What do you do when your entire business model gets disrupted? Pivot. In this episode of Connected & Ready, Gemma is joined by Na’ama Moran, CEO of Cheetah, for a conversation about making the shift from B2B to direct to consumer, the importance of iteration, and how working collaboratively with your supply chain partners can drive success for everybody. For help making your supply chain more agile, connected, and resilient, request a live demo of Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management today: https://aka.ms/AA8l720
Host Gemma Milne talks with Na’ama Moran, CEO and co-founder of Cheetah, a restaurant supplier serving small businesses in San Francisco and the Bay Area through their innovative app and warehouse infrastructure. When Cheetah experienced a sudden 80% drop in demand due to shelter-in-place orders, it pivoted its business model, providing consumers with direct access to supplies and restaurants with new access to customers. Hear about the trends that forced Cheetah’s pivot, the creative solutions that are helping it navigate shifting demand, and why failure is not an option for Na’ama.
About Na’ama Moran
As the CEO and co-founder of Cheetah, Na’ama knows first-hand the impact supply chain disruption can have on small businesses. She and her co-founders have been committed to improving the supply chain for independent restaurants since 2015. Recently, Cheetah pivoted their business model to support both B2B and direct-to-consumer operations with the launch of “Cheetah for Me,” helping to address the needs of the entire community.
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Music playing [00:00:01]
Gemma [00:00:05] Hello and welcome. You're listening to Connected and Ready, an ongoing conversation about innovation, resilience, and our capacity to succeed, brought to you by Microsoft.
The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in many a B2B business innovating, adapting, and sometimes full-scale pivoting their focus towards B2C. So today's episode is the first of a special two-part exploration into exactly this theme. What does it take to pivot your B2B business to a B2C business in the middle of a global crisis? Both [of] the innovators we speak to have much to share, and how to switch the mindsets—both of leaders and the extended team—how technology has helped with the sometimes overnight overhauls, and what really matters to businesses, consumers, and the broader community in times of crisis. For today's episode, I speak to Na'ama Moran, CEO and co-founder of Cheetah, about how her entrepreneurial mindset has been key over the last weeks and months.
[00:01:06] Na'ama, thank you so much for joining us on the show. Why don't you start by introducing yourself and introducing the audience to Cheetah.
Na'ama [00:01:13] Thank you very much for having me on your show, Gemma. So my name is Na'ama Moran. I'm the co-founder and CEO of Cheetah, which is a San Francisco-based company that is offering an e-commerce platform for small businesses—including restaurants, delis, coffee shops—as well as consumers to buy wholesale groceries for next-day delivery or pickup. We've been operating in the Bay Area since 2015, and have become one of the largest distributors for restaurants, accounting for more than 10 percent of all of the better restaurants in the Bay Area.
Gemma [00:01:46] Wow, okay. So you've already managed to build up all this, I guess, pretty big segment of the market.
[00:01:53] And then, of course, coronavirus happens. So what happens to you guys when, um, when the lockdown first broke or when, it may be from before that, when you were starting to hear murmurs that we were gonna go into a sort of stay-at-home lockdown?
Na'ama [00:02:07] Yes, clearly this has been an unprecedented time for so many people, but especially for people like us working with restaurants. This has been a monumental moment. And we actually started having a sense that something big was about to happen a couple of weeks before shelter in place came into effect. I was actually on a weekend outside of the city speaking to a friend as he started sending me pictures from New York of empty grocery store shelves.
[00:02:39] And my intuition was, this is going to happen in the Bay Area in a matter of days.
[00:02:44] And so I called up my co-founders and I told them what I saw and I said, I think this is going to be really bad for restaurant customers. They are likely going to shut down. I was following up with what's happening in other countries around the world. And at the same time, I also said I also think there is a really big opportunity for us to help the community by opening up our platform to consumers. So it's important to realize that up until two and a half months ago, Cheetah was only selling to small, independent businesses. We were not open to consumers; it was strictly a B2B platform. And when you kind of realize that the world as we know it is about to change dramatically, is when we made a decision to open up the platform to consumers. And it's been a tremendous learning experience.
