I have spoken with many VCs who are looking or e-commerce companies that can scale at venture pace, which is hard to achieve. On the other side of the spectrum, however, the bootstrapped e-commerce companies are going gangbusters! Saatva is one such and a terrific company.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start with your personal back story. Where are you from? Where were you born and raised?
Ricky Joshi: I was born in Columbus, Ohio. I went to Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. I was very involved in the entrepreneurial scene there. I actually helped start the Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network, which is now the flagship entrepreneurial program at Dartmouth. I started my first company at school. I ended up working at a place called IPG, which had 44,000 employees. We were tasked with visual innovation. The first thing I actually did was lead Series C investment round in Facebook. That was a deal I sourced and led. It was a Series C round with $500 million valuation. Obviously, that worked out well. I was able to do a lot of things there.
During my time there, we ended up creating our own agency doing business development for smaller agencies that didn’t have the resources internally. Over time, I realized the corporate world was not necessarily for me. I found myself doing great things and getting small bonuses. This wasn’t where I wanted to be. I wanted to create my own agency. During that process of figuring out what I wanted to do in the services sector, I wanted to do something that had transactional revenue.
Sramana Mitra: Interesting. What time frame are we talking? What year were you doing the IPG and the agency work?
Ricky Joshi: IPG was in 2006 until 2009. The agency work was from 2009 until 2011. Going from a very small shop to having clients was also a very interesting process. That would have been a successful company if I had kept going that route, but I felt that I wanted something that would scale better.
Sramana Mitra: The agency was successful but you chose to do Saatva because you wanted something more scalable?
Ricky Joshi: Yes.
Sramana Mitra: What was the concept of Saatva?
Ricky Joshi: This is something that my partner was able to bring to the table to me. Essentially, I met Ron when I was doing agency work. Ron knew that what he didn’t know was the Internet. He has a lot of retail experience. He took me out to dinner one night and explained to me the dysfunction of the mattress industry. I looked it up from the Internet perspective. I realized there is also an opportunity from the marketing side to disrupt the industry. There’s a lot of hype around disrupting eye wear. I would argue that the mattress industry is even more dysfunctional.