by Y Combinator10/17/2018
We put together a list of the top YC companies by valuation as of October 2018. You can see that list at https://ycombinator.com/topcompanies.
Here’s a Q&A with David Chen, Dafeng Guo, Teng Bao, Cofounders of Strikingly, one of the companies featured on the list.
What does Strikingly make/do?
Strikingly is a modern, mobile-optimized website builder that’s extremely easy to use. We focus on beautiful one-page sites and extend them with blogs, forms, and ecommerce. At Strikingly, our mission is to give everyone the power to unleash their individuality.
How many employees does Strikingly have?
How many founders?
What is your most impressive recent product milestone?
Purely from the product side, we’ve made significant leaps forward on three fronts in the past 18 months: 1. We’ve introduced a mobile app that allows users to actually create and publish a website on their phone. 2. We’ve introduced a full fledged reseller dashboard and welcomed resellers from more than 70 countries to join the program. 3. We’ve successfully entered China and have become the #1 website building brand in that market, partnering with Alibaba Cloud and Tencent Cloud. We’ve also became one of the top service providers of the WeChat open platform.
What is the larger impact / societal impact of your product in the space you work within?
Our core audience has always been the creative and entrepreneurial crowd. Strikingly is built to fulfill people’s entrepreneurial drive. Before Strikingly, people had to at least know how to design a website or hire someone to build the website for their work. It’s either too high of a barrier or too expensive. We’ve dramatically lowered the barrier for launching something online. We even got rid of the need to “drag-and-drop” to publish a great looking site. With Strikingly, the average time to publish a site is literally 10 minutes. With the rise of entrepreneurship as an alternative to more traditional career paths, we’ve seen so many startups, businesses, projects launch on Strikingly and achieve significant momentum. We always believe that the Internet is meant for everyone, not just for the skilled and resourceful. We’re thrilled to contribute a great deal to this social mission.
What’s an interesting element of Strikingly’s company culture?
“Don’t create customers, create superfans.” This mantra runs deep in Strikingly culture. We’ve always felt that it’s not enough to just “satisfy” users with utility value, although we do that well. Instead, we must strive to create an emotional connection with our users — to wow them. Our support team calls themselves the Happiness Officers. “Support” is too low of a bar, and we always push to deliver happiness. With that goal, we’ve achieved a stunning 95% satisfaction rate, 15-minute first response time, and 4-hour average resolution time for our users’ issues. Being obsessed with quality for our users is very core to our culture.
Looking back, what motivated you to start Strikingly?
We needed websites ourselves back in college. We built a lot of websites for student organizations, our student government, events, etc. It’s a painful process even for a developer, as we need to work on design, mobile optimization, monitoring, and updating the sites for non-developers. For David, who was inexperienced with code and design, the task was impossible to do on his own. So the core motivation for starting Strikingly was to solve our own problem. The hypothesis was that if we can balance customization and simplicity, we can create something that allows people like David to launch a site that looks great, and more so, even faster than a developer. That’s how we got started hacking on this idea, and eventually proved our hypothesis correct.
Is what you’re working on now the original idea or did you pivot?
We have always focused on empowering entrepreneurs and creatives to launch their ideas. Back in college, the original idea was a crowdfunding platform for student projects. But we quickly realized that the need for a website/showcase was often more urgent than the need for funding, especially for those who are just getting started. So, as a side project, we launched an enhanced landing page builder for the crowdfunding projects we were already serving. We received more signups in a week for this side project than we did in 9 months for the crowdfunding platform. That’s when Strikingly was born.
Were there moments where you thought the company might die? Describe one of those and anything you learned from it.
We were rejected by Y Combinator the first time we applied. For about 20 minutes after receiving the rejection email, we thought Strikingly would certainly die — we didn’t even have a company yet. For that YC application, we hadn’t gone all-in yet, and we were counting on YC to give us that “official support” first before diving in. When we received that rejection email, we immediately thought of giving up. But then we thought of the users who loved our beta version and the fact that we had so much confidence in each other, and how much we were willing to risk to have a chance to work on something together. More so, we remembered that we were still young and this was the best time for us to take a leap of faith. So we went all-in. We have to thank YC for that rejection, because otherwise we wouldn’t know if we were truly determined to start a company. That was the only time we thought the company could die. After that, we have known nothing can stop us.
What was a particularly important insight you had about your market that made your product work?
Mobile before desktop. That was our core insight when we launched Strikingly. It’s sounds so obvious now, but back in 2012, mobile traffic had not yet overtaken desktop traffic, and many were still doubting the need for a mobile-first strategy. For us, it was just so clear. We knew our audience would switch to a mobile-first mindset very soon, since smartphones are so much more accessible than desktops, in both hardware and software. One reason that single-page website design was gaining so much traction is that it’s perfect for mobile. We embraced it and launched the first truly responsive website builder. It took the entire market another two years to catch up on responsive design and a mobile-first strategy.
What’s one piece of advice you’d share with a young founder?
Always be crystal clear about who you’re serving. This is the only north star for when you’re confused. Be whatever they need you to be, and don’t set limits for yourself.
Y Combinator created a new model for funding early stage startups. Twice a year we invest a small amount of money ($150k) in a large number of startups (recently 200). The startups move to Silicon