May 24, 2023

Episode 278: Brandon Schulz, Founder & CEO of

Brandon Schulz has been building in the e-commerce space for over a decade, first as a founder, then creating new concepts for Starbucks, Softbank Robotics, John Deere, and others.  In 2017 Brandon co-founded Violet, an e-commerce infrastructure company that powers universal native checkout for emerging e-commerce channels. Brandon's passion for making messy and complex challenges clean and transformative has helped fuel Violet’s success. The company raised a $10M Series A led by Klarna and has grown quickly over the past year.  Brandon resides in Seattle, Washington with his fiance, Brenna, and their puppy, Huckleberry.  When not hard at work building the future of e-commerce, you can find Brandon training for a triathlon or at a concert.

Julian:Hey everyone. Thank you so much for joining the Behind Company Lines podcast.Today we have Brandon Schulz. Founder and CEO of, a unified commerceAPI that integrates with the most popular e-commerce platforms in the world toget you to market quickly and effectively and efficiently. Brandon, I'm soexcited to chat with you today and not only chat about what you've built at atViolet, but also with the changes to e-commerce.

As we were talkingabout the show, there's so much. Different ways to transact. There's so manynew technologies, so many companies getting into the e-commerce space thathaven't been in, in the space in particular in, in, in years past, but areseeing how they can get to their consumers quicker, help them transact at morevelocity higher transaction volumes, and all those kind of, positive outcomesthat, that, that really rely on the infrastructure in place.

But also makingsure that those things break, having consistent flow within their, acquisitionstrategy and things like that. Before we get into all that, What were you doingbefore you started the company?  

Brandon:Good question. Before I started the company, I was technically a consultant. SoI worked for a large consulting firm based outta Switzerland.

But I was workingwith, SoftBank Robotics and Starbucks and a bunch of others that were allsolving a similar problem. So the simplest explanation is, prior to startingViolet, I was in a situation in which I wish I had Violet. And eventuallyrealized someone had to build it.

So I eventuallyquit my job and worked on building it with my best friend.  

Julian:Yeah, it's so fascinating. It's, it's one of, of a few kind of common, I Iwould say origin stories of founders was, was needing a tool that was, reallycausing them either, a lack of efficiency more time and things like that.

What wasessentially not having a tool like Violet when you were working with thesecompanies that really, I guess, I guess, revitalize its interest in creatingthis product. Was it an efficiency? Was it, missing a piece of technology? Whatin particular was limiting you with the resource you had and what were youusing at the time that was, not giving you the capabilities that, that youwanted?

Brandon:Yeah, so my answer's gonna get a little bit like deep and technical inside ofeCommerce and from over that like, understand e-commerce. That's great. But butour very first attempt at trying to figure out how to build e-commerceintegrations for a specific use case was it a company I co-founded a long timeago?

But basically wedecided to build our own e-commerce stack on top of broadleaf, which is an opensource e-commerce platform. That alone, we probably wouldn't do that againhowever, we learned a lot and went through that process and it was very, verypainful. Cause you have, excuse me, you have the broad leaf piece of theequation and then the integrations themselves, which are Yeah, very detailed,very bespoke, and just require a lot of context.

I then left thatcompany that sort of wrapped up my co-founder moved on to work at Target on avery similar initiative, and there he was asked to build the exact same thingon the immigration side of the house, but from scratch. And so he was goingthrough that whole process. I was finding a similar problem, and the realquestion becomes like, how is it possible for every company to have to buildthis from scratch in house?

And we were askedto do it and every time we got asked to do it, it always took too long. It wastoo expensive, and it was actually the thing that caused the rest of the teamsto struggle, right? We were spending so much time and money just trying tointegrate that we weren't able to actually focus on.

Building the userinterface or optimizing marketing strategies, or building important admin toolsto help with customer experience. There's all these other things to actuallyrun the business instead of having to just like plug into a socket like yeah.In the wall, which is ultimately what Violet is in some ways.

Yeah. Andeventually, Ren and I had to make kind of a strategic choice on how we thinkabout the market to say, do we think these are, literally sockets in the wallthat need to exist? Inside of the digital world, and if that were the case,who's gonna go build those for the e-commerce space?

And that's when wedecided to go start that company. So, yeah, I, I, I, I'd maybe add like, it, itbecame an existential threat and that's why we chose to make the jump. Sure. Soit wasn't just, so, this is nice and everyone has to do this over and overagain. There are things that every company has to do over and over again.

This is what it is.Mm-hmm. But the actual calculation around. How hard is this? How long does ittake? How does it affect the business in various ways? Yeah. It, our priorcompany to fail, it cost other initiatives we were working on to fail. Yeah.And it, it felt like a mission-critical type of thing to solve.

