Setting up the Foundations of your Amazon Brand | Kyle Walker | Foundry Brands

Episode Summary

In this Prime Talk Podcast Sponsored by GETIDA – Kyle Walker CAO - Chief Acquisition Officer of Foundry Brands - Foundry Brands are operators that have launched, scaled, and successfully exited brands that generated over $2B in revenue – they are now using their experience, industry expertise and technology platform to acquire, build and grow enduring brands, also more information about Kyle's life journey. #KyleWalker #FoundryBrands

About Kyle Walker of Foundry Brands - Kyle is an experienced digital brand builder and ex-Amazonian that created and helped launch over 10K digital businesses on Amazon, founded three global multi-billion-dollar Amazon programs, and helped inform many of the Amazon tools and technology brand owners use today. Kyle lives in Sammamish, WA, with his wife and two sports-obsessed boys. He loves golf and played Division 1 baseball.

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

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

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

Kyle Walker 0:41  
Alright, well, I appreciate being here. You know, let's try and gloss over the boring parts here. But uh, you know, grew up here in the Pacific Northwest in Oregon,

Kyle Walker 0:53  
I played a lot of sports growing up, including baseball, which is what took me to college started at the University of Portland play in Division One baseball, ended up transferring back to the University of Oklahoma. Baseball is something that's, you know, still a part of my life now that I have a NINE and a six-year-old son.

Yoni Mazor 1:14  
So hold on, hold on, and let me understand this. So your baseball game? It will get you a full scholarship they pay for the entire university and college for you.

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

Yoni Mazor 1:48  
When went to Oklahoma, that's was the first time you were out of state outside of Portland, Portland.

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

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

Kyle Walker 2:22  
So I was a marketing undergraduate. You know, I had red-shirted a year in baseball. So I went straight through to grad school. And probably one of the best pieces of advice I got, as I was talking to some of my professors and my dean when I was doing that, they said,

Kyle Walker 2:39  
You know, I don't think it's a bad idea to continue and get your MBA right after finishing your undergrad. However, you should try and get out there and get as much experience as you can, because it'll make your MBA kind of you know, sing, and right. So you don't learn in most MBA programs, you're not going to learn anything that you probably didn't learn in undergrad, you're going to apply it and you're going to apply a lot of those learning to kind of analyzing and, and strategy questions with business. So having a little bit of background. So I had interned with the Portland Trailblazers in their sponsorship group.

Kyle Walker 3:20  
I didn't turn with the local speaking services company like an agency that managed a lot of high profile speakers

Kyle Walker 3:28  
Tried to get as much experience as I could. And

Yoni Mazor 3:31  
So let me understand this when you entered by in the trailblazer, you know, for marketing, you're you need to help market the NBA basketball team.

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

Kyle Walker 4:09  
First or second in terms of total sponsorship revenue. Just because you had

Yoni Mazor 4:14  
In the NBA?

Kyle Walker 4:15  

Yoni Mazor 4:16  
 Wow. I didn't realize that.

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

Yoni Mazor 4:29  
 There is a time of Clyde Drexler if I'm not mistaken, Or Not

Kyle Walker 4:33  
A little bit post-Clyde Drexler more than Scottie Pippen Steve Smith, when they brought in went to the Western Conference Finals and lost to the Lakers with Kobe and Shaq, but you know, it was a fun team. It was a fun time and it was great to learn the experience of really what those larger brains were hoping to accomplish with sponsorship through the team and help them execute on that.

Kyle Walker 5:01  
You know, after that finished up baseball, my former Dean, who was in class one day, and he goes, I need help. I'll team of mice, you got to come to help me.

Kyle Walker 5:14  
 And, you know, we ended up becoming good friends both through, you know, coaching the team last summer, and he ended up taking a job at the University of South Florida. So my very first job out of college was teaching management negotiations to, you know, junior and senior level students at the University of South Florida, which was a blast.

Kyle Walker 5:37  
And I think he had dreams that I was going to go on and get a PhD. and stay in the academic world, and, you know, nothing against it. It was an amazing, you know, four or five years of experience, and something that I'm super grateful for, but at the end of the day, I just enjoy kind of the action and moving a little bit quicker than maybe academics does.

Yoni Mazor 5:58  
Right, the craziness and agility of the private market or the business market, but Okay, so your first job after college was in South Florida, I said,

Kyle Walker 6:07  
Yeah, yeah.

Yoni Mazor 6:08  
And why was that? Let's start stamping this with your so we get some chronology here.

