WedPics has acquired more than four million registered users and currently serves over 10,000 weddings a weekend. And the company’s founders did it all despite overwhelming odds that said three single men couldn’t build a successful mobile app company in Raleigh, NC in the over-saturated market for photo apps.
After the flop of their original idea for another generic photo application, the founders pivoted to focus only on the niche market for weddings. And the idea took off. Today, WedPics employs 29 people and has raised over $7.5 million from investors. In his praise of the company, Chris Heivly writes that the WedPics’ simplistic user interface and strong understanding of its customer base are two important factors that have contributed heavily to the startup’s success.
Investments in WedPics recently totaled $12 million, coming months after “Shark Tank” investor Barbara Corcoran participated in a $5 million round. The most recent round amounted to roughly $8.5 million. While existing backers participated in the most recent funding, the round also brought new investors such as David Gardner, Ben Boyer, and Mosley Ventures.
The cash has fueled significant growth in the company, which began in co-founder and CEO Justin Miller’s basement in Raleigh, NC. To date, more than 830,000 couples have used the site to document their weddings.
FilterEasy, a Raleigh-based startup that delivers air filters to your doorstep, has raised more than half of its $3M fundraising goal. Co-founder and CEO Thad Tarkington remarked that the company closed on “a majority” of its funding goal last week, and said the rest will be raised in the coming weeks. Thad noted that the company recently converted around $1.1M of debt to equity.
Lister Delgado of IDEA Fund Partners commented on how impressed he was by the company’s sales growth. “This is just getting started, but I see the traction there,” said Delgado, adding that he believes “the market is four or five times bigger.” Delgado added that he has also been impressed with the strength of the company’s leadership, despite their young age.
FilterEasy initially raise $1.5M from investors and began operating in May of 2013. The company aims to expand in the coming months by adding harder-to-find filters to its lineup, along with custom-sized filters. It also plans to expand its business to Canada.
JOICASTER CEO Rudy Ellis will participate in TechStars Cloud, a high-profile San Antonio-based accelerator. As a young and relatively new entrepreneur, he explained that he is always looking for new opportunities with accelerators with exposure to experienced and well-connected mentors.
Ellis will move from Orlando’s Starter Studio accelerator, which he says was essential to his quick and rapid entry to the tech scene. Already, JOICASTER has served conferences across the country, and even a Dick Clark Productions-backed awards program.
TechStars, which has the backing of entrepreneurial expert and critically-acclaimed author Brad Feld, marks the most high profile accelerator Ellis and Joicaster have participated in to date. The program has been known to attract high-profile mentors.
San Antonio accelerator TechStars announced its selection of 11 companies for its Cloud 2016 program today. Joicaster, a recent addition to IFP’s investment portfolio, was selected among a diverse group of startups that includes companies from the United States, Ireland, Spain and Taiwan. All 11 companies work on a variety of technical and innovative businesses in the cloud space.
The class of 2016 marks the program’s fourth iteration. It began this week and will continue until mid-February, when it will conclude with a demo day. Alumni from the first three session include successful companies such as Cloudability and IFP portfolio company Distil.
When companies connect with customers’ emotions, the payoff can be huge. Consider these examples: After a major bank introduced a credit card for Millennials that was designed to inspire emotional connection, use among the segment increased by 70% and new account growth rose by 40%. Within a year of launching products and messaging to maximize emotional connection, a leading household cleaner turned market share losses into double-digit growth. And when a nationwide apparel retailer reoriented its merchandising and customer experience to its most emotionally connected customer segments, same-store sales growth accelerated more than threefold.
IFP Portfolio Company Pendo recently closed an $11 million Series A, one of the largest in recent NC VC tech history. Investors in the round included Salesforce and Battery Ventures.
Pendo CEO Todd Olson has been an active entrepreneur for years, starting his first company in the late 1990s while a student at Carnegie Mellon and raising $17 million for its development. His next company, 6th Sense Analytics, was sold to Rally Software in 2008. After a few years with Rally, Olson left his position as VP of Products following the company’s 2013 IPO.
Since then, he’s spent his time starting Pendo. In just a few years, the company has grown its SaaS customer base to over 60. And since January 2014, revenue has been increasing by 30% per month. When asked, IFP Managing Partner Lister Delgado commented “Rarely do you see a team of people who have done this before and know what they need to do (…). This is one of the best companies in the Triangle.”
The developers at WedPics have released a new mobile and web-based application called “Photo,” a social media platform that aims to extend the user’s WedPics experience beyond the wedding day. The app will help couples and individuals document important life events such as a family reunion, a baby shower, or a special vacation.
CEO Justin Miller reports that the inspiration for Photo came from WedPic users themselves, many of whom wanted a WedPics-like app for other occasions. While Photo retains many of the same features as WedPics, it will operate independently and focus more on the user. Miller is confident in his team’s ability to bring the app to market successfully and sees user transition from WedPics to Photo as natural.
As we round the corner to October, the fall hiring season is in high gear. Regardless of whether or not your company has immediate job openings, there is much to be gained by taking advantage of the season by running awareness and branding campaigns. Not only will these activities help you build your network and your company’s eventual talent pipeline, the campaigns will also garner market attention for your products and services. It’s a win-win scenario.
Don’t let the words “campaign” and “brand” throw you. Building awareness and promoting your company can be simple and effective, even with little-to-no budget. The point is to tell your story: who you are, what you do and why you do it. Tell it as many times as you can to as many people as you can using whatever platform, medium or channel is at your disposal.
What many leaders do not initially realize is that customer acquisition (marketing funnel) and talent acquisition (talent funnel) function exactly alike. Although the messaging may vary due to the target audience, the processes of awareness, lead gen, interest, consideration, intent and conversion mirror each other. As such, a company can dual purpose its activities. Whatever you do for customer acquisition can also be applied to talent acquisition, and vice versa.
There is no downside to building awareness as startups rarely suffer from overexposure. So take advantage of every single opportunity. If you are attending a tradeshow or conference to promote your product, think about how you can dual-purpose the exposure to attract both customers and future stars to your team. The interesting thing you’ll find is that the people who want to join your team also become brand ambassadors for your company. They are excited about what you’re doing and happy to tell people about it, which furthers the reach and ROI.
Remember, customer acquisition efforts are the same as talent acquisition efforts. Employ both at every opportunity and enjoy healthy pipelines.