What’s the Foundation of a Successful Amazon Brand?

What’s the Foundation of a Successful Amazon Brand?

After seeing over 10,000 brands come through his program at Amazon, Foundry CAO & Co-Founder Kyle Walker was able to identify three things successful brands had in common:

  • A system for developing great products (not just a single great product)
  • A system for connecting to customers & growing awareness
  • A consistent cycle of new customer acquisition.

Tune in to his interview with Yoni Mazur of Prime Talk to learn more about Kyle’s background and how to build the foundation of a successful Amazon brand.

Full episode transcript follows:

Yoni Mazur 0:06
Hi, everybody. Welcome to another episode of prime talk. Today I’m having a special guest today I’m having Kyle Walker. Kyle is the CEO, which is the chief acquisitions officer for foundry brands, which is an E commerce brand portfolio company. So Kyle, welcome to the show.

Kyle Walker 0:20
Hey, thanks for having me.

Yoni Mazur 0:22
Great to have you on board. Alright, so today’s episode is really going to be the story of Kyle Walker gonna share with us a lot, right, you’re gonna share with us, who are you? Where are you from? Where were you born? Where’d you grow up, as you begin your professional career step by step to where you are today in the world of E commerce. So I guess without further ado, let’s jump right into it.

Kyle Walker 0:41
Alright, well, I appreciate being here. You know, let’s try and gloss over the boring parts here. But uh, you know, grew up here in the Pacific Northwest in in Oregon, actually played a lot of sports growing up, including baseball, which is what took me to college started at the University of Portland play in Division One baseball, ended up transferring back to the University of Oklahoma. Baseball is something that’s, you know, still still a part of my life now that I have a NINE and a six year old son. So hold on, hold

Yoni Mazur 1:15
on, let me understand this. So your baseball game? Basically, it will get you a full scholarship they pay for the entire university and college for you.

Kyle Walker 1:24
All of it. Baseball is an interesting sport because unlike a lot of other sports, like proportions for it, so you have what is it 1111 and three quarters scholarships to fill out a baseball team. Whereas like on basketball, you get 11 full rights. So it’s a little bit different, but I did get some money. Certainly was a big consideration in where I went to school.

Yoni Mazur 1:48
You know, when he went to Oklahoma, that’s that was the first time for you being out of state outside of Portland, Portland.

Kyle Walker 1:53
No, baseball is a crazy sport. It takes you around all summer to a bunch of different places. So I’ve moved around quite a bit, but it was a it was definitely the furthest I’ve been away to go to school and University of Portland, I think has about 3000 students and university Oklahoma had, you know, at the time 34 35,000 students, so definitely an eye opening experience.

Yoni Mazur 2:18
Very cool. Okay. So what did you learn in school, I guess.

Kyle Walker 2:22
So I was a marketing undergraduate. You know, I had redshirted a year in baseball. So I went straight through to grad school. And probably one of the best pieces of advice I got, as I was talking to some of my professors and my dean, when I was doing that, they said, You know, I don’t think it’s a bad idea to to continue on and get your MBA right after finishing your undergrad. However, you should try and get out there and get as much experience as you can, because it’ll really make your MBA kind of you know, sing, right. So you don’t learn in your in most MBA programs, you’re not going to learn anything that you probably didn’t learn it in undergrad, you’re going to apply it and you’re going to apply a lot of those learnings to kind of analyzing and, and strategy questions with business. So having a little bit of a background. So I had interned with the Portland Trailblazers in their sponsorship group. I didn’t turn with the local speaking services company like an agency that managed a lot of high profile speakers tried to get as much experience as I could.

Yoni Mazur 3:30
And so let me understand this when you entered by in the trailblazer, you know, for marketing, you’re basically you needed to help market the NBA basketball team.

Kyle Walker 3:39
Yeah, so what what’s interesting is that there’s a lot of larger corporations take like a Toyota, and, you know, Toyota will sponsor, you know, part of either the arena signage within the arena, they’ll sponsor events. And Portland was a really unique market in that. You know, there were a lot of demographic profiles of Portland at the time that that made it a really valuable market. So I believe the Portland Trailblazers at the time were first or second in terms of total sponsorship revenue. Just because you had

Yoni Mazur 4:14
in the NBA. Yeah. Wow. I didn’t realize that.

