14 Apr 2016
Magpie
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Magpie is a more natural way to shop. It allows users to buy products on any site, publishers to monetize content, and brands to grow sales. Team members: Damjan Korac (MBA 2017), Gerrit Orem (MBA 2017), Andrea Fantacone (MBA 2017)

How did the idea for your company come about?

When Damjan worked as a software engineer at an ad tech company, he saw that brands had a difficult time reaching consumers in a meaningful way. He also noticed that his friends were building meaningful connections with brands through the blogs they read but would not complete purchases due to friction in the shopping experience. Damjan brought the team together to tackle this problem at HBS and thought of a solution that would make the transition between product discovery and purchase more seamless for consumers.

What does your company do? How is it distinct in its product/service category?

Magpie lets online consumers buy products on any website without ever needing to leave the page. By enabling publishers to tag products in images, Magpie creates a same-page buying experience through an easy-to-use sidebar interface. Magpie helps brands establish a more meaningful connection with online shoppers by meeting them where they already love to discover new products.

We take a different approach compared to other companies that have tried to create a universal shopping cart or to bring ecommerce to blogs and magazines because Magpie has a single-step checkout process, provides a suite of publishing and data analytics tools that all content creators would want to use, and builds consumer loyalty by helping users identify and buy any product they find online.

Where do you hope to take it in the future?

Magpie has many exciting features and opportunities on the horizon, from fully native mobile support and video tags to automated product detection using image recognition algorithms. Moving forward, Magpie will use its far-reaching tag-level data for products in order to help brands craft an individualized shopping experience on their own retail sites and apps. We will be uniquely able to understand the entire journey as a consumer interacts with products anywhere, and the results will allow us to build a truly personal way to shop.

How has your time at HBS influenced your efforts on your company?

Our team met and came together just a month into the school year as a result of a shared passion for technology and similar business philosophies. From the start, HBS provided an ideal environment for us to take Magpie from an idea to a real company. On the one hand, the RC curriculum and cases supplement working on a startup outside of class – for example, Marketing in the fall helped us think through refining a value proposition and initial go-to-market strategy, and TEM (The Entrepreneurial Manager) in the spring forced us to really understand the unit economics behind the business. At the same time, everyone at HBS – from students to professors and entrepreneurs-in-residence – is always eager to help talk through a problem and provide any relevant knowledge.

Any advice you’d offer to other young entrepreneurs?

One lesson we’ve learned since launching our venture is that it’s vital to make the most of the resources available to you. At HBS, we have used any free time available to us to get feedback from professors, request meetings with alumni who work in the industry, and engage with other students and young entrepreneurs. We’ve learned so much from all of these resources and feel that they have been crucial to our progress.

Second, if you are passionate about entrepreneurship, don’t be afraid to dive right in and try something. We chose early on to avoid traditional recruiting and invest all of our free time into moving the venture forward. During spring break, for example, we sequestered ourselves in a tiny airbnb near Boston and worked exclusively on finishing our prototype and finalizing the details of our beta.

Finally, really invest time in building a positive team culture from the very beginning. Our team functions very well because we’ve built a lot of trust and confidence in one another over time. An important piece of this process is not shying away from difficult conversations: we had very frank discussions about equity, roles, and what each founder wants out of the experience, and we regularly step back to make sure we’re all still happy and excited!

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