Brendan graduated from Brown University in 2005 after majoring in filmmaking, he then went on to start Wistia, he then quit his job to work on wistia full time.
Brendan and I had talked about starting companies throughout college, but most of our concepts were outrageously grandiose and never continued to sound like good ideas the week after they were conceived. I’ve found that if the excitement around an idea continues to remain after a couple weeks, the idea’s probably a good one. In the case of Wistia, online video usage was skyrocketing in 2006.
Hi Chris, can you give us some background information about you and what you do?
I’m a co-founder and the CEO of Wistia.
We started Wistia a little over three years ago when Brendan Schwartz, my co-founder, and I quit our jobs to work on Wistia full time. Brendan and I graduated from Brown University in 2005. I majored in filmmaking, which was unknowingly the first step I took towards starting Wistia.
What Inspired you to start up a company?
Brendan and I had talked about starting companies throughout college, but most of our concepts were outrageously grandiose and never continued to sound like good ideas the week after they were conceived. I’ve found that if the excitement around an idea continues to remain after a couple weeks, the idea’s probably a good one. In the case of Wistia, online video usage was skyrocketing in 2006. We noticed that filmmakers weren’t taking full advantage of web video and that seemed odd to us. We initially set out to build tools for that marketplace.
How has the journey been so far?
It’s been wild. Like many companies, our focus and product have morphed many times. But by the end of the first year, we really started to key in on the product and approach we still use today. We spent the first year and a half working out of our apartment. As the product and revenues matured, we started to build out the team to support and accelerate growth.
Who are your competitors and how do you compete against them?
One of our chief competitors is confusion. There are hundreds of companies that provide web video solutions in some form or another, and from a customer’s perspective, it’s hard to tell them apart. Even analysts consistently have trouble classifying companies in the online video space.
We’re different than almost every video company out there in that we provide a complete application, as opposed to just a video platform or infrastructure. We sell to business users, not IT. We don’t position ourselves against other online video providers; we position ourselves against outdated solutions to business problems that can be better solved with web video.
Before finding us, many of our customers were shipping DVDs to sales prospects or flying employees around the country for training.
Who are your target market?
Wistia is a great fit for companies using video as a part of their sales, marketing, or training. In particular we tend to see the most interest from B2B businesses. We have customers of all shapes and sizes, from companies like Cirque du Soleil and Nestlé Nutrition to technology startups to local mom and pop shops.
How do you market your products or services?
We do SEM, SEO, and some display advertising, in concert with social media strategies on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
What has been your most effective marketing tactic or technique?
The application itself is one of our most powerful marketing tools. We get a surprising number of referrals from our customers.
How did you decide on the location for your business?
We choose Boston because of its vibrant startup community. Also, having gone to school in Rhode Island, we already had the beginnings of a network in place in the Boston area.
How do you build a successful customer base?
Talk to them! We constantly talk to our customers by email, on the phone, on twitter, and through surveys. We are insanely customer-focused. We rely on them to help guide our product development and business strategy. Before we had any customers, we sat down with prospects to understand how our software could help them. When we launched the first version of our product in August of 2007, we had a paying customer from day one.
How did you finance your business? What have been your most effective sources of financing over the years?
Initially, we financed the business ourselves. Since we’d only been working a year since graduating college this meant keeping our costs ridiculously low. We ate ramen and lived in a house with 9 people. Friends would give me office supplies for my birthday because they knew I was too cheap to buy them. As we’ve grown, we’ve taken in angel funding to accelerate the growth of the business. Most of our angels are entrepreneurs themselves. Having a smart, driven group of investors who really understands what it takes to build a startup has been invaluable.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
The first time I saw a customer telling someone else about Wistia unprompted. That was an amazing feeling! It feels really good to know that you’ve made something people really like.
In one word, characterize your life as an entrepreneur.
How do you find people to bring into your organization that truly care about the organization the way you do?
I’ve found that they’ll often find us. Everyone who we work with is passionate about the business, the approach, and the vision. I look for passion and entrepreneurship. If someone has built their own company before, no matter how small, they understand what it takes to build something from nothing.
What three pieces of advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs starting up or planning to start up their business especially at this current economic downturn?
I’d suggest two things:
• Start calling your prospective customers and testing your thesis right now. Whether that means putting together an Adwords campaign just to see if people click, paying to run a survey on another site, or cold-calling potential buyers. You need to test your initial thesis and gauge interest. There is absolutely no substitute for talking to customers and potential customers.
• When you’re ready to start, go all in. If your idea is worth pursuing, you should be willing to quit your job. There’s nothing like having a fire under your ass to actually make money. Having a day job or doing part-time consulting while trying to start a business is like trying to run a marathon with a ball and chain.
When do you feel you will be getting the patents for your technology?
Good question. Do you know someone at the USPTO?
No worries, I’ll give them a call *Laughs*
Thanks Chris for your time, we wish you and your team the best in the future