Jeff Raider is a serial entrepreneur. The first company he cofounded was Warby Parker which is a lifestyle brand that offers designer eyewear at a revolutionary price. With over 2,000 employees, the company has raised $300 million from top tier investors at what is rumored to be a valuation of $2 billion. Jeff is currently the cofounder and CEO at Harry‘s which allows users to buy razors, German engineered blades and shaving creams. The company employs over 1,000 people and has raised $375 million with a valuation of over $1 billion.
In this episode you will learn:
- How to find ideas with big markets
- Brainstorming ideas to get to product market
- Raising capital before you need it
- Finding great cofounders
- Disrupting well-established brands
- Building direct to consumer experiences
- Data on consumer behavior
About Jeff Raider:
Raider worked with City Year on their growth strategy before starting as an Associate Consultant at Bain and Company. In 2006, he accepted an associate position at Charlesbank Capital Partners.
In 2008, he enrolled in the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania’s MBA program where he met Warby Parker co-founders David Gilboa, Andrew Hunt and Jeffrey Raider.
Raider kept his word and returned to Charlesbank as a Senior Associate, remaining a silent partner at Warby Parker through this time.
In 2012, Raider left Charlesbank to launch a direct-to-consumer online grooming company, Harry’s, with his childhood friend Andy Katz-Mayfield.
Connect with Jeff Raider:
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FULL TRANSCRIPTION OF THE INTERVIEW:
Alejandro: Alrighty. Hello, everyone, and welcome to the DealMakers show. I’m actually very, very excited about who we have today as a guest because he actually has been the co-founder behind two really big, big success stories. So, without further ado, Jeffrey Raider, welcome here to the DealMakers show today.
Jeff Raider: Thanks so much for having me. I appreciate it.
Alejandro: Let’s go a little bit back through memory lane. So, before you actually really got into entrepreneurship, you actually lifted indirectly via your parents because your parents were also entrepreneurs. Is that right?
Jeff Raider: That’s right. My mom was an entrepreneur, and she started a Loyalty Marketing Company when I was 11, and I lived through the experience with her of starting a company and seeing the great times and the hard times. That, initially, made me think I didn’t want to do anything entrepreneurial just because I saw what a challenging journey it can be.
Alejandro: Yeah. Was that the main reason you were saying why you didn’t want to go at it right away, and perhaps you did a little bit of corporate America?
Jeff Raider: Yeah. I certainly did. I was like, “Wow. This is really hard. There must be a more stable and less stressful way to go about a career.” But then I think what I probably underestimated was how rewarding it can be to hopefully build a company that has positive impact and how just engaging and enthralling it is to be so passionate about an idea that all you want to do is spend time working on it.
Alejandro: Absolutely. Basically, you graduated from Johns Hopkins University. Right out of that experience there of studying, you actually go in and start at Bain. But before we go into Bain, why did you decide to do international studies?
Jeff Raider: I thought I really wanted to try to have impact in the world. I thought international affairs was an interesting background to do that. So, you got to learn about economics and politics, not only in the U.S. but around the world and sort of the forces that impact world affairs more broadly. I ended up doing a Masters in International Affairs too because I was so interested in it. For a while, I thought that my career might take me to the public sector to work at the State Department or something. Then I realized that what motivated me most was the chance to have impact quickly in a career and that working at a place like Bain could enable me to do that probably in a differential way than some of the opportunities I saw in the D.C. policy community.
Alejandro: Actually, some of the best entrepreneurs that I’ve see are those that have done some consulting in the past, either at Bain or McKinsey. What did you learn here?
Jeff Raider: I think Bain is an incredible place, and I think I learned a few things. 1) I learned how to break down really complex problems into their subcomponent pieces, and then break those down again which can obviously be really helpful in an entrepreneurial endeavor. Starting a company just seems so big and hard if you think about it as one problem. But when you break it down to 100 problems, and then break those problems down further, it can become a lot more manageable. We learned to do that at Bain. I think it gave me a good perspective on how different businesses are run, and how different markets function, and I think that was really helpful, just to sort of see patterns between different businesses and different industries, and I met amazing people at Bain. So, I met my Harry’s co-founder at Bain, which is probably the most important thing that Bain offered was just the chance to get to work with such incredible people, and learn from them, and spend time with them.
