Final episode of a 3-part interview with Godard Abel, CEO & cofounder of G2. He talks about his latest obsession … Threekit is revolutionising the retail experience. It helps us buy the tangible products, but also to visualise them on our screens. We learn what the term infinite aisle means. And we begin to see that Godard’s companies have all been built around an obsession with the buyer experience
Godard Abel: And people in retail, they call that infinite aisle. Infinite aisle technology – because now, and that’s the problem with suits right, you can only have 3 on the rack. But now with virtual 3-D customisation, it can be an infinite aisle – because we can show you any combination of fabric, lapel, liners, suit. And I think the other … the futuristic thing … there’s gonna be a virtual avatar. So now there’s these scanners … you can walk into a store Stephen, and they scan you. So now there’s a virtual Stephen – and now you can dress yourself, you know, not just with this stuff off the shelf, but with whatever customised bespoke [items]. And later, they can send you offers because we’re like ‘Hey, we know you bought this jacket. How would you like this handkerchief? Or how would you like this new tie? There’s all kinds of infinite aisle merchandising now possible for the retailer once you have these virtual 3D models.
You do need obviously commitment and perseverance – so obviously only pick an idea you really willing to almost die for. Because you will have struggles, every one of my companies had struggles. And so really having that belief that this really should come into the world is super important – so you can get through the tough times.
Stephen Cummins: Welcome to 14 minutes of SaaS! The show where you can listen to the stories and opinions of founders of the world’s most remarkable SaaS scale-ups!I haven’t had the chance to play around with Threekit yet all. So it’s the one product you’ve got that I’ve no familiarity with, but I know it’s about visualizing products. You’re gonna buy things that are visible of course, and, you know, everything that you’ve been involved in. It seems to bring together a little bit of everything you’ve done before. So it was about the buyer experience.
Godard Abel: Indeed. Yes
Stephen Cummins: And it seems to me also that there was a little part of you that wanted to get involved in an e-commerce play that’s about things that are physical as well.
Godard Abel: Yes
Stephen Cummins: It’s almost like another thing … so you’ve got the invisible with G2, and the visible with Threekit. Is there a little bit of … do you think there was a bit of that inside you that drew you towards that?
Godard Abel: Yeah … and in some ways it goes back to my father’s pumps. And one thing we could never do in our first CPQ company is visualize the product. And frankly the technology just wasn’t there, because 10 years ago we tried it – but to visualize product you need browser plugins. And they were just clunky and it was slow, the bandwidth wasn’t there. The performance wasn’t there. But a couple of years ago, something called web GL came out … which is now native browser supported. It became a worldwide web standard, but only about two or three years ago. We’re now Google Chrome …all the browser support. You know without a plugin you can have amazing 3D objects on the browser, but also on mobile devices.
Stephen Cummins: But you didn’t want to go back to CPQ, right?
Godard Abel: Right! I didn’t want to, no. And I didn’t want to compete with Salesforce. I certainly wouldn’t want to today. And, but this is a next generation … and actually Threekit is a Salesforce partner, you know. It’s also partnering frankly with all the big platform companies, because none of them are doing this yet. But we can add the 3D visualization to CPQ, to e-commerce platforms … and really just given a much more engaging experience. One interesting thing to the Threekit pitch … You’re right, we like helping people buy stuff. But there’s some research that Threekit references as to what are the number one things that influence conversion for buyers online. And guess what’s number one and two.
Stephen Cummins: You tell me.
Godard Abel: Well, the number one is product visualization … because of the physical product you want to be able to virtually. And this works for apparel. If you’re gonna buy a jacket … traditionally you’d say “I gotta go to the store”. But now the visualisation is so amazing that you can have a virtual Stephen avatar. You can actually literally see …
Stephen Cummins: So you can change the colour, you can change the size …
Godard Abel: Yes … the fabric. So you can see how it fits a virtual you.
Stephen Cummins: You can have tens of millions … theoretically … combinations … you’re not thinking about that, of course … but literally almost an infinite number of combinations.
Godard Abel: Yes
Stephen Cummins: Do you have plans to do any amazing in-store type … because you can do amazing events around that with the technology you’ve got. “Here’s one garment stored over there … try it on. Do you like it?” I’m just thinking about a bricks & mortar version because sometimes people like to try things on.
