Meet Joy: a stylish designer, a networking master, and wedding planner.
She can coordinate the pattern on the invitations with the iced flowers on the cake, and remind Uncle Joe to silence his iPhone during the ceremony.
But unlike most wedding planners, Joy works free of charge — because she’s an app.
Co-founders Vishal Joshi, Michael Bach, and Kaiwalya Kher began Joy as a side project back in 2013. Three years later, Joy has grown to six employees and was the only Seattle startup accepted to Y Combinator’s 2016 summer program, where they were ranked among the top 7 by TechCrunch.
Online resources for those planning their own wedding is a competitive field these days, and all-in-one online wedding planners like The Knot are hard to stack up against.
But Joshi said Joy’s differentiator is interactivity, combining wedding planning with social media.
Joy also attempts to bring other wedding services into one place, including everything from coordination of wedding carpools to photo sharing to registries.
Joy was initially inspired by Bach’s sister, who was organizing her own wedding and was frustrated that she couldn’t find a networking space dedicated to the event.
“She wanted a way for guests and friends to interact in a social way” and share memories and pictures of the event, Bach said, but there was no easy way to do this with normal social media. Bach and Joshi, who worked together at Microsoft’s Azure division at the time, decided to do something about it.
Along with Kher, Joshi’s cousin and an engineer at Adobe, they cobbled together a platform for Bach’s sister to use. They saw it as another fun side project, but as friends and coworkers started asking if they could use the service, they began to see potential for a much more complex product.
“If you think about anybody who is getting married, right from the point that they get engaged, they have to figure out their own process,” Joshi said. Unless they are willing to shell out for a wedding planner, every couple has to start from the beginning when it comes to planning the ceremony, coordinating the wedding party, managing the guest list, and so on, he said.
“It is an industry which is age old, but it has also stayed age old,” Joshi said. “All the technologies which exist in this space are buried when people only used desktop computers. Nobody thought about weddings from the angle of what phones can do.”
So the three left their jobs at Microsoft and Adobe — with over $900,000 in investments from Microsoft VPs and partners, along with other companies — and set out on a quest to create the perfect wedding planner.
To build Joy, the group created a platform with all the best features of services like Facebook, Instagram, Squarespace, and Slack and tailored them towards the specific needs of a wedding.
They also spent lots of time talking to their users and incorporating their feedback — Joshi jokes that he could spend the next three years listening to wedding planning crises that couples want solutions for.
Instead of building a horizontal, service-focused business, the team has focused on the vertical of everything wedding related. “Joy brings everything about a wedding in one place,” Joshi said, and can do each of those things more effectively than a generalist service could.
Instead of using one company to design wedding invitations, another to find a venue, a third platform to communicate with the guests, and yet another service to coordinate the wedding party’s outfits, Joy attempts to put all of these tasks in one spot.
Joshi said they once sent an alert the day of a wedding to remind guests that Seattle’s I-90 bridge was closed, and that they should take an alternate route.
“If you’re working on a problem that is so well-designed as weddings, you can build solutions that are very targeted and very effective,” Joshi said.
The founders were able to use their time at Y Combinator to focus their design and build out new features and services to serve needs that were going unmet. And the work has paid off: the app has surpassed 200 new weddings each day, up from only 150 per month at the beginning of the summer.
Joy is free for now, and Joshi said the team is focused on getting more users and improving services before thinking about commercialization. However, he pointed out that, as Joy is an end-to-end experience, there are plenty of opportunities to commercialize through commissions or offering additional services.
The startup couldn’t share details on investments that resulted from their Y Combinator success, as several are still pending. But they did share that some Joy users liked the service so much they invested as well, and one bride’s grandparents even got in on the action.
Joshi said the team plans to integrate features like dedicated communication channels for different groups, and many more additions or improvements on current features. The startup is also searching for a permanent office space — they’re still working out of Bach’s garage.