StartUp Spotlight: Expese
StartUp Spotlight: Expese
Meet Akash Modi – Founder and Chief Visionary Officer of Expese, the world’s first gadget subscription service.
GH: What is Expese?
We are the world’s first gadget subscription service. With Expese you get unlimited access to the newest and coolest gadgets for a flat monthly fee. Renting gadgets from Expese is as easy as renting DVDs from Netflix.
GH: What was your Eureka moment: how did Expese get started?
The idea for Expese popped up while I was running my previous retail business, TAB USA, where we introduce the latest and greatest gadgets under one brand called “TAB”. We were running a brick and mortar store with online store. Within our first year in business, we realized that people are very skeptical about new gadgets. Many of the us have had a bad experiencing when purchasing and testing a gadget in past, where we purchased gadget out of excitement used it for couple of times and then lost interest.
We noticed that 9 out of 10 customers who walked into our store walked out without purchasing anything from our store, despite the fact they liked our products, pricing and company mission. We found that people want to experience these products before they commit to buy and realized that store demos and a generous return policy was no help. That’s when I had a lightbulb moment. In today’s shared economy, or in better words, subscription economy, we share everything from cars to home and prefer experience over ownership. Then, why not share gadgets? Since then, I’ve spent the past two years building Expese.com.
GH: How did you build your team?
I have build my current team by networking very heavily. I used to go to at least 3-4 networking events every week. There, I met two of my founding team members, two advisors and many others who are helping me along the way.
GH: What is your company philosophy driving your company culture?
At Expese, we believe that if you really don’t enjoy doing your work, then you shouldn’t do the work. A person should get to pick a task he or she truly enjoys doing. For example, one of our founding team members was assigned with handling logistics and supply. He did the task, but he didn’t enjoy doing it and so we took that responsibility off him and assigned to someone who truly enjoyed doing that task. We allowed him to pick the responsibility that he truly enjoyed doing it and now he is a happy Chief Web Officer and excels at his duties every day. We strongly believe that you should only do the work that you truly enjoy doing. Often, we help them discover what they enjoy doing by assigning different roles and responsibilities.
GH: Startup life is full of failures and ‘make it work’ moments – can you identify how you bounced back from one of yours?
Every day is a new challenge as we are growing this company. One of the most recent mistakes we have made is that we ordered inventory based on our best estimate of what people might be interested in trying. After putting them on website and promoting it, we realized that no one was interested in trying those products and we had to take huge loss on that inventory and ultimately sell them off at 50% cost. We learned from that mistake and we implemented a feature where our users make a list of the products they would like to try and we ship out the next available product from that list. The list now also helps us to determine which products we should carry in our inventory and that has helped us minimize our inventory overhead. At my previous startup, I made several mistakes and one of the biggest mistakes was that I poured $250K of my life savings into this one idea, without validating product market fit. Ultimately, I lost it all and went flat broke. But that failure lead to the birth of Expese based on a solid foundation.
GH: What did you learn from your first customers?
In the beginning, we spent lot of time and money building extra features that we thought our users will enjoy. But we found that our users didn’t care about those features ; they were simply happy about trying new gadgets. They taught us that the most valuable lessons: don’t waste time on building a perfect product and just get it out there. Customers will tell us what they want from us.
GH: What has the Boston ecosystem provided you?
I am very lucky to be in Boston. I moved to Boston in 2015 from Philadelphia and I am glad I have started my first startup in Boston. I have learned a lot from organizations like Venture Cafe, The Capital Network, TIE Boston, Enet, and received tremendous help from people like Jay Galasso (MD of B2B Growth Partners), Vivek Soni (MD of TIE Angles), and many others who are currently helping us through their connections and organizations.
Given the fact our target audience is students, we feel like we have found our gold mine, as Boston is the hub of universities and colleges.
GH: What is the Boston ecosystem lacking from your perspective?
I believe Boston ecosystem is lacking resources such as investors, mentors, and talent, focusing on the consumer/retail industry.
GH: What’s the best/worst piece of advice you were given along the way?
The best advice someone gave me is, “Do or Don’t, there is no Try”; someone made me aware of this quote from Yoda. This has become one of my core values.
At the same time I was told that I was wasting my time building Expese because in a market where retailers have generous return policies and store demos, Expese will never take off the ground. Therefore, I should find something else. I am glad I didn’t listen to that person.
GH: What was the best thing that happened to you last year?
The best thing happened to me last year is that I lost $250K of my life savings at my previous venture (TAB USA) and hit rock bottom. This experience has led to the creation of Expese!
GH: What does the future hold for Expese?
In my opinion, the one industry that hasn’t changed significantly is the retail industry. I believe the only thing that has changed about it is how consumers are shopping; there is a huge shift from brick and mortar to an online platform. But we still have to come up with the price of the product if you’d like to experience it or find the store that offers a demo.
At Expese, we strongly believe that experiencing different products doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult. Our goal is one subscription for life, where you can experience all the different products such as clothes, cars, homes, electronics, food, and many more, under a flat monthly fee.
So let’s say if you are making $3000/month then for $2500/month you can experience different food, shelter, transportation, luxury products, and vacations. It’s like living a life of a king without worrying about how to make a king’s fortune. This is Expese’s wildest dream and we are determined to make it happen.