And so that's whywe ultimately said someone has to solve this. Yeah. And we have been staring atit that point for like five or six years. And we decided to do itourselves.  

Julian:Yeah. And, and what are some of the reasons that that caused it to fail? Is itjust the amount of resources into building this infrastructure and integration,or is it the lack of, technical ability?

Is there a smallamount of people that know how to do this? What, what were some of the, thereasons behind, companies not being able to actually integrate this and, anduse it as a, a way to, to increase their business versus, unfortunately, it, itdoesn't work out that way, always.  

Brandon:Yeah, I mean, it, it's a, there's a bunch of different reasons that it all kindof comes together to cause the failure.

Yeah. It's, it'snot just one thing. It's not like, it's just too hard or too complicated,right. We're not right. Red boom, rocket science, like you can in theory, likesend a, a rocket to the moon like that is doable. It just takes a lot of smartpeople and a lot of money. But that's not what this is.

It's a combinationof. This not being the core offering of the company itself. Right? Yeah. So, Ifyou're a company that's building a social commerce application, right? Let'ssay you're a social media app today, your core business is advertising. Yourcore business is recommendations and personalization and handling comments andser serving up a feed and messaging and all these different tools and features.

It's not trying tofigure out how to handle the shipping API response from some random e-commerceplatform that no one on your team understands. Yeah, that's literally not thebusiness they're in. And so it's always gonna fall further down theprioritization stack because at the highest level, there may be some executiveout there that says, we think shoppers should be able to buy a product frominside of an app.

That's great. Butthat's purely a user interface or user experience decision. Yeah, it is not afunctionality or backend integration decision. And that one decision correlatesto thousands of other decisions and a lot of work. That's never gonna work itsway back up to that executive. And so they're always gonna fall into like thesausage making right of the organization and end up lower on thatprioritization list every single time.

And so you end upwith, half solutions and workarounds and a tiny little thing. And I think thelogic there is some combination of, a last mile construct where. All of thisstuff doesn't work unless you have all 10 pieces in place. It's like a pipelineof sorts. You can't just build like one pipe and like put it out there and go,okay, we did like 10% of the pipeline, so it must have 10% functionality.

No, not how itworks. You have to do the entire distance of the pipeline to even get to say10% works. That's just how it functions. Yeah. Yeah. But that's not how a lotof things in the internet work. Right? Like I can go build a mobile app. Andbuild 10% of the functionality that I want in the future. And I can ship that.

And it exists as astandalone entity, but that's not how this works. And so that strange sort ofamalgamation of decision making, prioritization, lack of knowledge. Mm-hmm. Andthat it's a data slash pipeline product that has to. Across a lot of differentfunctionality over time makes it really, really hard.

And yeah, we feltthat firsthand two or three different times and ultimately felt like in someways out of like out of empathy. Yeah, we don't want anyone else to feel this.How can we make it possible? And this particular experience doesn't exist forother people. And that was really why we started the company.

Julian:Yeah. And what, what do you, what would you say some of the signals are forcompanies looking to, build an e-commerce arm of their business? I think a lotof people think about, oh, okay, I wanna maybe sell something then I set up ane-commerce store. But from what you're saying, it's a lot of brands that arealready established that are looking just at, at another way or another vehicleto transact with their customers and make it easy and seamless.

What are some ofthe signals that they see to be able to invest in that arm? Seeing that now I,I'm sure more companies are becoming wise about how much it actually takes toinvest. How much, not only technical resources, but cost, what kind of pushesthem over the edge? What are some of the reasons you've seen for them todevelop this arm?

Brandon:Yeah, so I mean, e-commerce is not a small industry, obviously. Yeah. Saymulti-trillion dollar space. And for context, I think some numbers recently Iread today, buy now, pay later as an industry is 5.3% or whatever. E-commerceglobally. Yeah, yeah. That 5.3, that 5.3% feels really small, but that's 486billion a year.

Right. That's likealmost the entirety of the digital advertising space. Yeah, it's a massive,massive market and it's a sliver of e-commerce, and so just being able to. Makea tiny splash is a huge, huge opportunity. Mm-hmm. And so we sort of look atthat and recognize that e-commerce is growing. It's super interesting.

And there are,there are companies that categorically have products to sell. They go spin up aShopify store or a Magenta store, which I think is now Adobe Commerce. Theykeep everyone's changing names and stacks. It's hard to keep up, which is ourjob. But there are those companies and I think. It's been really, really coolto see the whole like arm the Rebels movement, which was Yeah, a generaltrajectory from, giant.

