If You Weren’t An Entrepreneur, What Would You Be?

By Noah Ready-Campbell W’10, co-founder of Twice

I recently turned 26, and, to celebrate, I took a weekend trip to Sequoia National Park with my mom. We both work a lot—she as a doctor in rural Vermont, and I as the CEO of a startup—so it’d been a few years since we’d spent any time together one-­on-­one, and we were looking forward to the trip. Plus, as she only half-joked, if she was visiting she could make sure I took the weekend off.

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It was a five hour drive from San Francisco to the park, and we spent most of it talking about my company, Twice. Twice is a marketplace for upscale women’s fashion, and we’d raised our Series B from Andreessen Horowitz about six months before. Now, though, we were waist deep in all the usual—so I’m told—challenges that come with scaling your organization and customer base at breakneck pace. Still, as I talked through all the different projects we had underway, it started to sound like a lot, even to me.

“I think you need more balance in your life,” she said, her concerned-mother instincts kicking in. “Suppose you did something else for a change—if you weren’t an entrepreneur, what would you be?”

I paused a moment, then, smiling at the melodrama of my answer, I replied: “Dead.”

It was an answer that came easily to me because, despite the melodrama, I knew it with conviction. Entrepreneurship isn’t the most stable job you could pick, or even, statistically, the most lucrative, but it brings a blend of satisfaction and excitement that, for me, is perfect.

Twice is my first real company, though I pursued many doomed projects as a “wantrepreneur” in high school and college. I started it with my co­founder, Calvin Young, whom I’d met at Google. He was an engineer, and I was an Associate Product Manager, both working on various Google advertising products. I met him on my first day, and four months later we quit to start a company together. We tried a succession of ideas, but, after gathering early customer feedback, none was destined to last. Farhad Mohit, another Wharton grad and one of our earliest angel investors, gave us a piece of advice we took to heart: “Chances are, this company will take the next 10 years of your life, so you better be committed.”

Once we began working on Twice, though, it was obvious something was different. In fact, “obvious” was the word Jesse Beyroutey, another friend of mine from Wharton, used to describe Twice. That meant it satisfied such a basic consumer demand that it required little customer education, and only a modest (by startup standards) leap of faith from investors. From Jesse, it was the highest possible compliment. His firm, IA Ventures, went on to lead our Series A.

In the two years since then, we’ve attracted millions of users from all over the country, and we’ve raised a total of $23.1 million in venture funding. We’ve had our share of ups and downs of course—every successful startup has to go through one or two near ­death experiences—but our mission has proved resilient and compelling. We’re building a new type of business, a cross between a peer-­to-­peer marketplace, like eBay, and an online retailer, like Amazon. We buy directly from individual sellers and pay upfront, and then we list items for buyers, and handle all fulfillment and support. We call it a “hybrid marketplace.”

Building it has required some serious work—a 150 ­person operations team, a full suite of proprietary warehouse management tools, and a new, data­ driven approach to merchandising and recommendation designed for single­ SKU, one ­off items. But it lets us do something special that no one else has ever managed to do: We make selling as easy as shopping, and we make buying used feel like buying new.

Whether Twice eventually “takes over the world” or whether we fall short of that (somewhat improbable) goal, I’ve seen enough of entrepreneurship to know that this is it for me. I may not always be in the driver’s seat—I have to imagine I won’t be able to keep up my current pace when I have a family—but I know that I always have to stay involved somehow. At least, as I told my mom, until I’m dead.

noah_headshot2Bio: Noah Ready-Campbell is the co-founder and CEO of Twice, a marketplace for upscale women’s fashion. Twice has raised over $23 million in funding from Andreessen Horowitz and other investors and is based in San Francisco. Noah graduated from the M&T program at Penn with degrees in business and computer science.