Marco Marandiz is a musician turned software engineer turned product designer. He has worked for Capital One, HomeAway, and a failed startup. However, it was consulting for ecommerce businesses with unsold stock that sparked his idea for Drop Party.
“I built seven ecommerce shops from leading to bottom.,” he told me. “I made the merch and the website. The customer, however, was paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to purchase unproven inventory. I thought,’I could do something better'”
That thought is currently Drop Party, a turnkey product designer, web programmer, and merchant. It removes the danger of companies which have product ideas but no way to check them for viability. Marandiz launched Drop Party annually in Austin, Texas. It’s grown to a five-person team. “We are making money,” he said.
I talked with him recently about his trip from rapper to entrepreneur. Our whole audio dialog is embedded below. The transcript that follows is edited for length and clarity.
Eric Bandholz: Let’s discuss the road to Drop Party. You wanted to become a musician.
Marco Marandiz: Yes. I was recording my rap books when I was 15. At 17, I moved by myself from Canada to Los Angeles to make music. I stayed with a friend for a month on his sofa. To pay rent, I started working at Foot Locker and then a grocery store when trying to perform music. I did that for two or three years.
I then realized the talent and grit that a music career requires. So, I went back to college at age 21 and got my diploma in computer science. I began working as a software engineer.
Bandholz: That is a significant change going from audio to computer science.
Marandiz: Right. My very best friend and my co-founder in Drop Party was writing code since he was 11. We met in high school. While I was doing music, he said,”You should try science.” Funny enough, my mother has a master’s degree in computer science.
So, I started taking some online Python classes. My friend was teaching a semester-long course. I finished it in 3 days. So I thought,”I am good at this.”
In music, you have various synthesizers and mixing boards and all the technical elements that are not necessarily fun, but they create the output you’re looking for.
Similarly, there is a good deal of technical things in computer science which lets you make your ending vision, but it is not fun going through it. I realized I could make an app or a site or something which would be exciting. So that is where I began.
Bandholz: So you have your degree and began working for the guy.
Marandiz: Yes, I did one year in a biomedical company in Los Angeles. I then worked for Capital One in the Firm’s headquarters in San Francisco. I worked under the new vice president of style there. It was an interesting team. I was one of three engineers from 30, which had industrial designers and game designers. I did that for a year. I got married afterward, also.
I was attempting to move into product direction. I had been working with product managers at Capital One which I did not respect. I thought,”There are so many more innovative and interesting ways to construct product here. I want to enter that field.” So I was hoping to transition out of software development into product direction. However, it was hard to do in Silicon Valley when you are 25 with no experience.
So after repeatedly applying for a variety of positions, I wrote a post on Moderate titled,”I am Done Pretending Silicon Valley Tech Is Visionary.” It was a shame piece, but it blew up. A great deal of people read it, including the whole executive team at Google and Expedia.
Then the CEO of HomeAway here in Austin called me and said,”You are going to work for me.” I don’t know how he got my number. He called me a.m. Pacific Time.
So I came out and seen. It was fine, and I had a job. So I worked at HomeAway.
But large companies kill your spirit. I did that for a couple of decades. I met some remarkable designers and engineers — people that I work with today. We had all these creative ideas, and they just got squashed every six months by an executive group, a committee. I had no influence. So I said,”I can not do this.” And I left.
And that is probably when you came across me. I began writing these Twitter threads about direct-to-consumer stuff. I was hoping to get in as a consultant to direct-to-consumer companies. I had an engineering and product management history. I watched several first-time founders with great bodily products who did a poor job communicating their value in ads and landing pages — via the product detail pages to market.
I thought, “Well, I can help with that.” I did some consulting gigs with established and new businesses. The largest was Chipotle. It was fun.
During this time, I met with the creator of Elliot, the ecommerce platform, and joined as the head of marketing.
Bandholz: Elliot was going to take down Shopify.
Marandiz: This was the plan. I wasn’t an engineer at this organization. I did not understand what was happening from the backend — how it was organised, how it functioned. My obligation was to market it.
Right before we were supposed to start, there was some chaos in the tech I was not privy to.
Bandholz: The company imploded. Now you are on to Drop Party.
Marandiz: Post Elliot, I lost 15 pounds in the stress around the entire meltdown. I had to make some cash. I had no earnings. So I reached out to Westbrook Entertainment in L.A., which is Will Smith’s business. It is a movie studio and a TikTok and Instagram production company that does cool content. Additionally, it is a talent management service and a merchandising business.
I had met a person there six months earlier. After Elliott fell apart, they stated,”We need help with each these websites, all these products.” And in three months, I believe I built seven ecommerce shops from top to bottom. I made the merch and the website. I did everything — fulfillment, customer service, all that.
I basically built multiple little direct-to-consumer operations. However, the customer has been paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to purchase unproven inventory.
I thought,”I could do something better.” Hence the idea for Drop Party came from that.
Drop Party switches the version. We design the product, sample it, picture it, build a website, do the fulfillment, customer service, production, everything. We do all of the sampling and set it in front of consumers. We maker it on the backend so that we are not overselling or underselling anything. We make just as much as we want. And then I will take all the earnings, all the earnings, and I cover you afterward with what is left after the cost of goods.
Bandholz: so that your clients don’t have any risk.
Marandiz: That is right. I get to take bets on goods from brands, companies, and talent. We’re now a group of five, all heavily involved. It’s bootstrapped. It is making money, so I don’t have any complaints.
Bandholz: I am a fan of bootstraps. If you have a wonderful service or product, you are going to be in business. And if you are profitable at a small size and can maintain that adulthood, you are never going out of business. You do not have investors . They will want to shut the business down if it is not growing at their speed. But if you’re happy and you are making money, you’re going to be in business forever.
How do listeners know more about you and Drop Party?