Well Made

Ep. 73 Testing Things with Jenny Gyllander

March 20, 2019 · RSS · Apple Podcasts

Against the backdrop of foam boards in her London living room, Jenny Gyllander test things. The former CMO of Slush and early-stage investor at Backed VC is creating a digital home for her whip-smart, two-sided product reviews on Instagram. On the Thingtesting Instagram, Jenny offers her perspective on DTC goods from the lens of a consumer and venture capitalist.

It was Jenny’s passion for branding and her studies and experiences in venture capital that led her to start thingtesting. A year later, she’s amassed over 22K followers, an accompanying newsletter, and website. Her feed is a delightful catalyst for product discovery. Her quick micro-perspective on what makes a good personal and business investment is fresh and unowned.

“My task is, maybe, to help consumers find this value to navigate to the right brands that are doing the right thing.”

Thingtesting 2Upb

On this episode, Jenny shares her backstory, illuminating how she found herself go from marketing to venture capital to best VC on Instagram (1:56). Jenny’s tested everything from prescription face wash to probiotics. She reveals the three factors she looks for as a venture capitalist (6:18). Jenny shares how she approaches her posts as a personal learning tool (11:55). Stephan and Jenny discuss the difference between the US and European retail market (17:23), and the problems with homogeneity in the DTC space (25:12). Jenny explains how she curates the products she tests (29:39). As Thingtesting grows, Jenny considers her long-term plans for making product discovery easier and crowdsourcing feedback (33:06). Finally, Jenny questions how she’ll stay scrappy while fostering her growing community (35:02), and ultimately, her larger role as a thingtester (42:46). Full transcript below. 

Subscribe to the Thingtesting newsletter, discover new brands on the site, tweet Jenny, and of course, follow her on Instagram.

Also mentioned on the show:

Images via Jenny Gyllander.


Stephan Ango: You're listening to a podcast from Lumi about the people and ideas behind your favorite online brands. I'm your host Stephan Ango. Jenny Gyllander, welcome to the show.

Jenny Gyllander: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Stephan: So you are the creator of Thingtesting. People might know it if they've been to your Instagram, which is just Thingtesting and I'll try to describe it, but I would love to hear a little bit from your perspective. It's a Instagram based review compendium of mostly brands in the direct to consumer space. A lot of folks that have been on the podcast have also been featured on your Instagram. And you take pictures and write a review of these products from your perspective. And it 's beautifully curated and you've really put together a pretty vibrant community on Instagram, which is not an easy thing to do. Is that fair or what else would you add to the description of thing testing these days?

Jenny: That's a perfect description Stephan, well done. I think the only small thing to add is probably that the reviews are written from two perspectives. So there's that kind of from me version of how I see the products and how the user experience of those products were. And then there's a VC section where I more so give a perspective of the company and the industry landscape and the market. But that was a perfect, perfect way to describe it.

Stephan: And so you are based in London, you're originally a Finnish/Swedish. Give us a little bit of a background on how you arrived at thing testing and why this VC side is important to what you're doing.

Jenny: Sure. So yeah, I'm from Helsinki, Finland and my dad is Swedish, so I speak both Swedish and Finnish at home. I always thought I was going to work in fashion during my uni years. And so I did internships at H&M and work as a sales clerk next to my study years. Actually even dropped out from uni to do a visual merchandising degree, which is a degree where you're learning how to kind of make shopping windows. And it was fascinating drop out because one of the teachers, I remember very vividly him saying that, okay, here's these 15 girls and retail's dying. So we got to teach them Photoshop and InDesign. And that came in very handy later now that I'm doing Thingtesting. But anyways, that was a small sidetrack. I did that degree. Ended up then realizing that fashion really wasn't for me, especially not the fast fashion world. And that the visual side and the branding side was more interesting. So I worked at a design agency as a producer. I was very familiar with the packaging world through that. So we share that passion, Stephan. I worked there and worked with brands, everything from rebranding, then startups, etcetera. And this was by the way, also next to studying. We have a different system back in Nordic where people get a lot of hard time done during their studies. But I saw these startup event emerge on campus that was just a couple of thousand people gathering, mainly from the kind of gaming ecosystem, which is big in the Nordics having King and Candy Crush and Angry Birds and stuff like that on campus. And I saw these startup events merging, people start to fly in from abroad to go to the student run event. And I also realized that they didn't have any Instagram, no Twitter accounts, nothing up and running. So I sent them a cold call and said, look guys, I can be your official Instagrammer. And that volunteer gig then became three and a half year where I worked at Slush and ran our brand and marketing and we grew that conference to a 20k conference that it is today. So that was absolutely amazing.

