To Lead an Industry, Founders Must Face Growing Pains First

To Lead an Industry, Founders Must Face Growing Pains First

To Lead an Industry, Founders Must Face Growing Pains First 1600 900 33Voices

As Daniel Chait’s startup shifts into hyper-growth mode the Co-Founder and CEO is highly cognizant of the work it took to get there. 

Although Greenhouse recently celebrated their 500th customer using their recruitment optimization software, Daniel vividly remembers the laughter, followed by ‘Who cares about HR?’, he faced when first pitching the product. 

No one talks about the five years in the garage…When they were in that garage, it wasn’t so clear and so simple. It was really hard, and by the way, they were in that garage for five years. In year four they didn’t know they were going to become this great company.

Daniel Chait on the early days.

I appreciated Daniel’s honesty because I think it’s important to demonstrate that achieving the metrics behind hockey stick growth takes time. Often, much longer than we anticipate. 

Justin Miller, the Co-Founder and CEO of WedPics, is adamant about telling the real story of how the now number one photo and video sharing app for weddings came to be. 

After attending a concert in Raleigh North Carolina during the summer of 2010, Justin felt compelled to create a simple way for audience members to share their photos and videos. 

Pre-Instagram and Snapchat, he left his job at IBM to pursue deja mi, an app for Coachella and Stagecoach goers to relive the event through someone else’s eyes. 

The team spent the next two years working tirelessly in Justin’s basement to bring the app to life. 

Impressive features and connectivity aside, it became clear that deja mi created a solution for a problem that didn’t exist. 

In an effort to adapt or die, they took a step back and tested their technology at other events. 

Ironically, weddings stuck for the group of eight single males and one female, who knew nothing about weddings. 

A summer of stripping features from the initial product and a fake wedding later, WedPics was born. 

Shortly after the fake wedding and some impressive early traction, the team received two important notices.

The first was the cover story in their local newspaper’s tech section. 

The second was an eviction notice. They were getting kicked out of Justin’s house. I know, I wasn’t expecting the dramatic plot twist either.  

It definitely had the silver lining, but we had some crazy, ‘Oh my God. What do we do?’ We just got thrown out of my house’ moments. We had no money to move into an office space. We’d never known anything but being in my basement.

Justin on the reality of being evicted.

Fortunately, the team ended up working out of HQ Raleigh, a co-working space for startups in the city. 

The important lesson to take from Justin’s story is that no startup is an overnight success. 

Often the products we love started out as entirely different projects. Take Slack, for example, which Stewart Butterfield developed as a result of his gaming startup failing. The company is now valued at $2.8 billion making it safe to say that the pivot was a smart move.  

The same can be said for WedPics. As of March 2015, over 2,000 brides are signing up for WedPics daily, the team just celebrated their 3 millionth user last week, and are on track to have 800,000 weddings on the app this year. 

Whether you’re a successful CEO, part of a young startup team, or even the friend of a founder, I urge you to listen to Justin’s story because it’s an honest representation of life as an entrepreneur. It’ll remind you what it took to achieve scale, appreciate the value of hard work and be confident pivoting your initial idea if it’s the right thing to do for your startup. 

Here’s a glimpse of what we discuss:  

  • Pivoting deja mi to WedPics 
  • Surviving the early days 
  • Gaining early traction for a wedding startup
  • Marketing techniques for the wedding industry 
  • Leading a very lean team
  • Fundraising for wedding startups

If you or a friend are getting married, you can download WedPics for iPhone and Android and follow them on Twitter.