Lisa Morales-Hellebo has spent the last 25 years in technology as a student of design-thinking, straight out of the doors of Carnegie Mellon in 1995. But, what she was before that was a fashion aficionado…not just clothes…but, the entire industry. Honestly, she still owns that infatuation, but there’s much more to her story.
Lisa is a VC, a product strategist, and an innovator. She spent her early career honing her design-thinking chops by helping to scale a content management software company to exit within a year. In 1999, she went on to Silicon Valley to work with a Proctor and Gamble venture fully heading into “pioneer” status as an expert being able to understand the elevation of conversion rates when you add customization and personalization to any customer experience.
In 2010, she founded Shopsy, a comprehensive shopping tool that utilized a user’s style and taste preferences to provide the ultimate online shopping experience — generating outfits on the fly from over 6,000 brands, pivoting on price or color filters while learning the users’ preferences. Her mission was to help consumers to move away from the pre-set context of static recommendations to entire outfits being recommended just for you. Becoming quite the tech-guru, her company was accepted into the leading accelerator, TechStars Boston.
Lisa ended up shutting down Shopsy at the point in growth where investor partners were needed to move the company forward. Realizing that investors didn’t really understand how women shopped and also that acquisition would require her to be more of a “plug-n-play” or “widget” operation rather than an entirely new form of search, she opted to move on, counting experience as the win.
In 2014, Lisa decided to build the kind of accelerator that she wished she had while building her fashion tech startup. New York Fashion Tech Lab was co-founded by Springboard Enterprises and the Partnership Fund for NYC. Lisa served as Executive Director for the first year managing every aspect of growth, blowing away her sponsors and partners. This was a huge opportunity to glean intel from the C-suite of the most significant players in the fashion industry (think Kate Spade, Ralph Lauren, Li & Fung, Global Brands Group, Macy’s, and more). She quickly realized that most industry decision-makers were totally focused on the front-end and bonuses as incentives, creating a static back-end, and leaving trillions on the table in supply-chain investment opportunity.
Lisa took a year off and became a hands-on student of the apparel manufacturing industry via maker labs, cut-and-sew shops, universities, and factories of all sizes; tying her learnings back to the mass-customization, personalization, and on-demand manufacturing work she did with P&G in 1999. She arrived at her thesis that localized demand-chains are the best possible catalyst to solve for the $50 billion in apparel deadstock in the USA annually (inventory that nobody wants even at 90% off), the fact that consumers are addicted to fast fashion, and the need to shift to circular and sustainable supply chains. She had a revelation via a statement by Costa Rican diplomat, Christiana Figueres, who was a negotiator of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change 1995–2010. Her warning about creating systemic change by 2030 or we will no longer have control over the outcome, hit home, and put Lisa on track with pushing for a paradigm shift within the industry to think more localized and produce-on-demand. The idea was based on starting with “constraints” that would be more like customized criteria. This would get away from lost revenue of unsold stock and create a more collaborative network on supplying what is actually needed.
In 2017, Brian Laung Aoaeh, CFA, asked Lisa to co-found The Worldwide Supply Chain Federation (#TWSCF) — a global community whose mission is to nurture and grow the world’s foremost open and multidisciplinary network of people devoted to building the supply chain networks of the future — starting with an initial chapter in NYC, The New York Supply Chain Meetup. TWSCF has since grown to over 3,300 members of supply chain innovation builders and buyers worldwide. In 2018, Lisa and Brian co-founded REFASHIOND Ventures — an NYC-based, early-stage supply chain technology venture fund that invests in startups refashioning global supply chains. Her unique approach to refashioning the supply chain was validated by Lisa’s industry contacts at Li & Fung and other apparel groups, who encouraged her to take the lead in piloting her vision through REFASHIOND OS (rOS), their fund’s consulting services arm.
Fast forward to 2020, in comes Covid19, and, what began as a paradigm-shifting pilot became a pivot in the form of an online collective of repurposed US-based fashion factories and suppliers of PPE products being vetted, verified, and brought into rOS’ database within IBM’s Rapid Supplier Connect blockchain platform and JOOR’s private wholesale marketplace.
TWSCF began and still is an organization that is changing how supply chain professionals learn about, collaborate, and adopt supply chain innovation around the world. It’s just that now, it has become the foundation for the pandemic supply chain management.
Lisa’s credentials and her solution for the pandemic supply chain chaos of long vetting periods and purchase-order processes caught the attention of some pretty impressive partners. Onboard are Joor, IBM, and Airtable, among others. Over the past couple of months, Lisa has been working with Shawnna Hoffman, Global Blockchain Offering Leader, IBM Watson Health and Mark Treshock, Blockchain Solutions Leader for Healthcare and Life Sciences for IBM who had just started down the path of supply chain problem-solving using blockchain technology. (See homepage article in this edition.) The connecting point created a partnership that may well serve as a benchmark for other industries. More information on IBM’s involvement in this April 2020 article in the Wall Street Journal entitled “A Cryptocurrency Technology Finds New Use Tackling Coronavirus.”
Lisa shares that she and her partners are looking to improve procurement processes for hospitals, government organizations, and NGOs as vetted buyers. They are vetting suppliers and their products and offering a purchase order process within their platform. The aim is to smooth out the process by creating a “best match” scenario and reduce lag times that can cause loss of supplies due to quotes expiring in this fast-moving market.
If you are a buyer or supplier, please visit https://theworldwidesupplychainfederation.com/ for more information.
Lisa’s Networking Interests:
- US-based producers of raw materials needed for PPE production
- US-based factories that are retooling, interested in retooling, or currently capable of producing PPE and other critical emergency supplies
- LPs (limited partner investors) who understand the massive opportunity that the digitization of supply chains represents and that want to learn more about REFASHIOND Ventures