First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID19 times?
Dan de Grandpre: Everyone is safe and healthy, thank you!
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded or joined DealNews.com
Dan de Grandpre: I was a Ph.D. student in Psychology at the University of Oregon when I stumbled on the idea of aggregating deals onto one website. Back then, we had 2,500 visits a day and two employees. Our traffic has grown 500x since then and our team is around 80 people.
How does DealNews.com innovate?
Dan de Grandpre: It takes a goal, the right methods, and trust. Let me give you an example. In mid-March, realizing the seriousness of the pandemic, our company created a Task Force, composed of five of our most innovative people. We met every day for two weeks. On day 1, we started by building a list of possible initiatives. On day 2, we used RICE scoring to prioritize those with low costs, likely impact, higher chances of saving jobs, and so on. Quickly we zoomed in on the two best that could be done simultaneously without competing for resources. By day 3, we started building the short-term and mid-term implementation plans, developing projections, and re-assigning resources. The work was incredibly impressive and we’d moved faster than we ever have before.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?
Dan de Grandpre: Because we have employees stretched from Las Vegas to Dublin, we were already good at virtual collaboration and holding each other accountable from remote locations. Because our business helps people shop from home and find great deals, our user growth skyrocketed. However, while some clients like Amazon and Walmart benefitted, many of our clients suffered, like Macy’s and JCPenney. Fortunately we’ve managed our cash carefully and have a better strategy than most companies in our space. As we look forward, we remember that no one knows what’s about to happen. So, be prepared for anything.
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Dan de Grandpre: Most of our clients are brands that do both retail and e-commerce. When the pandemic hit the U.S., the retail industry went downhill so fast that we didn’t know which of our clients would be able to pay us. So we slashed the easy-to-cut costs, like travel, and prepared contingency plans. The PPP came at the right time, and then as the weeks passed, we found that our clients were still paying us. So while we were prepared, we never had to make truly difficult choices. We got lucky. I have friends who run companies even better than we do, with great strategies, but they’re in the travel industry, or they run trade shows, and their businesses are teetering through zero fault of their own. Anyone who thinks they survived the past five months purely on their own smarts lacks the humility to prepare for what comes next.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and DealNews.com in the future ?
Dan de Grandpre: I set up a home gym and workout three times per week. I started meditating using the Headspace app. I play with my two boys as much as I can. Sleep is super critical for me, and before bed, I like to work my brain by reading about something complex that’s unrelated to my business, usually science or politics.For our company, we gave all of our employees two extra days off for mental health. We continuously work on staying connected — a company meditation exercise, trivia events, karaoke, whiskey tastings, and more, all via Zoom.
For years, we’ve had Slack channels where our team can communicate about everything, be it COVID-19, retailer bankruptcies, teaching children from home, comets, or the new LEGO / Nintendo NES collaboration.We gave each employee a set of fancy noise-canceling headphones to help them stay just a tiny bit saner.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Dan de Grandpre: We delight our users by helping them find great deals that they wouldn’t otherwise know about. It’s like visiting a Costco or T.J. Maxx store, except we’re more like the greatest hits from those stores plus Amazon, and Walmart, and Best Buy, and so on. One thing that distinguishes us from companies in our space is that we generate transactions that otherwise would never have happened, whereas companies like RetailMeNot, Ebates, and Honey are focused on claiming credit for transactions that retailers would already earn.
We’ve found a niche by focusing on tech, home & garden, and apparel. We also use something you can’t find anymore: people. Our experts are humans, not algorithms, who choose the offers that our audience wants the most, even if they didn’t know they wanted it.