Sequoia-backed NEXT gets $97M as investment in logistics heats up

Despite its “unsexy” reputation, the logistics industry is attracting massive investment from venture capitalists.

With a fresh $97 million in Series C funding, NEXT joins a fleet of heavily funded logistics platforms, including Flexport, Huochebang and Convoy. The company, which connects shippers and carriers through an online marketplace, raised the capital from Brookfield Ventures, with participation from Sequoia Capital and logistics solutions provider GLP. NEXT declined to disclose the valuation or whether its latest financing included debt.

In 2018, global logistics startups collected more than $6 billion in VC funding, nearly double the $3.2 billion invested in the space the year prior, according to PitchBook. A significant portion of the 2018 capital went to Chinese ventures at about 40 percent. U.S. logistics businesses raised 19 percent, or about $1.2 billion, across 114 deals.

“The logistics space is under more pressure than ever before — with more shipments coming into our ports than drivers and warehouses have the capacity to manage,” NEXT co-founder and chief executive officer Lidia Yan said in a statement.

NEXT was founded in 2015 by Yan and her husband Elton Chung. The round brings the business’s total raised to $125 million, including a $21 million round in January 2018.

Headquartered in Lynwood, California, NEXT plans to use the investment to fill 150 positions in 2019, as well as complete the launch of Relay, a new service targeting the “systemic congestion” at shipping ports.

“NEXT continues to address the critical issues that face logistics management in the U.S. — from the nationwide driver shortage to congestion and operations at our busiest ports,” Sequoia partner Omar Hamoui said in a statement. “We’ve been impressed with NEXT’s ability to execute, and the introduction of Relay proves they have the team and expertise to continue innovating in ways that will ease the pain points of carriers and shippers.”

YC-backed Our World in Data wants you to know that the planet is doing okay

News is exhausting. Mexican murders are sky-high. Ebola is ravaging the eastern Congo. China is erasing an entire culture of Islam from its Western hinterlands. That news — negative and intense though it is — can easily occlude the many positive, longer term stories that are fundamental drivers of the world. Africa is reaching new levels of prosperity. Violence around the world is in retreat. Famine is down, a lot.

These trends are present, but getting high-quality data around them and correctly interpreting them can be challenging. How do you piece all these disparate threads together and start to make sense of the whole?

Enter Our World in Data. The non-profit startup, which started as a research project at Oxford University, builds datasets on human progress around the world and then uses visualizations and deep, clear explanations to allow people to grok exactly what’s happening as well as how to think about it.

Our World in Data is backed by YC in its current batch, and is one of three non-profits this cycle (we profiled another one of them, Upsolve, which is helping consumers file for bankruptcy). The portal has been receiving about a million users per month and two citations a day in major newspapers, and the team is hoping to scale those metrics up as part of the YC program.

Max Roser, the founder and program director, officially organized the firm as a non-profit a few weeks ago, but has been working on it with a team of researchers over many years. “It began kind of slowly as a research project in around 2012,” he said. It was “a fairly small-scale project in the evenings and weekends in the beginning and got bigger and bigger over time.”

He points out that the progress we have seen in human society has happened at a blistering fast rate. “Even in today’s richest and happiest places, the changes have happened very recently. […] Just two hundred years ago, a huge majority of the population lived in extreme poverty.”

Roser sees an opportunity to revolutionize how academic research is disseminated with Our World in Data. “Our mission is to get research out of institutions,” he explained. “We come from this millennium-old institution with University of Oxford … and they have published research in exactly the same way since the invention of the printing press. […] In the communication of research, we haven’t adopted the technologies available with the internet at all … and we are trying to bring these two worlds together.”

Hannah Ritchie, a researcher with the project who holds a PhD in GeoSciences from the University of Edinburgh, said that “our top priority is reaching as many people as we can” and she sees the project becoming the “really credible go-to reference.”

Our World in Data may not be a conventional startup, but it is hitting a thesis close to home here. Arman and I have been doing a dive into the world of societal resilience startups – companies that are trying to protect humanity from itself by building self-healing systems, improving the climate, making our traffic more on time, improving the speed of construction and much, much more. But before we can do all that, we first need to understand what’s even going on with our world in the first place, and that is where Roser, Ritchie and the rest of their research team here can be hugely helpful.

Share your feedback on your startup’s attorney

We want to help startup founders work with attorneys who are right for them. My colleague Eric Eldon wrote a piece today describing our methodology and a little bit more of why we are doing this project.

