The Silicon Review
Companies like Shopify and Amazon have drastically reduced the challenges that come with starting a new e-commerce company. In 2020 alone, there were over one million new sellers on Amazon. Similarly, Alibaba has drastically lowered the barriers that previously made it hard for people to buy products from manufacturers overseas. However, this is true only if you purchase products that already exist. Nobody has lowered the barriers that make the entry of new products easy. It is still difficult and risky, and most product journeys fail, particularly when small companies without design or supply chain expertise try to do it. So, as these marketplaces mature and get saturated by sellers selling largely the same stuff, there is this huge need to create new products to differentiate your business. It’s really the only way for a business to survive and thrive in the long run. Gembah is here to help these companies be successful.
Founded in 2017, Gembah is truly democratizing and demystifying the product creation process by helping entrepreneurs, e-commerce sellers, and small-to-midsize businesses research, design, and manufacture products. From research and design to sourcing and vetting overseas manufacturers, there are many hurdles on the path to bringing a new product to market. Gembah’s team, which comprises specialists, leading product designers, and engineers, is helping solve this problem.
In a brief interview with us, Gembah’s CEO and Co-founder Henrik Johansson talked to us about the idea that got the company its start and the standout service that makes it truly one-of-a-kind. Read on for the excerpts from the interview.
Q. What was the idea that inspired you to start Gembah?
I had been working on a business idea around supply chain transparency for a while when Steven (Blustein) and I met. We were both running businesses that were creating and importing products from overseas and
we were talking about the challenges and risks involved in doing that, particularly for smaller companies without product design or supply chain expertise. We asked ourselves, “What if we could create a way to mitigate all the risks and help all these companies create new products with ease?” Steven had known Zack (Leonard) for a long time. He came onboard and got us started.
Q. What has helped the company distinguish itself and its services from others? What makes Gembah unique?
There really is no other company that provides a platform and network of experts to manage product development from A-Z. There are certainly tons of product design agencies and thousands of sourcing agents and trading companies, but to date, nobody has put together the entire process in one simple-to-use solution that is affordable to almost anyone.
A typical product design agency may have a handful of designers on staff, while Gembah has hundreds – from all over the world. This allows us to assign the very best resources for a specific project that the customer is working on. Are they creating a sustainable trail running shoe? Great! We have the industrial designer that did that for Nike in our network. Creating a baby stroller? Great! We have the designer that created the original BuggaBoo stroller in our network too. There is simply no way a local agency can provide that depth of expertise. And the same is true for factories. Sure you can go on Alibaba and find a factory on your own, but what are the odds that it is the very best factory for the product you are trying to make? Are you even sourcing from the best country? Since we operate as a marketplace, we have relationships with thousands of factories all over the world, and every single one has been vetted by our overseas teams. When you work with a factory that is part of the Gembah network, you know that you are dealing with a responsible and well-run factory without child or slave labor that adheres to our requirements.
Q. Could you tell us about your various offerings?
We offer four core product development services: Research, Design, Supply Chain Discovery and Production Management. Customers can use our platform from A-Z, or buy services à la carte. Through Research customers assess product opportunities before they decide to invest heavily into an idea. They can either assess the potential of a new product idea, or they can identify new product opportunities that fit well into their existing product offering. We use terabytes of e-commerce data and predictive analytics to help them do this.
In Product Design, we connect customers with the very best designers and engineers for their specific product and help orchestrate the collaboration of those resources through our platform. During the design phase, we engage factories to ensure it is DFM (Design For Manufacturability), i.e., it can be manufactured with existing tools and for the price point that the customer is targeting. In Supply Chain Discovery, the customer gets competitive quotes from multiple vetted factories, and can negotiate an agreement with the best manufacturer. Finally, in Production Management we engage local experts in quality assurance and logistics to make sure the product is made according to specifications and that the product is successfully shipped to the designated destination. There is no way to guarantee this without actually having feet-on-the-street in the location of the factory. This is a huge value for our customers.
Q. Which industries do your solutions best help with? Can any business benefit with what you have to offer?
We can help customers with a wide array of consumer products. To date, we have generally not worked on products that go in your body or on your body, like lotions, potions, or food. We also have not done a lot of apparel or fashion, but outside of those categories, we can help customers with almost any other product. We probably cover 70-80% of the product categories that you can find on Amazon or Target. Our customers are primarily small- to mid-sized retailers and e-commerce companies, which have a growing need to create new products, but do not have the internal resources to do so.
Q. Do you have any new services ready to be launched?
We recently launched our production management subscription service for companies that are constantly making new products. This allows them to have their own “virtual product development and supply chain team” enabling them to punch well above their weight class. This way they have continuous direct access to top notch professionals in everything from product design, engineering, compliance, supply chain, and logistics.
Q. How important are partnerships to Gembah?
Partnerships are everything for us. We operate as a managed marketplace, so none of the experts are employees, we don’t own any of the factories, and partners provide all other services that our customers buy. Like any good managed marketplace our value proposition is grounded in the fact that the resources that are part of our network are highly qualified and carefully vetted, and must adhere to our standards, so that it is a safe and highly effective place to conduct business.
Q. How did you help out since the breakout of the COVID-19 pandemic? How have you innovated to adapt?
After a few months of supply chain challenges, Gembah did extraordinarily well during the pandemic, largely as a result of the massive surge in e-commerce, as most our customers are primarily e-commerce sellers. Our team grew rapidly during the last 18 months, so, we had to make great use of collaboration tools like Slack, Zoom, Asana, and Salesforce.com. We also focused on creating virtual ways for people to connect and organized social events, like virtual cooking classes, happy hours, and weekly social get togethers.
Q. What does the road ahead look like for Gembah? Do you have any plans for expansion?
We’ve grown fast over the last 18 months (more than 500% in 2020), and we expect to triple in revenues and more than double in employee count over the next 18 months. About half of those people will be here in the US, but we are also expanding in our offices all over the world. We are a truly global company and will become more global as we continue to grow.
Henrik Johansson, CEO and Co-founder
Henrik Johansson is one of the founders and the CEO of Gembah. He was formerly the CEO and Co-founder of Boundless, a company that grew to over $100 million in revenues. It was eventually acquired by Zazzle. While at Boundless, his team also incubated and spun out the company OutboundEngine. Earlier in his career, Henrik co-founded the lending marketplace Creditland.
Zack Leonard, Co-founder, President and COO
Zack is a seasoned strategy and operational executive, bringing a wealth of experience from his previous roles at Instacart and Dropoff. There isn’t a challenge he won’t take on. Ask him what he loves most about Gembah and he’ll tell you it’s solving complex problems for clients and scaling operations.
Steven Blustein, Co-founder and Head of Sales
Steven is an entrepreneur/innovator extraordinaire. He was the CEO and Co-founder of Shark Tank winner, PrideBites, securing a deal with not one but two Sharks. Steven is well-versed in overseas marketing, what it takes to bring an idea to life, and anything to do with dogs.