Interview With Jason Kibbey
Describe your product or service:
“Higg offers an integrated digital platform to enable brands, retailers, and manufacturers to accelerate environmental and social progress by providing accurate measurement and full visibility into a product’s impact. Customers can accurately measure the environmental and social impact of a given product to radically transform how humanity impacts the planet. Higg provides a single source of truth for product and supply chain ESG data from raw materials extraction to end of use of a product.
Using the Higg Index methodologies developed by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, Higg’s tools help you gather accurate impact data from each step of your value chain – from materials and product design to manufacturing and facilities, all the way to the environmental impact of your brand and retail operations. With Higg, businesses can collect, measure, benchmark, analyze, improve and report on the path to transforming their impact on the planet.
Across environmental and social impacts, Higg’s factory assessment tools enable consistent primary data gathering across your entire manufacturing base – and it’s easy to request existing assessment data from facilities that are already Higg users. Similarly, the brand and retail tool enables data gathering within company operations such as transportation, offices, and retail centers.
For designers, product developers, and analysts, the materials sustainability index provides a dataset of materials impacts, which helps to understand the costs, benefits, and tradeoffs of different materials (for instance, comparing a recycled fiber to its conventional counterpart). Additionally, the product tool estimates the total environmental impact of [a] single product – from materials all the way to product end-of-life, including packaging, logistics, product durability, and care.”
Describe your company values and mission:
“There’s a growing consumer demand for more sustainable choices. Consumers want businesses to accurately measure the environmental and social impact of a given product.
Higg is on a mission to enable brands, retailers, and manufacturers to accelerate progress towards an inclusive sustainable future.
Towards this end, creating positive impacts for people and the planet is at the core of everything we do. We value collaboration, integrity, and a focus on our customers – recognizing the fact that our success lies in our ability to provide meaningful solutions to our brand, retail, and manufacturing customers.
Higg is a public-benefit technology company created to accelerate environmental and social progress. Without accurate measurement and full visibility into a product’s impact, we believe that the sustainable transformation industries need will remain impossible. Bringing together decades of experience in sustainability, technology, and consumer goods, we offer an integrated digital platform to enable brands, retailers, and manufacturers to accelerate progress.”
How are you funded? I.e. venture capital, angel investors, etc.
“Higg has been funded through impact investors, including Buckhill Capital LP and Titan Grove”
How big is your team? Tell us a little about them (I.e. co-founders, freelancers, etc.)
“Higg has approximately 100 remote employees who are distributed around the globe”
Did you always want to start your own business? What made you want to become an entrepreneur?
“I come from a long line of entrepreneurs; both of my brothers are entrepreneurs as well. I’ve started approximately 10 companies, beginning in college. Entrepreneurship is in my DNA. I find it exciting. I have no hesitations about starting new companies. I look for problems that need to be solved or create a solution where there’s a gap.”
How did you come up with your startup idea? How did you decide to actually act on the idea? What gave you confidence that you were on the right track?
“I was brought in as the first employee to launch and build the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC). After several years, we recognized that Higg needed to be its own separate entity in order to scale the technology. Higg has the only scalable technology to create a unified measurement tool for environmental and social performance; no other industry has that. We also saw an opportunity to meet the growing demands of other industries as they started to tackle climate change. They are seeing that a consistent framework — everyone driving performance using the universal language, is critical to create industry change.”
How did you come up with your company name? Did you have other names you considered?
“We came up with the name Higg while I was working at the SAC. We knew that we wanted a name that could be used for any consumer product and could be trademarked and in any classification. We wanted something short and memorable.We considered words from science, technology measurement, history, and mapping to find inspiration. We worked with the brilliant team who named Lexus. We started with 1,200 names and finally got to 40 names, and then around the top 20, I heard ‘Higg’ and knew that was going to be the name. It was clear and the timing coincided with the discovery of the Higgs boson particle. I liked the connection to a new discovery that uncovered new types of knowledge that no one even knew existed.”
What is the greatest challenge you faced in starting your business, and how did you overcome it?