Retailers in thephysical world to giant marketplaces on the internet, like Amazon. Mm-hmm. Tothose retailers now hopping onto the internet, down to individual big stores,down to mid-market and smaller, and now eventually, yeah. Small entrepreneursbeing able to stand up their own shop and yeah, go D to C and own theirmarketing channels and really democratize.

Access to the tool,the tool set that a lot of the big guys have, and giving that to basicallyeveryone, which is really, really cool. I think. Interesting movement. Yeah. Onthe other side of that equation is everyone else who doesn't have a product tosell. Yeah. Like I, I don't make products, I make software products.

I don't make. Otherproducts that people can tell, right? Like if I could, I would love it to. I'dlove to be a candle maker. I know it's super random, but I am obsessed withcandles. I buy candles all the time. I'm in a store. My fiance says this to me,are we gonna walk outta here with another candle?



Brandon:Yeah. But you know, there is someone out there who is a candle maker and they'regonna use some sort of tool set, but. What I know how to do is I know how tobuild really cool products and applications. Mm-hmm. And ideally, I would muchprefer to say, okay, hang on a second. I wanna take the skills that I have andthe things that I do best.

Mm-hmm. And figureout how I can take that and get into a really lucrative market and try to. Dowhat I do, which is be an entrepreneur, build a product, right? And there are alot of people like me out there, a lot of people who have a product backgroundor they're, engineers by day and actually can either code in Swift or userReact.

We even havecurrent customers that are using like Flutter and some of the more like no codetools. Yeah. And there's all these options out there. And in an alternateuniverse, I would take my love of candles and I would say I am going to createthe best. Candle recommendation app in the world, and I'm gonna go pick my top10 or my top 20 candle companies that I really like and I'm gonna build amobile app or something so that any given time someone can, pull up my app andeither identify a moment or a mood or an experience or a spin, and then get aset of candles recommended back with some set or series of information.

Yeah, there are,there are a lot of people out there that can build all kinds of cool apps andI'm lucky enough that I get to see them using Violet, but they're saying tothemselves, the, the era or the age of just going to some giant marketplacewebsite and having to type into a search filter to find some product is slowlygonna take less and less.

Of a portion of thee-commerce transaction ecosystem. Yeah. It'll always be there. It'll always bea lot, obviously, but it doesn't have to be 50%. Right. If that 50% were to godown to 40%, You're talking like $900 billion. That's up for graphs, basically.Yeah. Yeah. And figuring out what that process looks like.

And ultimately,Violet serves as an api, middleware for any app developer, any product manager,any company. That has an audience is able to aggregate people and provideuseful information and the opportunity for someone to purchase a product, tonot have to build any of their integrations. And in fact, to stand all of thatup in like a couple of business days.

That's what thatis. Yeah. So it's really powerful and really interesting, but it is, it is aredistribution. So whereas the first portion of the movement was thedemocratization of the tools. Sure. Violet is now attempting to redistributesome of those tools to net new entity parties that are adding value to thatecosystem in support of shoppers and merchants.

Julian:Yeah. And thinking about obviously this shift in this transition, whether it's,transactions or even eyeballs or things like that, one thing that comes to mindis what does it mean towards the standards of, a, a customer's experience?Meaning that you've had this huge influx and huge enterprises like Amazoncreating this very.

Simplistic userexperience that I think for a lot of people who say don't wanna buy anything onAmazon because they, whether it's a quality or maybe it's a attachment orwhatever, they don't have a similar philosophy. People have a lot of different,there's a lot of behaviors that help people decide, but what does it mean interms of their expectations for a user experience?

Say you're thatcandle maker, building this online store, building this recommendation engine.It's not necessarily about what technology should I have to make me modern, butit's about what are the standards that I have to comply to for people tocomplete a transaction. How have you seen that really become prevalent and whatare those standards for these companies or, or brands or people who wanna buildthese stores who necessarily need to comply to be even competitive?

Because now it'snot about the product now it's not about the mission now it's about getting toyour audience and helping them. Easily transact. Describe the standards and howthey've affected, e-commerce in, in the more recent years.  

Brandon:Yeah, like our core premise based on our experience is that the experienceinside of any application or experience should be exactly the same as theexperience that a shopper would get from that merchant's website.

And in order topull that off, you have to have a lot of data synced between those differentsystems. And you have to have that data synced basically in real time withoutthat, To your point, you're gonna start to see a degradation and experience. Soyou're gonna have items that aren't the right price.

