Some startups reach product/market fit in ten months, for others, it takes ten years. The key is to find joy in the process.
It’s been five years since we started Bizly. I’ll never forget the day we launched our app to the world, the launch party we threw at 287 gallery in NYC, and the thrill of working out of WeWork which felt like being in college again. The ups and downs of raising capital, hiring brilliant talent, getting our name in the press, and generating real revenue!
Starting Bizly was the ultimate reinvention for me at the time. Prior to this, I was literally rocking suits every day, traveling the world, doing tech investments, and appearing regularly on CNBC. When you’re an investor, you make much more money than as an early-stage founder. But more important than the money, you are treated a hell of a lot better by basically everyone. As an investor, you’re the center of attention at nearly every conference or event you attend. You get invited to cool parties and fancy dinners. You’re instantly considered a thought leader. And you have pretty reasonable work hours too. Yes, you have stress from time to time, but in general, once your emails are done for the day, there’s not much else to do but wait. It was a great life.
But I had a calling and an itch to do more than just throw my hands into the pot of moving capital. I spent a summer facing real pain around organizing meetings — and then I found that this was a pain faced by millions and the industry was ripe for reinvention. I jumped in without overthinking it. And the rest is history. Oh shit- not so fast.✋🏼
Our singular vision has always been the same from the beginning: empower any person to build impactful and highly engaging meetings🔌. Building a great business around this vision would prove to be much harder than I ever imagined. To win, we had to stay fixed on the big picture vision, but still flexible and iterative on the path for how we would achieve this grand vision.
First, we launched a consumer mobile app on iOS where you could instantly book meetings at hotels. It was a beautiful application, we had a strong group of hotels, and we even got some great early traction. But running capital against the ideas, we learned quickly that the economics weren’t quite right. Users only needed it episodically and the price points weren’t great. When we looked closer and deeper, we found that it was enterprises that had the most concentrated pain, spend, and demand for a solution like this. That was our first big a-ha 💡 and our first big iteration 🐛 🦋
Next, we created a beautiful enterprise experience 🌈 We intimately learned the deepest pains faced by our enterprise persona and we designed an elegant, consumer-centric product experience. We built a product that solved pain for multiple personas — the corporate buyer, the employee-user, and even the venues. We created a product that did all that, made it smooth and pleasurable, and we even provided the tools and analytics that our buyers needed. Through this product (and its adjustments along the way), we served thousands of employees. Over time, the product evolved into a truly end-to-end experience for building great offsite meetings. Going into March 2020, we were doubling our revenue about every month and we began serving some of the world’s biggest companies.
Then, COVID happened 🛑 During covid, venue bookings stopped. Our customers were loyal and stuck with us, but activity (and invoices) had to be frozen for a while. At this point, we had a choice — either keep spending & iterate our way to success; or freeze operations until things came back. We chose to reinvent ourselves- again 🐛 🦋. But this one would prove particularly challenging.
2020 was a really weird year. On top of all the exploration and iteration we had to do, we had employees suffering from severe emotional stress due to covid, and we had to care for them. We had to make painful changes, reposition, pivot the product, and iterate — all at the same time! 🙈 But through it all, we kept our cool and simply relied on the fundamentals of how we were able to succeed in the first place. Just focus on designing elegant & simple solutions to solve the real pain faced by employees and buyers. Take care of our team along the way. And don’t run out of money 💵.
Then, through the chaos of 2020, an even bigger opportunity hit us ☀️. Millions of people were suddenly facing the same pain at the same time — meeting culture is dysfunctional. It became clear to almost everyone that meetings weren’t working, and this problem was more pronounced through the lens of constant Zoom meetings. But, lucky for us, Bizly had a very unique insight on how to solve this pain. Through the tens of thousands of meetings done on our platform, we had unlocked a magic formula for how to make meetings better for everyone.
We had learned that building great meetings relied on a non-linear model that uniquely combines five ingredients in a particular way to achieve the specific meeting outcome at hand. We found that the universal formula for building great meetings relied on thoughtfully designing the experience around the same five ingredients:
The great meetings model ⭐️ 💫:
(1) a clearly defined purpose,
(2) a well-crafted agenda,
(3) a curated guest list,
(4) just the right setup; and
(5) a way to measure meeting success.
And it is always these same 5 ingredients whether the meeting is live in person, on Zoom, hybrid, or completely asynchronous.
But no one has the time to do these 5 things — you have to automate it! And make it fun and playful at the same time.
It’s a fact that companies who have figured out how to create a culture of thoughtfulness around meetings perform better- period. When you improve meetings, you immediately improve everyone’s mood, productivity, and sense of accomplishment. In a remote/hybrid world, having great meetings is not a nice to have- it is an imperative.
Bad meetings aren’t a “cost of doing business”. Bad meetings are just the old way of doing business- just like wired telephones, watercoolers, and TPS reports. Considering that meetings are how your most valued employees spend 40% of their workday, meetings are the most expensive spend category in every knowlege company today. Meetings are thus the battleground to retain the best talent and win. Meetings must be measured and improved. And Bizly has assembled the dream team to solve this problem at scale, a team of people who have committed their life to solving this problem around people analytics, meetings, and collaboration.
Bizly has an incredible new product that makes it all happen. Our next reinvention has started 🐛 🦋. This time around is even more robust as we have a core stable product around our enterprise business that has come back in a big way with the recovery; and we are giving life to a new product to serve millions. Can’t wait to share more in the weeks ahead.