Anthony Bucci

I’m a founder, CEO, brand builder, investor, tech geek, family man and juggernaut. I’m most known for RevZilla. Expect a bit of storytelling, inspiration and insight as my different roles and perspective continue to evolve. I won’t settle and neither should you.

  • I just posted the following passage to the News and Updates section on SavePhillyEats.com. We turned a week old today.

    The concept is working ($100k+ sales in the first few days) and we want to expand rapidly into other cities. Restaurants typically have 3 weeks of cash on hand. They need our help now.

    I need team captains (operators) to pair with our national chef network to spin things up in new places.

    They don’t need to be a CEOs (although former founders would be great), they just need to care about their foods, cultures and cities enough to spend time pushing this. They need to be digitally savvy and be able to manage a small team, marshall resources and execute.

    If anyone immediately comes to mind, please send them my way.


    Hello culinary world!

    This site is a week old and off to a running start. What a blur, like being shot out of a cannon.

    We have had over 20,000 sessions, have begun to amass a following of thousands of supporters and most importantly we estimate we have generated between $100,000 and $150,000 in revenue for the establishments we’re trying to support.

    We even had one Chef tell us, “You generated $36,000 for my currently closed restaurant, in the first 5 days”. Whoa…

    To all the Philadelphians who have supported the effort and spread the word, thank you.

    To the 46 different bars and restaurants who have tapped in, we got your back and we look forward to helping your compatriots.

    To the 8 SPE teammates, I have the pleasure of working with daily, exhale. The work matters and it’s having an impact… but I can’t promise you won’t keep getting calls and emails from me from 8am to midnight.

    So what’s next?

    • Scale our impact
    • Scale our geographic footprint
    • Scale our ability to delight our visitors into helping our expanded list of restaurant partners
    • Scale our ability to digest all of your feedback and rapidly improve

    What do we need?

    • The next 50 great partners on the site
    • Tell your friends and buy what you can
    • Strong Team Captains for other cities

    We’ve only just begun…

  • #SavePhillyEats

    My wife, Tara, is awesome.

    Our five(!) kids have been home for about 14 days, and she supported me in spending about 12+ hours a day for the last 10 days in my office building and launching SavePhillyEats.com. She’s equally supporting the project by supporting me while surviving a daily outnumbered-parent home-school rodeo.

    That said, the site is a simple digital hub to aggregate all of the unique culinary experiences and offers that Philadelphia restaurants and bars are doing to generate revenue while they are closed due to the coronavirus. (Learn more.)

    My close friend David and I brainstormed that if we could pull together some big Philly food names for a unique and localized site, we could potentially help a much broader swath of the culinary landscape in town.

    You can visit SavePhillyEats and see all the current offers and experiences. You can follow us for updates. If you dig it, please share it on social with #SavePhillyEats and tell your friends. You might even catch me in a video or two, looking all tired, shaggy and pale. #somuchdistancing

    It’s late and my eyes are blurry because we hard launched today after standing it up on Friday.

    What a wonderful startup kind of tired, the kind of tired that lets you know you redlined for a while – but believe people may find value in what you helped create.

    It also feels amazing that we did something to help our friends in the food and bev’ space who really need it right now. #helperhigh

    We all have different abilities. We have to continue to seek out the people who can be benefitted the most right now. We all have to lend our hands, help and lead.

    Special thanks to the #SavePhillyEats seal team who absolutely got sick of my voice on Zoom, but helped knock this out of the park in literally a week:

    … and don’t forget my lovely wife, Tara.

  • After leaving RevZilla, there were many things I thought I might miss: My team, the problem-solving, even my routine, to name a few. In truth, I did miss them all, but the last 36 months have taught me that the one thing I can’t live without is personal growth. (If you have read any of my previous posts, this theme is not new.)

    Sure, there were some early days I sat around and frittered away time in sweatpants like George Costanza would have. I needed the break, but I also let the tide go out too far in those moments. It always left me feeling less than unfulfilled.

    Since then, I’ve been focused on growth as the input for the most fulfilled output.

    I spend the bulk of my time focused on learning and gaining perspective both personally and professionally. It’s a bonus when I get to do it with amazing teams or companies. Sometimes I get paid for it, as it coincides with helping a team. Sometimes I don’t (THF| TFI). It’s always worth it, though.

