Earlier this year, I was asked to be a speaker at Enterprize 2014, the Sauder School of Business’s biggest entrepreneurship conference of the year. I had been in attendance as a student not too long ago so being on the other side of the table was both exciting and dreamlike. My topic was around how to create buzz around your company especially when you’re still in the early stages. Since my recent graduation from Sauder in 2012, I have had 24 months of experience creating the buzz around my company, Tangoo. I have written out my presentation to tell the story about how Tangoo was formed and how we developed the right ingredients to create an unprecedented buzz in Vancouver in 2013.
Unique experiences help you innovate
Thanks to the confluence of two major experiences in my life combined with a growing pain and a trigger event, Tangoo was formed.
The key takeaway as an entrepreneur is to be involved in as many unique experiences as possible. Travelling, sporting events, and working in exciting and dynamic work experiences are where you need to end up.
The two major events were my exchange in Barcelona and the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.
Barcelona consisted of many life-changing events but it turned out that the one that most influenced Tangoo was a school project I did in the ESADE School of Business. We were awarded 500 Euros to create a brand and a product to sell for profit to help finance school scholarships. It was my first time really creating a brand per se and I was stuck on where to start.
Think of the product first and then tie a suitable brand to it or vica-versa? Turns out it was neither, we had to develop our Why statement, or something I now call a Core Idea.
This insight has been the anchor for any project I have started since then.
A Core Idea asks how you make the world better off and why you’re the one to do it. Our Core Idea was to bring people together through real world experiences. It was to do so and not let today’s technology blitz blind us of the importance of this.
My group then tied the Core Idea to our product which consisted of wristbands and Toy Watches that were used as a gift to someone you valued staying connected with – one of your life “Tango” partners who’s life moves in the same direction as yours. Ironically, this school project was when the Tangoo brand design and Core Idea of TODAY were brought to inception.
- See also: the importance of creating your Core Idea
Vancouver 2010 Olympics
The Vancouver 2010 Olympics were a magical time for Vancouver. I would go as far as saying that they redefined what it means to have fun. When you really broke it down, here are the main components of fun I managed to pull out of it:
- Connection: everyone was united and connected. How many times did you get a random high-five or burst out into the national anthem?
- Spontaneous and Unique: Every single night was unique and most were in the spur of the moment. There is something about having no set plan and leaving it up to chance that is fun. It’s especially fun when you actually have fun with no bad surprises – this brings me to my last point.
- Effortless and Risk-Free: People don’t like to be surprised, they like certainty. People are also creatures of habit and gravitate towards things that make their lives easier. In the Olympics there was zero risk of not enjoying oneself, everywhere you went there was something happening. It was as effortless as stepping outside, that’s why it was so fun!
The Problem I Identified
A pain that had been building up for quite some time was the problem of planning an outing in Vancouver. Indecision, lack of knowledge, and not feeling like a valued customer are all real pains that can make it impossible to enjoy oneself. With all the hard work life makes us do, why does that have to extend to times when you’re looking to have fun?
What triggered action to start
Commonly referred to as an “aha” moment, this is when unique events of the past start to click into an idea that solves your problem. In my case, this happened around another event and it was when I dropped by the one-year anniversary of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics on February 11, 2011. The cauldron was lit and Jim Furlong and Mayor Robertson were reminiscing on how great it was for our city and how fun things were – it sounded like they were reflecting about the good old days when our city used to be more fun. Then it hit me, how dependant is our fun to the Olympics? Does this mean we’re back to being the same ‘no-fun city’ again? With the Olympics at least another 50 years away from ever coming back to Vancouver, what are we going to do between now and then?
How I brought it all together
People were returning to old habits and I wasn’t going to have any of it. With my problem of going out in Vancouver being as sever as ever and the magic of the Olympics and my Barcelona exchange being fresh in my mind, I got together with a friend and started to brainstorm ways in which we were going to make having an outing effortless, risk-free, spontaneous, and a fun feel-good experience. From this, we thought globally and saw that anywhere you go is hard to make outing plans for especially if you are not familiar with the city. Our why statement was to empower the world to create perfect outings to nurture better memories and stronger connections between people.
All W(a)SPS Buzz: The foundation for you to create the buzz
Looking back, there are four key elements that I believe are the essential building blocks to creating buzz about your startup.
Why: Why are you doing it and what is its ultimate purpose for making the world a better place? We have come to call it a Core Idea.
