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With a growing cohort of health conscious consumers looking for alternatives to tobacco products, the window of opportunity within the vaping market is a valuable proposition for a marketplace like Clouder. Serving as a two-tiered e-commerce destination for vape consumers, Clouder empowers third party sellers to reach customers directly within 24 hours of signing up to the platform.
Founded in 2015 at Imperial College London, Clouder employs pioneering technology geared toward centralizing and streamlining the market for the sales, delivery and marketing of vaping products.
We sat down with founder, Tomas Zalatoris to discuss Clouder’s vision within the vaping market and its plans for the future.
What is Clouder’s vision in your own words?
The vape market is highly fragmented, with tens of thousands of companies worldwide focalizing on various elements. Our vision is to be the glue that holds uniting producers, sellers and consumers together in one place. Clouder is a marketplace in much the same way that Amazon is a marketplace – supporting B2B and B2C channels.
I’ve always been drawn to business models that operate in two dimensions, with minimal intervention by the operator. This is what allows Clouder to function as an ecosystem for vaping. Users can source the products they love and sellers can reach audiences far beyond their immediate locales, with ease. Moreover, the bigger the ecosystem gets, the more protective the model becomes, as users become brand ambassadors. This is the reason companies like Amazon and Alibaba continue to grow exponentially to date.
What do you think will be the biggest challenge for Clouder going forward?
Moving on to the global stage. We have built our technology from the ground up and while the model’s programming and interface are designed to be scalable, we’ll have to put a lot of thought toward language barriers, currencies, time zones and varying consumer tastes as we grow.
While this is a challenge, it’s also what we’re looking forward to the most in the future. We can’t wait to bring the independent small businesses, manufacturers and retailers who have helped us get to where we are today, along with us on this global journey.
Where do you anticipate seeing the most growth or change within your industry in the near future?
The newest trend is vaping vitamins and supplements, which might very well become the next big wave in vaping. There are also a number of larger players looking to manufacture closed pod devices, which aren’t fulfillable (such as Juul and Logic). However, we position Clouder as a brand and hardware agnostic and open marketplace – so whichever way the vape market steers, we’ll be ready and able to satisfy the online customers’ needs.
What was the greatest risk you had to take in founding Clouder?
When we started Clouder the industry was completely unregulated. Like most emerging markets it resembled a wild-west environment, with a lot of anxiety surrounding the introduction of regulations. However, when TPD regulations were introduced in May 2016, they benefited the industry immeasurably. Since then, it has seen a massive influx of independent manufacturers, vape stores and online sellers. This has simultaneously stabilised and legitimised the market, and made the products themselves safer for consumers in the process.
Who has been your greatest mentor in life or work?
My greatest mentor for Clouder is Charles David Bloom. He’s one of our earliest cornerstone investors, who truly helped to shape the company into what it is today. Charles is a serial entrepreneur, having sold multiple companies in the past. He is also currently a co-owner of several large ‘household’ vaping companies in the UK, including Vapourlites and Vapourcore. Vapourcore is our biggest seller on the platform, responsible for fulfilling our subscription orders. We help Vapourcore, and they help us – it’s a very close partnership!
Mentorship in the startup world is extremely important in encouraging informed decisions, avoiding potential pitfalls and pursuing the right opportunities. That’s why I’ve made an effort myself to mentor startups at the Founder Institute and Startup Leadership Program (SLP).
If you could master any skill, what would it be?
Sales. I think most of life is all about sales. You’re selling yourself everywhere you go, everything you do. It’s a skill that I recommend to practise for everyone who wants to run or work in a startup.
To learn more, visit Clouder’s campaign here.