Alejandro: Absolutely. In terms of patterns, would you mind sharing some of those patterns that you’re able to recognize whether on markets or on companies that were doing really good stuff?
Jeff Raider: I felt like the companies that we were working with that were most successful were those that had a real reason to exist, and a real set of differentiating characteristics or beliefs in their business models that enabled them to serve people in a better way somehow. I don’t think I can go into specifics because Bain doesn’t disclose work that they do, but it was really clear to me that there were just some really great businesses out there that were offering people what they wanted in a highly compelling way, and then innovating for people to continue to get better and better. I had a ton of admiration for those companies, and then I think there were others that just felt like they hadn’t quite found their way, and therefore, it seemed like it was just harder for them, like it was more challenging. I think that’s one thing. I think the second thing about Bain that I learned was at least in businesses that served customers directly, and we worked with a bunch, that the best ones seemed to be really, really focused on who the customer was, what they wanted, and how the business could help to improve their experience in some way, shape, or form. I felt like I got a pretty deep appreciation for people and for what they valued. Those, I think, were some of the most exciting and rewarding opportunities. That can exist across sectors. That can exist within consumer or healthcare, or professional services. It can be anywhere, but I think if you think about the end consumer of anything that you’re going to make as a person and trying to be deeply empathetic with who that person is, and how you can be better for them, I think it just leads to a lot of exciting opportunities, and it can make a real impact too.
Alejandro: Jeff, why did you decide to go from consulting to more the investment side with Charlesbank?
Jeff Raider: I had a couple of friends who had worked at Bain, who had gone to working in investing. Their pitch to me, which was an exciting pitch at the time, I was only a couple of years out of school was, “Why don’t you come learn about this. It’s an industry that not many people understand. At least it would be a good learning experience for you. What we like about it is rather than just getting to consult at companies and make strategic recommendations for them that they can choose to follow or not, we end up putting our money where our mouth is and trying to buy these companies that we think are in strong strategic positions, and then work with them at the board level to improve performance and drive growth. So, you can just have more direct impact. You’re one step closer to where the decisions are being made.” That sounded really exciting to me, the idea. Then I went, and met people, and ended up working at Charlesbank. I went and met the people there, and I just really liked them. I spent a few days with the people, and a few days there, you can meet the entire team. So, I had the opportunity to do that. The folks I met I thought were incredibly smart and humble, and thoughtful, and people that I’d like to work with and that I could learn from. So, that drove my decision to leave and to try to go work in investing and to try to understand what that was like, and hopefully have another interesting learning experience early in my career.
Alejandro: Talking about boards, Jeff, you had here the experience of really understanding working at a strategic level and seeing the dynamics of works of successful companies. What do you think makes a board effective?
Jeff Raider: I think there are a couple of things. One, I think there’s a very clear line between the board and management that’s really important not to cross or to be respectful of. I think the board’s ultimate job is to help management set the strategic direction of the company, and then hold them accountable for the execution against that direction. If boards start to meddle in the day-to-day or week-to-week, or even year-to-year activities of a company and not hold management accountable for executing, then you end up with this really interesting issue around whose job was it? Was it the board’s job? Did they do well or not well? Or was it the management job. Did they do well or not well? I think the best board dynamics that I’ve witnessed, and I think the Charlesbank folks were exceptionally thoughtful about this were those in which the board could push management thinking, have a really interesting set of strategic perspectives, get to see a bunch of different businesses, and have a sense of what’s going on in the world, and bring that information to a conversation to help management think through challenging crossroads: I could go left; I could go right. Which way should I go? But at the end of the day, hold management accountable for a lot of the ultimate decisions and for execution against those decisions. I think in situations where I’ve seen there be problems at the board level, I think sometimes board members think that they should drive some of the executions or to get involved personally. Then there’s just attributions and just complicated both on the positive and the negative. Who is really running the company? So, I think that’s a really important dynamic. I think the second thing that’s helpful is just having a diverse set of perspectives in a board. When we’re on the boards of Charlesbank companies, oftentimes we would have outside directors who just had different perspectives than the folks at Charlesbank. I think if everyone’s just thinking the same way, oftentimes, you don’t get to the best place. Now that Harry’s is a company that’s growing, we’re thinking a lot about how to evolve our board. One of the things I’ve been thinking a lot about are what are the diverse set of experiences and perspectives that we want to help us get to drive the company forward strategically.