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

Yoni Mazor 6:22  
So about four years, that's pretty serious. But this is after you got your undergrad. I mean, your masters, right. Correct?

Kyle Walker 6:29  

Yoni Mazor 6:29  
Are you gonna hit Florida for years? 203 to 207? Yeah, we're saying,

Kyle Walker 6:34  
 Yeah, I finished at the University of Portland, moved back home, but took a lot of my initial classes at Oklahoma,

Kyle Walker 6:42  
And then moved to the Tampa St. Pete area, it was a blast. That's where my wife and I got married.

Yoni Mazor 6:51  
Set up just for the people here not from Florida, St. Petersburg, I would assume.

Yoni Mazor 6:55  
Yeah. So I moved to Tampa in February, I believe it's somewhere on the West Coast. West Coast, right in Mexico or the Gulf of Mexico area.

Kyle Walker 7:04  
Yep. Called the Gulf side for sure. Of offset

Yoni Mazor 7:07  
And you met your wife were in the school work community.

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

Yoni Mazor 7:45  
 Let me get this straight. Let me get this straight, you relocated to Florida. Fashion and golf started to do some work with Nike, which is based out of Beaverton, back in your hometown of Portland area. But that pushed into Pennsylvania at of all places.

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

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

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

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

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

Yoni Mazor 9:36  
And that was your work for Dick's Sporting Goods. So you shifted away from Nike and to the retailing side of things?

Kyle Walker 9:41  
I did. I did.

Yoni Mazor 9:42  
Okay, but I want to step back a little bit. Just understand the world of golf. As far as I know, today. Nikes out of golf are still there.

Kyle Walker 9:47  
They're still in golf in terms of apparel and accessories. They're out of golf in terms of equipment.

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

Kyle Walker 10:15  
Yeah, it's a fairly interesting story. So it's like Tiger Woods kind of comes on the scene, there's a bunch of net new golfers that take up the sport. And so for a period leading up to that recession, you know, more golfers are being added to the sport than at any other time in history. And so you almost can't be successful in golf for some time. And you see a bunch of golf courses being built, you see a lot of kind of corporate entities buying big chunks of real estate in the golf world.

Kyle Walker 10:49  
And so there was a lot of transition, but there was still a lot of growth. And, you know, my job was, in kind of, if you take a step back 1015 years, most golf courses, the local pro owns the pro shop. And so you were, you would travel around, and obviously, you were trying to get Nike and presence in those pro shops. But you were also, you know, in a lot of ways acting as their merchant, right, like letting them know, when there were deals, letting them you know, kind of fixing how they merchandise product and on their shelves, you know, fighting for shelf space, all of those things.

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

Kyle Walker 11:37  
Yeah, it was the best way to get your product in front of customers was just to make sure that you had a presence in those golf shots. And so we would always have goals around the kind of what we call door account and penetration within those doors. And so you wanted to have some product in the door, and then you tried to grow that presence of a product that you had within the store.

Kyle Walker 11:59  
In around 2000, maybe 567 It starts to shift to there's so much golf construction going on, you end up having more of a corporate presence. And so the local pro didn't necessarily own the store anymore, the corporation did. And so

Kyle Walker 12:17  
You would have a lot of larger strategic relationships. And then, you know, I managed the Dick's Sporting Goods and Golf Galaxy account, along with some colleagues,

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

Kyle Walker 12:40  
Yeah, so because it's kind of famous for having what they call their store within a store concept. And so if you walk into a Dick's Sporting Goods in their retail environment, you typically have very clear lines between sections in the store. Like it's not just a one big free for all it's like you have your golf section, in some cases, it's even a little bit closed off. And you know, it has a different set of kind of in-store signage, it has its unique kind of set up.

Yoni Mazor 13:12  
 Probably ambiance also, right?

Kyle Walker 13:14  
Yeah, the ambiance you'll usually have things like you know, a little putting green to trial putters, and, you know, then you'll walk over to the running section. And you may have, you know, a completely different look and feel because you're talking about merchandising apparel at that point or shoes. So, you know, it's an interesting experience to learn how, you know, a brand like Nike builds their presence through, you know, the way that they're kind of participating in that store environment, right, who you're next to, what shelf space is the most valuable, you know, all of those things.

Kyle Walker 13:49  
And so, you know, really,

Kyle Walker 13:53  
You know, moving inside to Dick's Sporting Goods it was a lot of the same thing. It's just on a much bigger scale instead of having this little pro shop that sits on it on a golf course and you're worried about merchandising it you're now worried about merchandising your presence within a whole store

Yoni Mazor 14:10  
Right, so this all you move into the sporting goods with 2009?

