Friday, June 28, 2013

Great Startup Articles

Links and thoughts on some excellent startup related articles I've been reading on the Andreesen Horowitz blogs.

Lead Bullets - This article got me thinking about whether we're over investing in silver bullets, for example finding a scalable customer acquisition channel, and underinvesting in lead bullets which for us would be improving the price, quality and delivery time of our shoes. If we could reduce our retail price and charge $149 for a pair of custom, high quality heels with a great brand and delivered within a week how could customers buy shoes anywhere else?

Notes on Leadership - There are 3 key attributes in leaders people want to follow:
1. The ability to articulate the vision - particularly when things are not going successfully. 2. The right kind of ambition - ambition for the company and employees rather than ambition for themselves. 3. The ability to achieve the vision - If people buy into the vision and believe the leader cares about them, do they believe the leader can achieve the vision? (I've just ordered the book 'High Output Management' recommended in the post!)

What’s The Most Difficult CEO Skill? Managing Your Own Psychology - This article was fascinating, the author points out that very few people talk about the challenge of managing your own psychology as a CEO, and I'd agree that in my experience that's the case. Fortunately I don't think we've experience a "WFIO" (We’re F#%ked, It’s Over) moment yet but there have definitely been some challenging times along the journey and it's been helpful to read this article in case a WFIO comes up. My key takeouts:

  • Everyone learns to be a CEO by being a CEO. Mistakes are made on the job because you're thrown a broad set of challenges, many of which you've had no experience in doing, and you're often expected to do them by yourself. The author doesn't mention it but this can be alleviated by hiring an awesome team, and I'm fortunate that there are people on the team who are better than me at most things we do as a company, but new issues do come up that no one has experience in and sometimes these fall to me, that's actually one of the things I love about the job, it means I'm continuing to learn at a rapid rate.
  • CEO's often make the mistake of either taking things too personally, or not taking things personally enough. I've fallen into both categories at various times on our 4 year journey to date. The goal is to move aggressively and decisively without feeling emotionally culpable.
  • Hard decisions sometimes have to be made, the choice can be between options that are horrible and cataclysmic. We haven't had any decisions like this yet, but the author points out that most companies have gone through WFIO moments where very difficult decisions need to be made. Companies survive these moments, and the author says they often feel much worse than they are. Good to keep in mind.
  • To calm your nerves through these challenges - Have people to talk to about similar challenges (my EO group is a perfect forum for this). Get it out of your head onto paper. Focus on the road, not the wall.
  • And finally, don't quit.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

New Shoes of Prey HQ

Late last year we were starting to outgrow our wonderful office space at 285A Crown St. in Surry Hills so we set Dave Knapp to the task of finding us an even better new home. And boy has he delivered!

Our new office is located at 101/59 Marlborough St. Surry Hills and it's a fantastic space. It has a similar converted warehouse type feel to our old office and was previously a designer lighting retail store so it's been fitted out really nicely. We've been here a few months now and we're loving it! Video tour below:

Monday, June 17, 2013

Welcome to the Shoes of Prey team Pat!

It's with great pleasure that we welcome Pat McKeon to the Shoes of Prey team! Pat joined us in February as an intern in our marketing team. Pat only finished high school last year and was accepted into Arts/Law degrees at universities in Australia and the UK, but he wanted to take a year off between school and uni to experience more of the world before starting studying. Pat loved Shoes of Prey and we loved Pat. Not only is he an incredibly fast learner and hard worker on our marketing team, but he's a great cultural fit. Shortly after he first joined us we had a fire alarm late on a Friday afternoon and we were evacuated without our stock of office beer. We tasked Pat the intern with solving this problem for us and he returned 4mins 30seconds later with a case of beer - see photo to the right. :) So we started talking to Pat about working with us while studying part time.

There's been some press in the tech startup space that University isn't the best place to go for someone who wants to become in entrepreneur. Taking this view to the extreme is billionaire entrepreneur Peter Thiel (PayPal co-founder and early Facebook investor) who has launched a program in the US to fund 20 students each year to drop out of university and start companies. Each 'Thiel Fellow' is backed with $100k capital over 2 years and some of the best mentoring an entrepreneur could hope to receive. Thiel believes that the university system is broken and that the best way for budding entrepreneurs to learn is to start being an entrepreneur rather than learning theories about it at uni.

We were a little more conservative with Pat but what we suggested to him was he should study his law degree part time, but treat working full time at Shoes of Prey as his second business related degree. If I compare my rate of learning studying commerce/law with my rate of learning working for other companies and particularly in a startup sized business like Shoes of Prey, the rate of learning is magnitudes higher at a startup. What this doesn't factor in is the social experience I had studying at uni, and the fact I met my co-founders Jodie and Mike as well as many of my lifelong friends.