Stephan: I don't know if people know what Slush is in the US. But it seems to be, I haven't been myself, but it seems to be one of the biggest tech events happening in Europe.

Jenny: It's definitely one of-- There's Web Summit, which is by Headcount. Larger but Slush I think is definitely one of those leading ones and it's known very much for how we put it together. So partly how it looks and feels is a little bit like lasers and this whole atmosphere around it. But also it's student run or volunteer run. So we were five people in the beginning of the year setting it up, what we were 2,500 volunteers in the end of the year. So doing that a couple of times it was really an amazing learning exercise for me. I did that and I kind of, I'm trying to come to the full story of how Testingthings have started. It's a long one. I'm sorry. I actually, the last weeks at Slush when I realized I really need to go back and finish my study soon, I had a call with a VC who said, hey, Jenny, we need some help with marketing. And I was really confused because to me, VC's were, especially in this time and it was 2015 so now I think VC's do a lot more marketing. But I hadn't seen very many VC's do anything interesting in that space. So it was quite surprised then and also didn't really understand because from my point of view back then, VC's wouldn't have to do any marketing kind of. Startups would line up in front of them and pitch and etcetera. So I decided that this topic after a while was quite interesting and wrote my master's thesis and 130, very dry pages which people can find online on Venture Capital Firm Branding. And one of those interviews was with Backed VC where I ended up working. So that's where the kind of VC lens to the post. I finally came to the full circle of how you started this question. But yeah, that's kind of where the VC angle up the reviews also come in.

Stephan: So when you look at the products that you're reviewing, what is the VC angle on those products? Because you mentioned early on you have your sort of user mindset, what is the VC mindset look like?

Jenny: Yeah, I think that the short answer to that is probably how that product works on scale, right? So is there enough people who would agree with my micro perspective and lots of the trends in that space. Competitors, but also things like frequency of using that product. Does it make sense from that perspective? At my job at Backed I usually look at VC from a lens where there's three steps to do the whole process. And one is sourcing the companies that we fund and one is selecting which ones to fund. And the third one is to support those companies after funding. So I was the first employee at Backed then I had this non-title title of community or head of special projects or whatever. But I definitely work more on the sourcing side and the supporting side. So Thingtesting is very much for me being a platform to learn and specifically the direct to consumer space. Which I thought was really fascinating with my branding background to look closer at. So, I definitely see things the same by the way as a big learning platform to me. Yeah.

Stephan: I think a lot of VC's over the past few years have started to delve more into content. And some of the big ones that are well known like Andreessen Horowitz or First Round have a lot of blog posts going on or have delved into podcasts. But I haven't seen any who are on Instagram. And I think what I really appreciate about your point of view here is that it starts with the user experience. So you know, I think a lot of investment conversation happens at a more abstract level, which is what would be the total size of the market or some of them like you said, competitors or that kind of stuff. But the way that you're approaching it through Thinktesting is it starts with the product. Like is this a good experience? What's interesting about this? How it's made. That kind of stuff. And I think that that is much more what ultimately will make the company successful. Hopefully. It's what people are using and if they like it.

Jenny: I hundred percent agree. It also makes the audience on Thingtesting quite interesting because not everyone is that interested in the kind of the bigger lens. Some people I know follow it actually just for discovery of new brands and I think that audience is very much growing right now on Thingtesting itself. So there's a bunch of people, I actually received comments or dm's on a daily basis now. People asking me what VC stands for. So that means that this discovery of the new brands is definitely that's a large audience, which makes me really excited.

Stephan: Well, it's an actual problem and it's something that we've talked about on the podcast a few times recently. On the episode with Paul Munford of LeanLuxe where we have so many brands who are building their own website, doing a direct consumer approach and it becomes difficult to have discovery around those products because they're actively trying to not sell through Amazon or other platforms. So as something like Thingtesting has a real purpose in terms of just helping people find things.

