I’ll be the first to admit, there’s nothing better than taking on a do-it-yourself (DIY) project. I love a challenge and figuring out how to build or fix something can be exhilarating. The reality of DIY, however, is that at some point you get stuck and the project switches from fun to frustrating. Stuck and frustrated, I often find myself desperately looking for the “phone a friend” lifeline. Sound familiar?
Over the past 15+ years, we’ve seen a boom in the number of companies focused on providing DIY technology platforms. Constant Contact led the movement and has been followed by hundreds of companies that allow people to quickly, easily and cost-effectively deploy web-based products, services and marketing programs without having to spend thousands of dollars and months of development time. And while platforms like WordPress, Squarespace and HubSpot have enabled millions of small and medium sized companies to start and grow their businesses, the reality is that expertise cannot be 100% automated away and even the easiest to use DIY web platforms often leave end users stuck and looking for a DIFM (do-it-for-me) lifeline.
This is why I am so excited to be working with the Lorem team. I first met Sam and Charlie during Mentor Madness week at the beginning of the most recent TechStars Boston program. They were two young, smart, scrappy entrepreneurs who had identified and were tackling a problem where there were surprisingly few solutions. In today’s “on-demand’ world you can get food, car rides, groceries, dog walking and most anything else instantaneously, getting true real-time help when your web platform fails is not really an option.
I left that initial meeting excited, instinctively feeling that Sam and Charlie were onto something and so, along with the rest of the Flybridge team, we dug in.
First, we used the product and became a customer. It was not supposed to happen this way, but one day all the content on a WordPress website we run to provide students with funding to attend industry events (www.stayinma.com) disappeared. Kate, our exceptional Marketing Partner, spent an entire day banging her head against a wall trying to fix the site herself. Not her area of expertise and time far better spent working with our portfolio companies or generating visibility for the firm. This coincided with the visit from the Lorem team, so off we went. One plugin download and a click of a button and she was connected to a Lorem expert. The expert took a look at the problem, found multiple issues on the site caused by using out of date versions of WordPress and various plug ins, quoted $40 to fix it and within an hour, we were back up and running. Kate became the first convert on the Flybridge team, calling Lorem her new “secret weapon” for website fixes.
Second, we scoped and sized the market. The trend towards DIY platforms was not the question (WordPress alone powers 75 million sites), but competing alternative solutions were. Simply, we saw two options for customers:
- Keep doing it yourself: This has the lowest perceived cost, but that is deceptive as trying and failing, hitting up Google searches and accessing the online support provided by the platforms is wildly time intensive. This is what Kate first tried and it takes a business owner’s time away from running their business, it is frustrating and leads to a high-rate of dissatisfaction with the DIY platforms (read churn!) and it increases the cost of customer support for the DIY platforms.
- Find someone to do it for you. The logical alternative and there are obviously lots of design and development firms and freelancers with the right expertise. But none of them are easily accessible for small projects as on existing freelance marketplaces it can take days or weeks to define and execute a project and often with less trusted resources and design and development firms are expensive, charging rates of up to $300 an hour, and not geared up to handle small projects.
None of these options provide instant help when a company needs it and we agreed with the Lorem team that there is an opportunity to provide businesses with trusted, on-demand, in context, quick solutions at an affordable price.
And then I did the math. Who wouldn’t pay between $10 to $100 for real-time quick fixes on their website or other DIY tools? With nearly 30 million small businesses in the U.S. alone and Lorem quickly seeing these companies use the platform for multiple jobs and spending $400 a year on average, the market suddenly got much bigger than you would think.
The more I thought about the opportunity and met with Sam and Charlie, the more I fell in love. As TechStars demo day approached, we knew we wanted to be a lead investor with the company. At 6:00 a.m. on the morning of demo day, I emailed the team what was their first of several term sheets and we ultimately led a $1.1M seed round in the company along with our friends at Founder Collective (David Frankel) and a few angels including Randy Parker (Founder of Constant Contact) and Fred Townes (author of one of the most popular WordPress plugins called W3 Total Cache).
I could not be more thrilled to be in business with this talented team and look forward to being part of their success.