Kyle Walker 4:17
Yeah. Because you had you know, you had a fairly, this would have been, what, late late 90s, early 2000s You had a really ecommerce forward. You know, consumer base, there

Yoni Mazur 4:30
is a time of Clyde Drexler if I’m not mistaken, or know a

Kyle Walker 4:34
little bit post Clyde Drexler more than Scottie Pippen Steve Smith, when they brought in went to the Western Conference Finals and lost to the Lakers with Kobe and Shaq, but you know, it was a fun team. It was a fun time and it was it was great to learn the experience of really what those larger brains were hoping to accomplish with with sponsorship through through the team and help them execute on that. You know, after that finished up baseball, my former Dean, who were in class one day, and he goes, I really need help. I’ll team of mice, you got to come help me. And, you know, we ended up becoming good friends both through, you know, coaching the team last summer, and he ended up taking a job at the University of South Florida. So my very first job out of college, was actually teaching management negotiations to, you know, junior and senior level students at the University of South Florida, which was a blast. And I think he had dreams that I was going to go on and get a PhD and stay in the academic world, and, you know, nothing against it. It was an amazing, you know, four or five years of experience, and something that I’m super grateful for, but at the end of the day, I just enjoy kind of the action and moving a little bit quicker than maybe academics does.

Yoni Mazur 5:58
Right. craziness and agility of the private market or the business market, but Okay, so your first job after college was in the South Florida, I said, yeah, yeah. And why was that? Let’s start stamping this with your so we get some chronology here.

Kyle Walker 6:13
So we’re looking at about 2003, I started and that’ll take you to about 2007 2000. So

Yoni Mazur 6:22
about four years, that’s pretty serious. But this is after you got your undergrad. I mean, your your masters, right. Groupama? Correct. Are you gonna hit Florida for years? 203 to 207? Yeah, we’re saying,

Kyle Walker 6:34
Yeah, I actually finished at the University of Portland, moved back home, but took a lot of my my initial classes at Oklahoma, and then moved to Tampa St. Pete area, it was it was a blast. That’s where I actually my wife and I got married.

Yoni Mazur 6:51
I set up just for the people here not from Florida, St. Petersburg, I would assume. Yeah. So you see, I moved to the Tampa in February, I believe it’s somewhere on the West Coast. West Coast, right in Mexico or the Gulf of Mexico area.

Kyle Walker 7:04
Yep. Called the Gulf side, for sure. A golf

Yoni Mazur 7:07
set and you met your wife were in school work community.

Kyle Walker 7:11
We actually met in college, and we dated for a number of years. But we ended up finally getting married when we lived in Florida and ended up you know, it’s it’s not very often that I’m gonna get 10 guys together to go play baseball after college and ended up really getting passionate about playing golf. Which actually led to my next career move, which was, had a friend that worked at Nike in and started working in Nike golf for a little bit. And that’s actually what took us up to Pittsburgh. You know, post my,

Yoni Mazur 7:46
let me get this straight. Let me get this straight. You relocated to Florida. Fashion and golf, started to do some work with Nike, which is based out of Beaverton, back in your hometown of Portland area. Correct. But that pushed into Pennsylvania at of all places.

Kyle Walker 8:01
Yeah, there was a territory that opened up. So I would, I would spend a lot of time in the car between kind of Western Pennsylvania, upstate New York and in Ohio. And, you know, it’s really around when Nike Golf was kind of taking off.

Yoni Mazur 8:17
This is 2007 2000 it already?

Kyle Walker 8:20
Yeah, we would have officially moved I guess in January of 2009.

Yoni Mazur 8:25
Hmm, so what are you doing between 2007 2009? Because I know you you’re working with, you know, the University of South Florida up to 2007. So these two is already doing like, yeah,

Kyle Walker 8:36
I was still working for Nike during those two year period, just in a more limited role right there in Tampa St. Pete. And then had the opportunity to kind of grow within Nike was super passionate about golf. And, and obviously, Nike coming from my home state was, was a cool, cool company to learn from and then, you know, been Pittsburgh for about six, seven months. And, you know, the territory, they kind of reorganized territories, and we had the opportunity to move or, you know, I needed to find another job. And so, you know, we had just moved to Pittsburgh. And one of the accounts that I managed was Dick’s Sporting Goods and golf galaxy, which which Dick’s Sporting Goods had just recently bought. And so I moved inside Dick’s Sporting Goods and golf galaxy to actually be a buyer over there. So I bought originally a lot of clubs. And that was

Yoni Mazur 9:36
you work for Dick’s Sporting Goods. So you shifted away from Nike and to the retailing side of things? I did. I did. Okay, but I want to step back a little bit. Just understand the world of golf. As far as I know, today. Nikes out of golf are still there.

