Tiger Shen Interview Welcome
10:46PM Sep 8, 2021
So if we switch over to welcome, just from looking at the, you know, gorgeous site that you'll have, there's a really interesting origin story to welcome. And could you speak to that?
Yeah, I, I, I never get tired of telling a story or hearing it.
I think the short, the sparknotes on, my microphones have written about it, I think on our blog and stuff, it goes into a little bit more detail. But basically, we had a totally separate company building restaurant software before welcome. And then the pandemic hit. And our strategy of just going door to door to restaurants to sell our software, it's not overnight, completely evaporated. And then at the same time, we're going through the Y Combinator accelerator. And the exact same week the the Shelter in Place Order went to effect the first one in San Francisco, the house, we were staying and actually burned down, lost all of our stuff. And we sort of had to, now we can like make light of it. But I was actually like, pretty, pretty rough. We were all inside on half and we ought to like get out. And that was that was that was definitely not not the favorite season of our lives. But out of that my co founders and I, I guess I guess we're all just I don't really know why we didn't just sort of give up and go go do other stuff we never really talked about I guess we started agreed to give another swing implicitly, and we had our own experience hosting and organizing events in Silicon Valley, actually, for entrepreneurs and leaders. And we all that that experience was all front as a side project, right? We never really aim to make money or anything from those sorts of events. So the really the only thing we cared about was that people came and had a good time and hopefully learn something, right. And as we started attending virtual events, just like a lot of other people. Last year, it was a bit new to us. But we couldn't sort of couldn't help but feel this sort of secondhand embarrassment for organize and empathy, right empathy and, and some embarrassment for organizers of the virtual events, because of all the tech issues, all of the sort of confusion around, you know how to do it well. And that's, that's really where the idea for welcome started. We wanted to create a platform where we just would feel proud of hosting your own events, we would be happy to show friends and family, the platform and gather people online in a way that we felt was meaningful. And so that's how welcome got started. And I think we have a long, long, long way to go. But I am. I'm happy with the fact that I really like demoing our product. I like showing it to people and I think that's, that's at least a small milestone.
Yeah, I mean, it's huge. Because just from the site alone, you can see like, Oh, these people are visionaries, you know, like the future has arrived. But I didn't know about the fire. And that's tragic and frightening. And the moment and then like, y'all are like the Phoenix, you know, rising from the ashes.
That's, that is one of the names we considered for for before we landed on welcome. A little bit on the nose. Yeah.
And what events have you been missing since the start of the pandemic?
It's a really good question. I got a personal level or so really a question. I think for me, it's, you know, this isn't necessarily the type of event that welcome folks on but it is just like the, the just gathering with friends. I sort of those smaller, like handful of people hang out for dinner or whatever. I know, I've never just been been never a huge fan myself, like the big mega conference setting. So yeah, for me, that's definitely that's probably been the type of event i've i've missed most.
Yeah, that kind of intimacy that maybe that's still hard to get that online. Yeah, yeah. And so um, so I've seen you say, that is really like Welcome to become this like events machine. So does that mean that it's perfect for all events? Or is there a focus on particular kinds of events?
Yeah, that's a good question. There's always this balance with startups right between like wanting to take over the world and then sort of understanding that you have to find a couple villages first and a couple towns and it can't happen all at once. And so for us, eventually asked me love to For every every single event in the world, three hosting are welcome. But for now, the first couple of towns for us are internal events. You think about like employee engagement events, the canonical example uses an all hands event, because that's the sort of the first thing that comes to mind. But there are really a lot of events into this bucket of, you know, employee resource groups and employee onboarding events or sales kickoffs, where the primary goal of the company or the organization is to engage teammates, virtually, or in a hybrid space. And they really want to put some intention around the gathering and really foster a place of belonging. And this is opposed to I think a lot of virtual web platforms sort of go after more external facing, like marketing events and sales events, where there's just a different set of priorities. A lot of times, that's going back to what I shared earlier, right? It's a lot of it's just ROI numbers and your funnel, versus, you know, successful all hands is probably going to be more defined by how employees felt afterwards or during and how they were able to relate to the content or participate and get to meet up some of their colleagues and things of that nature. So that's where we're starting. That's sort of where you have the closest affinity. And the nice thing, though, about all hands events is that everybody at the company sees it, right. So we might spend, we might have to spend three months trying to like wade through the whole sea of virtual event platforms, just to get on a call with, you know, marketing leader at a large company. But if she just happens to log on to an all hands event that's hosted on welcome, and is able to experience it herself, then she might, she's the one. So reaching out to us and saying, Oh, my company just ran this awesome event. Can I use it for my own marketing webinars, and that becomes a much nicer sales process for us, and also starts to generate that nice flywheel for us to expand.
Right, and I do hear what you're saying, and also on what the CEO has on the site, a lot about like this empathy and belonging. And there's almost like this greater sense of intimacy or immediacy, it seems like through welcome. That's the sense I'm getting.
