EP 289 – Nathalie Rafeh – Splashup – I Was Set On Solving the Customer Experience Problem

by | Aug 9, 2023

The Asia Tech Podcast welcomed Nathalie Rafeh, CEO of Splashup, to discuss some of the issues and opportunities surrounding starting a brand in today's market. She also acknowledges the challenges of navigating the ecosystem and marketing a brand effectively. Nathalie explains how Splashup, an AI-driven partnerships platform, helps brands connect with complementary brands post-checkout to reach new target audiences.

Some of the topics that Nathalie covered:

  • Why communities are so important for brand building
  • How privacy has become a big concern for online shoppers
  • The significance and impact of changes in privacy and cookie tracking on the advertising landscape
  • How AI enhances the pos-purchase experience to help brands connect with complementary brands
  • The insights gained and the power of sharing ideas as a startup advisor at UNSW‘s Entrepreneurship Division
  • Why building a startup is like surfing!

Some other titles we considered for this episode, but ultimately rejected:

  1. A Beautiful Entrepreneurial Curse
  2. It’s All About the Back and Forth
  3. We Are this New Channel That Is More Cost Effective
  4. Build a Community First
  5. It’s Just Like Surfing
Read the best-effort transcript

Read the best-effort transcript below (This technology is still not as good as they say it is…):

Michael Waitze 0:00
Hi, this is Michael Waitze. And welcome back to the agent tech podcast. We are joined today by Nathalie Rafeh, a rave VCs couldn’t get it right. The Founder and CEO at Splashup, Nathalie, thank you so much for coming on the show. I really appreciate it. How are you doing today?

Nathalie Rafeh 0:19
Thank you, Michael. I’m doing great. Thanks very much for inviting me.

Michael Waitze 0:23
It is my complete pleasure. Before we jump into some of the main topics, can we get some of your background for some context?

Nathalie Rafeh 0:29
Sure. So in terms of professional background, you mean, just the

Michael Waitze 0:33
things that are important to you? Yeah. Like, how would you? How would you introduce yourself to my brother?

Nathalie Rafeh 0:37
Great. So Hi, I’m Nathalie. I’m the founder and CEO of Splashup, an AI-driven partnerships platform, with the aim to connect brands with other complementary brands post checkout, my background has always been really in startups. So I have initially started off my career after graduating in finance and marketing from the University of Sydney, and was always a huge fan of this ecosystem called startups. And I naturally found it and been part of it ever since. I have started a couple of other things in the past and then moved into joining a high growth startup that IPOs and had also developed some experience working in it. And so bringing all this experience together, and also founding my own DTC brand in the past have kind of forced me to curse me, I would say it’s a beautiful entrepreneurial curse, so to speak, to be on this entrepreneurial journey and to be where I am in building Splashup. Along this journey, I forgot to say, but I also found myself being part of the University of New South Wales entrepreneurial team. So I’m part of the founders in consulting and advising startups.

Michael Waitze 1:45
Do you think there’s ever been a better time to start a brand?

Nathalie Rafeh 1:49
I would say yes, and no. I mean, like, if we kind of, if we kind of look at where we’re at right now, the barriers of entry have never really been low. So it is timing in terms of difficulty and complexity, I would say, now is the perfect time, we have it much easier than we’ve ever had. If you think about let’s say 1515 20 years ago, ecommerce when it started, they have a ship, like when if someone wanted to come up with a with a brand, they have to go through the process of setting up a website and like setting up all the payment infrastructure platforms like Stripe, where it really thought they were an infancy and also didn’t have the likes of Shopify, so you had to kind of come up with a tech team altogether. Back then it was much more difficult because not only did you have to come up with a with an online presence, but you also had to source a product. And I would say right now it’s much more easy to be able to bring a brand to life. But at the same time, it comes with its own challenges in navigating the Ecosystm system, when it comes to I have a product now what how do I go about marketing it?

Michael Waitze 2:51
So how do you fix that?

