Evan Walker is an antique collector-turned-e-commerce disruptor
Evan Walker, CEO and founder of the e-commerce customer experience platform Route, is disrupting the industry with his one-stop app for package tracking—and is well on his way to growing it into another Silicon Slopes unicorn.
Launched in January 2019, Route gained 120 employees and over 2,000 connected merchants by the end of its first year. After three years, Route has already raised a total of $48.5 million in funding and attracted investors like Justin Timberlake.
“The business just exploded,” Walker says. “At the end of that first year, we went from $0 in revenue to $14.4 million in annual run-rate, breaking Slack’s unofficial record as the fastest-growing tech company in history by $2.4 million. Slack also held the record for fastest company to hit $50 million, which we also broke. And we are about to break the $100 million annual run rate record, which they also hold.”
Route recently launched Discover, its third phase of the company, where consumers are introduced to new brands across the world and are recommended products that match their spending habits.
Chelsea Moon, chief of staff to the CEO, credits Walker with Route’s quick growth. “Route’s growth is a testament to Evan’s drive to build something truly unique and disruptive, as well as his ability to bring in insanely talented leaders who can help us scale. Internally, we have been able to grow and build teams, structures, and processes with the energy and excitement to win and celebrate…The output of that has been us closing bigger partnerships, going up-market, building and pushing out competitive product features, and connecting with communities who love Route and want to tell people about us.”
Walker came up with the idea for Route while negotiating a shipping option for an antique steamer he was buying in Florence about five years ago.
“I collect rare artifacts from Bali, Indonesia, Egypt, all over the world…things that look like rustic Indiana Jones-type pieces. I was buying an antique Italian steamer trunk from a small shop in Florence and I said, ‘I want to buy this and ship it back to the states.’ The merchant said, ‘We can’t ship these overseas because they break and are expensive, and if we lose them we have to pay for them.’ I said, ‘Well let’s track this item and protect the shipment just like you can do on amazon.’ This lightbulb went off and I thought to myself, This guy is going to have no idea how to do that in this small little shop.”
Creating Route wasn’t just a shot in the dark for Walker. He had been involved with e-commerce since the 1990s and sold his first company when he was just 19 years old. He tells a story of enrolling in college and then never showing up because he was too busy starting another business in brand creation.
Working with different brands, Walker noticed Amazon’s effect on the e-commerce landscape. “A lot of people would find our product, then they’d leave our website and go to Amazon to see if that product was there. A lot of times, they wouldn’t come back to our website.
The cost required to keep customers was getting more expensive, the lifetime value of the customers was getting less, and online competition was growing. We thought, here is Amazon in this enclosed ecosystem. You can shop and find everything on Amazon. They have customer service tools and resolve everything with one click. You look at this marketplace’s amenities and realize that it only existed inside of Amazon.”
Walker’s lightbulb moment in Italy made him realize that there was indeed a space in the market for independent merchants to protect their items, therefore empowering them to widen their markets outside of their own communities. It seemed like a simple idea, but within its simplicity, Route would be able to connect consumers to brands across the world and ensure that they would have a positive experience through tracking and insurance tools.
The next step was honing in on Route’s innovation. “Experiential shopping—I believe—is the future of e-commerce,” Walker says. “What that means to us is that you are going to start feeling a blended reality between offline and online shopping. With Discover, we are not just showing and shoving a bunch of products at you. We are actually educating [consumers] about who these brands are and what their intentions are.”
So what’s next for Evan Walker?
He plans to “get his face out there” and tell people what he is up to. “I feel like we have been hiding underground building this for the last couple of years,” he says. And on a more personal note, he plans on doing a lot more collecting and traveling. “Race fast cars and build big businesses is kind of my mantra,” he says.