monting [2:01 PM] It's fun once in a while, but constantly is tough

monting [2:02 PM]2:02 Anyways let's begin!

monting [2:02 PM]2:02 @bijanv: How did you arrive at the events space to focus on? Were you exploring other idea/markets as well?

bijanv [2:03 PM] Woohoo ready to get going!

bijanv [2:04 PM]2:04 We actually had no idea about the events space initially, it was our own itch we  were looking at scratching when we first started and eventually ended up growing our expertise in the industry over time… took a while and it wasn't easy but we managed to learn quite a bit over the years that helped

monting [2:05 PM] So was it something you pivoted into, from something else?

bijanv [2:05 PM] At that time (early 2009), we were mainly looking at getting into the smartphone (iPhone specifically) app market and were looking at tons of different ideas to play with :stuck_out_tongue:

bijanv [2:07 PM]2:07 We actually started with that, tried to pivot around in different verticals, and eventually ended back in the events space

monting [2:08 PM] That's very interesting. I ask because Polar Mobile was kinda doing something similar, making an app platform for clients in the publisher space. But I think you guys ended up in a better and growing market

monting [2:08 PM]2:08 Polar ended up pivoting into native ads

monting [2:09 PM]2:09 @bungie4 asked: I love the fact that you were bootstrapped. I see so many startups jumping on the funding circuit before proving viability.  Was this a conscious decision on eventmobi part from the start, or something you realized early on that was option to pursue (bootstrapping).

bijanv [2:10 PM] it's hard to say better, at the time everyone thought events space was super small and niche :wink: we just carved out a space for ourselves that ended up growing very large

bijanv [2:11 PM]2:11 In terms of being bootstrapped it wasn't exactly "planned"

bijanv [2:11 PM]2:11 we started the company in 2009 where it wasn't necessarily the easiest time to get funding

bijanv [2:11 PM]2:11 but through that we ended up realizing it was a big waste of time, and having seen our friends in the valley go through the despair of failed VC backed startups, we decided to focus on being profitable up front

bijanv [2:12 PM]2:12 and taking it slowly step by step

bijanv [2:12 PM]2:12 and over the course of 5 years it ended up becoming a much larger company than we ever anticipated

bijanv [2:12 PM]2:12 and I feel like the train is  only starting to gain it's momentum now so we're really excited about what's to come

bijanv [2:12 PM]2:12 (event without funding in the future)

bijanv [2:13 PM]2:13 BUT

bijanv [2:13 PM]2:13 it was extremely difficult and the sheer amount of stress and pain and personal sacrifice to make it work is

bijanv [2:13 PM]2:13 something that I can't endorse unless you really are that crazy :stuck_out_tongue:

bijanv [2:13 PM]2:13 alongside all the luck that needed along the way :wink:

bungie4 [2:15 PM] Great answer. Given that it was thrust upon from the economic climate at the time, do you think you would pursue funding in todays climate rathern than a 100% bootstrapped. Perhaps Angel funded only?

bijanv [2:15 PM] I think it's different, now looking back with some hindsight and how things could've changed it comes back to the 'type' of company you want to run and what the end game is

bungie4 [2:16 PM] sure, I watched you video :smile:

bijanv [2:16 PM] getting VC early creates a culture of a death-clock very early, you HAVE to hit numbers there is no trying anything else, it's focus and execution above all else to satisfy the investors

bijanv [2:16 PM]2:16 for us we were able to be a lot more creative with our approach and risk other methods (while only putting our own personal time into that risk) and while offloading that stress from our employees in building a more future-thinking culture

bijanv [2:17 PM]2:17 which was super important to us

bijanv [2:18 PM]2:18 also if you know you want to exit within X # of years, there's no point trying to bootstrap it :simple_smile:  you're really doing it for the passion of seeing a product through in an area that you feel like differs from other's understanding of it and trying to carve your own way through it

bijanv [2:18 PM]2:18 it will take an indefinite amount of time to prove that and investors will never be interested in that

monting [2:18 PM] On the type of company you wanted to create/ the end-game, what was it like initially? And why not stay small? Is it competition forcing you to go bigger? Or sheer demand? (edited)

