Great to chat with Lizzie Horvitz, Founder at Finch! Finch is a tool that educates people on the ins and outs of sustainability by turning complex scientific facts into simple, actionable insights! We discussed sustainable choices while shopping, how Finch will be able to help you choose better products at Amazon, the sustainability paradox, the greenwashing behind packaging and more!
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The unedited podcast transcript is below
James McWalter: Hello today we are speaking with Lizzie Horvitz founder at Finch. Welcome to Podcast Lizzie. Brilliant I supposed to start with it. You tell us a little bit about Finch.
Lizzie Horvitz: Thanks! Both so much for having me James. Absolutely, so Finch is a platform that decodes products environmental impacts to help consumers make better purchasing decisions. So We rate products based on their environmental footprint and then. Incentivize consumers to switch products based on what scored Higher. So I’ve been in the sustainability space for my entire career passionate really about climate mitigation in the private sector.
James McWalter: And what drove that initial decision to start finch.
Lizzie Horvitz: And something interesting started happening in around 2 16 I started getting a ton of questions from family and friends about their own purchasing decisions. Everything from you know I just had a baby. What diaper should I be buying to ah, what’s this ingredient doing in my deodorant and. I’m 1 of the only people in my larger community who has an actual background in this and not even I knew all the answers and I didn’t know where to direct people I found that the content online was very difficult to sift through because you had these wonky academic papers that were not meant for normal people to read and then you have this rise of bloggers who are. You know, hugely. Well-intentioned but saying things like all natural and eco-friendly and that doesn’t really mean anything these days and so I started a newsletter basically aiming to distill this type of information and that newsletter kind of took a life of its own I meanwhile left unilever. Ah, massive massive company to join a startup and completely fell in love with entrepreneurship taking a company from inception to scale and decided that this newsletter could actually be be my own startup and that’s when I decided to to do it full time.
James McWalter: That’s so fascinating like I guess you know what was the ah the lead up to that decision right? like you’re looking at your maybe subscriber numbers kind of jump up and like oh ah, like yeah I’d love to like what what were the few weeks before you made that jump look like.
Lizzie Horvitz: So interestingly you know the newsletter was popular among the readers but it was a total side project I was probably posting once a month and it was honestly just people that I knew maybe a quarter of of the subscribers were were forwarded from a friend or something. But. It wasn’t really the numbers. It was just what what are all these people doing who don’t have me on their speed dial. Um, and so personally in my mind I was thinking about how can we democratize this type of information and bring it to people who didn’t have a degree in this or who don’t want to spend thirty minutes a day researching. Um. Meanwhile what was going on in the world was covid was just starting this was March of 2020 ah, and you know obviously at the time we all thought that that might be a couple weeks setback and now look where we are but um. The company I was working for was based in Asia I knew at that time I was pretty locked down in the United states was not planning on moving to Asia anytime soon and was just really looking to to switch gears and take the skills that I had learned in this very intense startup space into my own and so I decided. To to shift and and really do this full time and covid was honestly the best time to start a company if we could turn back time and I could tell everybody to start their their company during that time I would because you know everybody was stuck at home looking for interesting things to talk about or do and so I was able to capture all of these. Fairly important people where I just cold called emailed everybody saying do you have fifteen minutes to let me run run this idea by you and everybody said yes, please I’m dying to have some sort of stimulation and so I was able to really um, bake that idea. Fairly well and in the first couple of months and I think under normal circumstances that would have taken several months.
James McWalter: Yeah I kind of agree more I guess yeah I was actually also planning to like leave previous company I was ash and I was like March twenty twenty 1 that was like the kind of rough date. You know it like a year before I was planning to leave and then covid hit and it was like oh this is actually a remarkable time to leave early in za coming exploring startups. I started this podcast like a month into covid because it was like oh you know there is this kind of great leveling of the types of people you can talk to as well. You have to go you used to have to go into the Bay area or certain kind of parts of the world to talk to people like investors and so on and then all of a sudden Everyone’s just on the other end of ah of a zoom and it just ah massively enables. Um, yeah.
Lizzie Horvitz: Exactly.
James McWalter: Certain types of connection. Maybe not the world’s deepest connection but lots of kind of light connection and so okay, so you kind of you know, decided to kind of start this and so as you were trying to think through like what a potential product could look like to kind of respond to this problem. What was that process like yeah.
Lizzie Horvitz: Absolutely I couldn’t agree more.
