I’ve met with a few potential investors for Oh Hey World over the past two months, and of course the team is the the most critical component of any startup looking to raise money. After outlining why I was the right person to undertake this opportunity and build the team to execute on it to one potential investor, he told me I should articulate my answer to the “why you” question on my blog. So, here it is.
And yes, this may sound a bit like marketing text. You’re right. It is. But I’d tell you the exact same thing if you and I were to sit down for coffee and talk one on one.
1. Understanding of the target market inside and out.
I’ve been a part of every primary market segment of travelers for at least 3 years, and understand each of their pain points. From my first trip abroad in 2005 to 2008, I was a budget backpacker scrounging every last dime I could muster to travel. From 2007-2011 I was a business traveler at Zillow, traveling on average about once a month within the US. From 2010 to today, I’ve been a long term traveler with no real home base – spending significant chunks of time in Greece, Thailand, Kenya, Ghana, and Spain among other destinations. Success online comes from emulating the real world, and I get the real world traveler scenarios in need of attention. Don’t get me wrong, there are others who understand the pain points for the various traveler market segments, but understanding how to actually execute on their idea beyond a hacked together solution to address one tiny problem is another story. Which brings me to point number 2…
2. My experience at Zillow.
I’ve seen, from the inside, how a real successful web company is built from 0 to over 13 million unique users when I left the company in 2010 (now they are over 34 million uniques). It takes massive massive efforts, both in terms of building a great product and executing on a sound business strategy, to grow a web startup from zero to millions and millions of web users. It takes an incredible focus on people, culture, and recruiting (a great article on A VC regarding culture & recruiting here). It requires winning extremely strategic partnerships. It requires a great understanding of design and user experience. It requires a devotion to listening to your users and responding to their concerns. It requires a top flight public relations team to form strategic relationships with the media. It requires responding to social media inquires in minutes, not days or months. The list goes on and on.
3. Community Building
I believe any web company that doesn’t understand and invest in community building is completely toast from the beginning, no matter how good their product is. With the volume of web startups launching and the overlap involved in products, there’s simply no other defensible strategy these days. At the end of the day, users go back to destinations where they know they’ll find familiar faces. Same as in real life. Fortunately, community building is my greatest strength and a huge chunk of my time will be spent on it. I understand what it takes to build a strong community — with the most important being to genuinely care about others and want to help them achieve their goals.
No one can succeed on their own. I get that. I feel fortunate to have built up an amazing network of friends and advisors to provide advice, marketing, and support. Much of that network was built while at Zillow, but a huge chunk of it has been formed over the past three years while traveling the globe. So yes, I know a thing or two about sphere building.
5. I know it’s possible.
Once you know where you want to end up in life, the rest is simple. The same is true with building a web startup. Once the vision is clear, it’s just patching the puzzle together to get there. It’s as simple as that. This vision can be realized, and will be realized.
There is no “if” involved.