In the wake of a devastating global pandemic, people look back in self-reflection and marvel at just how resilient the human spirit is. For many, 2020 has been a painful year as lockdowns, a rapidly deteriorating economy, and the loss of friends and loved ones to COVID-19 took a heavy toll.
For Josh Wexler, co-founder and CEO of RevCascade, and Andrea Tobin, co-founder, 2020 was a dark chapter for the technology platform provider that included serious health issues and the bankruptcy of a major client—a chapter of Wexler and Tobin later called Project Impossible. It still affects the two personally.
RevCascade was founded in 2015 and acquired by Fabric Inc. in September 2021. Wexler describes RevCascade as a “headless API technology that enables retailers, publishers, and brands to launch, run, and scale curated dropship market programs.”
In its early days, RevCascade considered Crate & Barrel, Modsy and Pier 1 imports among its top customers. By October 2019, RevCascade had achieved profitability. But as the pandemic gains momentum, things will change. In February 2020, Pier 1 Imports declared bankruptcy. In March, Wechsler was diagnosed with brain cancer and cash flow halted. RevCascade’s founding team members took voluntary pay cuts to keep things running. The federal public-private partnership loan also helped.
Then the online shopping boom happened, and RevCascade tripled the number of its retail customers. Wexler and Tobin then sought suitors, including Shopify, BigCommerce, ShopRunner, Stack Commerce, and existing investors, among many others. By May 2021, RevCascade had signed a term sheet with Fabric Inc. By September the two companies had joined forces. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.
When asked how Tobin has overcome these challenges, both personally and in business, he said, “The company had to be creative, act fast, and find a way to get to the next day because there was no time to analyze or discuss solutions.”
“One day life was normal and the next day Josh was fighting for his life and we weren’t sure how our employees would get their next paycheck or how we could continue to support our customers,” Tobin explained. “It was one of those drowning or swimming moments that had no end point, and because COVID-19 was exploding at the same time in New York City, keeping my family safe was also the number one priority.”
The short answer to how they handled it, Tobin said, is that “there was no plan, there were multiple priorities that all involved fighting to survive, and there were no perfect solutions, so I had to go with my gut. All I could do was focus all a second on finding some angle to get to the next second so that we can find long-term solutions across the board.”
For Wexler, “The world has changed for everyone because of COVID-19 just as my diagnosis has changed my life.”
“On March 9, 2020, I was diagnosed with a grade 4 brain tumor called glioblastoma, with an average age of 14 months,” Wexler said. “Seven days later, I had brain surgery in which 95% of the tumor had been removed. My life was in danger while at the same time we were not sure that RevCascade would survive. I started radiotherapy and chemotherapy the day after surgery for six weeks, five days a week, and then More chemotherapy for the next 18 months.”
Wexler said he relied on “an amazing support system for my family, my friends, our team, our investors, and my doctors.”
As for RevCascade, [Tobin, Kyle Stainer, cofounder and vice president of product] We’ve worked together starting in 2008 on Project Rubicon (IPO 2014) and then launching RevCascade in 2015,” Wexler explained. “When life and work collided in March 2020, Kyle and I called Andrea the best player. It has weathered these impossible circumstances including the loss of our biggest client, Pier 1, which went bankrupt. With incredible determination and intelligence, we tripled the size of the company, which led to the acquisition of Fabric Inc. on RevCascade at the end of 2021″.
“Since my diagnosis, I’ve tried to win every day, big or small,” he added. “I wake up every day grateful to be alive and not take anything for granted. I am forever filled with hope.”
Regarding the daily challenges during 2020, Tobin said there are many, “but one of the biggest challenges that comes to mind is not having enough time to focus on what we faced because there are other factors in the game.”
Tobin said that in the week Wexler had surgery, COVID-19 was sweeping through New York City “and our children’s school was far away. Our children were young (pre-kindergarten and second grade) and they needed a lot of support to get through school days in Zoom and address the sudden change in environment and lifestyle, and I have struggled to find the time to speak with investors, clients and our team, in order to find solutions.”
“Another major challenge was that Josh was dealing with his treatments and had aphasia and we had to do everything remotely,” Tobin added. “He wasn’t able to read and write it was difficult for him and navigating all of our communication through shared screens and spreadsheets was a huge obstacle.”
Wexler said that with a diagnosis of aphasia, he had to relearn how to communicate without ever being able to read. “In fact, the day before my diagnosis, what drove me to the emergency room was my inability to read the subtitles while watching Narcos on Netflix,” he said. “I have also lost my peripheral vision on the right side. This has definitely been modest, but my daily mind is optimistic, grateful and still positive.”
Tobin said there are eight employees at RevCascade and that she doesn’t give herself “any credit for maintaining team morale, but I give Josh and our co-founder Kyle a lot of credit for building tremendous morale, loyalty and friendship during the RevCascade period as well as previous years at the Rubicon Project where he met a lot of Our main employees.
“I have done my best to authentically communicate our challenges to the team and to keep them excited about every solution I can find at the moment, and I give the team a lot of credit for continuing to improve our platform, serving our customers and believing in business enough to stay with us under very uncertain circumstances,” Tobin said.
Wexler said the team “embodied extraordinary tenacity and poise,” and said tripping the number of retailers on its platform during that time “is nothing short of challenging the odds, leading directly to the weaving. Without our team, we wouldn’t be here today.”
As the “MVP” during the height of the pandemic, Tobin said she stepped up to solve so many problems that needed solving, “there was no other way to get to the other side of the challenges we were facing at the time.”
“Honestly, I didn’t feel much during those months,” she said. “It was an incredibly intense, scary, scary time, and if I stopped thinking about how I felt, I would probably have been paralyzed with fear, which wouldn’t have led to the outcome we are trying to achieve. I did my best to channel the crazy positivity of Josh and just kept fighting for the win. “.
Wexler said that “Tobin’s greatness cannot be taught” and noted that she is “the smartest and most creative force in nature ever. There is no way to describe what I did two years ago to be where we are today.”
Regarding learning in life and business from this experience, Tobin said she believes she learned “what I’ve always known.”
“When you encounter situations that sink or swim, die or die, it is better to survive. In those moments, you must do everything in your power to get to the other side,” Tobin explained. “I have also learned to be at peace with failure because Sometimes, no matter how hard I try, you might still fail, and I tried to be ready for that moment every step of the way just in case.”
Wexler said the two believed in each other. “We had to go deeper than we expected. It’s an indescribable feeling of blood, sweat, tears, joy, joy and meaning.”
With the acquisition, Tobin said it gave the team stability “and the resources to expand which means better technology, better customer service, and additional functionality that will help our existing and future customers grow.”
“RevCascade has gone from being a stand-alone dropship market platform to joining forces with Fabric Inc., the world’s fastest growing headless commerce technology,” Wexler said. “This has truly given us the ability to support our retailers, publishers and brands with more resources, faster technology improvements, and a set of headless APIs to be the best API-based platform on the market.”
As for what happens next, for now, Tobin said, “We’re thankful to be here and excited to help scale fabric.”
On Wexler’s side, he said the team “changed our official Xena from RevCascade to Fabric and we love our new teammates. Fabric reminds me of how amazing the team was at Project Rubicon. This is an exciting challenge, and we love it. For Andrea and I, we make every day count, trying to win big and small.” And we still believe that the best is yet to come.”