Nathalie Rafeh 2:53
How do you fix that? That’s a good question. So there’s not a single fix. Really, there’s like, I guess now we’ve entered the sort of Age of community driven community first kind of marketing mindset where rather than have a product and then sell it, and then build a community, we kind of have this new thing around, build a community first, and then you understand your audience. And then you create content, and then you essentially, build the brand from there. And that is like one way of fixing it. The other thing is, is really about as if we kind of look at brand as a financial instrument, it’s all about diversification. And it’s not just having one single channel or a single channel that’s working, but it’s really about exploring a variety of things. And that touches on both online and offline tactics that go beyond having a website or doing Facebook ads, and potentially using slash up at some point, which I would love to tell you about

Michael Waitze 3:50
told me, but because this is the thing that I’m really I mean, I’m curious about so many of these things, right. But you’ve mentioned a few of them this offline to online thing, right? When e commerce first started, I mean, obviously after Amazon, right, but before Shopify, there was this whole idea of all commerce now is going to be E commerce and all commerce is going to move online. And I feel like it’s kind of hit a plateau. But I feel like there are two things coming into that are connecting right now. The first is I think people are starting to reject bigger brands, they’re naturally looking for smaller brands, I want to actually give my money to you not to a gigantic company. And on the second front is that all the little pieces are now in place for someone to build that brand. Right? So it works both ways where consumers are sitting there going, I really want Nike, or do I want some new sneaker brand? Or do I really want like polo, or something that my neighbor made kind of thing? What’s the confluence of these events,

Nathalie Rafeh 4:44
so that you’re absolutely spot on. So in a way when we kind of look at the established brands like Nike and Puma and Adidas and all these other indie sports where they They filled a need for a large group of target audience But what these DTC brands did was they found a niche, they found a specific audience that was missing something that maybe Nike was was was not giving them was not talking to them in a way that resonated with them. And that way to all these micro brands that were able to really target all these different niche that were always in the market, but didn’t have a place for them to didn’t have a home. And so in a way that is super exciting. But at the same time, from a brand perspective, there are lots of challenges, because ultimately, brands are facing incumbents in the market. And even if you look at the statistics, I think I was reading about this the other day, but established brands when it comes to online, online growth, I think they’ve been they’ve been actually growing nine times faster than new brands. And so it’s quite concerning, because on one hand, we have we have this huge celebration and acceptance of new brands coming to market. But on the other end established brands, by establish I mean, those who had an offline presence, and now they’ve kind of put all their efforts and or more effort into online growth, they have started eating and growing in this ecosystem. So that then poses the question is this trend of going into finding a niche products are going to always be there? Or are ultimately people going to always value price or convenience, and that is, the world is big. So there’s always going to be a place for DTC brands. But there’s always these question marks that are quite interesting.

Michael Waitze 6:28
Microsoft used to do this in the old days, right? Anytime someone would build a great product, they would just co opted by buying it and then redoing it themselves, right. So always accumulating these new little brands into their big brand and then making it Microsoft which was super annoying at the time. But this almost feels like a craft beer moment to me in the retail in the DTC space, right? Where all these little companies are like, I know the kind of beer exactly that I want. Right. But in the old days when craft beer first started, like if you didn’t live in Boston, you couldn’t have Boston craft beer. And if you didn’t live in Sydney, you couldn’t have that. But now because of all these little things that you’ve mentioned, all these little pieces like Stripe, right, like Spotify, sorry, Shopify, it’s now all connected. Absolutely. So tell me exactly what Splashup does in that context, right? How does it then put all those little pieces together so that regular people can use them in a way that they may not have been able to use otherwise?

Nathalie Rafeh 7:20
Yes, touching on that particular element of let’s say, you’re a new brand, and you are coming into the market. And you’re you’re you want to, you’re excited to sell your product, you know, talk about your product and reach your target audience, you’re a new brand coming to the market. And then you’re facing all of these different challenges. You’ve got competitors in the space that you have to face. And you’ve also have the established brands that as competitors, that you also have to have to face in and differentiate yourself from, what we’re doing is essentially we’re giving brands a channel or new acquisition channel for them to reach new target audiences or their target audience. And we do this by essentially creating a cross promotion mechanism that exists post checkout. So if someone has just made a purchase, then we promote all the brands that are complementary noncompete, that could be already targeting the same target audience that are synergistic, and values or categories so that they can reach new target audiences or existing target audiences in a way that customers love. So it’s really an AI driven partnerships, excuse my buzzword in here, but it’s really leveraging AI to create seamless partnerships that are currently very manual and, and cumbersome and bridging that gap by allowing brassica collectively grow with the with the goal of growing and succeeding.

