Founding Factored Quality: from NASA’s labs to leading QC platform

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The best products come from teams who’ve experienced the problems they’re solving first-hand. Factored Quality is no exception.

Half a decade ago, I was an aerospace engineer at NASA — working with manufacturers, suppliers, and vendors on quality testing and compliance across their supply chain. 

Nearly every component of my quality control flow at the time was manual. It didn’t matter if I was tracking where each product was in its lifecycle, which manufacturers had touched it, or whether the necessary documentation was in place. All of this management and analysis happened in spreadsheets. 

I couldn’t believe it. NASA — one of the world’s most innovative organizations, which spends millions of dollars annually on software providers and ERPs — had this outdated QC toolkit. So, how did companies without our seemingly endless resources ensure quality? 

This is the question that eventually led to Factored Quality.

Manually managing supply chains makes quality issues inevitable

The reality is most companies don’t produce their own goods anymore. Instead, modern supply chains rely on a distributed network of outsourced manufacturers and suppliers – translating to less control over the production process and allowing costly defects to go undetected. 

And consumer brands may be the most impacted by poor QC. After all, product quality determines user satisfaction (the lifeblood of any brand).

So, in 2019, I left NASA to launch Workbench, a software tool for tracking consumer products throughout their entire lifecycle. Along with my small team, we took this startup through Y Combinator, and there, we met Justin Seidenfeld and Lucas Lappe, Co-Founders of Doris Dev, without whom Factored Quality would not be possible. 

Streamlining supply chain management didn’t always fix QC

Based in New York and Hong Kong, Doris Dev is a product development agency with a long track record of designing, developing, sourcing, and manufacturing leading consumer products (including Canopy, Lalo, and Blueland). 

When Workbench partnered with Doris Dev, they ran supply chains for hundreds of consumer brands that were constantly launching products. Meanwhile, we built the software to make running those supply chains as painless as possible. 

But nearly every brand we worked with would find a manufacturing partner, begin to scale production and run into the same product quality headaches. These headaches ranged from manual drain (thanks to outdated QC systems) to non-standardized checklists to unreliable inspectors on the factory floor. 

Recognizing this, Justin, Lucas, and I came to an important realization: 

Brands don’t just want better supply chain software. They want to produce high-quality products with every single production run. Or, if they’re struggling with product quality, they want to know how to fix it. 

We imagined not just giving brands visibility into their supply chains but actually helping them run cohesive, expert-level quality control — no matter where in the world their products are made. 

This was – what we call – Factored Quality’s unofficial start. 

Factored Quality’s 3-step launch (and scale) plan 

At this point, Factored Quality was looking less like a passing thought and more like a potential startup: 

  • The business model of software plus services had been established in the broader supply chain landscape. For instance, Flexport already did this for shipping logistics and ShipBob for fulfillment and 3PLs. 
  • We had all personally needed this solution at different points in our careers: when I was running QC at NASA, and when Justin and Lucas helped countless brands run their supply chains from end to end. So, we knew there was a notable opportunity here in a massively growing market. 
  • The Doris Dev team brought a unique blend of operational, product dev, and manufacturing skill sets to the table, which the Workbench team complemented with top-tier software and products in the supply chain space. 

So, our teams shook hands and decided to bring the idea (officially) to life. Workbench was acqui-hired and rolled into Doris Dev in 2021. Six months later, we jointly launched Factored Quality – eventually fundraising our first round. 

Everything since then has come down to three whirlwind phases: building our global network, our early customer base, and our team. 

Phase 1: Build a network of 2,000+ trained, certified, & vetted inspectors

If we wanted to reinvent quality control for the better, we had to address two things: 

  1. Every brand needs boots on the ground at their factories, ensuring timely and accurate information. 
  1. Every brand needs to trust that those boots on the ground are reliable, communicative, and, of course, well-trained in product inspection and quality assurance. 

This is where Doris Dev was crucial: For five years, they’d helped hundreds of brands run their supply chains, including QC. To pull this off, they built close partnerships with local third-party inspection firms, auditors, labs, and testing facilities across the globe. 

With Factored Quality now live, we approached everyone in that network and asked them to contribute. The incentives? Doing business with American eCommerce brands who are otherwise out of reach. Plus, our purpose-built, high-quality software dramatically simplifies QC coordination, scheduling, and workflows. 

Today, every Factored Quality user gains access to our network of over 2,000 trained, certified, and vetted QC, compliance, and testing inspectors and auditors worldwide. In addition, our operations team regularly scouts and adds new contributors in new locations, while we continue to engineer cutting-edge tools for both ends of the marketplace: brands and QC professionals. 

Phase 2: Stress test our QC solution, iterate, test again

I'm often asked how Factored Quality secured our first few users. Truthfully, Justin, Lucas, and I are all risk-averse as far as founders go, so not validating our idea in the market was one type of risk we weren't comfortable taking. 

So, we initially rolled out our services to a select set of Doris Dev clients. (In fact, our very first test subject was Canopy!) Once we proved that the software infrastructure we built made quality control simpler, we started opening Factored Quality up to more brands. 

The first 50 or so brands came from Doris Dev's, Workbench's, and Y Combinator's extensive networks of eCom and consumer brands. Each brand was further validation that our solution worked, allowing us to scale slowly over time. 

After proving the solution worked for 50 customers, securing 51, 52, and so on became easier – eventually allowing us to grow beyond our existing networks. 

Phase 3: Building the thing that builds the thing

Once Factored Quality picked up steam, it came time to grow our headcount. We looked to hire people who shared one commonality: We are obsessed with building things. 

That bias toward building meaningful products from scratch drives everyone on FQ’s team at a personal level — but also collectively. For instance: 

  • Adar, our COO, is obsessed with building and nailing our global QC structures so we can do the best possible work for brands.
  • Whitney, my Chief of Staff, is obsessed with building an internal culture and ops process to direct how we hum and function.
  • Andrew, our Head of Revenue, is obsessed with building a sales engine and marketing machine to bring new leads in the door every day.

The list goes on. Factored Quality is ultimately a place for people who love to build. 

(Does FQ sound like the place for you? We’re hiring – see our open positions.)

Factored Quality is now the leading QC platform

Manufacturing and supply chains — that's the oldest industry in the world, and we are building the infrastructure that makes modern manufacturing and supply chains possible. 

Today, Factored Quality is the leading digital QC platform and managed services provider, helping 100+ diverse brands like Brooklinen, Dr. Squatch, and Atoms test, inspect, and audit their products — anywhere at any time. 

We have offices based in New York, Paris, and Hong Kong, with thousands of reliable QC professionals in between. 

We drive impressive results like hundreds of thousands of dollars saved by catching defective runs, dramatically decreased return and refund rates, and generally leveling up brands’ QC efficiency.

Most recently, we closed a $1.5 million round from Vinyl Capital and Pari Passu Venture Partners, bringing our total funding to $7.1 million. 

Looking ahead, Factored Quality aims to create a community for anyone passionate about global supply chains, reliable product quality, and stellar consumer experiences in eCom and retail. Not to mention becoming the go-to partner for expertise in these verticals. 

Interested in being a part of it all? Let’s hop on a quick call – we’d love to share how Factored Quality can level up your brand’s quality control today. 

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