Jenny: Yeah, I mean I'm glad you say that. It's definitely an interesting mix of people. I'm very grateful for the people who've found Thingtesting. Hunter Walk being one of the very, very early ones. I mean it was basically just in the beginning, it was just me and a couple of hundreds of people from many, many months commenting and discussing the products that were up there. And then Hunter Walk's article brought in a lot of VC's and the kind of tech crowd. But after that there's been articles in all different kinds of medias and you always see a different, I guess different feedback or comments coming in depending on if it's kind of a tech crowd or the DNVB crowd coming into the account, et cetera. So that I find incredibly exciting that it can help so many people. And I just had a dinner a couple of days ago with a lot of the founders that I'd been on Thingtesting here on the European side of the pond. And two of the founders actually told me that they've hired people through Thingtesting now. So that's incredibly exciting to that. Some people are using it not only for the discovery side, but also I guess it buys into this whole trend of millennials not only buying products that have a specific value, but also want to work for those types of companies. So two founders told me that they've had people at interview saying that they applied because they founded on things as things, that's unbelievable to me.

Stephan: Well, Hunter Walk and Satya Patel, his partner, were basically the first investors in Lumi. So they can find things. I don't know how they find things, but they've got sources coming to them from all different ways. But so what was it that inspired you to even start this thing? In the very beginning when you were just posting your first few reviews before it kind of blew up? Were you just doing it for yourself or what was your hope going into it?

Jenny: I definitely never expected what it is today. I mean, after that master thesis and my interview with Backed for the thesis, I started working for Backed here in London. And I had the list of startups that I couldn't wait to try. Like, it's unbelievable probably for a lot of people, but I hadn't tried Amazon Prime even a year and a half ago. So, I had this list of stuff that I'd been tweeting about and hearing all these founders talk about at Slush and then finally moving to a big city that had these services was dream for someone like me. So had these lists started trying out these products and I think it was in November a year ago that I went to the Glossier popup shop in London and I was just pretty mind blowing. I mean like there was a red carpet and there was these iPads and boiler suits, it didn't look like a store. It was in an apartment on the second floor and people were lining up to get in and I was so confused about this whole thing and experience after experience. I was pretty impressed by a lot of the stuff I saw and tested to an extent where when I spoke with friends back home who were asking how the moved to London, had gone, et Cetera, I didn't even mention how stuff was with me. I was just talking about all of these brands. So I needed a channel that was like the first thing. And the second thing, as I said, it was for me very much a learning perspective. So yeah, also a year and a half ago, I didn't know the word direct to consumer or DNVB, it's all new to me. So it became this way for me to just channel out my thoughts, have this lens from a user point of view and a VC point of view and learn on the way. That was as simple as it sounds. It was buying those two foam boards that I shoot the product on in my living room. Thanks to those Photoshop skills from the visual merchandising degree way back. And yeah, that was it. It was very, very simple. I am, however, I guess like a couple of months ago I realized the account grew to 20k followers and I started to have a lot of emails in my Thingtesting inbox about all these incredible things that potentially that account could become and added features like websites and newsletters, et cetera. And it became something that I couldn't just do in the evenings and weekends. So I'm actually on since a couple of weeks back on a little sabbatical to just be able to focus on Thingtesting for a short time full time. And just to see what it potentially then could become or at least to test things out. So, that's what it is today, also.

Stephan: I have some really basic questions about how you do this, but are you able to get all of these products deliver to London or do you have to do some crazy things to like actually get some of these products or did they all ship all the way to Europe?

Jenny: No, they don't. I mean, especially the US ones, which I'm so intrigued by this. So one of the European and a couple of Australian brands that I've tried now, they shipped globally from day one whereas the US products stay in US for a long, long time. Anyways, so the ones that ship to US only. I have to ask, I dm them and try all different channels to get to them and then eventually they answer and send me a product that I can test. But most of the products that ship to the US I have also paid for. So yeah, they do ship.

Stephan: So what proportion of them do you find shipped to Europe?