Alejandro: Yeah. That makes sense. Then at what point do you decide, “You know, this is interesting, but I’ve got to go back to business school.”
Jeff Raider: It was a pretty logical path for me to spend a couple years at Charlesbank and go back to business school. That’s something that many folks there did. So, it wasn’t like a huge decision to do that. At the time, I thought I may want to work at Charlesbank a long time. So, having another quasi-professional experience of going back to business school or something that I just thought would be interesting for me personally probably helpful for me to get another set of ideas from new people professionally. Then I can go back to Charlesbank afterwards and continue to work there. They were really supportive of me going. So, I went to business school at Wharton. It was an amazing experience for me. I think one that changed my life.
Alejandro: I can imagine. Wharton, there’s a lot of businesses that come out of it. I actually go and guest lecture there with Professor Wright, and I love the energy and how people are around brainstorming. But one of the big ideas actually happened there with you and with three other folks. So, how did the idea of Warby Parker come together?
Jeff Raider: I was sitting after class with my good friend and eventual Warby Parker co-founder, Neil. Another one of our co-founders came up to the two of us and said, “What do you think of selling glasses online?” His name was Dave, and our fourth co-founder, Andy and he were close, and we worked together on the same learning team at Wharton. I think Andy had the idea coming to school and had mentioned it to Dave. I think Dave had also had similar issues with his own glasses. He mentioned this to us. At the time, I had a $500 pair of glasses where my prescription had changed multiple times, but I hadn’t changed my glasses. It felt like there was a pain point for me and an opportunity to do it better in the world. So, when Dave mentioned the idea to me, I got really excited about it and said, “I’d love a better pair of glasses. These seem super expensive.” Neil had worked in the eyewear industry before school and had said, “Hey, glasses don’t have to cost $500. I’ve been to the place where they’re made. They’re so expensive because these big companies essentially own the entire market, and they charge a big markup between the cost to make the products, and the cost that they’re sold for. So, Jeff, you could get a great pair of glasses that you really liked for a lot less, and you should be able to have that.” That was a really interesting conversation for me. After the conversation, I went home. I couldn’t sleep that night. Then I emailed Neil and Dave at like 1:00 AM and I was like, “Hey, guys. I can’t stop thinking about this. This is really an interesting idea. I think we should at least consider it.” I think one of them emailed me right back and said, “I can’t sleep either. I’m super excited.” I think all of us felt like there was just an exciting opportunity to do something together. We were close friends. So, it was fun to get to come together with folks that we were tight with personally and try to do something that hopefully had impact far beyond the four of us.
Alejandro: And the four of you, did you all have different backgrounds and different things to add to the table, or how did you guys really divide and conquer?
Jeff Raider: If you looked at us on paper, we weren’t all that diverse. Dave had worked at Bain and in finance just like me. Andy was an investment banker. Neil had worked at a nonprofit and had some experience in the eyewear industry which was sort of on paper complimentary. But then I think if you looked at us all as people, I think we’re really different; I think have different ideas and perspectives, and we’re able, I think, to figure out what our different ideas and perspectives were, but also started to develop a shared understanding in vision for what we wanted this to be. I think it was sort of the magic of that process that Warby Parker was formed.
Alejandro: How long did it take from that day where you couldn’t sleep until you guys actually turned the switch on the launch?
Jeff Raider: That day where I couldn’t sleep was in late 2008, and we ended up launching Warby Parker in early 2010, a little over a year.
Alejandro: Got it. When you launched, did you automatically know that you had product/market fit or there were certain tweaks that needed to happen to get there?
Jeff Raider: No. It happened very quickly. We knew we had product/market fit very quickly. We launched, turned the website on. I think I stayed up all night the night before. We had one outsourced web developer who’s a great guy living in Canada. We stayed up all night the night before getting the site ready. We turned it on, and the reason that we had to turn it on, on a specific day was because we heard that GQ was writing an article about eyewear, and they were including Warby Parker in the article. So, we turned it on. GQ had newsstands. We went and picked up a copy, and then we went to class. Then afterwards, Vogue wrote an article about us. Then DailyCandy, and all the sudden, we were having this great press. After the press started to hit, we just had a deluge of orders. We hit our first-year sales plan in our first month. We sold out of most of our styles, and it very quickly flipped from “We have this brand. Is anyone going to want to buy it?” to “Oh, my gosh. How do we deal with all these customers, and how do we ensure that they have a great experience with us?” which was just so deeply important to us personally into this success of the brand.
