James & Sean launch a Shopify store to sell Modest Mouse tour merch, and get hundreds of orders overnight when we post the last vinyl copies of Good News for People Who Love Bad News.
Shipping a few hundred orders is horrifically, painfully slow. It seems so simple! We just need to get the addresses from Shopify, buy a shipping label, and email the customer their tracking number. We tap Mark to help us build an app, and we’re on our way.
With the Ghostly inventory out of the rental truck, the full complexity starts to come into focus. Products come in more sizes, colors, and variations than we could have imagined. As we unload and organize, we talk about what Whiplash could be, and curse that it doesn’t exist yet.
We hear through the Ann Arbor rumor mill that our friends at Ghostly are having a hard time managing their inventory. We begin a long tradition of listening to their pain and saying, “We could build that.”
We get an email from Bleep in London. In effect, it says, “We’ve got this massive release coming up. How about we’ll ship the Europe orders, and you’ll ship the US orders. Sound alright?” We ship more records than we’d ever dreamed of.
With our tech maturing, we start mixing with the startup community in silicon valley. At Launch Festival, we pitch to 20,000 viewers. When the TV show Silicon Valley comes out 3 years later, the characters pitch on the same stage we did.
We get introduced to Ghostly’s friends in New York, Holstee. Their Manifesto poster is a runaway best-seller, and we start doing real volume with them. We move out of VGKids, and into our own 3,000 square foot building, which seems massive. It's full to bursting in a year.
We bootstrapped all the way to #457 on Inc Magazine’s list of 5,000 fastest growing private companies. Not bad for some friends just trying to make shipping easier.
We have an epiphany that the thing we're really great at is software, and we'd be much more valuable to our customers if they had a broader range of warehouse options. We announce the Whiplash Partner Network at 500 Startups Demo Day.
People love the Whiplash app, they say it’s simple and easy to use. We open the first facility run by someone other than ourselves, in London. For the first time, we’re getting shipments to customers in Europe quickly and affordably.
In the afterglow of Launch Festival, we meet Betabrand. They’ve got a story that’s starting to get familiar: They’re growing fast and their shipping team is overloaded. We open a warehouse in San Francisco for them.
We apply to 500 Startups on a whim, thinking things would be a whole lot easier if we had money in the bank to afford all this growth. And if we made it this far on our own, who knows what will happen if we’re not broke all the time? Surprise! We get in. Surprise! It's just as hard with money in the bank.
The vision of the Partner Network resonates, and Billy and Tim Draper invest. It's a big deal, and it gives us the cash we need to upgrade virtually every part of Whiplash.