Michael Waitze 8:39
Yeah, so now I think I have it. And I’m just going to simplify this so that I can actually understand it. And then the listeners can understand that as well. If I’ve built like a small DTC sneaker brand, when I’m done buying those sneakers, I’m going to need some socks, but the sneaker brand doesn’t make socks and the socks don’t compete with the sneaker brand, but they complement it. So at the end of me buying those sneakers online, what you’re suggesting is that after the checkout, it’s something pops up or some thing happens. And I’m curious what the mechanism that says, you know, people that bought this also bought socks, it’s like this AI enhanced recommendation engine for products that are related to that product, but also in the same sort of size category. Like you’re never going to send somebody from like, Nathalie’s sneakers to Nike socks. Yeah.

Nathalie Rafeh 9:23
Yeah, you’re absolutely right. It’s really about elevating the awareness for brands and leveraging cross promotion and partnerships and synergies. When there’s complementarity, to really on one end, give brands access to a new channel of acquisition that is much more cost effective than existing channels. One because it’s targeting high intent customers so when someone makes a purchase, they’re much more likely to continue engaging with additional products or wanting to continue the journey and to because it really leverages synergies and places it in front of the customer at point of either crucial point where right now, if you purchase online, really the music stops when you finish purchasing and we want to continue this journey. So for the brand’s perspective, it’s, it’s giving them great brand awareness by leveraging partnerships. And from the consumers perspective, it’s giving them a chance to continue discovery and enjoy their online journey in a way that they never really had before. So that’s basically us in nutshell, and you’ve said it very perfectly. Let me actually

Michael Waitze 10:25
stop it. I once was hosting or moderating a panel about e commerce in Bangkok. And I won’t name the name of the company, but a pretty well established marketplace in Southeast Asia. And one of the panelists was the chief revenue officer. And I asked him, How do you handle this discovery problem? And he kind of scoffed at me and said, We don’t have a discovery problem. We have 3 million products on the platform. And even the people in the audience there about three or 400 people in the audience actually looked up and did the same thing that I did, which was like, Yeah, that’s the problem. With all of those products, there’s no way to get the right discovery. I’m curious how you came up with this idea. You said you build your own DTC brand. Were you having the same type of issue where like, people were buying things that were similar to yours, or supplementary or complementary to yours, but they were never getting to see your brand?

Nathalie Rafeh 11:13
Yes. So initially, when I first started my DDC brand, I’ve encountered all sorts of challenges. So when we first embarked on the Splashup journey, we actually have gone through a couple of pivots to get to the point where we’re at when I first had my own brand, I remember clearly having to spend so much on advertising, having to spend so much time on get a was peak influencer marketing, we’re talking about 2015. So influencers and sending products and giveaways were like the Holy Grail of growth, and I hated it never really resonate with who I am at Cool. And it was just cumbersome. It felt like it just didn’t really aligned with my values are who I am, it was not something that I enjoyed doing. And add to that there was other complexities beyond partnerships beyond promotion that touched on providing a good customer experience in the store itself. And so when I, when we launched Splashup, I was really set on solving the customer experience problem. So we kind of came up with coming up with a series of tools for brands to help build a better way to engage and connect and communicate with their customers to understand their preferences and needs. But then that naturally evolved, as we talked to more brands, they would sort of tell us well, we know we spoke to brand A and actually, often after I’ve done my DTC brand, I would be having conversations with brands and tell them why don’t I connect you to this brand? Why don’t I connect you guys and you can have a chat, because I know them and you might be good together. And so naturally, it was like, Well, how can they like why don’t we do this in a way where tech enables them to, to really work together and collaborate? So it kind of has been a back and forth, but it evolved as part of a series of pivots, but all closely related to pains that I’ve personally experienced, that I’m glad or maybe not glad, like, Oh, I’m glad everyone’s feeling this pain. But no, it’s like, there are other people who feel it too. And it’s great that we have a solution that we’re now bringing to market to help with this.

