our goal was a little bit different than typical account managers who do a lot of triaging and support. And we certainly did a lot of that, but part of our job, again, because it was to eventually provide scale was how do we translate that seller voice into, you know, things that apply to the entire seller universe, um, from the most successful brands, the brands that are the, the sellers that had done the best job at that time, most of them were primarily what I would call resellers, where they would sell somebody else’s consumer products.

Kyle (26:42):
Everybody would kind of compete on that same detail page and they would compete for the buy box. And, you know, that was a good kind of regulating mechanism to, to drive drive a great experience for customers as you started getting into 2014, maybe even towards the tail end of 2013, you started seeing a few of these resellers that started private labeling their own product. So just making up an example, but maybe they resold kind of a name brand of headphones, and they started learning more about the industry. And they said, Hey, look, customers always tell us that they really wish that this set of headphones that we sell for this very premium price, um, very low margin, high term type of business. Maybe we find out that customers say, I love these headphones, but I wish they were waterproof. And they go, I wonder, wonder if we could make a set of waterproof headphones.

Kyle (27:42):
And so they go and may explore kind of the manufacturing piece. They realized that they could sell a set of waterproof headphones that provide great value to a customer. And if they sell them on Amazon, they don’t have to worry about, you know, fancy, expensive packaging, you know, stands out on a retail shelf, or they don’t have to go through a whole training program to use it. Cause they’ve got a very simple manual in there. And pretty soon they realized, Hey, we could sell this really great product. That’s comparable to a more expensive product for less money. And so, Hey, let’s try it. And so they go do that and pretty soon then they get feedback on their product and they say, we love that they’re waterproof, but we really wish they had some other features. So they go back for a generation to, of this product and they build in that feature.

Kyle (28:30):
And as they’re doing this, they’re still connecting with their customers and they’re satisfying a customer need, which is all, you know, any product does, right? It it’s something that satisfies the customer needs. So around 2014 you started seeing that there were more and more of what I would call kind of these private label brands, products that start popping up on Amazon. Well, the seller community realizes that there’s value in this because instead of competing with 47 other people on a detail page to, to win the buy box, I’ve got my own detail page and I’ve, I can tell my own story and I can connect with my customers in my own way. Well, obviously being on your own detail page, you still want to stand out. And they, in many cases had a more complex story to tell because they wanted to tell the differences or what made their product unique.

Kyle (29:27):
And our detailed pages didn’t necessarily do that. Uh, our brand registry program was probably a little bit behind the times, uh, from, uh, you know, protection standpoint. Um, and there were, there were just a lot of things. How do you get a new product discovered? Like when I sell on the product that has 50 people competing, there’s a lot of traffic there. That’s kind of supporting everybody, but I go create another, a new net new product, and I’ve got, you know, a cold start problem to deal with. Like, I’ve got to, got to get those first few sales and first few reviews. And so how you operate a business needed to change and was changing. But, you know, we needed to figure out how we made marketplace more friendly to these brand owners. And so really in late 2014 in the fall, as you might’ve heard, if you follow Amazon, we write documents, I wrote a document and said, Hey, we’re seeing, you know, multi-million dollar Kickstarters and Indiegogo campaigns over here.

Kyle (30:32):
And we’re seeing brands that launched through social media and selling direct to customers. And, you know, there’s this big wave of people coming to Amazon to sell direct. And we started kind of thinking about it. And it was like, well, going back to my prior experience as a buyer, I was a gatekeeper to, you know, that retail shelf space, right. But if you take me out of the equation in a digital environment, you have infinite shelf space. And so it’s just a matter of how do you connect with those first few customers to kind of build a product. And so the tools and kind of operations would be slightly different. And so we said, look, let’s just reach out to a handful of really successful brand owners and ask them a simple question of, you know, what can help you go faster? What, what could we do on our side?

Kyle (31:25):
And pretty soon the picture became clear that, you know, there were a handful of things that we could do manually to help. And so we wrote a document, uh, we got approval. We went in our goal was, you know, to work with 15 brands and really learn. And I remember one of my senior leaders, I’ll never forget this said, Kylie, you got six months to be back in this room telling us that we either need 10 times the amount of resources, because this is a home run. Uh, we should continue it for one more year at the current pace because we’re learning a lot or this didn’t work and we should cut bait and kind of move to, uh, another direction, but you got six months and the clock starts now. Um, and I remember thinking, you know, that that was fairly typical. Like, you know, you’re competing over resources in a company like Amazon.