Kyle Walker 14:15  
Yeah, 2010 2011 I forget

Yoni Mazor 14:18  
2010 2011 and you're in charge of golfing or everything was there,

Kyle Walker 14:23  
Usually, small categories within so I started in equipment and then move to like balls, bags, travel stuff.

Kyle Walker 14:32  
And so did that for a while ended up leaving to move over to, really got passionate about the E-commerce space. So as part of my role at Dick's.

Kyle Walker 14:45  
You know, I'd be in charge of kind of our E-commerce presence for our category and got to work with the column team quite a bit and just kind of realize that's where I wanted to spend my time ended up finding a role at

Yoni Mazor 14:57  
And what was that

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

Yoni Mazor 15:05  
So you've been with the exporting for a year or two right? And then you shifted to GNC also on Pennsylvania or

Kyle Walker 15:13  
Correct. Everything's

Yoni Mazor 15:14  
Where they base that just for this for different physical, Okay, so within the zone, got it so are you passionate also nutrition stuff like that or this is more like a professional thing for you, you know, focusing on other category but was still within retail.

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

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

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

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

Kyle Walker 16:13  
No, it was a growing industry and, and GNC had done, you know, some really good things at the time developing their private label products. And so they were able to kind of continue to take market share and take it at a higher margin. And so, it was fun to watch the growth, but again, GNC was kind of late to the ecommerce game. And so a lot of the things that we were doing, you know, seemed at the time even to be a little bit slower, slower pace to get done, but I was in charge of E-commerce operations. So I was kind of the connective tissue between our marketing and merchandising team, our in-store team, you know, our visual merchandising team on the website.

Kyle Walker 16:58  
And then all the operation or customer experience, things that we were doing, whether it was customer service, or whether it was upgraded to the website. And just really enjoyed that work. Enjoyed this.

Yoni Mazor 17:13  
I want to touch another, I realized that you did so much detail, I didn't realize all that I want to touch a few points of the scale. So with Dick's Sporting Goods, how many stores were you're in charge of, or what was there a footprint in terms of actual locations? As you remember back in the day?

Kyle Walker 17:28  
Oh, gosh,

Yoni Mazor 17:29  
Doesn’t a few 100,000 you can approximate.

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

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

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

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

Yoni Mazor 18:10  
Yeah, it was a pretty massive number, but GNC was unique in the sense that they also had a franchise model. And so they realized

Yoni Mazor 18:20  
Got so all in with corporate and franchise as far as remember, what was it? 2010 10s of 1000s I think maybe even global right? Yeah, some overseas?

Kyle Walker 18:28  
Yeah, it was global. I honestly don't recall the number. But if I had to guess, you know, several 1000 At least four or 5000 probably got it.

Yoni Mazor 18:39  
Okay. And, uh, alright, so GNC that was, you know, further growth experience for the for you, I guess. And then was your next station then?

Kyle Walker 18:47  
Yeah. And then, you know, had the opportunity had we had our oldest son, he was about a year at the time, and we came home for that first Christmas. And my wife and I talked about getting back to the northwest at some point and, you know, he was a year old and start to walk in and talking and being around grandparents was like, maybe our five-year plan should be a, you know, two years plan to get back sooner. And, you know, just happened. One of my good, good friends. His wife worked at Amazon at the time and,

Kyle Walker 19:18  
You know, just reached out to him to check in and he was like, hey, you should send me your resume. My wife works at Amazon. And I think from the moment that that happened, and so we moved here. Back to the northwest was about three and a half weeks. It happened fast.

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

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

Yoni Mazor 19:48  
 He said about a year with GNC a year or two ago.

Kyle Walker 19:51  
Yeah. Yeah.

Yoni Mazor 19:52  
Okay, so I was enrolled in like a storm and two and three weeks and this was a 213 I think there was an explosive year Amazon as far as I can see from all the guests come to the show on the selling side. And also on the working on Amazon side, it was just, you know, the master has awakened and okay, what was your responsibility? What was your trajectory there?

