On Creating An E-Commerce Fulfillment Platform And Growing 50% YoY
I’m Jagath Narayan, the co-founder, and CEO of Ordoro. Ordoro was launched in 2010 to help streamline eCommerce order fulfillment by creating a centralized hub for ALL merchant’s sales channels and orders. When we launched Ordoro, e-commerce was beginning to boom with platforms like Shopify, BigCommerce, and Amazon which gave merchants a way to reach customers online. However, all of these platforms were focused on driving traffic to your site and processing the sale with little to no support for fulfillment. So, we set out to create a platform that would enable e-commerce merchants to efficiently and accurately fulfill their orders. This not only gave them transparency and insight into their operations but created a positive experience for their customers - both critical for growth.
Ordoro is designed for omnichannel merchants looking to grow their business. As an all-in-one eCommerce fulfillment platform, Ordoro is ready to scale from as little as 200 to 20,000 orders per month. As you grow, our app is ready to handle everything from shipping, inventory, and order management to reporting and analytics - no more confusion and no more jumping from app to app. Last year, Ordoro helped our customers ship more than 12 million orders all over the world!
What's your backstory and how did you get into entrepreneurship?
I grew up in a tiny coastal town in southern India. During those early years, if someone told me that one day I would build and run a multi-million dollar tech firm based in Austin, Texas, there is no way I would’ve believed it. I just wouldn’t have seen a path to that outcome. But life presents you with an interesting journey if you are willing to keep an open mind and put in the hard work.
If you have a deep yearning for it, just get started. Every thousand-mile journey begins with a single step.
I left my hometown soon after high school to join college and got a bachelor’s degree in Engineering. Right after undergrad, I got a scholarship from Texas A&M University to pursue a Master’s degree. I took the offer, got on a plane, and landed in College Station, Texas. Leaving a small town in India for a small town in Texas was a huge event in my life and obviously a big shock to the system - but it was also a pivotal experience.
It was during those years in grad school I realized my true calling was to build a tech startup. I’d always been a creator. I have liked building things and tinkering with complicated problems or objects since childhood. When I discovered computer programming as a kid, I thought that was a super cool way to build and tinker with new ideas rapidly. I was amazed by the incredible tech startups changing the course of humanity. Something about that resonated with me deeply. If I could focus my yearning for the creation and my love for tinkering, and use that energy to build a tech startup, that would be a fun journey. So, I decided that’s what I wanted to do in life.
Making that leap wasn’t easy. As an immigrant on a restrictive student visa, launching a company is nearly impossible. Plus, I had zero experience working in any job and I had no idea where to even begin. So, I decided to start with something a little smaller… a career in a big company. I was fortunate to get my first job at i2 Technologies (now called Blue Yonder). I worked on a team that helped solve supply chain problems for large corporations. This is where I learned a lot about the kinds of logistical problems companies were facing and this later informed many of the features within the Ordoro app.
But the wait wasn’t over that easily. The timing wasn’t right yet. Now I was on an H1B work visa which still is not conducive to launching a business. So, I continued to wait patiently on the bench. I waited for 8 more years until I got my green card which breaks all those immigration restrictions and truly liberates you to be a free soul once again. That was the next pivotal point in my journey. Now, I could leave the bench and run into the field. I left my job and my comfortable salary moved to Austin, got into UT business school’s MBA program. I launched Ordoro soon after - my first startup - and I wouldn’t turn back even if I could.
Take us through your entrepreneurial journey. How did you go from day 1 to today?
My core thesis was small businesses encounter many of the same challenges as large companies, albeit at a different scale. But I needed to validate this thesis. During my MBA, a summer internship was required. Usually, people would work for large corporations and I had an opportunity to intern at IBM. I decided against that and instead spent my summer in a small warehouse fulfilling eCommerce orders.
In parallel, I was researching the eCommerce market and by the end of the summer, it was clear to me the opportunity for Ordoro was real. Fast forward - the second year of my MBA I pitched this idea to two of my classmates in an entrepreneurship class and they were sold. Together we launched Ordoro.
Launching while in school helped us a lot due to the many perks. You get a lot of free services. DLA Piper - a law firm that normally charges hundreds of dollars per hour - did all the incorporation paperwork for free. We got mentorship and working space through the ATI ( Austin Technology Incubator). We got to know people from Capital Factory, a startup incubator, who later invested some seed capital in the company. It was also easy to cold call potential customers because we could tell them we were students and they were sympathetic to us.
During that time, we were trying everything to find potential customers. Including, Googling for random products so we could find small online stores. We would cold call those merchants to see if we could learn about their order fulfillment process and pitch the Ordoro concept to them.
We met our first paying customer while scouring through an online forum of eBay merchants. They were asking questions about order fulfillment and we knew we were a perfect fit. We reached out and as luck would have it, the owner used to work at my previous employer. We clicked instantly. Since they were based in San Antonio (a short trip from Austin), we drove down to meet them and tour their warehouse. They started off trialing Ordoro and a few months later started paying for the service. That customer is still active on our platform today and I’m very proud of that.