Michael Waitze 13:12
So this fits into one of the these large categories of learnings that I have not just from doing this show, but from also building my own business. And that is, and I haven’t found the right words for this yet, right. So just work with me a little bit on this. But this idea that you have to be in some kind of business app just being any kind of business really. And then as you start to interact with your potential clients, your potential partners, that’s where you really learn what the business is you should be building, but if you just sit around and like don’t actually build something, and just try to think of ideas, you’ll never get to the idea because you’re not interacting with the right people. Is this making any sense to you what I mean, so like you had to wash up, and it was a kind of thing. But when you went out and spoke to people you like, actually, now I got it, this is a better thing to build 100% 100%

Nathalie Rafeh 13:57
alike. And that’s the beauty of entrepreneurship because it’s not like I have an idea, I quit my job, I go do it. Now I’m unicorn. It’s not like that at all. And even even if we had continued on the path that we were at and heavy, maybe pivoted to a tangential similar kind of space, we could have like maybe found something but it’s all about the back and forth customer conversations, reading continuing. That is where true hustle or you know, the beauty of entrepreneurship really comes along. It’s about refining that idea refining that plan or finding this product and customer experience. And that’s why I tell my startups as well at UNSW. Like sometimes they they don’t find a good fit. And then I see a lot of startups who completely stopped and sometimes it’s moving a little bit but you know, I also don’t blame them because sometimes you really do hit a dead end and you kind of just need to pack up and do something else. But I really feel like I think if you continue iterating and keeping an open mind you will you will find something that clicks

Michael Waitze 14:55
I think it’s one of the biggest things I’ve learned actually by running my own business. I remember I came out of a massive core purposes, right, so I worked at Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs. And when I left and I say this a lot now, I was so arrogant about what I thought I knew about building a business, because I built little businesses inside of this massive business and thought I could do that on my own. But once you actually try to do it, it’s this idea of just going out and doing it right. And then you start to figure stuff out. And you’ll probably never make money the way you first expect it to. And you’ll probably never get customers the way you expect it to. But once you start getting them

Nathalie Rafeh 15:27
100%, it’s kind of like surfing, you kind of look at people, you’re like, oh, I can stand on those two feet, I can do that. And then you kind of go into the waves, and you get like, hit with all these waves and, and you feel like you’re just hit back to shore. And you’re like, Alright, I’m going to do it again. And it takes you a few tries before you’re like oh, wait, hang on, I got a bit of a I can I can I’ve got some balance here and even even experienced people they do struggle with after years of experience and finding that not just product market fit but also problem solution.

Michael Waitze 15:55
Actually, surfing is such a great such a great example of this. It’s such a great metaphor, right? Because the first thing you have to do is get on the board and paddle out to the wave. Yes, you really do. I’m going to start using this if you don’t mind.

Nathalie Rafeh 16:07
Actually, I came up with it because I and this is probably sad. But like I was I was taking a surfing lesson and and I completely sucked at it. I was a two day lesson. So we were like stranded for four hours trying to surf first day. Second day, it was like the last hour of the lesson is when I was able to kind of get a grip on that I was like, Oh, wait, that’s like startups. And I was when I knew anything, get a new hobby, because I was like constantly thinking about startups. But it was such a good analogy. Because it’s just life. It really

Michael Waitze 16:36
is this idea that I’m just gonna sit on the beach and just go, I could do that. And then complaining about the fact that you don’t have a board is pretty much the way most people that are ancillary to the startup world think like Uber, I could have started that, but I was busy kind of thing, right? Whereas No, because you never even bought the board. You never even did that

Nathalie Rafeh 16:56
100%. And even if you did buy the board, you still need to go and practice. And you still need to go in like, not just practice, but also meet, meet the standard that currently exists on a global landscape. And that’s another thing that startups need to think about. It’s not just about competing with yourself, but it’s all your competitor in Australia, but it’s about competing with the global market and making a difference there.

Michael Waitze 17:21
And again, this gets back to this idea of what’s the best time to start a brand, right? We’ve said this earlier, but it’s not just doing it in Australia, you could do it in Tanzania, you can do it in California, and all of these things are related. You mentioned something else or two about community and about building a community around this. Can you talk about like why that’s important? And how to do that the right way? Or one or two ways? Yeah, cuz there’s no right way for anything for sure.