We have had hundreds of founders give us their recommendations. If you have worked with a great early-stage startup attorney that you recommend, let us know using this short Google Forms survey and also spread the word. We will share the results and more in the coming weeks.

Stray Thoughts (aka, what I am reading)

Short summaries and analysis of important news stories

Startup socialism with capitalist characteristics

Robert P. Baird does a great job describing the rise of Jacobin, the socialist magazine startup that has become a linchpin in leftist politics. It’s a story of a college founder who hustled his way to financial independence and growth. From the article:

Sunkara, for his part, told me that there’s no contradiction between his entrepreneurial enthusiasm and his socialist ideals. “The market logic of creating a publication,” he says—attracting readers, getting them to subscribe, finding competitive advantages that will keep them on the rolls—“is politically pure.”

Is Surveillance Capitalism a thing?

Nicholas Carr wrote a deep dive review for the LA Review of Books of Shoshana Zuboff’s hot new book “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism.” There has been a ton of discussion triggered here, particularly in light of France’s record $57 million fine against Google over GDPR violations earlier this week, and Carr wrote what is probably the best review and context piece available. Still, the question to me remains the same: does anyone actually care that their devices monitor them? Judging by device and services sales, I think much less than privacy advocates appreciate.

Why are investors still investing in Apple’s supply chain?

Bloomberg has an interesting conundrum to discuss: why are investors still standing behind companies like Han’s Laser Technology Industry Group Co., which have seen huge valuation losses over the slowdown in iPhone sales? It’s a bit of a complicated story, but basically investors still believe that high-end manufacturing will drive excess profits even in a chaotic, slower growing, and competitive world. An interesting discussion worth reading.

What’s next & obsessions

  • I have a lot of short books on my desk to read.
  • Arman is reading Never Lost Again by Bill Kilday, a history of mapping at Google and beyond.
  • Arman and I are interested in societal resilience startups that are targeting areas like water security, housing, infrastructure, climate change, disaster response, etc. Reach out if you have ideas or companies here <danny@techcrunch.com>

5 Easy Steps to Creating a Sitemap For a Website

When it comes to getting your website ranked, you need to take advantage of as many SEO hacks as possible. Creating a sitemap is one technique that will definitely help improve your SEO strategy.

What is a sitemap?

Some of you may be more familiar with this than others. I’ll give you a quick crash course on the basics of sitemaps before I show you how to build a website sitemap on your own.

Simply put, a sitemap, or XML sitemap, is a list of different pages on a website. XML is short for “extensible markup language,” which is a way to display information on a site.

I’ve consulted with so many website owners who are intimidated by this concept because sitemaps are considered a technical component of SEO. But in all reality, you don’t need to be a tech wizard or have a tech background to create a sitemap. As you’ll learn shortly, it’s really not that difficult.

Why do you need a sitemap?

Search engines like Google are committed to displaying the most relevant results to people for any given search query. In order do this effectively, they use site crawlers to read, organize, and index information on the Internet.

XML sitemaps make it easier for search engine crawlers to read the content on your site and index the pages accordingly. As a result, this increases your chances of boosting the SEO ranking of your website.

Your sitemap will tell search engines the location of a page on your website, when it was updated, the updating frequency, and the importance of the page as it’s related to other pages on your site. Without a proper sitemap, Google bots might think that your site has duplicate content, which will actually hurt your SEO ranking.

If you’re ready for your website to get indexed faster by search engines, just follow these five easy steps to create a sitemap.

Step 1: Review the structure of your pages

The first thing you need to do is look at the existing content on your website and see how everything is structured.

Look at a sitemap template and figure out how your pages would be displayed on the table.

website sitemap template

This is a very basic example that’s easy to follow.

It all starts from the homepage. Then you have to ask yourself where your homepage links to. You likely already have this figured out based on the menu options on your site.

But when it comes to SEO, not all pages are created equal. You have to keep the depth of your website in mind when you’re doing this. Recognize that the pages further away from your site’s homepage will be harder to rank for.

According to Search Engine Journal, you should aim to create a sitemap that has a shallow depth, meaning it only takes three clicks to navigate to any page on your website. That’s much better for SEO purposes.

So you need to create a hierarchy of pages based on importance and how you want them to be indexed. Prioritize your content into tiers that follow a logical hierarchy. Here’s an example to show you what I’m talking about.

page hierarchy

As you can see, the About page links to Our Team as well as Mission & Values. Then the Our Team page links to Management and Contact Us.