bijanv [2:19 PM] We had no end game haha I remember discussing that it would be cool to be a 4-6 person team and just find a cool little loft office space and just do our thing. But we're naturally competitive, so as soon as we hit that, it was immediately… well what's next? and what's next after that? and so on and so forth, systematical organic growth took over and suddently those growth % become huge numbers over time

bijanv [2:20 PM]2:20 It is also the competition that does force that on you, we want to win, plain and simple so we'll do whatever we can do to so

hassan [2:20 PM] In terms of your competitors who do pursue VC funding, how do you keep your competitive edge and momentum? Quite the challenge as a bootstrapped startup.

bijanv [2:21 PM] @hassan: Ultimate customer focus. You need to eat breath live like your customer. Most of the time the reason for people raising a round is to try out a new path, new ventures, new ideas, if we 'know' we can execute and satisfy our customers, we'll keep doing that (edited)

bijanv [2:21 PM]2:21 until we get to a point where we just can't keep up, in which case we know exactly how we'll use VC money for ourselves

bijanv [2:22 PM]2:22 it's a balance to play

bijanv [2:23 PM]2:23 and a hard game, you never know where you stand with innovation and who is going to win, but we're fairly confident in our understanding of the market and what we're able to accomplish as a team that we can keep that edge

bijanv [2:23 PM]2:23 and more importantly I think we've shown that we can, time after time, which is the biggest confidence booster for the team :stuck_out_tongue:

monting [2:24 PM] Winning is addictive :simple_smile:

monting [2:25 PM]2:25 You were talking about boostrapping being "extremely difficult and the sheer amount of stress and pain and personal sacrifice" (edited)

monting [2:25 PM]2:25 Would you elaborate? Is it mainly cashflow issues, payroll, or pounding the pavement getting customers and making sales (edited)

bijanv [2:25 PM] Winning is  probably the most important factor to feed the team with, it will keep processes in check, people focused and driven, and keep all other problems away (as long as you're keeping track of them and sweeping up right behind the team as you move fast and don't let these crop up once winning slows down :wink: )

bijanv [2:27 PM]2:27 It's a lot of things that all roll into one… no one knows the true product that will win so you're getting pulled into all sorts of directions, your sales are sporadic and unpredictable, your payroll is only growing and becoming more expensive as you get out of all the 'free trials' of your services you use, then you're dealing with all these things you have no idea about but have to learn (wether it's sales processes, finance, project management, people management, etc whatever the founders weaknesses are) and don't have money to hire for

bijanv [2:28 PM]2:28 it gets all rolled into one big ball that you're fighting with everyday and not having external cash or advisors to offload those problems unto becomes a lot to deal with day to day

monting [2:28 PM] LOL - all of the above, + 10 more.

monting [2:29 PM]2:29 The founders must have had to shoulder intense pressure/uncertainty. What helped you do that?

bijanv [2:29 PM] uhhh… sheer stubbornness?

bijanv [2:29 PM]2:29 lol

mike [2:30 PM] haha

bijanv [2:30 PM] and an unwavering competitive nature and incessant need to win :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

bijanv [2:31 PM]2:31 A lot of the times you are just unwilling to look at the reality that faces you and just double down, wether that's good or bad is a whole other matter but sometimes it helps you in amazing ways

bijanv [2:31 PM]2:31 in other ways, founders destroy themselves / product / team

monting [2:31 PM] I have a theory, that cofounders really help with this. Because they can help pump each other up when needed

kenny [2:32 PM] what has been the best resource for you as your role changes EventMobi? Obviously as you begun you were doing the majority of coding, but now you have a team in place and doing more strategic/product development.

