How BrandYourself Went From 25,000 To 100,000 Users In 3 Days: An Interview With Co-founder Evan McGowan-Watson – Part 3
Everyone in the startup world knows that the team is one of the most important ingredients for success.
You can have an awesome idea and it doesn’t really mean anything unless you have the team.
Who’s on your team? I know you guys have some serious personalities in that office.
Yeah we have an awesome, awesome, awesome team.
We also have our Chief Culture officer, Trevor Elwell―he’s the person that sends you emails and who you’ll talk to personally. And then we have a really, really awesome technical team that’s headed up by Dan Chote, the former co-founder of SinglesNet, one of the first online dating sites which grew to about 40 million in revenue and sold to Match.com.
He brought a couple of his colleagues from SinglesNet over to us as well. They’re the ones that made it so we could go from 25,000 to 100,000 users in a few days and barely break a sweat: Wesley Roberts, Mason Ambrose, and Eric Filson. You can check out their bios on the site, all very talented, awesome guys.
What about the office environment at BrandYourself? What does that look like?
It’s a fun environment. But with that said, we’re very serious about getting things done and getting things done right.
If you walk into our office, the first thing that you’ll see, is a wall plastered with our core company values and quotes that exemplify those values.
The second thing you’ll see is our Christmas tree. Who says you can’t have a Christmas tree in May? (laughs)
Anyway, right in the center of the quote wall, there is a quote from Jack Dorsey, well more of a paraphrase, that says: “Perfect every detail, minimize the number of details.”
We are obsessive about perfection. We’re really serious about making things that are useful and things aren’t done until they’re completely perfect. If that means we slave over one feature, or one marketing campaign for a month until its ready, so be it, that’s better in our mind than releasing something that we know isn’t ready.
So you’ll see an environment of productivity and fun, but there is an edge of seriousness despite the fact that there are a bunch of goofballs in our office.
This is really the first real thing you’ve ever done: you dropped out of college to do this. What are some of the biggest challenges―personal and professional―that you’ve faced with that?
When I first started getting involved in BrandYourself―this is before BrandYourself really existed, even―I was 19 years old. I was the youngest one on the team. The very first thing I had to overcome―and I think something any entrepreneur has to overcome when they jump into something like this at such a young age―is redefining your own interpretation of failure.
I was taking a big risks in the fact that I was giving up school and deciding to go headlong into this but in my day to day, I wasn’t putting myself out there enough in front of other professionals. I still felt like the kid in the room. For instance, just being able to pick up the phone and call the CEO of a company, and feel like I was able to hold a conversation on the phone with them, took a little time.
It seems cliche, but I had to tell myself that you’re only really failing if you’re not taking those risks daily. Its embarrassing now, but I had say in my head “You miss 100% of the shots you never take” almost daily, until I took enough shots that it was just a natural state of being. See, motivational posters really aren’t that bad huh?
But in all seriousness, as a young entrepreneur I think it’s really important for people to get over that little hump quickly. Most people live their entire lives without overcoming that hump, so its a true gift and sigh of relief when you finally do, its empowering beyond belief but it takes a lot of work.
From there it’s really about being willing to learn and adapt quickly. Being in a startup inherently means that your environment is going to be changing constantly. Every day is a completely new set of variables, so if you create habits that are bad, you need to break them quickly. If you create habits that are good you need to recognize when those habits need to be thrown out, too, because eventually you’re going to hit a place where those old ways of doing things just don’t apply anymore.
You guys started in the Tech Garden at Syracuse, the same incubator that’s helped out the Grafighters. What would you say has been their effect on you?
This community here has been awesome for us. Early on when we were just building this out of Pete’s dorm room, Syracuse University helped us get some free space down here in the Tech Garden.
From there, through every step of the process as we’ve grown, we’ve been able to get various levels of support from the community. It’s been really cool. The community here has been behind us all the way.
What’s the next step for you guys? Long-term goals?
What’s next is really two-fold. One is related to our customers. We want to make sure that the people who have flooded into the system get a truly unique experience. We want people to view BrandYourself as a community, managed by real people, not just a faceless web application run by robots.
The other goal―which is the cornerstone of what we do―is just continuing to make a better, more powerful, more intuitive product. We’ve got a lot of great features in the timeline and we’ll always be making the product better and better. It’s those incremental improvements that have gotten us where we are today.
That’s what we’ll be focusing on: on one end, creating a better product and on the other end making sure that the experience people are having with that product is exceptional and truly unique.
Do you remember when you were first getting going with BrandYourself and I would buy you groceries every time I came to visit?
Ha ha, yeah, I was living off of $400 a month, writing health articles.
I told you then not to worry about paying me because you could get me back by buying me a house when you got rich. We still on for that deal?
But of course. I wouldn’t dare back down on that one…