Jay Lagarde | Laying The Foundations of Ecommerce SaaS & Staying Innovative

Episode Summary

In this Prime Talk Podcast Video Sponsored by GETIDA, Jay Lagarde, the founder, and CEO of eComEngine, discusses laying the foundations of Ecommerce SaaS & staying innovative. eComEngine is a leading marketplace management platform.

 

As an e-commerce seller, you might become a bit mystified by all the marketplace management tools that are available to you out there to help you understand your business better. The things that are important as an Amazon seller are pricing, inventory management, and feedback. The next question is whether there is one place where you can find all of these tools and more. Yoni Mazor of PrimeTalk discusses the tools that are necessary for you to help keep your business moving and developing in the right direction.

 

In today’s episode, PrimeTalk has teamed up with Jay Lagarde, the founder, and CEO of eComEngine, a suite of tools designed to help accelerate your growth. Since 2007, eComEngine has helped tens of thousands of Amazon sellers in over 100 countries automate their management processes, grow their revenues, and become more efficient.

 

Jay Lagarde talks about his journey from a policy analyst up to the creation of this long-standing e-commerce management platform. If you’re an Amazon seller keen on investing in yourself and your business in order to see better revenues, then this episode is for you!

 

Visit eComEngine for more information.

 

Learn about GETIDA's Amazon FBA reimbursement solutions.

 

Find the Full Transcript Below

Yoni Mazor 0:05

Hi, everybody. Welcome to another episode of PrimeTalk. Today I'm really excited to have a special guest. I'm having Jay Lagarde. Jay is the founder and CEO of eComEngine, which is a leading marketplace management platform. Jay, welcome to the show.

 

Jay Lagarde 0:20

Thank you very much. Really, really glad to be here today and inviting me on and looking forward to chatting. I'm not...I don't know that I've ever done an interview quite like this. When somebody wants to...Normally, people want you to tell it...talk about software, but you want to talk about entrepreneurship and all that sort of thing. So it's kind of cool, and I'm looking forward to it. 

 

Yoni Mazor 0:43

Yeah, I think it’s gonna be fun and awesome. We're gonna hopefully take you down memory lane on a few things. But yeah, as you touched. This episode is not gonna be necessarily on software, although it could be. It's really gonna be the story of you. The story of Jay Lagarde, you know, so you're going to share with us, who are you? Where are you from? Where'd you grow up? Where'd you go to school? How did you begin your professional career, and so forth? We're going to touch all these stations. And hopefully, we'll get to where we are today. So without further ado, let's jump right into it.

 

Jay Lagarde 1:09

Well, I have to confess to you that this sounds boring to me. Because I already know the story. And it's like, why would anybody want to know this? But, but, yeah, so...So you want me to start when I was born or what? 

 

Yoni Mazor 1:22

Yeah. When were you born? You're born in?

 

Jay Lagarde 1:24

It’s all good. Yeah. No, I grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana. So, really interesting town. I'm sure most people are familiar with that town. You’ve heard stories about it, if they've never been there, but I did live there. And they'd go to the French Quarter as a young person. And the drinking age, by the way, in New Orleans, at least at the time, was far lower than 18... the actual, the official drinking age was 18. But the 

 

Yoni Mazor 1:53

In New Orleans? What year was that?

 

Jay Lagarde 1:55

In New Orleans, Louisiana, but the effective drinking age, the actually enforced drinking age was significantly lower.

 

Yoni Mazor 2:01

Yeah, but what year was that you're talking about? Which year is it roughly?

 

Jay Lagarde 2:04

Oh, the early 80s, early 80s.

 

Yoni Mazor 2:07

So, the early 80s, New Orleans, really was legally 18. I didn't realize there's an area in the states that it's only 18 interesting. And like you said it was very flexible.

 

Jay Lagarde 2:16

Yeah at the time. Things were different. Yeah. It definitely is known for being kind of a party. Wild crowd city. There's, you know, Mardi Gras is there every year and so it's you know, it's kind of where I grew up.

 

Yoni Mazor 2:28

That’s pretty wild. Did you watch the show Treme? I don't know if you heard of the show, Treme? It’s on HBO. It's...I think David Simon is the creator. He's the guy, the creator of Oz and the Wire, like top level HBO shows, but Treme is actually kind of the story of New Orleans, especially after the hurricane. Yeah. It deals a lot with Music and Musicians. Because it's a very musical town. It's kind of the heart and soul of jazz music and

 

Jay Lagarde 2:55

Yep. There's a birthplace with all new york of jazz. Yeah.

 

Yoni Mazor 2:59

So it touches those elements. So I watched it. Good episodes.

 

Jay Lagarde 3:03

Louis Armstrong. Harry Connick Jr. If you've ever heard of him, he went to my high school, he was a year younger than me. And he ended up leaving early, he was bored, wanted to go to the Juilliard and get a start on his career. High School is boring. And so that's, you know, one small, you know, the well-known person that went to my high school. So yeah, so after high school, I went to school in Virginia. Richmond, Virginia. And it's interesting, I started out thinking that really what I want to do is be an engineer, I really like math and science. And I thought that was what was real, the most important things and the numbers that that's where it's all at. But, you know, what I found is that I spent my first year as an engineer at the University of Virginia, and then I but I only had one elective all year. And my one elective was in economics, economics 201, you know, microeconomics. And I look back on that year after the summer when I got home, and as you know, I was my fondest class that I enjoyed the most all year long.

 

Yoni Mazor 4:12

Why is that? What do you think that is?