Nathalie Rafeh 17:43
Yeah, so just claim I wish we should have or, you know, we could be doing this a lot more effectively, something we want to we really want to be doing. But communities are important because they are ultimately a closed space that puts you with the people that you already want to be talking to, where you can truly understand the pain points and problems, and have a open minded back and forth a conversation that is authentic, and is very raw. And that allows you to establish rapport with your customers at the same time learn about their knees and the gaps that exist. And not just that, but also down the track have them as the word of mouth spread is that allow you to build a foundation and in this ecosystem, so I wish I’ve done that. Back in the day, there’s there’s a brand that I’m a huge fan of that’s an upcoming brand of super small, but I really think they’re doing all the right things. They’ve started off by doing a creating a community, and the founder herself would take out a camera and start, she would she always does that she takes out a camera and has a conversation with her followers, where she just talks to them as if they’re present in the room. And she asked for their feedback, she shares her pain points during her day. And she gets for their opinions. And she also asked them about the kind of like styles or colors they want. And with that, then she built a whitelist for her product that she was building on the side. And when she launched, she literally had a huge number of friends that were that were there to help her launch her brand. And now her brand is taking off and I couldn’t be any more proud. So communities are incredibly important. Because they are the most authentic way to be in a closed space, close safe space with your customers or he uses

Michael Waitze 19:27
what’s your view on where those communities should get built? Right. So in the beginning of this, you would have said not maybe you but one would have said oh you need to build like a Facebook page that has 100,000 People that are part of your community. And there’s been a switch I think as well, right? Again, from big spaces to smaller spaces. Should you build your own community on your own and I’m just gonna use a website as a metaphor for just like your own store essentially. Right? But is that where that community needs to get built to be the most effective or do you still think you should use places like Facebook to build these communities?

Nathalie Rafeh 19:58
That’s a great question. So really depends on what We are building if I’m building a, maybe like a group for founders to connect to, because I’m selling a b2b software for, for founders, and whatever might be like a really good place, because that’s where my community is, this is where my target customers are, but want to talk about a brand. Also, it comes down to who they are, if I get a bunch of people, and I’m building a brand to go on Slack, I don’t think that’s going to be effective. But Instagram or Tiktok, is where they spend most of their time, then I would create a channel that that caters to that. So it really depends on where the audience is, and, and building it from there. And we don’t really need 100,000 people in our community with where we’re at, it’s flush out, we’re actually already thinking of creating a community that connects founders together. One thing that we found is brand founders actually live in a very siloed ecosystem, where unfortunately, they don’t really know what they’re doing well, how do I know if I’m doing well? How would I know if a meeting these are good benchmarks? What about other brands, and again, now that we are creating a network of brands that cross promote with one another post checkout, we are seeing this thing, we’re like, oh, let me connect you to this brand. And you can talk about your performance together. So then we test it out with a few brands and ask them, What if we create a community for you guys where we can have breakout rooms, and we can have sessions and discuss all problems, and you can win together? Like and the response was, I would pay for that. So that’s one thing that we are also thinking about doing?

Michael Waitze 21:32
Is there a way that technology, whether it’s augmented reality, or virtual reality, can make those spaces more immersive, right, so I think of things like Unreal Engine, and your ability to build these like three dimensional worlds from scratch, and then applying something like mid journey to it. So you can have it be completely like artificially intelligently generated, but then build those spaces that are immersive and gather your community there. And really make it feel like everybody’s in the same place. Do you think about this as well? So it’s super immersive? You know what I mean?

Nathalie Rafeh 22:06
That would be cool. Actually, as long as we want to I personally hate the assets. As long as I have to put that on then then that will be perfect. I think Zuckerberg was working on something that is similar, where you project the sort of

Michael Waitze 22:20
stuff was so his stuff was so bad, right? Because he was built for him. And he’s a little bit of a weird person. But yeah, I don’t think anybody wants to wear goggles, right. And they’re not effective. Nobody wants to have this kind of experience, right. But at some point, we’re going to have to be able to build, like I have this vision for, like these rooms and studios where people can go so they don’t have to wear goggles, right, but they could be at home in a room to start where then they can join you in a room. But that room then morphs into this really immersive space so that they can feel like they’re in your physical store, even if your physical store doesn’t really exist. And then that shopping experience feels more human right? Because my thought on this is that like, people want to go shopping together. Online shopping can be a little bit lonely. I think that’s why people still go to the mall, because it’s a social thing, too. Is there a way to combine all these things together? You think?

