Matthew: What bit of advice or information do you wish you would have known before you started Xobni?
Matt: Recently I heard a really good piece of advice. I don’t know how much it relates to Xobni, but I’ve really been thinking about it a lot recently. A lot of people measure how they’re scaling their business based on the number of employees they have. That’s the most common question. One founder will ask another founder, “How big are you guys?” They usually talk about team, and they will say, “Oh, we have about ten people.” I’ve always said I want to run a company that’s hundreds of people. I want to run a big company.
That’s one way to scale, but there are a lot of others. I heard this from my friend Nitti [SP]. There are a lot of other ways to scale that are actually more efficient or maybe more closely aligned with your skill set. You can scale people. That’s a tough one; managing people, communication channels. You get up to 20 or 30 people and it starts to get a little weird.
Another great way to scale is scaling software. He used the example of Facebook. They’ve done this really well. They can go and launch new features and new products quickly because they built software that helps them do that. You don’t have to add people, you can just add a level of abstraction from your software. That’s a really great way to scale.
Another way to scale is money. If you have great access to capital you can go buy users. You can do things at a faster rate than a competitor.
The fourth way is community. The best example I can think of with this is Reddit, started by a couple friends of mine. I think when they left there were probably six people working on Reddit and there are maybe two more than that now. It’s one of the biggest sites on the web with, I think, a billion page views a month. The way they’ve done that is their community does a lot. Their community does a QA, they look for bugs, they market the products. Their community creates all the content. That’s another really interesting way to scale your business. That’s something that I’ve learned and that I’m just thinking about a lot as I build my next company.
Matthew: What mentor has played a significant impact in your professional development?
Matt: There have been a lot in the different stages. Different people contribute significantly. We’re sitting in the office and one of the people I admire most, Josh Kopelman, who I think is an amazing entrepreneur, and he’s now a VC, a managing partner of First Round Capital. At different points he’s stepped in and been really honest with my co-founder and I about the different business decision in the company. I really appreciate that, and I want to represent that same honesty to other people I work with. From operations to marketing, he’s just got a lot of great lessons to teach. I think he’s been great.
Matthew: Matt, the word through the grapevine is that you’re working on something new, something big. Are you interested in sharing more about that with the audience?
Matt: Sure. I’ll say that it’s not worth working on anything if it’s big. That’s definitely something that motivates me. We think what we’re working on is huge. The new company is called Sincerely. What we are doing is making it really easy for people to send physical photos in the mail from their mobile phones. I can’t say it any more simply than that. It’s very simple. Everybody understands it. It’s hard to do something like this really well, and that’s what we’re focused on.
We’re going to be watching a lot of products around this idea, hyper-focused on mobile. The first product is coming out very soon. It’s called Postagram. It allows somebody to log in to their Instagram account, view their Instagram photos, choose one, add a little personalized message, and send it in the mail for 99 cents. We think it’s going to be big.
Matthew: Excellent. Thank you for sharing. Before we close, two more questions. The first is, what advice would you like to share with our audience about launching a startup? If you have to distill it, what are the key elements?
Matt: I actually used to be opposed to using the word ‘startup. My co-founder said, “Let’s start a startup.” I said, “No, I want to start a business.” As a CEO of a business, or a startup, same thing, there are three things you have to worry about at all times. “Do I have money in the bank,” and, “Are we operating in a really good market,” those just involve really talking to your customers and understanding them. The third is, “Do I have really good people in this boat with me that know how to row and row well?” That’s building a good team.
In all of my professional life and my professional development, I am constantly evaluating myself on those three skills and thinking about where I can improve. Do I have good relationships with lots of developers and other good team members? If I don’t, how can I invest in that part of my toolkit? I’ll do things like get involved in universities, speak to entrepreneurs, and so on. Or, how am I doing in the access to capital category? Do I have good relationships with VCs, angels and other financing avenues? Do I understand that? Am I involved in understanding what’s going on there? So I’ll invest in that.
The final piece is just understanding users. You can actually learn that through running a startup. That’s actually where you learn that the most because you have a close interaction with users. Additionally, you can go out and just see what’s happening on the web. Get the new Android phone and see what’s happening in that marketplace. See what types of users are there and what kind of comments they’re leaving on people’s app feedback areas.
There’s so much data out there about where these people’s pain points are and what they care about. I’m constantly just working on those three things. I think that’s really what it takes to be successful running a business and startup.
Matthew: Before we close, I would love for you to give our audience your vision for Xobni and how you hope it will continue to change the world.
Matt: We want Xobni to be the center point of your personal relationship information that’s traveling through email and through your phone. Going into the future, we started it out and we created an amazing product, an amazing experience around helping you manage your relationships inside Outlook. As we’ve moved forward, we’ve moved now to Gmail and to Android and iPhone. The vision started to become complete where a relationship that had an Outlook at a job five years ago doesn’t die whenever I leave that company, and I shouldn’t have to do anything smart to export contacts and keep that somewhere. That should all be stored in the cloud and be accessible.
Those relationships should move with me from job to job, from career to career. That’s the future of Xobni, relationships everywhere and having access to those.
Matthew: Matt, it’s been a pleasure having you as a guest on FounderLY. We’re rooting for your continued success at Xobni and also for your success at Sincerely.
For those in our audience who’d like to learn more and join the Xobni community, you can visit them at www.Xobni.com, which is actually ‘inbox’ spelled backwards. This is Matthew Wise at FounderLY. Thanks, Matt.
Matt: Thank you.