Since the mobile revolution of the late 2000s, we have witnessed an explosion of direct-to-consumer companies which advertise and sell to consumers through their phones. Targeted advertising on a touch-screen device is radically cheaper and more effective than television, print, or even web advertising, and has sparked widespread innovation. We have been impressed by brands such as Casper, Harry’s, and Warby Parker, and have participated as the first major investors in platforms such as Wish, which sells several billion dollars of merchandise a year.
Yet a full decade later, the direct-to-consumer sector is saturated with digitally-native, millennial brands which vary only slightly from the weathered models of their predecessors. Assembly is best understood as a new age Proctor & Gamble: a consumer brand conglomerate featuring talented domain experts, data-driven strategy, and superlative relationships with manufacturers and wholesale retail outlets. The consumer product platform of the future is here, building crave-worthy brands for a new generation.
Over the past several years, Assembly’s founding team — Josh Williams and Eric Prum — have built the end-to-end infrastructure to incubate, launch and grow consumer brands at unprecedented speed and quality. From a premier in-house creative team covering strategy, branding, product design and content, to a global manufacturing and logistics network, to a wholesale pipeline that spans all major retailers, Assembly has built the operating system to launch new brands with truly unfair advantages. These qualities give Assembly a tremendous leg up in a crowded marketplace.
To meet the diverse manufacturing needs of today’s consumer brands, Assembly has lined up supply chains for virtually every material on the planet, iterating carefully to perfect production mechanisms. Assembly has been so successful on the 300+ products they’ve brought to market (3mm+ units sold) that factory partners are vying for their business, driving down the costs of research and development and collaborating on the creation of new products.
It’s been common to see mobile direct-to-consumer companies discover product/market fit by buying expensive customers and projecting 12-month payback periods (“we are 30 months today but have a path to getting there…we swear”). Although costs of customer acquisition remain inflated for most direct-to-consumer companies, Assembly has avoided overpaying for customers by building the difficult infrastructure necessary to sell across an array of channels.
The platform has established deep relationships with over 3,000 retailers from Brooklyn boutiques to mega chains such as Target, allowing brands to immediately launch both online and in store. Case in point: Assembly’s inaugural brand, W&P, is featured on the shelves of retailers such as Williams-Sonoma, Sur La Table, Starbucks, Crate & Barrel, and other major players.
Assembly has multiple competitive advantages
1) Omni-Channel Sales Model
While most of today’s consumer startups sell direct-to-consumer out of necessity, Assembly’s strategy combines online and mobile sales with wholesale partnerships with existing retailers that consumers already trust, thus minimizing the cost of acquiring new customers. There are over 3,000 independent, top global retailers in Assembly’s network. New brands are able to decide when, where, and how they launch both online and in store, giving them a first-mover advantage over other startups. Josh and Eric’s excellent relationships with retailers allow them to coordinate not merely shelves but entire sections of stores for future Assembly products in advance, avoiding the costly trial-and-error process that plagues competitors.
2) Expertise and Scale in Manufacturing
The Assembly team has spent the last six years auditing and vetting manufacturers at home and abroad, and have developed manufacturing partnerships with companies in China, India, and across the United States. Many of these relationships are direct, and others are brokered through trusted partners. Assembly constantly increases its purchasing power by consolidating manufacturing from all brands within the platform, giving new brands a negotiating edge that would take others years to build. As factories are increasingly eager to partner with Assembly, they begin to acquire the necessary tools and machinery for free, an unusual advantage in the consumer product space which allows brands to quickly and inexpensively innovate on new materials, processes and products.
3) Trend Forecasting
Assembly has developed a battery of proprietary analytics techniques to swiftly identify consumer trends on the basis of retailer and manufacturer feedback, web traffic, social media, search data, and customer validation studies. These tools are complementary to Josh and Eric’s exceptionally good market intuitions. Assembly plans to devote a portion of their Series A funds to further build out their identification technology and consumer data back end.
4) Award Winning Team
We are consistently impressed by Josh and Eric’s ability to identify and partner with talented founders of new brands, who are often former executives from successful direct-to-consumer companies. Assembly’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence program is attracting world-class leaders who understand the value of Assembly’s support systems in crafting a successful consumer product company. At the helm of one of these leadership teams, over the past two years W&P exhibited at the NY Now trade show — one of the largest and most prestigious in the world — and won Best New Collection and Best New Product in 2017 as well as the premier award for Overall Excellence in 2018.
As Entrepreneurs ourselves, we first and foremost value top talent, strong execution, and fearless leadership. We are impressed by Assembly’s repeatable framework for entrepreneurial excellence, which will continue to attract superb founders to the Assembly platform. This model, which is distinct from Silicon Valley’s culture of isolated entrepreneurship, is a powerful framework that can be nurtured into a multi-billion dollar platform of repeated success if they capitalize on their advantages and the eagerness of quality talent to build with them.
General Partner, 8VC