Meet Ethan Kellough, Co-Founder and CPTO at Highlight:

Ethan Kellough is the Co-Founder and Chief Product Technology Officer at Highlight, a platform specializing in physical product research. With extensive experience in software development and product management, Ethan oversees all technology-related aspects of the company. Under his leadership, Highlight has formed partnerships with major brands like Nestle, Procter & Gamble, and Estee Lauder, helping them test their physical products before launch. With his expertise in global hiring, remote work, employment compliance, and more, Ethan brings valuable insights to the Default Global podcast, sharing his knowledge and experiences with listeners.

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Quick Read: Ethan Kellough, Co-Founder and CPTO at Highlight, Interview Highlights

How does Highlight’s platform bridge the gap between outdated methods of product research and the evolving needs of product developers?

Highlight’s platform integrates the entire process of physical product research, making it faster and more efficient. By receiving products at their warehouse and sending them out to consumers for testing, Highlight eliminates the need for manual coordination and streamlines the data analysis process. Ethan Kellough emphasizes the importance of product research in improving the success rate of physical products and highlights Highlight’s mission to make better products for everyone.

“So rather than a researcher having to go and manually contact FedEx or find a warehouse or move data back and forth between a bunch of different tools, the whole vertical integration of that process and all of the software in the background that connects it makes physical product research faster and easier.”

How did Highlight build trust and secure partnerships with established companies like Procter & Gamble and Pepsi?

Highlight initially started working with small product brands and startups, providing their product testing platform for free to generate valuable data and create social proof. As Highlight grew and gained validation, they gradually moved on to larger companies. The presence of case studies, examples, and logos of relevant brands on their website helped build trust with potential partners. Ethan Kellough advises entrepreneurs to focus on generating social proof, being persistent in reaching out to big companies, and hiring individuals with expertise in entering large organizations.

“We started out with small companies that were brand new, only had a founder. Then we moved into companies that had, you know, five or 10 employees. Sometimes we got lucky and sort of a big company saw the value of us really early and really quickly. And we were able to get into them, you know, quickly. But really it was this process of having social proof, having case studies, having examples so that when we came to those big brands and they had questions, they had questions about our product, but really what helped them get over the fence and really see the value was seeing that other companies that looked like them had used Highlight already.”

How can Highlight help companies optimize costs while maintaining product quality?

Highlight assists companies in optimizing costs while maintaining product quality, especially during challenges like supply chain disruptions. They conduct alienation testing, where consumers compare existing products with modified versions to evaluate if changes are noticeable or affect consumer perception. This enables companies to make informed decisions about cost reduction or ingredient/process changes without compromising product quality.

“Companies need to test their products all the time to validate that the cheaper product, the changed ingredient, or whatever it happens to be, will be more successful. That data is really helpful for our customers to be able to optimize cost and product quality, and it’s becoming more relevant as companies focus on maximizing the value and profitability of their core products.”

How does Highlight approach hiring employees remotely from different locations and countries?

Highlight follows a meticulous hiring process, prioritizing finding the right person for each role. They emphasize the importance of aligning with the company’s mission and having a passion for the product. Additionally, conducting thorough background checks and reference checks helps in assessing a candidate’s performance and suitability. Ethan Kellough highlights the significance of hiring slowly to avoid making wrong hires that could lead to inefficiencies and recommends prioritizing reference checks during the hiring process.

“Taking the time to really validate that someone is the right and best person for that particular job and has really strong alignment with your mission as a company and a passion for your product and what you’re doing… It shouldn’t be taken for granted that just because someone is technically skilled, if they don’t have that alignment with your product value and your mission, we often don’t see the same level of engagement and the same level of energy that people bring to their work when they’re not inspired by the product mission.”