Alejandro: That’s amazing. So, here you are in this rocket ship in 2009, and then all of the sudden, you decide to go back to corporate America. Why?
Jeff Raider: Yeah. So, before I got into business school, I had worked at Charlesbank, and they had given me the opportunity to come back after school. At the time, I felt like it was a great opportunity. I loved the people there. I enjoyed the work I was doing. So, I took the opportunity. I always thought that I was going to go back to Charlesbank and work in investing regardless of what was going to happen at Warby Parker. Warby Parker was this amazing thing I got to work on while I was in school that started as a project with my good friends and ended up being so much more, but it was really hard for me to get any perspective on that while I was in the middle of it. So, at the end of school, I continued to work on Warby Parker. Then one day, it was like, “I’ve got to go back to my full-time job.” I left and spent a lot of time then still working on Warby Parker. It was very hard for me to let it go. And I tried to spend a lot of time with my co-founders thinking about how we could continue to build the company and the team around them to enable them to be successful, and they were amazing, amazing founders, and doing a great job. So, I had the fortune of getting to continue to work with them, hopefully on some of the issues that continue to make the business work.
Alejandro: Yeah, because you stayed at the board. Right?
Jeff Raider: Yeah. I stayed on the board of Warby Parker. I’m still on the board at Warby Parker, and that’s something that I love deeply. I care a ton about the company. I care a ton about the folks that I got to start the company with, and would always do anything for Warby Parker. I’ve always felt that way. So, for me, it was amazing to get to stay involved, and I think as I did stay involved, I started to get a pretty good A/B test for what I liked. I think doing something entrepreneurial was just something that I was really, really passionate about. So, I think having the experience of doing Warby Parker well and also working investing was just a good moment for me to be able to actually get some time to reflect, and I think opened my eyes to the fact that I would want to do something entrepreneurial again someday. Then Andy called me with the idea for Harry’s, and that became the thing.
Alejandro: That’s amazing. For the people that are listening, how big is Warby Parker today?
Jeff Raider: I think we have a few thousand employees total. We have now almost 100 stores, and then obviously, I started online, and I’m happy to continue to grow there. We’re in the U.S. and in Canada, and it’s been amazing just to see the overall growth of the company.
Alejandro: Yeah, I can imagine. The company has also reportedly raised close to 300 million and is closer to a 2 billion evaluation. So, that’s really impressive. Now, let’s talk a little bit about Harry’s. You go back to corporate America. You’re at Charlesbank, and then all of the sudden, after being a couple of years there, you receive a call from your now co-founder. What happened?
Jeff Raider: Yeah. Andy and I met at Bain and had been very close friends and stayed close through my experience building Warby Parker. He called me one day, and said, “I just had a bad experience. I went to a drugstore. I waited for 10 minutes for someone to unlock the razor case. I paid $25 for razor blades and some shaving cream. It’s not that they actually cost $25 that’s upsetting me, but I know that they don’t cost nearly that much to make, and I feel like I’m getting taken advantage of. I’m looking in my bag. There’s a picture of a razor flying over the moon. I don’t understand why it has to be that way. Could you take some of what you guys learned at Warby Parker and do it better here?” I think that idea was really exciting for me, the idea that we could do it better for ourselves, first, but then for lots of other guys. I felt like we could build a brand that was warm and relatable and approachable to guys that gave them great products at fair value, that delivered it to them in different and unique ways and ways that would hopefully make that purchase experience more convenient and offer them education if and where it was helpful. So, I got super excited about that idea with Andy, and off we went to start to work on Harry’s.
Alejandro: How long did it take from that call until you actually made the decision to go at it?
Jeff Raider: That call was in late 2011. The next thing we had to do is figure out how we’re going to make great products. That journey took us to Germany where we found an amazing manufacturer of razor blades which was incredibly important. Then it took us a while to develop a partnership with them by which we could make custom products for Harry’s and try to deliver just exceptional quality products that were what our customers wanted. They had never been in the U.S. before, so we had to work with them on that. The took about nine months, and then in mid-2012, we signed a partnership with them, went back, raised some capital. At that point, I said this is going to be the next thing that I go work on. So, I stepped down from Charlesbank full-time, and was pretty open with them about my longer-term aspirations, and went to start to work on Harry’s.
