Ask a handful of executives what they consider the backbone of their business and you’re likely to receive as many answers as executives.
But if you ask the decision-makers at Warby Parker, All Birds and Stitch Fix that same question, there’s a good chance they’ll launch into a discussion of Backbone, an all-in-one design collaboration system that lets users create and manage tech packs, store artwork and project files, manage revisions and costing, and share updates — from anywhere, on any device.
“We’ve created a solution to help brands manage the often-chaotic process of product development and design — everything from version control issues to language, communication, sampling and iteration concerns,” says Matthew Klein, co-founder and CEO of the Colorado-based company.
“Using traditional product lifecycle management tools, it can be difficult to get all the pieces of data to ‘talk’ to each other. The Backbone solution brings the data into one centralized location so teams of all sizes can collaborate.”
Klein and his brother Andrew, co-founder and chief operating officer, started working on Backbone in 2014 and launched in 2016. Each brings years of fashion industry and consumer goods expertise to the table: Andrew was involved in design at Polo Ralph Lauren, Jachs and Tommy Hilfiger; Matthew ran apparel trade shows.
“We both saw firsthand how difficult it was to create products and how tough it was to bring products to market,” Klein says. “At the same time, we had a front-row seat to the huge influx of direct-to-consumer brands that were disrupting the industry and reshaping the retail landscape. We recognized the opportunity to develop a solution that would support their super-fast go-to-market strategies.”
Four modules comprise the Backbone engine: tech pack development speed, the ability to collaborate in the cloud, competitive pricing and support including data back-ups and free training.
In the case of All Birds, which produces casual shoes, Klein notes that one style could be made of 30 different components —everything from fabric to laces, trim and soles. It must be sourced and designed in a timely fashion, factoring in lead times, sourcing and supply chain data from companies around the world. And then, all the pieces must arrive on time so the product can be manufactured in an equally fast timeframe.
While larger companies such as Warby Parker and Stitch Fix are managing hundreds of styles, the process is very similar.
“The great thing about Backbone is that it’s plug-and-play,” Klein says, noting that the company works with more than 100 brands. “It’s possible for a smaller company to be up and running in two weeks. A larger company can be onboarded in under 30 days.”
Backbone has a user-based administration, allowing users to set up the backend to suit their needs, add custom fields and drag and drop data without writing any code. Klein says it also helps companies take time out of the development process, get products to market faster and make more streamlined decisions along the way.
Launching this fall, Backbone 2.0 will move deeper and further into the supply chain — from factory and vendor management to deeper cost analysis, purchase order creation and management and payment processing.
“A brand will be able to manage buying goods from factories in the platform,” Klein says, “so literally Backbone will be an end-to-end solution.” Also on the horizon is a global sourcing matchmaking tool, enabling users to meet and greet factories.