Back in 2011, the buzz surrounding the launch of Redbox’s Blu-ray disc rental business was getting increasingly dour.
For Taryn Aronson, who had been hired to help to execute the firm’s digital content strategy, the performance woes of physical discs were not anything to lose sleep over.
However, the negative notions surrounding Blu-ray’s lackluster performance drew Aronson’s curiosity.
According to the buzz, the root cause of Blu-ray’s performance blues at Redbox was that Blu-ray was “a low-margin business.”Read More
“This just didn’t make sense to me because as a rental business, the driver of your profit is inventory turns,” explains Aronson, who notes that data showing robust turns of Blu-ray discs by Redbox competitors had exposed that demand was not the issue.
Meanwhile, a senior content leader at Redbox had recently broadened Aronson’s role, allowing her to troubleshoot for both digital and physical content. Having started her career as a financial analyst at Blackstone Group, Aronson first jumped into the media world at NBCUniversal, where she had become involved with the launch of streaming service Hulu. She would subsequently join Redbox’s strategy team after having completed an MBA degree.
In the ensuing months at Redbox, Aronson dug into the numbers and began to educate others on the true economics of Blu-ray versus SD and the practices that optimized the buying and allocation of Blu-ray discs at Redbox.
Reports Aronson: “I got people on board, and we were able to drive a ton of incremental profit for Redbox.”
Aronson’s key takeaway from the Blu-ray experience was the importance of understanding the role of finance and leveraging data to make better decisions across the business. As finance leaders, Aronson tells us, it’s crucial for us to work in partnership with colleagues and to make smart trade-offs to increase value for the company. –Jack Sweeney
“Prioritize ruthlessly—as if you had thousands of customers, hundreds of employees, a husband, 3 children, and 2 feet of fresh powder competing for your attention every day.” –Taryn Aronson, CFO, Tovala
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CFOTL: Tell us about Tovala … what does this company do, and what are its offerings today?
Aronson: Tovala provides a meal service that is shipped directly to customer’s home. What makes us different from all of the other meal services out there is that we also provide a countertop Internet-connected smart oven that cooks the food for you. All of the cooking cycles are preprogrammed. Every recipe is designed in partnership with our chefs to figure out exactly how to cook a set of ingredients perfectly at the same time in the oven. We ship the ingredients to arrive fresh. The customer may end up putting on just a little seasoning and doing less than a minute of work. They scan a QR code on the oven, and then the oven cooks the dish perfectly for them. Yeah. We sell a meal solution, but one of the first steps is to buy the smart oven, which we sell at a nice discount when you commit to ordering food from us.Read More
You can get a weekly subscription for meals delivered to your home. We are a venture-backed company, so we’ve raised over a $100 million in venture capital as well as some venture debt. When I joined in 2016, we were in the seed stage and hadn’t launched the business yet. We had raised a small amount of capital by then, and the team was in Y Combinator. Over the years, we’ve done a series of fund-raisings. True, we’ve been dependent on other people’s capital from Day One, but we have an incredible business and it’s time to get it to profitability. We’ve had to make a lot of shifts in our strategy to accelerate this, and I feel really good about the work that’s being done. This is my number one priority these days.
Tovala | www.tovala.com | Chicago, IL