Lizzie Horvitz: So my first. My first idea was that we should be able to better explain people’s impacts because they’re so unclear about it people are choosing. You know to be a vegan but then flying across the country twice a week um and if we could only tell them and I don’t have the exact numbers so I won’t even. Attempt but if we could elucidate like you actually wouldn’t have to be a vegan if you just cut under flying or vice versa. Um I thought that would be really helpful and so I was thinking initially of an app where you could really track that footprint. Um, and the more I thought of that. 2 things happened first I started looking at the competitive landscape and there are incredible companies that already do that like doro I’m a big fan of um and also to be quite honest I didn’t have faith that people would go to a separate app and track that information I was looking for something where. Convenience was baked in and where people could automatically make changes ah by doing what they’re what they were already doing and so I thought a browser extension made a lot of sense because people already shop online. You’re not asking them to go to a different marketplace go to a different website. They’re already going on Amazon. So. If you can just get them to download a browser extension that 1 time then every single time they shop online finch will will show up and so that all that iteration started happening pretty quickly. Um my brother in law was he was just my sister’s boyfriend at the time was living with us. Um. And he and I just spent a lot of time really my whole family sort of spending a lot of dinner table conversations around like how would this look? Um, how do we really make this happen and 1 idea was that you know it could be really cool if we could monetarily incentivize these people to make better decisions and so.
James McWalter: Now.
Lizzie Horvitz: When you buy a product that might be more expensive but better for the environment. You could get a kickback in some way and so that’s not part of the that’s not part of the extension right now. It probably won’t be for this next version but um shortly thereafter we would love to you know bake that in as well.
James McWalter: Yeah, it’ so interesting around the user research right? And so um, many aspects of climate where people are moving into the space and like trying to figure out how do you decarbonize cement and a lot of people who might have the academic background for doing that like maybe have never already talked to people who make somement right? and so you’re trying to find those users but I guess in the consumer space. Like actually having dinner table conversations gets you to the core of like your potential user your potential Demographic. You know the people who have that problem. So yeah, like like like I think this is kind of fascinating thing where you’re like I guess writing notes as you’re in having those conversations around the dinner table.
Lizzie Horvitz: Exactly and I think what’s so helpful is this is something that every single person understands right? because everybody shops and so and that’s a generalization but I think I just looked at the numbers I think 1 hundred and 55 million people in the United states shop online at least once a month so that’s a pretty good market to start with and everybody has their own opinion about sustainability right? It’s everything from I don’t even believe climate change is real all the way to I make significant changes every single day to make sure that my my carbon footprint is is decreased. And so what finch was really trying to do in the beginning was tackle all those people in the middle. So people who believed in climate change wanted to do something about it but did not have more than seven minutes to research any of it online and that actually ends up being a massive part of the population close to a Hundred million people in the United states.
James McWalter: Yeah, that’s that’s such an interesting kind of framework I mean 1 of the similar framework that I I think about is what I call like the next million right? So I feel like there’s about a million people who are like very deep and internalized climate and like those are all the way from activism to government to startup people and everyone in between and then you’re like that next million who you know are.
Lizzie Horvitz: Prison.
James McWalter: You know, ah mid-level managers at companies making decisions or individual. You know, parents who are making decisions about going on vacations. Um, who get the the scale the problem right? like they had to move because of forest fires or because of flooding whatever it may be um, but don’t really in their day to day like roles like have ah or. Perceive that they have much of an impact on climate and like that next million people like are going to be I think such an important piece because they make every subsequent million group a lot more you know open to change right? because now they’re seeing more people like themselves kind of making changes in their lives.
Lizzie Horvitz: Absolutely and you know the the we have a lot of ah tailwinds in ah in a good way where you know Gen Z is rising and becoming. So knowledgeable about sustainability in the environment is I think deloyte just did a study that said and the environment was their number 1 priority among any other pressing issues facing the planet or facing the world and so as they’re you know, graduating from college becoming more um in the purchasing space I Think. We’re we’re getting to those those next millions pretty quickly which is great.
James McWalter: And absolutely and I guess so you know if I was to start with the kind of chrome extension. You know I install it like what what would that experience potentially be like for me.