Gemma [00:03:29] Yeah, the tremendous learning experience is exactly why we want to get you on the show and have a discussion about all this, because you must have come up against some amazing challenges and hurdles as this whole transformation happens. So why don’t we start from the beginning.
[00:03:42] What was the sort of first thing you needed to do to do this huge pivot?
Na'ama [00:03:47] I think the first thing was just the realization, and taking in the decision, and then going for it. Thankfully, Cheetah had a lot of infrastructure. We had a warehouse. We had products.
[00:03:58] That was one of the biggest reasons why I wanted to push for this change is that we have products in a warehouse, most of which are perishable products. If we couldn't figure out very quickly a way to sell these products, they would go bad. And so having the warehouse, having the products already in the warehouse, having a fleet of refrigerated trucks, having a team is what really enabled me to make this pivot so quickly. And I needed to rally the troops around a new vision. And I think it was very straightforward because everyone realized that this change is coming upon us and it's coming upon us very quickly. And people felt their own personal needs to get groceries. And so that's another thing that really helped me, is that all of a sudden I could turn my team into a customer. And by doing that, we were able to experience firsthand how the service is and quickly and rapidly iterate to making the service better. And we already had an app that, you know, was used daily by, you know, thousands of customers. And the app was built to be very user friendly to start with. So we didn't really need to make many modifications on the app. We just added a slightly modified sign-up that enabled a customer to say whether he or she is a consumer or they were buying for their business. And if they basically target themselves as a consumer, we let them access the catalog and shop from thousands of wholesale items that we already had in the catalog and in our warehouse. And then at the checkout, a consumer was presented with multiple pickup locations in the Bay Area and they could choose a pickup location and a pickup time. And then basically drive to that pickup location on their preferred time slot to pick up the items. So we've created a very differentiated experience for consumers than we've done for businesses. Businesses ordered very large order sizes that made sense to ship them directly to the business location. With consumers’ orders being much smaller, we basically offer a drive-thru, contact-free pickup experience whereby you have to drive to the pickup location, which is normally about five minutes’ drive given that we have multiple pickup locations in the Bay Area, and then all you need to do is literally present the confirmation on the app, open up your trunk, and we'll be putting the order into your trunk. So to answer your question, the app had to be modified slightly. The products are already in the warehouse, the team was already there. And then we basically took our trucks and turned them into these mobile warehouses. We sent them to pickup locations where they, you know, offered the pickup experience to the customer. One of the biggest changes, as we had to do on the trucking side, is that we used to be packing large orders onto pallets and then deliver them to businesses with small orders. It was very confusing to put them on pallets because they would mix up very easily. And so within about two weeks, we basically acquired these very large industrial carts and started packing our orders onto these carts and then loaded the carts onto the trucks so that the carts essentially turn into these shelving units on each side of the truck. And the agent can literally walk in the middle between those two shelving units and pick up the products from the shelf. That was a very significant modification into the true, kind of, operation, and we've been able to accomplish it within two to three weeks very, very rapidly. And that has increased the customer experience significantly because it reduced errors. It reduced confusion between different orders. It helped the whole picking be a lot more efficient. Finally, the other big change that we introduced was in the merchandise itself. Prior to obviously opening up the platform to consumers, most of our products were very large, bulk-size packages that restaurants would buy. We had a very strong focus on restaurant supplies. With consumers coming on board, you know, at the beginning, people were buying very large box size of everything because people were hoarding on products and a lot of people were sharing products with their community and friends and family. So they were buying big bulk items and split them between people. But as you know, things kind of moved on, people were asking for smaller retail packages. And so we started sourcing smaller retail packages, as well as some additional products that consumers were interested in, including plant-based meats—where we launched a very cool partnership with Impossible Foods—plant-based dairy…we have the whole line of Oatly oatmilk and almond milk and soymilk, as well as a lot of organic produce. So these were the biggest changes that we had to introduce in order to make this pivot a reality.
Gemma [00:08:50] It's incredible what you guys have managed to do, especially when you lay out all these steps. I mean, even just a small thing about the shelving unit, that would have made such a humongous difference. I'm curious as to…I mean, there's many things I'm curious about. But one thing I'm thinking about is how did you change the way you did your marketing and your acquisition of customers? Because, of course, you previously were gathering restaurants and now you suddenly had to convince all of San Francisco to...come and shop with you guys with an app that probably most people had never even heard of before because, of course, they weren’t the target audience. So how did you go about that?
