Highlights from V-Chat@RTE Episode 7 – Ask Me Anything: Business Innovation With Real-Time Video with entrepreneurs Lauren Foundos, CEO of Forte Fit; Naoaki Mashita, founder and CEO of V-cube; Geoff Cook, CEO and co-founder of The Meet Group; and Jerry Shen, president, and co-founder of Welcome. Click here to watch the full V-Chat.
With so much competition in the tech market, what determines which businesses will be successful? Reggie Yativ, Agora’s CRO and COO, spoke with four successful business executives about how they got started in the Real-Time Engagement business. These entrepreneurs shared experiences, steps taken, and best practices. It turns out that having a great business takes a lot more than just a great idea.
Many entrepreneurs start off with a general concept of what they want to bring to the market and why. Lauren Foundos, CEO of Forte Fit, recognized that fitness classes were constrained by the space of brick-and-mortar gyms with 30 people in a class, and she wondered why she couldn’t take a class from any gym around the world since great classes are happening every day. She became obsessed with the idea of an interactive global fitness app and believed strongly that this innovation would happen, with or without her.
This Wall Street broker began by talking to other entrepreneurs and researching her global fitness idea, working at first in the evenings and on the weekends, and thinking of nothing else but her idea of a global fitness company that could stream live classes across the globe. She eventually quit her secure finance job and started Forte Fit, which is both a technology and a subscription-based streaming platform. Forte Fit installs hardware and software into boutique studios so classes can stream live. For example, thanks to Agora’s technology, a trainer in New York City can work with a client in Los Angeles in a virtual workout session.
Shaping the Idea
Once an entrepreneur has an idea, the next step is to make a smart business plan. V-cube Founder and CEO Naoaki Mashita’s current business focuses on visual communication services like web conferencing, webinars, e-learning, and many other types of remote communication services. When Mashita was first starting out, he knew his business ideas needed to constantly evolve to survive. His first business dealt with mobile application development and then shifted to video conferencing systems. He’s now creating a private soundproof and air-conditioned conference room structure—similar to an old-fashioned phone booth—that could be placed in airports across the world and marketed to various countries.
When shaping business ideas, he keeps in mind that a high percentage of new ideas fail, so he prepares himself and his business with backup plans for worst-case scenarios. For Mashita, business survival is always on his mind, and he believes this mindset is essential for any entrepreneur starting a successful business.
Choosing the Right Technology
Each of these entrepreneurs had one thing in common—they knew that if they were going to start a business they needed to work with great technology partners. Jerry Shen, president, and co-founder of Welcome, envisioned a live video platform that would host high-end virtual conferences and events and that could be set up easily by business professionals. Before starting Welcome, Shen had experience setting up live NFL games and streaming them to the masses, so he knew how critical the right streaming platform would be for his new business.
The right technology partner is important. Shen chose to work with Agora, and he sees that he built a product with better technology than his competitors.
“For us, Agora came on top because it was very extensible and it performed really, really well. We ran a lot of tests, and to our surprise, the video quality was actually better than many other competitors that others were flocking to.”
-Jerry Shen, President, and Co-Founder of Welcome
The Meet Group, which comprises the dating apps MeetMe, LOVOO, SKOUT, TAGGED, and GROWLR, knew early in their research that live video streaming was the future for meaningful connections and that they needed to have high-quality video in their app to be successful.
Geoff Cook, president, and CEO of The Meet Group, realized early on that when people are on dating apps, they are not just looking for a future date, they are looking for connection. Cook’s in-app live interactive video has acted as a solution for the loneliness his app users experience. Cook chose to partner with Agora for its streaming stability, the great video quality, and the ability to adjust to poor network conditions, as well as for its scalability, which is needed as The Meet Group user base rapidly grows. The company has seen amazing results, including a $200 million revenue stream by adding live streaming video to the apps.
Knowing how and when to raise capital is an important component to any business venture. Anyone new to prospecting for investors might consider bringing on a professional from the start. When Cook began his business, he realized his company was growing really fast, with a million users in the first nine months and no real business model. His plan was to find a community and to scale up and monetize it. If he was starting fresh today, Cook thinks that he would probably begin with a seed-stage to add a level of seriousness to the enterprise, expand the network to the investor network, and possibly bring talent in at an early stage.
Similarly, Mashita didn’t raise money at the very beginning, because it wasn’t necessary for his business model. Looking back, Mashita thinks he should have found someone who is knowledgeable about raising money so he could find an investor who is trustworthy and knowledgeable.
Foundos said she was able to raise funding at the very beginning, and she immersed herself in attending as many investor events as possible. She believes owners must first create a reason for people to invest and then they must use a trigger to get them to do it—like fear of missing out on the launch date, for example. “Most investors don’t want to give you money until more of the project’s success is revealed, so the first four investors are critical to the business,” Foundos said. “Be creative on how to sell the narrative, and remember to surround yourself with people you trust.”
Following Good Advice
Tech entrepreneurs wear a lot of hats and they, more than anyone, know how hard it is to start a new business. From taking chances on their ideas to raising capital, business owners have an abundance of knowledge when it comes to starting a new company. When asked what advice they’d give a new entrepreneur, they left us with some great recommendations.
- “Listen to your customers.” – Naoaki Mashita, founder and CEO of V-cube
- “Learn from other business owners.” – Lauren Foundos, CEO of Forte Fit
- “Get started.” – Geoff Cook, CEO, and co-founder of The Meet Group
- “Work on something you enjoy.” – Jerry Shen, president, and co-founder of Welcome
- “Do it all at once and do a lot of things. Just launch. Make mistakes. Listen to your customers. Surround yourself with a good ecosystem of people. Love what you do.” – Reggie Yativ, CRO and COO at Agora
A new business is going to have its challenges, but these four entrepreneurs have provided us with great advice to carry on. If you’d like to learn more about the entrepreneurs above, watch the full V-Chat Episode. If you have a concept in the ideation stage or beyond and are looking for a Real-Time Engagement platform to add meaningful human connection to your business, contact our team at Agora today.