Online shopping is supposed to be about convenience. But the four-man team behind Seattle-startup Hippidy found it was anything but. Trying to make educated purchasing decisions sent them digging through dozens of sites for price and product information.
“When we were shopping for things, we had 100 tabs open,” said co-founder Phi Pham.
So last year, the group launched Hippidy to solve their shopping woes, and hopefully those of others.
“We pride ourselves on being your one-stop shop for products you want to purchase. We were tired of using comparison sites that focused on profit rather than user experience,” Pham said. “So we sought to change this by building a new type of comparison shopping site, with a mission to empower shoppers to make the best purchase possible.”
It’s a crowded space with Google, Yahoo, BizRate, CamelCamelCamel, NextTag, Pronto, PriceGrabber and many others serving up shopping information. But the Hippidy founders believe there’s a better way. They describe their tool as creating a “shopping flash card” that contains pertinent details for deciding on a purchase.
The startup uses an affiliate business model, partnering with big-name retailers including Best Buy, Walmart and Target. Hippidy gets a commission for referring customers to partner sites “but this in no way informs the business decisions we make,” Pham said.
The team is focused on electronics including laptops, TVs, cameras, tablets, video games and other devices, with a plan to expand into other retail sectors. The price data largely comes from their partner companies, as well as other information that can be scraped from the internet and the team does spot checks to verify data on prices and whether items are in stock.
“That is where our focus has been, making sure that data is reliable and we’re getting it efficiently,” said co-founder Long Pham. Future features could include finding coupons for purchases and chat bots to help shoppers deliberate a deal.
The four founders all work part-time on Hippidy and hold jobs at tech companies. Long Pham has worked at Boeing, Paccar, Expedia and as a technical product manager at Rover. Phi Pham has held various marketing roles, including at Zulily, Casper and Thirty Madison. The two Phams are brothers. The other co-founders are Brad Porter, whose experience includes engineering at LaunchKey, which was acquired by Iovation, and Van Nguyen, who was a lead on the developer operations engineering team at Expedia. The co-founders met at the University of Washington.
We caught up with Phi and Long Pham for this Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for their answers to our questionnaire.
What does your company do? Hippidy is simply a better comparison shopping site. We provide our users with features designed to be completely easy to use such as price comparison, price history and consolidated product reviews. All from retailers that customers love and trust.
Inspiration hit us when: We came up with the idea for Hippidy at a Friendsgiving dinner in 2017. We discussed how the online shopping experience has become as stressful and overwhelming as shopping at a mall on the morning of Black Friday. With so much information online, it can be difficult to know where to start the shopping journey. Bouncing around sites looking for the best prices, reading customer reviews from various sources, as well as studying content articles about products from trusted blogs — it’s just all too much. That’s why over the past year, we sought out to fix this experience. Providing our users with three core features, designed to be completely user friendly — price comparison, price history and consolidated product reviews.
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: Bootstrap. This is the funding method that works best for our business at this moment. This allows us to run at our own pace and be really methodical about what we are building. Our business does not currently have too much overhead right now, so it’s manageable. However, we are constantly evaluating how to take our business to the next level.
Our ‘secret sauce’ is: Our ability to prioritize. Our team is constantly thinking of thousands of new ideas that we could build into the product. This can be a blessing and a curse. On one end, you have a bunch of great ideas that can potentially move the needle in a big way. On the other, it becomes extremely difficult to prioritize those ideas and focus on the set business goals. Being a small team, we force ourselves to be disciplined and do weekly prioritization exercises to make sure we are working on the correct things that will help us achieve our business goals.
The smartest move we’ve made so far: Releasing an early Beta version. It was important to us to get user feedback in every step of the creation process. We opened the Beta to gain feedback from our friends and family as well as people on Reddit. This allowed us to get objective feedback from people which informed how we iterated and built the product.
The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: Making assumptions without the data to back it up. There are times where we’ve built features based on our opinions of what we think the end user wants. We’ve learned to combat this by making sure we test and monitor user engagement and getting feedback as early as possible.
Which leading entrepreneur or executive would you most want working in your corner? Disney CEO Bob Iger for his customer obsession and ability to play the long game. Obsession over the customer experience is a driving factor for the way we run our business. Iger has proven that if you take the time to invest in the customer experience, then long term success will come.
Our favorite team-building activity is: Traveling and exploring new places together. Of course it’s a lot easier as a team of four, but we like to do quarterly retreats in a city at least one of us has not been to yet. This opens us up to new environments and promotes creativity.
The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: An entrepreneurial spirit. We’ve learned that you don’t need to start your own company to have entrepreneurial spirit. We look for people who are determined, passionate, creative, scrappy, disciplined and open minded — all great qualities of entrepreneurs.
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: Stay motivated and focused on the goal. There will be times when things don’t go your way and you will feel like quitting. Stick through it. All the hard work you put in will pay off. We are so proud of the team for sticking through it and launching Hippidy.