 

Jay Lagarde 4:14

Why, because engineering was something that I did, but and I, because I thought it was the right practical thing to do, but I didn't enjoy it as much. And so what I found is that is that the, you know, when I looked at my schedule for the following year, it just was all engineering, you know, it's all the good stuff. It is all good, but, and then I looked at the catalog and looked at all the other cool stuff. And I was like, No, there are too many other cool classes I want to take. So I switched and studied and majored in the liberal arts.

 

Yoni Mazor 4:50

So is it fair to say that it opened your horizons a little bit? You thought you know what you like, but then once you hit... 

 

Jay Lagarde 4:56

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And I think I think that's a story of a lot of entrepreneurs. That's more on the educational side, but they don't necessarily unless you grew up in knowing you were going to be an entrepreneur, you sort of figured out, oh, yeah, it's kind of cool to run your own business and kind of create something new. So yeah, to me, it was, you know, going into a liberal arts program and doing graduate work in liberal arts, I did graduate work in philosophy, which is kind of, you know, not very common, but it's just very much thinking.

 

Yoni Mazor 5:30

Like, so what kind of philosophy did you connect to this point?

 

Jay Lagarde 5:33

I was a student of really a very historical program, but my emphasis was in early modern philosophy. So that was my specialty area, early modern political philosophy was my area.

 

Yoni Mazor 5:49

So there's a part of you as a philosopher, correct? At this point?

 

Jay Lagarde 5:51

It’s in there somewhere. Yeah.

 

Yoni Mazor 5:54

We might dig it out throughout the process. Okay, so what year did you graduate? 

 

Jay Lagarde 5:59

I got out of undergrad, I graduated in 88. And I got out of...I did an ADD, I never did finish my dissertation. But I finished everything but the languages, the comp exams, and I said well, I can make more money and do more stuff. If I'm not, you know, wearing the professor hat. So it just seemed more interesting and more viable from a financial perspective at the time. So I ended up working for the state of Virginia, in Richmond, which is where we still are.

 

Yoni Mazor 6:29

What do you do for the state?

 

Jay Lagarde 6:31

Oh, I was a regulatory analyst. And so I was a regulatory analyst. Kind of a policy and legal analyst for the state for over 10 years. 

 

Yoni Mazor 6:45

The whole 10 years, from 88 to 98?

 

Jay Lagarde 6:48

A little bit later than that, I'd have to look at the dates. It's like 98 and maybe started in 92-94 or something like that. 

 

Yoni Mazor 6:56

So hold on, you graduated in 88, what’d you do for all….

 

Jay Lagarde 6:59

No no no, that was undergraduate. That wasn't graduate school. I did graduate school after that, and then almost finished my doctorate. I thought I was going to finish but ended up deciding it was more fun just to work. And so. So I was a policy analyst. And one of the cool things about, you know, in addition to doing a lot of learning a lot, a lot about federal and state laws, and really diving in deep and getting to know the state agencies and the experts there and all the things they were doing for, and of course, we were there to kind of challenge them and try to coach them to do better.

 

Yoni Mazor 7:36

But what was the spirit of the times? I guess the years were 92 to 2002. About a decade.

 

Jay Lagarde 7:40

Yeah. 2004 Yep, yep. 

 

Yoni Mazor 7:43

Right. And what was the spirit of the times? Any special like, projects, or cases you remember working on?

 

Jay Lagarde 7:47

Yeah, totally. And so one of the things that really got me into this current job was really, we in the very beginning, early days of the internet, we created, I along with, you know, like my colleagues, we ideated, we came up with an idea. And then we managed to secure funding to hire a software team to create really the first regulatory e-rulemaking tool. And so what it I, you know, the regulations are all over the world, they're in the EU, they're in the US, they're everywhere. And it's administrative law, it's not the law passed by Congress, but it's the law passed at the agencies or by the bureaucrats or wherever you want to call them. And so and so there's a whole big process around creating these laws, they have to go out for public comment, they have to go through different sections, you know, the agencies need to respond to the comment, at least, that's the way it is in the US and federal and state level, probably like that in the EU as well. And so we created this process, where we took this whole process to, you know, all of the external parts of the process and all of the internal parts of the process, you know, like legal review by the attorney general's office, and etc, etc. All the different hoops needed to go through and all the public comment process, collecting public comments and all that we put that all online, we created structured mailing lists where you can sign up for exactly the notifications you want. And it was a pretty cool tool at the time it still is but it was the first tool of its kind as far as we know, anywhere. And so we won some national recognition. We had federal agencies watching us and they were thinking about their own thing but then we had some other countries come in and visit us. It was kind of cool to come visit us at Virginia. So that really got me into the idea of the internet and technology is a really, really powerful way to, to enable processes to enable accountability to enable transparency. And it was just kind of an eye-opening experience. To see what the internet could do and what technology you could do. And so...

 

Yoni Mazor 10:04

So at this point, is it fair to say that on the dime of the state of Virginia, you got thrown into the digital age or the digital space, or digital age. Right? So you guys created the foundations for knowledge, the authorities, and then the state, at least on the state level, or the government infrastructure level, to digitalize, you know, everything that's going on. So and so all these components, all these nuances of bureaucracy, it's all digitalized, and hopefully streamlined and becomes more efficient. Which today, you know, we're in 2020, where you can, you know, we have, you can do many, many, many things online, renew your licenses, like so many things can be done online, you know, all the court stuff is being done online. I guess in the 90s, it was kind of the early foundations that were set. I guess for you, yeah, you and your team at a part of that, at least on the state of Virginia level. But like I mentioned, you have outside bodies coming in to examine what you guys did, to be able to mimic that or take from it to build on their own. So we probably had kind of a worldwide effect.

