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Highlights

 

Welcome to another episode of Category Visionaries — the show that explores GTM stories from tech’s most innovative B2B founders. In today’s episode, we’re speaking with Jonathan Legge, CEO and co-founder of &Open, a corporate gifting platform that has raised over $35 million in funding.

  • Jonathan’s unconventional background in furniture design, his experience building a hybrid e-commerce and physical retail business, and how a serendipitous opportunity to improve Airbnb’s gifting process led to the creation of &Open.
  • The problem of corporate gifting becoming wasteful, thoughtless, and careless, and &Open’s mission to bring gifting back to being thoughtful by scaling personalization and curation.
  • &Open’s approach to sourcing unique, sustainable, and locally-produced gifts from a carefully curated network of vendors across North America, Europe, and APAC.
  • The logistical challenges of cross-border gifting and how &Open’s early experiences navigating these complexities from its base in Ireland have become a competitive advantage as the company has scaled.
  • Jonathan’s patience in building strong foundations, refining logistics, and assembling the right team before pursuing aggressive growth, and the importance of staying self-funded for the first three years.
  • &Open’s vision to build a global gifting ecosystem that transcends B2B and consumer divisions, becoming the default choice for anyone looking to send a thoughtful, joyful gift.

Actionable
Takeaways

Look for Opportunities to Improve Flawed Experiences:

Jonathan and his team identified the potential to transform corporate gifting by experiencing firsthand how a well-intentioned company like Airbnb was falling short in its execution. By digging deeper into the root causes of these shortcomings, they were able to design a solution that addressed the underlying issues. Founders should actively seek out flawed experiences in their target markets and use those insights to drive innovation.

Curate Offerings to Balance Novelty and Reliability:

&Open's gift marketplace features a mix of trendy direct-to-consumer brands, timeless classics, and unique local finds, ensuring that there's something to suit every taste and occasion. By carefully balancing novelty and reliability in their curation, the company can keep its offerings fresh and exciting while still meeting the needs of a broad range of customers. Founders should consider how they can strike a similar balance in their own product or service portfolios.

Embrace Constraints as a Catalyst for Creativity:

Being based in Ireland forced &Open to confront the challenges of cross-border logistics and regulatory compliance from day one. Rather than seeing these constraints as a hindrance, the team leveraged them to build robust processes and partnerships that have become a key differentiator as the company has expanded globally. Founders should reframe the constraints they face as opportunities to develop creative solutions that can serve as long-term advantages.

Prioritize Foundations Before Pursuing Growth:

Despite the temptation to capitalize on early traction and scale rapidly, Jonathan chose to keep &Open self-funded for three years to ensure that the company had a solid operational foundation and a clear understanding of its business model before taking on external capital. By prioritizing fundamentals over growth in the early stages, founders can set themselves up for more sustainable success in the long run.

Design for Emotional Impact, Not Just Functional Utility:

At its core, &Open's platform is designed to create joyful, emotionally resonant experiences for gift recipients. By focusing on how each interaction makes the end-user feel, rather than just optimizing for efficiency or transaction volume, the company is able to build deeper, more meaningful connections between its clients and their stakeholders. Founders should consider how they can infuse their own offerings with a sense of emotional impact and human connection.

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