Lizzie Horvitz: So we’re launching a new a new version in about a month in January at some point and what that will look. You know so much user research has been done since you know day 1 in Covid. But also we we just did another round about a month ago and or 2 months ago. Um, and what’s been really interesting is that the the level of detail that people want to see really varies. Some people say how do I trust you guys if I don’t see every single source every single calculation etc and most are saying I don’t need to see any of this I just want to know what to do just give me a quick answer and so that. Caused a lot of stress in designing the product because we didn’t want to overwhelm those people who just wanted to see 1 score but we also wanted to show that we were very legitimate and so likely what you’d see in the chrome extension is just 1 overall score that says here’s how you’re doing on a scale of 1 to 10 so. I would say anything over 7 point. 5 is is pretty good, um, anything under five should probably be avoided. Um, what’s interesting to note about the scoring is we do it by category and we normalize them so you know what would happen if we didn’t do that is that. All diapers would have a 2 and all body washes would have a nine because body washes are are just by default less impactful generally than diapers. Um, and we didn’t want to. We didn’t want the consumer to feel deflated every single time they they went and chopped for diapers and saw like there’s really no good solution here. So. But we do is we take the entire category overall and we say okay, here’s the best thing on the market that’s going to get close to a 10 and then everything else sort of falls under that.
James McWalter: That’s interesting and I guess as we see more innovation from yeah other startups who are let’s say tackling these different kind of consumer product verticals right? So like there’s a new diaper in the market. That’s entirely. Ah, you know, decarbonized right? Like let’s say that comes on the market like yeah, probably 8 years from now. But you know but may may hopefully maybe shorter than that. Um, that resets an essence potentially like what a 10 would be and then the kind of more traditional diapers would then be kind of adjusted downward is that the kind of basic model.
Lizzie Horvitz: Exactly and what’s what we love about our model is that it’s mostly it’s mostly automated and so when that new diaper does come to Market. Um, all the scores will just change dynamically based on what that new. What that new score is um I think what else I love about what you just said is. That finch will also be housing all of this data on where that innovation is happening right? We will be able to go out to the world and say diapers really need a disruption and we need a diaper that can be composted so someone should start this because we will know in all of these categories where those gaps are and and how we can improve. We also track. Um. How much people like the product because we think that’s really important and we would never want to recommend a product that people didn’t want to use for obvious reasons but also because in sustainability. That’s the most important part right? If you if you buy any product regardless of its sustainable impact and you don’t use it. It’s then wasted. Um and that’s not a good thing and so. You know, right now off the top of my head I can think of shampoo bars. As 1 example of this is amazing. It’s plastic. Free. It’s so easy to carry around I don’t like what they do to my hair I have not found 1 that that is as good as a panine per v or what you get in the hair salon and so. That’s the type of innovation also where we can keep track of yeah other shampoo bars that people can buy but we’re not thrilled with any of them.
James McWalter: That’s that’s really interesting and I guess like the um, well okay I think about the human psychology of this right? quite a bit and again in my own kind of personal life as well. And really what I guess I’m looking for and I think it might be pretty common is just the guilt-free moment right? when I’m making some sort of financial exchange right? like. And sometimes other emotions like override right? So convenience timing. Um, you know if I’m like I literally ran out of you know, ah body wash or whatever it may be and I’m going out to a nice dinner like I’m just going to run across the street and grab something because even with our fifteen minutes deliveries in new york now. Um, that may not be quick enough right? and so I’ll just literally. Grab whatever iss on the shelf there. Um, or you know I’ll over it or whatever is like quickest available on Amazon whatever it may be um and so the ah suppose the ability to kind of um, kind of manage that emotion right is very dependent on like context and it’s very dependent on the types of a product I guess as well. Um, how do you think about that piece I mean you know 1 of the things I think about it especially with online shopping is people will put things into carts and like go back to them like 3 or four days later. Um, you know I guess in your kind of user research. Do you see you know human behavior double checking your scores and then going back to them and like how how they’re trying to maybe way up. Things like convenience against things like impact.
Lizzie Horvitz: It’s a really good point I remember ah several months ago before we had even had the beta out I I woke up in the middle of the night and was like oh my gosh I just overlooked 1 of the biggest barriers which is once we’ve rated a product. Then people are like great. This is my new go to toilet paper and I never have to use finch again and that was a ah real fear. Um and and it add you know it goes to your convenience where people say I read about this in finch six months ago I know that it’s good I’m just going to keep going and now I don’t need the platform. Um I think.
James McWalter: Oh.