Nathalie Rafeh 23:12
Yeah, I mean, that would be the dream. If we can do that it feels a little bit black Mary, I won’t like lie to you. It does feel a bit creepy, kind of Orwellian DiTech. But it would be amazing. If in kind of escape, at a click of a button, you press maybe something like on your head, and you’re transported to that location where these people are, and you’re able to have a conversation and completely delineate the space between your current reality and the one that you want to take thought of. It was awesome to get there. The one thing I could say is, you know, maybe Elon Musk is working on that with neural link. But the one thing I could say is the world is filled with problems that if we can even solve some of the most pressing ones without sophisticated tech, it would be it would be great. Like I love how we’re all talking about great innovation, and how how we got tech that is breaking the boundaries. But I also think that there’s a lot of immediate problems that need solving without utopian crazy tech. Yeah,

Michael Waitze 24:12
yeah. Fair enough. Fair enough. You mentioned this idea of the platform being artificially intelligent, like aI enhanced, right. And I think I just inserted the word enhanced on my own. But is there a way to make this like a hybrid experience, or maybe you’re already doing this where as a brand, because you also use this term shared values, right? You want to make sure your community has shared values. And you also want to make sure my brand has the same value sort of core that your brand has as well, because it’ll make that sales process more authentic. Is there a way to enhance the artificial intelligence so that I can actually choose like, I love that brand, and I don’t care if it’s needs to be recommended to me, but I just do that myself manually. Does that work as well?

Nathalie Rafeh 24:54
100%. So maybe I can walk you through some of the user journey of how it looks like. So the way it works is we A brand joins big to fill out a brand profile. And this brand profile, we ask them more about their brand, their target audience, the kind of brands you would ideally want to collaborate with the brands that they want to exclude from collaborating with. So if they’ve got a special enemy, this will they can put it down. I don’t want to collaborate with X brand. I don’t want to collaborate with this category. And so we also asked them about the type of like, Where does the product fit? Is it like a premium product? Is it a discount product, and we really try to understand their brand, we also have a call with them to better understand that. So once we have ingested all of this, we then recommend a few brands were like the AI really recommends a few brands within the network, that would be a good fit. And so it’s this process where once we share it with them, if we get an immediate like Noor, which really rarely ever happened, then we would change that. But we take into account the brands input, as well as our own, you could say a passing of these like tags from the brand itself. And then we combine that we compare it to the existing network that we already have in place. So once they recommended brands, all they do is just add a little code to their checkout page. And that populates on their post checkouts, so then there’ll be ready to cross promote with one another and see impact from day one.

Michael Waitze 26:18
What kind of feedback do you get from the brands that have joined the platform for like, their sales, or even just learning from the other brand creators, if you know what I mean?

Nathalie Rafeh 26:26
Oh, it’s amazing. Like, we’re definitely still in the early stage of optimizing things. So I’m not gonna lie like we are a long way from wanting to get get the product to the point where like, we’re really ah, we know where we want it to be. But the feedback to that has been incredible. First, we have been getting some very interesting cross promotion insights. For example, we even getting some brands that would tell us I didn’t know my brand would would be would be doing I didn’t know skincare would be doing really good with like, incense sticks, for example, or tea, like I didn’t really think of that I was collaborating mostly or CO promoting with other brands in activewear, or in other kind of like health and beauty products. So there is some surprising insight there. I remember when I was talking to someone who said, funnily enough, I think Baby Bunting that a promotion wants with the way they did a lot of promotions, but maybe wanting their promotion wants. And the biggest driver of interaction was actually beer brand. Because when a person buys a baby products, it’s apparent they want to drink it there at the end, they’re like, I want to just grab one. So there’s lots of really unique insights in that sense. And the other thing I could say is, they’re very excited about the proposition that that we’re building that we have them reach out where they ask us if they can volunteer some time to help us build a platform, to give us their feedback, to even share their challenges, their personal challenges, they would email us saying this is what I’m currently having. Do you guys have any insight? I think that’s incredible. Like, I think that’s rare. And to see them this excited is also a testament that hey, you guys are doing something exciting. So keypad,