Kyle (32:14):
And so you’ve got a very limited window to kind of capture the right type of program learnings, to be able to influence whether we need more, we need less, or we need about the same. Um, and that’s really how it started. We, we started collecting learnings and we realized that, Hey, if we provide more avenues for a brand to get discovered, if we help them with access to more merchandising channels, if we help the brand be presented in a different way, um, which became enhanced brand content, which now is scaled out to every seller on the platform has, uh, has the ability to go, uh, do that. You know, you get a more visual representation of the brand. You get more content to explain your brand story and your product story. Um, and then, you know, obviously brand registry continued to evolve and has become a much better tool than it was, uh, you know, back, uh, in 20 14, 20 15. So you put all those together and, you know, I used to joke, but it’s, but it’s fairly serious with our team that, you know, what our team did that initial group of three or four people that we’re working with, uh, the first brands in our program, you know, not only did the program become a big, you know, global multi-billion dollar program, but it was really kind of the formative phase of influencing a bunch of tools that brand owners needed to, to go faster as well.

Rich (33:45):
Yeah, that’s fascinating. And it’s fascinating how it evolved from there as well. Um, and, uh, uh, and this was really awesome. And I, um, I’m wondering if people want to learn more about you again, in touch with you, how do they go about doing so

Kyle (34:00):
Well? You can certainly find Kyle Walker on LinkedIn and reach out to me, um, get a lot of inbound requests and, and happy to take those. Um, you can also find out about Foundry brands, uh, uh, Foundry brands.com. Uh, you have, if you’re interested in, we’ve now created a, um, I don’t love the term aggregator, but, uh, we are, you know, buying digital brands and helping them, you know, to build and grow them over time. And so, uh, if you’re interested in roles at Foundry, if you’re interested in learning more about, you know, what your company is worth or having a conversation about a potential exit, um, you know, we’ve got, we’ve got avenues to get in touch with us there as well. Um, but certainly feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn directly and, and happy to route you as well.

Rich (34:54):
Awesome. And you just reminded me that we didn’t get to talk about acquisitions and we’re going to have to have another conversation, which, I mean, w w we’re gonna meet in person actually next week and, uh, you know, love to have some conversations with you that way, but I’d love to have you back on the show too, and talk about acquisitions and what, um, brand, um, brand owners should know about acquisitions, um, when they’re seeking to position themselves for sale.

Kyle (35:21):
Yeah, I would, I would love to do that. Cause I think, you know, from, from being in this space and having a little bit of, um, M and a experience inside Amazon, as well as, you know, what we do now, uh, at Foundry, it’s such a, it’s such a big event and it’s such a validating event for all the hard work that entrepreneurs have put into their business. And I think one of our guiding lights and principles is really just making sure that every engagement that we have with anyone becomes an educational process, because it’s such a big decision, whether, whether we end up being the ultimate home or the, or the best fit or best partner for you TBD, um, we think we are, and we think we can, you know, there’s a lot of things that we bring to the table, but at the end of the day, every conversation we have, because it’s such a big event and we do see all the macro things that are happening in this space. We just want everybody to be super informed about, you know, what they’re signing out for and make the best decision for themselves. Because, you know, we, we view ourselves personally as stewards of your brand. Um, and we want to make a decade durable and, you know, that’s really important to a lot of founders because they’ve poured so much into their brand. You want to make sure it goes to a good home. And that’s really what we founded our company around was being a good home for, you know, brands.

Rich (36:44):
Awesome. I love it. And the, yeah, there’s, I mean, there’s just a lot of value right there and just that’s that short statement. So we definitely have to have another conversation about that. Um, I appreciate you coming on the show and taking your time to, um, to share some of your experiences and show some of your stories about kind of how things done at scale and in, um, arguably one of the most successful companies in the world and how you played your role with, um, innovating and, uh, on the front lines, uh, fascinating stuff. And just again, thank you for being here.

Kyle (37:18):
Thanks for having me rich and look forward to our next call.

Outro (37:27):
Thanks for listening to innovations and breakthroughs with your host, rich Goldstein. Be sure to click, subscribe, check us out on the web@innovationsandbreakthroughs.com and we’ll see you next time.

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