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Featured Founder: David Gillis of Flipmine

Welcome to our Featured Founder series, where you’ll meet startup founders from Tampa-St. Petersburg who are building and scaling their ventures to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. We interviewed David Gillis, Founder of Flipmine, which is a tool that identifies potential flipping opportunities for Amazon sellers by scanning marketplaces & stores for price inefficiencies.

What were you doing previously and what inspired you to launch your company?

Several years ago, I taught high school with Teach For America and flipped stuff on Amazon to make some extra money. I originally started Flipmine as a side project to help me source my own products, but later decided that a SaaS model made more sense for my goals. I kept evolving the software over the years and took on a few beta users, which helped immensely in getting it in the right direction. Then, after my former employer, Brandless (SoftBank-backed e-commerce startup) folded in early 2020, I decided to focus full time on Flipmine.

What pain point is your company solving? What gets you excited to go to work every day?

Flipmine allows Amazon sellers to quickly find underpriced products on eBay (and other stores soon) that potentially be flipped for a profit on Amazon. The industry calls this strategy “online arbitrage,” and it serves new sellers well due to its relatively low barriers to entry.
I get excited about solving the technical challenges in this space, and about hearing my users’ success stories. It’s really inspiring when you hear that someone in a rural part of the country is making a decent side income from a product you created.

Name the biggest challenge you faced in the process of launching the company. How did you overcome it?

The biggest challenge by far was building the technology and scaling it up without a large engineering team to maintain it. I often joke that keeping the site up feels like I’m operating a nuclear power plant by myself, as the system is so large (processes over 10 million background jobs each day) and sensitive to external factors. It took me a really long time to build a functional architecture that could handle the required load reliably, and I tried 3 different ones. This meant that I had to grow as an engineer in the process to get my technical skills where they needed to be, which required a lot of hard work, especially since I am self-taught.

Where do you see your company headed next?

I’m currently working on expanding my team, building more marketplace integrations, and creating resources for people that aren’t familiar with selling on Amazon. The Amazon selling space is blowing up (3rd party sales accounted for 54% of Amazon’s revenue in 2020), and I think Flipmine can play an important role in many sellers’ businesses.

Give us a tactical piece of advice that you'd share with another founder just starting out.

There’s a mentality in the startup world (specifically software) to launch your product ASAP, even if it sucks and is full of bugs. While it’s important to get user feedback and iterate as quickly as possible, there’s something to be said about taking the time to build a high-quality product that stands out amongst your competitors. This extra time could be a lot, but it will likely be worth it, as it was for Flipmine. Your brand and reputation still matter even if you’re shipping software, and going the distance to build something that’s premium and polished will speak loudly. Good things come to those who wait.
Embarc Collective
Embarc Collective helps Tampa Bay’s startup talent build bold, scalable, thriving companies. Our staff of executive advisors and function-specific experts deliver individualized support to startups inside of Embarc Collective’s state-of-the-art 32,000 square foot hub.