Michael Waitze 28:05
doesn’t this get back to the conversation we’re having earlier though, right? We were talking about, I bought the board on the wave, but I still don’t know what I’m doing. And then as you start to figure something out, somebody else on the beach says to you No, no, just your foot a little bit over to the left, or to the right, or just leave, don’t lean forward, lean back, whatever it is, you know, you’re doing something right, you’re almost not even almost there. But you’re definitely on the right path, because other people are going no, no, just this way a little bit more. And that’s kind of cool. No,

Nathalie Rafeh 28:30
that is exactly and that is put on, it’s so cool. You don’t have to spoon like or force the person to buy into your setting, your surfing performance, you know, you literally have someone who’s genuinely there being like, you know, it’s great, you know, your, your, your your everything is great, just optimize a little bit to the left or the right. And unfortunately, I think in this sense, we are operating in a in a market with waters are a little bit like a tsunami. So to be a little bit more patient with us. It’s tough out there, especially in our ecosystem. By the way, Michael like I don’t know if I have told me this yet. But the one of the core reasons for why Splashup is also resonating with with brands is because the ecosystem is seeing huge changes from a privacy and cookie tracking perspective. So what’s going on is when the sort of, let’s go back to we talked about Shopify and Stripe and how these things sort of emerged. That lowered the barrier of entry back then when Shopify was thing everyone was so excited to launch your own brand. And over time that created this huge influx of digital brands into online brands that are selling. So what happened was, you suddenly had a huge amount of people that were shopping online, huge amount of brands that are selling the same product selling to the same audience online. Fast forward a few years down the track, and people were more aware Have, we’re more, we’re more concerned about their privacy. So they felt like they were tracked everywhere, you would go somewhere, and then they will track you as you go across other sites that raise a huge flag with consumers. So companies like Google and Safari and Firefox and the likes, they had to put some mechanisms in place to protect consumers. And they did. So they’ve recently announced that they’re going to like deprecate third party cookies. And third party cookies are the ones where like, when you click on product, and they keeps, like following you around different sites, as well as Apple, they’ve also done some iOS privacy changes

Michael Waitze 30:38
in 14.5. Yeah,

Nathalie Rafeh 30:41
yeah, exactly. What this means is that brands won’t be able to, first of all, they are going to have a smaller pool to target. So their existing audience that they’re all struggling to target got smaller, because it’s users who have opted out. And then two, it’s much harder to retarget them, because you can’t. And three, it’s much harder to attribute things. So how do you attribute who did which purchase and, and when, and really paint that full picture of a user journey. So Splashup comes in a very good point, because it’s a closed loop tracking, that allows brands to a cross promote, but this cross promotion allows brands to gain lots of insight around their target audience and how they’re behaving within the non invasive way. And at the same time, it allows them to really understand the type of audience that they are with and to control the narrative around which type of target audience that they want to be with. So it’s, it’s resonating a lot. And so with that Ecosystm itself, costs went up. So we’re kind of we’re this new, exciting channel that is more cost effective. And that gets really excited as well.

Michael Waitze 31:56
Do you take the things that you’ve learned, right, because you know, this stuff really, really well like in deep detail, and then share them back into the companies that you’ve entered at UNSW. And then through that process, you’ll see where I’m going here in a second through that process, get their feedback for all these other companies in which you’re not involved in building, but you’re mentoring. So you’re talking to them all the time. And then they come up with ideas, and you’re like, Oh, I could use that for my thing, too, and create this kind of virtuous circle of ideas sharing. Like, there’s a reason why you’re there at founders. But it benefits both sides know.

Nathalie Rafeh 32:30
Can you explain a little bit what you meant?