You're gonna beselling items that are outta stock. You won't know how to calculate theshipping tax, or sorry, the shipping price. Or even how to charge taxes if youhave to. Mm-hmm. All the way down to handling refunds and returns andfulfillments and all the notices that are necessary. A lot of marketplacetechnology in the past has been built in house and has always been around.

Custom, big, large,gnarly efforts, and in reality, a lot of that information already exists,right? Merchants are setting that up in their Shopify store. They have theirown negotiations and agreements that they're making with a bunch of third partylogistics providers and are very comfortable with the paradigms.

A lot of that stuffalready exists, so ultimately, if there was a tool that was able to bringparody between those two experiences, Then again, you could just focus onrunning your business. You have all the data necessary to build that customerexperience if you want, but ultimately you're not having to do it separately.

The merchant's nothaving to shuttle data back and forth manually with like CSV uploads orclicking it buttons for every order. That should all go away. But it hasn't.That's just how it works today, right? We've worked with many customers overthe last decade that force people to do all of that manually clicking buttonsback and forth.

And it doesn'twork, which doesn't scale. Yeah. And ultimately we think that needs to beresolved. But to your point, with that focus on customer experience and thecustomer experience question is actually a data question. And the data questionis an API question. So that's where we chose to, to build the product.

Julian:Yeah. Yeah. I love, I love how it kind of influences and, and kind of how youdescribed how every kind of point decision or even expectation kind ofinfluences the technology on the backend. And even just to ask, obviously itmight be a little too high level for, for most of us, but what are those tech,what is the tech stack that's necessary if I'm building an e-commerce companyor, or building something around a brand, some, some way I want to connect.

Clients with thepro or customers with the product, what are the most important things that Ineed that, Violet makes easy for me to build and integrate? Not to get some ofyour secret sauce, but to get some of your secret sauce.  

Brandon:No, I don't. I mean, I don't care that the real answer is if, if you're wantingto build.

A next generatione-commerce experience, right? Like you don't have candles in your back roomsomewhere that you're trying to sell, but you do wanna sell candles cuz otherpeople have them. And you want to do so in a very connected way, not like anold school drop shipping. Yeah, I was disconnected.

Yeah. But if, ifyou want it to be more, customer interaction, kind of a three-way transaction.If, if that's the case you really only need Violet, like that's kind of all youneed. Prior to Violet, you needed a bunch of things. So you would've had tobuild your own front end application.

Probably in. iOSor, a react web app of some sort. Maybe you decide to run it on Shopify. Maybeyou decide to connect it to some e-commerce platform, maybe not. You probablywould then spin up your own paradigm for orders and build your own databasesand like build your own e-commerce website from scratch.

There's a lot ofwork. Seen it, seen it done, and then once that's up, you have to connect thatto each individual e-commerce platform. So you, you could say, okay, thiscandle maker wants to sell products in my app. I need to figure out how toconnect my servers to their servers. And you would, they would say, okay, I'mon Shopify.

And so you would'veto go and build an integration on, in some set of microservices that wouldconnect their system to your system at some interval with some sort of datamapping and taxonomy. Then get that into your system, make sure it's working,stays up to date. You're consuming. All the web hooks get pretty complicatedfor just one integration.

Yeah. Then anothercandle maker wants to sell products and they're on Adobe commerce, which is anentirely different paradigm, and none of what you did on Shopify applies tothat one, and so you basically start over and build number two. All of thatwould exist for every new platform that the candle maker is on if she were tocontinue and grow it over time.

Or you just useViolet and you can make whatever choices you want on your front end. You canhave your own database if you like. You can put 'em into an e-commerceplatform. We don't care. But you get a simple, almost like stripe, like api,striper, plaid, probably for, for comparison. Yeah. And then you can pull thatin.

And in fact, weactually just released our. First like full-fledged demo app. We have a, aJavaScript SDK is a part of that. You can go grab our NPM package for all thedev, for all the devs that are listening. But you can grab that, spin that upand sure, go ahead and customize some of the css, et cetera.

But in probably anhour or two, you would have a, full fledged to multi merchant checkout. Web appthat you can use for whatever you want. You can throw video onto it. You canjust build your own marketplace if you like. You can wire it into some newexperience that you're building on the web.

Doesn't reallymatter to us. But it's all there. All, all of it's been built. A couple lines,couple lines of code to, to kind of swap it over. But that's, I think that'skind of the power here, is that all of that work. Six, six years now at Violet10 plus years of time and experience figuring out how all this stuff works getsto sort of compile down into, again, a couple lines of code and is ready forsomeone to add e-commerce to whatever business they're building.

