Swae Celebrates New Partnership with William and Eugene Eisenman: Experienced Technology Executives & Angel Investors With Winning Track Record of Turning Early-Stage Risk Into Scaleable Success
LEAD ANGEL INVESTORS IN SWAE
William Eisenman is a former Captain in the US Navy. He graduated in three years with a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Chemistry concurrently. During his first year of college, the Navy was actively recruiting him to join the CBRN division. After joining, he quickly rose through the ranks to become one of the youngest Captains in the military for his time. After his time in the military, he transitioned into the technology sector. He has held various executive and leadership roles throughout his career in tech. He is most well-known for his accomplishments at Netflix, where he is the architect behind the Video Streaming Platform, and at Palm, where he developed the WebOS platform.
William and Eugene Eisenman, along with their other investment partner, operate a family office. William and Eugene Eisenman are a father and son angel investing duo. Some of their team’s past successful angel investments include early positions in Netflix, Callaway Golf, MD Pharmaceuticals, and others, reminding us of the Greek myth of Midas, whose touch turned everything to gold (taking all of the positives of that myth into context here).
We’re extremely excited to announce that they have become Swae’s Lead Investors in Swae’s seed round, and we’re ecstatic as to what this partnership will bring to Swae as a whole.
“Those that invest in Swae become part of our startup family. We develop a strategic and close working relationship with each of our investors so that we can together advance Swae’s platform and offer to develop more powerful ways to bring value to the world.” — Soushiant Zanganehpour
Already, William and Eugene have spent countless hours conducting due diligence on Swae, reviewing the code base of the platform, UX/UI, and AI systems. They’ve shared important feedback and will continue doing so since William will also be joining Swae’s Advisory Board, bringing his years of experience to bear on important strategic decisions.
We believe William and Eugene will be a vital source of intelligence for improving Swae’s platform, offering, user experience, and developing innovations outside of our existing roadmap.
Soushiant Zanganehpour, CEO of Swae, sat down with William and Eugene Eisenman to learn more about their decision to invest in Swae, and the interview is below. In the interview, we learn about who the duo are and what potential and the hidden value they saw in Swae that compelled them to lead our Seed Round.
Their unique outlook and support to help Swae exceed its goals in 2021 is a thrilling start to the new year!
INTERVIEW WITH ANGEL INVESTORS, WILLIAM AND EUGENE EISENMAN
During my time at Capgemini, I worked with various clients across different sectors like aviation, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, semiconductors, financial, technology, etc. My teams and I were advising these companies on potential acquisitions, scoping out new business opportunities, creating new divisions to go after those markets, scaling their entire business operations quickly and efficiently, amongst other things.
As I was boarding a plane to meet a few clients, I received a random call from someone at a startup called Netflix. I let them know that we could schedule a time to meet after I got back from my trip to discuss some of the issues they were facing at the time. After my business trip, we met up for lunch, and I was asked to look over their entire processes.
There were No NDAs at the time, so it was relatively easy to gain visibility into their operations and contribute feedback quickly. At that time, they had about a thousand users (1000) and were renting out the DVDs at .25 cents each and shipping them to customers.
They were hemorrhaging money because the cost of sending a DVD was more than the price they charged each customer per DVD rental. My military background and my management consulting experience allowed me to look at their operations and see clearly “this isn’t going to work.” So while we were finishing up lunch, on the back of a paper napkin, I wrote out what I thought it should have been versus what it actually was.
Within a couple of weeks of implementing the changes I had suggested, they reported that they stopped the bleeding and credited me for saving them millions! I was invited back for another lunch, and before I left the lunch meeting, to get into my car and drive away, their VP of Operations, Former CEO Marc Randolph, and now current CEO Reed Hastings chased me down and hired me on the spot!
After I joined, in about 1998/1999, I helped successfully scale their DVD business and switched the revenue model from charging .25 cents per DVD to a monthly subscription service for $19.99.
