Jules Pieri of The Daily Grommet Wants to Make You Think Outside the Retail Big Box
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literally picked up and left. I consulted there with some Irish brands like Eircom and Diageo.
X: Why Ireland?
JP: When you live in the United States, the information overload is so enormous that you can actually get insulated. It’s hard enough navigating your local community, let alone your state or being cognizant of the federal government and all its machinations. In Ireland, you can cover the local news in about five minutes, and then you can pay attention to the rest of the world. My postman would tell me about his foreign holidays. I wanted that experience for our kids. We almost settled there—one more year and we would have stayed forever. But one thing that brought us back was that I really wanted to work on a startup, and there is no better place for that than the U.S. As much as I love Ireland, there are only four VC firms in Dublin, and the market is small, so it would have been a more difficult expansion from Day One, whereas in the U.S. we have the luxury of a very large market and access to capital.
X: How did you come up with the concept for the Daily Grommet?
JP: The very first thing I did, because I am an industrial designer, was to draw a picture of the business, based on the trends I saw as important in consumer culture. (At the end of the day, in consumer businesses you need to be a good cultural anthropologist.) Some of those trends were information overload in general—people being overwhelmed by choice. Another was people seeking deeper meaning in their consumer behavior and their experiences. People are wanting to support the little guy and the anti-big-box behavior, but they’re time-starved and aren’t able to do that very easily. Then I thought it was interesting how social media could make or break a film, or a presidential candidate, with a power I’d never seen in my career before. So for me, it was about combining my own passion for products and stories and their creation, with helping people find and connect to those stories, using media that could finally do it.
Now, social media is not commerce media. What travels in social media is news—whether it’s personal or national or just funny videos. I know that the stories around products have that same power, and the potential that people would want to share them. But you have to make them accessible and bite-sized and interesting. Finding them, and getting them to people, was the challenge.
So I drew the picture, and the next day I did a spreadsheet. I’m not interested in building a tiny business, or in building something that isn’t going to be self-sustaining, eventually. I was looking for a few numbers to pan out, and they did. So then I started doing what you do: you put together a presentation that makes this somewhat coherent for other people, and you reach out to your network. I did all the fundraising in the second quarter of last year.
X: I know from being involved in a daily blog how much work goes into publishing every day. Did you consider starting off publishing less often?
JP: We bit off the whole enchilada right away—daily, five days a week. I wanted to be a part of a person’s routine. There is a lot of serendipity to our experience, but I didn’t want there to be serendipity around telling people a story every day. I wanted them to be able to rely on that. So we focus first on those stories. We aspire to a journalistic curiosity and sense of adventure and courage [when selecting products]. If you limited yourself completely to the commercially viable, you wouldn’t have those qualities. We really believe in these products—we vet 10 other things to pick one. So there is a commercial responsibility, first and foremost, but you are not even going to care about buying something if our stories aren’t worth caring about.
X: Do you try to be the first to feature a new product?
JP: It doesn’t have to be a new discovery, but most days we are hoping and expecting to be talking about something you haven’t seen before. Then we’re really interested in four broad buckets. One is innovation. People really respond to problem-solvers and new ways of doing things. Another is … Next Page »