    In the last few years, I have toyed with the idea of going back to school, business school to be more specific. I know I have a defacto Thornton Mellon MBA, but I’m always curious about what I don’t know I don’t know. For now, I am not sold the time / value equation is worth it, so I look for ways to dive deeper via smaller bites, especially in areas like strategy, finance and marketing.

    Recently, NYU Professor Scott Galloway, one of my favorite thinkers in consumer, tech and leadership, announced he and his team would be doing a 2-week online “Strategy Sprint” related to consumer-facing business strategy in the digital age.

    The online course under the new Section4 brand spanned 15 days and consisted of video case studies, a couple of 90-minute live Zoom classes and a final project focused on applying what we learned. It cost $500.

    My first encounter with Prof G was 900 seconds and 90 slides at DLD15. Since then there have been more DLD conference Videos, the L2 Winners and Losers series on YouTube and now a weekly podcast with Kara Swisher called Pivot. So my baseline of Scottisms and principles was pretty strong coming in.

    The course concluded a few days ago.

    Here is my quick Section4 Strategy Sprint Review:

    Time Commitment – The whole course was about 12.5 hours (I tracked it). 3 hours were live Zoom classes, 4-5 hours were doing my final project and the rest were lessons broken up into video case studies. Scott’s team was on the ball, responded quickly and the Slack channels and community were on point.

    Coursework – Even with my strong baseline for the material coming in, 40% was net-new and the rest was a deeper and more organized dive into the familiar Galloway principles that he calls the T-Algorithm. These are the strategies used by B2C companies to, in his words, “potentially achieve trillion-dollar market cap trajectories”. If you listen to Scott or have read The Four, this will be familiar, but much more in-depth.

    Final Project – The final was to perform a strategic analysis on a company and sector you know, and apply the T-Algorithm to ultimately inform a business case for the chosen company. I used Comoto / RevZilla and found it super helpful in crystallizing my thinking around suggestions I have made and will continue to make at a board and advisory level. It’s nice to have more concrete cases of value creation and impact at my disposal. Great artists steal…

    Strategic Process – On the strategy front, the process followed a familiar framework of creating a “value curve” to graph potential strategic differentiators. The graph was a mix of Galloway’s T-Algorithm elements coupled with relevant domain-specific items of our own addition.

    We then prioritized the potential strategies we charted for maximum value creation and differentiation with an eye toward variance across the competitive set. I found this to be a Galloway-specific version of the framework I was first exposed to when I read Blue Ocean Strategy about a decade ago. After reading Blue Ocean, I used to quip, “RevZilla will be Cirque du Soleil while the rest of the industry is trying to be the best Barnum and Bailey.” Essentially, how can we invest in places that our competitors or customers are not even thinking about yet. That’s the foundation of Blue Ocean. That framing held up.

    If asked I would probably define business strategy something like, “The ‘above the shoulders’ work that focuses on prioritizing tradeoffs for creating value or mitigating risk. Intentionally choosing what to do is just as important as choosing what not to do.”

    In the last live class, Scott succinctly offered, “Strategy is a plan of action that produces an aim. In business, the aim’s goal is the greatest ROI utilizing a finite amount of resources.” Much simpler. Great bookend on the course. Great framework moving forward.

    Conclusion – At 40 bucks an hour, this was a no-brainer for me, even considering my experience level and longtime exposure to some of the material. I wish I could have taken a class like this a decade ago. It also moved fast and was never boring. Prof G was as WYSIWYG as he always is.

    For anyone earlier in their career, this would be invaluable on both what it takes for companies to win and be durable in the digital age as well as what it takes to think like an executive with regard to how you approach marshaling resources and your plan of attack.

    I’d recommend this course to anyone in B2C and I’m going to tee it up for other leaders in the B2C companies I’m currently working with or have invested in.

    Lastly, bridging all the way back to the beginning of this long post, I’m obviously feeling very content at the conclusion of the coursework. I was challenged to learn new things, elevate my thinking and apply what I learned. Thanks Prof G.

    If you want to sign up or check out a future class visit the Section4 site.

    Now, on to figuring out what today’s lesson will be…

  • Autodidact

    Someone or something opted me into a daily email called Word Genius, which sends a new vocab word daily.

    I like new fancy words, but like any other nonconsensual opt-in, I was initially annoyed (enraged?). Before I could unsub and shake my fist at the internet, however, I found myself opening the emails and reading the new words.. Nerd me cannot resist.