Lizzie Horvitz: Finches scores aren’t always changing so much that it’s going to be important to sort of go back. Um, every couple of months and make sure that that the scores haven’t changed at all. Um, but I think you’re right and we don’t we don’t have user data on this yet. We’ll we’ll have it when we’re live. There are certain products that people are not willing to switch on. There are certain products that people love the brand and are not interested in buying sustainably there are other products that people are completely brand agnostic about and so you know worst case scenario for us. What’s exciting is that even if people aren’t switching. That’s data in and of itself that finch can then utilize and sell to brands where they say you know people are only willing to switch detergents if they’re saving five dollars or x y and z and so um, we’re we’re really excited to capture that data I think um. Yeah I lost my train of thought so you can you can take that out. But I think.
James McWalter: Yeah, yeah, no that that makes a ton of sense. Um, and I guess like you know 1 of the questions is impact can cover a lot of different things. Um, and so what are the kind of data points that you’re taking into account when you’re calculating your score.
Lizzie Horvitz: So we have identified 80 attributes that go into the sustainability of a product. Um and part of our sort of trust metric is that we will not incorporate an attribute until we are 1 hundred percent confident in the studies and the data behind it and so for example.
James McWalter: And.
Lizzie Horvitz: We know that Microplastics are a massive problem but they will continue to to grow in Concern. They’re just simply not good studies out right now that show the exact impact and so that’s not part of our of our writing system yet it will likely take 2 years to get to what our eighty product categories. Um, or what our 80 attributes are right now and then beyond that there are going to be I mean we’re reading studies now that came out a month ago that are incorporated. Um, they’re all based on environment. So. It’s real environmental sustainability in terms of quantifiably measuring these things. It’s everything from. Origin of manufacturing. Um you know greenhouse gas emissions um company level certifications and everything in between we would love to figure out a way to incorporate social factors as well. Um, like ah is child labor being used. Is there bipoc leadership on this company etc. The problem is we don’t feel comfortable for obvious reasons putting a waiting on that right? So when we look at a category we can say the impact of toilet paper is thirty percent end of life seventy percent you know pulp mill manufacturing and we can actually put numbers behind that. We would never be comfortable saying like Bipac leadership is probably like 50 percent important. Well everything else exactly right? And so um, we’re sort of toying around with maybe just saying as an addition like by the way this is child labor free or this is.
James McWalter: That counterbalances the child’s you know the child labor right? yeah.
Lizzie Horvitz: You know we’re not convinced that this is used without child labor just as an addition so you’ll have the environmental score and then you have those social factors sort of qualitatively more than anything. Um, we’re using in terms of data. We’re using several different sources we’re we’re doing a lot of academic studies Ngo reports.
James McWalter: So.
Lizzie Horvitz: Um, governmental reports that show sort of what the latest research is and then we’re buying some data sets. So we’re not I think what’s important to note, we’re not really reinventing the wheel in any way we are just taking you know. What ewg already has what B Corp party has and combining everything so that you don’t have to go to 1 place to get your human Health score and another place to get your sort of corporate governance. Score.
James McWalter: That’s interesting and I guess like so you know generally the environmental things will line up, but there are definitely situations where carbon emissions. For example, may be intention with like plastic so the creation of plastic right? So plastic doesn’t ah. And it decomposes. It doesn’t really produce any carbon like you know 1 of the problems with it right? It just sits in landfill for 100 or years or 1000 years whatever it may be but any carbon that is within the material itself is captured and not going off to the atmosphere and so how do you think about the weighings of those yeah things that could potentially be in some tension.
Lizzie Horvitz: It’s such a good question and we have so many our our most popular blog is called the sustainability paradox written by our scientist mark and he looks into that exact issue which is people think they’re making the right decisions and then they’re actually doing ah worse. Um. For for like because of misinformation and so 1 of the biggest um 1 of the biggest issues is plastic straws versus min straws and so I think what happened was people were seeing you know pictures of sea turtles with straws up their noses and seahorses with q-tips et Cetera. Um, and that was really troubling. But what people don’t understand is that you know 1 in 7 plastic straws ends up in the ocean. Maybe um when a metal straw is made There’s absolutely an environmental a carbon impact that’s significantly higher than plastic and so. What people don’t understand is that when they buy 1 metal straw and use it 3 times they’re doing a significantly more. They’re doing significantly more damage than just using that plastic straw once it’s the same idea of if you go to an into a grocery store and you buy you know you buy your groceries you you forget your canvas bag in your car at home. Um, lot of people are so tempted to buy another canvas bag when in reality it’s significantly less harmful just to get a plastic bag sort of slap yourself on the wrist and move on because that 1 canvas bag needs to be used over 100 times to like recapture that carbon footprint. Um, and so you know it’s it’s really. Tricky james it’s complicated because we’re undoing a lot of information that that people have been used to for several years um and trying to retrain them and almost teach a new language around. This is what you should pay attention to um, the other thing that’s I think interesting is I’ve gotten a lot of feedback around I’d love to be able to. Toggle on what I care about. So if I care about water issues I can you know some so products can be rated higher than you if you care about carbon or things like that and we push back on that because that’s really what finches’ value ad is we say you know what when you’re buying a bed the um. When you’re buying a mattress like a b and c factors. Don’t really matter you really need to care about you know x y and z so it’s cool that you care about animal welfare but that doesn’t come into to play here and so we would rather tell the consumer. What to what to worry about and and inform them as opposed to sort of them driving whatever their decisions are.
