Q&A with Rakesh Tondon and Brett Northart, Cofounders of Le Tote

by Y Combinator10/17/2018

We put together a list of the top YC companies by valuation as of October 2018. You can see that list at https://ycombinator.com/topcompanies.

Here’s a Q&A with Rakesh Tondon and Brett Northart, Cofounders of Le Tote, one of the companies featured on the list.

What does Le Tote make/do? Le Tote is a fashion discovery company that gives women access to everyday fashion through it’s rental platform. We recently launched Le Tote in China to make the service available to women across China.

How many employees does Le Tote have? About 250 in the US, 50 people in the Philippines and 120 in China.

How many founders?

Two founders (Rakesh Tondon & Brett Northart)

What is your most impressive recent product milestone?

We have built almost all the tools we use from scratch from the customer facing website, fit engine, style recommendation tool, dynamic pricing engine based on AI & ML to the warehouse management software & warehouse control systems and our own ERP system used to track inventory, customer information, feedback, etc. These are all industry leading tools built by us that we can also monetize at the appropriate time.

The launch of China was our most impressive feat yet as a Company as we had to not only configure this for the Chinese market but also make all of our software more flexible to be used in a completely different environment in a different language. And, we launched China in less than 60 days. The China launch was one of the biggest efforts we’ve made and launched it on the WeChat platform in Chinese, and on iOS and Android. We also

What is the larger impact / societal impact of your product in the space you work within?

We’re making fashion accessible to everyone, everyday through our rental platform & product. So, we’re making fashion affordable through our model for all women across the US. We are also reducing waste when it comes to fashion. 80% of what’s in women’s closets have been worn less than 3 times, and ultimately ends up in a landfill somewhere after 2 years. Women on average throw out about 63lbs of clothing each year. When they use our platform, they’re not only buying less, they’re also throwing out less. This saves the environment dramatically. Just last year we sent out about 4 million pieces to customers across the US. These items were used multiple times before they reached end of life and reduced wastage.

What’s an interesting element of Le Tote’s company culture?

The culture we foster is one that is transparent and open. We’re radically transparent and make everything available to our entire company.

Looking back, what motivated you to start Le Tote?

The idea was really inspired by my wife who was going through her second pregnancy and she was sharing clothes with her sisters and close friends who had grown through a similar phase. We realized women across the world share and swap clothes & accessories to get variety. This wasn’t just a phenomenal that happens during pregnancy but throughout a person’s life. That’s what got us thinking about being able to offer this to customers to give them the variety for everyday wear.

Is what you’re working on now the original idea or did you pivot?

This was our original idea and we have not pivoted.

Were there moments where you thought the company might die? Describe one of those and anything you learned from it.

Yes, we’ve had many of those near-death experiences. We bootstrapped the company to get it to several tens of thousands of dollars in monthly recurring revenue and then we went out to fundraise to fuel growth. We got a lot of pushback and were almost out of money and were likely going to die in a month if we hadn’t raised capital. We found a couple of investors who liked our idea, liked that it was generating revenue and growing at a pretty good clip,

What was a particularly important insight you had about your market that made your product work?

We realized that women share & swap quite actively in the offline world but there were significant challenges in doing this – 1) Women need to know each other 2) they should be the same size 3) they should have similar style 4) they should have things to share that other people want 5) they should find a place to meet. Despite these friction points, women shared. So we decided to make the process of sharing easier through our online platform.

What’s one piece of advice you’d share with a young founder?

Be really passionate about your idea as the struggle is a long one and you need to be really into your idea otherwise when you get to a rough patch you’ll likely give up. Don’t give up…keep going!


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