During this time, I was also pushing them to explore video streaming (though that isn’t what we called it then) because I knew that mailing DVDs one at a time was completely unscalable in the long run regardless of how much we had scaled. I felt that DVDs were going to be a stop-gap between VHS and Streaming. I knew that bringing the content directly to people’s televisions and computers would be the wave of the future, which would reduce the marginal cost of delivery significantly, allowing them to focus on having the best content.
I remember saying to Reed Hastings that we would have to change Netflix’s revenue model to a subscription plan because we didn’t have a good recurring revenue stream.
Even with a subscription before streaming was possible, a consumer could only really rent about 8 discs/month with the mail transactions because of shipping times being 3–5 business days. Originally there were hard limits to their consumption. At the 0.25 cents customers would be paying per video, and we couldn’t even afford the return mail on each transaction.
We were paying 0.57 cents to send a consumer with a return address already provided. This problem was creating huge deficits.
As a transitional step, I implemented technology and automation to assist the sorting and mailing process to get away from the manually laborious and costly process for sending discs to consumers. We brought in a sorting machine similar to the ones in USPS.
I would send data to this sorting machine to segregate each subscriber’s DVD automatically and help with sorting and pre-preparation for the mail delivery. This system, along with Certified mail, helped us improve unit economics and bring down the costs of servicing each customer from .57 cents to about 0.18–0.20 cents, so we were finally making some money.
However, the situation wasn’t sustainable. When I would look at the whole big picture, I could see that wasn’t going to work, even with the subscription model. I also felt like DVDs were going to be a stop-gap technology between VHS and Streaming.
We needed video streaming and a subscription-based business model to make this company viable and sustainable. With the combination of subscriptions and streaming, I believed that we could focus on curating and creating the best content available. I knew that hitting economies of scale was inevitable. I could just see it.
The rest, I guess you can say, is history!
When he was a Netflix, I was there sitting in many meetings with the leadership team, and they asked me questions about what I thought, to actively beta testing and giving my feedback on the UX/UI of the video streaming platform. At Palm, I was a beta tester for the WebOS platform to find potential bugs or issues and provide feedback on the phone design. I actually helped catch a critical error that the QA team missed, which helped save the company millions of dollars.
I also worked at Alom technologies [where William currently works], where I conceptualized and led the charge to create a fully integrated autonomous warehouse. The fully integrated warehouse utilizes advanced robotics, AI, and Machine Learning to improve and scale all aspects of supply chain logistics for Alom and its customers.
I help create a few features that utilize AI and Machine Learning to choose the most optimal shipping route, the best shipping service to use, and the lowest cost possible. The AI also accounts for potential problems for each company’s supply chain and will actively reroute each customer’s entire supply chain and packages in transit to avoid delays from things like natural disasters in real-time.
Another feature I help create uses Alom’s customer data to forecast potential demand each day of the year. The AI utilizes this data and advanced robotics to continuously optimize daily warehouse inventory flow accounting for potential demand to ensure that all customer’s orders are fulfilled with speed and precision.
The integrated warehouse has allowed Alom to provide more advanced technical features and offerings. These key technological advances empower Alom to continue to service its growing roster of customers, including Fortune 500 companies like Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Walmart, Tesla, Ford, General Motors, McKesson, Genentech, Pfizer, Moderna, and many promising startups like 23andme and Color.
With everything that I mentioned before, you would think I had a degree in something related to tech, but my background is actually in Finance.
When I graduated from school, I started working at Goldman Sachs. I quickly realized I would rather work in the venture capital and private equity space, so I started out doing secondary market transactions for VCs and founders, getting liquidity for their shares. I’ve since led the sourcing and diligence process of several of our potential Angel Investments for our family office. I also act as an operating partner that is actively helping founders with product improvement, UX/UI, and other aspects as necessary to help them out in any way that we can.
My choices could either cause harm to members within our military, or I could find solutions that would get the job done and keep us all safe. If you were overseeing departments in the military, you would be tasked with dealing with the department budgets. I was fortunate enough to be blessed with the burden of always getting less money than I asked for and told to accomplish the same goal anyway.