The About Us page is the most important, which is why it’s part of the top-level navigation. It wouldn’t make sense to have the management page be prioritized at the same level as Products, Pricing, and Blogs, which is why it falls under third-level content.

Similarly, if the Basic pricing package was positioned above the Compare Packages page, it would throw the logical structure out of whack.

So use these visual sitemap templates to determine the organization of your pages. Some of you may already have a structure that makes sense but just needs some slight tweaking.

Remember, you want to try to set it up so every page can be reached in three clicks.

Step 2: Code your URLs

Now that you’ve gone through and identified the importance of each page and matched that importance in your site structure, it’s time to code those URLs.

The way to do this is by formatting each URL with XML tags. If you have any experience with HTML coding, this will be a breeze for you. As I said earlier, the “ML” in XML stands for markup language, which is the same for HTML.

Even if this is new to you, it’s not that tough to figure it out. Start by getting a text editor where you can create an XML file.

Sublime Text is a great option for you to consider.

sublime text editor

Then add the corresponding code for each URL.

  • location
  • last changed
  • changed frequency
  • priority of page

Here are some examples of how the code will look for each one.

  • http://www.examplesite.com/page1
  • 2019-1-10
  • weekly
  • 2

Take your time and make sure you go through this properly. The text editor makes your life much easier when it comes to adding this code, but it still requires you to be sharp.

Step 3: Validate the code

Any time you code manually, human error is possible. But, for your sitemap to function properly, you can’t have any mistakes in the coding.

Fortunately, there are tools that will help validate your code to ensure the syntax is correct. There’s software available online that can help you do this. Just run a quick Google search for sitemap validation, and you’ll find something.

I like to use the XML Sitemap Validator tool.

xml sitemap generator

This will point out any errors in your code.

For example, if you forget to add an end tag or something like that, it can quickly be identified and fixed.

Step 4: Add your sitemap to the root and robots.txt

Locate the root folder of your website and add the sitemap file to this folder.

Doing this will actually add the page to your site as well. This is not a problem at all. As a matter of fact, lots of websites have this. Just type in a website and add “/sitemap/” to the URL and see what pops up.

Here’s an example from the Apple website.

apple sitemap

Notice the structure and logical hierarchy of each section. This relates back to what we discussed in the first step.

Now, this can be taken one step further. You can even look at the code on different websites by adding “/sitemap.xml” to the URL.

Here’s what that looks like on the HubSpot website.

hubspot sitemap

In addition to adding the sitemap file to your root folder, you’ll also want to add it to the robots.txt file. You’ll find this in the roots folder as well.

Basically, this to give instructions for any crawlers indexing your website.

There are a couple of different uses for the robots.txt folder. You can set this up to show search engines URLs that you don’t want them to index when they’re crawling on your site.

Let’s go back to Apple and see what their robots.txt page looks like.

robots.txt

As you can see, they have “disallow” for several pages on their site. So crawlers ignore these.

apple sitemap files

However, Apple also includes their sitemap files on here as well.

Not everyone you ask will tell you to add your sitemaps to the robots.txt file. So I’ll let you decide that for yourself.

With that said, I’m definitely a firm believer in following the best practices of successful websites and businesses. If a giant like Apple uses this, it can’t be too bad of an idea for you to consider.

Step 5: Submit your sitemap

Now that your sitemap has been created and added to your site files, it’s time to submit them to search engines.

In order to do this, you need to go through Google Search Console. Some of you may already have this set up. If not, you can get started very easily.

Once you’re on the search console dashboard, navigate to Crawl > Sitemaps.

Google search console

Next, click on Add/Test Sitemap on the top right corner of the screen.

This is a chance for you to test your sitemap again for any errors before you continue. Obviously, you’ll want to fix any mistakes found. Once your sitemap is free of errors, click submit and that’s it. Google will handle everything else from here. Now crawlers will index your site with ease, which will boost your SEO ranking.

Alternative options

While these five steps are pretty simple and straightforward, some of you might be a little uncomfortable manually changing the code on your website. That’s perfectly understandable. Fortunately for you, there are plenty of other solutions that can create a sitemap for you, without having to edit the code yourself.

I’ll go through some of the top options for you to consider.

Yoast plugin

If you have a WordPress website, you can install the Yoast plugin to create a sitemap for your website.