James McWalter: Yeah I guess like so much of that misinformation right? I guess comes out of ah I guess under kind of understandable if not, ah yeah, positive corporate um green washshing of of various sorts and so like when I think about how you’ll be situated I guess in the marketplace you know like. Mentioned this like kind of ability to share these insights with corporations so that they can be better stewards right? Overall um, but then also obviously the consumer can make those kind of better choices. Um, how do you think about that balance right? because I mean a lot of the corporate players are already. You know ah trying to you know Pivot quote unquote at least the messaging for their products in a way that like. Implies more sustainability and I think like pretty much every major consumer brand will have sustainability on their website even if you know they just hired the first sustainability person last last summer or whatever. Maybe um, so yeah, how how do you think about like greenwashing how it intersects with your product.
Lizzie Horvitz: So I think the smaller companies are definitely struggling more than the larger ones because they don’t have the first of all, they don’t have the money to pay for Bcorp certifications and and other things like that which already sets them back at at a disadvantage. Even though they might be doing just as good as a p and g um, and they also don’t have the the economies of scale that a unilever would have right? if they’re trying to buy recycled plastic um pcr. They don’t have the market share to be able to. Purchase that at ah at a price that makes sense and so they’re really in need of accurate information where we can say okay, here’s what matters here’s what doesn’t matter. This is these are the places where you need to where you need to invest and so I think that finch could actually be really helpful for those types of smaller companies. Larger companies have a slightly different issue which is that they don’t know what their consumer wants. Um, you know they spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on focus groups where consumers say I would absolutely spend money on a shampoo bar that was you know made without plastic and then at checkout it’s a very different story and they don’t end up doing that. And so it’s not because they’re being dishonest. It’s because we don’t know ourselves as as humans very well and what we say and what we do are are different. It’s just human nature and so and that gap is is actually fifty percent 65 percent of consumers want to shop more sustainably only twenty six percent end up doing so and so. Um, because of or I guess it’s less than 50 my math. My math might be a little off but it’s a huge gap and what what finch is able to do is go to these large companies and say okay when people are buying shampoo they care most about the end of life and they care most about the ingredients and so when you’re. Building your new product or marketing your new product. This is what you should keep in mind. Um and I think once people sort of get comfortable with that. Um, then it’s a different story I also think you know as I said earlier with gen z and more informed shoppers. Um companies are not going to be good. Able to get away with saying things like eco-friendly or all natural much longer because um, the the sheets being pulled back and people are understanding like what does this actually mean um and I kind of want to understand the details and not just see 1 word.
James McWalter: Yet.
Lizzie Horvitz: That that really any and that’s the problem with greenwashing right? is that literally any company right now could put on their packaging eco-friendly. All natural chemical free and there’s no regulation for most of these words.
James McWalter: Yeah, and because that lack of regulation to your point. It just consumes or confuses the consumer I started talking to a food delivery company who tried or has implemented sustainable packaging as part of their product mainly because it was driven by the leadership team wanted this? Um, but. The ceo is saying to me that it was so disappointing because when they actually then like interviewed people as part of this they would ask them like you know which is like the most or how how much value do you place on 1 percent ten percent or 1 hundred percent sustainable packaging and it was basically the same response across the people who cared about sustainability once they saw sustainability it was like 1 percent.
Lizzie Horvitz: Wows.
James McWalter: Um, there was very very little change between that and 1 hundred percent because they just saw the word sustainable or sustainability and it was like oh like we’re great. That’s sufficient like that was like the the weighing was on that word rather than the percentage which was the the entire piece. Um, so yeah, and but I think a lot of that is just down to the fact that people are so used to seeing.
Lizzie Horvitz: Um, good to go. Um.