Kyle Walker 20:10  
So I was on the marketplace side, and we just launched what we call the US business, which was, you know if you think about what eBay, you know, they would sell a lot of refurbished and high quality refurbished products and, and some useful products. And you could always do that on Amazon, you know if you happen to get two iPads for a Christmas gift you can go on as an individual kind of sell them. But what we saw was that there was an opportunity to professionalize that selling space, right alongside all the rest of the marketplace. And so, I was brought in as an account manager,

Kyle Walker 20:45  
You know, really, as opposed to other places where, you know, maybe at GNC, we had an account manager for our payment processing, or the back end of our website, you know, they typically would kind of occasionally participate in some kind of marketing and promotion. But for the most part, you know, like triage, it was like, Hey, we're having an issue with this, or hey, can we get a report on this and things like that, at Amazon, it was made very clear that my job as an account manager was really to learn from our businesses that we were that were using our marketplace, and try and find ways to bring that voice back to our tech team so that we could continue to scale. So it was like, you know, I, I get to know these be specific accounts. Sometimes I go visit them in person, you know, I get to know their operations. And I find out what their pain points were like, what would what could we possibly unlock that would add value to what they were doing and let them go faster. And then it was my job to kind of take that, translate it and bring it back to our tech team.

Yoni Mazor 21:53  
I love that. I love this. Because as a former Amazon seller, I love that I didn't realize that that's so much depth into this. So I take us a few, I guess examples of, you know, some of this experience, you know, you connect with Amazon sellers, third-party sellers on the platform, getting some insights of things that were valuable, taken back to Amazon, and hopefully Amazon took some action on it to make the marketplace even more robust. So if anything comes to mind, though, we're happy to, you know, kind of pick your brain on this. And

Kyle Walker 22:21  
Yeah, have a great story. So I started, I started in around July, around November, December, you know, one of my colleagues and I talked about going to see us for the first time. And so I reached out to the source

Yoni Mazor 22:38  
Electronics show in Vegas, usually in January, February beginning.

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

Yoni Mazor 23:34  
Oh, well, they missed out. I was sorry. Sorry. Remember,

Kyle Walker 23:36  
 I'm actually in New Jersey somewhere far from north or south? Or that? Okay.

Yoni Mazor 23:44  
So you want to try a jersey? Nice.

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

Kyle Walker 23:51  
And so, you know, they're their basic feeling was, look, these products should be marketed in a way that, you know, appeals to consumers, like there's no, there's nothing wrong with something that's certified refurbished. And, a lot of times, it's brand new, it's just a closeout from a big brand that, you know, doesn't want to compete with kind of their new line of product. And so we knew that it was a high-quality product that customers could benefit from seeing. And so we thought about it, I took that back home and thought about the merchandising program. And one of the challenges that we had is obviously on Amazon is you know, you share a detail page. And so, you know, those use products tended to get pushed down to

Kyle Walker 24:36  
Well, you know, a different kind of experience on a different page away from kind of the main core Buy Box. And so, during that time, probably from that conversation, several things emerged one was we had to use Buy Box for some time so you could, you could choose to buy something new you can choose to buy it, use it

Kyle Walker 25:00  
And then probably the biggest thing that came from that conversation was just thinking, hey, you know what, what this need is its separate kind of experience like a certified refurbished, say iPad is different than a brand new iPad, and they both might be valuable to a customer. So how do we show them that experience without disrupting the normal, you know, shopping experience? So we ended up piloting a program several months later that we at the time called the certified refurbished program, which has now become the Amazon renewed program and is a big global program. And it was born out of that conversation in Las Vegas because we partnered up with several really good kinds of refurbishes we tried to stock you know, the selection that we knew was going to be the most valuable to customers to save, save money and the highest quality. And so we partnered with a handful of really high-quality vendors made it a high bar to participate in the program because we, we knew that you know, this program only works if the customer experience is great. And you know, several weeks into it, I remember looking at the data and we were like, Oh my gosh, like this is becoming a huge program and we've only got about 100 products right now imagine the size if we open this up to everything that everybody wants to buy from a refurbished standpoint and so to scale it you had a different set of problems like you couldn't just go visit every single person you were going to let into the program you had to have kind of standards and you had to figure out how you're going to monitor that

Kyle Walker 26:42  
You also had to figure out a way because so much selection moves through these warehouses you had to figure out how to tell them what to prioritize and so we essentially built systems to do both of those things and Amazon renewed has continued to be you know a huge program

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

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

Yoni Mazor 27:15  
Guys so within a year or two to you know the inception already put this up for the success they want to you know, be more bullish about it they redouble re-branded and put out there and I guess expanded in its category capacity or they mostly stay in the electronics domain.

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

Yoni Mazor 27:56  
What about the watches as far as your member watches?

Kyle Walker 27:59  
We didn't participate as much in jewelry. You know, jewelry was kind of its little interesting category at the time.

Kyle Walker 28:08  
But, you know, certainly tried to Expand Selection across, you know, every category that made sense, right.

