Neha Palacherla | April 17th, 2014
Jay Singh and Dan Levin came up with the idea for ViralGains when they were still in college (it was called Viral Media Solutions at the time). In 2012, after managing to grow six figures a year in revenue, Kate Willett came on as a cofounder and ViralGains was born out of the original project. They then met Doron Gan through FounderDating, an engineer with a couple startups already under his belt (BZByte LLC, Shafir Inc.). With the addition of Doron’s technical expertise, ViralGains has become even more wildly successful. In just two years, they’ve raised $715,000 in funding, won MassChallenge 2013, and made over 1.2 million in sales working with 12 different Fortune 500 brands. In less than two years, they’ve grown quickly, becoming the forefront of online video viral marketing.
We talked with the founding team about how they met their fourth cofounder, Doron, through FounderDating:
What was the process like?
Doron: Jay reached out to me first. He’s very good at networking and getting himself out there. It was almost a year from when he first contacted me to when I joined them.
Jay: I had actually met 4-5 people on the site before Doron. We didn’t work together at first because he was working on something else at
the time. The first meeting was in early 2013, and he came on in August 2013. For over six months, we both tried our own separate things, and then we realized if we joined forces, we would have a much bigger opportunity.
Kate: Jay and I were working on ViralGains full time, while Dan was finishing up school. We had to make big decisions at the time about getting serious. Our main focus had been validating the market up to that point but the real question for us was: how do we find the technical genius to make this idea a reality?
How did you know this was a good fit?
Doron: I’ve seen big successes before with companies like Vlingo and I saw the team and what they brought. I saw all the right signs. From previous experience, I know that it takes at least 5-6 years to see something big through and I’m ready to do that. Kate, Jay, and Dan are amazing. With no technology at all, they did ridiculously well. And I thought that together, with me bringing the technology, we could do something amazing.
Jay: The idea was that if we could take the sales numbers we were having with the tech that Doron brings, we could make what we had even bigger and he was ready to make that long-term commitment. He said “I’m ready to commit to building something that’s big” and that’s how we knew
Dan: I knew we were looking for someone with a great technology background, and when I met Doron I pretty much fell in love. His personality completely fit with the rest of the team.
What’s your advice to people looking for cofounders?
Jay: I’ve seen a lot of founder conflict. We’ve been doing this for years total but in the last year and a half, I’ve seen a lot of small startups. I’ve seen 3-4 startups implode due to founder conflict. So what I would say is “know thyself and know thy cofounder.” Both people should really know what they want in the next five years and what they can agree on can happen in those 5 years.
Doron: This is kind of what Jay was hinting at, but you’ve got to go into it with the mindset that it’s a five year thing. You’ve got to have the skills to get through those conflicts in a positive way. Cofounder relationships are like being married. I’ve been married for about 10 years and I’ve learned the hard way how to resolve conflict and commit to a long-term relationship and it’s very similar.
Dan: Trust is essential. I can trust that each of my cofounders will kill it with what their focus is. I don’t have to worry about sales or the tech, my cofounders take care of that and I can focus on what I’m contributing to the company.
Kate: It’s also our devotion to the overall mission. There’s always a feedback loop so we know what’s happening, how we’re working to the end goal. And it’s also about we as cofounders empowering the rest of the team to out-innovate and be their best.
Got a success story to share? Let us know and get some press.
Want to be the next FounderDating success story? Join now.
Neha Palacherla | March 5th, 2014
Vance Pan and Doug Squarebriggs are seasoned entrepreneurs who matched on FounderDating and are working together on Vancouver-based startup Nodally Technologies. Vance was a partner at DataCVG and Doug was a partner at Cam Technologies and Enterprise CodeWorks, as well as a founder of Ladner Creative.
For Doug Squarebriggs, getting Nodally off the ground meant finding someone who was also passionate about the enterprise software space, and Vance Pan was that person. The two cofounders first met at the Vancouver FD kickoff event in November 2012. “Most everyone at the meeting was looking at social media and web only projects on the software side of things,” says Doug, but he’s glad that he ran into Vance, who has a background similar to his. Doug almost didn’t go that night because of a bad cold, but he decided to tough it out. Turned out it was a great decision.
