Jason Goldberg: "It’s wartime at Fab and every team member needs to be here for the right reasons."
It’s been hard to find many good things to say about the state of Fab lately. But at least its founder is having fun. So we learned in the wee hours of this Monday when Jason Goldberg, Fab’s CEO and the lone remaining member of the company’s founding pair penned an impassioned blog post under the headline, “It’s a fucking startup. Why are you here?”
Fab is now 150 days post-restructuring. The cleansing has included the company slashing its headcount from 750 down to 300, bidding farewell to co-founder and “secret sauce” Chief Creative Officer Bradford Shellhammer, retrenching from its overzealous international expansion, and abandoning the flash sales engine that allowed it to grow to a $1 billion valuation in just two years.
Today, the one time “rocketship” ecommerce merchant is looking for its identity, and along the way, all things going to plan, “a repeatable viable business model,” Goldberg says.
But amidst all this uncertainty and turmoil, Goldberg claims to be having more fun than ever:
Why? Because we’re actually doing the hard work of building a company now. We’re figuring shit out. We’re owning up to every crack and digging in and fixing it. We’re fighting for our lives.
If you’re really into startups, this is the fun time. This is the time you earn it and learn it. Want to know what it takes to turn around a company and rebuild it? Fab is one of the only places in the world you can get that kind of experience. If you’re a real startup person, this is the best time to be at Fab. Goldberg can't be faulted for his passion, strategic as the message and its timing may be. He’s always been Fab’s biggest cheerleader – rightfully so – at one point even describing the company as “innovating at the cutting edge.”
But this message is as much about rallying the troops internally, as it is about shaping the external perception of the company. We see as much in Goldberg's request this week that every employee email him their answer to the question, “Why are you here?” He explains:
Why? Because it’s wartime at Fab and every team member needs to be here for the right reasons. It’s not enough to just want to be around long enough to see what happens. It’s not enough to just want to do good work and hope for the best. It’s not enough to just love design...
You need to believe in our ability to build a new Fab and raise your hand and volunteer and lead. You need to be relentlessly curious about fixing and building. You need to go to bed each night obsessed with the struggle and wake up each morning dying to dig in and make it better. Goldberg published more than a dozen hopeful responses apparently submitted by his employees.
Like most things, the praise levied on the company on its way up was overdone, much like the doomsday predictions on the way down have also been premature.
Fab has several things working in its favor, not the least of which is a war chest of venture cash – $165 million raised last summer – that will give it a healthy runway to see this turnaround effort run its full course. The company also has a reasonably well known brand (although a trademark lawsuit calls that fact into question) and significant Web traffic.
The biggest albatross hanging around its neck is surely that ten-figure valuation and that grow or fail pressure that comes along with it. Next in line is that consumers no longer know what they’re going get from the company. Fab may still be a design-minded etailer, but without Shellhammer and without flash sales, it’s an entirely different beast that it was just a year ago.
“Back in 2012 and 2013 when Fab was a rocket ship we didn’t stop and figure things out. We just focused on growth. Grow now, figure it out later,” Goldberg says.
The company has been heads down for nearly half a year, first dealing with the trauma of the restructuring, and then sifting through the remaining pieces with the hopes of building something lasting.
Fab may be highly valued. The company may have been a rocketship at some point in the not too distant past. It may still have massive revenue (profits are an entirely separate matter). But today’s reality is that Fab is searching. It’s searching for an identity and it’s searching for stability.
The conclusion to this saga remains unwritten. Goldberg's signoff encapsulates his point as well as anything in the 2,000-plus word blog post.
“It’s a fucking startup. We’re here to Build.”