Tristan Walker

Founder and CEO of Walker & Company and CODE2040

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON January 11, 2016


tristan walker@tristanwalker
Hi, I’m Tristan Walker, founder and CEO of Walker & Company Brands, and co-founder of Code2040. I’m a former entrepreneur-in-residence at Andreessen Horowitz, and prior to that, I was Director of Business Development at foursquare. Very excited to be here, ask me anything!
Drew Reynolds@nydrewreynolds · Software Developer at Gramercy Tech
Hey @tristanwalker, thanks for chatting with all of us today! I'll keep this short & sweet. Over 5 years ago you sent the famous cold email to @dens & @naveen. Today, Walker & Company launched the Bevel Trimmer, to join it's other popular products. My question is, what can we expect from you over the next 5 years?
tristan walker@tristanwalker
@nydrewreynolds 5 yrs from now, Walker & Company will have multiple brands focused on delivering solutions for acute problems in health and beauty that folks of color overindex on but everyone has. Bevel is just page 1. You'll see our second brand launch in the 2H15, focused on an entirely new audience and problem. Stay tuned!
Hey @tristanwalker, it seems like you aimed to address every major complaint barbers & their customers have with trimmers - hard to adjust blades, trimmer getting hot, dead skin + bacteria leading to bumps, power cord... Can you talk about the discovery process? How'd you decide which problems to prioritize?
tristan walker@tristanwalker
@jhtdc Hey Jason, thanks for your question! Our design lead Mari answered this best on our PH product page: "We started with observations of users, both barbers and individuals. We asked them questions and watched them use their existing trimmers. Our goal was to try and understand pain points and latent needs. Once research was completed, the same Industrial Designer (Martin Bone) who designed our Bevel Razor put together a creative brief with basic creative territories he was going to explore. He went to work concepting various forms that solved the problems we observed in our research phase while trying to hold true to our existing Bevel design language. From that exploration came the groundwork of the final trimmer. The design was very much based on the evolution of the legacy trimmers you see today and we wanted to weave that narrative into everything we did for the trimmer. We worked with Martin to iterate on the form, choosing the right materials for both brand consistency, and more importantly, function. Small trade off had to be made for engineering, but for the most part we were able to hold true to the original vision."
Web Smith@web · E-commerce and Branding
@tristanwalker This is a big day for you. I'm super proud! Anyhow, what are your thoughts on this vine? I believe that it is underrated but that's just my opinion.
Danielle Newnham@daniellenewnham · Founder, The Junto Network. Author
As a new dad, what's the most important lesson about life you would like to pass on to him?
tristan walker@tristanwalker
@daniellenewnham This is one of my favorite questions. Here's something that I picked up as a Kid that I want to pass down to him
Harry Stebbings@harrystebbings · Podcast Host @ The Twenty Minute VC
@tristanwalker thanks so much for joining us today Tristan. Big fan of yours, my question is; what are your targets for the year ahead with Walker & Company Brands, where would you like to be in a years time? Also what have been your biggest takeaways from the experience of working at FourSquare and a16z? P.S Would love to have you on @twentyminutevc and share your story!
gnafster@gnafster · -
@tristanwalker Hi Tristan, 1) There is a lot of chat about how profitability is more important than growth-at-all-cost now. How do you draw a line between profitability and growth? In the case of a startup's life, one often has to invest in brand awareness/marketing and this often means not having any tangible returns from such spending all the time. What would you advise would be a good benchmark of how much a startup should spend on marketing in the first two years? 2) Our products (in this case, clothes) require a considerable investment in money and time to be produced for a collection, the iteration cycles are longer than software companies. We've identified a marketing channel that has been the most successful, and in our case because labour is limited, should we focus and look at the type of customers who have made a purchase and then 'replicate' this channel by finding events which have similar customers we can sell to? What are the other ways we can grow our consumer brand? Appreciate your thoughts, thanks!
tristan walker@tristanwalker
@gnafster Everything starts with a great product. I tell our team that for each of our brands we want to spend the 1st yr finding "product market fit"...spend year two growing (once we understand user economics) and then spend year three winning the market. This is a focused approach that allows us to focus on the customer and product above all else FIRST.
Carl F. McKinney@carlmckinney
Good afternoon @tristanwalker and thank you for taking the time to share your present successes and insights with us. Your team is not only incredibly skilled at executing at such a high level, but equally important seems to me is the team is as demographically rich as the market you set out to serve. Is this by design or did it evolve to become that way? Also, how much of your hiring efforts are made up of the practice of finding candidates that have 'x' versus finding candidates that can learn 'x'. With 'x' being the position needing filled.
tristan walker@tristanwalker
