An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Rob Keve, the co-founder and CEO of Flow, which was honored in our:
- 2020 Best Tech Startups in New Jersey
- 2020 Best Tech Startups in Hoboken
- 2019 Best Tech Startups in New Jersey
- 2019 Best Tech Startups in Hoboken
Tell us the origin story of Flow – what problem were you trying to solve and why?
Flow was born out of a serendipitous encounter on an early morning run. My co-founder, Mike Bryzek, and I happened to hire the same coach to motivate and push us to reach our respective physical goals – for me it was to achieve a sub-three hour marathon, while for Mike, it was to complete the Ironman triathlon. During training, Mike and I bonded over our retail tech backgrounds and we discovered that we shared the same vision for creating a seamless e-commerce experience. Together, we set out to create a next-generation solution for cross border e-commerce so that customers all over the world could have localized shopping experiences.
Mike and I had co-founded companies in the e-commerce space prior to meeting. I was the founder of Fizzback, a leader in customer engagement, and Mike was the co-founder of the e-commerce giant Gilt Groupe. Based on our experiences, we realized that most e-commerce businesses struggle with the complexities of selling their products internationally because they do not have the tools nor the flexibility they need to sell cross-border. Mike and I realized that existing solutions were missing the mark. We agreed that there must be a fundamentally better way to approach the cross-border conundrum because global e-commerce should simply work. Based on our first-hand experiences in previous roles, we understood the challenges plaguing e-commerce merchants looking to sell internationally.
This is why we built a next-generation engine to help brands with global ambitions to market, sell, and ship goods to global customers, and provide those customers with easy, local shopping experiences. Our tech platform automates and simplifies every aspect of the international e-commerce process for our e-commerce merchants. Our platform removes the barriers of cross-border commerce by offering brands benefits like multi-currency pricing, cost-efficient/rapid shipping, international payment options, well-defined taxes/duties, and simple returns. With Flow, e-commerce brands with global aspirations can increase customer conversion and grow their global revenue.
What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?
I believe the biggest challenge is finding the right people to join our team. Hiring a world-class team is difficult because we are not simply looking for individuals with the right skills, but also the right fit. Like most fast-growing start-ups, we seek out professionals who are experts in their respective metiers, with advanced skills and the willingness to grow with Flow. We also seek out diversity on our team – diversity of experience, backgrounds, and ideas. One of our values at Flow is “1st Principle Innovation”, which means we do not draw from accepted wisdom to build our product, but rather, we mine new and original ideas from all corners of the company. We hire individuals to join the team who share this mindset and feel the same way about innovation. Defining and developing Flow’s culture is an ongoing company-wide effort, and we welcome people to the family who will add to our culture and enjoy working with the whole team. Cultural fit is important, which is why my Mike and I make sure that every professional joining the Flow team meets with one of us so that we get to know all potential Flowites during the interview process.
What does the future hold for Flow?
Despite the global market disruptions this year, Flow is uniquely positioned within the retail tech space to continue seeing strong growth. We are a tech company that helps e-commerce businesses to market, sell, and ship products to shoppers everywhere, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we work with many online merchants located all over the world. Furthermore, we raised an impressive $37MM in December of 2019, which reflects investor confidence in our next-generation platform. We are investing this funding to provide more support for our merchants to help them grow internationally and to continue expanding and building the best cross-border solution on the market. While we already have many e-commerce clients on several continents, we continue to see demand for our software solution all over the world. We see this as an opportunity to accelerate our expansion into more markets and help more global retailers of all sizes to acquire global customers and expand international revenue.
What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in Hoboken?
I’ve watched the growth of the tech scene in Hoboken with enthusiasm these past several years. It’s exciting to see how quickly it’s developed and evolved, and there have been a number of startups flooding into the neighborhood with compelling value propositions and strong offerings. The tech scene here has really taken off and I see it approaching critical mass.
What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
As the founder of a startup, you realize quickly that your team is your greatest asset, so make sure your employees come first. The current global environment has been a strong reminder of the importance of taking care of our people. What I believe has helped us the most in transitioning to a 100% work-from-home set up has been taking the time to make sure our people are safe and have what they need to be successful. We send out frequent polls to track employee sentiment and our leadership team checks in regularly with everyone to see how they are faring. It was a tremendous feat to assemble the world-class team we have in place, so I believe it is worth the investment to take care of our people, keep everyone connected/engaged, and continue to grow together as a team.