I am Andy Dunn founder and CEO of Bonobos Inc. where today we launched AYR.com - also founder of redswan.vc where we've invested in 50 start-ups
I love brands and e-commerce and start-ups. I've spent the last six years building Bonobos to be the leading digitally-driven menswear brand. Our flagship store is Bonobos.com and we now have 150 in-person points of distribution including our 8 guideshops which are e-commerce stores. Guys: at Bonobos we are known for combining great-fitting and great-looking clothing with great customer service. Ladies: Sign-up at AYR.com for a sneak-peek of our upcoming women's brand.
www.medium.com/@dunn https://twitter.com/dunn instagram: @andyrdunn
www.bonobos.com www.ayr.com www.redswan.vc
Thank you all who joined for the conversation! That's a wrap.
That's amazing on your script.
Are you an engineer? Where do you live?
For men who lift heavy things everywhere allow me to personally thank you for creating leg coverings which properly conform to our lack of chickenlegs. I searched long and hard for something that would fit at all, much less perfectly.
You, sir, are a great and powerful wizard who wields incredible fit magic. Please don't fireball me.
Thank you folks.
Bonobos has an amazing return policy (anything, all the time) - what happens to all those clothes that get returned? Do they get resold? What about the clothes that come back heavily used? Is this cost/loss just built into the original prices?
Lots gets re-stocked. Other stuff sometimes goes to Nordstrom Rack or to a sample sale.
How do you see mobile impacting ecommerce and the way men shop over the next two years? What is Bonobos doing to capitalize on the increase in mobile adoption?
I think the smartphone is the biggest disruption to retail since the automobile. The internet was just the beginning. Now it's the internet at your fingertips.
We have a huge vision @Bonobos for how data science, mobile, and how online and offline retail are going to collide. What we're doing right now as a first step is building a world-class engineering, product management, UX, and design team here in our offices in NYC.
We're looking right now for a stellar head of product management -- what some would call a head of product, others would call a growth hacker or head of growth. If you know who we should talk to, let us know.
PS I think this impacts men and women in equally exciting ways; wait till you see what we're doing with www.AYR.com. Right now it's just an email splash page, but a lot more to come there once we have a live site.
Why the move into women's clothes specifically jeans which is a crowded and tapped out marketplace. What do you think Bonobos can bring to that segment that isn't already spoken for?
Women's jeans! The lion's den, I call it. If we can do that well, we've earned the right to our brand. If we can't, well then...
I'm going to say a lot about this in a coming Medium essay. Follow me www.twitter.com/@dunn and check-in at www.medium.com/@dunn and you shall have your answer very, very soon.
As soon as it's up, I will post it here as well for posterity.
I'm really interested in how online retailers break down the barriers between e-commerce and in-store shopping. Can you provide any stats on how frequently people take advantage of Bonobos' free shipping on returns and what impact it's had on the business overall?
One of the reasons e-commerce is such a tough business, and has so few IPOs (excited for ZU to come out tomorrow!), is that free shipping and returns erode your margin if your primary business is selling other people's brands.
I've written about this in an essay called
E-Commerce is a Bear https://medium.com/what-i-learned-building/d233f02d52a5
According to Medium it's been read some 23,000 times, which is bananas when you see how boring and technical it is.
What's exciting about what Bonobos and AYR and MaideGolf are doing -- our family of brands -- and what companies like ASOS and Warby Parker are doing, is we're vertically integrated into our brands -- which means we own a very different gross margin structure than someone selling third-party brands as their core business.
As a result, we can afford meaningful free shipping incentives.
It is absolutely NOT a necessary sacrifice.
Our quality metrics and our net promoter score are actually increasing. That said reading this is a reminder that we still have miles to go.
Where are you? We'd love to have you to a Guideshop to see the product and make it up to you. We'd also love to intro you to our latest assortment, which I think is the best yet in terms of across the board design and quality.
Alternatively let me un-earth your dialogue with the Ninjas and figure out how to solve for what's gone wrong and what we can do.
Send a note to [email protected] and reference this exchange and we'll get on it.
We all have a few websites that we check daily for updates on things that intrigue us. What are your daily stops? Why?
www.andrewsullivan.com [opinion] www.pandodaily.com [tech] www.policymic.com [zeitgeist] www.grantland.com [sports] www.medium.com [online new yorker] www.businessoffashion.com [fashion]
Any big marketing campaigns in the works for spring 2014, like the Pantsformation? I have an idea in the works.