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

Kyle Walker 28:50  
Well, just to tie that up, you know, one of the coolest things about that program was, you know, a year or so into doing it, you know, a lot of the early participants were growing like crazy, because they, you know, they had seen this idea come to life that was probably overdue, they had a lot of ownership because we had done it with them. And I remember, one group, in particular, sent me a thank you video at the end of the year. And, you know, this video came from all of their employees saying, you know, how much of a difference that made and, you know, both the stability of their job, you know, the feelings of their job and the quality that, you know, they sought to, to inspire and, you know, you think about the size profile, just that decision for a small business, you know, it might have expanded their team from 2530 people to 60 7080 people that we're now proud to have jobs and, and working for this company. And so I think it is taught me a valuable lesson of look.

Kyle Walker 29:53  
Amazon isn't I think Amazon had generally had the right intentions for doing

Kyle Walker 30:00  
But communicating those things outward to, to those that are affected by your decision was always something that, you know, I took a lot of pride in myself was trying to explain the context of a decision because it's one thing for us to make a policy update when we were editing the sun, it's a whole nether thing to have that policy update have implications for, you know, a company that has real people in real jobs and, and has to make decisions in that environment. So, you know, it's probably one of the most moving things I've ever seen, because, you know, I had tears in my eyes thinking like, hey, there's, there's 50 have a job because we did, because we did our job. Like we took that seller's voice and created a program.

Yoni Mazor 30:42  
So very, very powerful. Yeah, you touch this is a huge nerve point for the third-party sellers, you know, back in 2013, it's probably maybe a couple 100,000. Today, worldwide, there's more than 6 million, that's million, 6 million businesses, each one, as a few employees or more, that's 10s of millions of people and you know, their livelihood is online. And your program made an impact. You were able to experience firsthand, their emotions, which is very touching, but you never know, the spiral effect and how much more you affected that particular part into that. That's very cool.

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

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

Kyle Walker 32:01  
Yeah. So around that, around that same time that we were building up renewed, we also started noticing that, you know, previously, there just been a bunch of, you know, kind of reseller businesses. So resellers mean people that bought and sold other people's consumer branded products.

Kyle Walker 32:18  
And Amazon was set up well, for that, you have one detail page, and, and people competed to try and win the Buy Box based on a set of, you know, criteria, and, and it worked well. And then you had people starting to private label and create their brands. And apart from that, externally, you started seeing like a million dollar, Kickstarter, Indiegogo campaign almost every week, you started seeing these brands, you know, emerge in social media, right? Like you'd see this brand that made some product that you needed that, you know, just pops up on Facebook, or, or whatever.

Kyle Walker 32:57  
And so, as we do at Amazon, I wrote a document and said, hey, we should probably get out in front of this and figure out how we can make the marketplace a friendlier place for brand owners. And, you know, I had great leadership that was super supportive. And they said, go figure it out, like, what does it look like? And so I reached out to about 30 brand owners at the time that was already successful on the platform. And I said, what is it that we can do to help you guys grow? Similar, similar story to renewed, right, like, the same model? What is it that we can unlock that helps you go faster?

Yoni Mazor 33:38  
And a lot of them all shared the same basic four things like they wanted opportunities to have new products discovered, they wanted ways to benefit from Merchandising programs, they wanted enhanced brand protection, and they wanted to be able to present their brand in a way that kind of differentiated their brand from all the others that were out there. And in 2015, late 2014, early 2015, Amazon Marketplace wasn't the friendliest place like you can, you can make the argument that we still had, you know, the Amazon still has a ways to go but compared to what it was in 14 and 15.

Yoni Mazor 34:16  
It was like a battlefield. For the brands, it's like you might, you know, take some success, but everything's kind of open and not set up properly. So you can take, take a hit on all fronts, it could be IP infringement, and somebody stealing your listing and as I said, no brand, you know, security or protection. So these installments, I guess you were part of the environment of sending those in place and making it a more refined place for the restaurant.

Kyle Walker 34:42  
Yeah, and the biggest fundamental problem that we faced was we would get to know me or my team would get to know these brains and you'd say what, what makes you different. And they, you know, these founders will tell you these amazing stories of why their product was better. It was the materials that they sourced it was their quality.

Kyle Walker 35:00  
Audios, their customer service all of these things. And then you realized on an Amazon detail page, there was no way for a customer to get that information. So like, we noticed that there was this difference between we'd get to know a founder, and we'd follow their business, and then we'd see their presence on Amazon. But the customer doesn't get that same feeling. So how do we, how do we give the customer all of that information, and that's around the time that you started seeing enhanced brand content and eight-plus listings, you know, open some marketplace, sellers, you started seeing a different set of advertising tools available to sellers, like, you know, brain stores, you started seeing brand registry change pretty dramatically from the first version.