James McWalter: Word natural I mean the word natural in in terms of ah dietary type labeling has been you know debunked a million times because like literally pretty much everything I guess can be ranked as natural like if it is the molecule that appears in on the planet. Um, and so but so people have been looking at natural orange juice for you know, 20 years and just being kind of somewhat deceived and so I think. Um, we have a similar problem to kind of go against within the sustainability space.
Lizzie Horvitz: Completely and you know 1 other example that that we always use is Palm oil is as natural as it gets right? but that is could not be moreive disruptive to the environment in terms of you know the monocultures and the destruction of deforestation and so um. People and that’s the balance that we’re really trying to reach is like I understand that people don’t have the time to really learn about the nuances with palm oil versus another ingredient I Totally get that. Um, but we would like to at least have that information in case people are interested but also be able to. Put a score on that. Um, as opposed to having people feel that own responsibility themselves to be like I don’t remember what the deal is with Palm oil should I buy this or should I not they can just see a score and and make a decision.
James McWalter: And yeah I guess 1 thing that you mentioned a couple of times that that I’d love to take in a little bit is around the kind of studies themselves and so um, you know you mentioned kind of studies who are kind of writing these studies already typically academics are enough I’d imagine. There’s not um and you know is there a kind of um. Like what pressure I guess could be or opportunities can be shown to whoever whatever type of groups are creating these studies today. Um, like do they need more people did they need more funding did they need more direction like what is the kind of gap in the types of studies that are needed to make product like yours shine.
Lizzie Horvitz: It’s a really good question and I think I would have to ask Mark who is admittedly reading most of these studies. Um I’m trying to stay stay out of that as much as possible. But I think he might tell you that the biggest problem is that we can’t move quickly enough. There’s absolutely enough. There’s.
James McWalter: I.
Lizzie Horvitz: There there are enough people there are tons of brilliant minds out there working on this around the clock. Um, but in order to get something peer reviewed up published etc that is incredibly bureaucratic. It can take a lot of time and so um, that’s really the barrier is that like. On our side. We don’t have the resources to read fast enough. All these all these papers that are already out there. But also um, it takes it takes a lot like there’s there’s probably research going on right now that we would love to incorporate that likely won’t be published for another year and a half and so it’s just sort of this lag time and and as I mentioned. We could probably get access to some of those studies and and talk to more academics about the races that they’re doing right now but we also have a reputation that’s really important to uphold and we we have standards on you know, making sure that our data is coming from at least 2 peer reviewed art studies and. Um, it’s you know it’s been in the wild for a little bit.
29:07.61 James McWalter: And those studies are they generally targeting kind of a product category generally or are they going into specific brands and and getting very kind of granular and saying ah you know take of argument unever versus P and G you know detergent right? And how those compare.
Lizzie Horvitz: It’s actually neither we so that’s the work that that Mark is really creating on his own that’s our I p is um, what’s happening in the academic studies is looking at particular chemical makeups looking at. Newest research on packaging. Generally it’s it’s brand agnostic generally and it’s product agnostic but we have these different categories so you know climate change water use energy use natural resource depletion a couple of others and Mark is basically reading all of those studies and then. Putting numbers on how to quantify them and so 1 thing he’s doing right now is going category by category and seeing okay, what are the top we know that there are probably 10 environmental impacts that go into these products but what are let’s just start with the top 2 or 3 and so we know that. For mattresses. The biggest impacts are whether or not, you’re using a foam or spring mattress and what happens at the end of life and so for simplicity’s sake and because of where we are on the stage. We just take those 2 factors. Um, we read as many academic studies as we can about those specifically and then we make we make a final decision on mattresses and then with an amazon details page with you know anything we scrape from the public domain we can find out what individual mattress companies ah are made of. And then and then we we incorporate those ratings does that make sense.
James McWalter: And makes all sense. Yeah, and I think like developing that internal research and that that I be I think is incredibly value as well. 1 thought I suppose that I’ve been thinking about is there’s a lot of movements around or there’s a lot of energy. Um, even if ah I have. My own views on a maybe fatally flawed energy around things like degrowth and like the reduction in consumption Overall as like a strategy around climate and sustainability. Um, how do you think about that because I guess the ah you know the finch approach is to make have. Consumption. That’s already going to occur be the best the most optimized from a sustainability point of view consumption. Um, but there’s a ton of consumption that maybe not be quotequote needed and so the overall reduction of consumption right? Like can also have a large impact. Um, yeah, how do you think about that kind of tradeoff.
