John deVadoss, Peng Huang, and David Hill have known that they wanted to go into business together for years.
They met on the .NET team at Microsoft where they developed application frameworks for millions of developers. Their work often brought them to China where they saw first-hand the power of direct messaging tools, like WeChat. A lightbulb went off.
Together, they built text11, a messaging tool that allows businesses to connect with their customers at scale.
“We always knew that we would build something together – it turned out that Fall, 2016 was the right time,” said deVadoss, who serves as CEO. “We believe that we have the right strategy, and we are testing, learning and are open to input.”
The startup is based in Redmond, Wash. and has five employees. Text11 hasn’t been fully rolled out yet but businesses can sign up for early access to the product.
We caught up with deVadoss for this Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for his answers to our questionnaire.
Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “1:1 Messaging for Business. Going beyond Social.”
Inspiration hit us when: “When we were traveling in China, it hit us like a bolt of lightning. WeChat was re-shaping customer engagement for businesses, and we knew what we wanted to do.”
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “Seed funding from investors in China.”
Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “Our secret sauce is our strength in technology and in business. We understand businesses, their challenges, their constraints, and their opportunities. And we are geeks. As co-founders, we believe in our ability to hack product and distribution.”
The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Being pragmatic about A.I. We believe that the next three to five years are about ‘augmented’ intelligence, not artificial intelligence.”
The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “Not starting sooner. And secondly, not being aware of the ‘options shuffle.’ We parked a significant percentage of equity for future employees without an understanding of the options shuffle – which is great news for new employees.”
Would you rather have Gates, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “Bezos, for his fanatical customer obsession, and for his long-view (e.g. AWS and now Alexa).”
Our favorite team-building activity is: “Brew works. We find that there is no better team-building activity than spending time together over great beer and good food.”
The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: “We look for life-long learners; people who ask questions, who are not afraid to make mistakes, who want to dream — and most of all for people who believe and commit to the mission.”
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Your journey is unique. Be prepared to make your own trails.”