Kyle Walker 35:45  
And then we launched a program called the Amazon exclusives, which, you know, also became a big global program ended up merging with Amazon launch pad, which was created around the same time on the vendor side. And now both of them operate really, on the seller side as a marketplace for

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

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

Yoni Mazor 37:01  
A few more elements. As far as I remember. Me, correct me if I'm wrong. So with that, when you do Amazon Launchpad exclusives,

Yoni Mazor 37:08  
There’s like a honeymoon period, maybe like a year that you got to sign off on. And then America, Amazon, basically kind of helps you by putting you in placements within, you know, the marketplace and the website, where you get more exposure. And it could be also an email blast, they might do and feature your products in and get through those channels in general marketing channels that Amazon has to feature you and your brand. And so you get more exposure, hopefully, launch yourself in a more meaningful way. But because of that, you also take a few more percentage points on the selling fees. Right. I think it was at 5%.

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

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

Kyle Walker 38:13  
Yeah, so probably my, I mean, apart from, apart from a little time that I spent working with the Alexa team and doing some deals, you know, to help promote kind of how you use the Alexa in your home, which was a short, short period, the rest of my Amazon career was spent in them & a space. So one of the questions that we had coming out of launchpad and exclusives was, you know, there's just we started to develop a blueprint of what, you know, you could look at a brand and me and my team wasn't unique to me, but my team to go, this brand just looks different. I know they're going to be around I know they're going to be successful.

Kyle Walker 38:55  
In it was because of a lot of the attributes that we'd seen time with 10,000 brands coming through the program, he started to develop kind of this innate sense for what are the data points that are going to lead to success.

Kyle Walker 39:09  
And surprisingly, you know, it's not always just I have a great product, it's that I have this system for developing great products, I have a system for connecting that to customers and growing awareness. And I'm continually able to kind of acquire new customers in the process, right.

Kyle Walker 39:28  
And so we would start recognizing those attributes. And when we saw that somebody was different. We only had one specific program, which was Launchpad at the time, which I helped convert to a seller program. And we said, Well, how do we do this differently? Like, if we do notice that a brand is different and we think we can accelerate that brand? What would we do differently and it came down to we would provide more support through both you know advertising opportunities, maybe would give them some kind of premium service or. And to do that, you have to figure out how to change kind of the monetization to, right. And so I spend a lot of time learning from our corporate development team. And we would go out and work with some consumer brands and exchange services for warrants. So if the company, you know, ends up taking off, and it's because of some of the services that we provided, we would all have benchmarks to do this contractually. Then, at some point, if that brand achieves some certain level, then we all kind of win together. Right. And so that was kind of a perfect last experience to have, you know, in terms of what became the beginnings of Foundry was, how do you identify those brands that you can see being around that are decade durable? And how do you kind of throw additional accelerants on what they're already doing and build on that foundation? Because the reality is, if you've seen it 10,000 times, you're just going to be more prepared for what needs to be done. Right? Yeah,

Yoni Mazor 41:15
It is almost like second nature for you at this point, but let me understand the elements within Amazon before we jump into the foundry. Sure, I think now we finally understand the name foundry. Thank you for that. So okay, so these brands are you are, you know, you're able to do you and your team and all the metrics, you can see that these guys, you know, these brands are doable, they're growing, what is that? What are these warrants are? I mean, what does that mean, a partnership between Amazon and the brands, or Amazon takes over these brands? What what's, because you mentioned, you're on them & aside, right within Amazon. So how does that manifest in terms of merging or acquiring a brand?

Kyle Walker 41:47
So who knows if any of these will ever come to fruition, but we, you know, had a set of agreements that, that essentially said, Look, you know, if we're providing you all of this service, like, maybe we're giving you 10 $12 million, with the free advertising over the next 12 months, and you end up building this big, huge brand, and you end up accepting, you know, a certain percentage of that, like, you can repay what we gave upfront at that time. So it was kind of a win scenario, it's like, for most startups that are cash strapped, right, you don't have to give up 10 $12 million in advertising at the time, you can take this supporter, we can quantify the value and then at some point that you exit, will have the chance back because, at the end of the day, you know,

Yoni Mazor 42:37
Let me just understand the mathematics if I may. So for example, we're taking the 12 million dollars worth of ad spend that Amazon allocates, provides free of charge for that brand. So they can grow and propel on and there's a liquidity event, this brand gets maybe acquired by another company, then you take the 12 million back or you take 12 million-plus another because that's your advertising spend that you have your margin on it, as you know, being Amazon, but there was something in addition to that, or that was the main focus here.