Kyle Walker 9:48
They’re still in golf in terms of apparel and accessories. They’re out of golf in terms of equipment.

Yoni Mazur 9:55
Yeah, like clubs and balls and stuff there. Yeah. Okay. And they give us a little bit you know, In touch point about the world of golf, you know, from your neck experience, what’s going on with that, especially those times 2009 is a little bit of a recessionary. That’s my way they say a golf is more of a rich or wealthier sport men was that did affecting the industry was growing was shrinking. What was the dynamics back then?

Kyle Walker 10:15
Yeah, it’s actually fairly interesting story. So it’s as Tiger Woods kind of comes on the scene, there’s a bunch of net new golfers that take up the sport. And so for a period leading up to to that recession, you know, there’s more golfers being added to the sport than at any other time in history. And so you almost can’t not be successful in golf for a period of time. And you see a bunch of golf courses being built, you see a lot of kind of corporate entities buying big chunks of real estate in the golf world. And so there was a lot of transition, but there was still a lot of growth. And, you know, my job was really, in kind of, if you if you take a step back 1015 years, most golf courses, the local pro actually owns the pro shop. And so you were, you would travel around, and obviously you were trying to get Nike and presence in those pro shops. But you were also, you know, in a lot of ways acting as their merchant, right, like letting them know, when there were deals, letting them you know, kind of fixing how they merchandise product and on their shelves, you know, fighting for shelf space, all of those things.

Yoni Mazur 11:27
Sure. So let me get this straight. So the actual like venues, the golf courses, they were, you know, actively retailing, and that was the hot spots for retailing, golf equipment, and called golf gear.

Kyle Walker 11:37
Yeah, it was the best way to get your product in front of customers was just to make sure that you had a presence in those golf shots. And so we would always have goals around kind of what we call door account, and penetration within those doors. And so you obviously wanted to have some product in the door, and then you tried to grow that presence of product that you had within the store. In around 2000, maybe 567 It starts to shift to there’s so much golf construction going on, you end up having more of a corporate presence. And so the local pro didn’t necessarily own the store anymore, the corporation did. And so you would have a lot of larger strategic relationships. And then, you know, I managed the Dick’s Sporting Goods and golf Galaxy account, along with some colleagues,

Yoni Mazur 12:27
but disappointing us for example, did they ever have locations in the golf facility courses or the add their own brick or you know, brick and mortar stores? They do a lot of sports and gear, but they also have I guess the, the golf section within the store? What was their footprint?

Kyle Walker 12:40
Yeah, so because it’s kind of famous for having what they call their store within a store concept. And so if you walk into a Dick’s Sporting Goods in their retail environment, you typically have very clear lines between sections in the store. Like it’s not just a one big free for all it’s like you have here a golf section. Some cases, it’s even a little bit closed off. And you know, it definitely has a different set of kind of in store signage, it has its own unique kind of set up. Probably ambience also, right? Yeah, ambience you’ll usually have things like you know, a little putting green to trial putters, and, you know, then you’ll walk over to the running section. And you may have, you know, completely different look and feel because you’re really talking about merchandising apparel at that point or shoes. So, you know, it’s an interesting experience to learn how, you know, brand like Nike builds their presence through, you know, the way that they’re kind of participating in that store environment, right, who you’re next to, what shelf space is the most valuable, you know, all of those things. And so, you know, really, you know, moving inside to Dick’s Sporting Goods it was it was really a lot of the same thing. It’s just on a much bigger scale. Instead of having this little pro shop that sits on it on a golf course and you’re worried about merchandising it you’re now worried about merchandising your presence within a whole store, right, so

Yoni Mazur 14:10
this all you move into the sporting goods with 2009?