We want to ensure we're creating similar experiences for Pat, and our social working environment means Pat is meeting and getting to know the other 35 people in our Sydney office. We have entrepreneurs like Matt and Andrew from The General Store and Dan Joyce from MayDate sharing desks in our office so Pat gets to meet them. We also parter with other fashion labels, online retailers and others in the industry so Pat gets opportunities to interact with all these people. And if Pat wants to do his own startup sometime in the future, then perhaps the friends he's made at Shoes of Prey, be they software engineers, customer happiness team members or his fellow marketing team mates might be good people to start a business with, so we're confident we can replicate many of the social aspects of University life for Pat. And we've suggested that we review things with Pat in a year or two and maybe he goes and does a year of University full time, perhaps at an overseas University so he can also get the full, immersive Uni experience.

We're excited to have Pat join us!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Net Promoter Score

In a 2011 blog post asking for feedback on the planning of our first customer survey, we were put onto the net promoter system as a way of getting feedback from customers.

We've since implemented an ongoing net promoter based system to get feedback from our customers. We do this at 3 points in the customer lifecycle:

1. Customer who visit our website receive the following pop up 10mins after arriving at the site:

2. Customers who have emailed with our Customer Happiness team have a similar question emailed to them a couple of days after their interaction with us.

3. Customers who have shoes delivered to them receive a similar question emailed to them a week after receiving their shoes.

Each day, our Customer Happiness and management team receive an email with a summary of the scores and all the individual written feedback. Following is an example of the feedback from a couple of days ago:

We're thrilled to be getting such high scores. 83% of customers who purchase from us and respond to the survey are promoters scoring us a 9 or 10 out of 10 on how likely they are to tell their friends about Shoes of Prey, and only 2% are scoring us 0-6. Subtracting 2 from 83 gives us our net promoter score of 81 for customers who purchase from us. A middle of the road score is 0, as many promoters as detractors. 50 is considered an excellent score.

Still, we can improve and what's most valuable for us from this is not to rest on our laurels at our high score, it's to close the feedback loop and action the feedback from our customers on what we can improve.

If the customer was happy to provide an email address (we've blurred them out above) the Customer Happiness team follows up on the written feedback directly with the customer. Beyond that, it's been an amazing tool for getting a feel for what improvements our customers would like us to make. As a predominantly online retail business we don't have the same level of interaction with our customers that an offline retailer would, so implementing this net promoter questionnaire has been a great way to get more detailed customer feedback. I read the emails thoroughly every day, as do the rest of our management and Customer Happiness teams and if there are specific pieces of feedback we think we should action as a business, we'll often discuss this in the email thread.

So far we've made significant product and price changes that were both driven by the feedback we were receiving from customers, and we've been able to monitor movements in our net promoter scores after making the changes to gauge whether they've been effective. We'll be continuing to do this and can recommend it to others.

Do you have a net promoter based system implemented in your business? If so has it been helpful and what learnings have you taken from it?

Friday, June 7, 2013

We're Hiring - User Experience (UX) Design Intern

What are you passionate about? Flawless design, fast-paced brainstorming or fashion?

Shoes of Prey is a global online retail brand that allows women (
including Prime Ministers!) to design their own shoes which we hand-make and deliver to them. We’re changing the way women shop for shoes and we’re on track to become a significant international, multi-channel retailer within the next 5 years.

We’re looking for an User Experience (UX) Design Intern to join our growing team in our Sydney Office on a project-based (paid) or part-time basis (initially unpaid).

Four key objectives you’ll have achieved after 12 months in this role:

  1. designed mobile platforms for Android and iOS
  2. analysed our website and re-engineered how things should work, look and feel
  3. assisted our art team with the creation of graphic content for the website, marketing campaigns, and print materials
We're looking for someone with:

  • aptitude: You’re fast, passionate about what you do, and sprout wireframes out your ears.
  • life: You draw inspiration from what makes the world interesting and what you know makes people tick.
  • discerning Eyes: You’re quick to pick out unnecessary features on a website or mobile app and keep designs simple and clean.
  • empathy: You have good research skills, the ability to feel what our customers feel and can clearly communicate your ideas to the rest of the team.
  • Confident with Adobe Creative Suite

Additional skills or experience we’d love:

  • completing/completed a university degree
  • one or more years experience working in an interaction design or experience architect capacity
  • Ability to create wireframes, prototypes, analyse customer personas and perform user-testing
  • experience working with creative teams and/or software engineers

We are looking for interns for paid, project-based roles as well as unpaid, part-time roles. As with all roles at Shoes of Prey, lunch + snacks + shoes are of course included! The role will be based in our Surry Hills office and will report to the current product manager, Todd Osborne. To apply for the position, please email your resume and cover letter to

Here’s an idea: try re-designing our homepage and send it to us. Alternatively, if you refer the person we end up hiring, we’ll send you a Shoes of Prey Gift Certificate! Come in for a chat, you might be just the person we’ve been looking for.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Dear Entrepreneurs: Here’s How Bad Your Odds Are Of Success

A sobering article from Business Insider highlighting the fact that only a very small percentage of startups actually succeed.