 

Jay Lagarde 11:02

It was a blast. And it was, you know, I'm sure it would have happened. Otherwise, we just happen to be at the early phase of this. And it was, you know, a lot of fun. And, you know, in a sense, I liked everything that I did for my job, but that was the part that I liked the best. And so, I really enjoyed creating this and was, you know, really glad that our, you know, our agency in the state of Virginia, you know, we're willing to allow us to do this because it was..

 

Yoni Mazor 11:29

What was the name of the agency? Is it still around?

 

Jay Lagarde 11:34

It was a central budgeting agency for the state of Virginia. And the tool was called the Virginia Regulatory Town Hall. And so it was a neat, you know, a cutting edge tool in the day. I can't speak for its current state, but in the day it was cutting edge.

 

Yoni Mazor 11:51

But you were working physically where? In the Capitol buildings, the Capitol area, because you know, Richmond is the capital of Virginia.

 

Jay Lagarde 11:59

Absolutely, yeah, I worked right across from Capitol in a building

 

Yoni Mazor 12:01

So the whole complex, the Capitol Complex alright, Very nice. So what was the next station after the state of Virginia? Where do you go? 

 

Jay Lagarde 12:08

So, you know, the interesting thing is, I, my wife was, you know, got to be interested in e-commerce before. I mean, I knew about it. But it was kind of neat, but I really hadn't engaged in it. And, and she was...she had created an account on eBay and was starting to have fun on eBay. And she introduced us to...

 

Yoni Mazor 12:32

And what year was that?

 

Jay Lagarde 12:36

I want to say 2014. You're a good historian, you're really challenging me here. I think 2014

 

Yoni Mazor 12:44

I try. That's how I keep track of the story, like this. Yes.

 

Jay Lagarde 12:46

So 2014 and I'm not the best historian, but that's good 2014. And so she was piddling around, I was like, Whoa, that is pretty cool. And so I got on there like, this is great. This is the internet, this is just like what we did, you know, I was always calling the town hall e-commerce is my term for it. But now I was really doing e-commerce. And it's kind of cool. And so, you know, I started finding things in my garage that I wanted to get rid of. And I was like, This is real money. This is really cool. And so I really got into it from a technology perspective. And I started you know, looking into the toolsets that are out there for eBay, I started playing around, started testing some sales on eBay, and just learning how the system worked. And just really, you know, mesmerized by the whole concept of this global marketplace, taking place through eBay. And then I took a look across the street and I saw Amazon and I wanted to go check that out. So I got on Amazon, I started messing around with Amazon in 2014-2015. I started messing around 2004-2005 I started messing around on Seller Central.

 

Yoni Mazor 14:02

But let me ask you this, you still had a job or you were…?

 

Jay Lagarde 14:06

I transitioned off from my job at some point in there I decided to go all-in so here's the interesting story. I first started out just playing in sales, right? Playing in sales. And I was working with...I just had hooked up with an early Amazon consultant at the time, somebody whose company had been bought by Amazon, and he had friends at Amazon and he knew a lot of stuff about what was going on and how it was working and so he convinced me just you know a few little things and so you can really make a living doing this, I said Really? This just sounds like fun. He said no, no, you can make a living I said well that's cool. And so... 

 

Yoni Mazor 14:46

How did you guys meet? How’d you guys know each other? What was uh?

 

Jay Lagarde 14:48

I was just looking for somebody...I was looking out for experts because I wanted to learn more about it and I connected with this guy.

 

Yoni Mazor 14:54

Where’d you look for experts? Like yahoo groups?

 

Jay Lagarde 14:57

Internet. I just found him. Yeah. So he was out there and so we connected and I got to know his little team a bit and, and so yeah, so he convinced me that I could make money. But then what happened is that I had created my own homegrown system to manage all my orders to manage my inventory feeds from different suppliers, to adjust pricing, to adjust inventory. I had this system that was cobbled together in what I would call not anything to write home about. But it was really good from a functionality point of view.

 

Yoni Mazor 15:36

But this is for Amazon Seller Central or Vendor Center?

 

Jay Lagarde 15:38

It was for Amazon. I had, I had bought some systems to work with eBay, but I didn't create my own. But at that point, I was really getting into the Amazon, and I felt I had more leverage, I could do more high volume. And I could leverage the things that I was good at, whereas eBay's more one-off. For Amazon, I was able to get more high volume leverage through automation. And that was where I was...

 

Yoni Mazor 16:02

But you were selling there on Amazon as a third-party seller or as a vendor?

 

Jay Lagarde 16:06

3rd party seller, I started out as a third party, so not Vendor Central. Third-Party seller, just regular Seller Central stuff very early days. Um, and, and so I was, um, I loved it because I liked eBay too. Don't get me wrong, we, you know, we've supported a lot of customers on eBay. But in fact, back in the day, but what I really loved about Amazon is just the seamless catalog and the way it was set up. And just the way you could, you know, just you know, with a few touches of a button, you could update, you know, 100,000 skews, and boom, you know, it was great. And so I was sort of a one-man show, I was literally that, you know, the guy in the garage, the proverbial guy in the garage, I was just doing my own thing. And I bought tons of suppliers and moving stuff around and doing all kinds of things, buying some things dropshipping some things at a third party warehouse, and, you know, having a blast, but during this time, my colleague who was with this consulting firm, he started hooking me in with his clients, and some clients that we had found ourselves, and so he would bring us in, because he wasn't a technology guy I was and he started saying, Can you solve this guy's technology problem, because if you can solve this technical problem, then I can sell more consulting services. So it was a win-win. If I could set he says they won't buy from me because they can't deal with the volume. And it's like, that's your just this is my, this is my thing. So I loved that. So I would call these people and talk to them and then solve them. So we were, I had hired a few developers at that point and a graphics person. And we were still, you know, very much a garage-type company. And we were doing, you know, we were doing, you know, custom engagements. for customers, we were solving their problems. We were building Amazon Web stores at the time, which were very, you know, I say complex, they were an interesting thing that Amazon had come out with and experimented with for a while. And we were, you know, quote, unquote, authorized partner on that. And so there's a lot of interesting things that happened at the time. And you know, interestingly enough, Amazon recommended us for a very, connected us with a very large client of ours, a very well known very, very large company, because Amazon was trying to convince them to build their thing on an Amazon Web Store This client that we work for, for a period of time they were going after a big federal contract. And you know, I don't know, a bazillion dollar federal contracts or whatever, I don't know what it was. And it was in Northern Virginia, so I had to commute up there to go meet and all that. So, we did this for a while and, and helped them, you know, model out this web store concept and did comps and everything for it, but it was kind of part of our story, because we were..when they got the contract when they got this big federal contract. They said, Okay, now we’ve got the contract. Now we can write you a long-term deal. And they said we're going to write you a long term deal. You can come to all this, you know, create web stores for us and do all this stuff. And you know, y'all are great. We'll take you in as a sub on this contract.