Kyle Walker 14:15
Yeah, 2010 2011 I forget

Yoni Mazur 14:18
2010 2011 And you’re in charge of golfing or everything? Well, they’re

Kyle Walker 14:23
usually small categories within so I started out in equipment and then move to like balls, bags, travel stuff. And so did that for a while ended up leaving to move over to GNC calm, really got passionate about the E commerce space. So as part of my role at Dick’s. You know, I’d be in charge of kind of our E commerce presence for our category and got to work with the column team quite a bit and just kind of realized that’s where I wanted to spend my time ended up finding a role at GNC comm.

Yoni Mazur 14:57
And what was that

Kyle Walker 15:00
That would have been Gosh 2020 1120 12.

Yoni Mazur 15:05
So you’re bending with the exporting for a year or two right? And then you shifted to GNC also on Pennsylvania or correct. Everything’s where they base that on just for this for different physical Okay, so within the zone, got it so are you passionate also nutrition stuff like that or this is more like a professional thing for you, you know, focusing on other category but nevertheless was still within a retail.

Kyle Walker 15:32
Yeah, I think it was more a passion play just to be in a ecommerce space, but it certainly interested enough in nutrition. Obviously, being an athlete, I was fairly close to, you know, some of some of those products and, you know, had been into a GNC store. So it wasn’t like I was completely unfamiliar, but it was more of a career move.

Yoni Mazur 15:52
Yeah, I remember I used to be sorry to cut you on this. But I used to have a wealth facility back in the retail days in Secaucus, New Jersey. And guess who’s based in Secaucus, New Jersey. Your nemesis, vitamin shop?

Kyle Walker 16:04
Yeah, there you go. Yeah, they were always they were always top of mind.

Yoni Mazur 16:08
Yeah. Okay, so sorry about that. Oh, good.

Kyle Walker 16:11
No, it was it was definitely a growing industry and and GNC had done, you know, some really good things at the time developing their own private label products. And so they were able to kind of continue to take market share and take it at a at a higher margin. And so, it was fun to watch the growth, but again, GNC was kind of late to the ecommerce game. And so a lot of the things that we were doing, you know, seemed at the time even to be a little bit slower, slower pace to get done, but I was in charge of E commerce operations. So I was kind of the connective tissue between our marketing and merchandising team, our in store team, you know, our visual merchandising team on the website. And then all the operation or customer experience, things that we were doing, whether it was customer service, or whether it was upgrades to the website. And just really enjoyed that work. Really enjoyed this.

Yoni Mazur 17:13
I want to touch actually another another I realized that you did so much retail I didn’t realize all that I want to touch a few points of scale. So with with Dick’s Sporting Goods, how many stores where you’re in charge of or what was there a footprint in terms of actual locations? As you remember back in the day? Oh, gosh, doesn’t a few 100,000 you can approximate.

Kyle Walker 17:33
I want to say we had about 800 900 Dick’s Sporting Goods stores. Wow, that

Yoni Mazur 17:38
many I didn’t realize that so much. Wow. Okay, and Jesus probably even more realistic. What about GNC is Friday remember?

Kyle Walker 17:45
Well, and what was important was big sporting goods also bought golf, Galaxy golf. Galaxy had around 100 stores at the time as well. So you had about 1000 stores that had some kind of golf presence

Yoni Mazur 17:56
and your treasure all of all the stores correct when you were working for corporate your footprint. So the entire footprint Okay, and same thing goes for GNC, how many you how many locations there as far as you remember. I know that every single mall that America has one as far as I can remember. But yeah,

Kyle Walker 18:10
yeah, it was it was a pretty massive number, but GNC was unique in the sense that they also had a franchise model. And so

Yoni Mazur 18:18
they realized got so all in with corporate and franchise as far as remember, what was it? 2010 10s of 1000s I think maybe even global right? Yeah, some overseas? Yeah,

Kyle Walker 18:29
it was definitely global. I honestly don’t recall the number, but if I had to guess, you know, several 1000 At least four or 5000 Probably

Yoni Mazur 18:39
got it. Okay. And Alright, so GNC, that was a, you know, further growth experience for the for you, I guess. And then was your next station then?

Kyle Walker 18:47
Yeah, then, you know, had the opportunity had our had our oldest son, he was about a year at the time. And we came home for that first Christmas. And my wife and I talked about getting back to the northwest at some point and, you know, he was a year old and start to walk in and talking and being around grandparents were like, maybe our maybe our five year plan should be a, you know, two year plan to to get back sooner. And, you know, just happened. One of my good good friends. His wife worked at Amazon at the time and, you know, just reached out to him to check in and he was like, Hey, you should send me your resume. My wife works at Amazon. And I think from the moment that that happened, and so we moved here. Back to the northwest was about three and a half weeks. It happened really fast.