Alejandro: Was there like a decision that you made personally because you had this background growing up with your parents as entrepreneurs, and you saw the highs and the lows, but was there a breakthrough moment for you where you said, “You know what? I’m actually going at it, and I don’t care about corporate America. This is my life.”
Jeff Raider: Yeah. There are two anecdotes that might just be interesting in the context of what motivated me. The first thing is the thing that I enjoyed most during my time working in investing was meeting other founders, entrepreneurs of companies. It was really cool. I got to go fly to wherever they were, sit down with them for a day, and learn about all the decisions that they made in building their business. Maybe not all, but a lot of the key, important decisions. How they run their company, and how they think about its future growth opportunities, and what that means financially. Those were amazing conversations. I just left inspired and excited about the potential to work with them. That was one I think important factor. Then I was also having a lot of the same conversations with my co-founders at Warby Parker. I’d have breakfast with them, and we’d walk back to the Warby Parker office, and then I’d go take the subway up to mid-town and work in investing all day, and then come back to Warby Parker after work. I just felt like that was an experience that I wanted. Thankfully, Warby Parker had traction in the market and was working and growing, and I saw the impact we were having. I just wanted the same experience for myself that I’d had at Warby Parker, and my co-founders were having as they were building the business. So, I think that was very personal thing. I think at the end of the day we spend so much time working, you’ve got to do things that you’re just incredibly passionate about, and I think I’ve always probably been passionate about building things and creating things. While investing was a great experience for me, and I loved the people, I’m probably just more passionate about doing things that are operational and within a company. I think Warby Parker certainly taught me that. I think my experience in Charlesbank reflecting on them helped to reinforce it for me. Then when Andy called me with the idea, I was just so excited about it. It’s like what I felt like I had to go do. I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
Alejandro: I hear you. Why did you and Andy decide to go with the co-founder, co-CEO structure?
Jeff Raider: We’ve always been really good friends, and we felt like we wanted to go into this as partners. I’d seen it work well with my co-founders at Warby Parker, and I recognized that starting a company while is an amazing experience is a lonely, difficult one. To have a co-founder who you can share it with is really helpful. They’re really the only one who sort of is in it with you to the extent that you are. So, I always felt like having a partner would be amazing. Andy and I have been good friends for a long time. We literally wrote each other’s business school recommendations. In it, we both talked about the fact that if either of us asked the other one to start a business, we’d drop everything that we were doing and go do it together. So, I think we came at it with a deep level of mutual respect and understanding, and I think always thought about doing it together. Doing it as equal partners just felt great to both of us.
Alejandro: Makes sense. What ended up being the business model so that the people that are listening really understand.
Jeff Raider: I think our Harry’s business model has grown and evolved over time. We started Harry’s as a brand first and foremost. I think a brand that was rooted in the idea of trying to deliver a better experience for guys around shaving, but recognizing that there were a bunch of things around men’s personal care. All the things that guys do to get ready in the morning that we also felt like we could make better. It started with, “What can we do to make this better for ourselves personally?” Andy was distressed at the drugstore. I think lots of guys felt like the big brands were taking advantage of them and not delivering them the products that they want; not innovating in the ways that are actually good for them, just raising prices. So, we felt like we could do it differently and better, and build a brand that was warm, relatable, was there for guys, and try to do that by now putting on airs, but just kind of being ourselves saying, “Listen. We’re not shaving experts. We’re guys just like you who wanted a better experience ourselves. So, we’re going to try to do it for ourselves and for guys everywhere. As I mentioned, we tried to make the best possible product we could, and I think that’s something that has permeated our culture at Harry’s. We ended up buying our razor factory in Germany when we were a little less than a year old because we felt like quality was so important. We’ve invested tens of millions, if not over 100 million dollars in the factory, and in improving every little piece of the products that we make in growing capacity, and building the team, and continue to try to do what’s right for the people there. So, that’s been an important part of our journey. It’s not just our razor products. We built a big team of amazing people who would do everything from formulate each of our—we call them soft products, but facewash, face lotion, or shave gel. Now we make body wash. Two teams that deeply try to understand guys and what they need and get to know them in a deep way. Our customers and guys everywhere to try to just do what’s best for them. I think that’s been an important driver of our philosophy as a company. We started selling online because we felt like we could get to know our customers better. I think that’s been an amazing thing for us. We’ve had over two million conversations with our customers in CX. The #1 root cause of conversations is customer love. So, we have lots of people just writing to us just telling us that they’re happy with their products, but then we try to understand why. What do you like about them, and how can we do more? When people are unhappy, and of course that happens. We also try to understand that and figure out how we can make their individual experiences better, but also use that as learning to make our products and experience better for more people. As we grew, we realized that lots of our customers also wanted to find Harry’s at retail. As a brand that was customer-centric, we wanted to be there for them, and so we ended up signing a partnership with Target which we launched in 2016 which has been a great thing for our business, and I think for our customers. I think we’ve been blown away by the impact we’ve been able to have there, and changing the dynamics of the category, and hopefully giving their guests another option that they would really want. From there, we’ve expanded retail to Walmart which we launched last year. It’s also been a really great partnership for us. 150 million people a week go to Walmart, so we felt like we should be there for them. We’re very much aligned with a team at Walmart around how to deliver them a great experience around our brand and deliver them great value in our products. We’ll continue to expand from there to new products and new categories. Potentially to new geographies, but I think always trying to keep the north star of our customer and trying to create products and experiences that they like more and somehow make their daily lives a little bit better.
