Seattle entrepreneurs Felix Livni and Lowell Manners are lean startup acolytes. And that philosophy is already paying dividends for the founders of Schedulista, a six-month old Seattle startup that helps hair salons, accountants and other small businesses accept appointments online.
The company turned it first profit last month, and Livni and Manners, who got to know each other while working in Google’s Seattle office, are continuing to push things ahead.
“We have iterated a ton, changed course a few times, but mostly just learned how to do the million things required when you’re doing everything yourself,” Livni tells GeekWire. Schedulista competes with Seattle startup FullSlate, which also offers online appointment scheduling to small business owners.
“There are a number of small aspects that differentiate our product,” said Livni, who previously worked at Microsoft and OSKAR Systems. “But our key differentiator is not yet realized: We plan to combine digital marketing and online scheduling in a very cool and unique way.”
We chatted with the 38-year-old Livni for the latest installment of Startup Spotlight.
Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “We let your clients schedule appointments with you, 24-hours a day.”
Inspiration hit us when: “My co-founder Lowell Manners and I were sitting in my backyard discussing various startup ideas. I had created a list of different kinds of companies. I had probably 10 different company ideas. We knew we wanted to build a business, we just needed to pick one. I started the fourth pitch: ‘In the future, everyone will schedule all their appointments online. Online scheduling will change the way that millions of businesses perform their most fundamental transaction.’ As I spoke those words, we both saw the future. And we never looked back.”
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “Bootstrap. Organic growth provides the best feedback mechanism. And our time is better spent building a business than raising money.”
Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “A shared passion for learning, and enough personal honesty to discard what doesn’t work.”
The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Spending effort to acquire paying customers early on. We opted not to have an alpha product after worrying that the feedback we were getting from free riders might be inaccurate.”
The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “Too early to tell. In retrospect, I’m sure we’ll see a million of them. We did try lots of things that didn’t work. Some people would call those failures. But, I prefer to ‘fail often and fail fast.’ Our real failures will be due to our own deep ignorance – and I’m still too ignorant to identify these.”
Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “Jobs – for his vision of what makes a great product and for his marketing genius.”
Our world domination strategy starts: “Yesterday.”
Rivals should fear us because: “We are willing to try anything — and test to see if it works.”
We are truly unique because: “We are not unique. We aim to be like every other successful business: great product, great brand.”
The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: “We’ve been really lucky so far, a lot of awesome things have just fallen into place. The biggest hurdle for me was to give up some of my personal attitudes towards building a brand — in every geek there is an abhorrence to marketing — a feeling that there is something dishonest going on. And of course a belief that it is a task for ‘other people.’ A startup is about testing ideas, using what works and throwing out what doesn’t — which ultimately meant, I had to throw out some of my own ideas about myself.”
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Try to understand and perform every detail of the business — don’t delegate anything in the beginning.”