Seattle, Washington-based Inside Social helps brands measure and increase their social ROI by focusing on the metrics that really matter, like revenue and conversions, instead of likes and follows.
We interviewed Brewster Stanislaw, CEO and Co-Founder of Inside Social to learn more about their startup and how they developed their product.
What is your company’s mission?
To empower the world’s biggest brands and ecommerce companies to maximize the effectiveness of social marketing.
How did you get the idea for your company?
By talking to our customers. We spent tons of hours talking to social marketers and learning about their biggest problems. We set out to make social marketing better and our customers have guided our direction toward making that happen.
What has been your biggest “aha” moment since founding your company?
When we realized that social marketing shouldn’t be about vanity metrics. Understanding that social should be about demonstrating real business value instead of growing follower counts was a seminal moment in our development.
Tell us about your funding history. Are you currently looking for funding?
We were a participant in Techstars Seattle 2013. We closed our seed round in December 2013 and have raised ~$1.1M in funding from an amazing group of angels.
How many employees do you have? How many of them are developers?
12 employees. 8 developers.
Do you build for scale first, or for revenue?
Neither. We’ve optimized our product development for customer happiness. Premature scaling is death for startups. Building for the easiest revenue is not what makes a truly incredible product. We believe that if we make our customers love us, everything else will follow.
Where do you include technical members of your team during the building of your business plan?
Anywhere they want to be included. We value transparency and collaboration immensely at Inside Social. And as a small startup we have the luxury of letting people contribute across the organization. Software engineers can have great insights on pricing models too!
What are some of the challenges you face as a founder or developer at a startup, when it comes to dealing with family life, or socially? Does working on a startup change the way you associate and interact in these areas?
Being a founder has a profound effect on your social life. Founding a startup is often compared to having a child and for good reason. When you’re a founder, you put more energy into your startup then you ever have as an employee. You care about it at your core and it affects how you prioritize other people and opportunities in your life. It’s important to surround yourself with people in your personal life who understand these challenges and are supportive of you through them.
Do you have any advice for young startups?
You cannot talk to your customer too much. Too many startups try to lock themselves to a whiteboard to come up with a ‘killer product’. If you spend lots of time with your customers, listen carefully to what they tell you, care deeply about their problems, and exhibit empathy for their needs and pains, you will build a ‘killer product’. If you think you’re spending enough time with your customers, you’re not. Spend more time with your customers!
Can you describe the relationship that you have had with Microsoft in building your startup?
Most importantly, Microsoft is a customer. The Azure Marketing group will soon be using Inside Social to do better marketing. The chairman of our board was a long time Microsoft employee. We have employees who worked at Microsoft. And current Microsoft employees have served as mentors and advisors. The startup ecosystem which Microsoft helped to create in Seattle has been fundamental to our creation and continued success.
What do you think of the BizSpark Program?
It’s a really special opportunity for startups to get access to resources that would otherwise be cost/time prohibitive. It’s a special program and we’re grateful to Microsoft for supporting startups like ours.
Why would an entrepreneur turn to Microsoft for help in building scale, a team, or using software?
Microsoft helped put a computer on every desk. Microsoft’s software is used by almost everyone in the world in some way or another. That’s really valuable experience that any startup should be happy to tap into.