Know thy story. Believe thy story

Writing about a first customer win is easy when the term “customer” is easily defined.  But as Liron Shapira, CTO of Quixey, pointed out, can we really define who Google’s first customer was?  I realized Quixey’s story is not typical and let Liron answer the question in the best way he saw fit. We focused on the big picture, the vision, and the attitude that sucked people onto the Quixey bandwagon.

Quixey is the search engine for apps.  The app market is saturated with apps that fit every need but at the moment when you have a specific need to fill, it’s hard to know where to start looking.  Quixey’s search engine helps a user search by the functionality of the application.

The First Player Problem

Liron noted that Quixey’s early challenges involved being a first entrant in a market that didn’t exist.  To their advantage, the barriers to entry were fewer because they did not have to fend off competitors, but it brought up a harder problem to solve –  convincing people there was indeed a need that Quixey could fill.  Liron attributed a lot of their success with the end customer, be it the distribution channels, partners, investors or developers, to a vision that was much more far-reaching and ambitious than solving an immediate problem.  His reason was simple and evoked the most innate human need – everyone wants to be a part of something bigger than . That’s how Quixey positioned itself as a great company everyone wanted to be a part of.

Be remarkable everywhere you go

Liron talked me through how this vision was embedded in everything they did to gain that early success. He also pointed out that even their marketing efforts reached towards a larger vision regardless of their size.  Last year, when Quixey had a chance to attend Techcrunch’s Disrupt, Quixey didn’t go there as just one of the presenters; they were the biggest booth there with the most people milling around.  “The way we [Quixey] think about our marketing is being remarkable everywhere we go.”

Quixey’s story is to make an impact that is far-reaching, even by Start-Up standards. The vision created a passion within the company, rendering the team numb to hard work and sensitive to the brand.  The passion and determination, brought on by a powerful vision, is the force that helped Quixey persevere early on. So take a step back today and remind yourself of the story, the vision that started it all. The passion it brews is contagious.

About Liron

LironShapira is the co-founder and CTO of Quixey, The Search Engine for Apps. Before founding Quixey in 2009, Liron helped create the successful SuperPoke! Pets product as an engineer at Slide. He holds a BA in Computer Science with high honors from UC Berkeley.

Rules are not for CEOs

“I came to this country a day before 9/11.”  That’s how Raj began his story on starting a company in America.  Challenges were abundant; the country was heading towards economic turmoil and he was trying to establish himself in the 3D technology industry. Against the odds, Raj cleverly got his first client.

The Story

No customer was willing to move forward with any deal, especially with a technology that relied on innovators and early adopters in a time before the likes of YouTube.  Heartwood’s product was challenging the status quo.  As with any new technology in its nascent stage, it had less to do with convincing people to buy a product and more to do with changing people’s mindset about it.  Raj resorted to conducting keyword searches on Craigslist in hopes that he would narrow down potential clients.  He finally hit upon a posting for a company that specialized in forensic 3D animation. It sounded like a good fit for Heartwood but it came with a caveat.  The website required all candidates to fill out a form to be considered.

The part that caught Raj’s eye was a statement that said direct phone calls were highly discouraged and the caller would, in fact, be disqualified from consideration.  That sounded like a threatening enough deterrent for most. For Raj, the rule was made to be broken.  His logic was simple, yet refreshing – if everyone was forced to email their bid, no one was making any phone calls.  His could possibly be the only one and by breaking this rule, he would be breaking through all the noise his competition was creating.

Raj could not recollect his exact words from the initial conversation but he did recall using humor to break the ice.  Humor proved to be a powerful tool.   He knew he had about 10 seconds to get his audiences’ attention before he heard the phone click on the other end. It was a calculated risk and it paid off.  What resulted was a 45-minute conversation with the man who would soon be his first client.  Raj later found out that the client had received 230 email bids, none of which were even looked at after Raj’s call.

Lesson learned

Rules exist but they are not always meant for you.  In Raj’s case, breaking the rule allowed him to break through the noise and clutter of his competition.  Rules should not be seen as a stop sign, rather, as an opportunity to learn more about what others are doing.

About Raj

Raj provides a leading voice for the future of 3D Interactive Learning and Visual technologies. He believes in sandwiching great technologies together and therefore, leans more towards Innovation than pure Invention. In 2002, Raj co-founded Heartwood with Neil Wadhawan. Today, he splits his time between operating the company and on new technology development, his real passion. Raj loves the water. He swims and plays tennis between project deadlines. Raj encourages everyone at his company to live a complete life, sometimes dragging them away from their desks!