Julian:Yeah. And tell, just give us more context. And to add to that, what's beenexciting about the traction you've seen up to this point now and what'sparticularly excited about what you're seeing in terms of the outcomes thatViolet is able to deliver for people wanting to build these stores, or evenlarge companies wanting to build these stores.

What's excitingabout the traction and if you have any numbers, obviously it'll be awesome. Butalso what's particularly exciting about the predictive outcomes that, you'reable to give your, your customers.  

Brandon:Totally. So first thing that's really exciting for us is that people finallycare about this.

When we started thecompany, this wasn't a thing, like no one cared about e-commerceinfrastructure. And for years on end, we were building a pipeline, effectivelythat we knew and thought was gonna be really important in the future. But itwasn't until like late 2021. Early 2022 when things really started to catchfire and everyone realized, oh, there's a lot going on here and we need morehelp and here's kind of the next phase or, or series of things, people are gonnabuild an e-commerce.

Yeah. That's beensuper exciting to us. It feels like we finally have all sort of arrived tostare at the same. Thing and found the same need. So that's really fun for us.We don't share specific numbers today about the growth of the business. But I'dsay we are, I'm, I am just thrilled at what I get to do every day because I getto help other companies be successful and build Yeah.

Whole sections oftheir business, whole revenue models they didn't know were even possible orcould exist. And we get to operate as an extension of their team. It's almostlike they're eCommerce experts in some way. And just get to make their liveseasier, and that's really, really enjoyable for us.

Yeah. In terms ofthe predictive outcome, we have some customers who were already trying to getinto e-commerce, trying to do some checkout stuff, but they were doing a lot ofit manually. For those customers that were doing what we would call manualreordering we've been able to save them 95% reduction in costs for orderprocessing and to take some of their the duration of an order process down from36 hours to like, 300 milliseconds, for example.

And so reallyintense, adjustments because of just the power of automation, right? Likesoftware's really powerful. And if you can build the entirety of everythingthat you need and package it really, really well, then you can start to do newand interesting things. So that's really fun for us.

I think we're stillJust getting started. I know everyone says that and it's a, I, I can't standthat phrase anymore, but I think we've, as a company, been focused on theinfrastructure and getting the tech right and getting the API to support allthe features that we need. And we're now starting to see some more, consistencyaround use cases and yeah.

We're starting tosee different geographies starting to surface and so, we have so much fun stuffto build in the future. We've seen a lot of really interesting ways to expandboth on the product side and in terms of geography. So we're, we're veryexcited. But again, we got a lot of work to do.

We, we got a longroad ahead.  

Julian:Yeah. Thinking about, whether it's external, internal, what are some of thebiggest risks that you see Violet facing today?

Brandon:Yeah, I mean, there's always a risk that the market continues to, to have adownturn of sorts. I don't know exactly how that impacts Violet per se.

Sure. Thus far,most things that have been negative in the market have been reasonably positivefor us. Only because we're a startup, luckily. Right. So generally the marketis always something to cons to consider. Outside of that, there aren't a lot ofrisks for us as a company. I do think there is an open question around.

What doespurchasing look like in the future? Today, purchasing is centered around somesort of mobile app or website, and you're gonna fill out a form and then maybeyou save that. But that's what purchasing looks like. What I don't think hasbeen solved is what does it look like to buy a product in virtual reality?

Yeah, no one hasclearly defined, here's the paradigm, or maybe there isn't a paradigm. Maybeit's. Blinking your eyes three times. Like maybe it's something totally novel,but that requires a certain set of infrastructure and connections to systemsand all these different ways that we need to be able to transact in variousinterfaces and technical stacks, and that's not gonna go away.

And so I think thatunknown is still an open question for us. It's an exciting one, but it is anunknown and it's one of the things we are continuing to try to. Get out infront of, find people who are building great products in the space and givethem the tools to, to be creative, be the experts in their space, and build andinnovate in a way that, we can all kind of look on with awe and, and see thenext phase emerge right in front of us.

Julian:Yeah. And if everything goes well, what's the long-term vision for thecompany?  

Brandon:Same as every company. Grow a great product and solve a lot of problems.Hopefully we get a chance to, grow our overall market cap. I think long term,I'd love to see some of our early employees really benefit from that growth.

And then, if itmakes sense to, to i p o or whatever else. Wanna make sure that the people whoare investing with their time in the company today are able to get that backout. And also, to, to be. An option on the public markets so that, regularinvestors and even folks who use Robinhood have a chance to invest.

Cuz there's so muchupside that is yeah, realized in the private market that isn't always realizedin the public market. So, and for us it's more just around continuing to builda great company and great product and Slowly figuring out what it looks likefor Violet specifically to find its legs and, and get into that next phase ofgrowth.