Yoni Mazur 19:34
And why was that when you made the transition? So you were moving from Pennsylvania to the Northwest. We moved to Oregon or to Washington, Washington, Washington. Yeah.

Kyle Walker 19:43
Just outside of Seattle would have been 2013.

Yoni Mazur 19:48
Gosh, he said about a year with GNC a year or two ago. Yeah, yeah. Okay, so I was enrolled in like a storm and two and three weeks and this was a 213 I think there was an explosive year Amazon as far as I can see from all the guests come to the show on the selling side. And also on the working on Amazon side, it was just, you know, the master has really awakened and okay, what was your responsibility? What was your trajectory there.

Kyle Walker 20:10
So I was on the I was on the marketplace side, and we just launched what we call the US business, which was, you know, if you think about what eBay, you know, they would sell a lot of refurbished and high quality refurbished products and, and some use products. And you could always do that on Amazon, you know, if you happen to get two iPads for a Christmas gift you can go on as an individual kind of sell them. But what we saw was that there was an opportunity to professionalize that selling space, right alongside all the rest of marketplace. And so, I was really brought in as an account manager, you know, really, as opposed to other places where, you know, maybe at GNC, we had an account manager for our payment processing, or the back end of our website, you know, they typically would kind of occasionally participate in some kind of marketing and promotion. But for the most part, you know, as triage, it was like, Hey, we’re having an issue with this, or hey, can we get a report on this and things like that, at Amazon, it was made very clear that my job as an account manager was really to learn from our businesses that we were that we were that were using our marketplace, and try and find ways to bring that voice back to our tech team, so that we could continue to scale. So it was like, you know, I, I get to know these be specific accounts. Sometimes I go visit them in person, you know, I get to know their operations. And I find out what their pain points were like, what would what could we possibly unlock that would add value to what they were doing and let them go faster. And then it was my job to kind of take that, translate it and bring it back to our tech team.

Yoni Mazur 21:53
I love that. I love this. Because as a former Amazon seller, I love that I didn’t realize that that’s so much depth into this. So I take us a few, I guess examples of, you know, some of this experience, you know, you basically connecting with Amazon sellers, third party sellers on the platform, getting some insights of things were valuable, taken back to Amazon, and hopefully Amazon took took some action on it to to make the marketplace even more robust. So if anything comes to mind, no, we’re happy to, you know, kind of poke your brain on this. And yeah, actually,

Kyle Walker 22:23
actually have a great story. So I started, I started in around July, round November, December. You know, one of my colleagues and I talked about going to see us for the first time. And so I reached out to

Yoni Mazur 22:37
source electronics show in Vegas, usually in January, February beginning.

Kyle Walker 22:43
So we talked about, you know, reaching out to some of our partners that I’d gotten to know over the prior six months and meeting with them. And I remember actually having lunch with two guys that had, you know, a fairly big used operation at the time, probably doing seven $8 billion a year of use product. And, you know, we had lunch that day, and I was asking them, you know, what can we do to to make things better. And, you know, their feeling was like, they took a lot of pride in kind of their, their use products that refurbished products, they had, you know, really tight warehouse process where, you know, they were, they were just as good at kind of certifying that something was refurbished is as anybody else in the world. And I’ve been out to visit them. And so I knew it was true.

Yoni Mazur 23:34
Oh, well, they missed out. I was sorry. Sorry. Remember, I’m actually in

Kyle Walker 23:37
New Jersey somewhere far from north or south? Or

Yoni Mazur 23:42
that? Okay. So you want to try jersey? Nice.

Kyle Walker 23:46
Yeah, I did a lot of traveling up and down New Jersey for a while

Yoni Mazur 23:48
they’re nice.