“We spoke the same language,” says Vance about meeting Doug at the kickoff event. Vance had been working in China, before he decided to move back to Vancouver to settle down and joined FounderDating to meet other entrepreneurs and share ideas about startups. He ran into Doug at a table discussing enterprise software and they spent the rest of the night trading ideas.Vance realized that Doug had a great technology and wanted to help him make a great company out of it. “We didn’t move on to any of the other tables,” says Doug and they both laugh.
The two cofounders have a long history with startups. Doug was a partner at Cam Technologies and Enterprise CodeWorks, as well as a founder of Ladner Creative, while Vance was a partner at DataCVG. They both knew they needed quality cofounders to get a startup going, and that there’s a lot of hard work involved. After they met at the kickoff, Vance started to collaborate with Doug and seven months after they started working together, their technology moved into beta.
Nodally recently launched an open source project on GitHub called Xenograte-xct. The Xenograte technology is an application platform that enables data to flow freely among software and/or machines so they can integrate easily and seamlessly. The cofounders acknowledge that there have been challenges along the way, as with every new company, but Doug says, “We have very different skill sets and that helps as we round each other out and complement each other.” In the end, it’s their drive to make a difference in the world of enterprise software that keeps them working towards developing and growing Nodally.
Be the next FounderDating success story! If you’re looking for a cofounder or advisor, get started today.
Neha Palacherla | December 18th, 2013
Kaz Nejatian, Geoff Flarity and Danny Su are members of FounderDating who successfully matched and founded AvidTap in Toronto.
1. Give us a little background about yourselves.
Kaz: I come from a family of retailers. We’ve been selling things to people for as long as I can remember. I managed my first store when I was 16. Before starting AvidTap, I was the Director of Strategy for Citizenship & Immigration Canada where I handled the introduction of new economic immigration programs like the Startup Visa. Before that, I was a corporate lawyer in New York at Ropes & Gray.
Geoff: I studied at the University of Waterloo. I’m a maker, hacker and technophile. I’ve worked at Canadian Tire, OANDA, Morgan Stanley, and Well.ca.
Danny: I’ll never forget the night when my high school speech recognizer project was able to recognize discrete words and haven’t looked back since. I went to school at University of Waterloo. I have worked on Windows Phone, built Canada’s first virtual store at Well.ca and have also worked at Amazon.
2. Why did you decide to apply for FounderDating?
Kaz: I’ve always been entrepreneurial and have always wanted to start my own company. I am passionate about retail and figuring out why people make decisions that they do. I figured it was about time I tried to find some people who wanted to also start a company. I didn’t have a clear 18 point business plan. I knew that retail was broken and that we could use technology to make it better. I was committed to finding people who also cared about the space and who had the skills that I lacked.
Geoff: As a software engineer in Toronto you’re surrounded by techie talent. It’s easy to find someone interested in your cool startup idea. What’s hard is convincing talented people to take a risk.
3. What was the “dating process” like?
Kaz: We took the dating process fairly seriously. We met multiple times. Talked about how we worked, our communication styles, and our experiences. I had a few coffees with Geoff, as well as a few lunches and I think a dinner with Danny. From the time Geoff and I had the first meeting to the time I told my office I was leaving may have been less than 3 months. We had an idea about the space (retail), we knew we wanted to do mobile stuff. We’ve formed a business as we’ve gotten along.
4. Tell us about your company.
AvidTap is a mobile retail company bringing the e-commerce way of selling to brick & mortar retail.
Our retail partners use AvidRegister, the smart & easy point of sale. And their customers use our app to pay and to collect loyalty points and to order ahead. We use the data from the app interactions to personalize the shopping experience. So next time a shopper walks into an AvidTap store, her profile will pop up on AvidRegister. Our retail partner can greet her by her name, maybe wish her a happy birthday, and ask her if she wants what she ordered last time.
5. What’s your hope for the company?
We have no doubt that the current way of selling things won’t survive. The retail connection is lost and transaction fees are getting higher and higher. Retailers will either adopt to smart selling or they will cease to exist. And a world without brick & mortar retailers is just not as much fun. There will be a day when you will use your phone to do most of your shopping. We’re going to make sure that day comes here a lot sooner.