“Interestingly, the greatest challenge is that we started with more than 10K customers. We didn't know what infrastructure was needed to support the size of the customer base right out of the gate. It’s a very unique challenge for a spinout.”
Who is your product or service made for? Who is your target market?
“Higg’s target market is any consumer goods business focused on sustainability. Businesses, brands, designers, manufacturers, and more can use the Higg platform to measure the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) impact of their products or business. Higg customers include facilities, manufacturing, brands, and retail, with over 50% of customers representing the apparel and footwear industry. The other verticals represented are home textiles, hard goods, accessories, and 20% fall under other categories. We are seeing a growing demand in consumer goods.”
What's your marketing strategy?
“The Higg marketing function supports both our growth and positive impact objectives. These include traditional demand creation, business development, and public relations efforts ranging from email marketing, partner marketing, and paid search to SEO, events, and media relations as well as stakeholder relations and impact reporting. In the coming year, we look forward to investing further in programs that help expand Higg’s innovation to new markets and address real gaps in the due diligence and ESG landscape. Ultimately, we’re focussed on creating demand for a new model of business — one where consumer goods are produced and delivered in radically improved ways.”
How did you acquire your first 100 customers?
“Higg spun out of SAC a little over two years ago. Its membership base understood and supported the need for external investment to build an enterprise-ready technology platform to scale the methodology its members had been developing for the footwear, apparel, and textiles industry, meaning Higg had over 10,000 customers from day one. They include customers ranging from Nike, Zalando, Columbia Sportwear, H&M, and Target.”
What are the key customer metrics / unit economics / KPIs you pay attention to to monitor the health of your business?
“Higg looks at user growth (over 70% since 2019), brands committed to using the retail assessment, improvement in scores such as the facility environmental score where facilities using Higg have recognized over 20% improvement. We’ve reached ubiquity in the apparel industry, with over 50% of apparel brands using Higg. We also look at renewal and retention rates.”
What's your favorite book on entrepreneurship?
“I should say my favorite books on entrepreneurship are the classics: ‘The Lean Startup,’ by Eric Ries, which I read and learned a lot from. It was the precursor to ‘The Four Stages of the Epiphany,’ by Steve Blank. But really, my favorite book on entrepreneurship is ‘Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion’ by Robert Cialdini because If you want to get anything off the ground, it’s about getting people to support what you are doing and your vision.”
What is your favorite startup or business podcast?
“While I listen to a lot of podcasts, I listen for escapism so I don’t listen to podcasts about
What is something that surprised you about entrepreneurship?
“I was surprised to learn how lonely it can be as an entrepreneur. The more businesses you start, the more isolating it can become. When you’re young and starting out, the world wants to help. Yet when you’re further along in your career, even though you’re starting something new, the world sees you as having done it before and not needing the same level of support. As with anything, there are positives and negatives, and this particular aspect of entrepreneurship came as a surprise. Fortunately, the benefits far outweigh any negatives.”
How do you achieve work/life balance as a founder?
“I achieve work/life balance by either working or being with my family — there is no ambiguity. I have young children, so that forces me to not work when I’m with my family.”
How do you stay motivated?
“I stay motivated by thinking about what we are trying to achieve in the world through Higg. Instead of becoming angry about the state of the world, I’m actively trying to do something about it.”
Did you have to develop any habits that helped lead you to success? If so, what are they?
“I have so many habits! Like many entrepreneurs, I have a tendency for ADHD habits. I’m highly regimented. I use mind maps, timers, daily lists, and I meditate. I’m obsessive about cleaning out my inbox. These are all practices that help me stay focused.”
What are you most proud of as an entrepreneur?
“I’m proud to have created companies and organizations that have allowed people to do work that they care about.”
More on Higg
We were fortunate enough to hear some valuable insights during our interview with Jason Kibbey of Higg that will inspire, motivate, and teach aspiring and established entrepreneurs alike.
We asked Jason Kibbey, founder of Higg, to share the most impactful ways to support their startup, and this is what they had to say.