How Claudia Laurie of Prive took lessons from Uber into E-commerce
Claudia Laurie, co-founder and CEO of Prive.
Claudia Laurie is the co-founder of Prive, where she and her co-founder, Alex Craciun, are helping D2C brands build sustainable recurring revenue through e-commerce subscription tools.
Prive is the second company Claudia has launched — she started a D2C fashion brand as an undergrad at Harvard. After graduating, she worked at Uber as a product manager. With Defy partner Madison McIlwain, Claudia is also the host of The Room, an interview-style podcast focused on leaders in the consumer and tech product industry.
In our conversation, Claudia discusses what e-commerce and retail can learn from companies like Uber, founding a company during a pandemic, and how she’s helping D2C brands rethink subscriptions.
What’s the founding story behind Prive?
I’ve always been interested in e-commerce and retail. I thought I was going to go into the fashion business, and I had internships at Calvin Klein and PVH in e-commerce merchandising. I was struck by how antiquated a lot of the systems and processes were around setting pricing and discounting, and figuring out how to build engagement levers. I had assumed that it would be a lot more automated and data-focused.
When I graduated, I joined Uber as a product manager and worked on marketplace pricing and incentives. Uber had a wildly different way of thinking about pricing and subscriptions as an engagement lever, compared to e-commerce and retail. It was at Uber where I met my co-founder, Alex. We were both passionate about the science around engagement — from pricing to subscriptions. Having also founded my own D2C brand when I was in college, I experienced the gaps in the technology available to growing brands, and there was a lightbulb moment.
The past two years have been pivotal for e-commerce. Everyone went online, so many new brands popped up, and a lot of them have been struggling to compete at scale, especially against Amazon. We realized we wanted to bring a lot of the thinking we’d experienced at Uber to help this new generation of D2C brands.
How did you decide to focus on subscriptions?
We are bullish that the future of buying will trend towards subscriptions and other levers for brands to build relationships with their customers. It was really apparent that there was a hair-on-fire need to easily enable recurring revenue for physical products, especially as subscriptions become more entrenched and adopted by all consumer verticals.
For brands, we think subscriptions should be a lever they can easily incorporate into their business, not a bloated and complex system that they need to hire for and worry about managing. Retention and LTV is increasingly critical as acquisition becomes more expensive due to the changing privacy climate — subscriptions should be a simple way to invest in retention. On the shopper side, we want to ensure that the customer experience is incredibly easy and that subscriptions are being built in ways that fit in with their lifestyles. Simplicity and flexibility are key for sustainable subscriptions.
You founded the company last year, at the height of the pandemic. What was that like?
Alex and I were equally passionate as we were curious about the ecosystem. The more we learned, the more we realized it was a space we couldn’t ignore. Despite the macro climate, it was the right time for us to raise. That said, getting something off the ground in a remote-first environment has its unique challenges. We were lucky to find the right partners for fundraising, who were able to see the passion and the mission. We are thrilled to be a part of the Xfund family; Patrick and Brandon have been awesome through this process.
How did you become connected with Xfund?
At Harvard, I had known of Xfund and heard all the awesome things they were doing. I’d never met Patrick or Brandon while I was at college, but they were in the back of my mind as we started fundraising. We got connected during the process and the rest is history! Xfund’s expertise in our stage of business and also how incredible the team is, made it a perfect fit!
In late August, you announcedWhat challenge are you most proud of overcoming? you’d raised $1.7 million in pre-seed funding in a round co-led by Xfund and Bling Capital. What will that funding allow you to do?
It’s really critical for us to be able to grow the team and scale to appropriately go after such a big opportunity. We’re really excited to have brought on Xfund, Bling, and our other partners. Our team is growing, and we have active roles we’re hiring for across engineering, sales, and partnerships.
You mentioned the difficulties women face in fundraising. How does your identity as a woman affect your work as a founder? Is it important?
Fundraising in a pandemic is not easy, especially for first-time founders. It’s also not a secret that a lot of women have a harder time fundraising. It required a lot of stamina, endurance, and thinking from first principles.
I’m very proud of the team we are building and growing. Ultimately, the people we work with and are building with is core to everything.
What advice do you have for first-time founders, especially those in similar circumstances to yours?
It’s something you can’t pretend doesn’t exist. As a founder it’s something you need to embrace. You need to stay true to yourself — a lot of people overcorrect in one direction or another.
I think it is incredibly important to educate and build communities around women who are thinking about going into this industry. There is so much knowledge to be shared around what’s possible, the common pitfalls, and what the founding experience really looks like. There’s a lot of misinformation and assumptions around building a startup. Passing learned lessons down to that next generation of female entrepreneurs is something I’m passionate about and try to act on with The Room Podcast.
What’s next for Prive?
When I graduated, I knew I wanted to become a founder, but I didn’t want to do it just for the sake of being a founder. I wanted to learn from other founders and people who were saturated in the industry I was interested in. At Uber, I was able to learn from some truly incredible people, understand the ecosystem, and pick up new insights — for example, what it means to run an efficient marketplace. Because of that experience, I felt much more equipped to start my own thing.
So, I would say to young founders, if you’re passionate about an idea and it keeps you up at night, go for it. But if you don’t have that idea you’re passionate about or don’t have a team you’re incredibly excited about, optimize for learning. Put yourself in an ecosystem that will help you find those people.
We’re really excited for the team to be growing. We’re also excited to go after more and more customers and innovate on our distribution efforts. It’s been incredible to get involved in the communities that make up the space we are building for.