Godard Abel: True
Stephen Cummins: And then go. “And now look at this. You can change that in a billion different ways and visualise that on you now using augmented reality. Are you tempted at all to get out of the internet? … Stay in the internet of course and do Threekit, but extend that out to bricks and mortar as well? Or is that a bad idea?
Godard Abel: No, it’s a great idea. And actually very prescient … because one of our customers now for Threekit is a company called Taylor brands, which makes men suits. They actually own the two biggest suit brands in America, Jos. A Bank and Men’s Wearhouse. And now they’ve actually put Threekit on a tablet in the retail outlet – exactly what you’re describing.
Stephen Cummins: Wow!
Godard Abel: And now if you don’t like the off-the-rack suit, you go to Threekit on a tablet and you can customise it. And one really new thing they’ve announced with the NFL … Now, if you walk into a store in San Francisco, and you want to see it with a San Francisco 49ers suit liner. And on the rack they don’t want to have all 32 NFL teams. But now they walk you over the kiosks and they’re like ‘Hey, would you like the San Francisco 49ers liner?
Stephen Cummins: That’s very cool.
Godard Abel: And the customer, who’s a 9ers fan, gets super excited. They’re like, “Yes!” They can show it to them virtually. They can place the order online, and it’s a win for the customer because they get a very personalised special suit. And the brand gets more margin because now they’re selling a more bespoke suit, they can charge more money for it. So they make more money. And the customer gets something very bespoke, and they’re much happier. So it’s also happening in store kiosks. And we have another customer actually called Modarri. They make toys. And they’re gonna put kiosks in every Walmart in America. These are these little toy cars. But you can now customise your toy car in a kiosk in every Walmart in America. And it’s game changing for this little toy company – that in-store kiosk powered by Threekit is part of what convinced Walmart to put it out there.
Stephen Cummins: Wow. So it’s actually potentially a very large part of your business – that actual placement in bricks and mortar stores. It’s actually a big part of it. So it’s not just about sitting here and shopping online and … it’s that too of course, but it also could revolutionise the experience in bricks and mortar.
Godard Abel: Indeed. And people in retail, they call that infinite aisle.
Stephen Cummins: Ok. Makes Sense.
Godard Abel: And people in retail, they call that infinite aisle. Infinite aisle technology – because now, and that’s the problem with suits right, you can only have 3 on the rack. But now with virtual 3-D customisation, it can be an infinite aisle – because we can show you any combination of fabric, lapel, liners, suit. And I think the other … the futuristic thing … there’s gonna be a virtual avatar. So now there’s these scanners … you can walk into a store Stephen, and they scan you. So now there’s a virtual Stephen – and now you can dress yourself, you know, not just with this stuff off the shelf, but with whatever customised bespoke [items]. And later, they can send you offers because we’re like ‘Hey, we know you bought this jacket. How would you like this handkerchief? Or how would you like this new tie? There’s all kinds of infinite aisle merchandising now possible for the retailer once you have these virtual three D models. Or these new pants. Or the next generation of this? There’s all kinds of infinite aisle merchandising now possible for the retailer once you have these virtual three D models.
Stephen Cummins: So if garments is one big vertical for you guys … would you be in competition with Farfetch, for example. Would that bring you in competition with them?
Godard Abel: With who?
Stephen Cummins: Farfetch.
Godard Abel: I haven’t heard of them. So we’re not competing with them yet.
Stephen Cummins: Okay. No worries.
Godard Abel: No, maybe down the road, it’s a very emerging space.
Stephen Cummins: Yes, it’s a big play as well. Portuguese engineer, clothes designer. I think it’s a billion dollar play, but they allow you to, yeah, to visualize clothes and change different combos. He also has a 3D … sure we’ll chat about it … I’ll show who they are afterwards. It could be interesting.
Godard Abel: But maybe it could be a customer.
Stephen Cummins: Yeah. It could well be a partner … because what you’re doing is much more horizontal … and probably gonna go to a deeper level on the 3D side.
Godard Abel: I’m thinking we’re more of a software platform. And then our goal, you know, it’s obviously arm anyone that wants to use 3D to help them sell their products.
