How One 29-Year-Old Founder Is Changing the Way We Shop
Four years ago, then-26-year-old Carl Waldekranz founded Tictail, an e-commerce company that helps emerging and independent brands curate and launch “e-shops” online. Walderkranz summarizes the company as a kind of “Tumblr for e-commerce shopping experience.” After Waldekranz made the Forbes 30 Under 30 list, we caught up with the ambitious founder to ask him about his growing retail business. Scroll through for more wise words from an ambitious founder whose business is expanding every day.
MYDOMAINE: How did you come up with the idea for Tictail?
CARL WALDEKRANZ: All the credit goes to my mom. I grew up in a household of artists. My mom has been a painter for as long as I can remember, and I have a distinct memory of the moment she decided to take her side passion for ceramics and make it into a full-time job. At this time, my mom had ambitions of building a global business, and yet she didn’t even have the tech know-how to create an online shop, not to mention marketing expertise or any knowledge whatsoever of social media.
This sparked an idea: What if we could create an easy-to-use DIY e-commerce platform geared toward emerging designers and creatives around the world? From this idea sparked Tictail, what is today the destination to discover and shop independent brands from around the world. My mom’s brand, ByMutti, was the first brand on Tictail in 2012. Four years later and we have grown from one to 100,000 brands on the platform, across 140 countries around the world. We are a truly global destination for the self-made entrepreneur, as well as the discerning shopper vying to discover the coolest emerging designers from around the world.
MD: What major pain point were you trying to solve?
CW: Since day one, we’ve sought to democratize e-commerce. When looking at the online retail industry, my co-founders and I were baffled with why the options were so costly, complicated, and unattractive. We want to take care of the boring stuff (technology, marketing tools, distribution) so that brands can focus on the stuff that matters—their product and building a personal relationship with their shoppers.
MD: What was your competitive advantage as a founder?
CW: I always like to say that the 10 years that Amazon, eBay, Net-a-Porter, and other e-commerce players have over Tictail is a time advantage, while we have 10 years of a tech advantage. We are building the most innovative and personal e-commerce experience on the market today. We are social. We are mobile-first. We have learned from the missteps of other big businesses so that we’re able to deliver the best retail experience, not only for brands and shoppers of today but for brands and shoppers of tomorrow.
MD: How did you differentiate yourself from Etsy?
CW: When you look at Etsy, you’ll notice that all products are geared toward DIY/handmade. Etsy is able to bring together an active and engaged community through a marketplace shopping experience, but products lean toward small-batch, one-of-a-kind arts and craft pieces. When you look at Tictail. we are about the self-made (rather than handmade) entrepreneur. Tictail brands have the drive to build global online businesses. They are not focused on craftsmanship or quirky one-of-a-kind finds, but on developing a brand, building a business from the ground up, and aspiring to establish an independent brand that will one day become a household name.
MD: What was the most difficult part about raising your first round of seed funding? What was the most surprising?
CW: It’s a grind. But what an amazing journey. The difficulty was likely the sleep deprivation and extensive travel, but the most surprising/rewarding was seeing the amount of extremely brilliant and influential people who believed, and still believe, in the future of Tictail. In our Series B funding round, we were not even looking for more capital, but VCs were approaching us and wanting to be involved in what we were building!
MD: What prompted you to take the beloved e-commerce platform offline?
CW: We love experimenting at Tictail. We never want to feel stagnant, and opening a brick-and-mortar store is yet another example of testing the waters and finding a way to offer both brands and shoppers another Tictail touchpoint. Walking into our Tictail store at 90 Orchard Street in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, we’ve sought to create an immersive experience. Many say it's like traveling the world without ever leaving New York. One clothing rack alone can contain brands from five different countries.
MD: How did it feel to be listed on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list?
CW: It was a huge honor. The list is filled with some of the most brilliant and inspiring people I have ever met. I feel very humbled to be mentioned next to such qualified candidates.
MD: What advice would you give an entrepreneur who is just starting out on their first company?
CW: Build a company with people you love and trust. A great business will take a long time to build. There will be challenging times, and that’s when good friends who understand what you are going through are the most valuable.
Shop a few of our favorite products from Tictail below.
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