1. Would You Mind Introducing Yourself? Who Are You? What’s Your Background?
I’m a Marketing major, then I was trying to find a job in marketing. I thought I would find a crazy fun job in advertising, but you know what marketing is not that easy. I finally ended up in a web agency. I didn’t know anything about web or digital, it was still called web back then, but I learned a lot.
The digital space is really fun place to be. It’s dynamic, it moves a lot, there’s always something new so you’ve got on top of your game if you want to follow. There’s one thing that I found out in this industry – there’s a lot of opportunities and a lot of space for entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs have always been people that I highly respected and I always wanted to become one, so that’s why I created Commentts.
Commentts allows you to react to the trending and latest news. What we do is we gather the best and trending news from cities all over North America every day and every hour and bring it back into the app. Then you get a normal news feed. Then we put the comments up front. In the app, you select a news, you create a Commentts – it’s an image with a bit of text on top, with a style and filter to enhance the aesthetic value of the comment.
Really what you get is a feed of visual comments on what’s happening around you, instead of a normal boring news feed.
3. Who Is Working on Commentts?
We’re two co-founders. My partner is Jean-Sébastien Lozeau. We have two different backgrounds. I’m more from the marketing digital agency world. He’s a pure a creative, book writer, movie director, he made a documentary. He’s the total opposite of me, and that’s a good thing.
The two of us together can cover 360 degrees. What we’re missing is a CTO, but we’re good at finding the right people to work with us. At this moment we have a few developers, front-end and back-end, and we’re looking to hire a new one for Android because we don’t have an Android version yet.
So we’re really building the team, and obviously behind us there’s a good investor that really believes in our product and our team, and that’s also important. I’m more the spec-down-to-earth guy, and my partner lives in the cloud, so we try to find middle ground and complement each other.
4. How Did You Come Up With the Idea?
I used to work with a media company and so was Jean-Sébastien. We met in a meeting, exchanged different ideas. We liked each other and after a few months we went for a beer, Jean-Sébastien had an idea that evolved into Commentts. The idea was to do a comic strip on the news, which is not simple to execute. We got together and evolved the idea into a social network around the news with people expressing themselves with images, and this is how it came to life.
It was a long journey, it is not something that you do in a week, it took us almost two years before we were ready to leave our jobs and work full time on the product.
The first thing that we did is a marketing search, we created wireframes, we set up a pitch, and we went looking for an investor. We were lucky enough to find someone that believed in us, lent us some money, which allowed us to build a prototype. With that prototype we were able to find more money, and actually develop the app that is available in the market now.
We always took it step-by-step and kept our focus. You have to put in the hours, and always move forward and never stop.
5. What Did You Learn From the Challenges?
People think that you have success over night. Facebook and Twitter guys worked a lot before they got to where they are now. We’re trying to have an operation in our own backyard, in Quebec, instead of spreading across all of North America right away. We released the app, got some promotion and some user acquisition, then we stopped and pulled the plug on acquisition. It’s a crazy thing to stop the momentum on user acquisition, but at the same time we wanted to get a first feedback from our users. We validated every step before, but the ultimate validation is with actual users playing with the app.
We learned, for example, that our target market was wrong. The persona we created was wrong. But that’s a good thing, you gotta start somewhere and put it on the table, then validate it or reject it and create a new one.
Right now we’re validating our persona, and looking at what users are doing within the app. We’re actually talking to them a lot, over the phone and interviews to get insights.
We’re at the stage to fix a few things before going into full growth and user acquisition again.
You gotta test the market and be smart about the way you do it, otherwise your server will explode, or get a lot of downloads without retention. I rather get 10,000 downloads and 5,000 people in the app, as opposed to 1,000,000 downloads and 10,000 users in the app.
Go step by step, don’t try to take big leaps. Baby steps, always in the right direction.