Kyle Walker 23:51
And so, you know, they’re their basic feeling was, look, these products should be marketed in a way that, you know, appeals to consumers, like there’s no, there’s nothing wrong with something that’s certified refurbished. And in fact, a lot of times, it’s actually brand new, it’s just a close out from a big brand that, you know, doesn’t want to compete with kind of their new line of product. And so we knew that it was a high quality product that customers could benefit from seeing and so we thought about, I took that back home and thought about the merchandising program. And one of the challenges that we had is obviously on Amazon is you know, you share detail page and so, you know, those those use products tended to get pushed down to well, you know, a different kind of experience on a different page away from kind of the main core Buy Box. And so, during that time, probably from that conversation, there were several things that emerged one was we actually had to use Buy Box for a period of time so you could, you could choose to buy something new you can choose to buy it used And then probably the biggest thing that came from that conversation was just thinking, hey, you know what, what this really needs is its own separate kind of experience like a certified refurbished, say iPad is different than a brand new iPad, and they both might be valuable to a customer. So how do we show them that experience without disrupting the normal, you know, shopping experience. So we ended up piloting a program several months later that we at the time called the certified refurbished program, which has now become the Amazon renewed program, and is a big global program. And it was really born out of that conversation in Las Vegas because we partnered up with several really good kind of refurbishers we tried to stock you know, the selection that we knew was going to be the most valuable to customers to save, save money and the highest quality. And so we partnered with a handful of really high quality vendors made it a really high bar to participate in the program because we, we knew that you know, this program only works if the customer experience is great. And you know, several weeks into it, I remember looking at the data and we were like, Oh my gosh, like this is becoming a huge program and we’ve only got about 100 products right now imagine the size if we open this up to everything that everybody wants to buy from a refurbished standpoint and so to scale it you had a different set of problems like you couldn’t just go visit every single person you were going to let into the program you had to have kind of standards and you had to figure out how you’re going to monitor that you also had to figure out a way because so much selection moves through these warehouses you had to figure out how to tell them what to prioritize and so we essentially built systems to do both of those things and obviously Amazon renewed has continued to be you know, a huge program

Yoni Mazur 26:59
to transition from I guess CR or certified refurbished to renewed which is more of I guess elegant branding element but as far as you remember

Kyle Walker 27:09
want to say maybe 2015 2016 Somewhere in there I was no longer involved so

Yoni Mazur 27:15
guys, so within a year or two to the you know the the inception already put this up for the success they want to you know, be more bullish about it. They redouble rebranded and put out there and I guess expanded in its category professi or they’re mostly stayed in the electronics domain.

Kyle Walker 27:31
Definitely electronics is what drove the business, but there were plenty enough opportunities when you thought about other categories that had similar profiles like you know, athletic equipment, right, like we we don’t have a peloton bike, but I still get emails all the time about, you know, peloton refurbishing bikes. And you know, it’s a great way for customers, in a lot of cases to save a few bucks,

Yoni Mazur 27:55
but also the watches as far as your member watches.

Kyle Walker 27:59
We didn’t participate as much in jewelry. You know, jewelry was kind of its own little interesting category at the time. But, you know, certainly tried to Expand Selection across, you know, every category that made sense, right.

Yoni Mazur 28:16
Very cool. So that’s a that’s very interesting to hear from the feedback of the third party seller, you bring it back in, you created a whole new brand new opportunity for the sellers, and it’s probably in the billions right now. So, you know, one good idea can bring up to the billions of dollars worth of revenue for third party sellers. And of course, also to Amazon to the marketplace. And on the other hand, for the consumers, they have more options and more selection, more variety, and hopefully, seven, seven, and no save costs when shopping. Okay, so what is the next station within Amazon? Being You know, first of all with, I guess, with certified repurpose, Tim, well,

Kyle Walker 28:51
just to tie that up, you know, one of the coolest things about that program was, you know, a year or so into doing it, you know, a lot of the early participants were growing like crazy, because they, you know, they had seen this idea come to life that was probably overdue, they had a lot of ownership because we had done it with them. And I remember, one group in particular sent me a thank you video at the end of the year. And, you know, this video came from all of their employees saying, you know, how much of a difference that made and, you know, both the stability of their job, you know, the feelings of their job and the quality that, you know, they sought to, to inspire and obviously, you know, you think about the size profile, just that decision for a small business, you know, it might have expanded their team from 2530 people to 60 7080 people that we’re now proud to have jobs and, and working for this company. And so I think it it taught me a valuable lesson of look. Amazon isn’t I think Amazon had generally had the right intentions for doing But communicating those things outward to, to those that are actually affected by your decision was always something that, you know, I took a lot of pride in myself was trying to explain the context of the decision because it’s one thing for us to make a policy update when we were reading in the sun, it’s a whole nother thing to have that policy update have implications for, you know, a company that has real people in real jobs and, and has to make decisions in that environment. So, you know, it’s probably one of the most moving things I’ve ever seen, because, you know, I had tears in my eyes thinking like, hey, there’s, there’s 50 have a job because we did, because we did our job. Like we took that seller voice and created a program. So