Julian:Yeah. Yeah. I like this next section. I love this next section actually, it's,I called my founder faq. So I'm gonna hit you with some rapid fire questionsand we'll see what you get. So I always like to start out with this one just tomake it ease our way into it, but what's particularly hard about your jobday-to-day?

Brandon:My job, day-to-day is difficult because Violet touches a lot of differentdisciplines. Across a lot of different use cases, so we have to interface withmerchants and channels, and those merchants and channels could be usinge-commerce platforms across any plat, any specific system, or the channel couldbe in VR or video or whatever it is.

And so the contextswitching around. Okay. What are we talking about? What's the problem to besolved and how do I get deep and then come back out? To be helpful as fast aspossible is really challenging. So I've watched hard actually trying to figureout how can I speed that up and build that more as a muscle.

Julian:Yeah. Yeah. Thinking about ways that the, the product works in particular and,and the, the capabilities that can allow not only an individual user, butacross multiple users. As a founder, are you, where do you spend a lot of yourtime focusing on in terms of client acquisition? Do you focusing on,partnerships kind of landing and expanding, working with a big, brand likeTarget and, kind of increasing its capabilities within the platform, or, newlogos assigning, more or essentially getting more.

People who wannabuild these marketplaces onto the platform and enabling them to build morestores. What are you particularly focusing on and what do you think has themost value at this point in time? Obviously product market fit changes, as, as,as the day and night changes, or as the seasons as the weather.

But in particularright now, what, what do you think is the right kind of focus for your company?Is it land and expanded? Is it new acquisition? Is it something else?  

Brandon:Yeah. For us, we focus on channels, so we gotta interact with people who arebuilding these new experiences. That's our kind of primary focus today.

And then ensuringthat whatever we're building aligns to that new logo acquisition, what theirneeds and their requirements are. And inevitably that does involve merchants orthe supply side of that equation. Yeah. Because of that, there is some elementof figuring out how to, support both entities and what their interaction lookslike.

Yeah. But it'sultimately like a tooling, some combination of tooling. And I, I really likethe fact that as a founder, I get to be really, really close to product andsales because those two have to stay in sync. Right. You can't, yeah. Be havinga lot of feedback from customers and not integrating that into your roadmap to.

Like it's just themost basic thing in the world. And vice versa. You can't be building stuff andnot getting feedback and finding out that it's not useful or it was gamechanging. You need to continue to advance on that. And so that's really wherewe're at today. It's about making sure we interface as often as possible withcustomers and perspective customers through the lens of how helpful is this?

What's the nextsmall thing we can add? I think that's been probably the most surprising thingto us is just. Yeah. How many cool and different things there is to build andhow important the product is for people. And yeah, I don't know. I, I just lovemy job so I can get quite excited about,


What, what's beensurprising that someone's built using your, your platform?  

Brandon: Ithink the one that surprised us most right off the bat was a gifting platformfor influencers. So influencers can go and create their own gifting wishlistand share that wishlist with their audience, and their audience will then buythem products.

And it can bearound a birthday or a wedding or Valentine's Day or whatever it is. But you goin and you shop and you select the products and you purchase it and send anode, and then there's this like, social connection and they mention them inthe stream or on Yeah, the post or whatever that is.

I didn't even knowthat was a business. I could have never guessed it would've been a business.But it's a, it's a real sizable and growing business. And it's fascinating.Yeah. Yeah. And all the different ways that, creator commerce is evolving. How,some companies. Are just focusing on search and trying to specialize on thesearch part of, of e-commerce and building that into a product, down to productrecommendations.

And it's just,there are so many different ways to slice this and they've all been, rolledinto these giant marketplaces and seeing people starting to split them out anddo one part really, really well.  

Julian:Yeah, yeah. And thinking about also, web three and, and how this has impactedyour company, people are starting to use digital wallets, self custody, orcustodial wallets.

And, and using andwanting more ways to transact and not only be paid for services, but also byproducts and, and use that as actual active, liquid income. How has, some ofthe capabilities of Web Three impacted your company? Is there, in integrationpiece that you've had to build because of it?

I, is theresomething in the future that you think will impact the business? What aboutthis new movement of decentralized commerce has really, made you change the wayyou think about building the business or not?

Brandon: Yeah,our, our business in general has tried to stay pretty modular as much aspossible.

So that paymentpiece is really just another modular component. So whether someone wants to payor use, a, a particular web three wallet, or they want to pay with their PayPalaccount or whatever that might be, we just need to make sure that it's easy touse whatever products they want to, they want to use.

