Lessons from Amazon and Google Helped Build This $1.5 Billion Startup


Faisal Masud knows what it takes to make a multi-billion dollar business successful.

The 49-year-old has spent more than two decades climbing the executive ranks at Amazon, Google, eBay and Staples. Now he’s trying to implement the lessons of those successful companies as CEO of Fabric, a Seattle-based e-commerce startup that launched in 2016 and is valued at $1.5 billion. (The company stylizes its name as “fabric,” to avoid confusion with online insurance company Fabric Technologies.)

Masud was recruited as CEO in 2020 by co-founder Ryan Bartley, with whom he had worked closely at Staples. Stepping into this role, Masud says, he worked to take what he had learned from his previous employers to create a culture at Fabric that champions empathy, efficiency and, above all, success.

“Culturally, we’ve built a company that’s sort of a hybrid of all the companies I’ve worked at,” Masud told CNBC Make It. “We are able to take the best things from places where I have had experiences and apply them. »

Fabric makes e-commerce software that essentially competes with platforms such as Shopify and Salesforce, although Masud notes that Fabric is specifically designed for medium to large businesses. That tone is apparently music to the ears of investors, who have plowed north of $293 million into the business.

Part of Masud’s success at Fabric has been a long time coming. He says he learned how a workplace culture could impact a company’s bottom line through Amazon, where he spent nearly a decade tracking the dotcom bubble.

At Fabric, Massoud preaches “ownership,” one of Jeff Bezos’ famous 14 keys to leadership principles: The fact that a team of employees or a single team leader “owns” an idea or project can make the decision-making process more streamlined and efficient. Masud says he worked in environments with no ownership, and things got messy.

“When something failed, it was nobody’s fault. When something was successful, everyone could celebrate,” he says. “That’s not how start-ups work. Someone has to make a decision. »

After leaving Amazon, Masud spent years at Google and eBay, learning a new workplace skill that stood in direct contrast to Amazon’s culture: empathy.

“Being very empathetic towards your employees was also very important, because it’s something that Google does very well, as well as eBay, whereas Amazon was not so good at it,” says Masud, who served as a senior director. shipping at eBay until 2012 and COO of Alphabet’s Project Wing drone delivery division from 2018 to 2020.

Today, the “#1 value” that Massoud tries to instill in Fabric stems from these lessons of empathy in the workplace: “Seek to understand before you are understood. Ensuring a “built-in” sense of empathy across the business, he says, ultimately leads to better end results for the bottom line.

“Listening carefully, rather than just because you have to, involves a different thought process than executing quickly,” he says. “Our culture is kind of rooted in the fact that we’re good listeners. But we also use data and facts to make our decisions at the end of the day. »

Working with top startup founders like Bezos and Google’s Sergey Brin also taught Masud the value of long-term thinking and staying focused only on the key areas where your business excels.

“These founders always seem like a very long term,” Massoud says. “They’re always thinking, ‘OK, what’s the ultimate goal of where the business needs to go?’ And then find a way to avoid distractions along the way. »

Massoud brought with him several high-level employees who also worked at Amazon to help instill some of those lessons in Fabric. He calls them the “Amazon Mafia,” and their experience with their former employer might come in handy: Amazon recently launched a “Buy with Prime” service that rivals platforms like Shopify and Fabric.

Bringing in former Amazon employees doesn’t necessarily mean Massoud is trying to recreate Amazon’s culture. “I don’t think every Amazonian is the right fit for Fabric,” he says, adding that he instead tried to “hand-pick” specific people who agreed with his view of Fabric’s culture. .

Together, says Masud, the lessons he learned in his previous workplaces prepared him surprisingly well to become CEO: “As one of our investors said, ‘You’ve worked for the past two decades to build Fabric. You just didn’t know that. »

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