Lobo Library #20 - 6/8/21 - a 4 min 41 second read ahead...
🗞TL;DR: I got engaged, I found a cofounder, and I’m working on something new.
I'm writing this after getting back from what seems like my first vacation in over a year. I'm feeling refreshed and excited to catch you up on some exciting news. Get ready, because this one is going to get personal.
🏩 Personal Update:
Becky and I are engaged! We were lucky to have some amazing weather, and together with Arty and a couple of friends, we made our way to Central Park to take the plunge together. While it wasn't a surprise for either of us (we came to the decision together), we did take the opportunity to surprise both of our families who were meeting for dinner. It was a beautiful day.
This one is a bit more of a rollercoaster - so strap in. By the end of last year, I was feeling burned out, frustrated, and defeated. I worked really really hard last year, created a ton of products, and learned a whole lot, but in the end, I didn't have a startup I wanted to work on. I decided it was time to look for a job. This was really hard for me, because I felt like I was a failure, and that my lack of progress was a reflection of me (even though it was the likely outcome for anyone building a startup).
While I started to evaluate what I wanted to do for work and look for a job, I thought it was a great opportunity to test out my product/no-code development as a freelancer. I partnered up with a friend, Abhishek, who I had gotten to know well throughout quarantine. He had just wound down his YC startup and was interested in working together. Through a random connection, we were able to secure our first client project: building a Covid Compliance App that would allow event venues to securely check-in (tested/vaccinated) attendees.
Over the next 6 weeks, we built and delivered the most complex project I have ever worked on. It was incredibly challenging but also rewarding as we pushed no-code to the limit (99% of the final product was built without code).
And while I still don't know how to code, somehow I feel like I am a software developer now 🤓.
In addition to getting paid (woohoo), Abhishek and I were able to get to know each other very very well. I have never worked with another person like him, and he was exactly what I was looking for in a cofounder. To reiterate what I've said before, a good partner should be a good communicator, accountable, and proactive. In addition to checking all of those boxes, he is also brilliant, an optimist, and technical (complementary skillset FTW).
After our project ended, we went through a couple of cofounder dating exercises (which worked out well) and started looking for something we would be excited to work on together. We eventually picked a space which we both were passionate about, 'community.' We had both been inspired by amazing professional communities we were part of (On Deck, YC, Wharton, F.inc, etc.). We wanted to build a product that would enable the people running those groups, community builders ("CBs"), to be successful and create meaningful connections and experiences for their members.
Over the next couple of months, we ran customer interviews with 100 community leaders from around the globe to learn about their day-to-day processes, what makes them successful, and what gets in the way of that success.
We initially started down the path of building a feature-rich member portal inspired by On Deck (think member directory with access to content, resources, and more). Users of our member portal would be able to easily find and connect with the right people they wanted to reach. We built the MVP in 3 weeks (thanks to no-code). While we had some good initial reception, we found that it was challenging to have CBs onboard their members. After some investigating, we decided that we needed to build out many more features, including forum-like functionality (like Circle.so) before our product went from a 'nice-to-have' to a 'must-have.'
However, our customer conversations also pointed us in a different direction: member matching & introductions. One of the main reasons that people join communities, associations, and professional groups is to solve a problem that they have. Content or education can help with this, but meeting the right person (or group) is usually the key to their solution. In addition, people join communities to feel a part of something. a sense of belonging. Thus, one of the biggest parts of a CB's job is to introduce members to one another and create spaces where such interaction will happen. However, creating intimacy in communities becomes more complicated and challenging for the CB as the group grows in size. That's where we come in.
Abhishek and I have built Covalent, a product that helps CBs connect relevant members/students/attendees with one another in communities/courses/events, etc. Whether it's for 1:1s, masterminds, mentorship, roundtables, you name it - we can do it. We can make intros/send messages that are curated, personalized, and come from the community builder, rather than a bot (you know that everyone ignores the Donut channel in Slack).
Since we made the pivot to matching/intros, we have gotten some serious interest in the product and are running pilots with different groups (e.g. VC portfolio companies, startup/founder groups, freelance networks). We are planning on monetizing in the near-term and are hoping this becomes financially viable soon!
There are a lot more updates to come, and if you are interested in following our startup progress in more detail, reply to this and let me know so I can add you to our investor update emails.
Ain’t no party like an Arty party:
🏁Wow - you made it to the bottom. I hope you enjoyed it. Reach out with feedback or to just say hi!🏁
I love you,