We knew things were going well when our first customer cut us a cheque before we even had a product coded. It was just based on a wire frame and we got a cheque. We also just closed a seed round and joined an accelerator called HyperDrive, so we’re excited about that!
6. Any advice for other entrepreneurs regarding cofounders?
Kaz: If you are a business person and you keep thinking to yourself “I have this awesome idea, I just need to find someone to code or I just need to find someone in India to outsource”: stop! Companies do not outsource the core function of the company. The core function of a bank is holding money, you don’t see them outsourcing that. A core function of the grocery store is having food available, you don’t see them outsourcing that. A core function of a technology company is almost always the product. You can’t outsource that.
Geoff: When listening to someone’s pitch, think about the space and the person but don’t worry too much about the specific idea. Startups pivot. If the space is good and the person is good, keep the conversation going.
Danny: Look for somebody whose skills complement yours. Look for competence, commitment, and character. Look for doers.
Neha Palacherla | August 22nd, 2013
Jack Al-Kahwati and Gerardo Barroeta are members of FounderDating who successfully matched and founded Velo Labs in San Francisco.
TELL US ABOUT YOURSELVES.
Jack: I’m originally from Canada. I worked in the Aerospace industry for ten years designing composite aircraft and military helicopters. I eventually decided it was time for me to start my own company, so I quit my job and moved to San Francisco. I found FounderDating after a year and met Gerardo a week after joining the site. We are both hardware engineers and connected because of that.
Gerardo: I’m originally from Mexico, I moved to Boston first for grad school at MIT. After graduating I worked for a semiconductor company, then at Streetline, a parking sensor startup for about four years and then doing sensor R&D at Jawbone. I like working on products that I find exciting and I would personally use. After working for several companies I felt like it was the right time to take the leap and launch my own. One of the many pieces of advice I got from other entrepreneurs was that going solo is a bad idea and finding a cofounder was essential.
WHAT WAS YOUR “DATING PROCESS” LIKE?
Jack: They say don’t try to sell your idea on the first date, but that’s exactly what I did. At the time I was working on a cool ebike concept that was going to revolutionize the transportation industry, but I quickly found myself overwhelmed. I met Gerardo for coffee, and then invited him to a round table. After about 1-2 months working with each other, and a large pivot to our current product, we became co-founders.
Gerardo: At first, I wasn’t interested in Jack’s idea. I was actually hunting for people, but Jack seemed passionate about getting an idea going. Eventually, we agreed on a common path that leveraged both of our skills and passions and I decided to take the plunge.
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO APPLY FOR FOUNDERDATING?
Jack: I really wanted to find someone dependable. There was so much work to be done, so I’m glad I have a cofounder to help me get through it. I tried AngelList and other sites, but nothing was as hard-hitting as FD. Coming from outside the valley, I would say it’s hard to find quality cofounders if you aren’t part of the deep-seeded community. I think the kickoff really helped as well.
Gerardo: It’s difficult to find someone who has similar interests and the financial standing to start a company. It takes guts to say, “screw my job, I’m launching into the unknown.” It took me four months to take the leap. Finding someone that not only compliments your skillsets, but also shares common interests and is easy to get along with is very difficult.
TELL US ABOUT VELO LABS.
We are working on a connected hardware device for bicycles. But that’s all we can say right now!
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO SOMEONE WHO WANTS TO GO IT ALONE?
Jack: Speaking from a hardware entrepreneur perspective, I would say that there is too much work for one person to go at it alone.
Gerardo: It’s madness! You need capital, know-how of manufacturing and retail, moral support, and so much more. There’s a huge difference between hardware and software startups. In software, they say if you’re not ashamed of your first product, you waited too long. With hardware, you don’t have that luxury.
Jack: Even if you’re doing software development, you would still need to balance all the business requirements that really define the product. There’s just too much. You need to find a cofounder to help manage the work.
ANY OTHER WORDS OF ADVICE?