Jenny: From the US ones. It's actually fewer than you'd think, right. That's another thing that people are not only asking you what VC stands for. That's probably the second most asked question is: When are they shipping to Europe or this country or this country? Someone should think about the distribution on a global scale for a lot of these direct to consumer companies as well.

Stephan: Well, when I was running my previous company, we started off like day one shipping to every country and you can do that with the US Postal Service. But the problem is that things really frequently get stuck at customs. And every country is different. And the problem is if you really want to offer cheap shipping to customers, you can use the USPS and they have like a first class international mail that's pretty cheap. It's like, $10 to $15 or something like that to send to almost any country, but you have no tracking and no idea if it gets stuck in customs and it can take like four weeks or sometimes months to get to you. If you want the actual tracking internationally, it's going to cost like $30 or more just for shipping. And that is a huge barrier for most people. I think that's the main problem. And then the second one is, that's something we can talk about with relation to Europe, is that they don't necessarily need to go to other countries immediately because there's so many English speaking people within the US market that they can start off selling to. So I think that's what tends to happen. But I agree with you it's an interesting problem that I think could be solved and we're seeing some brands expand to Europe in a more intentional way. You mentioned Glossier. But I'm just curious from your perspective how that experience feels or if the people in Europe are aware of these brands at all or if the European market is completely different?

Jenny: It's a great question. I mean, overall I think direct to consumer is quite a few years ahead in US to an extent where people talk a lot about that there's a lot more funding and a lot more talent and you have success stories in the US, which is all very, very true. The other thing is also that people understand, I think on a more general level, I think just terminology, like cutting out the middle man is a thing that you see all these stories, especially in the metropolitan cities in the US and it's become, I think words that the general public kind of understand this model of it, right? Whereas in Europe, when you don't have as many success case, it's just a very different kind of skin. But that's just one level of obviously the funding and that side is definitely on a different level in the US. And also on Europe's defense I think, however, we talked about this a little bit before also before the podcast started recording, but Europe has an amazing talent pool that all these heritage brands like Chanel and etcetera, made in Italy, made in France, you know the big companies. That if somebody would kind of put this talent pool together with all that capital and kind of success stories and cases from the US I think there's an incredible potential in Europe as well too create massive direct to consumer brands too. And we see them coming, right? There's companies like in France for example, Sezane and now recently launched all their kind of Hims version, so Manual & Manny and etcetera and organic basics. And clothing I think is a big one in Europe at the moment. But yeah, I'm very, very excited to see how that kind of unfolds.

Stephan: Well, I think what you're saying about the manufacturing industry in Europe and the talent around fashion and certain products is totally valid. And we've had many companies on the podcast who have mentioned that their products are directly sourced from Italy. I think, Greats, Ryan Babenzien from Greats mentioned that all their shoes are made in Italy. We had a razor company who makes their blades in Germany. We have companies who are making all kinds of products in Europe and those countries have a wealth of expertise that goes back sometimes thousands of years in certain crafts. And so the American entrepreneurs are going there to source products and source that expertise. It's curious that we're not seeing as much of that in Europe. And I don't know if that's a cultural thing. Like people maybe have more respect for those heritage brands. Like you described them. They like the fact that it's something that's been around for a hundred years and are maybe less likely to trust a newer brand. I don't know if that one factor or if it's a language barrier factor that here in the US you can pretty quickly grow a brand and only have localize in English. But if you're in Europe, if you want to really grow, you have to have a version of your website and four or five or six different languages.

Jenny: Yeah, no, definitely. There's actually a small city I learned in southern Spain, I think it's called Ubrique that does do the manufacturing point, but does basically all the leather goods for our direct to consumer companies. So Everlane et cetera. They all have the same little village in Southern Spain that is behind most of the leather goods in the whole industry.

Stephan: Parachute I think it was made in Portugal, a lot of their sheets and stuff. So yeah, there's a ton of stuff like that.

