January 16, 2013
When I first read about Slice and investigated their website, I was impressed (to say the least). It’s one of those services that makes you think, “Wow, why hasn’t someone thought of that before now,” and “How did I live without it.” It’s that useful. Essentially, Slice tracks your packages to the extreme; you can literally know when a bouquet of flowers is going to arrive at your doorstep so you can pop home from work to sign for them. You know what I always say: where there is a cool product, there is a great startup story! OK, so I never say that, but that is the case here. So sit back, relax and enjoy as Harpinder Singh Madan, a Slice co-founder, gives you the scoop on how Slice got it’s start.
The original idea for Slice was sparked when my co-founder and I recognized that e-commerce was growing and more people were shopping online. Personally, we noticed that shopping receipts would pile up in our inboxes – we felt that the inbox was a great place to receive receipts, but a terrible place to act on them. We thought that there must be a better way to organize this information, and that’s what drove us to create Slice.
The first thing we did was to validate our thesis by talking to potential users. We partnered with the folks at Yahoo! Mail and built an app that their consumer base could use. We were featured in the new Yahoo! Mail rollout, which helped us to gain traction.
Our current office is an open layout where the product team, designers and engineers all sit together. The openness is my favorite part—it’s conducive to collaboration and everyone feels very approachable. There are several places in the office like the ping pong table, the sitting area and the kegerator where people can come together and chat.
Our first public event was the “Under the Radar” conference, which was held in Mountain View last year. We were picked as show favorites by both the judges and the attendees, which helped us to gain momentum with consumers, media and other companies in the space.
Before we had any code in place, we drew up some paper sketches of what Slice could look like and did some user studies to validate the concept. This sketch shows a user’s list of purchases. During our studies, we found that users loved being able to glance and see everything in one place, and also that package tracking was a key hook— users wanted to be able to really stay on top of their shipments.
The highest high (while building Slice) has been realizing that we lucked out by picking an amazing space. You can do a lot of incredible things with purchase information, and that creates a lot of different opportunities. Plus, we have built a product that is truly delightful to our users. I love reading the reviews from our customers.
The lowest low was finding out that the technical challenge was much harder than expected. It is easy to get to 70% of the solution, but it took a lot of energy to get all the way there and build an excellent solution.
My co-founder, Scott Brady, has been a great mentor. He’s started several companies before. He has an infectious enthusiasm that sets a great tone. He has always encouraged me trust my instincts and bet on smart people. You can move forward with full force when you do that.
We will absolutely try to maintain a “startup culture” moving forward. To me, “startup attitude” means creating an environment where a small number of people can have a huge, disproportionate impact. We have an open environment where people feel empowered to come up with ideas, share them and execute on them quickly. We want to instill and maintain a sense of urgency in what we do. These are values that don’t get old, regardless of the company’s stage.