    Last week they sent me the word “autodidact”, which means “a self-taught person”. I’d heard it before but was happy to have it reloaded into my working vernacular. It stuck with me over the next few days.

    I, like nearly all of us, have been learning non-stop my whole life, sometimes formally from other people and school(s) and most of the time informally via everything else. When we’re young, the learning construct is forced upon us. After formal education wraps, we decide how much of the construct we want to continue on our own accord.

    It’s also worth noting that I have noticed my most effective learning style is informally, by way of other people. I believe the personal and shared relevant experiences allow me to absorb and retain new concepts better than anything else. There is something about a story being shared 1-to-1 that staples the nuance and detail to my brain most effectively. Not a shocker, as I’m an extrovert who (usually) enjoys people.

    Reflecting on my life as a learner, what’s even more interesting, however, is how pivotal and more broadly beneficial have been the things I’ve learned on my own, though it’s a smaller list. Some of the most sustainable joy and confidence-enhancing boosts have come from taking the more self-reliant (autodidactic) and introverted path.

    A few examples:

    In 1995, when I was 15, I broke my leg a month before high school started. I was laid up in a huge cast for nearly the entire fall. So with a dial-up modem and a Prodigy account, I devoured the early internet in solitude. I also bought Visual Basic 3.0 and taught myself how to write code. For a dorky teenager, this was a massive confidence boost and identity redefiner. I now had a path ahead and a domain in which to shine, by my own hand. This was also the first time in my life when I felt the satisfaction of self-mastery. It was foundational. If I could chart my own path here, what else could I explore?

    For the next 2 decades, I’ve continued the path of self-study to many new and sometimes difficult pursuits. There has always been joy in improving incrementally with a side order of prove to myself I can do it on my own.

    I started weight training as a 145-lb senior in high school and within a couple of years I’d added 20-25 lbs of muscle that I remain disciplined enough to still carry today. (Side note: I aspire to be Jack LaLanne when I’m 80)

    I’ve always loved music and have wanted to learn to play guitar my whole life. At 19, I used some high school graduation money to buy an acoustic guitar, having never played a lick. I have had 3 lessons in 20 years, but if you throw on some Stevie Ray Vaughn, I’ll happily improvise my way up and down the fretboard. (Ask my wife about the daily concert at my house that she’s never wanted a ticket to.)

    At 29, I wanted to learn how to ride a skateboard on a halfpipe (mini ramp). So I bought a cheap ramp and some pads and 10 years later I have a rad dad bag of tricks and a much bigger ramp in my back yard (sorry again, wife).

    The list of personal pursuits, challenges and “hobbies” can go on and on. I think that critical broken leg as a teen and its resulting silver lining rewired me for a future of self-imposed challenges.

    The last item I’d put on this list is the obvious nod to my journey at RevZilla. More specifically, my personal leadership journey and evolution from maker to manager to executive within the company lifecycle.

    In a fast-growing company, everyone has to scale themself ahead of the company’s growth curve if they want to remain effective at their role. This is the most true for the founder(s) and early leadership. There are no entitlements if you expect the company to maximize its performance and continue to attract and retain the best talent. You must grow ahead of the role. You must outswim the “shark” or you get eaten (i.e., scale out).

    There was a ton I learned from my team, day-to-day ops and from my biz friends and mentors. Early on, however, I decided that those would not be enough to keep me swimming fast enough.

    So I stood atop the foundation of the confidence I had from figuring out other things on my own and attacked my perceived knowledge and experience gap. From about 2009 on, I read and watched everything I could get my hands on relating to leadership, management, ops, and strategy in non-stop fashion.

    It was a dogged effort to expand my executive tool kit in light of the fact that I was sans MBA and really hadn’t managed anyone pre-RevZilla. It was probably the key reason I don’t think I was ever “off the clock”. The autodidact, driven by a fear of failure, had taken the wheel.

    Some would say that the way I worked (obsessed?) bordered on diminishing returns, but I believe the additional inwardly focused effort contributed greatly to RevZilla’s ultimate success and my improved efficacy as a leader. The shark never got me.

