- In 2017, Dunn sold his online menswear brand Bonobos to Walmart for $310 million .
- He spoke to the audience at the Business of Home's first Future of Home conference about how his fledgling startup got through the 2008 financial meltdown.
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Andy Dunn founded online menswear retailer Bonobos in 2007. One year later, the economy of the United States tanked.
Dunn spoke at the Business of Home's first Future of Home conference in Manhattan about his experience in the early days of the startup. In 2017, Dunn sold Bonobos to Walmart for $310 million and signed on as the retail giant's senior vice president of digital consumer brands.
In a discussion with Business of Home columnist and podcaster Dennis Scully and Interior Define chairman and founder Rob Royer, Dunn pointed out "how few brands actually make money" when it comes to retail startups these days, and how entrepreneurs' experiences during the 2008 financial crash may have influenced startup culture.
Dunn reflected on one particularly salient memory from 2008.
"Lehman Brothers had just crashed," Dunn said. "I walked into a Bank of America on Fifth Avenue with $500,000 of money from angel investors who wanted to put more money into Bonobos."
And those investors weren't simply just excited about the new e-commerce outfit. With stocks underwater, Dunn said that it wasn't the time to put money in public companies.
"I walked up and there was no one there," Dunn said. "I went to deposit money when people were saying there was going to be, like, a run on the banks."
The bank may have been quiet, but the large deposit didn't escape the notice of at least one Bank of America employee, according to Dunn.
"The teller just goes, 'What do you do?'" Dunn said.
The Bonobos founder then shared his reply with the audience: "I sell pants on the internet."
Reflecting on how Bonobos survived 2008, Dunn voiced worries about modern-day retail startups that aren't focused on becoming profitable. According to the Walmart executive, those companies could be blindsided the next time the economy takes a sharp downturn.
"I am nervous for people that feel like this is just going to keep going the way that it has been," Dunn said. "Because you know, never in human history does it keep going."
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