Through similar efforts, we got a handful of paying customers over the next few months. That was enough validation for us to convince an angel investor to make a seed investment of $300K in Ordoro. With that seed money, we built a small team to make Ordoro into a real business. It took us two years to build initial traction and a steady flow of customers. By 2012, we were making around $15,000 /month in recurring revenue. Those metrics helped us raise a small round of $1.2M - the next major milestone helping to accelerate our growth.
Rather than focusing on raising larger and larger rounds, we decided early on that we should aim to hit cash flow positive and profitability so we were a self-sustaining business. We hit that initial profitability milestone in 2015. Since then, we have been consistently growing customer revenue and reinvesting all profits into the business to fuel that growth.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Today, we are operating as a self-sustaining business - profitable, operating cash flow positive, growing at a steady rate. Last year alone, we grew more than 50% YoY. We focused intensely on building a very good product the customers love. All of our leads currently come through word of mouth - customers referring other customers or finding us through positive online reviews. The near-term focus in 2021 is to build a marketing function that will help accelerate our lead volume growth.
We are a product-centric company and iterating our core software to solve new and interesting logistical challenges is fundamental to our strategy. The e-commerce fulfillment space is still evolving rapidly. Giants like Amazon are innovating to deliver your order to your doorstep as fast as possible. Small businesses are working hard to compete with those offerings in their own unique ways. Our vision is to bring some of those capabilities to these small businesses at a usable scale.
We help our customers with mixed fulfillment models - whether you are fulfilling orders from a single warehouse you control, or you are sending your orders to geographically distributed warehouses operated by third-party logistics providers, Ordoro can help you route and manage these orders efficiently. We are also continuing to grow our platform to support more shipping carriers, integrations to more eCommerce platforms, and more warehouses and third-party logistics providers.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
As you can imagine, launching and growing a business from zero to a multi-million dollar company is an amazing life experience. This has been a challenging but incredibly rewarding journey for me.
Entrepreneurship really tests your mental strength. Every day is filled with highs and lows. We live in a world of uncertainty, and entrepreneurship really shows you that. A lot of things happen around you that are out of your control, and many times you will feel helpless. It’s important to learn how to handle that level of uncertainty and navigate your way around the uncertain world. If you are not prepared for that kind of volatility, it’ll wear you down. But if you’re ready for it, I don’t think anything else can beat it. It can be one of the most fulfilling experiences of your life. This has made my professional life meaningful. I see a clear purpose and it helps me focus.
Entrepreneurship has also taught me the importance of building and maintaining long-term relationships. Those relationships have helped me in meaningful ways multiple times during this journey. Some of the biggest breakthroughs and revenue boosts to our business have come in through ideas sparked during conversations with some very smart people, both inside and outside the company.
To be a successful entrepreneur, you need to be deeply committed to your business for the long term. It takes patience and a relentless drive to build a successful business. You will fail miserably multiple times during the journey, and you need to have the grit to get up every time and continue the pursuit. To achieve this, it’s very important to build a marathon mindset. You need to enjoy the journey. It’s important to focus on your efforts and be less attached to the outcome. It’s important to build a system that will help you make continuous progress in a direction you want.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Stripe for payments, Zendesk for customer support, Hubspot for marketing, Basecamp for project management, Google Suite, TalkDesk, Zoom, GitHub.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
There are many books and blog posts that can help you mentally, strategically, and tactically prepare for the entrepreneurial journey. However, what influences or inspires you will depend on who you are and what your life story is.
For me, the most inspiring book has been Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. It’s not a book on startups, but it addresses a lot of the challenges of entrepreneurial existence at a philosophical level. It has helped me deal with the highs and lows and the uncertainties and the everyday challenges that the world throws at me. It has also helped me understand the importance of randomness and how to position yourself so that randomness can give you a strong potential upside when the moment is right.
Another book is Influence by Robert Cialdini. This is a classic book on human psychology. It helped me understand why certain human behaviors, even though seemingly irrational, make perfect logical sense in the specific context. Ultimately, all business is about understanding human interactions and this book lays a strong foundation for that.
These two books taught me to understand the world better and explain many of the paradoxes that would catch me off guard initially. They’ve also helped me enjoy the entrepreneurial journey mindfully.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
If you have a deep yearning for it, just get started. Every thousand-mile journey begins with a single step. But, be prepared for the long run. It’s rarely an easy journey, so you need to be mentally strong. You need to be prepared for failure and have a safety net - whatever that means for you. I think that’s why people say it’s easy to get started when you are young because you don’t have many obligations (family, kids).
Your needs are minimal and your downside is limited, but your upside is unlimited. However, don’t let age be a deterrent. You can get started whenever you want. If you are working for a large company, this may require you to sacrifice your comfortable salary but the ride will be worth it if you are willing to go through the entire journey.
Where can we go to learn more?
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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