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Cody Candee of Bounce: “Product & customer centricity”

I think you need to focus on the customer experience to really win them over and create brand trust. At Bounce, we constantly go through the user flow and think about how we can make it seamless and beautiful. We often hear that people ended up using us because we designed our site/product in a […]

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I think you need to focus on the customer experience to really win them over and create brand trust. At Bounce, we constantly go through the user flow and think about how we can make it seamless and beautiful. We often hear that people ended up using us because we designed our site/product in a way that meant they felt they could trust it.


As part of our series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Began Leading My Company” I had the pleasure of interviewing Cody Candee, founder and CEO of Bounce, a tech startup that provides small businesses with ways to monetize their spare space and customers with the opportunity to be free from organizing their lives around their things. Cody started his career at Intuit as a product manager before leaving his job to travel the world. Cody founded Bounce in New York City in 2018 before launching across North America and, in 2020, across the rest of the world.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I was always tinkering with different ideas as I was growing up. Then, while I was at college in Wisconsin, I started a couple of businesses, including an app for “roommate management” and a web/tech consultancy. After I graduated I joined Intuit as a product manager, which was a great opportunity to work on various products both big and small. That love of creating my own projects never went away though, and I’ve always known that I wanted to start my own company. Once I’d had the idea for Bounce, I knew it was something I wanted to develop further.

What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?

The “Aha Moment” for me came while I was working as a product manager at Intuit. I moved around a lot for different projects and spent six months in San Diego, six months in Bangalore, and then three months in London. I love to travel and had already traveled to about 50 countries, so all of these experiences started to change the way I viewed the world. Through all of my travels, I realized how often people plan their day — and their lives — around their things. They go out of their way for them. I saw how often people missed out on activities for the sake of their belongings.

All of this built up to one specific moment when some colleagues decided to get together after work in San Francisco one night. One of them said that they would join us, but that first, they needed to go all the way home to drop off their bag. Then they’d come all the way back.

I realized that there had to be a better solution. What if we could just summon our things away from us and then summon them back when we needed them again? That’s how Bounce was born.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

We’ve had a lot of challenging moments. One that particularly stands out was our first winter when our bookings and revenue had dramatically gone down and we felt like we didn’t have very much going on. This was before we knew about seasonality! We ran into a lot of doubters who didn’t think that what we were doing with Bounce was significant. We started Bounce in New York City, so a lot of people were asking us if what we solved was an NYC-only problem.

In a hail mary move, we decided to pack our bags and move to San Francisco. We wanted to see if we could make Bounce work in another city. We said that if we could do that, and grow our revenue by 4x over the next few months, then we could make Bounce work. If we found that we couldn’t grow in San Francisco, then maybe this wasn’t a great idea after all.

Over the next few months, Bounce grew more than 10x and we made San Francisco a successful market. We were ecstatic. There was even a very well-funded San Francisco startup that made an aggressive offer to acquire us. They told us we were crazy when we turned them down. But, in an interesting turn of events, they closed down despite the tens of millions that they’d had in funding.

So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

We’ve grown quite a bit since then. Today we operate globally and have partnered with more than 1000 locations around the world, offering luggage storage wherever you go.

That said, COVID tanked our business by more than 95%. That required quite a lot of grit and resilience to pull through, but thankfully we’re now recovering.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I think the speed at which we iterate and scale makes for a uniquely fun adventure at Bounce. On literally the first day of Bounce, I was riding around on a bicycle picking up users’ bags. We’d just put up a splash page with a phone number and Google Ads. It worked, we got to talk to customers and learn what to build, and we were off to the races.

Later, when we decided to look at launching in Europe, we managed to get coverage across the entire continent in about 3 months. Soon after that we started to reach into Asia, Oceania, Africa, and South America. At the same time, we’re also experimenting with new products that we want to build on top of our current network. That’s how we ended up building and launching Package Acceptance in just a couple of weeks.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

At the very beginning of Bounce, we stored someone’s bag before we’d really set anything up. The customer’s plans changed — I think they might have even been our very first customer — and they ended up leaving their bag with us for several weeks. We didn’t have the storage location ready for that kind of duration yet, so I ended up storing it at the apartment of my then-girlfriend. The customer’s trip was then delayed again and I ended up being out of town when they were eventually able to collect it, so I had to arrange for a friend of mine to bring it to them. It was quite a lot of coordination for one bag! It was a great learning experience at a time when getting customers and learning from them as fast as possible was one of our biggest objectives. It taught me how important it is to make sure everything is set up right. Now I don’t think I’ve touched a customer suitcase myself in at least a year, maybe several.

Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?

I think that following advice without first absorbing it and processing how relevant it is to your own situation is always a mistake. As the decision-maker, you are almost always the right person to intuitively know what you should or shouldn’t do next, but it’s easy to put your intuition to one side if you’re given advice by someone with more experience who generally knows what they’re talking about.