Story: What was its inspiration and what events helped create it? Who are the early people who gave it wings? Tell a story.
Problem: What problem are you solving and why is it so painful and necessary to solve?
Solution: How are you going to come up with a unique solution that solves the problem in the most innovative and effective manner?
Building from your foundation into the market
Once you have developed your concept and have an interesting narrative to tell, you need to start telling it to the right people. It starts with a team that can help you execute and innovate, then it goes to your early community, your network, and then the market. First, make sure people demonstrate they want what you’re building with early validation.
Use lean methodology to build things cheap and quickly so you can validate whether you are solving a major pain with the right solution. It serves no one to build something nobody wants. If you realize this is the case, it’s better to find this out in a week than after multiple years.
Early Champions and Community
In the early days, no one wants to waste their time on a prototype or partially built idea, people are too busy and distracted for that. However, your family, friends, and natural early adopters are always up to give it a go. Leverage their openness.
For Tangoo we relief heavily on friends and family to attend our early events and it was thanks to a small handful of open-minded restaurants to kick-start the program and attract the rest of them. You need to build community amongst the early champions whom will be the first ones to spread the word organically. Eventually you’ll find that curious strangers start to hear about your product and are keen to try it. They will either hear from a champion of yours or with all the great feedback from your community of early adopters, your product will be much more market ready.
Build an amazingly passionate and committed team – enough said.
Build up your network
As a continuation of having your early champions expedite word of mouth, having partners on board can be a massive advantage. With us, we were lucky enough to connect with Vancity Buzz, the cities most popular blog. Their audience was very similar to the one we are targeting and we aligned with their Why of exposing the best Vancouver has to offer in order to improve everyone’s everyday lives. It’s not usually common to solidify a partnership like this with media but sometimes all it takes is getting your foot in the door by being an expert contributor on a certain topic, i.e your startups domain of expertise.
Network like crazy
Get out of the building and attend events, meetups, and conferences. Oh and one major thing, make sure to actually follow up and leave a paper trail on LinkedIn or Email so your connections stays alive. You never know when you’ll need to reconnect and it’ll be a waste if the person cannot remember you. For a cool look at your network go to LinkedIn Maps.
Once Tangoo earned it’s first media appearance on Global TV, 24 more trickled in throughout 2013. Once you get your first lucky break, (ours was through Global TV sending us a cold email and saying they saw a tweet about us – thank you Vancity Buzz) then it’s time to leverage that to attract other people’s attention.
In a way, you’re also going to have media early adopters that are happy to take a risk on an untapped story and stand behind something that sounds cool but isn’t yet proven. Vancity Buzz was our textbook example of this and turns out that a mammoth like Global TV is also happy to take risks. We’re currently starting our second round of media buzz by sharing Tangoo’s Journey to Dragons’ Den.
All startups have their turning points where they realize they need to innovate and repeat parts of the process that got them where they are today.
In August 2013, we entered a Demoday Competition where we basically pitched Tangoo to 250+ people amongst 20 other promising Vancouver startups. The structure of the event was to network with the guests, show them your product and get voted into the top 5 to do a five minute pitch in front of everyone.
The night before, we thought long and hard about whether we were even confident enough to pitch the current way Tangoo was delivering value. After months of listening more to our customers and measuring our results, we realized that Tangoo needed to pivot its path – we were solving a true pain but not in the best and most accessible way.
By bringing some great minds together, and being in the perfect pressure situation (hint: make sure to find these kind of situations whenever you can) we made it happen. There was something about the closing window of opportunity that gave us the rare and clutch emission of creativity to turn Tangoo on its head.
After constant pitching and networking to win enough votes to make the top 5, we gave a strong pitch and surprised everyone with our big pivot – this magically won us Demo Day.
PS: It also didn’t hurt that half the room had known about Tangoo’s story – judges included. As magical as this win was, a lot of it was organic and a result seeds that were planted from day one when we told Vancouver what Tangoo’s mission was and WHY it was important to exist.
We have been secretly working on our new pocket concierge model which we are launching now. It’s the pocket concierge that takes the work out of planning a social outing by recommending a personalized list of restaurants and venues tailored to your mood and desired experience.
Our Core Idea hasn’t changed but our product has significantly, it’s always evolving and progressing towards the ultimate end goal. You can also create buzz around something you’re passionate about by keeping in mind the process Tangoo has followed.
Help Tangoo once again build the buzz by downloading our free iOS App