Jenny: Yeah, definitely. No, but you know, overall, I'm not saying that everyone should start in all countries at the same time. This definitely limits should be definitely something that people, I spend a lot more time on thinking what their strategy is, but I think overall thinking about these brands, as not just direct to consumer and keeping it to a specific channels. And it seems like in the US there's very much a playbook to how to kind of build a direct to consumer brand and what the right ways for that is. Whereas in Europe or specifically a company I chatted with last week from Australia, we had this chat about like, look, when your market isn't big enough for to do the kind of the US version of the playbook, you start to operate with a bunch of different channels and you try all different things with partnerships and wholesale and retail, etcetera. I think a lot earlier because you have to. So that's interesting. Especially if you think about, I think every single director consumer company has something, it's a word that we use direct consumer right now because it's a new thing. But I think that in a couple of years time we will all just be calling them brands. They've just started in their growing in a different way then potentially brands previously were so all different channels and and wholesale and retail will be relevant to all of these brands at some point. That's just my take on it might be controversial.

Stephan: Well no I don't think it's controversial and it's something to explore. I mean I do think they are all brands but at a company like Colgate for example, doesn't sell direct at all. You can't get your toothpaste from colgate.com you can only get it through a stores or through Amazon or through in the US Walmart or Target or those types of places. And I think that is a pretty significant difference because I think it's going to be hard for a company like Colgate to actually develop that direct to consumer model at all. The only way they might be able to do it is either by acquiring existing brands or developing brand new separate entities to do that just because their relationships with these big retailers are so strictly controlled and so important to them and move so much volume of their product. So that maybe is where the differences is.

Jenny: Also, you know, we have this discussion a lot with brands that are suddenly doing a lot of retail or pop ups are going offline. And you know, for me it's just a signal of eventually most brands will also tried to become what the traditional brands were. Just the fact that they have that initial relationship with the customers is obviously like an incredible superpower to have then later on as well. I went to this talk way back at south by SXSW. I think where Eric Reese said startups very often kind of shy away from corporations and that there's this divide of trying not to be a corporation, but ultimately where every single startup is trying to become a corporation. Maybe there's just something from that world to now also take the direct to consumer space where there isn't really that divide between the traditional brands and the new modern brands. This is potentially not us as deep as we imagined.

Stephan: Well, yeah, every big company wants to feel like a small company and every small company wants to feel like a big company. But actually when you were talking about the playbook that kinda has developed, at least in the US, I think one of the criticisms that has come up over the past couple of years is just that everything is looking kind of similar. That there's a lot of brands that they're just doing that same thing in a new vertical. From your experience kind of doing these reviews and being a user of these products, do you find that to be true?

Jenny: Yeah, I think, to be fair, I think a lot of them use the same colors and fonts and things like that. But you also see it outside of the direct to consumer space. You see that with, you know, new insurance companies or startups overall kind of launching right now. So I think it's actually back in the days, apparently Comic Sans was very popular, so that signal to something about that. And you know, for Instagram specifically, I think with Thingtesting pastel colors and that kind of contrast, it works in that format. It's something that signal something I think a lot bigger than just a direct to consumer space. But I agree with you. It's probably part of the playbook to. I know Web Smith and Paul Mumford talk about this, blending trend or haven't mentioned in their newsletters. And you know, I've recently discovered that these brands even use the same law firms. You know, so it feels like you asked your friend who had launched a similar company, who did you use and the branding agencies and the law firms, etcetera. It's kind of part of that whole playbook as well. So yeah, definitely I think there's a lot of interesting things to be explored in broadening that sense and also then to just look different, right?

Stephan: Do you find that to be a problem from your perspective, either as a VC or as a user?

Jenny: No, the bigger problem is I think when it's just been a branding process or a visual identity that's been set up before identifying your brand's values or more a deeper level of what you actually stand for and what you're trying to build. So you know, if it sounds and looks very great, but then what's the actual kind of change you're making or trying to communicate through your company. That I think is maybe a little bit more, yeah, I don't like that.

Stephan: The values and kind of mission behind the company is something that you do tend to emphasize quite a bit in your reviews. Is that something that's important to you or how do you think about that? Or is it your response to what consumers are asking to or something like that?