Jack: I joined an incubator, Stanford StartX. It really helped get us going on the idea. I had some great mentors and I learned a lot from them.
Gerardo: There’s so much that you need to know to get a company off the ground. We’re not there yet, but we’re leaps and bounds from where we were.
Neha Palacherla | August 15th, 2013
Kevin Egge and Darren Boyd are members of FounderDating who successfully matched and founded Blujack, making traveling together easier through a mobile, shared itinerary for the trip.
WHY DID YOU APPLY TO FOUNDERDATING?
Darren: I’ve had the opportunity to be an early engineer at several startups in my career (Zendesk being one of them). I felt it was time to be the founder of a company but needed someone complementary to me, someone who was actually serious about starting a company. FounderDating was a promising place to find that person.
Kevin: My background is in tech but my strength is in business development. After getting my MBA from Berkeley and realizing how essential a tech cofounder is, I knew I needed that person to move forward. For a while, I thought the best place to find someone would be through my own network, but it took longer that way and I wasn’t getting the commitment I was looking for. With FounderDating, I was impressed that the network is quality and the people on it are vetted.
WHAT WAS THE “DATING” PROCESS LIKE?
Kevin: Darren and I connected shortly after the kickoff and set up a meeting over coffee. Since I had been talking with other potential cofounders outside of FD, I was already comfortable with the process.
Darren: We started off with a small commitment to do some work together. The conversations were kept high-level so we could focus on how we interacted. As we got to know each other, the product discussions happened naturally.
Kevin: We really wanted to figure out each other’s work styles before going for it. We established trust between us right away and communicated well with each other. People sometimes try to keep things in stealth mode until they really know the other person, but that wasn’t an issue for us. We talked a lot about philosophy; did we have the same vision for building a company? What were our expectations?
Darren: We found out that we had other shared interests, so we talked about a lot of non-software things. Getting to know each other on that level was important.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR COMPANY.
Kevin: Blujack makes traveling together easier through a mobile, shared itinerary for the trip. Our focus is simplifying the coordination of who arrives when, what everyone is doing, and where people are. Whether it’s just two couples or 25 people traveling, everyone has the information they need. For example, we create a timeline showing all of the flights that have been booked. We send arrival and delay alerts to everyone so if someone is late, it’s easier to plan accordingly.
The concept came from hearing how annoyed my friend was with having to gather and track the information for everyone on a bachelor party he was planning. Normally, everyone just creates a spreadsheet that isn’t dynamic or shareable. With Blujack, the user experience is streamlined and intuitive. It solves the problem.
For the name Blujack, we wanted something that was not a generic travel term. A bluejack is a type of fish that travels in a school. When you see a school of fish, it looks random and dynamic, but somehow very coordinated. There doesn’t seem to be a leader yet they all know what to do. The triangles in our logo represent data and how people use it to travel together.
WHAT’S YOUR HOPE FOR THE COMPANY?
Our overall goal is to foster relationships. Traveling is a great way to do this. We want to make the experience of coordinating everyone so simple that you wouldn’t even think of traveling without using Blujack. Our short and long-term visions are evolving as we work more on the product.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO FUTURE ENTREPRENEURS REGARDING COFOUNDERS?
Darren: FounderDating’s tagline that “Ideas change, people don’t” was in the forefront throughout the process of starting this company. The idea was secondary for me, but I knew Kevin would make a great partner.
Kevin: There are many similarities between business and life. You can’t find the first person that fits what you want and feel like they’re the only person you can work with. Good on paper doesn’t always mean they will make the best long-term relationship. Rejection is inevitable in this game, but keep persevering. If you can’t get through being rejected by someone you want to be your cofounder, you probably don’t want to mess with a startup. Spend the time it takes to get to know the person. If you aren’t getting commitment after a natural amount of time, then know when to fold it. Letting go gets you to the right person faster.
Darren: If it makes you nervous and scares you, you’re probably doing it correctly. If it doesn’t scare you, you’re not out of your comfort zone. I came in from a full-time position and could quantify what I was leaving behind when I decided to take the plunge. Having a partner that shares the belief that it’s a marathon, not a sprint, is essential.