 

Yoni Mazor 19:24

So they were worried about the contract. So that was kind of creating a hesitancy on their side to lock it up. But the moment they got the contract they kind of unleashed with you guys, right?

 

Jay Lagarde 19:33

Absolutely. They hired us as one of many firms to help them...to help them get their proposal in. So we helped create part of the proposal that was then submitted through the, you know, federal contracting method.

 

Yoni Mazor 19:49

So you helped them with this contract with the government contracts?

 

Jay Lagarde 19:52

Yeah, we did our little part and the Amazon web store was part of that deal and so they ended up getting this contract and they called us up They said, Okay, now we're ready for you to start doing more work for us. So you're gonna have to, you know, hire more people and all this. There's like a lot. Yeah, I pulled everybody in the company. Said What do y'all think? I mean, this is real money, you guys, this is guaranteed money and everything else is risky. You know,

 

Yoni Mazor 20:15

How big was the team? 

 

Jay Lagarde 20:18

Oh, we may have had five or six people at the time. And this is real. I said, if we do this, we were guaranteed payments of so many hours and buyers, you know, bills, and everybody is like, we hate that that is so terrible. We don't want to, we don't want to work on this kind of project. And I was really? Well, it isn’t my favorite either, but, I said, but it is real. And we will be around for a while. So now that's going to take away our best people, and they're all going to be focused on this. And it's very frustrating to work in this type of a bureaucratic environment where you know,...

 

Yoni Mazor 20:50

And what year was this? Is this all 2004-2005?

 

Jay Lagarde 20:53

Ah, I would say this may have been 2006 or seven, maybe six, something like that. 

 

Yoni Mazor 21:01

But for two or three years already, you're selling yourself right. And you established...

 

Jay Lagarde 21:04

Oh yeah, I'm doing retail, doing retail, and doing consulting. And I would say early phase platform building. I wouldn't call it full-blown SAS but multi-tenanted, you know, SAS is multi-tenanted. And you can call it SAS, but

 

Yoni Mazor 21:25

So there are three business tracks, right? Retailing, consulting management, or whatever you're doing with IT consulting? And the third track, early seeds of creating SAS?

 

Jay Lagarde 21:38

Yep, you got it. And so the decision we made at that point was that, you know, I said, Look, I said, Okay, we are going to, I will turn this down because we don't want to do it. Now. I'm sort of with you there. I certainly don't want to be doing all this full-time. And I have to go, where are we, where we have the energy, what we're good at. And I said, so we're going to be good at SAS. And that's what we're going to do. And we're not going to look back, we're going to make it work. We're going to serve Amazon customers and so forth. And so that that is where we committed ourselves.

 

Yoni Mazor 22:10

So you turned down that option? 

 

Jay Lagarde 22:11

It was a turning point for us as a company. And it was tough, because, you know...

 

Yoni Mazor 22:16

Did you have a name for the company back then? 

 

Jay Lagarde 22:19

Oh, yeah, no, eComEngine was named in 2006, maybe, or 2007. 

 

Yoni Mazor 22:26

So you already dubbed eComEngine during that time where you guys turned down the, ya know?

 

Jay Lagarde 22:31

Yeah, we had eComEngine, we had a website, we had some of our early two tools were out, early versions of our tools. 

 

Yoni Mazor 22:37

What's the meaning of the name? Is there any story behind that?

 

Jay Lagarde 22:45

Do you want me to just...Well, yeah, it's an e-commerce engine. But you know, I can't….So the idea behind eComEngine, well, first of all, the domain name was available. And yeah, and just, you know, that was part of it, I have to admit, but the idea behind it is the whole idea of an engine is we really wanted to help small to medium-sized businesses that were playing in a big field, they were coming out on Amazon, at the time you had competing with people like Target on Amazon, you know, so you were, you know, you still are I mean, you're in a big space, you're competing against big people, and we're helping the small companies that were incubated in garages all over the place. And the only chance that these people are going to have is if they could figure out how to free up their time, from the minute from doing all of the automation work, and so that they can be strategic, and use their time in the most strategic way. And so, the idea behind an engine is where that engine that's always working in the background. And you know, at the time we were, we were doing a lot of integrations we had, you know, this was an earlier phase of e-commerce and we had, you know, we were working with people, we were working with channel advisor, we were working with a lot of people using NetSuite, we were doing integrations of people's e-commerce ecosystems. So we were connecting with...

 

Yoni Mazor 24:17

And these are early days in the late 2000s? I mean...

