I know some founders who have found each other via Silo. Someone wrote to us, looking for a co-founder though the site. CTOs are rare — finding one is not like magic. The more of your true friends there are in the loop, the more likely it is to happen.
Then, once you work with the right people, be open and honest about where you are, with the team. If you are, there’s a better chance of overcoming the adversity every startup faces. We wouldn’t have survived our pivot otherwise. It’s extremely rare for a startup to be immediately successful — every one I’ve encountered has had a near death moment and the only way to survive and come up stronger is by having a true relationship with the team and speak freely about problems.
There came a time in my life when I wanted to get back into entrepreneurship. I was just waiting for the right opportunity. We started Silo in with a completely different goal: we were looking to connect founders and their investors. We knew there was a problem, that many angel investors don’t know what’s happening within the startups they’ve invested in, so we wanted to create a standardized way for investors to view a portfolio, see where it’s at, and see how they can help. We gave them a wonderful interface and founders had an easy tool to update all their investors with a single click.
Hitting a wall
The investors loved the application we built, and many started using it. However the founders hated it with a passion, and refused to use it. They wanted to report what they wanted, whenever they wanted because founders like to have full control over what their investors will see and when. We were familiar with this challenge from the CRM world. Most salespeople don’t like CRM solutions like Salesforce, because they don’t like to report where they are on deals, but sales managers need them too. The difference is that sales managers will tell salespeople that they won’t get commission unless they report. Investors don’t actually want that kind of control over their startups. They’ve already invested their money and they see it as a gamble. So we made a mistake in understanding the motivation on both sides. We realized that we’d reached a dead end. We bootstrapped to that point, and after a year of work we were exhausted and out of gas.
The company was about to die. We were pretty desperate, and we couldn’t raise money at this point. The team had been working days and nights and weekends in addition to their day jobs and we all knew we weren’t going anywhere. It was rough. I’m usually a very optimistic person, and I was devastated.
Then we got our chance. One smart investor said to us, “you’ve got a few hundred founders on the system, go ask them what they want.” So we did. The team agreed to give this a chance, and we went back to the founders to ask them what we could do for them.
We asked the founders: “we’ve built this fancy system (which no one is using) to connect you with your investors, so what is it you want from them?” They told us, “we want help!”. This was confusing. “All the investors said they want to help you – why aren’t you getting that help?” we asked.
We quickly realized that asking is hard. When you ask in an email, it’s a personal request, like asking a favor. If an investor has put half a million dollars into your company, how comfortable do you feel asking for help, and how often should you do it? Founders want their investors to think they always have everything under control – and never to appear weak. The next thing founders told us surprised us even more: “In most cases we don’t want to ask our investors. We want to ask other founders and friends”. We finally understood what we needed to do.
We built Silo to make it easier to ask the network — friends, friends of friends — without feeling uncomfortable. Facebook doesn’t have right people in it, because these are often professional requests. And LinkedIn is too broad and impersonal. Nobody answers. In most cases, when you ask for a favor you don’t want responses to be public, and you also don’t necessarily want to bombard your entire network. You need to have the option to be broad and targeted, to pick your friends’ brains, only when you really need something.
Recruitment via network
A lot of requests on Silo are hiring-related and many are recommendations. People want to go to their network before going to websites like LinkedIn.
As anyone in Silicon Valley knows, hiring is one of the hardest jobs a founder has. What are we supposed to do when we need an iPhone developer yesterday? Search for iPhone developers on LinkedIn? They all have jobs! Share it on Facebook? We’ll get a couple of likes at best. We could post on various jobs sites — but are the best developers really there? We all know that the best way to hire people who are great but unhappy where they are is through our network. We need to ask our friends and colleagues. And this is exactly where Silo comes in.
When building Silo we started with one idea – and got nowhere – but we didn’t give up. We talked to our users and built a platform that gives real value to people every day. It’s also a much bigger opportunity now. Global recruiting is a $400 billion per year market opportunity and by reaching and engaging passive candidates Silo the potential to disrupt it completely. If there’s any lesson in our story it’s this: never give up – but don’t be stubborn either. If you hit a wall – the way around it may be better than going through it.