Jenny: I think it's definitely something that direct to consumer companies should be thinking about a lot because otherwise if it's just the convenience product or if you're not trying to kind of build this community around your brand, then Amazon is a lot bigger threat for you, then if you have a specific vision and values and this bigger thing you're trying to build through your company. And yeah, we know we see the world going in this either convenient through Amazon or strong brands and communities that I kind of differentiate themselves from that. So I think that's super, super important to think about as a direct to consumer brand. Be it the classic examples of Gossier or Away or Allbirds but I do think these guys have, until now successful cases in this category have managed to do that quite well. So I'd strongly recommend the younger brands to also think about that. I emphasize a lot of sustainability in my products just because it's something and especially in the kind of me part of the review because it's something that is important to me. I'm not saying that every single person should be thinking or I actually am, but yeah, I don't think everyone is. But it's something that I'm very passionate about. So that shines through. Like most things on Thingtesting is still just my voice, right? It's nothing bigger than that. So that I guess shines through and also through female founders. And just yesterday was International Women's Day. It's something that I like to highlight when I can.

Stephan: Yeah. I'm actually curious. How do you balance kind of highlighting the positives versus the negatives of your experience with a product and those types of ideas? Like are they going far enough into sustainability or into the values of the company? Do you find yourself trying to take a more optimistic viewpoint on the products or are there products because you're not posting anything that you don't really like, right? You're only posting the highlights or the best things.

Jenny: Yeah. I think my curation aspect goes-- I try a lot actually counted yesterday, right now I am testing 18 products and I think that potentially five of them will make it to reviews. Because in a weird way I want to keep it positive. And in the same way as no magazine or newspaper writes negative restaurant reviews. Maybe they do. But I like to have a positive feed. I don't think there's really a need to have a lot more negativity in the world. So I try to highlight the ones I really, really like, but also if there's just the small aspect, let's say, I thought they were too much packaging or the size went down when you washed it, whatever. I highlight those things also in the companies that I overall liked. So yeah, that's definitely like the curation aspect. I think specifically like beauty products and things like that. It takes a long time to test them. So that's why there's so many kind of products that I'm actually right now using because you can't really see the results from many of them if you don't use them for long enough. And then I think it's interesting also because I'm not being paid by any of the brands so there's no revenue on that side and no partnerships, et cetera. I think it's important that, also if for example, repurchase the product, I think that's an interesting thing to know from a customer point of view that it was actually so good that I bought a second one from them.

Stephan: Are you familiar with Wirecutter? Do you know Wirecutter?

Jenny: Oh yeah, definitely.

Stephan: So I wonder if we're going to get to a point where there's so many competitors in this space that something like that is necessary. And I know that in the mattress world there have been websites that kind of focused on understanding the differences between all the different ones. But, you know, Wirecutter does a great job when it comes to consumer products of doing testing that is more comparative in nature, whereas yours seem to be more like personal, I guess.

Jenny: You know, By the way, I love Wirecutter. I think they're doing great job. Also, the Strategies that New York magazine is doing a great job of writing product reviews. Wirecutter maybe goes a little bit in depth into no testing process. Whereas as Strategies is more about recommendations. I think, you know, what I'd love to do with Thingtesting next is to get other people to also review so that it wouldn't be just my opinions and that I could maybe crowd source opinions from the the follower base and things like that. So that would expand the whole product portfolio a lot for me too because obviously now there's a bunch of guys products that are being tested and parents that have opinions on a huge category, like everything related to that. So, I'd love to expand the reviews to include also other people's opinions and be less just about me. But right now it's what it is.

Stephan: And where do you think Thingtesting is going to go next? I mean I know that it's something that people are asking you, but just in the realm of reviews, there's so many more products to review. You've started doing a newsletter, you started doing a website. Like what are the next things for you in terms of where you want to see it grow?

Jenny: Thanks for asking such a small question. Just kidding.

Stephan: I don't know. Just the next few months maybe we don't have to talk about the future of the universe.

