Faces of Entrepreneurship: Eric Doty, Loupe

2022-08-25T16:04:54-07:00 August 25th, 2022|Developing a Product/Service, Growing Your Team|

Eric Doty is the founder and CEO of Loupe, a sports card sales platform at the intersection of ecommerce, entertainment, and tech. A veteran of Xbox at Microsoft and other live entertainment services, Eric has a keen understanding of how a holistic and sincere approach to community fosters spaces where people want to spend their free time. Eric set out to create a company that could streamline a collector’s experience, elevate small businesses, and ultimately modernize the sports card hobby — all in a single app.

What does “entrepreneurship” mean to you?
Eric Doty: To me, entrepreneurship means rejecting the status quo. It’s acknowledging that things can always be better and more efficient. It’s about eliminating complacency from your mindset, and always pushing yourself to view projects through a lens that no one else has thought of before. It’s about holding yourself accountable because no one else will.

How did your company come to be?
ED: I grew up on a dairy farm in upstate New York, where there were limited opportunities to go to in-person professional sporting events. Like a lot of kids, sports cards were how I connected with sports. The late 2010s saw a lot of young adults recapture their love for sports cards, and I was among that group.

I remember participating in an online “break” in 2019, which is where you buy the cards, and the seller opens them live on a stream before shipping them to your house. The process was really convoluted. You had to coordinate the sale over Instagram Live, leave the app to pay them through PayPal, and then come back and tell them you paid and they should check their email. Frankly, it was just a bad user experience.

There were nights that I laid awake in bed until 4am thinking about how I could build something better. I have a lot of experience in livestreaming production in the video game industry, which was a pioneer of live community-oriented entertainment. I knew that this hobby could be revolutionized if someone could create the right toolset. Given that sports cards were a renewed passion of mine, I just jumped in the deep end. I quit my job and dipped into my savings to fund the creation of Loupe.

How has your business changed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
ED: Loupe hasn’t changed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic; it was literally born out of the pandemic.

Sports cards experienced a boom during the pandemic, as people searched for ways to entertain themselves without leaving the house. eBay pegged sports cards as its fastest-growing segment in 2020, with sales increasing 142% year-over-year. It was wild. The market is projected to grow at a 23% rate before hitting a $100B valuation in 2027.

We had already started putting our plans in motion before the pandemic hit, but the need for digital live entertainment definitely accelerated the process. However, as everything starts to normalize in the world, we’ve only seen more and more buyers on Loupe. It’s evident that livestreaming ecommerce is here to stay.

What is your proudest and darkest moment so far? Share a key high and a key low from your journey if you can.
ED: Hands-down, I’m most proud of the success of the small- to mid-sized businesses on our platform. Loupe was created to give these people a “business in a box” so to speak, so that they can just start streaming and let their personalities shine. We handle all the tough stuff. So, seeing many of them make millions of dollars in sales and tell us that Loupe has been literally life-changing? That’s when I step back and forget about the grind for a second.

My darkest moment came early on. We took a bet on an external partner that we thought would accelerate our business exponentially. It flopped, mostly because they weren’t actually invested in our success. That’s when I learned that sometimes you’re just better off reprioritizing and doing things yourself.

How is your company changing the landscape?
ED: Not only are we revolutionizing the way people think about sports cards, but we’re helping change the way people spend their evenings. I think that’s really cool. Our average consumer spends about an hour on Loupe every day. That’s like a full episode of a show on HBO. Loupe is becoming nightly appointment viewing. That speaks volumes about the community that we’re serving. They want to show up just to hang out, support their favorite sellers, and celebrate the big moments in the app.

What do you wish you knew when you started? Is there anything you would do differently?
ED: It took me a while to realize that I can’t do everything. It’s natural to want to retain control over all aspects of the company. But we eventually grew to a size where that wasn’t feasible anymore. I hired a lot of experts in their field, and I had to learn to trust that expertise. Also, that our investors have worked with a lot of businesses at our stage and have literally seen it all before. As a first-time founder I can’t be above returning to the advice an investor gave me early on and eating a slice of humble pie.

What advice/credo do you live by as you grow the business / what is your professional and personal mission statement?
ED: I spend a lot of time making sure that I’m staying direct and deliberate. Being aggressive but focused is what will keep me on track toward my goals.

Where do you find inspiration when faced with challenges?
ED: I’ve met a lot of really smart people from a diverse range of backgrounds in my professional career. A lot of folks who have been through every scenario imaginable. They’re great resources when I need mentoring, a brain to pick, or just a minute to talk. I’m really lucky in that sense.

What does “success” look like for you? What do you think will help you achieve it?
ED: Our success is defined by the people who use our platform. We’re successful when card shops transform their businesses because Loupe fundamentally changes their sales models. We’re successful when collectors have access to cards 24/7 from trusted sources.

We get there by staying true to the mindset that Loupe was founded out of. A sports card app should be entertaining, accessible, and easy to use. If we innovate and build through that lens, we’ll continue to succeed.

What’s it like to work alone or with your partners? What advice do you have for fellow entrepreneurs about building and leading teams?
ED: Loupe is coming up on its two-year anniversary from its launch date. In that time, I’ve definitely hired too many smart people with too many diverse perspectives to work alone. There’s a lot of net positives that come from collaboration. Sometimes that process takes more time, but it’s undoubtedly worth the wait.

My approach to hiring has been to staff the team with high emotional IQ people. It’s led to a work environment that’s respectful and nurturing. My hope is that Loupe is a place where people want to work. It’s important to me that we build teams with that goal in mind.

Many entrepreneurs continue to perfect their daily routines to support their work and greater vision; would you mind sharing your morning routine or a regular ritual that grounds your work each day? How has it changed in recent months?
ED: I find a lot of clarity in the morning when I’m walking my dog. It’s the rare few minutes where I’m not checking emails, getting messages on Slack, or taking work calls. Without any real distractions, I’m able to think about what I need to accomplish throughout the day and how I get there. I look forward to those walks when I roll out of bed.

What keeps you motivated during this time?
ED: Long-term, I’m most motivated by the platform that we’ve created for small businesses. Some of them have been able to open brick and mortar stores because of the success they’ve found on Loupe. Others have been able to put their kids through college. It’s really inspiring, and I want to keep working hard for them.

In the short-term, I look at our roadmap and see how quickly Loupe is going to grow and improve. We’re always on the verge of something new and exciting, and that’s the sort of positivity that’s contagious.

What kind of an entrepreneur do you want to be known as? What do you want your legacy to be?
ED: Everyone who’s involved with sports collectibles latches onto the hobby because they genuinely love it. I want to be remembered as someone who simply made the hobby a better place for everyone. That means fostering trust and improving accessibility to sports cards. But it also means working to create an inclusive platform where everyone feels safe and valued. It’s important to me that we elevate the hobby and leave it better than we found it.

What is a quote or some words of wisdom that help get you through the tough days?
ED: “Work smarter, not harder,” honestly. It’s a slippery slope when you start focusing on unimportant things and circumstances outside of your control. When I’m overwhelmed, I step back, recalibrate, and tell myself to prioritize what’s important in the moment and what will make the biggest impact immediately.

Have you experienced mentorship in your career? Do you feel it was easily available to you?
ED: I unknowingly ended up with a lot of mentors through past working relationships. It’d be very difficult to be where I am today without their guidance along the way. Not just from previous managers but peers who came into a team with drastically different life experiences. I’m fortunate that they were willing to impart their wisdom as I navigated my professional career. It shaped who I am today. A personal goal of mine is to pay that forward by mentoring other young leaders who are at earlier stages in their careers.

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