Yeah, that's one of the things we do feel is differentiated. Most live streaming solutions, there's a delay between the someone speaking and probably 510, sometimes 20 seconds, until everyone who's watching is able to, you know, to react, right, and then by then it might have moved on to a totally different topic. On volcom. Even for our broadcasts, it's it's pretty immediate, sort of comparable to even this video call, even if there's 500 people watching. And so that allows for that sort of snap reaction. And you know, if you're a speaker, you can watch the chat and, and comment on it in real time. And you know, it's we're never going to replace in person gatherings, nor do we want to write but I think a lot of shared threads can be pulled up to go why people go to an event, whether it's in person or virtual.
Yeah, definitely. And one thing as I was reading the story about how welcome was created. I had initially thought like, oh, y'all probably were doing this before the pandemic, and then it turned out to be great timing. And how did you build it so fast? I mean, it's fast, right?
Yeah, we went from nothing to running our first events in about two months. I've kind of cheeky, but the honest answer is just that during a lockdown, there's not much else to do. We're very unhealthy. And I wouldn't necessarily recommend it. But life circumstances happened, allow us all to basically spend all day and night working. And so turns out, you can you can build a lot of software when that's the case.
quarantine. And then also, I was reading that it's data driven. And I was just wondering if you could speak to that, as well.
Yeah, you know, this is more of an evolving piece of our products. Probably our marketing says otherwise. I think the the thinking there is that there's a lot of sort of passive data that can be that is very interesting to event organizers. That is sort of built into a virtual experience that would be sort of a downright creepy to track it in person experience. Right? So if we're on welcome, and you and I have a conversation or we're in we have, you know, a lounge area where we can talk to each other, right. There's a there's, you know, that's something that organizer can even respecting security and privacy, they can see that, hey, 500 people out of 700 people at your event, we're able to meet somebody new or we're able to have a face to face conversation with somebody right? And that's really interesting, because maybe two weeks ago, I tried this event in Was 400 people and I, you know, did something different this time. And now, now it's up to 500. Invest, that's just an element of improving the the way that our customers are able to organize and host their events and proving for us right how we can, how we can build a platform such that it, it drives people towards some of these outcomes that we feel like make up a really great event. And to get the equivalent in person, right, you have to bombard people with surveys, or you have to have cameras and tracking. Is feels a little bit more invasive. And so that's, that's the data piece of virtual events. And as with, as is the case with a lot of data related products, right, it'll hopefully grow and expand over time as we get more of an understanding ourselves. But I'm really excited for the possibilities.
Yeah, definitely. And I just, you know, one app that comes to mind, I wonder if you ever heard of it doesn't exist anymore. But to blend I virtual and in person environments. Probably about 10 years ago, sonar is never Yeah, it was just like it. I think at that time, it was too creepy. But as you like, logged in with Foursquare at an event, it would connect to all your social and be like, Oh, you're this person you follow on Twitter is here. I think Brett Martin was maybe the founder. I was an early adopter, because I don't mind being creepy, I guess. But many people did. But I was saying to say, no, that just pulled me out of my train of thought. So how many startups have you been a part of prior to welcome?
Good question. I mean, Jerry and I and Roberto have worked on. It's just been, it's been three of us. But our company's had many different names and ideas and failures and pivots over the years. So I don't know if that all counts as one. Or if we should shrink those out. But I think probably in the ballpark of five. I interned at one worked on full time, and I was Jeremy brodo, have started and sold a company together before and so sort of plan for that. Okay,
let's go. Yeah, that sounds good. And any advice for would be founders?
advice? I say I'm, I'm really bad with advice in general. Because I think like in a vacuum, almost all advice is pretty. Use I guess that goes back to what I said earlier about founder culture. I think all of the threads that I've read and and seeing are actual people asking specific questions and getting specific response. Yeah. And I see God are doing, doing great job of always making sure he understands some of the context before just like pointing to some blog posts and VC wrote 10 years ago and saying I follow this. So I guess that's, that's the purpose of give my advices you know, and if I listen to my advice, because I don't, I don't know if whoever eventually listens to this will find me a totally different situation than I've been. But I would, I don't know. One thing that I think comes to mind that is hopefully somewhat universal is just choose your co founders wisely. I think that I I feel tight with the fan most grateful for working on welcome is the opportunity to work with my older brother, who's someone I've looked up to for, as long as I'm alive. Right. And same with Roberto. And so we've we've had certainly our fair share of disagreements or spare share of things gone wrong, right. But and I feel like, you know, had our relationship not been as strong. Those could easily kill the company, right? dozens of times. But they haven't. Right. And I think that's the main reason is just that is, is whatever that underlying trust or bond or friendship, whatever you want to call it. Has, it's all that's been sort of foundational to all of it still is. And so yeah, knock on wood, we get to work together for another 10 years. And I'd say if it sounds just starting out, it's really hard to go it alone. And so you'll probably want co founders and when you get co founders, you don't necessarily have to have known them for super long, but I've been investing in that relationship and getting making sure you understand each other on a deeply personal level, I think is worth is has a compounding effect when you're when you're working together. Yeah. A lot of sense