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Startup Reimagined

By Melanie Oberman, Jetblack

August 23, 2018




What happens when you join together a group of committed and enthusiastic talent, people with entrepreneurial DNA who are motivated by dreams of changing the status quo? You get a startup. But what happens when you add the true freedom, flexibility and resources to make those dreams a reality? You get Store No. 8 – Walmart’s incubation arm for uncovering ideas that will transform the future of commerce. 

“Our eCommerce strategy has been focused on three elements: nailing the fundamentals, leveraging our unique strengths to play offense and innovating for the future. Through Store No. 8, we’re able to build and test technology that can lay the foundation for capabilities we believe will have a profound impact on how customers may shop five plus years from now.” 

Inventiveness, free-thinking, drive, determination and focus are ever-present in the individuals who join or found startups. Supporting and enabling these attributes is key to future success. But too often what’s possible is constrained – not by the imagination or high-energy of the team – but by real-life resource limitations which can stunt performance, innovation and exploration.  


From Store No. 8’s founding, the team recognized the white space it could occupy. In this article, I will share how a unique blend of culture and the potential for impact at scale, combined with the resources and rewards of a corporate enterprise – are helping Store No. 8 and its portfolio companies reimagine what a startup can be.  


Scale of Impact

Part startup incubator, part industry giant – there's really nothing else like it out there. Store No. 8 offers a “unicorn opportunity”: the feel, pace and opportunity of a tech startup, but empowered by the Fortune #1 to test big ideas and do things the way you think customers would want, not just your investors. Also, unlike most startups, the capabilities developed by Store No. 8’s portfolio companies have a direct path to scale through Walmart. This means that our successes can potentially impact hundreds of millions of consumers around the world. The opportunity is unparalleled – an important distinction between us and other public, private, VC or PE-backed players. In this sense, there is no bigger sandbox. 

Take for example, Jetblack where I am the Head of Business Operations and Talent. Introduced in June, Jetblack is the first company launched from Store No. 8. Led by Co-Founder and CEO Jenny Fleiss, Jetblack offers a personalized shopping service to provide consumers more efficient ways to shop for themselves and their families without having to compromise on product quality. 


One of the ways to enable this is through conversational commerce – or the ability to shop through text messaging, online chat or voice. It is a service that will help customers get exactly what they need through the convenience of text messaging and the freedom of a nearly unlimited product catalogue. Though Jetblack is currently only available in New York City, in the future it will help Walmart deliver a more frictionless, personalized and delightful shopping experience to customers everywhere. 


Culture of Innovation  

We're here because of the other innovators who came before us. At Store No. 8, we're carrying on Sam Walton’s original spirit of innovation that audaciously and fearlessly shaped the way the world shops. To do this today means supporting the talent needed to innovate, build and grow. 

Store No. 8 offers an unbeatable opportunity to work alongside leaders and peers with a success mentality, and often, already proven track records of successful exits. It’s a culture where innovation is cultivated, vision and strategy are transparent, and people take ownership and are given license to do what's best for the organization. 


When it comes to Jetblack, this culture of innovation surrounds me every day. We encourage teamwork, collaboration and participation in myriad ways. Beyond the “fun” team-building activities ranging from weekly “all-hands” and regular “lunch ’n learns” with Walmart leaders and industry influencers – to team outings, workout sessions and more – we have built strong foundations to empower team members and enable innovation. These include organizing Engineering around AGILE principles, rewarding Product Managers for owning complete workstreams, and encouraging our Member Services and Logistics team to test and learn. The culture of innovation is also supported by our newly initiated project charters that allow voices throughout the organization to be heard early and often, ensuring everyone is equally aware of shared goals.


Reward and Satisfaction 

In startups where iteration happens quickly and time is of the essence, providing a situation in which teams can focus on company operations and doing their job to the best of their ability is a huge strategic advantage. 


When Store No. 8 was established back in March 2017, we recognized the white space between startup and corporate models was core to our strategy. By merging a scrappy startup mentality where it takes entrepreneurial DNA and drive to thrive – with the resources of a leading enterprise – we believed that not only might we help great innovations come to life, but we would do so by attracting great talent: employees who are motivated to build a company from the ground up, but who don’t necessarily want to risk a low base salary with only potential (no promises!) of future equity upside as compensation. 


At Jetblack, like at all of Store No. 8’s portfolio companies, we are fortunate to be able to pay our teams a competitive salary based on market rate data. Additionally, all salaried employees receive Walmart corporate benefits like healthcare, parental leave, 401Ks, and the opportunity to earn annual performance bonuses based on individual and team success. In this way, being part of Walmart provides employees a certain sense of security, which means they can really concentrate on the innovation part of growing a new company – and getting it to scale quickly. 


In Conclusion

Like at most startups, we pride ourselves on being dynamic, nimble and fast-moving. But as Jetblack’s Head of Engineering, Rand Davis says, “for a small startup, this is really unique and very cool. You get to have startup speed and impact while making a reliable and competitive company paycheck”. 


From my perspective too, I can say that working at Jetblack – as the first portfolio company within Store No. 8 – is truly unique. Being in the company of this next generation of retail, tech and business leaders who are working to have meaningful commercial impact, while creating an environment that fosters innovation, ownership, excitement, and teamwork – is very rewarding.  


I am super motivated by all we are doing to create the future of commerce today and can’t wait to see what’s next. If you’re interested in joining us, visit www.jetblack.com – we’re hiring! 


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