In the wake of a devastating global pandemic, people are looking back in self-reflection and wonderment on how resilient the human spirit can be. For many, 2020 was a traumatic year as lockdowns, a rapidly sinking economy and the loss of friends and loved ones to COVID-19 took a heavy toll.
For Josh Wexler, cofounder and chief executive officer of RevCascade, and Andrea Tobin, cofounder, 2020 was a dark chapter for the drop-ship tech platform provider that included serious health issues and the bankruptcy of a key customer — a chapter Wexler and Tobin would later call “Project Impossible,” and one that is still personally impacting the two today.
RevCascade was founded in 2015 and was acquired by Fabric Inc. in September 2021. Wexler describes RevCascade as “a headless API technology that enables retailers, publishers and brands to launch, operate and scale curated dropship marketplace programs.”
In the early days, RevCascade counted Crate & Barrel, Modsy and Pier 1 Imports as among its top clients. By October 2019, RevCascade achieved profitability. But as the pandemic gained momentum, things would change. In February 2020, Pier 1 Imports declared bankruptcy. In March, Wexler was diagnosed with brain cancer and cash flow came to a halt. The founding team members of RevCascade took voluntary pay cuts to keep things going. A Federal PPP loan also helped.
Then the online shopping boom happened, and RevCascade tripled its number of retail clients. Wexler and Tobin then sought suitors, including Shopify, BigCommerce, ShopRunner, Stack Commerce, and existing investors, among several others. By May 2021, RevCascade signed a term sheet with Fabric Inc. and by September the two companies joined forces. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.
When asked how they navigated these challenges, both personally and in the business, Tobin said the company “had to get creative, act fast and find a way to get to the next day because there was no time to analyze or debate solutions.”
“One day, life was normal and the next day, Josh was fighting for his life and we weren’t sure how our employees were going to get their next paycheck or how we could continue to support our customers,” Tobin explained. “It was one of those sink or swim moments that didn’t have an endpoint, and because COVID-19 was simultaneously exploding in New York City, keeping my family safe was also the number-one priority.”
Tobin said the short answer to how they coped is that “there was no plan, there were multiple priorities that all involved fighting for survival, and there were no ideal solutions, so I had to go with my gut. All I could do was focus every second on finding some angle to get to the next second until we could find longer-term solutions across the board.”
For Wexler, “the world changed for everyone due to COVID-19 and my diagnosis also changed my life.”
“I was diagnosed on March 9, 2020, with a grade 4 brain tumor called glioblastoma with an average lifespan of 14 months,” Wexler said. “Seven days later, I had brain surgery where 95 percent of the tumor was removed. My life was at risk while at the same time we weren’t sure if RevCascade would survive. I started radiation 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 incredible support system of my family, friends, our team, our investors and my doctors.”
“As for RevCascade, [Tobin, Kyle Stainer, cofounder and vice president of product] and I have worked together starting in 2008 at the Rubicon Project (IPO 2014) and then we launched RevCascade in 2015,” Wexler explained. “When life and business collided in March of 2020, Kyle and I called Andrea the MVP. She navigated these impossible circumstances including losing our biggest customer, Pier 1, who went bankrupt. With incredible grit and smarts, we tripled the size of the company, which led to RevCascade being acquired by Fabric Inc. at the end of 2021.”
“Since my diagnosis, I have tried to win every day, big or small,” he added. “I wake up every day grateful to be alive and I take nothing for granted. I am eternally filled with hope.”
With regards to the day-to-day challenges during 2020, Tobin said there were many, “but one of the biggest challenges that come to mind was not having enough time to focus on what we were faced with because there were other factors in play.”
Tobin said the week Wexler went into surgery, COVID-19 was ravaging New York City “and our kids’ school went remote. Our kids were young (pre-K and second grade) and they needed a lot of support to get through the Zoom school days and to process our sudden change of environment and lifestyle, and I struggled to find the necessary time to talk to investors, customers and our team, in order to find solutions.”
“The other major challenge was that Josh was dealing with his treatments and struggling with aphasia and we had to do everything remotely,” Tobin added. “He couldn’t read and writing was tough for him and navigating all of our communication over shared screens and spreadsheets was a huge obstacle.”
Wexler said that with the aphasia diagnosis, he had to relearn how to communicate without being able to read. “In fact, the day before I was diagnosed, what drove me to the emergency room was my inability to read the subtitles while watching ‘Narcos’ on Netflix,” he said. “I also lost my peripheral vision on the right side. This has been humbling for sure, but my day-to-day mind-set is hopeful, grateful and remains positive.”
Tobin said there were eight employees at RevCascade and that she doesn’t give herself “any credit for maintaining the morale of the team, but I give Josh and our cofounder Kyle a ton of credit for building tremendous morale, loyalty and friendship over RevCascade’s tenure as well as years prior at the Rubicon Project where a lot of our key employees met.”
“I did my best to communicate our challenges with the team authentically and to keep them motivated with every solution I could find in the moment, and I give the team a ton of credit for continuing to make our platform better, servicing our customers and believing in the business enough to stick with us under very uncertain circumstances,” Tobin said.
Wexler said the team “exemplified extraordinary perseverance and poise,” and said that tripling the number of retailers on its platform during that time “is nothing short of defying the odds, which led directly to the fabric acquisition. Without our team, we would not be here today.”
As “MVP” during the peak pandemic period, Tobin said she stepped up to solve multiple problems that needed to be solved, “there was no other way to get to the other side of the challenges we were facing at the time.”
“Honestly, I did not feel much during those months,” she said. “It was an incredibly intense, scary and intimidating time, and if I stopped to think about how I felt, I probably would have been paralyzed with fear, which would not have been productive for the outcome we were trying to achieve. I tried my best to channel Josh’s insane positivity and just kept fighting for the win.”
Wexler said Tobin’s “greatness can’t be taught” and noted that “she is the smartest, most creative force of nature I have ever seen. There is no way to describe what she did two years ago to be where we are today.”
Regarding life and business learnings from this experience, Tobin said she thinks she learned “what I always knew.”
“When you are faced with situations that are sink or swim, do or die, it’s best to survive. So in those moments, you should do everything in your power to get to the other side,” Tobin explained. “I also learned to be at peace with failure because sometimes no matter how hard you try you may 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 ever anticipated. It is an indescribable feeling of blood, sweat, tears, joy, elation and meaning,” he noted.
With the acquisition, Tobin said it has given the team stability “and resources to scale which means better technology, better customer service and additional functionality that will help our current and future customers grow.”
“RevCascade has transitioned from being a stand-alone dropship marketplace platform to joining forces with Fabric Inc., the fastest-growing headless commerce technology in the world,” Wexler said. “This has already given us the ability to support our retailers, publishers and brands with more resources, faster technology enhancements, and a suite of headless APIs to be the best of breed API-based platform in the market.”
As for what happens next, Tobin said, for now, “we are grateful to be here and excited to help Fabric scale.”
For Wexler’s part, he said the team “has changed our uniform from RevCascade to Fabric and we love our new teammates. Fabric reminds me of how great the team was at the Rubicon Project. This is an exciting challenge, and we love that. For Andrea and I, we are making every day count, trying to win big and small, and we still believe that the best is yet to come.”