 

Jay Lagarde 24:20

Oh yeah. A lot of different marketplaces. Um, a lot of different marketplaces we were connecting with, we were managing dropship suppliers and managing inventory, managing pricing, managing inventory across multiple marketplaces, you know, managing, you know, sometimes, you know, accounting type things that people needed to get stuff into their ERP. So we were doing a lot of those things. But what we found is as a small team, that, you know, we really needed to focus and as fun, as that stuff was, we decided we were going to be more...we're going to shed the more custom one-off things that we were doing for clients, and we're going to focus on SAS. And so,

 

Yoni Mazor 25:05

You shook off all the activities you're going to use, and let's shake it all up, focus to what we know our core content is...

 

Jay Lagarde 25:10

On SAS, on Feedback Five in our SAS tools. It was a process, we had some good friends that we'd been working with for a while...we didn't tell them no, we tended then to just stop taking new custom work….a lot of people, what's that?

 

Yoni Mazor 25:24

Did you wind it down?

 

Jay Lagarde 25:25

We winded that part down over time and then just focused on multi-tenanted SAS platforms. And so that was a process. It didn't happen overnight. And so that's where we have been.

 

Yoni Mazor 25:40

When did you guys launch Feedback Five? 

 

Jay Lagarde 25:48

Yes, it's interesting. You know, we have SmartPrice. SmartPrice was really a tool that existed before Feedback Five, we were doing pricing for clients before we were doing feedback management. And we had a platform...

 

Yoni Mazor 26:00

So pricing and competing on price with other listings?

 

Jay Lagarde 26:05

Absolutely, yeah, this was early. So we actually did that one first as a, not, I use the word fully “SASified”. I mean, you couldn't just come in off the street, you had to go through us. It was a very custom setup and process where we would educate you and tell you how to configure and we would write custom rules for repricing of ...interesting and sometimes very creative, custom rules for people all kinds of pricing strategies that fox put out. I'm sure you're familiar with some of this. But so we were very much. It was a platform tool, but it was also something we would customize for people. And so but then the first tool that we side, and we also had a feedback management tool as well. But that was the first one we decided, we didn't really know what was going to happen. There weren't any patterns or weren't any tools exactly like this. And so we, you know, we learned how to be a SAS company. And we learned how to, you know, sign people up off the street, just coming in and clicking free trial, get it on there. Now, everybody does this. And it's like that. Everybody does it. Well at the time, not everybody did it. And so I'm

 

Yoni Mazor 27:11

So you’re saying that what we do today, many, many sellers or e-commerce organizations take for granted where you have shelf-ready products, where you basically plug and play, you will go to the website, you sign up, get a free trial, you connect API's and boom, everything's on the shelf ready. So you're talking about the days where you kind of were more scrappy, so to speak, where you kind of say, Well, this is a solution. Let's schedule a few calls, let's learn who you are, you can learn who we are. And we kind of set it all up with the parameters of sales. 

 

Jay Lagarde 27:40

Consultative sales. And the onboarding was all consultative. So our engineers were managing to send us your files. And if your skews were all messed up, and not matching and your things...we'd have to clean all that stuff up. It was all we were doing catalog management built-in and cleaning up people's stuff and trying to coach them on best practices. And we were doing all that stuff.

 

Yoni Mazor 28:03

Seems to me, it's striking me right now that once again, you have what you standardize something in the digital age, this time in the e-commerce space, where you bundle, you know, the solution up to make it shelf ready to do of course, we take it for granted. And same way we did for the Virginia State, we kind of bundled up for, you know, their purposes in news in terms of progress and stuff like that. But we did kind of the same elements for e-commerce, where all these solutions, how do you bundle them all up, you streamline them, so become efficient, and you make it a turnkey solution, ya know, for the users. So like a second-round for that you guys are created.

 

Jay Lagarde 28:36

Totally. And it's interesting, because, you know, the motivation for that, obviously, it was a business model. And we thought it was a good business model. But one of the things we saw is that a lot of entrepreneurs would come to us with their needs and problems, and we could solve them. But, we wondered whether the price tag made sense. And this was from our point of view, right? You know, we saw a lot of people, early-stage Amazon, and you know, like, like anybody, there's a huge opportunity there. It's unbelievable when you get on there, but sometimes, you know, you don't know what you don't know, as a young...as a start out in or, you know, Amazon entrepreneur, people nowadays are much more information, but you don't know what you don't know. And so you could tell that you know, they thought they were going to be or they're hoping they'd be on the beach the following year and ready to retire. But you know, they just didn't quite see around the corner about what the competition was going to look like and what the gotchas weren't. So they had some…

 

Yoni Mazor 29:38

How demanding it was going to be, how that is going to suck you in and we demand more and more info for you to create more output.

 

Jay Lagarde 29:44

It is more work and constant innovation that is required on the part of the entrepreneur and the small business. And so we're recognizing that you know, we sometimes felt: Well, we can solve all your problems for you, you know, we can write custom code, it’ll cost you $30,000 or authority or whatever, whatever it is, but it's like, are you going to be using this two years from now? Are you? Yeah, we weren't sure. And so what we wanted to do, because we saw more and more people coming in with, a very healthy way, they needed to be scrappy. And we recognize that the smart way for them to do things was to be scrappy, and not assume that, you know, the money was just going to pour in three years from now you need to be strategic. And so we felt that the SAS model would better serve a lot of these younger, you know, younger, newer entrepreneurs coming in on the Amazon market, good because we understood there was a risk. And, you know, anytime you invest in any software, if you're a big company, we did work with some big companies, for them yeah, that's okay. They that for them. But if you just if you're just quitting your day job to go work on Amazon, you know, you wanted to offer them something where, where they would, you know, you weren't going to guarantee ultimate success, you wanted to help them to succeed, but you want, you don't want to charge them a whole lot of money. And frankly, we did have people. I mean, I can remember we were working with a client, on an Amazon Web Store, we were doing some really great work with him, Amazon had sent a film crew out to them and had filmed them and created a feature video of this couple in the great store they were creating, it was amazing. And as we were working on this, they went bankrupt, right in the middle of our project. Wow. They went bankrupt, and...