Yeah, that's,that's kind of our, our core business model. So whether that's through Stripeor other providers I'd say it's something we support. But it's not, our primarydriver. We've been pretty sure in insulated from the boom and bust on bothsides of that equation. Again, allowing us to focus on the part that we dobest, which is just the API integration between those platforms and whateversomeone wants to build.

Julian:Yeah, thinking about, ways to kind of build culture. Obviously a lot offounders are thinking about, working with remote, hybrid, and even in officeteams and, and maintaining just like a singular focus. On, on what to build andthe direction you go. What are some things as a company you've, you've, builtinternally to help reinvigorate or, or reinvest in, or even just acknowledgeculture on a day-to-day basis, and how does that actually impact your outcomesas a business in a positive way?

If they do, and ifnot, interested here to respond to that.

Brandon:Yeah. I believe that culture is, Really about common expectations. So whatexpectations does everyone hold and share that may not be explicit, but are,unwritten rules? Because we can't write a rule for every individual scenariothat we may experience, but ideally we have some general expectation of thedirection we expect or hope, the interaction or the conversation or the outputto go in.

That is how Idefine culture. Yeah. For us, we then have identified five key sort of culturalvalues that are pretty all encompassing. We didn't want to have too many, wewanted them to be easy to remember. You could rattle them off on one hand, andwe have five, and then we intentionally are always trying to un like, Unfurleach of those within actual interactions.

Mm-hmm. So as ateam, we try to refer to those as often as possible in plain language. So ourfive core values are clarity, curiosity, empathy rigor and integration. Thoseare our five. And in any interaction we pause and if there's something missing,we go back to those five and someone will say, okay.

Hmm. Why are we notquite getting this? Is there a lack of clarity? Do I need to be more curious?Am I not being empathetic enough? Is there a, is there a lack of empathy on theother side of this equation? Sure. Do we need to add some rigor and attentionto detail or whatever that is, but then we can come back to that and say like,ah, got it.

Here's, here's whatI like, what I missed. I wasn't as clear as I should have been. And I want togo back and ideally I'd like to take another pass at Clarity on this and comeback to you and they go, yep, sounds great. No worries. But it, it again buildsthat common language and shared expectation, which helps us big time as a companyhelps us move very, very fast.

Julian:Yeah. Yeah. And also I, I can see that it impacts maybe even a, a, a similarexperience with your customer base, right? It is having that kind of predictivefocal point or, or even like checklist of items on how you're, managing asituation that from a customer standpoint feels consistent across the board,which is awesome.

And I think a lotof companies are not only seeing how, culture impacts internally, but alsoexternally and, and what that means for how they're, how they're viewed as abrand. Yeah. One thing I like to always ask is what's something that you'regood at now as a founder that you wish you were better at earlier on?

Brandon:That's a good question. I am much better at taking a deep breath and lettingthe situation sort of slide past and then being able to figure out how torespond like there are. So many times in my past when I would've probablyoverreacted or miscalculated a scenario. And at some point there's just so manyreally intense things happening as a founder that you realize you just, youdon't have the emotional bandwidth to do that anymore.

And as a result, itturns into a skill. And we talk a lot about it as a company. The, the amount oftime from. The impetus of the action to when it hits our brains, and we thenact on the way it is interpreted within our brains. And I've gotten a lot, alot better at, okay, I'm gonna receive this information, I'm gonna hold.

I wanna pausewhat's happening in my body? What's happening in this situation? How are werelating, what are they feeling? And then starting to kind of inch my way intohow do I wanna respond to this? Yeah, I wish I was a lot better at that earlierin my career, but it's very hard a long time.

Julian:Yeah. Yeah, yeah.

I love to ask thisnext question cause I love how founders extract knowledge out of anything thatthey ingest, whether it was early in your career or now, what books or peopleha or advice. Has impacted or influenced your day-to-day even, even now the most?  

Brandon:To be honest, what has impacted my, my day-to-day is the development of mythinking patterns. And this is a little bit inside baseball here, but I decidedto join the debate team my junior year in college, and that process wasprobably the most formative thing I did. I got, I got demolished for a longtime in debate and realized a lot of things, but one of which was, I'm wrong alot.

Like a lot, andfiguring out how I'm wrong is so important. It's way more important than beingright. And I say this to the team all the time. I don't care if you're wrong, Ijust care how long you stay wrong. That's it. Yeah. And that debate thing iswhat helped me. And I ended up just writing out every argument, every speechpeople were giving, all the concepts, how they all relate, why that particularproof made sense or didn't make sense.

