This content is the seventh installment in an interview series with the 2020 Target Tech Accelerator cohort. Participating companies are sharing, in their own words, details about their innovative companies. All interviews have been conducted by the Target Tech Program Management team.
Meet Grocery TV/Popspots.
Tech: When meeting someone new, how do you explain what Grocery TV/Popspots does?
Marlow: I focus more on our mission, so I say something like “We’re a retail tech company that’s making it easier for retailers and brands to market and manage their products in-store.”
Tech: What makes you most excited about working with Target Accelerators?
Marlow: Not only is Target one of the top grocery retailers in the US, but they’re also one of the most respected, so having Target as a partner is a key strategic goal for us. We believe this accelerator program is a great way to begin building our partnership and demonstrate the value we can bring to Target’s business.
Tech: How did you know when it was time to consider going through an accelerator experience?
Marlow: At this stage in our company we normally wouldn’t consider an accelerator program, but we’ve enjoyed keeping up with Sarah Hill, the program manager for Target’s Technology Accelerator, over the past year and a half and we were excited to hear from her about how the program was shifting its focus to later stage companies. Given this change, we thought we were well positioned to benefit from the program, and we were especially interested in the opportunity to partner with Target.
Tech: What has surprised you about yourself as your business has grown?
Marlow: As our team has grown, we’ve been surprised at how much we can leave day-to-day operations to other team members so we can focus on longer term goals. We understood that this was the logical progression of responsibilities, but it’s still a significant shift in the past year from being deeply involved in most activities.
Tech: Who has been instrumental in supporting your idea and why?
Marlow: Popspots owes its existence and success to Crest and Lance Oelke, the founders of the front-end merchandiser business that got us started and is still our strongest partner. My co-founders (Don Oelke, Edward Cates) and I have extensive hardware and software experience, but we had zero knowledge of retail going into this business. Without their experience and network, we wouldn’t exist.
Tech: As a business owner/founder, how are you functioning today that is different than how you were functioning 6 months ago?
Marlow: We work less than we used to. When we were starting out, we felt like we needed to work late and often through the weekends, but this approach often led to burnout. Especially in the past 6 months we’ve tried to shut down at a reasonable hour and protect weekends as much as possible. We’ve also started implementing asynchronous communication internally, where we don’t expect immediate responses from coworkers when making requests (and vice-versa). If something is truly urgent, we’ll call or text, but the threshold for this kind of request is high. By operating this way, we can shut off Slack and email and not worry about missing something important.
Tech: What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who are navigating this current environment?
Marlow: Focus on your customers. It seems pretty common for startup founders to get wrapped up in building technology or perfecting their fundraising pitch. Instead founders need to focus on profitability, which means getting a product or service to market that their customers will buy at a price that’s sustainable for their business. In the early days, we made the mistake of building software that we thought our customers needed before even talking to them. Having our relationship with Lance and Crest (mentioned before) and spending more time talking to customers has helped us better align our product with our customers’ needs.
Tech: Where do you see yourself and your business 6 months from today?
Marlow: In the next 6 months, we want to be firmly profitable as a business. To achieve that goal, we plan to double our retail footprint for the Grocery TV network from 1,000 to 2,000 stores, double our average monthly ad revenue per store, and pass $1M in ARR for our merchandising business. We’d also love to count Target as one of our retail partners! On the personal front (Marlow speaking here — assuming that’s what you mean by ‘yourself’), I’d like to be a great Dad to my newborn son and a supportive husband to my wife. I’m also happy to report that in the service of those goals, I’ve become a near daily customer of the Target here in East Austin.
Learn more about Grocery TV/Popspots by visiting grocerytv.com