Na'ama [00:09:25] That's an excellent question. In fact, as I speak to you about it, I realize just how many things I'm already taking for granted, because marketing was yet another big thing that we had to do, which, you know, we didn't do before. Most of our customer acquisition to restaurants was enabled by an inside sales team that was sitting in our office in San Francisco and cold calling restaurants, as well as a lot of inbound referrals that came from our existing customer base. And with consumers, we had to do something completely new. And you brought up a very important point. One of the first things we did was hiring a PR agency. We knew that we needed to put the word out and we needed to put the word out in the media. And so we hired an agency called Cast Influence that has done a great job really spreading the word. One of their biggest wins was securing a segment on the local Fox News Channel. And pretty much at the very beginning of the pandemic, we had a segment on Fox News showing our new pickup experience, telling, you know, the broader Bay Area consumers what we're doing. And that was a pivotal thing that drove a lot of downloads and a lot of new customers to the app. And then from there, we just started working on all the different channels. I hired a performance…a digital marketing performance agency to drive in stores from the various marketing platforms that we are all familiar with. And I basically took two people from my team, one of them that was doing B2B marketing and another one that was doing sales, and had them focused entirely on consumer marketing. But, yeah, focusing on marketing has been a big learning experience because it was the first time we're doing consumer marketing.
Gemma [00:11:08] What about the other side of it? Customer service? Were you able to translate your experience with customer service with restaurants over to general B2C customers?
Na'ama [00:11:18] Thankfully, I have a really strong customer service leader and my executive team brought a ton of experience servicing both businesses and consumers. And so he's been able to really get the team up and running to service consumers very quickly.
[00:11:35] One of the biggest changes that we've introduced is that each one of our pickup locations has a customer service rep on the ground that takes the order confirmations from, you know, the customers and basically gives them to our drivers who are managing the pickup from the truck and into the car's trunk. That customer service rep is making people feel heard, serviced…asking for any problems. Sometimes we have a throughput of cars that we have to manage if there are like multiple cars coming to the pickup location at the same time. We have to make sure that everyone is lined up properly. So this type of on-the-ground customer service role is a completely new role that we have had to create. And I think it's played a very important role in how people are feeling that, you know, we're really giving them this type of white glove service even in the middle of a pandemic.
Gemma [00:12:33] Yeah…the small things, making people feel a little bit happier amongst all the all the craziness. It seems to me that you're already a relatively young company before the pandemic— 2015 is not that long ago— but we hear a lot about sort of…startup buying, say, entrepreneurial mindset, entrepreneurial thinking. And this word “pivot” is very famous within the sort of tech startup world. Do you think that history, or a general feeling within your company, was already there and thus made it easier to switch? Or was this something that felt very new, this having to very quickly change what you're doing?
Na'ama [00:13:09] I think it depends on the person. There are many people in my company that have been working with me for years, starting the early stages. And so they were a lot more familiar with this type of pivot mentality because, you know, in the early stages, we had to pivot multiple times. It's very rare to have a company that, you know, is doing what they started with. Most companies I know have had to pivot along the way to iterate on their business model or iterate on their product market fit or iterate under a distribution strategy. And so Cheetah has had to go through a lot of these, you know, iterations in the past before this latest pivot. So people that have worked with me from the start, we're very comfortable jumping into this new kind of fire and fighting in this fire and pivoting quickly. And there are other people in the company that I noticed, people that came from larger organizations that worked in bigger companies, more established companies before, that had a harder time with it and were pushing back quite a lot at the beginning. It's not easy, you know, when all of a sudden you're being presented with a need to completely change the way you're doing things. And it's unclear even why are you doing it and where is it taking us? And there is a lot of uncertainty about what's going to happen with a restaurant customer. So there are people in the company that were questioning whether this shift to B2C means that we're abandoning or neglecting our B2B restaurant customers, which definitely wasn't my intention. But these were the kind of questions that came up and pushback that came up, and I think it's all very healthy because you want to make sure that there is a healthy dialogue in a company, especially around such pivotal moments in which you might want to be altering your business model in a very important way.
