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This Texas Start-up Aims to Take a Bite Out of Amazon – Texas Monthly

Omair Tariq climbed into his gleaming black Tesla Model S one Friday this summer, cued up a ballad by a Pakistani pop singer, and drove from his minimalist white office in prosperous west Houston to a gritty north-side neighborhood…….

Omair Tariq climbed into his gleaming black Tesla Model S one Friday this summer, cued up a ballad by a Pakistani pop singer, and drove from his minimalist white office in prosperous west Houston to a gritty north-side neighborhood, on a mission to explore the links between his past and his present. The founder and CEO of Cart.com, a tech start-up that’s raised nearly $400 million in venture capital, Tariq sold jewelry with his wife some twenty years ago out of flea markets in the Greenspoint area that he was visiting on this sizzling morning. Wearing pointy, buckled dress shoes, artfully faded jeans with an Hermès belt, and a black shirt unbuttoned halfway down his chest, he cut a rakish profile as he walked the windowless halls of the International Market Place, which occupies a yellowish two-story concrete edifice next to a welding school.

Cart.com, which helps retailers manage and process their online sales, already counts among its clients such giants as Dollar General and GNC, as well as hot smaller brands including Austin’s Howler Bros. and Florida-based Haymaker Coffee. On one hand, the e-commerce start-up operates in an entirely different universe from the scrappy upstarts at the flea market—shop after tiny shop selling everything from jewelry and jerseys to car-wheel rims and trunk-size subwoofer boxes—and yet Tariq marveled at the parallels.

He saw the aisles of the market as analogous to the internet, because “everybody is fighting for the attention of the same people and the same amount of money they have.” You just have to be better than the next guy, he explained. In the digital world, that means efficiently bidding on Google keywords and pinpoint targeting on Facebook. In the flea market, for him it had meant wearing a yellow sign and walking around trying to lure people to his and his wife’s little fifteen-by-fifteen-foot shop. “I would stand at the door, and every person who walked in, I was like, ‘Are you looking for something? Do you like jewelry?’” Tariq recalled.

The International Market Place in Houston’s Greenspoint neighborhood. Photograph by Michael Starghill

Shops at the International Market Place sell everything from jewelry and jerseys to car-wheel rims and subwoofer boxes. Photograph by Michael Starghill

He also noted some contrasts. When you’re running a flea market booth, he pointed out, “there’s no such thing as growing the business to a certain point and only then making money”—a common tactic among start-ups (including his own) that …….

Source: https://www.texasmonthly.com/news-politics/cart-omair-tariq-immigrant-entrepreneurs-houston/

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