bijanv [2:32 PM] that's definitely true, I would never do this as a sole founder

bijanv [2:33 PM]2:33 @kenny: Constant learning in different ways, meeting people who are always smarter than you and not just on the surface of what their credentials are but at the core of what they know and believe

bijanv [2:33 PM]2:33 so wether that's findingin people online you follow

bijanv [2:33 PM]2:33 or some authors or people you meet at conferences or a fellow startup you really respect

bijanv [2:33 PM]2:33 the learning cannot stop

bijanv [2:34 PM]2:34 you have to seek it out in all sort of different ways at different stages

bijanv [2:34 PM]2:34 when you're early stage there are TONS of material online you can find

bijanv [2:34 PM]2:34 as you grow more and more, there's fewer people that have been in your shoes

bijanv [2:34 PM]2:34 and you need to seek out the others to learn from rather than playing in the same space or doing the same things in different ways

monting [2:35 PM] Great Q @kenny. How has your role changed so far @bijanv? It couldn't have been easy to go from 2 founders to 70 people.

bijanv [2:36 PM] I don't really 'feel' like I have a role anymore :wink: actually the first 2 years I didn't even feel comfortable calling myself CTO, my business card said Mobile/Web Developer

kenny [2:37 PM] #toohumble

bijanv [2:37 PM] and then as I slowly grew into other positions more outward facing or being more involved in team structure / growth I grew into the CTO title and use it as a means to say I do a wide variety of different things lol

hassan [2:37 PM] Imposter syndrome :smile:

bijanv [2:37 PM] ^ definitely!

bijanv [2:37 PM]2:37 But in terms of doing different things, it changes a lot in the early days

bijanv [2:38 PM]2:38 from the founders to 2 other employees, 5 employees, 10, 20, 30, 50, now at 70 each one of those have been fundamental shifts in what I've focused on

bijanv [2:38 PM]2:38 I think i stopped coding once we hit 20 people

bijanv [2:39 PM]2:39 then it was about setting up future architecture in place, then the engineering culture, then recruiting which has consistent up until now

bijanv [2:39 PM]2:39 and as of this week I'm finally starting to offload hiring to others on the team

bijanv [2:39 PM]2:39 I've reviewed by now well over 10,000 resumes, done hundreds if not a thousand+ phone screens and hundreds of interviews and I just physically cannot keep up

monting [2:40 PM] That's awesome I think - having a founder still intimately involved in hiring, when you're at 70

hassan [2:40 PM] on going from 2 to 70. How do you keep your company culture intact ?

monting [2:41 PM] Oh wow.. 10k resumes… I have a much better idea of what takes up your time now

bijanv [2:41 PM] It's all about the people :simple_smile: there's no secret sauce. In the early days the culture IS the founders combined personalities and that's it. Over time it gets diluted by the others on the team people interact with. People feed off these personalities and regurgitate or use them as basis for decision making

bijanv [2:42 PM]2:42 so if you bring in the wrong people who don't align with your values / what you internally hold dear, it will immediately kill it

bijanv [2:42 PM]2:42 but ther'es nothing you can specifically 'do' to build culture

kenny [2:43 PM] Great point by @bijanv , I just read the hard thing about hard things and Ben's got some great examples of that

bijanv [2:43 PM] but if my personality is the type that I say a loud giant hello to everyone every morning, or randomly go out and grab people coffee and I like to high five people, the core of the actions you take and what people take from that becomes your culture

monting [2:44 PM] It's so true. It stems from the top. Like your subordinates are watching you and every small thing matters. I say this as an experienced subordinate :stuck_out_tongue: (edited)

hassan [2:45 PM] That's a great way to put it! The culture being like a melting pot of personalities.

bijanv [2:45 PM] yeah and it's not intentional, it's just natural human interaction / psyche

monting [2:46 PM] I'm quite curious on how early growth is accomplished. As Engineers, how did you win trust and gain those early customer? I assume neither founders were experienced in sales? (edited)

bijanv [2:47 PM] nope :stuck_out_tongue: Bob our CEO is a computer engineer as well so getting into sales was a long drawn out process of trial and error but something he knew he had to do and eventually got over it and built that skill as well (edited)

bijanv [2:48 PM]2:48 in the early days it's really about forgetting about scale

bijanv [2:48 PM]2:48 and just dealing with each and every customer one by one

bijanv [2:48 PM]2:48 similar to building a house, you lay each brick one at a time and build on it over time, you don't plop the whole house together

bijanv [2:49 PM]2:49 but more imporatntly each one of those deeper interaction with your customers feeds you so much valuable information that you should be approaching it in this way IMO.