This time in my life taught me many great skills and lessons that have been a foundation for my military and tech career. I learned leadership, how to carefully assess and manage risk, accomplishing goals with limited resources, and learned that change is the only constant you either change to win or try to cope with the change.
When I transitioned to the technology world, I worked for Read-Rite, a semiconductor company built on chemical engineering. I was Head of Technology Innovations, where I essentially created and built out the Innovation group.
Because of my strong chemistry background, I had the technical foundation and requisite skills to jump in and be useful immediately.
But when we began manufacturing, I realized that I was a natural systems thinker and had a knack at looking at multifaceted systems with multiple moving parts and could see ways to make them better. After realizing I am a systems thinker that was attuned to risk, I could present solutions to optimize processes.
When I left Read-Rite, they were one of the top two semiconductor companies in the world. Read-rite certainly wasn’t a safe bet when I first joined and were maybe in the top fifteen at the time. After I left, within five to seven years, they were out of business because they thought far enough ahead of everybody and stopped innovating.
When I joined Palm, they were one of three industry-leading telecommunications companies at the time. The other two industry-leading companies were Nokia and Blackberry. Now the industry leaders are Samsung and Apple. Those three companies, Nokia, Blackberry, and Palm, all got beat out by companies that weren’t even making cellphones.
During my time at Palm, I joined to create the next innovative phone. I developed the WebOS platform with the intent to build an all-touchscreen phone similar to Apple’s iPhone. Everyone in that space knows that building an OS system is the most important thing and making a good OS system is really difficult.
The phone design is a lot easier, and changes can be done pretty quickly. Unfortunately, Palm wasn’t willing to change. They wanted to stick with the Palm Pilot and PalmOS platform that made them famous. They were content to keep making the same Palm Pilot, making a few changes here and there. All of these companies stopped innovating, Palm specifically went out of business five years later and got bought only for my WebOS platform. The same fate could be in store for Samsung and Apple if they stop innovating.
The only company that still exists today that I worked for is Netflix, and they are now a household name that changed the way society consumes content and entertainment. We went from sending DVDs in the mail directly to customers to successfully curating and creating the best content possible for consumers to watch via streaming. Netflix is the only company that was willing to continually innovate and kill their existing business to that point in order to continue to succeed.
There isn’t any company or investment with a zero risk factor, which is fine with us. There is a risk in everything, but the way I look at it is that you can either be a part of the company, causes or leads all the disruption or innovation, or be a part of the company that is getting disrupted by innovation.
When in doubt, we always choose disruption and innovation over the status quo.
We like to choose the company causing all the disruption, whether that be in public markets or investing in startups looking to disrupt larger companies across sectors. In the greatest win or take all economy, change is the only constant; you either change to win or cope with the change when you lose. Every single company has the possibility to go out of business in a short period of time if they stop innovating and stop playing to win. There is no safe bet except to continually bet on change, which is the driving force behind disruption and innovation.
I assess opportunities by stepping backward, looking at the entire picture, and finding out where all the octopus tentacles go, mapping all potential opportunities. That is why we’re investing in Swae. We feel like Swae has the potential to be the platform that allows companies to see all the opportunities for growth, new business, and changing with times. We believe Swae can be the tool that keeps you at the forefront of innovation instead of being that company getting disrupted by everybody else. There are a lot of great places and opportunities for Swae to go!
For example, my grandfather was also in the Navy, so my father’s family moved around a lot, going from base to base. He grew up in Japan and then in Germany before they immigrated to the US when my father was around the age of 10–11. He taught himself to speak fluent English just from watching six months’ worth of television.
That same year my father immigrated to the US, the principal at his school realized he was incredibly gifted and offered his parents the opportunity to let my father skip grades 7–12 to go directly to college. His parents didn’t think that an 11-year-old should be at university at such a young age by himself because he was still just a child. With the principal’s help, they were able to enroll him as an 11 year old into the local community college. During his time there, he was enrolled in classes, became a teacher’s assistant, and even began teaching multiple courses by the end of his first year attending that community college.