Gemma [00:15:03] How do you kind of cultivate an atmosphere of trust then within a company that's going through different pivots—and I mean this both from the perspective of unprecedented things that have happened over the last few weeks. But even generally, you know, growing companies, as you rightly point out, change frequently. And people who kind of are along for the ride, shall we say, do get to know that. But at the same time is what discussions around how can big companies, you know, adopt this kind of startup mindset and whatnot? So I wonder, have you thought about or sort of actively tried to create safer mindsets to help those that it's maybe not quite so natural for, within your own business?
Na'ama [00:15:42] I think there are multiple components to it. One is communications is fundamental. You have to communicate to people with as much detail and as much transparency as possible. Like, what is happening? What is your view of the world? What are the risks? What are the benefits? Why are you doing what you're doing?
[00:15:59] What are the metrics that you are you going to use to measure your success or your failure and really present people with a plan? I think that's the best way to create trust. If I came to my team and I said, this is what we're doing and let's do it. Listen to me and follow me. I don't think I will be able to create the best results. If I came to my team and say, this is what I'm seeing in the world. These are the risks to my business and to our business. And here are the opportunities. And this is what it requires from us. And these are potentially the problems. But this is how we can overcome them. And we truly engaged as a team across multiple sessions in making this happen. And by the way, even before we launched this, we had what we call a pre-mortem meeting. So you might be familiar with a post-mortem. For example, you have a big outage and you have a post-mortem about "Why did it happen?" What I learned is that it's important, especially in moments like this, to do a pre-mortem, meaning before you launch the project or the pivot—it doesn't have to be a pivot, it could be any other high-stakes project—you're basically gathering everyone in a room and you're thinking through what are all the different things that you need to achieve and what are the gaps that you currently have in the organization before you can achieve them. And then you cluster those gaps across different groups and then different teams can take ownership over these clusters of gaps. And then they can translate this into an action plan. So when you do a meeting like this ahead of time and you really have all the most important stakeholders in the room, you'll provide a lot of visibility into the why, the what, the how and really develop a plan. And I always do these things with my entire team engaged—so the buy-in is starting from the outset. So I think that was a very important thing to do. And then look, even after that, I had to still go back to my team and keep communicating and iterating and reminding them why we're doing what we're doing. And it's an ongoing process.
[00:18:10] It doesn't end. And that type of trust has to be continually maintained and nurtured.
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Gemma [00:18:49] I'm curious, you know, talking about nurturing teams and, you know, reminding people why you're doing what you're doing.
[00:18:57] There's a lot of discussion around company mission and company values and whatnot. And you were originally set up as B2B and the mission that you had at the beginning. What was that? And has it changed? Is what you're doing still fulfilling on an original mission or is it adapted and you've taken on something new? Or do you not even need a mission to have a good business?
Na'ama [00:19:20] I love your questions. I'll answer the last one first. I definitely believe that you need a mission to run a business because
[00:19:29] mission is purpose, and I'm a huge believer that what you work on has to be connected to your personal purpose. And if you don't have that mission…you don't have that purpose…then why are you doing what you're doing? You end up working most of your life. Like, you better align your personal purpose, your personal mission, with your business mission and really care about what you're doing. To answer more specifically your question, our mission for restaurants and for small businesses was to help small businesses thrive.
[00:20:01] We're a supplier of grocery supplies. Yet we don't think about our mission as supplying products because it's possible that in the future we will offer more than that. Maybe we'll offer credit lines. Maybe we'll offer insurance. Maybe we'll offer budget tools. The reason the mission is to help restaurants thrive [is] because at the end of the day, that's what I care. I care about a thriving community of restaurants because I believe that the thriving community of restaurants creates benefits for consumers and families. And our entire supply chain. With opening up the platform for consumers, our mission has grown and basically expanded to help the community thrive. And, you know, I mentioned it just now…I believe that restaurants are a very integral part of what a community life is. It's the place where we come together to break bread. It's where we have special events. It's where we have lunch with a colleague. It's now where we order our food for dinner. Consumption of food from restaurants has overtaken consumption of food from groceries for the last couple of years. It's obviously reversed now during the coronavirus period, but if you're looking at the megatrend, that mega trend has already started 10 years ago. And I believe that in order to maintain those flavors in our lives, the restaurants oftentimes represent ethnic flavors that are very important. We need to keep the restaurant community alive and thriving. And now I'm very excited to also find synergies between our B2C customers and our B2B customers. For example, we're now offering restaurants to sell products on the platform. A pizzeria can sell frozen pizza. One of our restaurants is selling soups and salads, so they're selling packaged soups. So now as a consumer, you can buy your groceries, but you can also pick up some premade soup and some frozen pizza that you can make for dinner. And by doing that, my hope is that we can help the communities thrive because the community is constituted of consumers as well as restaurants.
