Reporter with Silicon Hills News

Maybe Ordoro is taking the “Hire slow, fire fast” adage too literally. But right now, the nine employees and their Belgian investor share a vision about what they’re doing and how they’re doing it: To wit, building a sustainable company with a great culture. And they’d rather limp along for a bit with one too few developers than move too fast and introduce anyone who’s out of sync.
Ordoro (Or-door-oh) handles all the tasks that happen after someone orders a product from a small business. They have created a Web application for ecommerce retailers to fulfill orders, track inventory and manage suppliers. They create the shipping labels from various organizations like USPS and FedEx, change the quantities for sale on various sales channels, notify the customer through the channel—like Amazon—that the item has been shipped. Tasks that have to be done but that can really chew into a business owner’s day.
Founders Jagath Narayan, Sangram Kadam and Naruby Schlenker had all worked for corporations before grad school and knew they wanted to be entrepreneurs. They batted around ideas for companies, talked about which parts of corporate life they would preserve and which they would ditch, and had long talks about kind of culture they wanted to create. But they didn’t settle on an idea until Narayan, formerly a solution architect and project manager for I2 Technologies which consults with some of the world’s largest supply chain companies, was hired to help a therapist with his side business selling toys used in child psychotherapy.
“I spent a couple weeks with him, working in his warehouse and realized he has a pretty good website with close to a million dollars in sales every year….. But he had antiquated software, was using spreadsheets, didn’t have anything to manage the whole business. So it occurred to me that maybe we should look into that space,” Narayan said.
They created a fictional product that would handle, for small businesses, all the processes enterprise software handles for giant companies. It would help them calculate optimal inventory levels and keep track of what was in stock as well as managing order fulfillment like shipping. They cold-called 100 businesses to discover whether there was a market for their idea.
“They said ‘That all sounds fancy, but I can’t even ship my daily orders out’,” Narayan said. Just the few minutes it took to go to the USPS website, type in the information, get the shipping label and move the product out the door took for each item could eat up a day. Plus they needed help communicating with suppliers. If Ordoro would fix those problems, four or five businesses said, they would pay $100 a monthly for that service.
With that validation under their belts, the three went to look for a developer co-founder. No one fit…and fit was crucial…until they met Ben Weatherman who had worked for National Instruments and Accenture and was working for Bazaarvoice. Ben became their co-founder but still worked a full day at Bazaarvoice, staying up all night sometimes to create the product that would be Ordoro’s solution. They issued an minimum viable product. But after the company had garnered about 50 customers and was getting feedback on other functions the founders realized they needed more developers.
They got a small round of angel investment and hired two more developers—slowly. They also started partnering with bigger companies in the space that offered complementary services, like Amazon, Shopify, Ebay that helped small businesses sell their wares but didn’t offer order fulfillment software.
From the perspective of one of their customers, Robert Fiumara of Fiumara Apparel, it’s a little bit of a miracle. Other solutions, he said, have more bells and whistles. But they also take up to a month to fully implement and require expensive training software. Getting up and running on Ordoro took less than an hour.
Ordoro can link to all the customer’s sales channels: Amazon, Shopify, Ebay and more. As soon as a sale is made, Ordoro creates a label with a tracking number and lets the sales channel—say Amazon—know that the sale is completed and shipping begun. It also changes the number of items listed on every sales channel. If a customer has 10 of a given item and three are sold, it lets all sales channels know that there are only seven left. If the inventory goes to zero, it may remove that item listing altogether.
Fiumara started looking into other solutions because he really wanted a reporting function. Finally, he called Ordoro and was told “All you had to do was ask.” They would immediately begin sending him reports and were in the process of adding a reporting function to their services. In fact, Narayan said, part of his job is communicating customer requests to the development staff, who adds functionality ongoing.
When they linked up with partners like Amazon and Shopify, Ordoro’s founders knew they needed more developers and customer support. They started pitching to VCs from coast to coast and they were getting inbound calls as well. They had several local angels interested, but not as lead investors. Then Josh Baer, co-founder of Capital Factory, advised them to build their profile on Angel List.
That’s where they were discovered by E-Merge, a Belgian company looking to invest in the U.S. They weren’t planning to lead the round, but after two days in Austin, they committed $750,000. The other angels quickly anted up the rest of the $1.2 million.
“After a few calls, we had the feeling that this was a good investment,” said partner Patrice Decafmeyer. “We invest in very early stage companies,” he said. “It’s a very big risk for us to invest in these businesses. They can change over time when you take them so young. So mostly we invest in people. They were very open minded, easy to work with to discuss with. We could really see that we could have open discussions…and there was no hard feeling if we don’t agree.”
E-Merge, Narayan said, fits the company perfectly in terms of “mindset” which is so key to Ordoro’s growth and culture. E-Merge’s partners use their own money, so they’re under no pressure to recoup their investment quickly. They’re willing to wait 10 years or more, Decafmeyer said. Nor are they very “corporate” as Narayan said. They talk or Skype regularly and the investors visit every few months.
“We have a very good relationship with them,” Narayan said. “They’re not like the overlords who fly in in suits. They’re very…chill. Sometimes they make recommendations. Sometimes we say no sometimes we say yes. Since they’re a bit removed, they do see big patterns which sometimes we miss.”
A lot of investors might want an excel spreadsheet with numbers—nomatter how fictional—describing quarterly revenues for the next five years, Narayan said. Not E-Merge. As long as Orodoro keeps growing, they’ll continue to fund the company.
“The coolest thing about our lead investors is they’ve invested in a bunch of companies like ours and wound up with exits of half a billion dollars. They know how a company like us needs to be run. Their philosophy matches really well with our mindset.”
Sometimes Ordoro can be stubborn. In several calls the investors recommended they hire more developers. Ordoro balked. The suggestion came again. Again they balked. Finally the investors said “We will write a check for two new developers.” Whether it was the money or just a wakeup call, Ordoro realized maybe their investors were right. It was time.
“If we hire the wrong person, there’ll be friction,” Narayan said. “None of us had worked in a startup before. We had all worked at big companies…. a lot of things we knew we hated was micromanaging projects. If you have to run a Microsoft project plan or a Gantt chart and say ‘You’ll work on this from 11 a.m. to 5’. Running a business is almost like a creative art. We don’t have Gantt charts, we have a list of priorities. Here’s what we’re going to work on for the next two weeks. You have to hire really good people who don’t need to be micromanaged and who are fully committed to the company. You have to hire really smart people and have really strong trust between you.”
Every developer, they said, has a half-day test, has to meet with everyone in the company and all team members have to agree that the person is going to fit in.
“We are on high alert at this point,” Narayan said. “Right now we’re a nine person company. But as we scale these things we do now will become more and more important.”
They believe in the Apple philosophy that money, and exits, are a byproduct of building a really good company.
“Our plan is to make this a profitable company which can sustain on its own. If we build the company with that mindset, that it’s going to be around for a really long time, an exit is a byproduct.”