Breakups are always tough, but when you are a small tech company which depends on a single partner for survival, they can be literally devastating. That looks to be what happened to Boston-based startup N2N Commerce, an e-commerce software company that was building a modern e-commerce platform for Victoria’s Secret, and had at least 70 employees. Boston is a small town. Two separate entrepreneurs there tell us that N2N Commerce is shutting down. Says one via e-mail: “Rumor has it that the product they delivered for Victoria’s Secret/Limited Brands was a total dud and VS dropped them. Almost everyone was let go late last week.”
Calls to multiple people at N2N Commerce earlier today, including CEO Ruben Pinchanski, went unanswered. But a spokesperson for Limited Brands confirms that the startup is ceasing operations and that Victoria’s Secret will not be using its technology. Victoria’s Secret CEO Sharen Jester Turney is an N2N Commerce board member. And N2N Commerce CEO Pinchanski used to be an executive vice president at Limited Brands Direct (Limited Brands owns Victoria’s Secret). Pinchanski convinced Limited Brands and General Catalyst Partners to sink $30 million into N2N Commerce back in 2006. He was going to create a multi-channel e-commerce platform to replace Victoria’s Secret’s IBM-mainframe, silo-like infrastructure (troubles in its distribution center may have cost Victoria’s Secret $150 million in sales last quarter). Pinchanski even ramped up hiring last summer. But now it looks like the geek-meets-model dalliance is over, and the rejection was too much for N2N Commerce.
In retrospect, the warning signs were everywhere: 1) big company spin-off; 2) raised way too much money for a series A round; 3) reliance on that same big company as its main customer (and as an investor). N2N Commerce can now be found in the deadpool.