Yoni Mazur 30:43
very, very powerful. Yeah, you touch this is a huge nerve point for the third party sellers, you know, back in 2013, it’s probably maybe a couple 100,000. Today, worldwide, there’s more than 6 million, that’s million, 6 million businesses, each one, as a few employees or more, that’s 10s of millions of people and you know, their livelihood is online. And you your program made an impact. You You were able to experience firsthand, their emotions, which is very touching, but you never know, the spiral effect, how much more you affected that particular part into that. That’s very cool.

Kyle Walker 31:16
Yeah, I think look like we had, we always, we always felt a sense of pride within our team that, you know, we had that kind of impact, and we wanted it to be as positive as possible, right? I can’t tell you how many calls that you know, get, you know, somebody goes, Why, why did you guys make this decision, and you explain it from both sides, and you try and figure out ways to help them, you know, navigate that. And that was part of the value like it was it was more than a, it was more than a job. It was a calling, it was a purpose. It was like, you know, we were consultants to try and help those businesses, which, you know, was was great.

Yoni Mazur 31:53
Nice. Alright, kudos for that. Alright, so what was your next station there after everything within Amazon after that station?

Kyle Walker 32:01
Yeah. So around that, around that same time that we were building up renewed, we also started noticing that, you know, previously, there just been a bunch of, you know, kind of reseller businesses. So resellers meaning people that bought and sold other people’s consumer branded products. And Amazon was set up well, for that, you have one detail page, and, and people competed to try and win the Buy Box based on a set of, you know, criteria, and, and it worked really well. And then you had people starting to private label and create their own brands. And apart from that, externally, you started seeing like a million dollar, Kickstarter, Indiegogo campaign almost every week, you started seeing these brands, you know, emerge in social media, right? Like you’d see this brand that made some product that you needed that, you know, just pops up on Facebook, or, or whatever. And so, as we do Amazon, I wrote a document and said, Hey, we should probably get out in front of this and figure out how we can make the marketplace a friendlier place for brand owners. And, you know, I had great leadership that was super supportive. And they said, go figure it out, like, what does it look like? And so I reached out to about 30 brand owners at the time, that were already successful on the platform. And I said, What is it that we can do to help you guys grow? Similar, similar story to renewed, right, like, same model? What is it that we can unlock that helps you go faster. And a lot of them all shared the same basic four things like they wanted opportunities to have new products discovered, they wanted ways to benefit from Merchandising programs, they wanted enhanced brand protection, and they wanted to be able to present their brand in a way that kind of differentiated their brand from all the others that were out there. And in 2015, late 2014, early 2015, Amazon Marketplace wasn’t the friendliest place like you can, you can make the argument that we still had, you know, the Amazon still has a ways to go, but compared to what it was in 14 and 15.

Yoni Mazur 34:17
It was like a battlefield. For the brands, it’s like you might, you know, take some success, but everything’s kind of open and not not set up properly. So you can take take, take a hit on all fronts, it could be IP infringement, and somebody stealing your listing and like I said, no brand, you know, security or protection. So these these installments, I guess you were part of the environment of sending those in place and make it a more refined place for for the restaurant.

Kyle Walker 34:42
Yeah, and the the biggest fundamental problem that we faced was we would get to know me or my team would get to know these brains and you’d say what, what makes you different. And they, you know, these founders will tell you these amazing stories of why their product was was better. It was the materials that they sourced it was their quality. audios, their customer service all of these things. And then you realized on an Amazon detail page, there was no way for a customer to get that information. So like, we noticed that there was this difference between we’d get to know a founder, and we’d follow their business, and then we’d see their presence on Amazon. But the customer doesn’t get that same feeling. So how do we, how do we give the customer all of that information, and that’s around the time that you started seeing enhanced brand content and eight plus listings, you know, open some marketplace, sellers, you started seeing a different set of advertising tools available to sellers, like, you know, brain stores, you started seeing brand registry change pretty dramatically from the first version. And then we launched a program called the Amazon exclusives, which, you know, also became a big global program ended up merging with Amazon launch pad, which was created around the same time on the vendor side. And and now both of them operate really, on the seller side as a marketplace for

Yoni Mazur 36:04
nice. Yeah, and I’m not sure let’s touch the Amazon exclusive to this Launchpad. What’s the elements for the opportunity right now for third party sellers? I want to just highlight it for anybody listening to this. You know, I want them to be more familiar with this option opportunity within the marketplace.

