And more advice from Joel Montaniel & Allison Page, Founders of SevenRooms
SevenRooms is an all-in-one reservation, seating & guest management platform. They work with everything from international hotel portfolios to independent restaurants and nightclubs. Their mission is to help hospitality companies of all sizes create and cultivate direct relationships with their guests.
Joel Montaniel, CEO & Co-Founder, SevenRooms
1.You have to make sure you're solving REAL PROBLEMS.
SevenRooms started as a very different product from the one we’ve built today. Back in 2009, my co-founder Allison Page and I were analysts at Credit Suisse, consistently working 100+ hour weeks. On the occasional night we weren’t working late, we always had a list of hot restaurants and nightclubs we’d heard about and were eager to check out. Unfortunately, for all the places on our list you either had to book months in advance or know someone to get a reservation.
Trying to solve this problem, Allison and I, along with our third co-founder Kinesh Patel, spent two years developing our first product called Nightloop. On release day, 100,000 people came to the site on the first day and never came back. We made classic first time founder mistakes and overbuilt the product with features that no one actually needed or wanted.
After this failure, we realized that instead of building a product based on a consultant approach, it was important for us to put in the legwork. We spent the next two years working the doors and host stands of nightclubs and restaurants throughout NY (all while holding down full-time jobs) to learn about the real pain points of operators. From there, we built and released the first version of SevenRooms in 2011, and the rest is history.
Looking back, the most critical lesson we learned was the importance of building a product based on a constant loop of customer feedback. Had we spent more time on the ground focusing on the needs of operators, we would have arrived at today’s SevenRooms product years earlier. You have to make sure you're solving REAL PROBLEMS. To succeed in the technology sector, you have to be solving a problem that exists, so make sure you immerse yourself and get first-hand knowledge about what your customers care about. It’s crucial to put in the time early and talk to as many potential customers as possible before you start building out new products and features.
Today, SevenRooms is used in over 100 cities worldwide, including Live Nation, Zuma, TAO Group, Gerber Group, LDV Hospitality, Virgin Hotels, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas and many more. With the end goal of helping hospitality operations acquire, engage and understand their guests, SevenRooms is leading the charge in putting the power into operator’s hands -- giving them the tools they need to take back ownership of the customer relationship (something that doesn’t currently happen with existing reservation systems).
Allison Page, Co-Founder & Head of Product, SevenRooms
2. Don't neglect social media.
Neglecting social media was one of the biggest mistakes that we made in during our early days. People inevitably use social media followings as a proxy for size, and why shouldn’t they? Use social media to show the world that you’re bigger and badder than you actually are--clearly your Instagram followers must know something!
Every day, companies, celebrities, and civilians use social channels to paint a pretty picture of themselves and their brands. Your company should do the same while working to attract a relevant following. Make no mistake, you are being judged by the number of followers you have. Work hard to establish strong partnerships and invest in engagement. The investment will pay off handsomely as you scale up your business with a loyal army behind you.
3. Don't test fully baked products on customers.
I'm a perfectionist. If a new feature is going in front of our customers, I want it to be flawless. I learned early on that this attitude is foolish when you are building a product. If you're going to fail, you want to fail really fast. Early on, I would try to fully bake products before putting them in front of customers because I was scared. I was worried that if I didn't fully build out the feature and add all the bells and whistles before releasing it, the customer would think it's a bad product. And they would think I’m terrible and that SevenRooms doesn’t know how to build a product. This thought process couldn't have been more wrong.
We would spend weeks and weeks building a feature, and then, after putting it in the hands of our customers, would realize it was all wrong. A month's work down the drain. Now, every feature I look at as a mini-product and I pare it down to the bare minimum (MVP) that it would take to put it in the hands of the customer. Once we all agree on the MVP, then we'll start designing the feature and even show the designs to some of our power users to get early feedback. That way, the feature can fail before we ever spend a single minute building it.