Yoast gives you the option to turn your sitemap on and off with a simple toggle switch. You can find all of your XML sitemap options from the SEO tab via WordPress once the plugin has been installed.

Screaming Frog

Screaming Frog is desktop software that offers a wide range of SEO tools. It’s free to use and generate a sitemap as long as the website has fewer than 500 pages. For those of you with larger websites, you’ll need to upgrade the paid version.

Screaming Frog allows you to make all of the coding changes that we talked about earlier, but without actually changing the code yourself. Instead, you follow a prompt that’s much more user-friendly, and written in plain English. Then the code for the sitemap file will be changed automatically. Here’s a screenshot to show you what I mean.

screaming frog configuration

Just navigate through the tabs, change your settings, and the sitemap file will be adjusted accordingly.

Slickplan

I really like Slickplan because of the visual sitemap builder feature. You’ll have the opportunity to use a sitemap template, similar to the ones we looked at earlier.

From here, you can drag and drop different pages into the template to organize the structure of your website. Once you’re done, and you’re happy with the way your visual sitemap looks, you can export it as an XML file.

Slickplan is paid software, but they offer a free trial. It’s at least worth trying if you’re on the fence about purchasing a plan.

Conclusion

If you’re ready to take your SEO strategy to the next level, you need to create a sitemap for your website.

There is no reason to be intimidated by this anymore. As you can see from this guide, it’s easy to create a sitemap in just five steps.

  1. Review your pages
  2. Code the URLs
  3. Validate your code
  4. Add the sitemap to the root and robots.txt
  5. Submit the sitemap

That’s it!

For those of you who are still on the fence about manually changing code on your website, there are other options for you to consider. The Internet is full of sitemap resources, but the Yoast plugin, Screaming Frog, and Slickplan are all great choices to start.

Which pages are you going to prioritize for your website’s sitemap?

3 Tips for Startups Looking to Stand Out to Corporate Partners

By Kate Drane, Techstars Network Engagement Manager

Hey founders: Did you know that at any given time, your startup may be in the process of being considered for a game-changing opportunity? It’s true!

As a Techstars Network Engagement Manager, a critical part of my role is to serve as a matchmaker between our corporate partners and Techstars portfolio companies. My team and I pore through our portfolio a few times a week, searching for amazing companies that best match the needs of our corporate partners. In addition, most corporations and investment teams have at least one team member that serves a similar role, and our need is the same: we are on the hunt for innovative startups (like yours!).

Whether or not you’re part of the Techstars network, if your company’s goals include entering into a strategic partnership with a corporate partner, securing investment, or attracting new customers, here are a few tips that any founder can take to better position their company to stand out:

Tip #1: Optimize your website

Oftentimes your website is the first place a corporate partner will look for information about your company.

  • Make it easy for someone to quickly understand your company by having a one to two sentence description that can be copy-pasted from your homepage.
  • Include the logos of your clients (especially if they are other corporations). This can serve as a proof point to a potential corporate partner that you have the infrastructure to work with them.
  • Many corporations have firewalls that prohibit them from visiting unsecure sites, so be sure to encrypt your website.

Tip #2: Ensure that your social media is up to date

Your social media presence can play a powerful role in helping to create a holistic view of your company.

  • Crunchbase and AngelList are two commonly leveraged tools to provide publicly available funding information and more. Visit your profiles on both, and if any of your information is out of date, use these instructions to make updates: AngelList and Crunchbase.
  • Routinely update your LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram profiles. Your social presence helps to demonstrate that your company is active and thriving.

Tip #3: Update Connect (this applies to Techstars portfolio companies only)

Here at Techstars we are committed to the notion of “Techstars for Life,” and that means bringing additional value to our portfolio companies both during and after they have completed their program. For Techstars founders, our internal platform, Connect, serves as an important tool to help us identify startups that fit specific opportunities.

  • Visit your company’s Connect profile, and ensure that all of your information is up to date. Taking this small action can be a game-changer. For example, some corporate partners may be on the lookout to meet with startups in their region, and when our team has the correct data, it ensures that we can connect them with you (double opt-in, of course).

This list is by no means exhaustive, however taking these small but important steps will help to position your company for the magic of engineered serendipity. Who knows, a game-changing opportunity may be trying to find you right now!

I would love to hear from you. What steps has your startup taken to stand out? Leave your best advice in the comments.

***

Learn more about how the the Techstars Network Engagement Program helps corporations and startups work together—to the benefit of both.

