Last week I helped facilitate an all-day business meeting – a mastermind – of large Amazon and e-commerce brands.

Nick Gray at the Skubana mastermind for Amazon sellers and brands on ecommerce

Me at the Amazon brands and e-commerce sellers mastermind in NYC

My friend Chad Rubin asked me to support him in organizing the schedule and in keeping energy levels high.

Chad has sold tens of millions of dollars of vacuum filters on Amazon.

He’s famous in the e-commerce world for his blunt communication style mixed with specific, tactical advice. He’s a “Do this, don’t do that” kind of guy.

This mastermind day was part of a conference he founded called Skubana Accelerate. Forty attendees each paid $1,500 to attend the full-day VIP workshop the day after the main conference was over.

Amazon Brands Mastermind

I got to meet people who sell a variety of products— things like face wash, garlic presses, men’s fashion accessories, generic electric toothbrush heads, paleo loaves of bread, garage door openers, and of course… vacuum filters.

People in a conference room

Presentations and brainstorming. That’s me in the white shirt on the right

In total, the people in the room sell over A BILLION dollars a year of products on Amazon.

It was an excellent day. And I liked working with my friend Chad.

Two people in front of a crowd

Chad Rubin and I on stage at the end of the day, preparing for a surprise guest

But the best part for me was all the new stuff I learned by eavesdropping.

After facilitating activities, I was allowed to listen to the private conversations of these major Amazon sellers.

Conference room with white notecards that have a variety of topics written on them

Hot topics at the Mastermind were posted on the wall for group voting.

I was reminded that e-commerce is extremely cutthroat. When you’re successful, other sellers try to undercut or steal from you every day.

What I Learned

These were new ideas to me:


Extremely controversial topic. Each product on Amazon has an ASIN, or an “Amazon Standard Identification Number.” People were yelling and boo’ing those who talked about it. I think ASIN hijacking is when a competitor can find who manufactures your product. They buy it direct from your Chinese factory, submit it to Amazon as an identical product, and then usurp your own brand and product page to take your customers.


To judge brand ownership disputes, Amazon asks sellers to use an invisible sticker. They will monitor which sellers use the sticker, and which do not.

View of Manhattan looking at some tall buildings down a street

Nice view from the conference space hosting the Amazon Mastermind by Skubana


If you as a customer click on a product on Amazon, but then don’t buy it… that’s bad for the product seller. Amazon will know that you searched for “garlic press,” you looked at that garlic press, but you determined it was not good because you didn’t buy it. It counts as a small negative vote for the product.


One seller said that “I would pay $1000 to remove each negative review of my product if I could.” He said it costs him at least that much in lost sales.


I never imagined how much thought and time go into each product listing. From photo selections, titles, emojis in the product description bullets, and bundling: wow. This stuff is complicated, measured, and highly optimized by the best sellers.

White bags that say Buy Low, Sell High

Buy Low, Sell High. Simple message from Skubana on the conference swag.


One of the most active and insightful sessions of the day was when sellers volunteered for a public audit of their product pages. Sellers who volunteered got immediate and insightful advice on how to improve. For example, while 3D product models are technically illegal or an Amazon TOS violation, many companies (including Anker, a gold standard) use them. The benefits of using a 3D product photograph are better control of shading and reflections.


“Amazon is now better than the CIA” at determining bad actors in the review ecosystem. A seller told me that Amazon employs spy agency-level data scientists. Each customer who leaves a review on Amazon (including you and I) has a secret reviewer score, like our Uber rating. Amazon knows who is getting paid or incentivized to write fake reviews based on past review history, timing, product type, etc. They are discounting these reviews rapidly to fix the perception that Amazon reviews are too spammy.

Skubana Accelerate Photos

These are pictures that I took the previous day, at the Skubana Accelerate conference.

People on stage with papers

Group challenge for best ideas for Amazon brands. Great activity

People on stage and an MC

Selecting a winner! This was a smart activity for splitting into small groups

Cork board with many business cards

Wall of Heroes. I forget where I first saw this, but it is a great conference module: put up a board for people to share their business cards. You know who is in the room.

Man standing in front of sign at Amazon brands conference Skubana

The founder of FreeeUp speaking in a breakout session about the benefits of outsourcing.


It is a wild world in the long tail of Amazon e-commerce. But I believe this competition ultimately brings better prices (and sometimes better products) to consumers like you and me.

  • Skubana Accelerate (the main conference that Chad’s company produces for Amazon and e-commerce brands)
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