13 Jun 2018
The First Five Years: Momchil Filev and Ben Faw (both MBA 2014)
BestReviews.com cofounders on taking a “leap of faith” and what a great product review looks likeTopics:
In our latest “First Five Years” interview, we discuss product reviews, lessons learned at HBS, and more with BestReviews.com cofounders Momchil Filev and Ben Faw (both MBA 2014). The company, which they launched in 2014, publishes detailed articles with information about how products were tested and ranked. In February 2018, tronc, the company formerly known as Tribune Publishing, purchased a majority stake in BestReviews.com.
What inspired you to launch BestReviews.com?
Ben:“We both grew up reading Consumer Reports regularly and realized this brand never truly transformed into the digital age. Combining this market opportunity with the huge waste of returned goods from e-commerce, we saw the business case—and from there it was all execution.”
What short- and long-term goals do you have for the company?
Momchil:“The short-term goal is to create a profitable business model that can help consumers make better purchasing decisions in home durable goods. The long-term vision is to be the go-to destination for any purchasing decision.”
What have you enjoyed most about founding and running the company? What have you found most challenging?
Momchil:“The most enjoyable aspect has been hiring people who were either underemployed or unemployed and then watching them thrive and build self-confidence and a better life. Creating the dignity of work and allowing people to provide needs for their loved ones is exhilarating. The challenge is the crushing existential threats that face everyone starting a new company, in the forms of incumbent advantages like brand recognition, scale, and capital.”
What has surprised you most about your entrepreneurial journey since graduating from HBS?
Ben:“How much of it you can only learn by doing. A hundred books and interviews and conversations can help a lot, and yet these are not sufficient. Entrepreneurship is a skill you learn out in the wild, through failure after failure and through persistence when everything seems to be going against you.”
How did your HBS experience help prepare you for launching your company?
Momchil:“Through FIELD, several EC courses, the Innovation Lab, and multiple start-up competitions, HBS allowed both of us to learn by doing. Combining those experiences with encouragement from professors, and the lessons gained from cases, created a nice combination for taking risks and trying new things. We each found the confidence and perspective from these experiences a helpful catalyst to taking the leap of faith.”
What was your favorite HBS case and why?
Ben:“The DeWalt case in RC Marketing, because it taught us how to think about building a consumer-facing brand. Ironically, the first product we reviewed on BestReviews was the DeWalt drill.”
Which HBS professors had the greatest impact on you, and why?
Ben: “Srikant Datar. He is my Indian father, and through his classes and as an advisor to many projects, he gave me the confidence to push off the beaten path into entrepreneurship. His perspective on innovation and design thinking has been a fuel behind any success I have had thus far.”
Momchil: “Jeff Bussgang. Jeff really pushed me to think more deeply about entrepreneurship and to take risks.”
What did you like to do at HBS when you weren’t studying?
Ben: “Spend time with classmates, go to the Shad gym, and visit the Hot Tub Club. Ideally, combining all three, which was a daily occurrence during my time as a student.”
Momchil: “I enjoyed spending time with my classmates, working out at Shad, and taking trips with sectionmates and friends. I also appreciated the flexibility that allowed me to begin exploring my entrepreneurial ambitions. ”
What advice do you have for HBS students who are interested in starting their own companies?
Ben: “Take strategic risks. Reflect on what works, and why. I did this some at HBS; in hindsight, had I done that even more, I would be better off.”
Momchil: “Focus on your strategy, on your goals, and on what you are uniquely good at and love. The rest is noise.”
Can you finish this statement? “A great product review is…”
Ben: “A clean, clear, and delightful experience that makes you feel like you just chatted with your friend who is an expert in that category and got the executive summary with no condemnation.”
Momchil: “A seamless experience that enables you to avoid the paradox of choice and make a confident purchasing decision.”
Class of MBA 2014, Section G