Jenny: No, it's always feels so much bigger to me than it does to anyone else. Anyways. I think a plan is always a plan for me. Things tend to always then change after a couple of days when you realize something else is coming up. But what I do a lot now it's just listen to what A) Followers are saying and then B) What founders that have been featured on the account are saying. So on the follower side, I think people are definitely looking for ease in the whole discovery process. So be just like, oh, I'm making a website with a little bit more search function, etcetera is probably something that I think I can pull off. And on the founders side, you know as I said I mentioned earlier in the podcast, I think talent is a big, big paying point for, also in the direct to consumer space and just even launching a tiny jobs board or whatever around that is definitely something that I want to do next. But long term, you know, it's hard for me. I said I would love to have other people on board and I'd love to see all these different channels and things around Thingtesting. But one thing at a time. And I think for me, definitely it's the focus on discovery and the ease of that. So not having people scroll through old posts on Instagram, but maybe on a website, et cetera.

Stephan: Well, one of the things that is really amazing about your presence on Instagram is that you have a lot of engagement. It just in my experience from poking around Instagram and helping with the Lumi Instagram, it's really hard to actually get the level of community building that you have on Thingtesting. Just because Instagram will very aggressively filter you out if your post isn't getting very much traction. And so I'm just curious, is there anything that you've done to foster that community or to help people be more engaged?

Jenny: So Thingtesting is quite scrappy, right? I mean it's still just those foam boards. I'm not a Photoshop genius. It's nothing like huge production, nothing. And I think people like scrappy, there's something around that that just makes it maybe relatable and authentic and it's a low barrier to kind of comment and have an own opinion when it is that. So it's something I struggle with. I'm like, should I forever keep on editing these photos or should I get some help maybe from someone who's actually an expert doing it just because I think the scrappiness is something a lot of brands kind of lose when they grow. So that's a big challenge for me. I kind of don't know how to keep that as Thingtesting grows. But, I would say that that's a thing that makes people engage. Overall, I think, I see community as something way back in time we all went to villages and we chatted with each other and that was your community. And now we form those communities online and Instagram being one, and again, as we spoke earlier about these be it sustainability values or other type of values that I emphasize quite a lot, that brings people together. So that becomes your kind of village online. So I think a lot of people are engaging with the content because both in positive and negative ways, by the way. So a lot of people now kind of associate Thingtesting with maybe someone who looks at the sustainability lens on things in this space. And then I get a lot of comments like, hey, I think this product had a way too much plastic or something. So then that becomes the engagement. But again, as we said, I think if you're very clear about your values, which are by the way, don't think I've ever written explicitly anywhere like on my website or anything. But it kind of comes through that becomes the community and the low barrier to kind of engage in the conversation.

Stephan: What you said about scrappiness really resonates with me also because when we started doing videos for Lumi, our budget for a video was like $50, so we made everything out of cardboard. We had no special effects or anything and we just tried to make it fun and entertaining. But over time, we can afford to have a slightly higher budget, but we still try to do it for $100 or $50 of just random cardboard and DIY stuff. And I think that's something that I do agree that companies, even small companies tend to overthink a lot. They feel like they need a high production value thing that's going to look amazing. But the real thing that makes it engaging is the creativity. And in your case, you're writing a whole bunch of texts in the Instagram that comes from you and is very authentic and people respond to that.

Jenny: It's filled with typos, you mean?

Stephan: It's filled with typos, yeah. They can tell it's written by a real human being. And when you go to YouTube for example, like a lot of the biggest YouTubers who get millions and millions of views, it's not Coca-Cola or something. It's like it's just individual people who are doing something in their bedroom. And I think people resonate with that because they know that it's real and it's not necessarily trying to sell them something or trying to, I don't know, convince them of anything. It's an interaction with another person.

Jenny: And people love to be part of that journey early on. I think. So it's something that you hear a lot, like I was a very early follower of that. Like it resonates with people to be early on board, because then they're part of the whole journey and it feels even more like authentic and relatable. So, yeah, definitely. I wonder like how far you can take the scrappiness. At Slush, I remember it was something that we, cause that's also a similar, volunteers running very low budget kind of probably where I got to my whole resourcefulness from. But you didn't really have any budgets or anything. And I think people love the fact that, you know, chairs were a little bit here and there. Because the most important part of it again was that it was volunteer-run and people knew that we are in charging startups very much and all these different things. So if it's directly impacting your main value, which in Slush case at least was the whole community running it, than in maybe Thingtestings case. Maybe it is a VC that usually wasn't on Instagram and then doing it early, like there's a weirdness to it I guess. Then then that works.