    Even now, as I reflect on where I have spent some my most fulfilling time in the last few years post-operations, I am somewhat surprised. Some of that time has been with new teams or companies, but many of the most satisfying moments have been solo pursuits of new skills or knowledge on my own. I didn’t think deep dives in my fortress of solitude (home office) would be as fulfilling as they continue to be. As an adultish age and lifestyle have crept closer, more unadulterated and introverted time to learn has been a surprisingly enjoyable addition.

    The deep dives provide the satisfaction of figuring it out today along with a continual reassurance that I can still climb potential future mountains on my own.

    I ask my children all the time, “Why do you go to school?” and when they respond with the partially correct “To learn”, I help them understand the better answer is “to learn how to learn”.

    I hope they find their autodidact moments early and I hope my continuing pursuit of constructive friction makes a lasting impression on them.

    To even the most extroverted extrovert I might ask a different question.

    “When was the last time you climbed the mountain on your own? When was the last time you found introverted joy with the tangential benefit of elevated skill?”

    It’s worth it. It always has been.

  • Andy Dunn and Bonobos

    Last month, Andy Dunn announced he was leaving Walmart, about two years after Walmart’s acquisition of Bonobos, the company he co-founded in 2007.

    Bonobos first hit my radar in 2009, when a friend participated in one of their early angel rounds. I remember him telling me that they were “solving for khaki diaper butt”. This is a problem I could not identify with as I had not worn or owned a pair of khakis since Spring 1994. They were Bugle Boy. My mom bought them, probably at Boscovs’.

    The business, however, became an instant follow for me (along with Zappos at the time) as Bonobos was and still seems to be all about elevating service and customer experience. Their self-described “Ninjas” handled the customer service and experience aspect which contributed to my early thoughts on RevZilla’s “Gear Geeks”. I appreciated what their namesake primates were contributing to brand positioning, but we did choose to not fully follow down that path.

    I kept an eye on them for the next few years and I even think we spent cycles working with StellaService 1.0 (Yeah, Jon and Jordy!) trying to understand more about where Bonobos placed the bar for customer interactions. I didn’t, however, know a ton about any of the founders until Andy Dunn’s blog post, “eCommerce is a Bear”, hit my radar in 2013.

    The post is a bear in its own right and reads like a eulogy for the multi-brand ecom model while further crystalizing what became the Digitally Native Vertical Brand (DNVB) strategy that Bonobos was built upon.

    The post opened our eyes a bit wider and is still quite relevant today. It’s worth noting that today the catch-all people use to describe businesses like this is DTC or direct-to-consumer, assuming many brands are vertical with proprietary products. Pre-2010 was not usually the case with the multi-brand non-marketplace model still humming. (For frame of reference, I think UPENN launched 400+ DNVBs in the last five years. The times, they have a-changed)

    Now I’ve never met Andy, but I have continued to follow him and the brand over the last decade. I ended up with some chinos along the way (none of them are khaki) and have bought online and from their physical guide shops numerous times. I used to benchmark my perceived experiences to what we were trying to accomplish at RevZilla, online, over the phone and eventually in-store. I also developed an affinity for the brand, but I’m not sure if I loved the clothes or loved that I felt I knew the story and was part of the tribe. The clothes are nice, but not blow you away amazing so it’s probably the tribal “latter” – and that means they did their job.

    Over time, I watched Bonobos grow its line, online presence and its physical footprint. They took multiple rounds of investment from Nordstrom and ultimately exited to Walmart in 2017 as part of the ongoing Jet / Lore / Milennial brands experiment. The exit was a sizeable figure (~$300m), but based on total capital raises, I’m not sure it is considered a home run for this early pioneer of DTC. I think many people, including myself, expected it to grow larger, faster. (Side note – sadly this has been the case with so many venture-backed eCom and DTC stories. They all just run out of growth eventually. Usually shy of expectations.)

    As the brand and the lore (no pun intended) continued to unfold more broadly beyond the startup press, it seemed like there was a mercurial aspect to Andy’s approach that continued to be highlighted. I can’t comment on the fairness or unfairness of that positioning, but I do know a lot of founders. Being crazy enough to sign up for the job usually means that you’re used to ruffling feathers or having your “mercurial” moments. I did.

    About six months ago, I happened to discover NPR’s How I Built This podcast covering Andy and Bonobos. Based on my then-current perception of who Andy may be, I was not expecting it to be as interesting as it was. I was surprised to find his take on the Bonobos journey thoughtful, introspective, grateful and notably regretful at times. The episode covered the company journey, of course, but more interestingly it dove into inner struggle, co-founder dynamics and the ultimate cost of fallout. All parts of the leadership journey, going from start-up to grownup.

