I’d like to start this post by wishing everyone a Happy New Year! We hope 2012 was as memorable for you as it was for us. I wasn’t planning on writing this post, however, as I reflected on the past year, I thought it would be a nice thing to share the earliest chapter of the HDTS journey.
The past year was an incredible experience for our company, and certainly one we will never forget. We started out the year at our then “World Headquarters” in Garden City, New York. A year ago today we welcomed Matthew Thomas to our family. Matt is now our Chief Technology Officer and one of the most remarkable people I have ever worked with.
Matt’s 2nd week, CES 2012, Las Vegas [From left to right: Matthew Thomas, Dan Sugarman, Daniel Sperling-Horowitz]
Seize the opportunity. This time last year we were hustling to build our inspection and deal management platform. Nate Werlin and Matt Marshall over at VentureBeat liked what we were building, so they graciously awarded us a scholarship to launch our company at DEMO Spring 2012 in Santa Clara. We worked our tails off to deliver a great product and a memorable presentation.
Before our trip, Dan Sugarman and I discussed our intention to avoid temptation and keep the company based in New York. We landed in California on Monday the 16th of April, and within 4 hours we had made our first 3 sales. That afternoon, somewhere between the 2nd and 3rd sales in our company’s early existence, we received an email from Kirsty Nathoo at Y Combinator inviting us to interview in person. What a bizarre day. You can imagine this auspicious start and first taste of Silicon Valley got us thinking that perhaps fate had other plans for HDTS.
Two days later, on my birthday, Dan and I delivered our presentation of Phase 1 of the HDTS Platform. A couple shots each of Captain Morgan helped settle our nerves, and thankfully so. At exactly the point in our presentation where Dan and Matt - who was patiently stationed at our client’s warehouse inspection location by JFK Airport - were to provide a product demonstration, the Internet crashed. Luckily, Dan, with nerves of steel, was able to maintain composure and salvage the demo. The response was tremendous. Attendees, including press, seemed to take a liking to our company and the unsexy real-world problem we set out to solve.
Once the whirlwind of DEMO subsided, we shifted our attention to our upcoming Y Combinator interview. This meant extending our stay in sunny SV an extra week, something neither Dan nor I could ever complain about. Having rushed our YC application and submitting just minutes before the deadline, we were shocked to receive an invitation to interview in-person in the first place.
Icing on the cake. Dan and I knew an invitation to participate in the Summer 2012 batch would be the proverbial icing on the cake. So we did our pre-interview homework, and went into our interview with PG and Trevor knowing we had absolutely nothing to lose. 10 minutes later, we walked out of the meeting unsure what to think. “Is it a bad thing that PG walked out of the room midway through the interview to make a cup of tea?” asked Dan. I remember comparing our perceived probability for admission. Dan suggested 60%, while I estimated 40%.
We walked back to Castro St. and grabbed a mid-afternoon stein of Franziskaner at SteakOut, a favorite hangout for our company. I’ll speak for myself when I say that that beer was just about the only thing capable of calming my nerves in anticipation of YC’s decision. Thankfully, PG didn’t keep us waiting long and gave us a call just after 5pm. I hardly remember what he said, we were too excited and rowdy to hear him. The flight home that night was surreal.
The next day - Bagel Breakfast Friday as it is known at HDTS - was a party at our office. Celebrating with the team is something I hope never to forget. We worked hard for that moment. All of the sacrifice and hardships of the startup life made it that much more special for us as a team. Sure, a lot of luck was involved, we’ll be the first people to point that out. Driven by a perpetual fear of complacency, the celebration was short-lived, we got right back to work the following day. Dan flew back after the weekend to plan our move.
We were officially sucked into the vortex that is Silicon Valley.
Luck is the intersection of preparation and opportunity. - Someone wise
Road tripping. We drove across the country the last week of May. Although we rushed to get to Mountain View and begin the Y Combinator program, we managed to have some fun exploring the country…
When we arrived in Mountain View, we got down to business. Within the first week, we made the very hard decision to build tablet-based inventory management software. Our mission from Day 1 has been to build the safest and most efficient platform for international trade. In order to achieve this mission, we needed to be able to provide the ultimate level of supply chain transparency. Demo Day was less than 90 days away and we had some work to do…
The dog days of summer. One of the most validating days of the summer was when I visited with the Prime Transport NY team in late July. They’ve been our partners from the start and they were the first company to begin using our tablet-based warehouse software. I sat down with Jorge, the Operations Manager, who looked me in the eyes and said “…there’s nothing like this on the market, it’s like you guys can see the future.” I wouldn’t go that far, but it was a compliment we really appreciated at a time when our team was literally working around the clock to build towards our mission.
No one was ever fired for buying Oracle. The problem we encountered, however, was the treacherous sales cycle in the logistics industry. I can say that being an early stage startup selling innovative warehouse software to logistics firms is the most challenging work I’ve ever done, nothing else comes close. A wise man once said “no one was ever fired for buying Oracle,” enough said.
Fast forward to Fall. Now that the logistics component of our business model was running smoothly, we shifted our focus to the HDTS Marketplace. As I mentioned above, our mission all along has been to build the safest and most efficient platform for international trade. We’ve certainly taken an unconventional approach, always with the best interests of qualified Buyers and Premium Suppliers in mind. We knew there was no better time than now to prepare for the launch of our marketplace.
B2B Marketplace, Re-Imagined. We’ve always focused on differentiating from competing offerings, and we’ve always had a great vision for where our industry is heading. Our marketplace will exemplify this notion.
If you’re in the business of buying or selling premium quality product, then we have some exciting things in store for you in 2013. Stay tuned!
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- Daniel Sperling-Horowitz, cofounder