THE BOB JOHNSTON PODCAST
By Bob Johnston
August 5, 2020
SEASON
1
EPISODE
22
Startup Stories – Boxed CEO, Chieh Huang

Boxed has established itself as a major force in the world of online commerce with a brand that has a highly curated and artful shopping experience, yet thankfully no signs of hubris. After talking with CEO Chieh Huang, I can see why they are crushing it but remain humble. He embodies the brand and, frankly, no easy feat to pull off this balance in such a highly competitive industry.

Chieh decided to start Boxed after spending ten years as a lawyer. We discuss the conversation he had with himself about moving back in with his parents to save money…and selling everything grade toilet paper to Oreos  from their garage in the early days of the business!

We also cover why the only wrong way to split equity with co-founders is an even split...how robotics and automation are great but the dexterity of the human hand is way better (at last for the next 7-10 years)…and keeping emotional cool and not letting yourself get high or low on great days vs. bad days.

As a fun fact, Boxed has a ’no a-hole’ hiring policy, which really means that you need to be able to have a 15-30 minute conversation with a person without conflict or oddities.

SELECTED QUOTES
If you can, you should have a co-founder – at least one. Because on Sunday nights when you are looking at what you need to accomplish….to share the work burden but also the emotional burden
On the importance of having co-founders
The industry is going to have to move faster than it has ever been forced to move before. A lot of the questions that we thought we had maybe three, four, five years to figure out, suddenly got compacted into 90 days
On the pace of the e-commerce industry over the past few months
EPISODE MARKERS

Chieh’s perspective on the current retail landscape and the best survival strategies. [0:01:36]

How Boxed will continue to distinguish themselves from their biggest competitors. [0:03:28]

Thoughts on the status of robotics in retail and why it will unlikely replace all manual labor anytime soon. [0:05:44]

Chieh makes an interesting point about automating for safety versus efficiency in the context of the pandemic.[0:08:17]

Boxed’s surge in sales and what the data reveals about this new cohort of customers. [0:11:05]

Giving up his law career to pursue entrepreneurship and operate a new business from a garage! [0:15:03]

Get a sense of the company’s early operational structure, including hiring people and raising money. [0:18:29]

The value of having co-founders to support you and share the burden of ownership. [0:21:40]

Our guest makes a compelling case about why equity should never be split evenly among co-founders. [0:22:40]

The number of employees at Boxed and why they keep their facility staffing volumes consistent. [0:24:48]

Their interview criteria for ensuring that a candidate would adhere to their ‘no-asshole policy’. [0:26:51]

Chieh gets candid about the challenge of fostering customer loyalty and community in the context of rapid growth. [0:29:58]

The advantage of selling CPG if you provide a good, on-time service at a decent price. [0:33:13]

Why convenience and innovation in 2020should be focused on streamlining the online purchasing process. [0:34:23]

The shortcomings of many retailers’ online strategies and why expert management input is needed. [0:37:20]

How Chieh and his co-founders dealt with the rollercoaster ride of startup business over the last seven years.[0:39:51]

The question of how the industry will respond to the high influx of demand, especially in Q4. [0:41:48]

Find out why Chieh believes theKnicks will win a championship in the next five years. [0:45:55]

The windows you will typically see open on Chieh’s browser, from news sites to newsletters. [0:49:03]

GUEST FOOTNOTES
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