Gemma [00:22:11] How did you manage to keep your employees engaged in this evolving mission? Because obviously there's synergies between these missions. And, of course, you're, you know, for people who joined in with you at the start because they also really cared about the role of the restaurant, I can imagine, you know, positioning as still the restaurant being an integral part of community worked, I'm curious if that was a difficult thing to get the employees to be on board with, or whether it felt, you know, pretty easy to shift that kind of engagement.
Na'ama [00:22:40] Yeah. I think people were very excited that we're offering this type of service.
[00:22:46] When we launched, it was…I feel like now we've kind of normalized into this new reality. But if you think about how at least the U.S. was kind of in the middle of March, it was like a war time. People were living through something shocking.
[00:23:02] And a lot of people felt vulnerable and afraid that they might not be able to get their supplies. So many of our employees became customers right away. They wanted to buy those bulk supplies for themselves and for their families and are very excited that we're able to offer something like this. And they were very excited that in such dark times Cheetah is a small beacon of light. And that you are doing the right thing for our business by diversifying our customer base, because we unfortunately have seen such a massive decline in restaurant sales.
[00:23:34] So overall, the response of our employees and their engagement level has been amazing and I'm very, very grateful for it every single day.
Gemma [00:23:43] So your mission…you talked about this idea of going from, you know, helping the small businesses thrive to helping the community thrive. How did your mission evolve to this? And did it sort of include, I guess, a level of intentionality of being able to somehow recreate that…what restaurants were able to give? Obviously not in the same way, but for the communities in and around it during this time.
Na'ama [00:24:10] So once we opened up our platform to consumers in addition to restaurants, I had to communicate a broader mission to my team, to my investors, to our customers at large. And that's when, you know, I said that now our mission is to help the community thrive. At the beginning, our mission was to help restaurants thrive. Now our mission is to help the community thrive. And restaurants are an integral part of the community. So how can we use this new outreach to consumers in favor of the restaurants? And how can we use a restaurant population in favor of the consumers?
[00:24:53] And that's when I came up with this new concept that we called Restaurant Picks, which essentially enables restaurants to develop almost like a retail size of their business, because if they take like their favorite, most popular dish and they can turn it into a packaged dish that they can now sell in a supermarket, that essentially helps them to keep serving their community, even if these people are eating at their home.
[00:25:20] They can still stay connected to that favorite, most popular dish, even if they're eating it at their home. They can say, “Oh, man, I have, you know, so-and-so's Dosas for dinner." And that is the type of connection that stays. At the same time, it gives the restaurant another revenue channel that hopefully keeps them alive and thriving through this crisis. So this connection between consumers and businesses is very important because we operate at the local level where a local restaurant who's been around for like 20 years can be associated with the family's memories. And so there is a lot of intrinsic need in the community of consumers to help support these restaurants. And that's what I'm hoping that we can facilitate.
Gemma [00:26:11] I love that. As I think everyone's now aware of, we're not going to come out of lockdown overnight. It's not like someone's going to click our fingers and everyone's allowed to go to restaurants, or maybe they will, but I can't imagine everyone's going to immediately go to restaurants. There’s probably going to be anxiety and fear and whatnot around going back. And so it's going to be a gradual process. And I wondered, is this something that you think you're going to continue? You know, are you still going to do B2C or do you think the aim is to do this in order to keep you alive so that you can go back to your original business?
