They had so many strikes against them, there was no way they would be successful.
First problem: They were guys. Second problem: They were all single. None of them had ever been married, and they were based in Raleigh, North Carolina, which was not a place that anyone had ever built a large consumer app company. Lastly, the app they were designing was to center on photos–and there were literally hundreds of photo apps available for both Android and iPhone.
What would you do? Any smart founder confronted with those facts would begin the search for a new idea. But, like many an entrepreneur, Idan Koren, Andy Heymann, and Justin Miller ignored the sage advice from experienced peers and risked it all on a consumer app aimed at wedding photos.
Today, WedPics has more than four million registered users, who have connected to share photos in more than 800,000 weddings. The company serves over 10,000 weddings a weekend, and these numbers are growing every week.
How did WedPics defy conventional wisdom?
The first lessons started in 2010, with the launch of Deja Mi–a photo app that had all the same features of every other photo app. Except for the customers, of course. The boys had coded tirelessly for months to get the app out there, and besides the normal friends and family and a few stragglers that had stumbled upon the app, their customer base was paltry.
It turns out Koren, Heymann, and Miller had taken a familiar route that many if not most tech founders take. They had created a feature-laden product that was for everyone interested in managing his or her photography. Their development plan was based on the idea that there has to be a feature in there for anyone. This did not work for Deja Mi, and it most likely will not work for you.
Like a drumbeat, I strongly encourage product developers to identify a small niche market and build a highly targeted product to fit that market’s need. After conquering that niche market, you can then expand out to other niches until you get some real momentum. If this mantra sounds familiar, it should.
Deja Mi had not focused on a smaller niche and had attempted to play the feature game, hoping that somewhere in the company’s product a feature would connect with a potential user. Back to the drawing board the three guys went in the spring of 2012.
After several grueling weeks, they decided to target brides as their customer niche. Brides can’t get enough pictures and videos, not just from their wedding photographer but also from everyone else with a cell phone.
The good news is, Koren, Heymann, and Miller had a library of photo features from Deja Mi and they had learned their lesson about loading the product with features. This product would serve brides and their guests, so the founders ripped out 90 percent of their code from Deja Mi.
When you look at WedPic’s success, there are two overriding lessons that stand out:
- The product is simple. The UI is intuitive, and regardless of whether you are 12 or 62, if you have a phone you can snap pictures and videos and instantly share them with the rest of the wedding party. In fact, the founders claim that there are no features.
- They understand their buyer (the bride). Out of the gates, they offered instant support regardless of the time of day. The boys each took turns on call and averaged 20 minutes to turn around any question or concern. I mean, we are talking brides here preparing for the biggest day of their life. It didn’t matter that Koren, Heymann, or Miller received calls in the middle of the night. Yes, I said calls. Not email. Not chat (though that would have been cheaper and easier). The brand said, The company is here for you; we know we only get one shot to do this right.
What I love about the success of WedPics is how Koren, Heymann, and Miller took a perceived step backward to find initial success. Over those first crazy months postlaunch, they focused on finding customers. My favorite image is that of a six-foot-four tattooed guy (Miller) standing behind the company table at a wedding conference.
Today, WedPics stands at 29 people and has raised more than $7.5 million from investors across the country. Oh, all three founders are still single.
** This article first appeared in Inc.com. Read more here. **