Another example comes to mind. When my father was enrolled in university, he received both his Bachelor’s and Master’s in Chemistry concurrently in three years, a feat that is impressive in itself. Anyways, when professors assigned labs, he would always write out what the lab results would be and just turn it in without actually doing the lab experiment because he did the entire lab in his head. He was always able to conceptualize what the answer should and would be. He’s always been able to see how things are going to unfold.
As a final example, my father had a semester-long project that involved tracking fruit flies with genetic defects. This process is pretty painstaking slow and took a lot of time to complete. My father was attending university full-time to complete his dual degrees and juggled three jobs simultaneously. So he didn’t have the time to be there to track everything going with the fruit flies, so he taught himself to write Assembly to get the computer and machines in the science lab to track it all for him.
My father loves to learn new things, which interests him a lot because lifelong learning is a core value. He masters new things incredibly quickly and then gets bored extremely quickly. So, this process of learning and doing new things drives him.
Also, from observing him my entire life, it doesn’t really matter what company he touches. He is the star of the show, and I know he has the skillset, mental tools, the self-confidence to see the roadmap and navigate the journey to reach success. You just need to let him just do his thing, and everything should work out for you in the end.
I also think his consulting background and military experience gave him tools and frameworks to understand risks and account for risk better than others. His unique experience and view of the world allow him to see risks or opportunities before they were apparent to others. We both are similar in our approach to risk and managing it. We both use some variation of the scientific method, utilize principal based thinking and decision making when analyzing any career or investment decisions we make.
As I explained earlier, I am always all about optimizing processes to create systems that work with the vision. I can see how things connect and I’ve always seen the employees as the truly valuable resource that a company has. I believe that everyone has a good idea or pieces of a good idea which causes you to make a command decision. So, that’s how Swae comes into the picture.
Back when I was a manager, we didn’t do it with the formality that Swae provides, by typing in feedback, etc. It was more a water cooler kind-of-thing, where people would get around a machine and talk about what was working and what wasn’t. We used to call this process “Total Quality Management.” With Swae, leaders can make pulling ideas from a larger pool of their own people a formalized part of their processes.
Our criteria are:
1. Founder or Co-Founders with different or unique backgrounds:
a. Diversity: We prefer to invest in founders and founding teams with at least one or more of the following — A woman, a minority (Person of Colour), an immigrant, or a child of an immigrant. This is a huge asset, especially in certain sectors.
b. Previous Experience:
- Is this the first company you are starting? Do you have previous experience with a startup or running a business?
- Are you an expert in that specific field that you are starting a company in? Are you the correct founder(s) to bring this to market or is somebody else better suited to execute the same idea?
- We like founders that are either older or younger but it depends on what they are doing. Sometimes the experience really matters and sometimes the inexperience is more helpful.
- Do you have previous experience together or do you have good chemistry? Do you even like working together?
- Do you have complementary skill sets?
c. Personality Traits and Characteristics:
- People from the groups I mentioned above usually are more successful because they have a giant chip on their shoulders. They tend to have grit, a strong work ethic, are more resourceful, better at capitalizing on more opportunities, and are motivated by something bigger than just themselves.
- Opinionated founder(s) who have a compelling view for how something should be or will be.
- An extreme sense of ownership. We want you to take pride in what you are doing and be passionate about it. You’re always thinking about your startup consciously or unconsciously.
- You pay attention to the little details. Those little details add up can be a big driver of success.
- Asking for help when you need it and consistently seeking out critical feedback
- The ability to analyze situations and make important decisions with conviction leaning heavily on your gut instinct without data to back it up.
- If you need all the data or information to make a decision then you missed your opportunities, your company isn’t innovative and you are likely to go out of business in the near future.
- Ability to double down on their position and at the same time be willing to completely abandon their position, that shows real leadership.
- The landscape is always changing, and you need to adjust accordingly. You either change to win or you cope with change when you lose. You don’t win awards for doubling down on something that puts you out of business or knowing that you made the wrong decision and continuing down the path even though you see red flags everywhere.
