Interview with the Entrepreneur: Ann Bernard of WhyGoSolo – Part 2

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Ann Bernard of WhyGoSolo, an innovative social networking startup here in the DC area. She has been working hard to create a platform that might change the way you look at events and various other things that you might have gone to by yourself and were looking for a buddy to join you in something that interested them as well.

In the first part of our interview we talked about what WhyGoSolo is, what makes it unique, its roadmap and revenue creation. Here is the second part of our interview:

1. How many employees do you have at WhyGoSolo now? Is it important that they all share your entrepreneurial spirit and drive? How do you find that in new hires and keep that entrepreneurial energy alive?

We have 4 “œemployees” working with on WhyGoSolo. None of them are getting paid in dollars so I would definitely say “œheck yea it’s important they have the entrepreneurial spirit and drive!!”. They are doing the work they’re doing and taking risks because they believe in the potential of WhyGoSolo and the team they are working with.
Yesterday, Doug our VP. of Sales/Biz Dev “œguy” (titles are still a little loose at the moment) made some calls for some research we’re doing in building our revenue model and he spoke to quite a few sales people. One woman he spoke to has offered to donate her time to help us ““ she wants to make some calls and sale WhyGoSolo for us.
I love that!! You know you have something exciting and fun when people want to donate their time to help out. Lets you know that when we get funded they want to be the first hires ““ the people who have stuck around and are joining us now are looking to be part of something that will soon explode. We let their guts decide. We also only talk to the best, smartest and most passionate. That keeps the entrepreneurial energy alive.

2. What are the most important elements for a successful startup company?

It starts with the Vision. You must have a Vision that you can build a strong business and team around. The Vision includes having a solid market, revenue streams, exponential growth potential and passion/excitement/love for what you’re building.
Next is the team ““ you bring the best and most passionate of each professions you need together and you give them the room and tools to shine.
I hate to say this, but I have to admit that proper funding is also an element of a successful startup. We’ve been bootstrapping for over a year and we have the Vision, a strong business concept and a growing team, but we’re extremely limited in what we can do because of resources (dollars)

3. You are self-funded which is poses a different set of challenges versus those who get money from the likes of Sequoia and Novak Biddle. Can you give us a bit of detail on your approach to managing cash flow while trying to grow?

Haha!! What cash flow? There is no cash flow. Everything is out of pocket and we’ve kept our expenses to the bare, bare minimum. I’m surprised we’ve spent money on business cards. Our biggest expense is hosting. Everything we’ve done has been through word of mouth, going out and talking about WhyGoSolo and leveraging the web.
WhyGoSolo exist because of sweat equity ““ mine and that of other people. If you don’t know what it’s like to work 14-16 hour days, 7 days a week for over a year and not make a penny for it ““ you don’t understand the meaning of sweat equity.

4. Is there room in the social networking space for more competitors? Have you seen any recently that seem interesting?

To be honest I haven’t been as diligent lately keeping an eye out. I see a lot of mobile, location based services coming out and I obviously think those are great concepts”¦anything that makes bringing people together easier and simpler. (We’ll be going mobile as well)

5. What approach to marketing plays a significant role in promoting and attracting customers to WhyGoSolo?

Like I mentioned, we’ve created a concept that provides a service and is saleable. Our sales pitch is probably best compared to what PR firms go out and do when they pitch a social media campaign. We pitch ours to event promoters and brick and mortar venues in the entertainment industry. Part of the pitch is a win-win-win partnership between them, WhyGoSolo and our members. We’ll all grow together and cross promote each other.
The more venues that build communities on WhyGoSolo and offer members discounts and value the more members we’ll get on WhyGoSolo.

6. If you want people to remember one thing when they think about WhyGoSolo, what is it?

Value added. This is the core of all successful businesses ““ we’re determined to add value to everyone we service on WhyGoSolo.

I wanted to take the time to thank Ann for doing this interview and everyone should make a visit to WhyGoSolo.com and sign up to see what a great site this is.

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Aaron Brazell

Aaron Brazell is a Baltimore, MD-based WordPress developer, a co-founder at WP Engine, WordPress core contributor and author. He wrote the book WordPress Bible and has been publishing on the web since 2000. You can follow him on Twitter, on his personal blog and view his photography at The Aperture Filter.