The $400,000 Tweet
Angela Jeffrey
Ahmad Awais ⚡
Sourab Reddy
Aidan Wolf
José Cage
Erick Wachira
+58
How a Makers Festival submission led to a venture-backed startup
Last year, Product Hunt launched their very first Makers Festival. It was Thanksgiving weekend, and we had no idea what would come out of it. However, after a few sleepless nights, we submitted our project and hoped for the best.
We applied under the “Remote Workers” category with Yelling Across Cubicles (YAC), a walkie-talkie app for macOS.
So where did the idea for this come from?
Startup teams and project managers waste time spinning up and planning entire meetings instead of getting work done. This is detrimental, especially for startups, since speed and execution are paramount. We also know building relationships and culture with your team is often not a priority, and in the age of Slack, quick emotionless messages are often used when convenience trumps culture.
YAC is a byproduct of our partially remote, design and development agency based out of Orlando called SoFriendly. So while it did come out of a desire to help remote teams feel more connected, we actually started by scratching our own itch. We have employees all around the world and we found that we felt more connected to employees using voice chat versus just text alone. Our designers and developers felt awkward on camera but didn’t get enough human connection through text. So we invented a way to have a happy medium between a Slack message and a Zoom call.
The response was unreal. We had download after download for the entirety of Makers Festival, leading up to the final day of voting. The day of the results, we were in Product Hunt’s morning newsletter, on the blog, tweeted out, and posted on Facebook. We had won.
This was our first time winning a hackathon and also winning a Golden Kitty. The Makers Festival prize — a 3D-printed, silver kitten — served as the proof for stakeholders to know we were on an early path to success. Our team couldn’t be more proud.
Demand for the product skyrocketed and vaulted YAC to new heights. We immediately started working on an update to the app. What started as a redesign quickly turned into a full-fledged rebrand, which included new features like screen-sharing and push notifications. The team at SoFriendly wasn’t just an agency with a hackathon project anymore, we were quickly moving into a standalone startup with a product to sell.
Then, the tweet of a lifetime came, thanks to Aidan Wolf.
Within minutes we were on a call with Adam Draper from BoostVC in the middle of a hotel room in Vegas. We were in town for CES the month after the hackathon and had not expected anything to come out of it. Adam’s creativity with technology was infectious. He would throw out phrases like, “It seems like YAC right now is an audio river” and “What if it was more like the Instagram for voice?” These conversations spilled into everything we did from that day forward. Soon after meeting Adam, he introduced us to Betaworks (a VC firm that had just been a part of Spotify's Anchor and Gimlet acquisitions) and we were on our way to pre-seed round.
The following month, we sat in our hotel room in India jamming on ideas around how we could integrate with Slack, bring in transcriptions, and start making “Instagram for voice” come to life. This was the moment we realized that this was definitely not just a hackathon project anymore.
While we initially thought of ourselves as a scrappy, free app with no future, we actually had a bit more early success than we thought. Early beta users for YAC had included CVS, Bleacher Report, Hubspot, Mailchimp, Invision, CBS, and many more. We quickly threw together a pitch deck with all the new data, a plan for the future, and a complete redesign of the UI.
The following weeks were a blur, filled with full-time development on the next version of YAC, investor meeting after investor meeting, video demos and a brand new website.
Since Makers Festival, we’ve pivoted away from real time calling into asynchronous voice, rebranded and relaunched the website, incorporated via Stripe Atlas, and closed a pre-seed round of investment led by BoostVC, Betaworks, and Earnest Capital.
We’re now developing for Mac, PC, and Linux with a mobile extension of the app in partnership with Bose. You can request Early Access to YAC here.
Notes
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An interesting read @jmitch
@praveenpoojary1 It was a blast to write
Good on ya @jmitch and your whole team!
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