Greg Spillane is the CEO of Fancy, a New York based technology platform that connects creators, curators and consumers through the social discovery of extraordinary lifestyle products.
As a serial entrepreneur, Greg’s passion is building high-growth technology companies. On numerous occasions, he has identified underserved market opportunities, designed innovative and differentiated products and then successfully commercialized them to large markets. Greg has been involved in multiple exits and along with driving business strategy, direction, and the overall company performance at Fancy, he advises and serves on the boards of several startups.
Greg is a former Division I athlete and holds an MBA from the University of Southern California, Marshall School of Business.
Where did the idea for Fancy come from?
Consumers are increasingly drawn to small emerging brands with compelling, authentic narratives but there was no clear-cut destination for consumers to easily discover them. Mainstream outlets like Amazon tend to be transactional and do a poor job facilitating discovery.
We knew there was an opportunity to create a destination for discerning consumers to shop for the most interesting products in the world while providing brands and artisans a platform to drive awareness and engagement outside of Google and Facebook which has become increasingly saturated.
We use social discovery to provide a fun and engaging experience for our users to discover, share, and purchase extraordinary lifestyle products from brands and artisans across the globe.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Like most CEOs running an early-stage start-up, my days are never the same. I tend to wear multiple hats and get pulled in a lot of different directions. Because of the whirlwind of ‘stuff’ to do, it’s easy to be busy but not productive. For this reason, we adopted OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) throughout our organization. Everyone – including me – has clear personal objectives aligned with our corporate objectives. Each objective has a number of quantifiable key results. I have these objectives clearly on display in my office and I look at it daily to ensure I am moving things in the right direction. On any given day I may be meeting with investors, sitting in on a meeting with one of our brand partners, or strategizing our next product feature, but it’s these overarching OKRs that keep us all pointed in the right direction.
How do you bring ideas to life?
The role of a leader is to build a great team of people, set a strategy, align, and empower your team. Bringing a new idea to life is similar to cultivating a garden. You can’t force a seed to sprout. All you can do is set the right environment and provide the nutrients, sunshine and water. You then have to wait and, in most cases, magic happens. I believe the same can be said about bringing an idea to life. If you have the right team aligned on a common vision and set the right environment for them to grow, magic will happen.
What’s one trend that excites you?
5G. With 5G it’s not just about increased upload and download speeds, it’s the reduction of latency, reliability and the increased number of concurrent connections. One example of how this will change our lives is with autonomous vehicles. Currently, autonomous vehicle technology found in cars like Tesla use sensors that see the road and their environment similar to how we see the road. The future of autonomous vehicles will have all automobiles connected in real-time. It will be one large connected grid that will work in conjunction to manage traffic or potential accidents. This smart transportation grid should eliminate auto accidents and severely limit traffic issues we see today.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Physical fitness. I am religious with my workout schedule. I am a big believer that a healthy body equates to a healthy mind. I work out regularly and believe that my fitness provides me with the stamina needed to be an entrepreneur, as well as giving an outlet where I can release stress.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Patience. When you are 21 it’s hard to imagine being 40. As you get older you realize the inevitability of time. My advice would be two-fold. First, don’t worry about instant gratification. Success takes time. Second, plan for the future. Hopefully you will be 40, 50, 60, etc. one day and it’s important to do things now that will put you in the position you want to be in when you reach that age. Don’t put short-term gratification ahead of long-term planning.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Apple has been in a steady decline since the death of Steve Jobs and they will never develop another disruptive product on the scale of the iPhone, iPad, iPod, or iTunes. Apple will slowly lose market share over the next 10 years until they revert back to the Apple more similar to what we saw in the mid-80s.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Listen to your customers. No matter how great of an idea you have, if your customers don’t get it, you will fail. I am a big believer in the “Lean Startup” method of product development. Develop a feedback loop early in your company’s lifecycle and constantly iterate based on the feedback. Your mission and vision should rarely change but your strategy and tactics need to evolve constantly based on market feedback.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Great people. No matter how good of an entrepreneur you think you are, there is only so much one person can accomplish alone and your success will be determined by the people you surround yourself with. Hire smart and dynamic people who have a passion for your company’s vision. Set the right strategy, ensure they are aligned and empower them to do their job.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Entrepreneurship is nothing but a string of small failures mixed in with hopefully bigger successes. As an entrepreneur, I embrace small failures as they help me get closer to what is going to be successful. The key is not to put yourself in a situation where the failures are too big.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Plug n’ Play middleware for Electronic Healthcare Record (EHR) systems. Interoperability is commonplace in business applications such as CRM but has lagged in healthcare. There needs to be a standardized middleware for EHR systems that allow for applications to easily communicate together.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I applied for a permit lottery to hike Half Dome in Yosemite and was awarded 6 spots which cost me just under $100. A group of friends and I recently made this hike and it was unbelievable. Yosemite is unparalleled in regards to natural beauty and the hike was a test of physical and mental fitness. It was a great experience and something I will not soon forget.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Evernote! I have been a loyal Evernote user for years. It seamlessly syncs across all of my devices. I use it for everything from note taking in meetings, brainstorming, content creation and task management.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Hard Things about Hard Things. Ben Horowitz sums up the entrepreneur experience perfectly. It’s raw and to the point. No other book helps you understand the startup world and what it takes to be successful.
What is your favorite quote?
“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” – Henry Ford
Although I believe in constant customer feedback, I also believe that entrepreneurship is about connecting dots that are not so obvious to others. For this reason, it’s essential that you are not afraid to be a thought leader and bring users down a path they didn’t expect.
• Hire smart and dynamic people who have a passion for your company’s vision. Set the right strategy, ensure they are aligned and empower them to do their job.
• Develop a feedback loop early in your company’s lifecycle and constantly iterate based on the feedback. Your mission and vision should rarely change but your strategy and tactics need to evolve constantly based on market feedback.
• Don’t worry about instant gratification and plan for the future. Don’t put short-term gratification ahead of long-term planning.
• Read “The Hard Things about Hard Things” for a perfect summation of the entrepreneur experience. It’s raw and to the point. No other book helps you understand the startup world and what it takes to be successful.
• A healthy body equates to a healthy mind.