For a typical consumer, it’s easy to look at brands and products and strictly take them at face value and not understand, or care even, about how the business behind it all operates.
For many, however, especially for those here in Boston involved in the startup and technology world, it’s often the opposite. Maybe there’s an app you frequent or marketing software that helps you grow your business, but being a part of the tech scene instills a different view of those apps, tools or products we use on a daily basis. We tend to think about how the business itself is doing, not just what the product is providing right now.
One rapidly growing industry that fits this mold is eCommerce.
Moving? Jump on Wayfair.com to furnish your new apartment. Need to book a quick flight? TripAdvisor has you covered. These are major companies with huge revenues, but what drives it all? It’s much more than partnerships and logistics… There’s a technical foundation on which these companies are built that allows them to grow and produce at such massive scale.
Over in Boston’s Channel Center in the Fort Point District lies Rue La La, an eight-year-old eCommerce company delivering the most desirable lifestyle brands to consumers at member-only pricing. Some see them as a fashion focused website, but at their core, Rue La La is a technology company.
Founded in 2007 and now under the experienced leadership of Steve Davis as CEO, Rue La La has long been viewed as a pillar of the tech community and another example of consumer tech succeeding here in Boston. Today, they get a little less attention than they once did, but it appears as though that will be changing.
With a highly engaged and loyal customer base and a strong brand name, Rue La La has just brought in a new CTO, Anthony Accardi, who is now tasked with expanding the tech team so the company can, as he put it to me, “throw fuel on the fire.”
MEET ANTHONY ACCARDI
A seasoned engineer and entrepreneur, Accardi, a New Jersey native and MIT graduate (Ph.D. and M.Eng. Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, S.B. EECS and Mathematics), has driven the technology direction of rapidly growing startups from the ground floor to billion dollar valuations.
Prior to joining Rue La La, Accardi served as CTO for Providence, RI based payments company, Swipely. With Swipely from the start nearly six years ago, he built the tech team and helped grow the company from inception to product/market fit, to Forbes 100 most promising list.
While the journey with Swipely was quite the experience, it was Accardi’s previous stint with Tellme, in building a global voice services platform that was the most memorable part of his career to date.
“It was a wild ride. An experience I’ll never forget,” he told me.
Part of Tellme’s founding engineering team, Accardi helped build the company at the end of the dot.com bubble, succesfully navigating through the collapse. Microsoft eventually acquired the company for approximately $1 billion in 2007.
One aspect of Accardi’s “ride” with Tellme that stood out also happens to be a reason he was lured into Rue La La – creating a culture.
“With Tellme and Swipely I had the opportunity to help shape the culture from the start. With Rue, there’s a similar challenge, just at a different stage of the timeline. We’re transforming Rue from a traditional eCommerce company by heavily leveraging technology and data. Being part of such a massive technological transformation really drew me in.”
* Anthony Accardi at a recent DevOps Meetup at Rue La La
GROWTH OPPORTUNITY (and challenge)
For Accardi, having gone through not one, but two, wild startup rides in his career, the decision to make a move anywhere, let alone a well-established company wasn’t easy.
So how did Rue La La land this highly touted and sought after tech veteran?
“The opportunity we have in front of us is something special. The challenge that comes with such an opportunity really intrigued me. One of the most attractive challenges for technologists is scale. I’ve lived it twice and now I get to live it again, from a different perspective. It’s going to be another wild ride.”
Sitting inside the Rue offices, Accardi hit on some specifics on the incredible opportunities ahead for the eCommerce giant.
The company, I was told, generates a strong revenue stream and has achieved profitability with next to nothing spent on marketing. With those revenues, thousands of partners and "mountains" of untapped data,” Accardi realizes the opportunity to take this company to new heights is right in front of them.
“Looking at it long-term, we need to build proper infrastructure, from a technology perspective, to ensure scalability.” Essentially Rue La La is a well-lit fire and before they pour gasoline on that flame, they need to put the right safeguards in place to handle the acceleration.
One of the largest barriers keeping Accardi and Rue La La from pouring that gas is the growth of their tech team. In order to scale and truly take advantage of the opportunities upon them they need to bring in top technical talent - and a lot of it.
Bruce Zambrowicz, Rue’s Director of Talent, highlighted to me several hires he’s looking to bring into the fold as part of the committment to this expansion. Although hiring is taking place across technology, several roles are key focal points. Among those are several experience full-stack developers, QA leads, and most notably, a Platform Architect, who will play a key part in shaping the future technical direction of the company.
“Having been involved with an early-stage startup that grew to 100's of millions of dollars in revenue, I know what it takes and how that experience can shape the rest of your career. Rue La La is fortunate to be able to offer a similar opportunity. We want our team members’ time at Rue to be the most memorable part of their careers.”
When asked what exactly they’re looking for, Kang pointed out one specific trait – Courage.
“It will take courage to be part of this vision,” he said.
Accardi offered his own intriguing perspective, one I think our audience will find attractive:
“Rue La La is a startup embedded in a profitable company. Everyone here has the ability to make an impact. You might build and release a feature that ultimately brings in $20 million in revenue. That is tangible impact.”
With an influx of new talent and passionate strategic leaders it appears they’re set to make some real noise. Not just in Boston (where the consumer tech rhetoric continues to live on), but across the globe.
Rue La La should be, and has the opportunity to create its own tech mafia crew, which Boston certainly needs more of. For Boston’s sake, let’s hope Accardi is able to put the infrastructure in place sooner rather than later so we can all play witness to the great gasoline pour.