@carlmckinney we want the most diverse team possible. Our mission is to make health & beauty simple for people of color (the majority of the world!). The diversity of our team needs to reflect the diversity of our consumer base, full stop. And we'll continue to make this a priority
neeharika sinha@neeeharika · Google, Threadchannel
Hello @tristanwalker Thanks for this AMA session. 1) What are the most effective growth strategies for increasing your user base? 2) Favorite books/podcasts?
tristan walker@tristanwalker
@neeeharika fav books: Andrew Carnegie, Team of Rivals, Zag, Influence, High Output Management.
Charles Kunene@charles_kunene · Co-founder & Product Designer @Obaa
@tristanwalker What processes have you put in place to ensure that you hire the right people and scale appropriately in accordance to need and growth?
tristan walker@tristanwalker
@charles_kunene We keep our talent recruitment aligned with our company values and every potential candidate is considered based on these values: Courage, Judgement, Honesty, Wellness, Loyalty, Inspiration cc @walkercobrands
Chadwick Sapenter@chadsapenter · CEO, Little Book of Words Publishing
If you had $1,000 to launch a new product how would you spend it?
Theoharis Dimarhos@theo_dimarhos · Marketing+Biz Dev at AngelouEconomics
@tristanwalker Hi Tristan! What have you found to be the best ways for someone to set themselves apart when competing for a new job?
Averi Thomas-Moore@athomas_moore · MEST Incubator
@tristanwalker I have been working with African entrepreneurs for about five years and currently live in Accra, when are you planning to bring Bevel and other products black people to this side of the Atlantic? Lots of razor bumps​...
tristan walker@tristanwalker
@athomas_moore We already ship @bevel overseas now. Our customer success team can help you out:
Yolanda Enoch@yolandaenoch · Yolanda Enoch
I love everything Walker & Company is doing especially the hipness of your storytelling at What has been your biggest challenge being the CEO of a growing company and what areas did you have to focus on personally to be the type of leader your company and team needs?
tristan walker@tristanwalker
@yolandaenoch Love this question and I think about it every day. We're a team of <25 folks and I always have to ensure that we're communicating as effectively as possible across functions. It gets more and more difficult and we're far from perfect, but we get better every day. The thing I love so much about this team is that each person appreciates the importance of world class process. This makes my job a hell of a lot easier to do. I love this team
Vytas Butkevicius@vytasbu · Freelance designer
Hi @tristanwalker , congrats on the big (and successful) launch of Bevel Trimmer! 1.With all the knowledge that you have now, what would you do differently if you were sent back in time when you were trying to get a job at FourSquare (capital S right?) ? 2.Talking about now, what were the biggest challenges you and Bevel faced when creating Trimmer? 3. Where do you imagine Bevel (and yourself) in 5 to 10 years? 4. Personal and career advice for aspiring entrepreneurs? Keep it up!
tristan walker@tristanwalker
@vytasbu Great questions!!!! 1) i wouldnt do ANYTHING differently. (lower case S! haha). Im really thankful for everything that experiences has provided me absolutely. 2) Building it as quickly as we did. We had a fantastic guerilla team here (3 folks!) who hustled to get this done inside of a year. Matching design intent with manufacturing capability is no easy task. 3) We want bevel to be the #1 trusted brand for men and women who are looking for a solution to help reduce and precent irritation! 4) you dont get what you dont ask for. KEEP PUSHING
Charles Kunene@charles_kunene · Co-founder & Product Designer @Obaa
@tristanwalker What are the most important lessons you learned from your time at Andreessen Horowitz about entrepreneurship and the venture industry and how have they shaped how you raise money and build a company?
tristan walker@tristanwalker
@charles_kunene Two things I learned from Ben Horowitz and Marc Andreessen, respectively. The most important quality to look for in an entrepreneur is courage (Ben). // You also have to just ask "what if?" more (Marc is such an incredibly creative and smart man who encourages entrepreneurs to just keep asking that question. "What if we can build a company that's around 100 years from now? What would that take?"
OhNo !@ohnowells · MBA Student
@tristanwalker How do I garner business ideas ? Where does one look for opportunities ?
Charles Kunene@charles_kunene · Co-founder & Product Designer @Obaa
@tristanwalker As a minority founder (assuming that it is harder for minority founders in Silicon Valley), what was your approach to overcome biases/barriers when raising capital for your startup?
Swami Saxena@only1swami · Product Manager, co-founder
@tristanwalker Hi Tristan. Congrats on the new launch today! What was your favorite experience at GSB and one of your biggest takeaways from b-school? Do you feel like your degree helped you in your entrepreneurial ventures?
Zack Shapiro@zackshapiro · Director of Engineering at BUMP (YC W18)
@tristanwalker Hey Tristan, thanks for taking the time to do this AMA! I remember a few months back you tweeted a picture of a post-it that said something along the the lines of "Nike doesn't sell shoes, it celebrates athletes." Can you talk a bit about how you/Bevel/Walker & Company think about and apply that idea when you want to promote the brand itself or Bevel/Trimmer?
tristan walker@tristanwalker
@zackshapiro I started the company with this belief that all global culture is led by american culture which is led by black culture in the US. Think: music, dance, food, etc. One can argue that that culture starts in the barbershop. Bevel is a celebration of that rich culture // history // tradition. Here's a great book that speaks to this more directly!