Interview with Joseph Lee
is a seafood procurement platform for restaurants looking skip the middleman and source high-quality, harvester-direct seafood
Fish has a far shorter shelf-life than your average product. How does this play into your ecommerce strategy?
Shelflife is actually one of the reasons why our harvest on-demand platform and model has a lot of merit. Every time a chef goes onto our platform and makes a subscription or a one-off order of even what they're doing is they're essentially pre-ordering seafood and each of our products has a lead time associated with that. Typically the time that it takes to harvest, to process as well as deliver the product and this can be anywhere from one to six days. And this really ensures that our products arrive just in time at its peak freshness and we don't incur the risk or the cost of storing product for more than a couple hours or a day at a time.
Good chefs and discerning customers are generally keen to know the origin of their seafood. How do you go about making sure you can tell the truth about every product’s provenance?
This is a really great question. So for us, we have a very rigorous onboarding process when it comes to our seafood harvesters, where we communicate, vet and verify all of the information provided by the Fisher over a timeframe of one to two months. Not everyone that signs are on our platform or on our app is actually on-boarded and onto the platform. In fact, we actually waitlisted or rejected far more supplies and we've actually brought on so what we focus on is building deep relationships with these partners to ensure that the traceability of information and that information that they provide is relevant and correct throughout the duration of our relationship with them and this verification process occurs several times a year and we maintain internal audits of this as well.
Product photography is key to ecommerce success. How do you go about finding photographers with a talent for snapping seafood? We imagine it’s a tricky subject to capture in an attractive way?
When it comes to seafood it's it really is a delicate balance between showcasing the rawness of the product while also displaying it in an elegant manner that's well suited for a fine dining restaurant and food service. For us, we typically work with photographers who have experience shooting in food and in kind of retail settings and who are also open to dialogue and adapting their shooting styles to meet the needs of our specific industry.
There’s something evocative about the sea and seafaring – it’s a parallel world with its own culture and terminology. Is this something you try to channel in your marketing and content? If so, how?
When it comes to incorporating ocean and fishing terminology into our marketing content this is something that we definitely do and we feel like there is an inherent need to do this when communicating with suppliers. Yeah because of the demographic and the clientele that we work with we're constantly reiterating terms of vocabulary as part of kind of the selling and onboarding process. Examples of this are terms like Dock Price, Round, Ocean Run, really terms and vocab that you're going to have to pick up as you move along in something that you're going to become an expert in. If you're working in seafood and in foodservice.
Does technology – and ecommerce in particular – have a role to play in conserving fish stocks? If so, how could Coastline play into that?
I think technology will have an increasing role when it comes to future conservation efforts. In most cases, seafood really is a commodity today and for us by accessing new e-commerce channels and by adding a story to their products through the use of traceability technology we really believe that harvesters can earn more for their seafood and won't have to resort to overfishing to maintain a steady level of income. And for us at Coastline we use technology to create what we call our harvest on-demand platform and this means that all of the seafood that we transact through the platform and from harvesters are presold and we never take more than what's demanded in a city market. And really that's how we play to the topic of sustainability.
Hi Joseph, how does one become one of the biggest names in seafood ecommerce?
If I knew the right answer to this I think I'd be actually the biggest name in Seafood e-commerce. So unfortunately, I don't have a straightforward answer but I honestly think a significant amount of success in entrepreneurship and in e-commerce stems from luck and really from who you know and this is especially important in our industry at Coastline where both of the restaurant side as well as the seafood side to the business are extremely relationship driven and that's a key cog in a key piece to the to the puzzle of success in this industry. So I think it's extremely important to build the right types of relationships, solidify and deep in these foundations as much as we can. And this is really in addition obviously to having the right unit economics in place because that's so important in any e-commerce business. And having the right mechanisms in place to breed network effects because network effects are the most powerful tool when it comes to growing marketplaces and e-commerce.