A Strikingly Awesome Startup
Learning from A Strikingly Awesome Startup
A few days ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Susan Lou, Head of Product at Strikingly.
I was attending Startup Weekend here in Bali. We were all there to pitch our ideas and to learn.
It was towards the end of the night of the closing party and we were sipping cocktails on the rooftop of the highest building in Canggu, tired from a long weekend of pitches, impressions and new faces.
I asked: “Hey Susan, is it possible to get access to the CSS and also add your own HTML into a Strikingly template?”
She started laughing, in a good way then looked at me, smiled and said: “That’s because you’re a developer, our product is not meant for people who can code.”
I remember thinking; Ehm…ok, well I just wanted to move a small Sign Up box slightly to the left when I was playing around with it earlier. I was just curious to see if I could tweak my theme, just like in Wordpress, being quite the perfectionist when it comes to how things look.
But I also remember thinking WOW this girl really knows her shit! She was just so clear on what Strikingly was and wasn’t and who their users were and I was very fascinated by her clear vision.
“At Strikingly, our mission is to give everyone the power to turn their creativity and ideas into reality and build brands around them”
Everyone. Not just people with specific skills, but everyone.
“We want to reinvent people’s relationship with the Internet to encourage a world of creators and of contributors. How will we help drive the growth of the creative thinkers and doers, and enable their independence? We want to democratize the ability to spread information online. We’re lowering barriers for spreading ideas and creativity by empowering anyone and everyone to turn their creativity and ideas into reality and build brands around them.”
- David Chen, CEO and co-founder of Strikingly.
(Read full article here).
Susan told me the story of three guys who applied to Y Combinator, got rejected and then applied again and became Y Combinator’s first Chinese startup raising $1,2 million in funding - not touching a single dime up until recently because three months in they were already sustainable.
Ok, no big deal, they’re probably not the only ones with a story like that. But what is strikingly awesome about this company is how they acquired their users and the actual people and vision driving the company.
Susan told me about how she joined the company two years ago and how the entire team of maybe two people besides the three co-founders had to move to China because their visas ran out and they were not able to renew or get green cards.
She told me about how she, and one of the co-founders, would personally add people on Facebook and follow them on Instagram, people who were building sites with Strikingly and people who had questions or who didn’t finish their site for some reasons, they would immediately email these people and ask why they stopped and what they could do to improve the product.
She would (in her own words “stalk”) or more accurately; add users to her personal WeChat, WhatsApp, etc. to create a personal relationship with people. She also explained how she was able to land exclusive partnerships with companies like Google through this very personal approach, but more importantly, how she is helping Strikingly build a super dedicated customer base of people who will be brand advocates for life - ok, perhaps not for life, but long enough to tell their friends about their experience. Because it really is all about THE EXPERIENCE…
WHICH BRINGS ME TO MY FIRST POINT OF THIS STORY
In Paris 2015, just a few hours before the Terrorist Attacks began, Brian Chesky, CEO and co-founder of Airbnb took the stage and spoke to an audience of 5,000 hosts. I sat on the front row and he said:
“They say tech is disrupting people, that robots are replacing us, but we at Airbnb; you guys - you are the ones disrupting tech - robots - because you have hearts and Airbnb is made up of a community of hearts.”
This statement supports my belief that we as people don’t just wanna be seen as users we don’t just wanna sign up to services or simply BUY services, hell no - we want to be acknowledged as human beings, which is why we buy into experiences, interactions with REAL people, peers, experts, mentors and role-models. People with hearts.
WE WANT TO LEARN and we want to be inspired and help give knowledge to others so we, in return, can grow and feel good about ourselves.
It’s really that simple.
Abraham Maslow created the Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid - we are all familiar with this, and Chip Conley, former Head of Hospitality and Strategy at Airbnb has taken this theory and applied it to building a business, a brand, a brand voice and a culture through peak-experiences.
In his book; ‘How Great Companies Get Their Mojo From Maslow’: Chip explains how helping people understand their full potential and help them transform themselves, you can help people reach their peak-performance and unleash a life full of abundant talent, creativity and fulfillment.
He argues that the only way to help people reach this very top shelf, is enabling them and helping them to have what he calls: Peak-experiences. He also states that any individuals’ deepest motivations sit at the top of the pyramid - and take on an inspirational quality.
Believe it or not, but why not try it our for yourself?!
WHICH BRINGS ME TO THE NEXT POINT
How do you create peak experiences for yourself and for others?
Two very very simple things:
Learning and teaching = mentoring and being mentored.
When I was in High School, back in Denmark, I had this very very old Latin teacher, yes believe me he was old, but he was also wise. I didn’t pay much attention back then, but I’ve thought about what he used to preach to us come Monday mornings, numerous times since:
“If you can come to me by the end of the week and show me four books that you’ve read” I won’t care if you haven’t done your homework!”
Had that been today, I would have been thrilled to get a way out, off the hook of that horrible Latin grammar, but back then, you can probably imagine how many people raised their hands and handed in four books. zero, all through three years of High School.
Did any of you ever have a teacher like that? Well, I never knew it back then, but he was GOLD. Iver was his name, he passed away, but his wisdom is still very much with me.
So if we look at the Hierarchy of Needs pyramid, the bottom shelf is pretty much covered, most fortunate people got the basic needs covered, but how often do we really touch upon these other needs?
Especially the very top block that covers the self-actualization and peak-performance needs?
- Where the very best version of ourselves just sits there.
- Where we are inspired and motivated to do good and to give away wisdom.
Well not very often in most cases. I am only speaking for myself, but I’m pretty sure many of you can relate.
The “problem” is that in order to reach that state of mind, we need to pass through the middle shelf, the belonging and love, the psychological and self-esteem needs what will allow us to touch upon the self-fulfillment needs.
SO MY LAST POINT IS TO ASK YOU THIS:
“Why aren’t we doing this, why aren’t we living a life full of peak performances and self-actualization ever single day?”
Well, firstly, here’s a potential answer:
Because we constantly have to charge our smartphones and laptops and drones and video equipment and what not, we get distracted from reaching the upper part of the pyramid.
Secondly, we are too afraid to grab opportunities when they are handed to us.
The truth is that people like us - you and me, we all have ideas. Ideas that we would like to realize, but we don’tnecessarily always know how to. Because we are often faced with these very specific but in reality “minor” and “insignificant” obstacles, which can seem huge and overwhelming, we lose faith in ourselves.
The idea is still there but it just stays an idea - a thought and nothing else - and that’s a problem.
In her book; Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert reminds us that: “Ideas are driven by a single impulse: to be made manifest” and all it really takes for an idea to come alive is human interaction.
Not coding skills or business skills or any other skills for that matter, it JUST TAKES A HUMAN BEING - YOU!
WHY AM I SHARING THIS STORY OF MEETING SUSAN AND LEARNING ABOUT STRIKINGLY WITH YOU?
- I am inspired and I would like to pass that inspiration and feeling on to you.
Someone might be reading this and perhaps be inspired to take action.
- I want you to live a life full of creativity, empowerment, and belonging.
Pablo Picasso said:
“The meaning of life is to find your gift and the purpose of life is to give it away.”
Just like Iver, my High School Latin teacher did.
SO DO YOURSELF A FAVOUR AND CLAIM YOUR VOICE
I truly believe that every human being is by nature, creative and entrepreneurial, which is why I started Learn With Locals.
So if you share the belief in empowering the independence of thinkers and doers, do yourself a favor and claim your voice.
Show me what you’re passionate about, own your dreams and join our community so we can help each other reach our very own peak performances and live a life full of meaning, connection and purpose.