Lizzie Horvitz: I couldn’t agree more and I think that’s absolutely a big part of it we as as you said so eloquently like our main goal is that people are shopping anyway. So when they’re shopping. We want to make that as as seamless as possible. We do try to try to. Implement a couple of things to reduce consumption and so part of our rating is in the use phase what’s happening once you own the product. There’s so much focus on how it got to your house and then how it’s disposed but not as much of what’s actually happening when when you’re using it. So we think of you know, washing a pair of jeans charging an ipad et cetera and so I think part of that is here’s how you can make your pair of jeans last right wash them in this specific way use this type of dishwasher this type of detergent. So that people won’t have to buy a second pair of jeans after a year or 2 right? And so I think. We’re really, um, pioneers in many ways of the use phase um and thinking through how all these factors fit together just to make things last longer It’s also important for finch that our monetization is not paired to purchases right um. So we thought incredibly hard about that. We’d love to get to a point where when someone’s shopping on Amazon. It’s so advanced where you know we’re saying you just Bought. You know you just bought deodorant. Last month do you really need this again or you just bought a pair of white sneakers last month do you need this purple pair of sneakers right? So um, sort of nudging people to second guess if they actually if they actually need things. Um, we’re starting with consumable so it’s it’s a little less relevant because. I don’t think there’s a way if there is I haven’t found it to sort of reduce toilet paper use for example or shampoo or I mean ah yeah, like of of course we could. We could do education on how to shower less and things like that. But um, the consumables are are easy. What’s going to get really fun is when we start getting into.
James McWalter: A world of B days.
Lizzie Horvitz: Apparel and luxury items and things like that where we can actually say buy this not that um and and try to help drive those decisions.
James McWalter: Yeah, that makes sense and I guess there’s well so you mentioned monetization. So yeah, how are you thinking about monetization.
Lizzie Horvitz: So we think of ourselves as a data company and we are creating 2 valuable types of data 1 is right now which is this proprietary algorithm of here are the most important factors that go into a product and these are the scores.
James McWalter: And.
Lizzie Horvitz: And then the other is once we have a large group of people using the extension. We’ll be able to capture that data on behavior that would be able to sell to companies and to be very Clear. We’ve never sell personal Data. We only aggregated and anonymize it and so you know you James are a man of a certain age in a certain city nothing more than that. Um. And so that you know that monetization will come a little bit later but right now we’re having a lot of fun talking to potential partners who are thinking about their own shopping experience on their website or um, their own sort of internal. Ah. Internal test to say like should we carry these certain products. We’d love to see the finch scores on it. Um, so that’s been really fun.
James McWalter: Yeah that’s fascinating and you know you’re experiencing unilever I’m sure kind of aligns with this. But last company I was at was a marketplace for research participants and there was a ton of cpg market research being done by people within our space and so I talked to a lot of the big cpg companies who are customers over the over the last yours at that company and the amount of money that are spent on agencies and like all sorts of lists and all those kind of things I think would astound people and having like actual data where people’s actual behavior relative to what people are telling them and try and remember 6 weeks later um is incredibly valuable.
Lizzie Horvitz: There’s so much there I agree it’s it’s we’re excited to sort of go down that road and we’re really just scratching the surface right now.
James McWalter: Absolutely and so you know you mentioned a little bit earlier about you’ve been in sustainability your kind of whole career and um, we already kind of mentioned like being as covid a lot of people kind of reassessing their path maybe starting companies. We’re talking hearing about this kind of great resignation. That’s been happening over the last few months where people are kind of. Changing or reassessing the kind of careers and so in general, we’re just seeing a ton of kind of new people kind of coming into the climate space. Um, but I guess like what are your views on that you know like generally more people working on these things is is the that positive. Um, but there are also can be kind of clashes as people like try to understand what’s kind of gone before and ah how we kind of con merge people who may not know much about sustainability or and but want to do good? Um, but how how do you think that’ll kind of evolve over the next few years
Lizzie Horvitz: It’s 1 of my favorite questions I think about it all the time because the bottom line super clearly is the more people in this space the better and I have loved 1 of my favorite parts of my career is talking to people who are shifting and saying you know I come from Financial services I come from pr I would really like to use my power for good. We just hired a full stack developer who I’m so excited about who um you know studied environmental studies in undergrad but then did tech for forever and now just really wants to get back into that space and you know. Environmentalism is so intersectional that you need all those different skills to be ah ah to be honest to be a generalist like me is less and less helpful. Um, because we need all these different skills to sort of push the push the envelope. Um I will say it’s been interesting in the. Startup space to meet so many entrepreneurs who are who think they can start their own companies in the space after having never never been a part of it. Um I think that to be totally honest I’m probably offending a lot of people I think that’s interesting, an interesting decision because I’ve just There’s no way I would have ever been able to start this had I not had that experience at unilever had I not studied this in at yale at business school and and sustainability school. So um I would I always recommend that if people are entering in the space they sort of look towards someone who’s been in the space a little bit longer. Um. Because I can’t tell you how many how many people I meet who say yeah I I just like got really inspired by regenerative agriculture and I’m I’m gonna start my own farm and you’re like I don’t really get how you think that that’s something you’ll be able to do um just like leading a company like this. Um, so It’s probably a hot take that that’s unpopular by some but I think generally yeah, the more people the more people the better.