 

Yoni Mazor 31:44

They went bust because what? It wasn't a profitable activity?

 

Jay Lagarde 31:47

Competition.

 

Yoni Mazor 31:48

Competition. Look at that, so intense, so fierce.

 

Jay Lagarde 31:50

And it happened so fast, and they did not see it happening. And they went out of business and six months before they were a poster.

 

Yoni Mazor 32:01

Flourishing, just to show you the elements, how quickly things turn around, you know, SAS, Software as a Service, you guys realize this is where you can you guys, you know, can scale right, you can do something that has a mass-market, right, as opposed to, you know, contracting with all these organizations where it's more customizable, and maybe a bit more lucrative on the individual deal level. But once you do something that's a mass appeal, mass market, I think that was a strategically an amazing decision you guys made because you probably made it early on around 2006, 2007, maybe 2008, where you were embedded into the DNA of the marketplace, Amazon, but I think what transpired afterward, and from 2000, till 2010 until 2020, that's when the proliferation of third-party sellers just flooding into the explosive growth all around, obviously, for consumers for Amazon is just the magnitude of things that happen. It's really the story for you to tell. So take us there.

 

Jay Lagarde 33:00

The revolution, you know, like I don’t l feel like we're absolutely the first people there. But we were one of the first. And so we had a seat at the revolution, where we're watching. So...

 

Yoni Mazor 33:13

Describe, but yeah, describe that scene? What do you guys see behind the scenes from that perspective? Because it’s very unique to you guys, as opposed to...

 

Jay Lagarde 33:20

Well, you know, I'm just...I think what's remarkable is just to, it's hard for people just coming into the market right now to envision it. But when we started, I mean, frankly, I can think of one other IT firm. The name of the company called Wrinkle Brain. And they had a little integration thing. They were some others that were eBay, but I think they were the only ones that were Amazon-centric. And I kind of look back and I said, Well, we've been too conservative, as a company, we could have done more. But you know, I think what we've done is very, very well.

 

Yoni Mazor 33:56

Take us through the numbers a little bit. So you guys started, you know, with the SAS software as a service model? In which year did you guys really get locked in on that? And what were the early numbers of users, let's say? And then the number of employees and what was that growth, the trajectory from that until this point?

 

Jay Lagarde 34:12

Yeah, it's an interesting story. I mean, we started out very much with the mindset, we will build it and they will come. And they did. And then gradually, we brought in some marketing staff to help us think about marketing, we were very much you know, in the engineer, solution type mindset, customer service. We, all of our early referrals, were all just referral word of mouth referrals and the idea of doing internet marketing was a little bit foreign to us. So we started getting the...slowly getting the message around that we started, you know, building a pipeline and people started signing up and you know, so you know, now, you know, with Feedback Five, what happened, you know, it's just the story of anything, you know, you do a good job, and then, you know, competitors will come along and help you to do a better job and so that's certainly happened to us. It helped grow the market in one sense. But you know, it's competition. I mean, you see it where you are I’m sure. The competition is good. And but you know, that is our story, right? So we are the things that you know, we definitely pioneer the Feedback Five space, we pioneered the whole notion of feedback management. So when we started, you know, what we had to do is convince the customer “No, Amazon not only allows this, they encourage it”. So we'd point them to the language. 

 

Yoni Mazor 35:31

And so let me help you, let's give some context for the audience who's listening is not too familiar diverse with, with Amazon, right, the Amazon space. So essentially, when you sell on Amazon as a third-party seller, and you..there's an order they shipped out, and the consumers got it, Amazon allows you to reach out to them and ask for feedback, basically, say, Hey, how was your order, you know, we hope you're happy. If there are any issues for us, please let us know. And if you're happy, leave us a review. And Amazon was encouraging it obviously, so it's very interactive. So the consumers get an opportunity to leave good reviews for the, for the seller. So there's transparency. So if you wanted to shop for something on Amazon, you have all these sellers, you have the review of the seller, so the better reviews that they have, the more confidence you had as a consumer that you can actually shop from them, and buy from them and to get a good experience. So today everybody kind of takes it for granted. But it was revolutionary for its time. So what eComEngine and Feedback Five did, there was, you know, instead of sellers sitting down, after they're getting all these orders, and sending each consumer or customer an email, one by one asking for feedback, they created their platform where it's simply automated that, aggregates all the orders, you create a template with the languages or you can select a certain type of languages and visuals. And then it ships it out to them with a nice template. It looks professionally made, we say, Hey, thank you for you know, shopping from us, we hope you had a very good experience, and so forth. So these are kind of the elements and it helped many, many sellers to establish the reputation on Amazon sellers, especially with you know, what the five-star review, and there are matrix and whole, you know, boom, and then stay ahead of the competition. And especially for the ones who never bothered actually taking care of those elements. Did I get it right so far?

 

Jay Lagarde 37:11

Incredibly good. I would say you have distilled multiple blog posts and white papers into a two-minute nugget.

 

Yoni Mazor 37:20

Yeah, but the reason I know this is, full disclosure, I was an avid user of Feedback Five. 2013, I can vouch for myself, I don't have to make this up. We were heading into Amazon very strongly in my retail days and I needed a feedback tool. I said I cannot, you know, send messages one by one. There's volume here. So I reached out to a friend who was selling on Amazon, what can I do? Right away, Feedback Five, organic growth, he was you know, when you have 1000s and 1000s of clients who are happy, you have 1000s of 1000s of walking billboards. And I think that was kind of the early days. And now things are much more elevated, much more sophisticated in terms of marketing and things like that. But yeah, but so is it fair to say that Feedback Five was kind of the crown jewel throughout the years? or?

