Wittlebee Grabs ShoeDazzle Customer Acquisition Superstar Chris Nella

By Michael Carney , written on October 4, 2012

From The News Desk

As any successful entrepreneur will say, assembling the right team is key to any venture. Nine-month-old kids fashion subscription ecommerce company Wittlebee just took a major step in building its roster with the addition of ShoeDazzle Director of Customer Acquisition Chris Nella.

“Chris is easily one of the top acquisition experts in the space,” says founder and CEO Sean Percival. “His experience and ability to deliver convenience, value, and discovery are a perfect match for Wittlebee,”

As Percival says, Chris is known as one of the best around, as demonstrated by his presiding over ShoeDazzle’s growth from 200,000 to 14 million members. Under his leadership, the company is reportedly generating over 1 million new leads per month at present. Previously, Nella held similar roles at advertising services company Spot Runner and game rental service Gamefly.

It’s no secret that there has been some turmoil and executive turnover at ShoeDazzle in recent months, including most recently the return of founding CEO Brian Lee. That said, Nella has had plenty of offers and opportunities to jump ship as of late and has resisted until now.

"I never intended to move on from the ShoeDazzle team, but I was sold by Sean's vision and immediate success,” he explains.

Discussions about the move began nearly two months ago, according to Percival, prior to these most recent changes at the women’s footwear etailer. What the move says about the future of Brian Lee’s much-lauded venture is the a topic of another discussion, but ShoeDazzle’s loss is clearly Wittlebee’s gain.

The customer acquisition guru should feel right at home inside Wittlebee, which has a similar model and target customer as did ShoeDazzle. Both companies target social media-savvy, value- and convenience-conscious young women. Wittlebee’s typical customer is a bit more middle-America compared to ShoeDazzle’s, although its average household income is a bit higher, says Wittlebee’s CEO. In general, it’s a great demographic to target online, Percival says, calling them “easy to find, and willing to spend money.”

Percival counts himself as somewhat of a customer acquisition expert as well, but he has been juggling a few too many balls in the company’s early days and is now understandably thrilled to be able to delegate that function into such capable hands

Nella is coming on board as the startup is in the midst of a growth spurt, according to Percival. Subscriber numbers are said to be growing each month, although the CEO declined to reveal specifics. The company also recently completed the acquisition of its largest vendor, as the first step in creating its own in-house clothing brand.

Wittlebee was founded within Los Angeles technology studio Science and raised $2.5 million in Series A financing in March from led by Rincon Venture Partners, SoftTech, Google Ventures, Crosslink, Morado, and Matt Coffin.

Today’s hire is the latest in a string of recent additions by the startup, including picking up talent from one-time Los Angeles flagship BetterWorks and women’s sportswear juggernaut Lulu Lemon. From BetterWorks, Percival picked up senior product manager Ron Yang, and from Lulu he added VP of Merchandise Holly Kauffman.

Much has been made of the over-hyped subscription commerce space, with many calling it a fad or even a smokescreen (okay, that last one was me). The reality is that it makes a ton of sense in a few select cases. Most ideally, it works for commodity or replenishment products, like diapers or clothing for a rapidly growing toddler. As a parent himself, Percival is well aware of this value proposition and the pain points being addressed by Wittlebee.

Nine months after launch, it looks from the outside like he may have struck the right balance of online convenience and savings. The addition of a customer acquisition superstar like Nella should be like adding jet fuel to the already burning fire.

[Image courtesy BIGDOG3c]