Kyle Walker 43:04
Agreements are unique and, and most of them are confidential. So without getting too deep into Yeah, another

Yoni Mazor 43:10
Specific example. Just the ambition for Amazon was just to, I guess, boost their advertising spend by so they're just finding it. And then hopefully, there's eventually

Kyle Walker 43:18
Yeah, you're essentially buying options into the company through an exchange of services. Right? So if that company ends up benefiting, sure, like, and they end up exiting, you know, those options have tangible real value. And, you know, your cost was, you know, obviously an opportunity cost of advertising space that you could have sold. But at the end of the day, we're kind of betting together we're saying hey, we want to be close to you figure out ways to help you continue to grow, and then it's in our best interest if everybody grows in wins together.

Yoni Mazor 43:56
Got in law, so cool. I never realized that thank you for that insight. It's a very interesting installment on the Amazon site. Okay, take us to the next station which I believe is foundry so tickets to the year the time or, you know, the evolution there what happened?

Kyle Walker 44:08
Yeah, it's a year ago, April, had a conversation with an old Amazon colleague of mine and we ended up having a conversation about the aggregation space and we started talking

Yoni Mazor 44:20
About Hey, Stephanie,

Kyle Walker 44:22
I am

Yoni Mazor 44:22
Yeah, okay. You can check out his episode, but yeah, two guys, both from Amazon different tracks. So Stephen reached out now we have nice closure. So reach out what happened? Yeah.

Kyle Walker 44:33
So, you know, Stephen and I are just having a casual conversation. We've always been close. He was a big mentor of mine at Amazon and we worked on a lot of cool stuff together. You know, he was part of the leadership that gave us the approval to grow renewed, he had, you know, a hand and inspect team and in helping to grow exclusives. You know, so we always had a good time working together and doing a lot of cool stuff. And we started talking about the aggregate Speights and, you know it came down to, you know, look, Stephen helped to build a marketplace. Like he did things like developing algorithms to help brands. And I'd had some exposure in m & a with Amazon brands, and my team has launched 10,000 brands, and we're like, couldn't, couldn't we do this a little different than, than what's out there. And it, it came down to one fundamental belief, which was, you know, in any type of aggregation or rolls up model, which, you know, typically you buy things, you buy assets, and you hold them for some time, there is no hold with a digital business, it's a, it's a living entity, it's either growing or it's dying.

Kyle Walker 45:48
And so, you know, to us, it seemed like you would approach this problem from the standpoint of trying to make sure that you have the operational capabilities to impact a brand positively, you know, with, we don't want to go out and just buy brands to buy brands, we want to buy brands that we can see being around in 10 years. And we want to have the operational capability to get them there. So that we can build on the foundation that the founder laid, which, you know, gets into our name foundry, right? Like, it is really about the founder.

Kyle Walker 46:22
And so, as we started having conversations throughout the summer, kind of assessing where people were at, you know, we felt like there was an opportunity to still join this space and do it in a way that we thought was, you know, parallel to what we had done in the marketplace, which is use data and technology, scale and automate, acquire the right brands that you know, are going to be around or have a chance to be around in a decade. And we could put in the process all of those things and be different than what's currently out there. And so we undertook the process of going out to raise equity funding, and, and as of this March, so about 11 months after the initial email and idea, you know, wrapped up our funding with two amazing equity sponsors, and, you know, secured $100 million of equity to go do this. And, you know, things have been moving fast and furious since then hiring our CEO, Helen, who's incredible. Adding to the leadership team, you know, you have tier one operators that are, that are focused every day on building brands, and it's really exciting to see that idea come to fruition.

Yoni Mazor 47:42
Very cool. Yeah. For me, I love seeing all the elements coming together. When building a team, you have the X Amazonians, we have their unique insights, you have the former 3/3 party sellers, you have your insights. And then you have people from you know, around corporate America with their ability to grow in to create institutional brands, where their foundations are solid, and therefore many decades to come. Alright, brilliant. So thank you for that. I want to package the episode, see if I got all the elements correctly, and then we'll kind of head to the final round. Okay, so one reason in the Oregon State of Oregon, you know, went to school, you had a little stint with Oklahoma It was mostly centered around baseball, on the sports level and tuition helping with tuition level, but also you got your education in marketing and you got your and your MBA your masters, but you kind of finished in Oregon, and you had your professor was very, very influential on you.

