Founder of the Month

Marcos Brisson, Kaizntree

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The Founder: Marcos Brisson (Shanghai '23)

The Startup: Kaizntree is an online platform that empowers small business owners who make their own products by streamlining their sales channels and simplifying their inventory management process.

When did your interest in entrepreneurship begin to grow? Have you had an entrepreneurial spirit for most of your life?

I’ve always known that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. Growing up, I read biographies of successful founders and dreamed of building a company. What attracts me to entrepreneurship is being able to create something that people use and love.

What first sparked the idea for your venture/interest in the industry you’re working in?

We initially started as consultants working with small business owners. We helped with everything from supplier negotiation to branding. Being consultants was great because it gave us a deep understanding of how small businesses operate and the pain points they face at different stages of their development. The single problem that stood out the most was inventory management. We realized there’s a big gap between graduating from spreadsheets and using an existing platform. The core problem is that small business owners don’t have a point of truth in their business since their data is fragmented across every sales channel, spreadsheet and accounting software they use. We built Kaizntree to be one place where solo entrepreneurs can manage everything from raw materials to sales.

What was your original concept for Kaizntree? Has your startup’s mission pivoted significantly since its first iteration?

The original concept for Kaizntree was to help small business owners with whatever they needed. Our first contract was to develop the e-commerce website of an upcycling brand in Shanghai. We’ve stayed true to our mission of empowering small business owners since day, but we iterated on how we achieve it.

How did you meet your co-founder?

Benoît and I first met during our first semester at NYU Shanghai. We quickly bonded over our shared passion for business and entrepreneurship. During the Christmas break, he came to visit me in Sydney, Australia, for what was supposed to be four days but ended up being two months due to Covid. Fortunately, Sydney never had a lock down so we continued going to expos and picking up consulting gigs while taking classes online.

When and how did you start getting involved with entrepreneurship resources at NYU, such as the Entrepreneurial Institute?

I first got involved with the Entrepreneurial Institute during my junior year. I was taking classes at Stern and walked by the Leslie eLab everyday until eventually deciding to check it out. We did the Bootcamp that same year then completed the Summer Sprint and Summer Launchpad right after my graduation.

What are some of the most valuable skills/lessons you learned from participating programs like the Startup Sprint and SLP?

By far the key lesson is that you need to move quickly and break through whatever barrier is currently in front of you. As a founder you constantly face challenges, in some cases they even seem unsurmountable. Ultimately it's a game of who has the strongest will to keep going and reach the holy grail of product market fit.

How have your experiences in the above programs transformed the way you’re approaching running your venture?

Coming off the Summer Launchpad our approach to running Kaizntree is much more methodical, consisting of rapid experimentation and tracking various metrics. The programs essentially gave us a toolbox of strategies that we now use based on the problem at hand. The Summer Launchpad also grafted us onto the New York tech scene which connected to amazing mentors and investors.

Last year, you joined the Leslie eLab as a Founder In Residence. What are some of the most rewarding parts of being a FIR so far?

The most rewarding part of being a Founder in Residence is meeting early stage founders who are passionate and hungry for success. Their high energy is both fascinating and infectious and I enjoy contributing to their growth.

What are some of the biggest challenges you're facing now with Kaizntree? How do they compare to hurdles you faced during your earliest days as a founder?

The hurdles have gotten bigger as we grow. I’ve noticed the further we get, the bigger the challenges become. This is part of the excitement of being an entrepreneur - you face a new problem set almost every day. Our current focus is around product development.

What was the process of transitioning from a part-time to full-time founder like for you?

I’ve been working full-time on Kaizntree since May 2023. We started the Sprint the Monday after my graduation, so the transition was immediate. I basically went from final exams to graduation to the Sprint to Summer Launchpad. One of the biggest challenges you face when going full-time is figuring out how to cover your cost of living. This is especially tough at the beginning when you’re pre-revenue and haven’t raised. The situation pushes you to live lean and be creative. It’s also a source of motivation that pushes you to work smarter and move faster.

What are some of the key milestones you seek for Kaizntree to achieve over the next 5 years?

Our key milestone is to help 1 million solo entrepreneurs scale their business using Kaizntree. We want to reach a point where Kaizntree is the foundation on which small business owners around the world start, scale and manage their operations. We see a lot of opportunity in this space, driven by the continuous emergence of more sales channels and the increase in people starting their own businesses. Inventory management has historically been a laggard in innovation and the industry is primed for new solutions.

What’s the biggest piece of advice that you’d give student founders who are building their ventures during college?

Make the most of your time as a student. There’s no better time to build a venture than during college because you’re surrounded by talented people and you have relatively fewer responsibilities than after you graduate.

Which successful entrepreneur who you aspire to follow in the footsteps of?

Elon Musk. He’s started to become a controversial figure but I respect what he’s built. If not for him America would have no way of sending astronauts to space since 2011 when the shuttle program ended. The success he’s achieved with Zip2, Paypal, Tesla and SpaceX is inspiring.