 

Jay Lagarde 38:04

Yeah, it was, you know, RestockPro is a really important tool. And, you know, we think there's a lot of future potentials, we were just always learning about new things it can do but I wanted to say, you know, it's interesting, the Feedback Five when we started out, but the thing is, we had to sell people on the concept they were skittish. Some people wanted to send, we also had people though that would get frustrated. Well, I only got this much feedback, you know, at the time 20% feedback you could get, you can't get that today, but at the time, you could, but people wanted more, you know, and so I want to send more emails, and we would say we don't recommend it. And so we recommend you send one email, maybe two. And so we had our system set up that way. And sometimes people would, you know, we try to convince them that that was the way to go. And you're not supposed to send emails, we're so glad your item got delivered. You're not supposed to send delivery emails, you're not supposed to send order confirmation emails, that was in the early Amazon fine print. And then what happened is, as more and more people came into the market, you know, a lot of, you know, folks out there we're out there saying you need to send you can send four or five, six emails, why just send one when you can say your item has just gotten delivered. And congratulations, we see it was just delivered. And then we send them another email the next day. How did you, how was the box? And so it's nice in one way, but you have to think at scale. That's not going to go very far. I mean, that will last for a little while, but that's a short-term game, and yeah, and at the time, Amazon was surprisingly not watching as much as you would have thought. And so this went on. Yeah, you're...I think I've lost your audio.

 

Yoni Mazor 39:59

Yeah, so Amazon pretty much wasn't watching, wasn't enforced right? In those early days?

 

Jay Lagarde 40:05

Totally. Not that we could observe. And so we really were very, very reluctant to allow for more than one or two emails to be sent. But at a certain point, the market demanded it. Because we were, everybody else was saying, well, Feedback Five is old school, they only send one or two emails, and we would say, it's that way by design.

 

Yoni Mazor 40:28

Right. And what year was that? What year was that?

 

Jay Lagarde 40:32

I don't remember. I mean, I could, I could guess, but it would just be a guess. And it wasn't

 

Yoni Mazor 40:37

The Approximate is okay. Ballpark, it wasn't in the 80s I'm sure. So.

 

Jay Lagarde 40:41

I mean, it's, you know, early 2010-11-12. I mean, that was part of that, you know, thing going on that but, and so, we really did, we ended up, you know, revamp, you know, we changed our tool, we allowed more feed, we allowed more emails to be sent. We did send cautionary... You know, we provide cautionary things. But at that point, the market was, everybody was saying, you got to spend a lot of emails. And so it was kind of a, it was kind of an expected move. At a certain point, Amazon said, you know, this is not necessarily exactly the right customer experience. And, you know, we agree with that. And another thing that happened is we also pioneered the notion of opt-out. And so one of the things we did, almost from very early on, we had an opt-out link at the bottom of all our emails. So we had a massive, global list of people that we're opting out of, we had developed a lot of technology to serve that. Well, understandably, we were surprised Amazon hadn't done it. Amazon came in, they did their own opt-out, they said, Please don't do that anymore. So we turned ours off. And theirs took over. 

 

Yoni Mazor 41:50

This is around three, four years ago, I remember when consumers were able to opt-out of getting emails.

 

Jay Lagarde 41:55

Yeah at least four years, I would think. They did the opt-out and, and then they gradually started saying, you know, at a certain point, they recognized that there are a lot of emails going out. And then they started saying, No, you can't send that many emails, you can send one email, maybe two emails, or one per purpose. And, you know, I think a lot of people got that message, but not everybody. And then, of course, they, you know, now they've come in with their own template that they recommend, they don't require, you know, it says some validity, I mean, Amazon was going through a period where they were enforcing and,  and limiting or throttling the emails that could be sent or temporarily turning them off. And that, I think those days are, is hopefully, largely over. And what they've done is they've given people a template that automatically passes muster with all the rules, I mean, we still have lots and lots of customers that are sending their own personal brand and messaging. And we think some customers really like that, when it's done well, they appreciate seeing the personal logo, but on the other hand, you have to deal with the reality of the market and what Amazon's expectations are, and so you have to have that balance between, you know, the personalization that Amazon really does appreciate, and combine that with making sure you're delivering a consistently high-level customer experience. And so, you know, you got to get that balance. And Amazon themselves is trying to get that balance when they set their policies. And you know, the interesting thing is that you know, people think Amazon doesn't want you to connect with your customers. And they want to disconnect you from your customers. But I am of a different opinion. And I've had conversations with high-level folks in Amazon about this, including I wrote an article a few years back in Entrepreneur magazine about this, and the guy who's the lead PR person called me a couple of days later, and I thought, Oh, I'm in trouble, they’re after me for what I wrote. And I really was concerned when I got this message to call this person back and so I called him back. Eric is his name, and he said, I just want to tell you, I really liked your article. And I said, Well, okay, that's good that I can

 

Yoni Mazor 44:20

Get started. Yeah, that's good.