James McWalter: Yeah I guess the you know the tradeoff is the scooping up of capital right? And so if you have a ton of people who might have incredibly good connections within vc community or coming from you know building crms for. Um, favorite example, buildings urms for hairdressers are barbers right? like and then then moving into climate um and trying to kind of bring those kind of software and marketplace let’s say development skills into or so you know just Saas b 2 b saas skills into climate. Um, you know, then it’s kind of seeking out like use cases that might actually kind of apply. And I think in general where that’s kind of been most successful is the types of you know b two b esg carbon accounting type plays which and that’s why we’ve seen 200 of those companies in the last year kind of evolve and I’ve had a couple of them on on on the podcast as well and I think you know some of them will.
Lizzie Horvitz: Um, either.
James McWalter: Do incredible things and some of them will be very very successful. Um, but I guess I think what’s really interesting even though but the point about yeah, starting some from gender farming or whatever is that like in a year like they’ll be like world-class experts unlike all the mistakes that they made with the thing and then maybe they they can do the other thing as well. Um, because I can kind of merge those 2 experiences. Um, and I guess like the other piece is just you know so much of the I guess the start of space is like developing in like 3 or four look at global like locations that are very very different to how the rest of the world operates and I think by like moving into these other spaces people are like getting experience and I think farming is a great example like I grew up on a farm.
Lizzie Horvitz: Um, yes.
James McWalter: Ah, hadn’t but I hadn’t farmed for 20 years or whatever and then I started exploring regenerative vag and I very rapidly was like oh this the sales cycles are too long. This is just not the space for me even having grew and grown up on a farm and I think like having people just getting exposed to those different you know, ah types of life will. Make better founders better early employees and so on with.
Lizzie Horvitz: I completely agree and I’m thinking you know I’m thinking back to when I lived in San francisco in 2014 I would meet all these people who would say like yeah I just started this company where you know you’re able to order at. You’re you’re able to order your food before you even get to the restaurant and then like it’s waiting there and and I would think to myself like this is so dumb and like so not what the world needs and so I guess the positive to your point is like at least people are trying to do something that like will improve the the planet and I feel very strongly. You know we’ve gotten a lot of pushback on the question of like. Our individual choice is going to push the envelope enough or will this be like large infrastructure decisions and there’s no doubt in my mind like we’re going to need serious changes to get our grid off of the dependence on oil and switchs chenoables no doubt in my mind but I don’t think it’s an either or it’s it’s like a both and like. We need all of these solutions to be happening simultaneously if there were a silver bullet. We probably would have already found it and figured out a way to to scale. It. So um I think the more sort of solutions. The better.
James McWalter: I yeah I think that’s like ah it’s 1 of my tests for seeing how like involved into the space like somebody is it’s like do they say silver bulleta type stuff or do they say like portfolio approach they say portfolio approach like they’re like oh they’ve talked to people for at least a couple of months you know.
Lizzie Horvitz: Yeah, exactly.
James McWalter: Um, Lizzie Horvitz: is actually brilliant before we finish up is there anything I should have asked you about but did not.
Lizzie Horvitz: We covered a lot of ground I think I I would ask everybody to you know, check out our website for any resources, please share feedback. That’s the only way we we get better and we’ll be launching our browser extension in early Twenty Twenty two so I would encourage everybody to look out for that.
James McWalter: Brilliant and I think you can sign up on the website to get on to marketing list I just sign up myself and will add that link on to the show notes.
Lizzie Horvitz: Thank you so much Dane This is this is a pleasure bye.
James McWalter: Thank you Lizzie Horvitz: Bye now.