Alejandro: That’s really amazing. One thing that I also found really incredible is how well you guys capitalize the business from very, very early on. I mean, rather than really waiting to turn the switch on and see what things would look like. For example, on Warby Parker I know that you guys were running out of stock very quickly, and then you had to wait for that to really fill those orders. Do you actually raise money before launching the product? Is that right?
Jeff Raider: Yeah, we raised a Seed Round of capital before we launched the brand.
Alejandro: That’s amazing. In total, Jeff, how much capital have you guys raised to date?
Jeff Raider: I think at Harry’s we’ve raised close to 400 million dollars in equity and debt capital.
Alejandro: Got it. Really cool. I understand that you guys very recently launched Harry’s Labs. What is Harry’s Labs about?
Jeff Raider: Harry’s Labs is an organization that’s focused on building, incubating, and helping to scale new brands in CPG. Leveraging all of the infrastructure capabilities relationships that we’ve built so far at Harry’s. So, if you take a step back, we think that there’s an amazing opportunity to launch new brands in CPG. If you look at CPG, it’s a trillion dollars a market cap dominated by a handful of large companies. They make really healthy gross margins, and the industry doesn’t grow. Then you click down a level, it’s dominated by a bunch of brands across all these categories that largely sit on retail shelves and are not bad brands. We have a ton of respect for the brands that have been built, but maybe our brands are our children’s brands, but our parent’s brands are our grandparent’s brands. We think that there’s an opportunity to build modern brands that people just have more affinity with that solve a merging customer needs to interact with customers across multiple channels. We think lots of people will continue to buy retail, and it’s important to be there, but Direct to Consumer’s also been an amazing channel for us to continue to grow Harry’s. By doing so, to try to give people just better and better experiences across all of the categories in CPG. We think of those as everything from beauty to personal care, health and wellness, home, baby, pets. So, a pretty wide variety of things. I think the things that we’ve learned at Harry’s can hopefully be helpful to a bunch of brands in these situations. That starts with how do you understand your customer? Do you plan and try to build brands that are highly resonant? How do you go to market in a way that maximizes the impact that you’re going to have on them starting, I think, Direct to Consumer, and building a really sophisticated and robust Direct to Consumer experience? Getting all the data you can on consumers to actually understand what their behaviors are to serve them better. Built a ton of infrastructure at Harry’s that has powered the Harry’s brand in a way that we can apply to other brands thinking about if and how and where it might make sense to expand into retail, and how to do that in a way that also is impactful. Leveraging lots of the relationships we’ve built there and the know-how that we’ve got, and then trying to hire and build world-class organizations, and do so in a way that’s highly entrepreneurial. Similar to the comments I made around great board governance, I think we believe that entrepreneurs need to be able to make all the decisions that they need to make to be able to be really close to the customers to drive businesses forward. So, we’re committed to creating an amazing operating ecosystem around these businesses, help to take a lot of the hard stuff off of people’s plates, but then give them the opportunity to really drive the business forward in a way that they think is good from a product perspective and a customer perspective. That, I think is the part of the entrepreneurial journey that at least I’ve felt to be most rewarding. So, that’s what we’re working on.
