Ask Me Anything with Jenny Bebout: A Founder’s Story

Jenny Bebout, one of Convey’s three Founders and Product/UX Lead, just helped to launch Convey’s upgraded exception management tool and carrier collaboration features. These new features provide retailers and shippers alike with a comprehensive analysis of transit issues, and they allow shippers to prioritize their own exception resolution workflows.

We sat down with Jenny to talk more about her experience as a Co-founder, her thoughts on carrier-shipper relationships, and her contributions to Convey’s upgraded exception management tool.

You’re no stranger to owning your own business! Tell me about your experiences prior to Convey.

As early as four years old, I had my first business experience selling rocks in my alleyway – I had a little table where I took rocks from the alley, and colored them with crayons. My neighbors graciously supported me with my venture. Growing up, I also made friendship bracelets at the pool, I created lemonade stands, I sold jewelry at my sorority… I could go on and on here.

But I always loved art and computers. In grade school, I would stay in from recess, and play in the computer lab – we had one of those dot matrix printers where you tear the tabs off the sides, and I would make cards and banners for friends. Eventually, I got a Visual Communications degree, worked at a few advertising agencies, and taught myself how to code. I had my own boutique agency for a few years, and then I started developing the product with Dan (Bebout).

Are there any moments that you look back on now that remind you how far we’ve grown as a company?

I remember getting our first check in the mail from Old Dominion Freight. It was for $10.42.

It was late at night, and Dan was already sleeping, but I remember being so excited for ten dollars! You see a lot of companies with their first dollar on the wall, and that was our first! I need to frame it.

What was your experience like getting into Techstars? And what was the Techstars experience like?

There are blogs written about how to get into Techstars, but we submitted the application the night before — complete with the surprise of Minions singing the banana song instead of a team video. They picked 50 companies like us to come to Austin to interview. Money was scarce, since we were bootstrapping the business, and we really weren’t sure if this organization could help us in the freight industry. It was a gamble, but we went for it. Carson (Krieg), Dan, and I drove from Phoenix to Austin for a five-minute pitch and a five-minute Q&A. Dan started his pitch, and within two minutes, Jason Seats [from Techstars] was interrupting us with questions. It was great, and they were really intrigued by market opportunity.

So then, there was a happy hour. What they don’t tell you is that this is the real interview. I’ll always remember my first interaction with Andy Aguiluz [from Techstars]. I was in the restroom washing my hands and she said: “Hey! Are you from Pivot Freight? That name makes me want to vomit.” The word “Pivot” is a tech buzzword, but for us it represented the freight hub and spoke system, plus analytics using Excel pivot tables.

We got accepted into the program! Techstars is basically a month of mentor dating – you get to meet so many inspiring entrepreneurs, executives and investors. Most importantly, we got to know Rob (Taylor), and we just hit it off. We all shared the idea of transparency with the business and doing great work with the smartest people. We hired Rob and Olivier (Modica) after the program, and then moved to Austin permanently.

So, as a leader, in not one, but two male-dominated industries, do you have any advice for women who are in either of these fields?

I see it as a challenge. I’ve always gone against the grain – supply chain happened on accident, but tech did not. I just want to show young girls that you can do anything if you’re determined and going against the grain has its rewards. I had extremely supportive parents, but I didn’t have any mentors to help me realize I could have a career in technology, engineering or science.

I think if I had those mentors, I would’ve studied engineering instead of art.

How’d you teach yourself how to code?

With my Visual Communications degree, I had one HTML course and one Flash course. At my first agency job, no one knew how to code. Most of the work was still print, and agencies were just beginning to dive into digital. I was dangerous and curious enough to begin experimenting, so I started hacking together some of our marketing emails and then moved onto landing pages and websites. I searched Google to learn, and kept improving.

I accepted a technical role at an agency that was way over my head. I had a lot of incredibly stressful days and sleepless nights, but I learned a ton really quickly. The quickest way to learn how to swim is to throw yourself in with the sharks.

Are there any examples of growing moments – or great moments — that you’ve had as a Founder?

I think that being a Founder is very rewarding because you get to choose your own destiny, but it’s also risky – if you make the wrong decisions, then you fail miserably, and let your team down. Growing moments for me have been trying not to let go and not wear so many hats. Great moments have been when friends and family send me screenshots of Convey Tracking Pages for shipments they ordered from our customers!

It must be amazing to see your team grow so large then!

[Laughs] Yes, it’s exciting. It has given me the opportunity to focus more on the product, which I love!

It’s amazing to think back to when we were three people in our spare bedroom, and all of a sudden, 28 people want to come hang out with us every day! The team is everything.

Are there any projects that you’re excited about coming up?

I’m really excited that carriers have become engaged users in our platform, and I’m anxious to provide them more value. Our carrier partners are such an important piece for providing data and collaborating with shippers to minimize exceptions and transit days. It’s not a perfect world, and shipping exceptions will happen, but better tools are needed for communication and document sharing.

We want both sides – our customers and the carriers – to work more efficiently.

Are there any interesting insights you’ve learned about the carrier-retailer relationship? How can they create better relationships with one another?

They have a tough time communicating with each other. With email, it’s tough weeding through what the most important issues are, and it’s hard to analyze your emails later. You can’t make data-driven decisions when you’re communicating that way! As an alternative, some will use spreadsheets, which is a very manual process for the person creating them. They can’t pull data often – maybe once a quarter – because it is so time-consuming.

That makes it tough for carriers, too. I hope that improving the visibility technology will give us better data quality for KPIs, which will result in better outcomes for consumers.

Are there any other pain points that surprised you along the way?

Shipping visibility and analytics are a black hole for most shippers. Shippers can’t see where their packages are in transit, or make decisions to optimize their network in transit.

Out of all of our features, which is your favorite?

We just released an upgraded exception management tool, and I’m pretty excited about it. Large retailers have thousands of exceptions in transit. Thinking about how to take action on all of those exceptions can feel overwhelming.

This feature helps organization filter down to a manageable amount of high priority exceptions, and they can adjust their workload based on what’s going to make the biggest impact.

I think that’s helpful for those who feel like they are jumping from fire to fire.

That’s what’s great about it. You can narrow your exception search in a way that makes it feel like you’re starting from a manageable place, and adjust workload as necessary. You can create custom workflows! The possibilities are endless. Most importantly, this results in less chaos with reactive work and happier customers.

Anything else you’d like to mention?

I’ve heard many people say that Founders talk about their companies like they’re offspring – it’s so true. There is a How I Built This podcast about ClifBar – Gary Erickson and his Co-founder were about to sell to Quaker Oats for $120M, but Gary got cold feet. The day he was supposed to sign the deal, he felt so sick that he ultimately ended up canceling the deal. He cared too much about his baby to give it up to some big corporation. Money is secondary to the pride and respect you have for the product and team you’ve built.

That’s kind of what this [company] is! We built something from nothing, and it is a huge part of our lives.

 

Learn more about how Convey is helping to evolve carrier-shipper relationships and customer service workflows, or read how Neiman Marcus used Convey’s customer service tools and reduced its transit time to customers by 24%.

Want to work with awesome teammates like Jenny? Apply here.