There’s not any one piece of advice that I wish I’d never followed. Every experience is one you can learn from. But there have definitely been moments when I’ve followed fantastic advice that wasn’t necessarily the right fit for the moment. For example, we had several experienced individuals really push for us to develop a mobile app immediately. In hindsight, while it was really important to make a mobile app available to our users, we would probably have been better off delaying it for a while and shipping some growth-related features first. This would have gotten us more users faster, which was the goal at the time.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

The three traits that have helped Bounce to grow to where we are today have been persistence, putting our customers at the center of everything we do, and being unafraid to ask for help.

  • Persistence:

If you really want something and you keep going after it until you get it, I think you will generally always get it. When I was graduating high school, there was one university I wanted to go to — the University of Wisconsin. They rejected me 3 times in 1 application period. I wanted to go there more than anywhere and thought that I would be a great student for them. So I kept doing everything I could to change their mind. That included sending 10 more letters of recommendation, filling out every essay in the option pool of “pick 3 of the 10 topics and write an essay,” and doing everything else I could think of to increase my chances of getting in, like further academic and extracurricular achievements. I was probably the most active senior, given that this was a time when everyone else had known where they were going to college and were coasting. In the end, they let me in and I was the very last freshman admitted to my 6000+ student class.

  • Product & customer centricity:

I think you need to focus on the customer experience to really win them over and create brand trust. At Bounce, we constantly go through the user flow and think about how we can make it seamless and beautiful. We often hear that people ended up using us because we designed our site/product in a way that meant they felt they could trust it.

  • Asking for help:

I ask people for help all the time (and also give help to those who ask). It’s a superpower because it means I’m constantly learning from folks who know a particular domain far better than I do. For example, during fundraising, I was lucky enough to get introductions to dozens of investors and many of those conversations resulted in checks for Bounce.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Create really strong alignment between your work and your purpose. You need to find the work that you love and do more of that. On the other side, learn what you enjoy doing least and find a way to delegate it. For example, I love the product work, and I prefer to steer clear of accounting.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?

A lot of people who start a business get really caught up in the motions of starting a company — the set-up, incorporation, things like that. They’re important, of course, but the reality is that you need to focus on adding value to your customers. Instead, I think you should focus more on getting customers knocking on your door and asking for your product first. Then you can focus more on the granular detail of how you want to set up your business.

In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?

People. Everything is about the people. They say hiring people is an art, and letting people go is one of the most challenging tasks a boss will face. I think if you can develop a great sense for the people-side of your business, then you can accelerate your success. I had this sales function that I struggled with for several years. Our first hire was a 10/10 in terms of passion and enthusiasm, which at the time I thought was the only thing that mattered. But lack of experience became an issue and we just weren’t building up the processes that we needed. So then I hired someone who was 10/10 on the experience front — in hindsight, I think I was too focused on “swinging the other way.” Today we have a sales leader who really just nails everything, operates with scale, and figures out new things on his own. If I had to interview people for this role again, I would far better know what to look for and what to ask.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Began Leading My Company”? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Perfecting your team will take time. After a rough month, during which I’d had to let two people go, a founder friend told me that one of his roles had taken five iterations of people before he found the right person. Before he told me that, I was beating myself up about not having the right hire from the start. Learning how normal it is to not have the perfect person hired right away was quite relieving.
  2. Distribution needs to be at the center of what you do from the beginning. You need to make it as easy as possible for people to integrate your product with their lives from the very beginning. Experienced founders think more about how to get the product to the users. If I’d have known this to start, we’d have implemented growth faster and we’d be even further along by now.
  3. Value your time. Sometimes it’s wiser to spend money on something than invest your time into it because your time could be much better spent on another part of the business instead. If I spend 50 dollars on something that I could have done myself, but it saves an hour of my time, it is generally worth it. Then I can prioritize my time for the most impactful things.
  4. Don’t have dependencies. If you’re held up by a dependency, it could easily kill your business. We had an ongoing negotiation with a big enterprise partner that would unlock thousands of locations for us. If we waited for this to come through and didn’t get other partners in the meantime, Bounce would no longer be around. That deal took over two years to get signed. We’ve grown quite a bit without them and would be in a much weaker position if we depended on them to grow our business.
  5. Trust yourself. As a founder, you’re in your business every day and you will have developed a stronger gut instinct for your business more than anybody else has. Take advice, but trust that instinct.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would start a movement around shedding labels. People inherit or adopt so many labels that they then define themselves by, from the beginning of their lives and all the way through it. These might be political labels, identity labels, career labels, the list goes on, and I think that, ultimately, these are all very limiting. As people, we tend to adopt the beliefs and characteristics of our labels rather than think for ourselves, but we also see so many people restricted by labels that other people impose on them. If we could shed these labels that we put on ourselves and other people, I think we’d have more empathy, creativity, and positivity in the world.

How can our readers further follow you online?

You can find everything that Bounce does at https://usebounce.com and on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook at @bounceyourstuff.

You can follow me on linkedin at www.linkedin.com/in/codycandee

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!

Thanks for having me!

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