Have you ever stopped to think about exactly how much work goes into getting the things we buy from the manufacturers to our homes/workplaces/bodies? It’s truly mind boggling to contemplate exactly how complicated that work is and unless you own a business that buys and sells things, I don’t know if any of us can truly understand.
Louis Leung and Stephen Fung, however, definitely understand. The co-founders of Carta and inFlow started working together seven years ago, while they were both still undergrads. A couple of consultancy jobs building inventory and supply chain management for businesses – including Big Wheel – got them thinking:
“There has to be a better way to do this.”
Unfortunately for small and medium sized businesses (but fortunately for Stephen and Louis), there really wasn’t an affordable, good way to manage inventory. Most people utilized complicated, out of date spreadsheets and hundreds of emails could be exchanged between vendor and vendee until, finally, something was worked out.
Their first answer to this problem is a company called inFlow, which helps over 700,00 small businesses manage their inventory flow. In the process of building up that impressive customer base, Stephen and Louis did one huge thing that every startup founder should be doing.
They talked to their customers.
Manning all customer support by themselves for the first couple years of, Stephen and Louis were able to get an extremely clear idea of exactly what their customers needed.
I want to make something really clear here: They didn’t hire other people to talk to their customers. They didn’t rely on online surveys or any other kind of shortcut. They. Spoke. Directly. To. Their. Customers. That kind of direct, person to person interaction is not something that can be replaced by technology or another startup. If you’re going to create the best company you can create, it’s essential that you follow Louis and Stephen’s lead on this one.
Because, let’s be straight up, the results are pretty impressive.
Their current company, Carta, takes everything they learned at inFlow to the next level and by next level I obviously mean the cloud. With a much more up-to-date feel than inFlow, Carta helps business owners track inventory, manage all of their orders, and maintain relationships with customers and vendors.
It’s a one stop, in shop solution for keeping track of the entire work flow for any small or medium sized business.
It’s also super easy to use.
First of all, the logos (I’m assuming those are custom, guys?) on the lefthand sidebar are adorable. Clearly laid out and with explainer videos under each one, the on boarding process for Carta is ridiculously simple. They’ve managed to take a formerly unwieldy, crazy, complicated mishmash of systems and spreadsheets and turn it into something simple and very 2014. You don’t have to be a techie to make it work and you don’t even have to be a business owner because I had no problems at all figuring out what went where.
So what’s their secret?
On top of creating a constant feedback loop between themselves and their customers, the co-founders of Carta are committed to their employees, who are in turn committed to creating a company that actually makes the world a better place.
Now, I know that all startups claim to be changing or helping the world (HBO’s Silicon Valley was pretty spot on in their parody of that part of startup culture) but Carta is one of those companies that, while not altering the course of human history, does make business better, easier, and more profitable for struggling small and medium sized businesses. Those Mom and Pop shops we all love to love? They’re the ones who really benefit from a (currently free and soon to be very inexpensive) service like Carta.