At Underscore VC, we believe it takes a community to build an enduring, iconic company. That’s where the Underscore Core and our Core Partners come in. In this series, we’re featuring a handful of our Core Partners, sharing their insights, and describing their impact. Read on to learn more.
With years of experience at companies like Boxed, Amazon, and now as Head of Operations at Heyday, Karan Gandhi has developed powerful eCommerce and Product expertise. That’s what made him a fantastic Core Partner to Underscore portfolio company Mable, a B2B eCommerce marketplace that connects grocery store buyers, retailers, and brands.
“Karan has been a great sounding board for us at Mable,” says Arik Keller, Founder and CEO of Mable. “He’s provided valuable guidance on everything from supply chain, to operations, to product.”
What’s a Core Partner? Core Partners work closely with Underscore VC to help source investment opportunities and/or advise portfolio companies. In return, Core Partners receive “Core Allocations,” a portion of Underscore’s returns on the company via an interest grant in our Core Fund. That means incentives are aligned for productive relationships—at zero cost to our founders.
These partners are hugely valuable. In this brief Q&A, Karan shares insights from his experience in operations and product development.
Obsessing About Customer Needs
Q: What’s something you’ve learned about understanding customer needs?
A: Really understanding customer needs is complex. It isn’t just doing A/B tests, user testing, or customer surveys. To truly understand customer needs, the company, its leadership, and every employee must obsess about product-market fit on a regular, deliberate, and structured basis.
A weekly hour-long meeting to examine customer needs is a starting point. Company leaders must regularly use the product they’re creating in its entirety.
Organizations with strong product-market fit will have customers using their products and services, even when other customer experience elements are lacking. Companies often confuse perfecting a product with improving other aspects of the customer experience, such as customer service. Customer service is table stakes; product-market fit is what truly counts.
Q: What’s one thing all startup founders should understand?
A: Have conviction in what you are building. Your conviction must be more than just lip service. It should be bold, detailed, pressure-tested, and easy to communicate—a distillation of all the external information you’ve absorbed combined with your personal credence. Believe in it and stand behind it. This advice is easy to give, hard to follow.
Shaking Off Failure
Q: What’s something you had to learn the hard way?
A: Life is too short to worry about failures. Failures are a part of a founder’s journey, and what might seem like the end of the road is often just a roadblock that one learns to navigate. Worrying about failures takes a toll on a person, the people surrounding them, and their organization. It’s seldom worth it.
A Highlight as a Core Partner
Q: Can you share a highlight from working with Mable?
A: My “aha” moment working with Mable was during my first call with Arik. He has a firm conviction in what he is building, and when he talked about the massive potential of the B2B eCommerce industry, I realized Mable is on the precipice of building something big.
The same users who have become accustomed to using eCommerce for their personal needs are increasingly looking for solutions for their business needs. This is a trillion-dollar industry with multiple future winners.
Interested in our Core Partner program? Learn more about the Underscore Core and our programs here.