 

Jay Lagarde 44:23

He said, he said, he said, I know this is counterintuitive. Most people think we don't...we're trying to keep you from engaging, keep customers or keep sellers from engaging with their customers. He said it's really just the opposite. And he said I really liked the way you wrote this. It is exactly how we think about this. And so I appreciate that because this has been our message from day one with Feedback Five, and I don't think that messages change at all. I think that Amazon does want to have that personal connection because they know that that is a real value. That buyers on Amazon appreciate and they also incentivize the seller to take care of the customer, your this is your customer and you're accountable. So Amazon has to walk this line between, you know, the personalization, but let's not let it get too personal that you're buying off of Amazon. We want to be personalized on Amazon. And so that's their... Yeah, if you are Amazon, that's what you would do. And

 

Yoni Mazor 45:20

It’s imbalanced to deal with. Because, you know, the early days were a couple of 1000 sellers, 10s of 1000s. Now, it's millions, over 2 million sellers worldwide. You got to create a standard, rigid standard there. Where it says the guidelines and rules where, you know, makes sense to all the parties involved. The consumer, the seller, Amazon...

 

Jay Lagarde 45:38

Yeah, that's exactly right. You got so many people, and you're gonna have people that are pushing the envelope that, you know, the so-called bad apples, it's just going to happen. And so and so they need to walk a fine line between that and….

 

Yoni Mazor 45:52

Narrow the lanes. Narrow the lanes, you narrow their confusion, you know, yeah, then you create some sort of uniform effect where for somebody they think it's out there trying to distance. Some say, Oh, it's too many requirements. We don't even want to deal with the customer. Yeah, as you have the spectrum, right. So I guess they're trying to create a middle lane. Nice, very nice. So I, you know, I appreciate all those, that nuanced story with Amazon reaching out with their press release manager. But okay, so let's touch where we are right now at this point for you guys. So, you know, eCom Pro, it's a suite of tools, right? We have Feedback Five for feedback, we got Restock Pro, for inventory management. There's... what am I, what else am I missing at this point?

 

46:30

We got Smart Price.

 

Yoni Mazor 46:31

Smart Price helps with re-pricing. And?

Jay Lagarde 46:34

And we've also got Market Scout. And it's not our most well-known tool, but it is some people, some people really get a lot of value out of it. It's a research or intelligence market intelligence tool that allows for high volume evaluation of items on the Amazon Marketplace and calculates profit thresholds and things of that sort. So

 

Yoni Mazor 46:57

Got it. So...

 

Jay Lagarde 46:58

And sales, you know, sales rank and provides. It provides high volume market intelligence, there are a lot of tools out there that will let you do it one off, we'll let you do it for 50,000 or 100,000 items.

 

Yoni Mazor 47:11

You can do it at scale. Got it. Beautiful. So this is there you have it, folks. So eComms Pro got the four tracks lined up. You know, Jay, thank you so much for sharing that story. So far, it's been an incredible ride, lots of...few components that I take from this is the focus on what matters and what really the good and ethical thing will be to do because especially dealing with feedback, you can bet it could get very, very derailed very quickly. But you guys maintained very, very interesting integrity throughout the process. And then the attention and focus to making good things work and work long term, you know, being in this ecosystem for over a decade, or it seems like 13-14 years, is incredible, because I always say this day in e-commerce in this hyperdynamic, super hyperdynamic industry is like 10 years of conventional industry. So for you guys to be there for 13-14 years or more is incredible. It's I I really salute you guys for this ability to survive this terrain and do this success successfully with integrity. So thank you for everything so far with the story, we're gonna sign off and turn off close this episode. I wish we do have more time, but we have to call the company closing with two components. The first one will be if somebody wants to reach out to you and find you or learn more about you, where they can reach you. And the last thing, the last thing will be what is your message of hope and inspiration for entrepreneurs listening out there?

 

Jay Lagarde 48:33

Yeah, that's good, nice questions. So contact me, easy, go to LinkedIn or just reach out to eComEngine, just call our number or write in, they'll put you in touch. So and then the second thing is, you know, hope and inspiration, wow, we've just gone through or we're still going through a real, real international crisis with COVID. And this really is a time when entrepreneurship is important, so you got just a number of things going on with the increasing importance of the internet, especially internet entrepreneurs, increasing importance of the internet, people staying at home more. And in all that all those tensions that have occurred in the international economy. It really is a time that just amazing stories about entrepreneurial action that took place to help us in the United States and all over the world mitigate some of the issues that had come up and I think that's just a story of where entrepreneurs deliver value. But I think the story goes on and on all the time. Entrepreneurs you know, can drive a lot of value. And so what's the message of hope or what's the advice? You know, as an entrepreneur, especially when you are in an incredibly fast-paced, dynamic market, just like you alluded to on Amazon, you get 10 years done in one year and you need to buckle up and get ready. And so you come in don't expect to do next year exactly what you did the previous year. It's a dynamic market, which is on the one hand, it can be kind of challenging and, but it's also exhilarating because there's always new opportunity emerging. It's not something that's handed to you on a silver platter, but there is a lot of opportunities. And, and so, you know, be hopeful, keep up the hope. And, you know, Amazon's a great place. But look, a few steps ahead, think out a few years if you're in this for the long term. Think about the long term, think the long term is my advice in my own company. And everybody that we serve, I would say think long term and that may mean multichannel, it may mean something else. But you got to think outside the box of where you're making your money today and think how are you going to make it tomorrow?

 

Yoni Mazor 50:54

Beautiful.

 

Jay Lagarde 50:55

Stay alive. So I really enjoyed the talk.

 

Yoni Mazor 50:57

Yeah, sure. Thanks. So just to summarize, your message of hope or inspiration, there's a time of crisis, nevertheless, is opportunity. Be prepared to work hard, things will constantly change. But think long term, and you'll find long term success, and hopefully, it's gonna be exhilarating beautiful stuff. Jay, thank you so much again, it's been a pleasure wishing you many, many more years of success and also health. Anybody that survived so far. Thank you for staying with us. Until next time, take care.

 

Jay Lagarde 51:23

Cool. Thank you.  Appreciate it!

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