Symp is a newly built online platform that allows people to easily follow tags instead of following people.
Today he tells us how he started this new company, and also shares some advice for new startup founders.
Q: Please tell us a little bit about your company – what is Symp all about?
Symp is the first non-social network built around hashtags. Symp enables users to connect with others based on their interests and engage in meaningful discussions around the things they really care about. Imagine it like twitter without user profiles. You can’t follow other users, you just can follow tags. Tags are globally accessible without any restrictions, so instead of porting just lots of forum style rooms into a platform, you are free to roam our platform. You don’t need to establish a follower base, just get in and talk!
Q: Please tell us a little bit about your background and how you started your company?
I met Tim, my now Co-Founder and “techie”of Symp at university. We quickly understood that what we learned there – marketing – , wasn’t really what we were looking for. It was all too hypothetical. I do understand that it is a university, and you have to get a broader focus of several different markets, but the next logical step after that seemed to get out and look for a job. To us though, it seemed that we just couldn’t rock that. We needed to do our own thing, quite uncommon in our class at least. Since we had our idea of Symp, we dropped out and planned what would become one of our biggest challenges. Talking to a lot of entrepreneurs and some who are eager to become one, I figured out that this won’t work for everybody. My advice is, if you don’t have the idea, finish university and polish your idea first.
Q: What are your plans for the future, how do you plan to grow this company?
I am focused on Symp entirely. Life can be somewhat challenging, so if you are in it, in your project, you’ve got to devote all your time to it. In our case, we started off talking to some VC’s. Some were helpful, some were not. All of them however declined, since we started talking to them while we just had a concept but no product.
There’s basically two options, generally talking: do it yourself, or get money and get it done. When the VC’s turned us down, we quickly understood that it was actually the best thing that could have happened. We are in the control of the product. And we can tailor it to the user’s needs, without the focus of getting back that investment real soon. So think about it, if you have the team and the skills, let the VC come to you, not the other way around. If you can manage to do it bootstrapped, you’ll do great!
Q: How do you bring ideas to life?
See, that is easily the most important question. To think about the future makes you understand whether you are going in the right direction or not. Since we are in our closed alpha, getting growth is closer than everything else. However, since we are not financially backed by a VC, we count on organic growth. You can put just anything on the market, if you got the money to advertise it on every channel, the idea can suck. Let’s face it. If you do however have a great product, that’s of good value to your customer, they’ll tell everybody about it. And that is the way a good entrepreneur should think, not about the VC or his bank account, but about the user first.
Before one get’s a chance to bring an idea to life, one should have an idea. It sounds simple, but it’s not. I don’t believe in forcing an idea. The best ideas will find you, whether you want or not. You will love the idea, and you will be able to picture it in use. Don’t think “what is the market share of….”. This analytical thinking will get you generic ideas. Think about it, what do you miss, what would make your life better, easier, etc? And once you spin that idea further, you can almost see it. Now just bring that to paper, assemble your team and start.
Q:What’s one trend that really excites you?
Something that excites me a lot lately is relatively offline, ironically. It’s electric cars. Some, I should say alpa-versions, are available. Alpha, because 150km reach won’t get that far, but it’s a fair start. Now, with cars becoming connected all the time to the internet I am getting concerned about my data. Who has access to it, how will it be evaluated etc. These are the real questions some car manufacturers should address before pitching their remote controlled air-conditioning.
Q: How do you go about marketing your business, and what has been the most successful form of marketing for you?
Marketing something that most people perceive as social network is quite a challenge. Think ello, ello had one USP: Privacy. Not that is an easy one if you got the resources, people do know what a social network is. People are increasingly annoyed by the market leader’s view (Facebook) on privacy. Count one and one together and you will understand that you don’t sell a new product to the customer, you sell something that is refined.
Symp promises an entirely new concept. A concept that actually demands some time by the user, you have to write, read etc. User participation won’t be as easy to achieve as sharing pictures and videos. On one hand we take privacy as an argument too, Symp offers you to register with just a nickname. This helps in establishing a link to the user. The other method is to work closely with a group of early adopters. Our alpha testers really help us out by giving valuable feedback, and they do invite other people to join our platform.
Q: What are the top 3 online tools and resources you’re currently using to grow your company?
The most valuable product is actually a second work-version of Symp. We use it to plan tasks and track progress. It actually looks like Symp, but with just our content. For example we use the tag “UI/UX” and post a task for it. We can fully concentrate on the task, discuss it and track the development from idea to the final version. For PR purposes I used Google sheets, it is really valuable if you put together PR information yourself and want to keep your teammates updated. Symp and what our alpha-users are giving us by feedback is the most valuable crowd-resource. Without that, without thinking about what all those people out there actually want to see, we probably wouldn’t be here.
Q: Please share some tips or advice for new startups on how to attract the press and get media attention.
Once you go ahead and start scanning online publications you can get frustrated. But don’t. Most of what’s being covered when it comes to internet apps you can categorize in several ways: One part are products that are already big on the market, or is a new product by an entrepreneur that has worked for something big already. Then there’s the part where just really weird products are mentioned. Like a messaging app with comic-style interaction. Why? And the last part is paid, sponsored content. Why? It all brings money flowing to the publication. Now think about it, if you do have a valuable product, you don’t want it to end on some clickbait site. Get in touch with some writers, over twitter if you don’t know them personally.By introduction, if you can. And just do the right pitch! Most top-tier publications, or the writers I should say, probably won’t even write you back. But understand how many pitches the receive everyday. Start by reaching out to bloggers, not because they are easier to reach, but because they will take the time for you, and make a good review.
Q: What are three books you recommend entrepreneurs to read?
I’ll be honest here, I’ve been to a lot of management training courses and stuff like that. Once you get out, you’ll think to yourself “Impressive, but well, kinda logical”. If you are still developing your idea, don’t read any books on entrepreneurship and stuff like that. Use the time to focus, you and your idea. Use your time for networking. And if you can, and that is a much better use of your time, get a job as intern in a related company. You’ll get the feeling of how something like this works better than from any book.
Q: What is your favorite entrepreneurship quote?
I don’t have one. And you don’t need to have. There are a lot of good quotes out there, but to me they are all the same. The thing is, once you focus on that quote, it will be hard to let go. But you as an entrepreneur, you will have to adopt. Think about something like “You are always right when it comes to your dreams”. Good quote, I guess. Now try to explain to the board of your company that you want to ditch the English language from your product and use emojis only from now on. The will probably not think that you are “right”, let alone “always”.
Have our vision ready, not so much about what you want to do after your company, but the long road ahead.
Q: How can our community get in touch with you?
The best way of course is via Symp under the hashtag #ImproveSymp if you want to say something concerning the product. I do have a medium blog, so if you dig what I write you can check it out under Lrsschmnn. For anything else, please don’t hesitate to write me under my email, LS@symp.me.