Phil is a humorous and brutally honest entrepreneur who grew up in Marin County, California. He’s also a cofounder of Pakible.com, the leader in custom packaging. As a child his mother owned a shop across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, so he spent a lot of time growing up on both sides of the bridge. Let’s just say he enjoys being on the San Francisco side. Through the experience of helping his mom at the shop he learned at a very young age the importance of client interaction, the benefits of demonstrating value and the significance of having confidence in the services that you provide. In college at Cal Poly, he studied Industrial engineering, “which I don’t exactly implement right now, but it definitely taught me how to think, in a certain kind of way that’s being used at Pakible every day. From an efficiency and optimization stand-point that, and knowing that there’s a way to solve almost every problem. That’s the kind of attitude that we have.”
It’s important to mention that when I sat down with Phil I met with two of his team members as well. Who, might I add, are college friends of Phil’s from Cal Poly. One of them, Michael Handler had the following to say about Phil, “From the first moment that I met him, he lived alone and always had his own way. He always blazed his own path and that’s why I think he went into this startup, because I don’t think he can work for anybody but himself. I don’t think he wants to work for anybody but himself.”
Going to Cal Poly, which is located in San Luis Obispo, had a greater effect on Phil and his outlook more than anywhere else he has lived. San Luis Obispo was originally founded in 1772, by a Spanish Franciscan named Junipero Serra. In 2011 Oprah even named it the happiest city in America. According to Phil, “If Oprah says it, it’s true.” Apparently there isn’t a single drive-thru fast food joint in the entire town. I think they’re on to something.
After school Phil started working with a startup called iCracked, wich went through a world-class accelerator program located in Silicon Valley called Y Combinator. He noticed how much of an impact that experience made on iCracked’s founders and to check it out for himself. He knew he wanted to create something of his own and that it would be a great experience to do so. While going through the accelerator, which Phil describes as "the greatest 3 months that I don’t want to ever do again”, he met his cofounder. Phil describes the YC workload with long works hours and rigorous, tough work. “It’s called an accelerator for a reason. It’s like an extreme boot camp of work, condensed into a really short period of time. I think that potency and momentum is what we used to blast our company off into where it is now.”
Now, we have all had an experience with a necessary process at a job that was, for a lack of better words, a pain in the ass. People respond to this in two different ways. Most people just complain and wish someone would fix that issue, or simply make that experience better. Then there’s a small group of people who decide to be the change that they seek; Phil falls under category number two. While working at iCracked, Phil realized how incredibly inconsistent and inefficient the packaging industry was after having to deal with it himself. A year later, he huddled a group of packaging manufacturers under one umbrella, created an intuitive web-based design interface for customers to create their own packaging, and Pakible was born. In the past, purchasing boxes required: sales people, emails, God-awful faxes, various quotes and worst of all, time. Lots and lots of time. “Nowhere else can you purchase packaging so easily.” Now with Pakible.com, you can select a desired box size, quantity, upload your logo and click buy, all within a few minutes. (Unless you’re using terrible wifi at some cafes in San Francisco, which I won’t name.)
“A leap from corporation to a startup is just as large of a disparity as working at a startup to running a startup.”
Phil explained that there’s no proven way to prepare for the job of running a startup. The only way that you really learn is actually getting in the hot seat and figuring it out on the spot. At Pakible, they are shaking things up. Over the summer Phil and Pakible’s Creative Director, Chase McBride, went to a Hewlett-Packard conference. After sitting in on a meeting, the head of sales for it's North AMerican region said that it was the most exciting meeting they have ever had because of the fantastic energy Phil and his team member Chase brought with them. When I met with Phil, Pakible had just broken through another sales goal and the team was working on a deal to be the packaging supplier for Shopify.com and Amazon Launchpad.
One man’s mountains are another man’s hills.
I always find it interesting when people get into industries that they had little to no experience with prior and they excel. Chase explained it best, saying that sometimes it’s best off that way. “It’s a benefit not having a background in packaging and not coming from the packaging world, because we were completely un-jaded. I think if you grew up in it you would see some problems as insurmountable and we’re like, ‘whatever we’ll solve that’.” Sometimes, naïveté is a good thing or as they say ‘ignorance is bliss’.
Phil told me a story about a speech he saw given by Paul Orfalea, the founder of Kinkos. Kinkos is currently known as FedEx Kinko’s after he sold his company to FedEx for $2.4 Billion in 2004. In this speech, Paul went on to say that anyone could start a company. He purported that you could just look in the newspaper and “I’ll be dammed if you weren’t able to figure out an opportunity for what people need. When ever there’s a problem or a complaint, that’s a signal for an opportunity.”
What’s some advice that you would extend to entrepreneurs that are just getting started?
“Don’t listen to haters. Since getting into YC, I have some friends who are aspiring entrepreneurs and they’ll ask, ‘what do you think of this idea? What do you think of that?’. People think that because you’ve accomplished something, that you are now a credible source of telling them if they can do something. That’s absolute bullshit. No one knows better than you, what it is you are capable of doing. So just go with that and listen to yourself. I know that may seem cliché to say to go with your gut and listen to your heart, but in all seriousness that’s a universal phrase and suggestion for a reason, because it’s absolutely true."