Entry written by Allison Strouse
Hi, Girls in Tech! Allison Strouse here, your former co-editor. It has been a while since my last blog post, and I want to give an update on my latest adventure in tech. I am happy to announce that I have launched my own business, called Yarly.
Yarly’s mission is to help people get the most out of their memories. At Yarly, we are building a photo hub for archiving and organizing photos that gives you the power and flexibility to work with your photos the way you want to. Want to save some photos to DropBox and others to your desktop? Done. Want to share some photos to Facebook and others to Instagram? Done. Want to share certain photos with only specific people? Done. We are delivering a photo platform of choice delivered across all platforms, so you can have an organized and archived photo hub that gives you all of the flexibility and optionality that you want. Did I mention that you also own your data? Yeah, we provide that too.
Starting a business of my own has long been a desire of mine, but I wanted to take my time to make sure I had the proper skills to do it right. After three years as a Senior Manager at the leading online lead generation company, QuinStreet, and currently pursuing my MBA, the time felt right to take the entrepreneurial leap. However, I have learned that actually going through the start-up steps is where most of the learning is done, and I continue to learn every day. But before learned lessons become forgotten ones and new challenges take their place, I want to relay some of my learnings in hopes that I can inspire some of you take this very exciting leap. Here I go…
1. Have major conviction for your idea
In my eyes, Yarly is perfectly positioned to take advantage of four major current trends:
1) An explosion in the number of photos being taken (880bn expected to be snapped in 2014, up almost 100% from five years ago)
2) Popular social media photo-sharing sites becoming less and less private. We’ve seen this with recent Facebook changes such as the decreased age limit and mandatory profile search
3) Data privacy and control concerns due to recent NSA revelations
4) Increasing reputational concerns with social media – more than half of career recruiters now check your Facebook profile
Due to these four trends, there are more and more photos that simply sit on people’s camera rolls and sadly never get archived, shared and enjoyed. Yarly is designed to provide a cross-platform hub for organization and archival where users can interact with their photos in a way that suits the user. Photos are our most prided possession, and when people wake up to a sampling of photos scattered across social media platforms, where our data is no longer our own, users will demand a solution that works for them, not for advertisers.
Despite my very strong convictions for Yarly, there will always be the doubters out there. I’ve heard negative feedback including the crowded nature of the space to the deep pockets of large players. Where I see a huge market with a huge opportunity for disruption, there are many others who see impossibility. It has taken time to learn this, but I have finally become able to tune out the negative noise, and I’ve learned that this is critical for entrepreneurial success.
While I believe that all people give advice from a very kind place, this does not mean that I need to agree with them. This is easier said than done. When sticking to my convictions gets tough, I remind myself that this is what starting a business is all about. If there were absolute certainty that a business would work out, everyone would start one.
When this type of rationality fails…
Plan B: I think of other successful businesses and what they must have gone through in their early days. Google wasn’t the first search engine. I can only imagine the reactions they got when they decided to go up against Yahoo, AltaVista and a dozen others. Not only did they have many large competitors, but Google was competing in a space that proved zero customer loyalty at the time. At least for photos, a user gets more invested every time they use the product.
But when I still feel down…
Plan C: What about Ben and Jerry’s? When Ben and Jerry’s decided to start an ice cream company in 1978, I am pretty confident that people considered the ice cream space to be fully mature. When Ben and Jerry approached their friends and investors with the idea of innovating on ice cream, I’m sure they got a lot of crazy stares. We all know how this story ended. In fact, innovation in this market is still happening. In 2010, Melt Bakery was founded in the Lower East Side NYC, and they are innovating on the ice cream sandwich. I had my first one last week at the Madison Square Eats festival. Their red velvet meltcakes with cream cheese ice cream is delicious!
If we all listened to the completely realistic voices around us, these wonderful innovations in areas that many people consider to be “done” would sadly never come to be.
2. Team team team
I hear a lot of concerns from hopeful startup founders on finding a team, and they seem to put it off as long as possible. However, to the contrary, I think that having a team is the most fun part of a startup. There is nothing more fulfilling than going through this journey with others and experiencing the ups and downs as a unit. Also, with the experience of starting Yarly on my own and then bringing on a founding team, I can tell you from experience that things really get rolling only once a solid team is in place. I also couldn’t see an investor investing in a founder who hasn’t proven their skills in team building. Yes, bringing on other equity holders feels risky and unkown, but if you find the right people, embrace the partnership like they are family, and I assure you that this type of commitment, loyalty and trust is a lot of gosh darn fun.
3. Just do it
Last, but not least, my advice to entrepreneur hopefuls is to do as the Nike saying goes, “Just do it.” At every bump in the road, remind yourself of your accomplishments and how far you have come already. When there seem to be many reasons to turn around, take a moment to think about the reasons to forge ahead. This is when having a great support system at home comes in handy. These people will be the words of reason when you feel unsure. These are the people who will remind you of how much you have accomplished and how proud you should be so you can confidently take that next step forward.
I hope that these lessons learned will be helpful to the Girls in Tech community and beyond. As always, please feel free to reach out to me:
Yarly Facebook Page