When James & Chris from Vero entered Startmate they were working on a completely different idea. By the end of the 3 months they knew it wasn't going to grow to be successful. That is when Vero was hatched.
“We had tried startups in the past. We had a few ideas... but they never really took off”
Success so often is measured in the dollars you have raised or the number of people you have grown to but ultimately they are only proxy signals for something that really matters: happy customers. The story of Vero has refreshingly never been about the artificial chest-bumping metrics of dollars raised and people employed.
For the first three months of Startmate they built a product that had hundreds of users and worked to some degree but unfortunately none of those customers really loved it. Peering in from the outside it is easy to observe with a detached eye but one of the hardest and most gut wrenching decisions is to kill an idea or product that is kind of working. Where failure or success is not evident in the small amount of evidence you have accumulated.
NIKI SCEVAK - MENTOR
“It was a dark moment when they realised that it wasn’t going to work in its current form. Myself and other mentors helped them to determine what to do next.”
Chris and James went to San Francisco and pitched investors the idea of invc.me but in their hearts and from the tepid reaction of investors they knew that raising a round was not possible. Nine times out of ten, when teams reach this fork in the road, the founders give up. But Chris and James took the road less traveled and persevered on.
Exploring problems that they themselves had run into at invc.me and other lives, they settled on Vero, which let’s applications trigger emails based on certain behaviours. Instead of sending the whole of the people in a free trial a set canned sequence of emails, a company can send different messages to those that have used the product X times versus those who haven’t activated at all, for example.
Working out of a two bedroom apartment with fellow Startmates team Flightfox (who were doing ycombinator at the time), they convinced Todd Sullivan, Flightfox CEO to become a customer (no mean feat). Vero was a stark contrast to invc.me, clients got huge benefit out of the product straight away and had no problem paying a small monthly fee.
“We definitely wouldn’t be where we are now if it hadn’t been for Startmate. We would have been much earlier in our journey.”
The other fascinating thing was as the team hit product/market fit, Chris and James didn’t take the well worn path of fundraising and decided to build a company that would be break even profitable from the get go. As the company grew, they would hire and invest every dollar of growth back into the business.
They now have over 400 paying customers and are building a wonderful company in Sydney that has the chance to become an iconic one over the next decade.
Below, we filmed an interview with the team about their journey so far and the help Startmate gave them in this mini documentary. Applications for Startmate 2016 are now open and we’d love for you to begin your own story.
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THE BIG CRUNCH