2. Product, Market, and Market Timing:
- Is this idea or product even viable?
- Do you have product-market fit?
- Is there a customer who would pay you to use your product?
- Is there room for this in the marketplace?
- Is this the right time for this idea to come to market for customers and consumers?
- Are you building something too ahead of its time? Can you stay alive until everything catches up?
3. Networks Effects, Frequent and Repeated usage, Marketplaces and Platforms
- We prefer Platforms or Marketplaces but are perfectly fine if a startup isn’t either of those. Each kind of startup investment presents its own unique challenges along the way.
- Network effects are a double edge sword, it can either scale your business quickly or can kill it just as fast.
- If you combine both aspects, you can create something special. On the one hand, you can create monopolistic companies and, on the other hand, create a company to challenge those monopolistic companies at the same time.
- For example, Amazon vs. Shopify and Instagram vs. Snapchat vs Tik Tok
4. Cash Management, Bankroll Management, and making Asymmetric bets:
As a founder, you need to account for every dollar you have in the bank and understand how to allocate it effectively. Founders also need to be great with bankroll management and making asymmetric bets. You can never make a bet that is too big that it depletes your entire bankroll. These bets you take with your company can have high risk, and you need to manage the risk accordingly. If the bet works out in your favor, the company can make significant gains, and if it doesn’t work out, your company would still be alive to reassess and move forward.
These things have become less of a concern to many founders because of how large startup valuations and funding rounds have become. It’s essential for founders to really understand this because although these valuations and funding rounds have gotten larger, you may not be able to raise any money at all or receive any additional investments. Covid-19 has only highlighted the importance of accounting for all the money you have, bankroll management, making asymmetrical bets. Just remember that most startups don’t get funding and don’t get bailed like airlines or banks.
You [Soushiant] had said that you didn’t yet think you had a Product-Market fit and arrived at that fact by carefully reviewing customer data and usage trends. Upon recognizing the patterns, you made changes and talked us over changes in your general logic flow.
That sealed the deal for us because you actually arrived at the fact of how to get product-market fit, and you were open enough to make changes and talking over changes to your general logic flow which shows that you are agile. Your approach and thinking gave us tremendous comfort in investing. It was clear you were making changes to your logic and feature set to arrive at a better offering to really nail product-market fit.
Not everyone is like that. Many other founders we see have blinders on and they don’t see any of the changes that need to go on around them. When those teams do the short-term actions, they always get blindsided later. We didn’t see the same failed approach in Swae.
Swae User Feedback: “I feel like I have a voice, this is what freedom feels like!”
If you can affect somebody at that level, then you really have something valuable! We believe that Swae is the platform that allows companies to really utilize and leverage their real competitive advantage which is their own human capital inside of their organization.
From personal experience in our own operations adapting to Covid-19, our temp hires have been the ones raising issues and telling us what the problems were in our operations. Those people in the trenches doing the actual work can tell us things that we could never actually see. Management would eventually see what those people see but way later, after spending a lot more money experiencing production problems and quality control issues. The others saw them earlier because they’re on the floor.
With Swae’s product, it would allow them to tell us quickly, and allows them to get credit! In a lot of companies, they may not get credit.
For me, if everybody figures out how to solve the problem together, then everybody has a little piece of the pie and then the right people can get in there to fix the problem and keep everybody making money and keep everybody employed.
Swae can show HOW you can actually get insight back from the people that are “in the trenches: so to speak. Swae will allow them to tell leadership without backlash.
Many companies today with this COVID-19 challenge, they’re running 24-hours a day, seven days a week, so making people’s voices heard inside of their organization is essential to their success.
Let me ask you when was the last time in a company where you had a boss ask “Hey Soushiant, what do you think of this? What’s your input on this decision?” That type of bottom-up feedback on important ideas and decisions rarely happens. If it does, the manager may often take credit for your good idea and if it goes badly you may catch all the blame.
