How meeting Dropbox’s founder helped an SA tech startup pivot

Getting your startup off the ground can be intimidating as all hell. Sometimes you can get so obsessed with your vision that you don’t realise it has deeply ingrained flaws. At one point, South African-based startup evly was stuck in precisely that position. That is, until its boss Eric Edelstein met the founder of cloud-storage phenomenon Dropbox. Here’s how one lunch made the company pivot so successfully that it now has a global footprint.

After three months of living in San Francisco & Silicon Valley and speaking to hundreds (if not thousands) of tech entrepreneurs, tech service providers, angel investors & Venture Capitalists, I realised it was time to make a radical change.

The message I had been given by every single one of them, was that our long-term vision for evly was correct, and they supported it. They believed in the same future I had painted a picture of. But, they had convinced me that our business model was flawed.

About half way into my trip, I won a competition on LetsLunch for having the most networking lunches that month – the prize was lunch with Drew Houston. For those of you that aren’t aware, Drew is the 20-something founder of the billion dollar company Dropbox (they raised US$1.2-million seed, US$6-Million Series A, and US$250 Million Series B). And to top off our lunch, he brought his mate along — the founder of Scribd, Trip Adler!

Drew & Trip reiterated what everyone else had been telling me:

Build something people will use!

That lunch, and every other discussion I had during those three months, resulted in a mind-shift of magnanimous proportion. My perception had changed.

And so I went back to Cape Town and the company pivoted. It kept the same long-term vision, but started again. From scratch. The old software code was carefully put into a box, and stored in a secret hiding spot. And a new #hackathon began.

The response from everyone around me ranged from “you’re crazy” to “you’re crazy” — but myself and my team passionately believed we could create a product that could change the world.

When I get asked what makes an entrepreneur succeed, I always give my wife’s answer:

Eric is just never prepared to quit — he is bull-headed! He keeps going until he succeeds.

And, a year later, we have a product that we are proud of. Nope, we haven’t been bought out for a vast sum of money (yet), we haven’t listed the company (yet), and we still have many hurdles ahead of us. But we have got something real.

We’ve created a kick ass product that brands, advertising companies, digital agencies and communication companies are finding useful, and we now have revenue. And the free version of our software, is getting installed by brands, SMEs, NGOs & other types of organisations all around the world.

This week, we launched our new website (and our new logo) to reflect who we have become.

I’m tired from a long adventure, and the road ahead is still fraught with 18 hour days for as far as I can see. But I’m also energised, both from a wonderful team that I work with every day, and a phenomenal product that is providing value to everyone of our customers that uses it.

And I’m inspired to see how we can move the company forward even faster, resulting in an even better product, happier customers, and perhaps, if we finally manage to reach our end goal, the potential to change the world.



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