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How To Take Your Business Idea From Dream To Reality

Image via Pixabay

In my role as a new business advisor and occasional investor, I hear lots of people talking about their dreams of “someday” starting and running a new venture. They can talk with passion about their innovative new idea, and ask lots of questions, but never seem to really get started. The challenge we all have as business founders is to move from the idea stage to a real business.

The solution I recommend is to move forward with a few quantifiable steps, to turn your dreams into specific goals and milestones, and then measure your progress and celebrate each small success in achieving these goals and milestones. I found these bite-sized chunks to be far more achievable and satisfying than making that one big step from your dream to a success business:

  1. Get the idea out of your head and onto paper. Even if it’s only a few PowerPoint slides or typed paragraphs, writing something down is the first step toward making it real. The process will force you solidify the specifics, and mentally commit to them. Always write in the future tense, what you will do, and name yourself as the key person responsible.

    Before you know it, you will have a ten-slide pitch that you can use to gauge interest from potential customers, as well as friends, family, and early investors. Suddenly you will find that writing a ten-to-twenty page business plan with details is easy rather than daunting.

  2. Create a specific plan to network to get the help you need. If you need funding, make a list of people you know who might help, and plan to attend specific business events where you can use your pitch and written plan. Do the same for partners and co-founders that will buttress your strengths. Consult with business peers to learn what you need.

    Take the initiative to join recognized new business support groups and the local chapter of relevant industry associations to meet people you can help, as well as people who can help you. Don’t forget the local Chamber of Commerce and local business executives.

  3. Set target date milestones and metrics to gauge progress. Pick a reasonable desired business rollout date, and work backward, assigning completion dates to all the interim tasks required. Quantify expected results, and the measurements you will use. Your goal should be smaller chunks and more milestones, allowing regular celebration of progress.

    For example, every business needs a company name and logo, incorporation, an Internet domain name and website, social media accounts, prototypes, intellectual property, and key executive positions filled. Set milestones for each and measure progress to success.

  4. Take action on your plan, and finish something every day. You need to build momentum, and every milestone completion builds momentum. Celebrate each step forward, and check off completions to keep the team motivated and moving forward. Don’t get caught up in the crisis of the day, or be satisfied with just working hard.

    Now is the time to build your company culture, and make it one with a can-do attitude, team collaboration, and empowered people with a constant focus on the customer. Also, your culture must be not afraid to pivot and to adapt your plan as things change.

  5. Narrow your focus daily to the key things that really matter. Dilution of focus kills too many small businesses, as they try to attract more customers and counter more competitors. The best are determined to do one thing well, rather than many things poorly, with limited resources. Time is also of the essence, so make your impact early.

    I once worked in a software startup that continually delayed initial shipment to add new features, based on feedback from early adopters and competitor concerns. The result was a product that was bloated and late to market. I recommend the minimum viable product (MVP) strategy.

For aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners, ideas will not turn into businesses, no matter how long you wait, or how hard you work, until someone builds and executes a plan with specific milestones and expected results. If your dream is to change the world in your lifetime, now is the time to stop dreaming and start executing.

Marty Zwilling

*** First published on Inc.com on 01-09-2019 ***

Dosh raises $40M on $300M valuation as its cashback app passes $50M doled out to shoppers

When it comes to reaching would-be customers today, one of the biggest investments that brands and retailers will make is in advertising, to the tune of nearly $630 billion globally. Now, a startup called Dosh, which offers cash back on purchases, is announcing that it has raised $40 million to take on the advertising industry, with the pitch that its app provides a more targeted and guaranteed way of getting consumers to bite.

The funding — $20 million in equity and $20 million in venture debt — is led by Goodwater Capital and Western Technology Investment. Previous investor PayPal, along with new investors BAM Capital and Anthem Venture Partners, also participated. Sources close to the company confirm that the funding was done on approximately a $300 million valuation. It has raised $96 million in total, including both equity and debt.

“Instead of taking all in equity we decided to split because of the strength of the company at the moment,” said Ryan Wuerch, Dosh’s founder and CEO, in an interview, who said the funding would be used for hiring, business development and technology investment. “We want to be opportunistic.”

It was only nine months ago that Dosh last raised dosh; $44 million on a $241 million valuation. In the interim, the startup has been on a roll — at one point, in the holiday spending period, hitting No. 1 among U.S. shopping apps and clocking in some $50 million in cash back to its users, doubling those returns since last April. It now has 3 million card-linked subscribers and more than 150,000 retailers and brands signed up to its platform.