Stephen Cummins: Yes. Yes. Very… very interesting. And I’m actually surprised with the bricks and mortar side of it – you took me by surprise there. That is the one that I’m not familiar with. Godard, you are very generous with your time. I’d love to ask you this one last question. For all entrepreneurs here, budding young entrepreneurs or people who are in the corporate space and they’ve had an inch and they haven’t scratch it for years – looking to get into starting their own company … After all that experience and success, because it is statistically and improbable what you’ve done. Threekit’s going to succeed by the looks of it. It’s going to be 4 rocket-ships. That’s harder to do in my opinion then to build a 20 billion dollar company in my opinion. It’s harder because that’s a one and done thing. It’s still amazing, right. But to keep going back to the well and doing it, that’s really, really difficult. So, I think your advice would be really valuable to any entrepreneurs listening. Two or three things that you would always advise … because I know you do mentor people … that you would always advise someone who went to you asking for advice.
Godard Abel: And I’m always hesitant to offer blanket advice because entrepreneur is unique. It’s like being a father, you know. Every child is different. Every company’s different. But I mean, I think the things that ultimately, you know, I think that make any entrepreneur successful … I think number one is really, you do need obviously commitment and perseverance, you know … only pick an idea you really are willing to almost die for. Because you will have struggles. Every one of my companies had struggles. And so really having that belief that this really should come into the world is super important – so you can get through the tough times.
And then probably the second biggest thing for me is obviously having a team of people to do it with because also it can be very lonely journey. But I’ve had amazing co-founders. So my first company, Chris Shutts, my best friend from college. He was my co-founder. He’s actually still running the CPQ business with Oracle. And, you know .. so I’ve always had people to do it with. Or Matt Gorniak, my CRO – he’s my co-founder for G2, built Steelbrick from the beginning, built Big Machines. And he’s involved in Threekit. And so now we’re talking about having an entrepreneurial family. And I think also building a team like that… that loves working together, that’s very talented, and wants to keep doing it. Or right here in the audience we have Enrique – he’s our GM now for G2 in Europe, but he was with us at Steelbrick, and at Salesforce. And so I think building what I call an entrepreneurial family. That’s especially if you wanna have multiple successes, because that way we’re not starting from scratch every time. Because we’re able to bring our best team members, bring all the learnings from the prior companies into the next one.
And that’s what makes the second, the third, the fourth a lot easier than the first. Because we’re building on everything we learned. We’re building on the team dynamic. And we’re building on the talent and the chemistry we have. And so I’d say, especially if you want to do more than one, it’s really build out that entrepreneurial family.
Stephen Cummins: Brilliant. Godard Abel … diamond nuggets at the end there … and it’s an incredible tale of persistence and success. And yeah, going back to the well and succeeding every time. Thank you for sharing that with the listeners of 14 Minutes of SaaS. Thanks a million. Great to see you again.
Godard Abel: Thank you for your belief and support over the years Stephen. And thank you for fueling this whole SaaS ecosystem right here in Dublin. It’s so wonderful to be doing it with you from your home town.
Stephen Cummins: Thank you very much. I really appreciate it. Cheers Godard.
Godard Abel: Thank you Stephen
In the next episode, we have Georg Petschnigg, CIO and general manager at file transfer company, WeTransfer. Georg is an accomplished musician, dancer, designer of hardware and software. And of course, SaaS entrepreneur. He’s led an incredibly colourful life, nd we’ll have a full series with him recorded in Lisbon, and in Berlin. He’s co-founder and CEO of New York’s Fifty Three, where he co-designed creative tools for mobile devices like the iPad. And his company was bought by his current company WeTransfer – and the entities have united together with tools for creativity and collaboration, and the ability to send the large creations around the world … with the really cool mission, to stand behind every great idea.
Stephen Cummins: You’ve been listening to 14 minutes of SaaS. Thank to Mike Quill for his creativity and problem solving skills, and to Ketsu for the music. This episode was brought to you by me, Stephen Cummins. If you enjoyed the podcast, please don’t forget to share it with your network, subscribe to the series, and give the show a rating.
Thank you for the artwork to Michael Quill, AppSelekt CTO & CoFounder.
Thank you to Anders Getz, Marketing Specialist, for the transcript.