Tell us your idea! Email it to our VP marketing at craig at bonobos dot com.
Of course we have some things in the work. Next year's all about suits and dress shirts for us. We're growing like crazy in those categories.
Thanks for doing this AMA. What's the significance behind the name Bonobos? Also, bring a guideshop or two out to southern California.
We are coming to southern California. Get ready.
Bonobos are the coolest animal in the animal kingdom. Basically they empower women to run their societies, which is what humans are slowly learning to do. They have a lot more fun and a lot less violence because of it.
A bit of context here in a Mother's Day tribute I wrote:
The Architects of Empathy https://medium.com/i-m-h-o/2cd1f8bf53d
What are your best fashion tips for men?
My personal belief is that fashion begins for a man when he has his first pair of white jeans. @Bonobos we call em our South Beach travel jeans:
Throw these on, put basically anything on top, put on a pair of shoes with no socks, and you are now officially fashionable.
Obviously there's more to it, but this is where it starts.
And they're unexpected. Everyone's wearing blue jeans, which is cool. What about white jeans? Instantly differentiated. I also wear them all year round. I don't obey this labor day rule.
If snow is good being white in winter, so am I.
Bonobos gets some great press from all over. Do you find that major features, or smaller more organic notes, have more of an effect on brand awareness as a whole?
Do you see your price point as more of a strategy or cost driven decision?
What do you think is the most promising or exciting trend in e-commerce that we should be looking out for?
I think it's both strategy and cost.
Someone once asked me if e-commerce was going to enable people to sell products most cheaply.
My answer is: sort of. I think it's hard to actually be cheaper as there are costs to e-commerce retail which rival in-person retail. This is a bit of what my E-Commerce is a Bear essay on Medium is about:
The cost structure could be better, but it requires a lot of scale. Very few vertically-integrated e-commerce companies have that scale yet so we don't yet know what's possible.
When e-commerce driven brands start, they often talk about taking out cost. I think what you find is that this only happens when you're breaking a monopoly on supply chain or distribution in an industry. Warby Parker did this nicely, and there's an astute blog post by Jamie Quint on the matter:
*full disclosure I'm an angel investor in Warby
Otherwise, it's hard to compete with the other offline players who are at huge scale. I think Everlane's an awesome brand. That said, so is Uniqlo and so is Zara and they have SO much scale.
I think what we're definitely seeing is that the e-com driven guys can deliver a bundle of great product and great service which is more value for the same price. And in that way deliver pressure where consumers get more value for their dollar.
In short, price is about strategy and cost.
In terms of trend? I think it's branded e-commerce. It's a brave and exciting new world of branded e-commerce:
Warby Parker Nastygal Bonobos AYR Harry's Everlane Dollar Shave Club ModCloth ...
And we're just in the first inning. So much more to come.
What do you look for in start-up founders that you decide to invest in? What industries do you focus on?
Magnetism. Authenticity. Tenacity. And the precious oh so precious ability to Evolve.
At redswan.vc we call it M.A.T.E.
Recently we invested in a company called Hinge. It's a social-mobile dating app, think a classier Tinder. Justin McLeod went four for four on those qualities in our view. Having them doesn't mean you will win; I do believe it means you are giving yourself a good shot.
Can you define Magnetism in this application?
Yes sir. The ability to attract talent and capital no matter what's required.
You can see our portfolio at www.redswan.vc.
Hey Andy! Been a supporter of Bonobos since the beginning and was even a field ninja at one point! My first question is this: do you see video playing a bigger role in e-commerce in the near future? I feel like I would be much more likely to buy if I could see clothes worn and modeled on video like Zappos does with shoes.
Get ready for www.AYR.com. You'll see how we're thinking about video on that one.
We partnered with an agency we love called Gin Lane Media and we're really pushing the frontier on video.
It's not our end-state, but it's an experiment to see what the future may hold.
If you want to read a good book on experimentation, try Little Bets by my friend Peter Sims:
so what do you think has been your key resource in creating such an interactive and enjoyable online experience?
side note: I reference you guys in my online marketing class all of the timem you guys seriously do everything we are told works and more! just the other day i even proved my prof wrong that i could get a company to answer an inquiry on their facebook page within ten minutes. not too hard! always appreciate you guys! thanks Mr. Dunn
You just answered your own question! You are indeed a good student. Where do you go to school?
The key to our interactivity online is our customer experience team -- which we call the Ninjas.
They are amazing. You can ask them a question here:
You can follow them on twitter here:
And you can have some fun with them here:
Having a talented team of energetic and empathetic people who are the front lines of talking to your customer is core to what we do. Having them co-located with the rest of the teams is core to what we do. Our Ninjas sit here with us in NYC and they are part of why our customer experience is so awesome.
Humans! Who would have thought would be so important to building digitally-driven brands?
If you were a startup, what is a rate of return that you would offer investors at year 3 for a buyback of their investment? 140% of original investment?
Are you okay?
As you've branched out into the wholesale channel through Nordstrom, what are the key factors you've had to take into consideration as you develop an assortment for that channel that will enable it to be effective without cannibalizing on your online business? what is your thinking as you move forward?
I love this question.
In short: it's the same assortment, they're great/reasonable people which enables them to stand out as the clear partner of choice, and our e-commerce (web + guideshop) business is going to maintain the lion's share.
What are your thoughts on apprenticeships? Would you ever take on an apprentice?
It seems like a lot of the CEOs in the NYC tech space are taking them on through E[nstitute] or college co-op programs.
I like apprentices who are learning because they have a job vs. apprentices whose job is apprentice.
As a former NYC based finance guy that was in the core of your market demo, I vividly remember getting turned on to Bonobos' pants when you guys first launched and buying my first pair. It was awesome to see someone come at a market that seemed saturated (at first glance) with a product that people were really asking for (well-fitting men's pants that were affordable but had style) and crush it.
There aren't too many people that have done that successfully. Bonobos, Warby Parker and Method soaps come to mind. For you guys, how did you establish a core following at the beginning? Did you actively target NY professionals or was it more broad? Do you think that the myriad of options of targeting through the internet enables or distracts from creating a successful brand?
I have a strong belief here that editorial PR, viral word-of-mouth, and founder-driven direct selling are the only three reliable ingredients to get your first $1 million of sales. It's brute force. And the product has to be really, really good. You can get $25K selling a so-so product, but you can't get $1M on just the backs of the founders and a couple early employees without having really, really good product.
One thing that helped us was we raised small check angel capital from some forty already customer-turned-angel investors who could then help us spread the word and push the brand.
I also think a great brand in this digital era is also a great story, so it helped to have a memorable name (Bonobos), a memorable service team name (Ninjas), memorable pocket liners in the pants.
That said, I think in a way it's simple: the pants were great, and the service-driven distribution model -- e-commerce -- is a disruptive way to reach a lot of people quickly. But the pants being great is the starting point.
What I think is challenging is when you think being e-commerce driven will save you from not having to have a stellar product that fills a void and inspires people.
Bonobos is known for having a great culture and I've read on Medium that you're well traveled. What cultures have you experienced while traveling that amazed you?
South Africa. Brazil. Lebanon. Burma. Colombia. Cambodia.
can you hook a finance/econ major up with a job?
That's a specialty where we hire post-work experience, generally. Go to Bain first. Then apply in a couple years.
What would you say was the biggest step from college start up to leading online menswear brand? where did you gain the knowledge to successfully adapt to the ever-changing online environment? Especially in the earlier years where the mobile market was such a random variable at the time.
Thanks again for your time!
I could never have started Bonobos out of college. We started Bonobos out of Stanford business school because that is a very magical place where I met lots of people who believe that the future can be made as much as it is received.
Some people can do it out of college. Like Evan Spiegel. I remember meeting him in my office just about a year ago and thinking: wow, he's good. He really knows what he wants to do and why. I wasn't that good at that age, nor did I have a "growth mindset", so I had to learn some stuff and develop some insight before I got going.
Andy Rachleff has a cool career guide at www.wealthfront.com that might help you think about joining a company vs. starting a company.
I was 28 when I cofounded Bonobos.
Shipping to the EU, pleeeeeze....!
In form of a question: when? I've been hearing "soon" for a long time :)
Btw, your travel jeans are the best things ever.
I wear the Travel Jeans nearly every day. I'm obsessed.
On the EU, you'll have to come to New York for now! We're working on it but we're heart breakers at the moment.
Not really a question, just wanted to say that my friend Jess Lam turned me on to your website and I've been using it all the time ever since and I love it! He actually works for your company so I thought I would do a little name drop if you ever come into contact with him. Anyways, love your site and your story! Keep up the good work!
I'm looking at him right now.
Also: nice screen name.
Hey Andy, how did you resist the urge to sell Bonobos brand in 3rd party retail in the first year or two? Balancing the need for upfront cash from retail deals and the ability to control the consumer experience is difficult. I am facing this struggle right now with my brand as we break into the market.
If you're committed to being vertical, there's not enough margin to do it until you get a lot of scale. So it wasn't an economically viable option for us, which made the decision easy.
Are you guys bringing back your flannel-lined chinos this year? Preferably in a slim fit?
I've been wanting a pair forever and I'm told yours are the best.
They are coming! But straight leg vs. slim fit for this year.
Any plans on expanding to large retails stores (e.g. Macy's/Nordstrom)?
We did a big partnership with Nordstrom. In fact we liked them so much that I invited them to invest a bit in our company. Here was the story when that news broke:
What I love about Nordstrom is we have common values around delivering a superior customer experience. In an increasingly vertically-integrated, own your own distribution, e-commerce driven world, I think wholesale is terrific marketing. Only a few department store players are going to survive, and Nordstrom is not only surviving but thriving because they're so focused on the customer, and they "get it" on what's happening digitally and in e-commerce. Witness their investment in Bonobos and their acquisition of HauteLook. Visionary, if I do say so.
We do amazing at Nordstrom with our weekday warriors, newly available in slim fit there:
Andy, I've followed Bonobos for the last few years. Great Story! If you were going to startup again and use Kickstarter or another crowdfunding platform. How would you go about getting the word out - outside of friends and family?
Our former CTO Mike Hart is now the CEO of Attune, a personalization as a service company which he is building. He used AngelList and had a good experience.
Next question - what are your 3 favorite items now available for sale on Bonobos? And can we get a promo code? :-)
- Italian wool top coat.
- Pink elbow patch sweater.
- Navy slim suit called the foundation.
I'd post links but am running out of time!
Black on the top coat.
If you could have an AMA with anyone who would it be? What would you ask?
Would you shoot your brother again, if you could go back?
Are you ever going to have brick and mortar stores? Maybe selling stuff out of the guideshops?
We have eight brick and mortar stores! They're called Guideshops. They are first of their kind e-commerce stores. Get a world-class service experience from our Guides, figure out what looks great on you, place an order, and go home or on to your next step hands-free as we'll ship it to you.
Make an appointment to check it out!
We are here:
New York @ Soho New York @ Flatiron Washington D.C. @ Georgetown Chicago @ Lincoln Park Boston @ off Newbury St. Bethesda @ Bethesda Row Austin @ Second Street San Francisco @ Union Square
Wait, just read your whole question, it seems you know the guideshops. We are selling stuff. We are just not fulfilling stuff at the time of transaction. That's the key difference between a store vs. an e-commerce store. But they're both bricks and mortar.
Where did you come up with the idea to let your "ninjas" talk to customers in such an honest and awesome manner? Every interaction I've had with them has made my day, I've gone back and forth with a few of them just talking about random awesomeness.
Also, I'm wearing your pants and shirt right now. (Not YOUR pants and shirt, that'd be a bit weird...but pants and a shirt that I purchased from your company)
Also, the "Pantegranates" are my fave golfing pants: http://imgur.com/rfJqywO
So keep up the good work!
I was sitting in front of Craiglist in 2007 and wondering how do hire a customer service person when CSR is such a "bad" word. Ninja came to mind as a way to hold people to a hire standard. We hired Marshall Roy and the rest is history.
I found your amazing Bonobos through an ad on facebook. What other ways did you market your products/store?
Catalog! It's going really well. Email our Ninjas and we can add you to the list.
Firstly, thank you for your The Risk Not Taken article. It made me change the way I think.
Secondly, that time you had a promotion at Bonobos where you could get $100 if you found a little man in paisley pants hidden somewhere on the website... Yeah so, being a developer, I decided to write a script that would do the job for me. The script parsed bonobos.com 4000 times and then it finally found the man. I used that $100 to buy your pants and when they arrived they... didn't fit. Karma is a bitch, haha. Sorry for that.
I don't have a question for you but my best friend and I are building a fashion inspiration search engine that I think you will like. Can we chat?
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