Up to now, Dosh’s business model has been to forge deals with retailers and brands — partners include Nike, Toms, Gap, Walgreens, Walmart, Jack in the Box and more — and payment card providers like Visa and Mastercard. When a user links up a card, and she or he buys something from the retailers and brands connected with Dosh, the user gets money back. That money can in turn be paid into your bank account, your PayPal account, toward further purchases or to charity. Dosh itself makes money by taking a cut on each transaction, although it does not provide details of its percentage.

Going forward, the idea will be to continue to expand its business along the same lines by building more technology into the platform to make the offers you are getting more targeted to what you might be most likely to buy, and to use the same tech to increase rewards to entice you to buy things that you may be less likely to naturally buy.

The company’s viewpoint is that a direct cash reward is a much stronger driver for retail intent than advertising can ever be, and because of how Dosh links up with card providers, it’s much easier to see how an offer is linked to an actual purchase.

“When you think about advertising over the years, at first all you had was radio and TV and print with little attribution,” Wuerch said. “Now digital gives you clicks and impressions, but true attribution is when you get to the consummation of the purchase, which is what we are able to show. The tech that we built and continue to build enables us to understand consumers.”

Given the billions that are spent on advertising today, even moving the needle a little to get more retailers working with Dosh on more deals could prove very lucrative to the company… and its investors.

“Dosh’s mission is to put billions of dollars of wasted advertising spend directly into consumers’ pockets,” said Chi-Hua Chien, co-founder and managing partner at Goodwater Capital, which is leading its investment in Dosh. “They are the clear leader in the rapidly growing card-linked offers market and we are confident this latest round of funding will accelerate their achievement of that mission.” (And to be clear, there are many others in the same space of offering cash back on purchases, such as Drop and Ebates.)

Offers are specific to people on the platform. As Wuerch explained it, he and I might both get offers for Sam’s Club cash back, but because he visited the store three days ago and is a very regular visitor, whereas I never go there, we may have very different cashback offers on the table.

Loyalty programs have become a strong driver for how people purchase goods and services. Amazon Prime is perhaps the strongest example of how that is being played out in e-commerce: To keep people using Amazon, under one umbrella, Amazon is offering users free and fast shipping on a range of items, plus access to services that ordinary customers will not get, all for a single monthly fee.

Dosh is taking a very different approach, in that it has “no plans” said Wuerch to sell items directly on its app, instead focusing on leading consumers to physical (or online) retail experiences.

“Our goal is to drive consumers into stores, and we have found that the cash stimulus really does create a change in consumer behavior,” he said.

Today, Dosh is only in the U.S., and Wuerch said that international expansion is likely to come in 2020. Whether that will come by way of organic growth or acquisition remains to be seen. In the U.K., for example, Quidco provides a similar cashback experience to users.

Adtech veteran Marcus Startzel becomes CEO at Whitebox

Marcus Startzel is moving from adtech to e-commerce: He’s becoming the new CEO at Whitebox.

One of his first tasks, apparently, will be raising a Series A.

Startzel was previously an executive at AppNexus, which he joined after the acquisition of MediaGlu, where he was CEO. (He departed AppNexus after it was bought by AT&T.) He’s also had senior roles at Millennial Media and Advertising.com.

Whitebox, meanwhile, was founded in 2013 by previous CEO Rob Wray. The company helps businesses manage some of the most challenging parts of e-commerce — for example, it handles warehousing and fulfillment, while also creating and optimizing listings on Amazon, eBay and the seller’s own website.

Startzel said he was attracted to the company because it taps into broader trends around the growth of e-commerce, and because of the opportunity provided by all of Whitebox’s data around “finding the best way to get the product to the consumer.” He also said he was impressed by the recent hiring of Chief Operating Officer Rob Hahn and Chief Data Officer Andrew Bignell, both from Amazon.

And while this may seem like a big change from his previous roles, Startzel said he’s still drawing on his leadership experience, and on his approach of “just understanding the market from a customer lens, just being customer focused when you’re a brand.”

“I’m excited to sell products, not just advertise them,” he added.

Wray, meanwhile, will remain at Whitebox as its chief product officer.

“We started Whitebox because brands were getting crushed by the enormous complexity of selling online,” he said in a statement. “Brands need a unified approach to e-commerce to scale while lowering costs. We are thrilled to have Marcus join and apply his knowledge and experience.”