Alejandro: You guys definitely have the size and resources to really make an impact. How big are you guys today? How big is Harry’s?
Jeff Raider: Harry’s from a people perspective is almost 1,000 people. So, we have about 350 people in New York. We have about 30 people in the U.K., and then a little over 500 in Germany. So, our team has grown a lot, and it’s been amazing to see our business grow. We’re always thinking about how can we build better capabilities that can support both the Harry’s brand and now in this new world, more brands over time.
Alejandro: That’s really fantastic. Let me ask you this because this is a question that I typically ask the guests that we have on the show. You’ve been exposed here to two incredible rocket ships, Harry’s and then also Warby Parker. Knowing what you know now, and this is obviously really impossible, but if you had the opportunity to talk to your younger self and give you one piece of advice before launching a business, what would that be and why?
Jeff Raider: I think to myself, it would probably be to really deeply understand the customer and people, and just do what’s right for them. I think sometimes situations, companies, and I think we’ve fallen prey to this can say, “This is going to be cool for the brand.” Or, “I’ve seen these three other companies do this, so it would be cool for us.” Or, maybe it’s a business decision as opposed to like, “Is my customer going to like this more? Am I going to make their life better somehow?” Every time we do something that might not make the customers like better, I think we find that we swim against the current, and every time we make the customer’s life better, we swim with the current in a material way. So, as we thought about expanding the vision for Harry’s to multiple brands, we’ve thought a lot about what does that mean, and what should the common thread be that drives these brands? I think it comes down to this idea of creating products and experiences that just simply make people’s lives better; things that they like more. I think that that’s something that I want to evangelize everywhere, but I think I would have certainly loved to have had that conversation with myself a few years ago because I think at times, running a company, you can be intrigued with other ideas that may not be the most customer-centric, and I feel like when we always bring it back to the customer is when we make our best decisions.
Alejandro: Got it. It was a really interesting talking about customers. I think it was Steve Jobs that said that “In many instances, the customer doesn’t really know what they want.” From your perspective when you’re thinking about customers, are you waiting for them to tell you what they want, or how do you figure out what they need?
Jeff Raider: That’s a good question. I know we talk a lot about the idea of Henry Ford saying that “If I just listen to my customers, they would have asked for a faster horse.” Obviously, he created cars, which completely changed the dynamic in the world. So, I think that it’s a mix. I think you’ve got to understand who your customer is and what they want from you. Then I think you’ve got to have some vision on how you can create experiences that you just know are going to delight them. I think it’s that subjectivity and vision that is exciting. I think I still feel like Harry’s is a brand that I should love to use. When I see things that our team doesn’t like, oh man, I want that. That’s when I feel like I know that we’re doing something that’s going to be highly resonant. I think when I’m like, “Hum. Man, maybe it’s good for the business,” or “Oh, I saw these other people do it successfully, but I’m not sure I’d want it like that.” That’s a good gut-check moment for me as a Harry’s customer. So, I think in building a brand there’s a real tension that exists between understanding what you people want in delivering them that and having a vision for how to delight them further. I think it’s in the intersection of those things where amazing things happen. If someone likes Steve Jobs who’s such an amazing visionary, I’d probably argue he knew his customer pretty well, intuitively, and that he had an amazing vision for what he could do for them. I think that’s something, obviously, that we would aspire to do here. Obviously, not with as much amazing purpose and vision as he had, but something to really strive for.
Alejandro: Definitely, a lot of impact, Jeff, that you’ve created on the shaving and on the eyewear, and wherever you go, I’m sure that you’re going to continue to drive that success. So, Jeff, thank you so much.
Jeff Raider: Thank you.
Alejandro: Before we actually wrap it up, for the people that are listening, what is the best way for them to reach out and say hi?
Jeff Raider: There are a few ways they can reach out. If they’ve got great ideas that they want to share with us or want us to potentially partner on your business, they can email us at email@example.com. If they just want to talk to someone at Harry’s, I think firstname.lastname@example.org. Then obviously, I’m on Twitter and LinkedIn and all other social platforms, and they can find me there. My handles are generally @jeffreyraider.
Alejandro: Amazing. Well, Jeff, thank you so much for being on the DealMakers show today.
Jeff Raider: Thank you. I appreciate it.