bijanv [2:49 PM]2:49 Similar to Stripe's founders saying that they would literally grab every computer of people they would speak to during their YC days, and personally integrate stripe in 5 minutes

bijanv [2:50 PM]2:50 it wasn't a sign up for a freemium right away that got their traction, it was their understanding in dealing with customers at that close of an interaction and really understanding the problem and their customers to solve

monting [2:52 PM] So you took a more consultative, soft-sell approach? Or were you pretty heavy on trying to close the deal, to validate? Or is it very much case-by-case? (edited)

bijanv [2:52 PM] I'm pretty sure our first 10 'clients' we just did for free to get the product feedback

bijanv [2:53 PM]2:53 we also used it as a way to gauge what they would 'value' it for to help determine pricing

hassan [2:53 PM] ^In other words, doing things that don't scale.

bijanv [2:53 PM] but yes it was very soft on the sales side at that time, we had no idea if this was even something that people wanted so it was more about learning then the sales aspect

monting [2:55 PM] It's hard to keep the big picture in mind at that stage -when you are not sure the product has value, and to just keep going

bijanv [2:55 PM] oh for sure, you have no idea what the big picture is at that stage (at least for us where we were new to the industry and didn't have prior knowledge)

monting [2:55 PM] Really kudos to you guys. The tenacity, and competitive, winning mindset

bijanv [2:56 PM] thanks!

monting [2:57 PM] I'm at my last question, so if anyone wants to ask more Qs this is your chance!

monting [2:58 PM]2:58 EventMobi seems pretty into growth hacking - you host the growth hacking meetup in Toronto. Any cool growth hacks or growth hack fails you'd like to share? (edited)

bijanv [2:59 PM] hah actually we just do it really ad-hoc and don't think of it as growth hacking. Really just penny pinching to get results :stuck_out_tongue: it's not as formalized as I'd like it to be and we're only really getting our marketing team staffed to take these on moving forward

mike [3:00 PM] do you ever get feedback from non client users? im assuming your clients are the ones hosting events, then their attendees are using the apps

mike [3:01 PM]3:01 perhaps i worded that poorly

bijanv [3:01 PM] it's generally unfortunately second hand feedback which isn't great but

bijanv [3:01 PM]3:01 we also go on-site for some clients

bijanv [3:01 PM]3:01 and send each one of our engineers & PMs & designers to a client once a year

bijanv [3:01 PM]3:01 so they get to actually see and meet real users

bijanv [3:01 PM]3:01 and see their pain points

mike [3:02 PM] oh that's awesome

monting [3:02 PM] It's a great question mike.

bijanv [3:02 PM] super useful

mike [3:02 PM] that's a never ending problem for us - employers pay us but the students use the site

mike [3:02 PM]3:02 we get some strong feedback from both that clash

mike [3:02 PM]3:02 so it's hard to balance

bijanv [3:03 PM] yeah definitely, you have to keep both communication lines open and be actively involved

bijanv [3:04 PM]3:04 there are a variety of ways of doing that while keeping both your clients & their users happy and non-intrusive with you as a middle man

bijanv [3:05 PM]3:05 cool, well I've got to run to the rest of my meetings! this was fun and a great idea @monting @hassan  thanks!

mike [3:06 PM] thanks for stopping by

monting [3:06 PM] @bijanv: Thank you so much for your time!

bijanv [3:06 PM] I'm also always here if you want to DM me with anything, I might take a while but I'll eventually respond

hassan [3:07 PM] @bijanv It was great having you here. Appreciate the knowledge!

bungie4 [3:07 PM] :clap:

monting [3:07 PM] It's been great. We are looking to compile and share it online with your permission @bijanv. Will let you know

bungie4 [3:07 PM] work got in the way of participation again, glad I can go back and read it more carefully later.

bijanv [3:08 PM] cool look forward to it @monting  :simple_smile: