#61: Serving as the Operating System of Supply Chain

Kathleen Chan is the Founder and CEO of Calico, the supply chain OS that powers the $1.4 trillion eCommerce production market from concept to doorstep. Kathleen is a serial founder, previously starting several D2C brands and scaling them from zero to six figures in revenues in the first six months of operations. 

Prior to Calico, Kathleen was the youngest professor at Centennial College in Toronto and ran national marketing campaigns at Microsoft.

Listen to the full discussion here:

  • Stream by clicking here.
  • Download as an MP3 here.



Connect with the Host:

Rushit Shah: LinkedIn | E-mail

Connect with the Guest:

Kathleen Chan: LinkedIn

Some of the highlights from the podcast:

  • Calico’s origin story and how are they different
  • Serena Williams Venture investing on Calico
  • Vision of the company in 5 to 10 years
  • Soft skills and hard skills Calico is looking for
  • What are the internal challenges Calico is facing

Show notes:

  • [0:47] How did Calico originate?
  • [2:28] What are you building right now? How are you helping your clients? 
  • [3:53] Do you have your own platform, which has a basic benchmark you go on and work with your clients? Or is modified for each client?
  • [4:23] So you can grow with Calico all the way to whatever size you want to be but we do have a standard platform that you can come on board and work with, which we’ve seen work very well for a lot of our customers already.
  • [4:34] Can you share some success stories of your clients who implemented your platform?
  • [6:58] How long does the onboarding of clients take? Coming in, start using the system, and getting output? 
  • [7:51] How did Serena Williams Ventures invest in your firm?
  • [9:29] Is there something very specific you’re trying to build on top of what you already built with your firm?
  • [10:22] What are the typical size of clients you accept, whom you can really get a big impact?
  • [10:34] So we deal with mostly nascent and emerging brands, so we work really well with amazing and fast growing brands in the apparel and fashion sector and we’re looking at teams of anywhere between 20-30 a little bit higher than that, and revenue is anywhere between 10 to 50 million.
  • [11:12] What is your vision for the company in 5 to 10 years?
  • [13:20] How do you get the data you need?
  • [14:57] Just on the scale, when we talk about Supply Chain Tech and what’s happening in supply chain tech today. Why do you think tech companies suddenly emerged during the pandemic?
  • [15:56] Supply chains are crucial and foundational to our society. Manufacturing and managing suddenly become complex and that probably shown a significant light, and I think it was felt all the way down to the end consumer.
  • [16:50] How do you start a conversation when you go and speak to companies who does not see the problem with supply planning, especially SMEs? 
  • [21:09] What are the skills required in Calico to be successful within your team?
  • [21:48] When we hire at Calico, we look for a very specific set of skills. We do look for soft skills around humbleness and the ability to be scrappy, creative, and resourceful. 
  • [22:47] What do you think is the hardest to find skills right now?
  • [22:51] I think for us, it’s probably people with the right risk appetite. I think it’s just really understanding, this is an early stage startup and not only is it super fun, but there is a risk involved.
  • [23:52] Is there something you have learned in this journey? If you could go back, will you do something differently?
  • [24:35] Maybe for us, it is looking for the right partners to work with, whether it’s a channel partner or a partner from a vendor perspective. The right ones to help us move to the next stage in our business.
  • [25:10] What was your philosophy with this startup and what would you advise to people who are quite young in their career?
  • [25:22] I think your first few formal jobs actually shaped who you are as a person. I think when you’re younger, as long as you don’t have massive debt, taking on a startup is actually a really wildly fun place for you to start off your career. So I’m definitely a startup proponent but it’s in the right setting and environment.
  • [27:42] What is that one thing you’re providing, not kind of cultural in the company, but really technically, which is different from the other companies in the market?
  • [28:13] In Calico, you don’t need seven different tools because with us, it is one system. It’s there for you and your external partners, and you can get up and run very quickly. So for us, it’s not about trying to make you thread through different fragmented systems, it’s all there for you. And I think that’s really how we’ve been able to win so far. 
  • [29:10] What’s one challenge internally are you facing right now?
  • [29:47] Finding that right profile has always been very difficult for us because not many of us exist and so it’s always been about talent and hiring. We always want to arm ourselves and build the team in the right way. 
  • [30:27] What happens after things are normal? What’s the best answer? 
  • [30:31] My best answer to that is to just really explain how fundamental supply chains are. I would probably start with the basics.

Quote from the Episode:

About the Host:

The host, Rushit Shah is the Managing Director of APAC and North America at Alcott Global. Rushit comes with 20 years of Executive Search and Selection with 8 years of Supply Chain Consulting service within APAC. He worked for more than 40 countries with diversified industries and functionality.

Alcott Global connects and upgrades the supply chain ecosystem by finding the right talent through executive search, developing talent through learning solutions, and meeting supply chain technology needs through a comprehensive crunch base marketplace.

The supply chain executive search has been our focus since the very beginning, offering recruitment services for top-tier supply chain roles at every level of the end-to-end supply chain: plan, source / procure, make, and deliver. Our consultants have years of experience in placing top talent, in North America, LATAM, Europe, the Middle East & Africa, and APAC, and besides speed, one of our biggest strengths is our network within the supply chain industry, and we capitalize on it to find the best solutions.

Through the years, we have grown as an organization and our offerings with it. One of our initiatives, the learning solutions- training and supply chain academy, is focused on transforming leadership- self-leadership, executive presence, influence capital, and business acumen. Through Supplify, we aim to match corporations with the top technology companies to solve their supply chain and logistics challenges with a focus on innovation and digital transformation.

We are in constant touch with the leaders in supply chain, inviting them to inspire the supply chain professionals in thought-provoking podcast episodes and events, and showcasing what is possible at the yearly Leaders in Supply Chain Awards.

Related Episodes:

How IndustryApps Is Solving Gaps Within The Supply Chain Industry

How Thras.io Became the Biggest E-commerce Aggregators

Driving Innovation with InstaFreight




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