Yoni Mazor 48:33
And that dragged you to JD to your first job right after college in the University of Florida, the state of Florida. So you move to Florida, to the Tampa St. Petersburg area. And you worked there for you know, in the marketing department between 2003 about 2007. And then you shifted into working for Nike on the golf side of things that pushed you in 2002. Also moving to physically to Pennsylvania, all the way to about 2010 2010. You move to Dick's Sporting Goods until about 2012 And then you move to one year with GNC until you led in 2013 at Amazon and then you know very quickly within three weeks of having a friend is there, you got hired you move to the northwest, this time to the state of Washington, not too far from your home state of Oregon. And then from 2013 to 2020, You're an Amazon you mentioned he did the refers to renewed and also them & a side of things and the exclusives and Launchpad then 2020 You hit foundry big backer with your friend Steven Hani, Stephen Haney, from you know, also working with Amazon. And today the focus is growing a portfolio of brands, you know, born from ecommerce, but the brands themselves need to be you know, hopefully, evergreen or everlasting with their foundational position. So there are many for the consumers and also meaningful for you guys, as a portfolio company, that we get everything correctly so far.

Kyle Walker 50:07
Yeah, you nailed it.

Yoni Mazor 50:09
I have very well. So thank you so much for that I learned a lot. So appreciate it. And okay, so now when I finalize the episode with two points, the first will be is if somebody wants to reach out and connect, where they can find you. And the last thing would be is what is your message of hope and inspiration for entrepreneurs listening out there?

Kyle Walker 50:25
Alright, so first is the easy part. You can find us at Foundry, or you can email connect at, so encourage, you know, if you're curious about them & a space, you know, you're curious about what your brand is worth, you're curious about anything related to the brand reach out, you know, part of our job is education, m & a, and then exit from a brand that you've poured your heart and soul into, it's a big decision, and you should talk to a bunch of people and you should, you know, try and learn. So a big part of my job always is education.

Kyle Walker 51:02
So feel free to reach out, I'm happy to help and give you some quick advice and insights. As far as a message to, you know, entrepreneurs and founders, I think it's just this, it's like, look, never before has it been so easy in the history of the world to connect a great product, a great brand, with consumers, you have all of these tools available to you. And, you know, as you think about connecting the customers, you know, it's just it's changed the paradigm, you don't have to be on retail shelves in a bunch of stores to get access to customers and, and grow awareness for your brand. And, you know, I think the opportunity has never been greater to create something.

Kyle Walker 51:52
And I think at the end of the day, you know, as you think about what that can mean to you, your family, the hard work that you've put in, there's a lot of people that are well-capitalized that they're looking to say, you've built a great foundation here, let us go ahead and be stewards of your brain, let's work together to figure out how to grow your brain and take it to the next level. And I think that's what's so exciting for us is, you know, I get to sit on the opposite end of making sure that you know, that hard work. And you know, that heart and soul that was poured in your brain gets rewarded, in a lot of cases is a big sum of money and life-changing to you and your family. But we also are ourselves very much in the service model, though we're stewards of that brand. You know, we didn't create it, we're stewards of it.

Kyle Walker 52:40
So we want to make sure that, you know, we build it, but you're in charge of what that brand means. Like, we're, we're upholding your legacy. And so making sure that you have the right people, the right team, you know, we're very transparent, you get to meet a lot of people on our team during the process, and to make sure that it's the right fit. We're not trying to buy brands just to buy brands. But at the end of the day, we want to partner with the right brands that can be decade durable. And when you do that, you find these amazing collaborations to have perhaps helped that founder with the next stage of their life post-exit to help continue collaborating. You know, a lot of founders will tell you, they love their business, but they just want to get back to doing what it is that they love. Maybe that's product development. How can you leverage our team? How can we be creative to try and help you make your life easier, help you de-risk from, you know, a lot of what you've put into the business? And so be inspiring messages just look, never has the opportunity been greater to go create something on your own. And if you need a little help, or you need some advice, you know, feel free to reach out to us we see a lot every day.

Yoni Mazor 53:58
Nice, beautiful. Yeah, so this is you know, Thomas's opportunity, take advantage of it. Build it the right way be diligent, but then you know, look for the right store just to take it forward and make it even better success. Beautiful stuff. Kyle, thank you so much. I wish you and the whole foundry team much-continued success with their amazing growth story. I hope everybody enjoyed this unhealthy the next time.

Kyle Walker 54:20
Thank you