Na'ama [00:26:41] Look, the majority of our sales is still coming from restaurants and small businesses. And when I say small businesses, Cheetah is servicing grocery stores, convenience stores, local non-profits, care organizations—including senior centers—and so on.
[00:26:58] So it's predominantly restaurants and food service businesses, but also other businesses, that are buying food service and supplies. Consumers make up a significant amount of our sales, but it's not the majority and we will continue to offer the service. I expect the consumer side of our business to, you know, grow over time, but I don't expect it to be overcoming,
[00:27:21] percentage wise, the percentage of sales coming from restaurants. I think that we will continue to service our B2B customers and focus on them.
[00:27:29] As I mentioned just now, I'm really hoping to create synergy between consumers and restaurants, and by doing that increase the value of the experience for both sides. What do I mean by that? Just like, explain that if I am a consumer and I can shop for my groceries and but then also have access to premade made food from one of my favorite restaurants that I can, you know, heat up at home for dinner,
[00:27:52] that's awesome. I get another option for my groceries and my dinner. And I get to support a local restaurant that I really care about. And on the restaurant side, that's another obviously big value, because if the restaurant can buy supplies from Cheetah but also sell their product on the Cheetah platform, that's a marketplace type of dynamic, right? The restaurant can be buyer and seller, and we offer another revenue channel for restaurants, which is incredibly crucial in this time because restaurants can't exist if they don't have the type of foot traffic they used to have. And delivery platforms only make up 25 percent of their sales. It hasn't taken up all that gap that was created from the lack of in-person dining—or I should say, the forbidden in-person dining obviously, because of the coronavirus. So to be able to make up for that 75 percent gap, we need to help restaurants increase sales through these delivery and pickup platforms and Cheetah can become another platform for them. I also wanted to mention we're not taking any fees from restaurants for selling on our platform because we're making money from restaurants in another way, like they're buying our product. So we want to support them and make sure that they stay alive and they can thrive.
Gemma [00:29:12] At the end of the day, you still want them to be your customers on the other end. So it's also, you know, a great way of supporting the community that is around your product as a business, right?
Na'ama [00:29:21] Yeah, exactly. If they don't survive, then my business is going to have a hard time surviving.
Gemma [00:29:28] What was your biggest surprise about the B2C supply chain? Was there anything that you maybe didn't expect would be a challenge or something just strange that popped up? You thought, "Huh, I've never thought I would have to do that or think about that."
Na'ama [00:29:42] There are many things because consumers behave quite differently from businesses. First of all, they don't purchase in a very predictable way.
[00:29:53] Businesses pretty much purchase at least once per week and multiple times per week is actually even more common. And because restaurants normally have the same menu, they purchase exactly the same products. With consumers we’re still trying to find what is the pattern of their purchases, and understanding what is their retention profile. It is still a work in progress for us. Another thing that was a very positive surprise is seeing how many people are using Cheetah for group purchasing. Getting essentially a bunch of people together, like on a Cheetah group, people were creating Facebook groups for purchasing together on Cheetah or WhatsApp groups and splitting the purchases across multiple people. And then I guess using Venmo to split up the bill, that was really awesome to see how people are coming together in such difficult times.
[00:30:47] We even have one non-profit organization that is buying produce at bulk from Cheetah and is then enabling people to buy smaller packages of produce and pay whatever they can. So if, for example, you don't have anything to pay, you could still get produce from them because someone else who is able to pay for it is going to sponsor you. And they're running this entire non-profit organization on Cheetah. Basically using Cheetah as their platform. That's been amazing to see. And as someone who is driving product development on the consumer side, I'm going to incorporate a lot more of this group purchasing and community features and social features onto the platform in the next couple of weeks.
Gemma [00:31:28] One of the big things around that gets touted as this really important for running a successful startup is being able to learn from everything, whether it's the failures, the pivots, the good things, the bad things. But also you as an individual seem like the sort of person that takes every experience and tries to build on it and take it onto the next thing as much as possible. So I'm curious, two things. What have you learned over the last couple of months that'll inform the future of your business? And secondly, what can the listeners listening to you right now…what can they learn, too, about your guys’ experience?
Na'ama [00:31:58] I'll be honest. It's very hard to understand what have we learned and how it's applicable to the future because we're living through a very, very volatile time. For example, I don't know what's going to happen in the restaurant business. I do see an upward trend, which is incredibly good to see.