Kyle Walker 36:18
Yeah, so I think a lot of things have a lot of things have changed. But they’re still aligned around the same core principles, which is how do we help drive discoverability merchandising, brand presentation and brand protection. And so, you know, a lot of those tools have become automated. And so our role instead of trying to, to get you access to a tool is now how do you best utilize that tool to benefit your brain. So it’s become more consultative in some of those areas. And then other things haven’t changed as much like Amazon Launch Pad still has a storefront that, you know, for a new brand, you know, helps overcome cold start, because you’re in a fitting from kind of nice shopping experience that customers about to know,

Yoni Mazur 37:01
a few more elements. As far as I remember. Me, correct me if I’m wrong. So with that, when you do Amazon Launchpad exclusives, there’s like a honeymoon period, maybe like a year that you got to sign off on. And then America, Amazon, basically kind of helps you by putting you in placements within, you know, the marketplace and the website, where you get more exposure. And it could be also an email blast, they might do and feature your products in and get through those channels in general marketing channels that Amazon has to feature you and your brand. And so you get more exposure, hopefully launch yourself in a more meaningful way. But because of that, you also take a few more percentage points on the selling fees. Right. I think it was at 5%.

Kyle Walker 37:40
Yeah, originally, it was 5%. I believe they have some kind of legacy deal now where if you participated for a period of time and done certain things, you can, you know, reduce, reduce what that is over time. Yeah, but

Yoni Mazur 37:53
the principle idea, you know, you sign off on this program, they give them more juice, more exposure, and because they pay a little bit more fees, hopefully, they’ll let you launch it, you know, in a powerful, meaningful way. And then after that period, you got to kind of take it on your own. And you were involved in in the inception of this program. Okay, so what was the next session for you still on Amazon? Or what happened next?

Kyle Walker 38:13
Yeah, so probably my, I mean, apart from, apart from a little time that I spent working with the Alexa team and doing some deals, you know, to help promote kind of how you use the Alexa in your home, which was a short, short time period, the rest of my Amazon career was really spent in the m&a space. So one of the questions that we had coming out of launch pad and exclusives was, you know, there’s just we started to develop a blueprint of what, you know, you could look at a brand and me and my team wasn’t unique to me, but my team to go, this brand just looks different. I know they’re going to be around I know they’re going to be successful. In it was because of a lot of the attributes that we’d seen time with 10,000 brands coming through the program, he started to develop kind of this innate sense for what are the data points that that are going to lead to success. And surprisingly, you know, it’s not always just I have a great product, it’s that I have this system for developing great products, I have a system for connecting that to customers and growing awareness. And I’m continually able to kind of acquire new customers in the process, right. And so we would start recognizing those attributes. And when we saw that somebody was different. We really only had one specific program, which was Launchpad at the time, which I helped convert to a seller program. And we said, Well, how do we how do we do this in a different way? Like, if we do notice that a brand is different and we think we can accelerate that brand? What would we do differently and it really came down to we would provide more support through both you no advertising opportunities, maybe we give them some kind of premium service or. And in order to do that, you have to figure out how to change kind of the, the monetization to, right. And so I spent a lot of time in learning from our corporate development team, and we would actually go out and work with some consumer brands and exchange services for for warrants. So if the company, you know, ends up taking off, and it’s because of some of the services that we provided, we would all have benchmarks to do this contractually. Then, at some point, if that brand achieves some certain level, then we all kind of win together. Right. And so that was kind of a perfect last experience to have, you know, in terms of what became the beginnings of Foundry was, how do you identify those brands that you can see being around that are decade durable? And how do you kind of throw additional accelerants on what they’re already doing and build on that foundation? Because the reality is, if you’ve seen it 10,000 times, you’re just gonna be more prepared for what needs to be done. Right? Yeah.

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