Stephan: Yeah. When you think about that aspect of sustainability and sort of the values that you've brought to it, and you've got the community responding to that sort of saying, I think this product is not as sustainable as this other one. We actually get some of that feedback too now on YouTube because we've been doing a series called unboxing things, which is sort of similar, but similar but different because Jesse's her own character and we get those types of that type of feedback too. And how do you deal with that? How do you think about responding to that? Or do you take it into account in any way?

Jenny: So I think, the simple answer to all of those questions is right, that not consuming anything is the most sustainable option of them all. And that is definitely, of course very, very true. And what I kind of see my responsibility as the, it's not a big account, but there's more followers than there were in the beginning is that I'm doing the testing on behalf of others, so I kind of take that the lens to the sustainability arguments and I do see more and more companies DMing me now asking, you know, where did this company get this foam board from, this packaging from and then I can kind of be a little bit of a give the information to the next next companies to do good. So I think people, as we spoke earlier about the playbook, they also look at the sustainability aspect when it comes to this whole playbook as well. Do people by the way, ask you guys more recently about a lot more sustainable packaging or how's that, is that a trend that you're seeing?

Stephan: Definitely, yes. It has changed over the past two or three years where it's only growing and there's innovations happening in the packaging space. We're doing a bunch of things. We're going to have a lot of exciting stuff to announce later this year on that. But yeah, it's absolutely important. But I also agree with you that it starts with the consumer behavior. Like packaging it's the step after you've already made a decision to purchase something in the first place. So with what I'm doing here with Well Made and our general goals as a company, we want to try and shift consumer behavior to be less wasteful in the first place. And I think some of these brands are positioned really well to be able to drive that narrative. We had Porter Road who's an interesting online butcher shop on the podcast recently and they're a butcher shop who says like, you should eat less meat, you should eat better quality meat, but you should eat less meat. And I think that narrative is something that I hope we see brands promoting as well. Buy less better stuff. Because right now we're in a world where the patterns of consumption are just totally out of line with the long-term effects on the planet. So I think it starts with the consumer behavior.

Jenny: And we know right that it's never been as easy as it is today to launch a brand. And I mean launch not grow. So you really don't need in the same way as before, like big budgets to start anything. So we know there will be more. And we also know that it will be harder to be discovered. What you guys are doing is kind of helping people to pick the best materials to go. So my task is maybe not as important but just to help consumers that find this value to navigate to the right brands that are doing the right thing. So that's definitely something that is incredibly important to me.

Stephan: Cool. So if people want to find out more about everything that you're doing with Thingtesting, I think just going to Thingtesting. By the way, I love the name, it's very up our alley. It's just very simple. So instagram.com/thingtesting is kind of the main place, but you've been also doing a newsletter that just started up recently and you've got thingtesting.com with some web based reviews. Is there anything else you want to point people to?

Jenny: I think that's it for now. If there's anyone who is really, really interested in also becoming a thing tester, they can DM me. That's the fastest way to reach me. But otherwise, I mean that's it. And thank you so much for having me on the show. I really, really enjoyed chatting with you.

Stephan: Can I be a thing tester? What do I have to do to become a thing tester?

Jenny: I mean, we can definitely continue that chat. I have a bunch of products that I said guys products that need a proper testers. So let's chat about that Stephan.

Stephan: Okay, cool.

Jenny: I really enjoyed being on the show. I look forward to hearing a bunch of other amazing episodes that you're doing with these founders. I so love to be surrounded by. So, thanks for having me.

Stephan: Thank you. And it feels like it's still the beginning. So if you're one of those people who likes to be there early on, I would highly recommend following Jenny and keeping an eye on all these great products that you're reviewing almost every day. Thank you so much.

Jenny: Thank you.

Stephan: Oh, one last thing before we go, I'm talking to you at home. What's your favorite brand these days? Is there something that you think is really well made or maybe someone that you love for me to talk to? Send us a tweet. We are @lumi on Twitter we're making this show for you. So tell us what you want to hear and we'll make it happen. Thanks. See you next time. [inaudible].


You can find this and all future episodes on iTunes, Google Play, and here on the Lumi blog. This episode was edited by Evan Goodchild.

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