    The arc is often glamorized, but is more universally a humbling one. He told more of the humbling story, along with what he learned and what he got wrong, and what he could have done differently.

    I appreciated that.

    It’s useful for the community at large and it made me respect him enough to write about him and Bonobos today.

    Happy new year, folks.

  • Having Kids

    Fred Wilson beat me to the punch with today’s “Having Kids” post on the heels of Paul Graham’s essay “Having Kids” last week. Paul spoke to his thought process and shift in world view upon becoming a parent while Fred piggy-backed with some specific insights of his own.

    Both are thoughtful and worth reading. I certainly felt them resonate with my own journey.

    15 years ago I was a selfish single guy with a certain perception of kids and a lot to learn about life. I then transitioned to a still-pretty-selfish start-up guy with a young family that he spent physical time with but, sadly, was not really “present” as much as he should have been.

    I find myself now the father of 5 with an oldest who’s not even a teen yet. I’m part of all of their lives and I’ve shed enough operating focus and start-up stress to actually be present and engaged. In some ways, I was always there for them and, in other ways, only in the last three years have I really been parenting them – at least in the way my wife has been and that I was lucky enough to have my mother and father parent me growing up.

    It’s worth noting that I used to catch a ton of flak for using “parenting” analogies with regard to leadership and managing within my former company. Some people have strong negative emotions attached to it. I get that sensitivity although I don’t share it.

    My view is that whether it’s kids or employees, the parent’s (manager) job is to care / love, define success and hold accountable while doing their best to practice what they preach. How it all goes is in many ways a reflection of the parents investment and approach to it. (Side note – board and advisory work is Grand-parenting. More on that another time).

    Considering all of that, I looked back on operating RevZilla and searched my experiences for moments where through today’s more experienced parental eyes I might want a do-over.

    The one area I kept coming back to was empathy.

    I have always prided myself of having a strong EQ, walking the walk and building a healthy culture centered on focus, trust – and intensity.

    But today when I think about one of my children working for me 5-7 years ago I cringe at times. I could have said or done certain things with more compassion. No excuses.

    When early employees felt the loss of the business scaling up and becoming less personal for them, I could have been more patient or understanding as they processed it.

    When early employees were unnerved and sad that they no longer reported to a founder, I could have made more of an effort to bridge the gap.

    When I/we helped someone realize that they were no longer the best one to lead their team as we grew, I could have made more effort to acknowledge the pain of what that meant for them.

    When someone invested all of their talent and time with a great attitude but ultimately came up short of the experience or functional demands of the job, I could have made sure they felt fully valued – even if the numbers needed something better than their best moving forward.

    The list goes on…

    I don’t believe I should have relaxed my standards for myself or anyone else. It still has to be a meritocracy. Time is not on your side. There are no entitlements. Every business and market opportunity has an arc. You capture it moving as fast as you can, wasting as few opportunities as possible- or you don’t. Doing something special is a tradeoff for you and for your team.

    But in certain moments when people were wobbly or or flat out feeling the sting, I could have been better for them.

    Being a better parent means still being objective about actual needs. It’s not catering to squeaky wheels or raising soft adults who have never skinned their knees, but it is ensuring appropriate feelings are acknowledged and met with appropriate empathy. Sometimes it just takes a moment.

    It’s easy to say all of this now that I no longer have the schedule or the stress that consumed nearly all of me for the better part of a decade. How do you expend the extra energy to save someone from drowning if you’re drowning yourself? I like to think I could have dug deep and performed better on this front, but as a first-time founder, I may or may not have had it in the tank. Some days you are just trying not to look stupid in front of 100 people while behind the scenes you are thinking about keeping the biz and your marriage from cratering, simultaneously.

    I think about all my kids, each with their unique talents, paths and challenges, especially as I see them growing into their own people. I see how they interact at school and at home. I see the things that they work hard at, wish for and believe in. Sometimes those things don’t come easy or may be nearly impossible, but I won’t tell them to stop.

    I then imagine how they may be treated in the workforce someday.

    I hope they work at companies that evaluate more than just their quantitative output. Even more, I hope they work for leaders who care as much as I did, but are more empathetic than I was in my first attempt.

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