Michael Waitze 32:32
So So in other words, you’re building your own company, right. But I always like to say like, I have great ideas, but I don’t have a monopoly on all the right ideas. Right. So that’s why I’m constantly talking to people like you. And almost every time I do a recording with someone, I’m like, Oh, I see how that works. I can I think I can use that somehow. But then when I record with somebody else, I can share that idea with them as well. And they’re like, that’s a killer idea. But it’s not mine. It was yours. Right. But you’re also doing this at UNSW mentoring people. But you must get feedback from them to that you feel like I just learned something as well. And then I can use it in my own business. Yeah.

Nathalie Rafeh 33:08
100%. So obviously, without trespassing, any any lines of stealing ideas, but yeah, definitely, there’s lots of like, ultimately, startup challenges are the same. And there are certain lessons where, when it comes to pivots, when it comes to finding the why now that’s really often overlooked, like why now and in our case, it’s all of these ecosystem changing, and it’s really the timing, you talk to different startups about similar challenges that they’re having. And it does help you it does train that muscle a little bit more. So it definitely really helps. And that’s why I think continuing to nurture that ecosystem is super important. I think ideas are not owned by anyone. I think it’s reading this ones that said, at any point in time, the idea that you have if you have an idea to kind of come up with Uber for I don’t know, sheep, I guess, then there’s 10,000 people in this world that have this idea right now in movement. And so to be able to share it openly with others would be great, because there’s lots of learnings out there.

Michael Waitze 34:12
I forget the guy or the gal that said this. Yeah. But somebody was very public about this thing. We’re like, I have 1000 ideas, and I share all of them because I can’t do all of them anyway. And the person who can execute it, the best should have that idea. So let them have it freely. I’m already working on something that I love doing. So why am I hoarding this idea if I think it’s such a great idea, anyway,

Nathalie Rafeh 34:29
100% and if I kind of say, Hey, I’m gonna come up with a podcast for me to come up with a podcast, I need to kind of say, in for startups, I need to come up with a podcast, outline it, prepare it, get the tools, get the guests prepared, the scripts continue doing it over and over again. And that it’s like, yeah, good luck. Not like, you know, good luck, but it’s really hard. The same thing with ideas when I’ve got startups who say, I don’t want to share this with someone because they’re going to they’re going to take this idea. I want them to sign in. Da. And I’m like, You know what, if they do go and do it, then you might have a great thing on your hands. So like, you should be really proud. This is great news when they tell me Oh, someone’s doing it. And I’m like, That’s awesome. And they’re like, now what do you mean? It’s awesome. And I’m like, we should celebrate? Like it? Yeah.

Michael Waitze 35:18
What do you think I’ll let you leave after this? But what do you think? And do you advise people on this as well, when they say that they’re operating in stealth?

Nathalie Rafeh 35:27
Ah, I understand. I understand why they would be doing it. There’s this huge craze around building and public. There’s also raising and public now I think the there’s this founder who is building a, an AI tool for essentially bringing your entire workspace to life where like, it records everything that you’re doing. And it’s kind of like, it’s really, really cool leverages charge up tuition. I’ll send it to you later. He built it. He did the fundraising and public. Now he’s a, he’s an experienced founder with an exit. So his heart he has a few Medal of Honor is on on his belt. But he basically did the whole pitch in public and raise it. He was like, Why should I go to VCs, and pitch to each one of them separately, I’m just going to do this one pitch. You guys listen to it, you’re interested, you reach out to me. When we look at stealth, there’s a reason why a startup could be in stealth, they are in a crucial phase of validating their hypotheses. They’re like in a crucial phase of understanding where the product is where the solution is, how to shape it up. But I think going and down to stealth too much is also hurtful, because maybe it touches on the ego itself, like you don’t want to be judged for that product. And the truth is, there’s never going to be enough, like the perfect time to, to have to really release the product or to really tell people that you’re building something and almost every time when you do share it. There is someone out there that says Oh, I know someone that can connect you to this person. And I think that’s more valuable than being wrong.

Michael Waitze 36:59
I could not agree with you more. I’m gonna leave you with that Nathalie Rafeh, the founder and CEO of Splashup. This was awesome. I cannot wait to have you back on the show.

Nathalie Rafeh 37:07
Thank you very much, Michael. That was so much fun.


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