Yeah. And didn'tcare as much about the technique really, but wanted to say, if I were to haveto communicate this exact same concept to someone on the street, could I recreatea bulletproof argument? To say why that is true, regardless of whether Ibelieved it sure had nothing to do with what, where I said personally it was,can I recreate this in a sound fashion?

Yeah. Which wasultimately building up when I did that hundreds and hundreds of times, and nowwhen I'm working on stuff, those muscles are there and so something pops up andI can just pull those and sort and figure out and identify and we're able toslide through. And so I'm just so thankful and grateful I got to do that.

But now it's, it'shard to go back. It's hard to recreate. It was a certain moment in time, andI'm really, I'm really thankful that I was in a place where I could takeadvantage of that.  

Julian:Yeah. It's so fascinating to see how it directly translates into, I mean,business, right? I mean, and, and even relationships overall.

It's, it'sunderstanding maybe an outcome of value or, or something that's gonna affect, acause and effect of a situation. And just laying out the facts and identifyingwhat are we facing, what are the opportunities and options? What have wethought about what's available and what are our potential, outcomes that, thatwe could recreate or create ourselves out of, out of thin air.

That's sofascinating because it directly in lines with, I'm sure your thought process asa founder and how you go through decisions, how you identify signals and, andcreating the validity behind the, the, the, I'm sure the strategies that youdeploy within your team. So exciting to see how that kind of really impactedyou and, and your company.

And and in additionto, to that anecdote, any books or materials online podcast, where, where doyou gather your information and where are you kind of keeping your ear to theground outside of your. Outside of what you're building at Violet, which I'msure you're deep into changes and, and software and updates and, and how thingsintegrate.

But outside ofthat, where do you kind of stay in touch and, and rejuvenate or gather moreinformation?  

Brandon:About any, any particular topic or, yeah, anything. Anything. I do, I spend alot of time in podcasts. I fairly addicted to a whole series of podcasts. AndI'm a little bit of a completist, so I'm trying to always stay on every singleepisode of certain podcasts.

Yeah. I also ha,read books via audible as often as possible. So that's a huge source for mebased on certain categories. And then, outside of that, I think there are acouple of thinkers that. Structure their thoughts really well. I don't alwaysagree with all of their concepts, but I'm ultimately looking for who's able tolike lay out.

The discussion inthe most interesting way and, frame things or provide hooks in places where Iwouldn't have expected a hook to be. That's what I'm looking for. Yeah. Yeah.So I think Ezra Klein does a really good job of that generally. And there's afew others out there, but I think he does a good job.

He brings in othersalso who are fantastic at that as well. Trying to deal with particular,Questions, et cetera. Like say his AI series is is especially good. Yeah. But,but yeah, that's, that's largely where I go. But the, yeah, the, the books andeverything will kind of run the gamut.  


I always like to,a, I know we're coming to the close of the show and I, I would definitely wannagive you a chance to give us your plugs and where we can find you. But beforewe get into all that, is there any question I didn't ask you that I shouldhave? Is there anything that we didn't talk about that we should have broughtup? Anything that we left on the table here for the audience? Anything to mind atall?  

Brandon:No, I think we're good. This has been enjoyable.  

Julian: Ilove that Brandon. And last little bit is where can we find you? Where can webe a fan of you? Give us your Twitters, your, your LinkedIns, your Instagram,wherever we can congregate and, and identify and support you as a founder.

Brandon:Totally. I mean, the Violet website is the biggest, so you can gothere anytime. You can also find me on Twitter, brandon_schulz and find all theother necessary links. And of course, on LinkedIn just under my name you canfind everything there and I probably post most frequently on LinkedIn.

So if you wannastay up on the conversation, go find me there. And you'll see a lot more postsaround e-commerce trends and, and kind of how to find your way into this nextphase of e-commerce.  

Julian:Amazing. Brandon, it's been such a pleasure. Not only learning about how yougot into building Violet, the pains that you were seeing earlier and, and evenlater in your career, the decision to start building it and how it's able tonot only transform people in, in their individual businesses, but also largecompanies and how they really can create this I impressive arm to, address ourcustomers, deliver, transact, and all these beautiful things that come out of,this e-commerce landscape.

Not only from anindividual level, but from from a company level. It'll be exciting to see wherethis. Grows and expands to and, and how it impacts, a lot more products thatI'm sure I'll be interfacing with, but might not even know that are hosted byViolet. So again, Brandon, such a pleasure having you on the show.

I hope you enjoyedyourself and thank you again for being on Behind Company Lines today.  

Brandon:Sounds great. Thanks for having me.

Julian:Of course.

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