[00:32:20] You know, we bottomed out at the end of March and things have gone up since then and our restaurant business has gone up significantly.
[00:32:26] But whether or not there is going to be a second wave, we don't know. How people are going to socially feel about going to restaurants, we don't know. How many restaurants are going to stay alive, we don't know.
[00:32:39] So there's just a lot of uncertainty there. And we are constantly reassessing how to source items, how many items we have to have on hand, how our restaurants are going to be kind of coming back alive. We’re, every week, we're assessing it from the beginning. And on the consumer side, there's also a lot of uncertainty. For example, is consumer behavior going to change when shelter in place is lifted? Maybe people are going to go back to the stores and this type of drive-thru, contact-free pickup is not going to be as interesting anymore. Or, you know, how can I make it interesting such that I'm weaving myself more into people's lives?
[00:33:14] For example, can I have our trucks parked at office buildings or office parking lots or at like the parking lots of public transportation hubs so that people can pick up their groceries when they come off the train? But again, when are people going to go back to work and when are they going to go back to their offices? It's very hard to know.
[00:33:34] So I think what, to answer your question, what people can learn is in order to succeed in uncertain times—and I think that every early stage startup is living through uncertain times because they don't necessarily know where the product market fit for their business is—the most important thing I've learned is that you have to work using the scientific method, which is literally having a hypothesis-driven action plan where you, you know, every week or every other week you have a hypothesis, with a set of criteria for what you want to test.
[00:34:08] And what is the experiment that you're running? And what are basically the success or failure metrics for that experiment? And you have to really suspend disbelief for a very long time because at the very beginning, it could look like it's not going anywhere. Airbnb took almost two years until they really took off.
[00:34:29] It's a fascinating story. It's an amazing story. And obviously, has become one of the biggest travel companies of our time. In these early stages, when you have so much uncertainty around product market fit, and now it's exacerbated by the uncertainty of the coronavirus, you just have to suspend disbelief and look at it on a week-by-week basis and really look at how your experiments are doing. It's like pure science, right? When you are a scientist working in a lab, you don't know whether your research hypothesis is ever going to be true or not. What you can do is just literally, you know, do it one step at a time and iterate based on the results of these experiments.
Gemma [00:35:09] I love that. If I may, I think one other thing that I'm sure listeners will have learned just from listening to you, you have such passion for what you're doing and you're full of ideas.
[00:35:17] And I think it's refreshing sometimes to speak to, particularly, startups and startup founders and startup CEOs, because I feel like sometimes a solution to solving some big business problems is to try and lean into it and think, OK, how can I, you know, get your hands dirty and somehow be excited about the problem, even though it's a really difficult one?
Na'ama [00:35:38] Yeah. No, no one is going to hand the success over to you. You have to do the hard work, that's for sure. And I think that's a mentality that “learning is everything” is very important. I have this motto: You either win or you learn.
Gemma [00:35:54] I love that.
Na'ama [00:35:55] There is no failure. And, oh, if everything you do is a learning experience, there is no failure. We're so petrified of failure that sometimes it doesn't let us lean in to the experience. So I think that's the key mentality…is that there is no failure. There is either winning or learning. And this way, you know, everything can become a success if you keep that mindset. It's not always easy. It's not like I'm always like that, you know. Many, many times I have down moments and I have to bring myself back up. And that's why I have a team and I have advisers and have a network of people that is working with me. I'm not doing it by myself, but instilling this type of mindset inside of my brain, and my life has been a work in progress over the last several years.
Gemma [00:36:45] Thank you so much for sharing that with us, Na'ama. And thank you so much for coming on the show.
Na'ama [00:36:49] Thank you very much. I really enjoyed it.
Gemma [00:36:55] Next week on Connected and Ready, we're going to continue our exploration of what it takes to pivot from B2B to B2C with another incredible innovator, founder and CEO of D’Artagnan, Ariane Daguin. If you want to find out more about some of the themes of this episode, check out the show notes.
[00:37:11] And don't forget to subscribe and tune in next time to continue our conversation about innovation, resilience, and our capacity to succeed.
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