Episode 106
May 17, 2022

Luxury Without Labels

with Jeremy Cai, Founder and CEO of Italic

About this episode

Today, Lee spoke with Jeremy Cai, Founder and CEO of Italic, a marketplace that offers high-quality products at low prices. Founded in 2018 with the idea that customers shouldn't have to pay a premium just for a label, Italic seeks to create a world where everyone can afford to live well. In this episode, Jeremy shares his entrepreneurial journey from growing up in Chicago with a family working in the manufacturing business, to starting two companies in high school, to taking a leave of absence in college, to building his first venture-backed business, Fountain, to launching Italic. He talks about the two types of buying behaviors, how he's created a service culture, the importance of focus, and how he's raised over $50 million from investors.

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In This Episode You’ll Hear About:

  • What it was like growing up with immigrant parents chasing the American dream, and moving to America to become founders themselves
  • How he was given the nickname AP Cai in high school, for taking the most AP classes, although he wasn't thrilled with school
  • His early signs of being an entrepreneur in high school, by starting two companies 
  • Why he chose to take a leave of absence in college, to focus on his first startup, Fountain
  • What he's learned from being a first-time founder, that finding what you’re excited about and having a team you’re motivated to be with, is the most important
  • The failures he’s learned from and that being focused on one thing and building that first will make the overall vision stronger
  • Where the idea for Italic came from, and why he believes the strategic moves they make are what helps Italic stand out
  • Why Italic chose to begin with a membership, and how they’ve recently changed the prerequisites
  • The decision to use price analysis for each individual product and include the top competitors 
  • The reasoning behind the name Italic, how he chose it, and the six-figure price of buying italic.com 
  • The journey to fundraising over $50 million from investors, and what tips he has for raising
  • The three universal points he has for aspiring entrepreneurs

To Find Out More:

https://italic.com/ 

Quotes:

“My sister and I were kind of pressured to go in and do something great from a pretty early age. So for me, I  tried to manifest that in many ways.”

“I've always appreciated the idea of selling a physical product to someone and delivering a kind of value.”

“The most important thing you can possibly do is either find an idea that you're personally excited about or build a team that you're personally really motivated to be with. Ideally, it's the combination of both.”

“Focusing inherently means you are choosing to do one thing and you're choosing not to do another”

“Where the founder spends his time is where the gravity of the business is pulled towards.”

“Italic really came from that pool of the time to find the financing environment and I think most importantly, the idea of being exciting.”

“We really think of Italic as a flywheel, the more customers we have, the more leverage we have to bring on new manufacturers, the more manufacturers and the more leverage we have with them, the more products we can offer.”

“We want to offer the same quality and same kind of level design as these great brands, but at a much more value-driven price point.”

“If you're sharing an accurate picture of the company, it's up to the investor whether they decide to invest or not and do their diligence, it wasn't because you sold them a false narrative.”

“Playing the game in retail means you have to find some angle that uniquely differentiates yourself from the others.”

“When you're talking to investors they trust that you'll build a good company for them.”

“Whoever you bring into the organization is what the organization is going to become. When you're small, it's more important than ever that you're bringing in people who fit the cultural kind of value you set.”

“Make sure you are working on what is important because that doesn't really change, the heart of the business rarely changes. Of course, you'll hear an occasional success story, like slack or what have you, but more often than not, that doesn't change and it's important that you set the right north star.”

“Execution makes the strategy successful, not the strategy itself.”

Read the transcript

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