HCP introduced the Founder Spotlight series in August 2021 to highlight our exceptional founders who are changing the face of entrepreneurship. Our Founder Spotlight series continues with Benjamin “Ben” Kelly, Founder and CEO of Singuli.
Ben takes us through his incredible journey starting Singuli and shares some insights on what’s next for the company.
HCP: Tell us a little bit about yourself. What were you doing before you started Singuli?
Ben Kelly: I’m originally from the UK. I came to the US for grad school in 2006 and I’ve spent most of the past decade working as a data scientist at a bunch of different consumer-facing startups in NYC before starting Singuli in 2019.
HCP: What is Singuli and what does the platform do?
Ben Kelly: Singuli is an inventory optimization platform. Our goal is to help modern retailers increase revenue and margins by making smarter decisions about their inventory.
We provide inventory decision support for retail companies across the lifecycle of a product, from how much to buy on initial orders (of new products/styles), to how to replenish and eventually think about mark-down. We also think about all the gnarly things in-between that affect margin and in-stock performance for example allocation across channels/warehouses and how best to ship (e.g. air vs boat).
HCP: What drove you towards building Singuli?
Ben Kelly: One of the problems I frequently encountered working at DTC brands was understanding the interplay between demand and supply. Because of long lead times and volatile advertising markets, it was often very tricky for these companies to balance inventory supply with need and as a result, they were either fighting stockouts or excess inventory.
HCP: The interplay between supply and demand seems like a great starting point, how did the team then approach challenges within the retail industry?
Ben Kelly: We have something like 30 years of retail and e-commerce experience across the entire team. We know it’s a very dynamic and competitive environment, and companies like Amazon have really raised the bar for consumer expectations in terms of service level (e.g. 1-day or in some places 2-hour shipping). We want to provide tools that allow every retailer to reliably offer that level of service.
HCP: In the quest to provide every retailer with reliable tools, what sets Singuli apart?
Ben Kelly: Modern commerce generates a massive amount of data, from clicks to ad-spend to retention data to in-stock data. We have figured out a way to combine all of this and make it actionable for one of the most important and costly line items: inventory. We do this with a variety of interesting machine models that surface recommendations and insights.
HCP: Has your vision for Singuli changed since launch?
Ben Kelly: As we worked with our earliest customers to understand their pain points we discovered that the problem ran far deeper than just “bad planning.” Modern commerce is a highly complex cocktail of advertising, merchandising, operations, and finance, and we found opportunities to make improvements in all of these areas.
HCP: Customers seem to be a key mode to gain a different perspective on your product, what do customers love about Singuli, and how did you know that your customers needed the product?
Ben Kelly: Customers often tell us that they love the speed and simplicity of the system. Traditionally, tools in this space are very “spreadsheet-y” with grids of raw numbers that require a lot of further analysis. We take more of a visual approach with lots of graphs and try to provide the answer and recommendation immediately so our users can get on with their jobs.
When we first started to see certain users come back day after day spending hours on the platform we knew that our customers needed Singuli.
HCP: What is one of the most rewarding customer experiences you have had?
Ben Kelly: I enjoy it the most when we can see the tangible effects of the platform on our customers’ businesses. In quite a few cases this has manifested itself with us reducing the stockout and increasing service levels. Sometimes this is about buying more, but in other cases, it’s about buying the optimal size curve or changing the flow of inventory.
Singuli + HCP 🚀
HCP: Changing gears for a moment, what led you to become interested in partnering with Harlem Capital?
#1 Mentality + Geo: It’s a limited sample size and a bit of overgeneralization, but I have found VCs from the east coast easier to communicate with – one can focus on the actual business and problem, and cut down on the hyperbole. The Harlem Capital team immediately saw the same opportunity in Singuli that we do, namely that there was a large and interesting business to build in this rapidly growing space and that existing approaches fall short. Perhaps some of this is driven by the Harlem team’s finance roots.
#2 Mission: I find the mission of Harlem to be very compelling. It’s hard to argue with the data on the (lack of) diversity of founders and venture professionals in general. It’s clear the Harlem team walks the walk and talks in this respect, from the partners to the interns!
HCP: What advice do you have for other founders that are seeking early-stage investments?
Ben Kelly: First, I think the main thing to remember is that funding is only a means to an end. The goal isn’t to get a seed round or an A round, the goal is to build the company you want to build. If the company you want to build supports raising a venture round then go for it.
Second, don’t be put off by the inevitable “nos” you will receive (but do pay attention). If you’ve done your research and are willing to do the work, I’m of the belief that it will pay off eventually. As a former boss and mentor once said, “If building a bus was easy, everyone would be doing it.”
HCP: That’s great advice, what’s next for Singuli?
#1 We’re hiring, so we’ll be focused on building the team
#2 We’ve barely scratched the surface of the set of decisions that retailers need to optimize for, so we’ll be building out the product for many months and years to come.
HCP: Where can readers learn more about your business?