The problem is compounded further if you’re a minority, for example, going into tech or going into any other fields, you probably feel like an outsider already, so naturally you are less inclined to stick your neck out, and speak up to offer your thoughts or ideas. More than likely you will just put your head down, do what you are told and try to not rock the boat.
Swae can solve a bunch of different problems at the same time — improving information sharing, idea generation, empowering introverts or outsiders, increasing diversity and inclusion, solving for toxic work cultures, and many more.
Swae replaces the need for all of the extra zoom calls just to get a take on what’s going on inside of the organization. Having Swae’s product would really help management to hear what they’re not hearing because they can get all that interaction without actually needing to be there on the floor or in person.
Society has been gradually shifting towards this for a while, more and more people are becoming digital nomads realizing they don’t need to be tied down to a physical office location to be successful. People have been running successful businesses and making meaningful contributions to their teams with just their computers in the comfort of their homes, at their favorite coffee shop, or vacation getaways.
I understand why people want to go back into the office and go back to the way things were. In reality, you really just want to work from home and have your kids go back to school. I guarantee that if you go into the office and your kids are in school, you’re going to want to be remote because it’s nice to spend more time with your kids.
The covid-19 pandemic has caused everyone to reflect and figure out what they value in their personal lives and cut things out that weren’t necessary. For businesses, covid-19 has clearly shown what you were good at, as well as highlight every single flaw and weakness in your business. Many companies were able to capitalize, thriving during the pandemic, experiencing some of the best growth to date.
But, sadly for many companies, they didn’t experience the same success and this has been one of the most trying times. There is no way to revisit the past and undo what happened. The ripple effect caused by the covid-19 pandemic has and continues to persist. The only thing you can do now is to reevaluate your business and address those problems to come out of this pandemic stronger than ever.
Swae is poised for the current “new normal” that won’t go away, as well as what the future holds. It’s how business, in general, will need to be done for companies that want to avoid disruption.
In order to not be disrupted, your business needs to be the company everyone is chasing. If you’re the company everyone is chasing, then you need to everything in your power to keep your edge on the competition. Either way, you look at it, everybody needs to fully leverage and maximize every resource they have.
The power of a company or organization — is its people. Your employees are the boots on the ground doing the hard work and are the backbone of your company’s success. We believe Swae can be the platform that allows companies to leverage their most important competitive advantage which is their human capital. Companies can unlock their true power of staying competitive by implementing Swae to unlock and leverage their own internal network.
Covid-19 is a “black swan” kind of event that has really forced a much quicker education curve and adoption for those companies that were resisting this reality or using these kinds of tools to stay competitive.
But every company will need tools to help them collaborate and be successful.
Swae is positioned on the cusp, to ride the wave of the new normal.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR SWAE…
Thank you to William and Eugene for sitting down with our CEO, Soushiant, to share openly about who they are and why they’re investing in Swae. All of us here at Swae are extremely excited to start working on our bigger goals to make our platform all the more powerful and of value to our customers.
A big goal for our technology team that is led by our CTO, Su Yon Sohn, is how Swae can integrate with other team collaboration and project management tools in 2021. We’re looking at integrations with platforms like Microsoft Teams, Slack, Asana, etc. This is just one of the many goals we hope to accomplish this year.
Our mission is to empower unheard voices within organizations to ensure that leaders can identify problems and hear investable solutions quickly, and to hear the truth of what’s going on in an organization so they can reduce the amount of bias present in important strategic decisions.
We know Swae can have a major impact within large companies on many levels, and truly transform the way leaders include others in sourcing challenges, finding solutions, and making better decisions faster.
We know that some problems within large organizations can’t be discovered unless you have everyone’s input.
The impact that covid-19 has had on businesses globally has set up the “new normal” and there’s no going back.
Companies need to be positioned to get stronger during this time, not weaker, and Swae is a technology that can’t be ignored.
IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN SPEAKING TO OUR CEO, SOUSHIANT, ABOUT POTENTIAL INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITIES, PLEASE CLICK HERE.