Boxed CEO Chieh Huang talks inside story of startups at UTSF 2021

Jill Lai, DIGITIMES, Taipei 0

Boxed is a US warehouse club delivery service company, which delivers anywhere in the continental USA, with revenue in the hundreds of millions. The company invests heavily in its technology: it has its own software, runs its own state-of-the-art fulfillment centers, and builds its own automation robotic in-house.

Chieh Huang, CEO and co-founder of Boxed, made a keynote about his company story and gave advice for startups on September 10, the second day of the US Taiwan Startup Forum (UTSF) 2021, which was hosted by the North American Taiwanese Engineering Association (NATEA) and Taiwan Tech Arena Silicon Valley, a startup ecosystem-building program sponsored by the Ministry of Science and Technology in Taiwan.

The story starts

Similar to many startups, Huang started Boxed from his parents' garage, in view of an opportunity in mobile commerce. With the growth of the company, the two-car garage has become an automated fulfillment center. However, back to the first few years ago, there were a couple of years that the company didn't grow much.

"It was kind of flat, you know, in terms of not being able to drive that many sales. So we were kind of disappointed in all of it. So we didn't know what we should do. But I fundamentally believe that every company has their moment, or has a potential moment," said Huang.

Then, everything changed because of a TV program, in which the hosts were excited about a warehouse club on the phone (Boxed) and even called the company a genius to save people time to go to big stores to get bulk items. The company also gives a good price to ship to the door on most items. The TV program is basically what was the initial catalyst for the growth of Boxed, according to Huang.

After that, Boxed started to grow really fast and ended up raising its series A fund. Then, Boxed started to automate its fulfillment center where the company built its own robotics. Its latest fulfillment centers are also powered by technology and the hardware that is built in-house, like autonomous guided cars, light LIDAR systems, and cameras. "We design and engineer all the way down to the printed circuit board," said Huang.

More than just earning profit

When a company grows big, like having multiple offices around the world and hundreds of thousands of employees, the CEOs don't usually need to be involved in the operational level, but they need to focus on management. Huang suggested the CEO, as the entrepreneur, has to find a way to inspire the company not only with a mission but also a purpose, which will give themselves a successful future.

"For Boxed, our mission is not just to help people stock up through our technology. But our purpose is to really help people. We can actually make changes in industries and locations or different situations that people are in with the products we sell. So take the pink tax, for example, in 32 states across America, women are still unfairly charged the pink tax."

Future trends

Telling from the recent tech trends, it probably won't take a year and a quarter for the American population to adopt any new technologies. Huang stays very positive to see many future business opportunities that new technologies may bring to everyone.

Furthermore, taking examples from Amazon whose media revenue might be bigger than AWS pretty soon, and Google who started to promote Google Shopping again, Huang warned all the startups that the lines between companies are becoming blurred and all kinds of companies are competing with each other in the future.

[Editor's note: On the second day of the US Taiwan Startup Forum (UTSF) 2021, eight startups - AIPLUX, Avalanche Computing, KryptoGo, Lubn, NADI, Relajet, Torkance Technologies, Worca, gave their pitches to the judges from Applied Materials, SK Hynix, Hillcrest Venture Partners, Laconia Capital of Rebel One, and Iterative Venture.]

Credit: NATEA

Credit: NATEA