Building a platform to help event organizers plan faster
- 2014 – 2021
- My Role
- Co-founder & Design Lead
What started as a side project to create better experiences at events turned into starting a company. Our goals were to help event organizers and bootstrap the company from customer growth. As with the case of most startups, I’ve worn many hats at SlidesUp besides design — including sales, marketing, and customer success.
Figuring out what product to build
In the early days, I talked to lots of conference attendees to see what we could do to help them learn and connect at events. I started prototyping ideas, like personalized agenda planning. 1
While it seemed interesting to me, no one jumped out of their seat to have these attendee tools built.
Launching an initial product
Realizing most attendees didn't want to pay for this tool, I redirected my efforts on understanding conference organizers. They were quite receptive to a few ideas, and led us to sell our first product. SlidesUp Agenda helped organizers create a visual layout of their event, like Google Calendar. 2
But creating agendas for organizers was manual and painful, so we focused on a self-serve agenda building tool next.
Listening to our customers
Sales weren't consistent and other asks came our way, but we finally got a little traction with Startup School's Founder's Track. 3 I tested our ideas by writing articles; collaborating with designers and film makers; and putting on events. 4
I then focused on a problem around staff management. We built a way to create personalized staff schedules so lead organizers and their staff could be clear about who's responsible for something. 5
We also tried to make a smoother developer experience with API documentation to see what creative uses people had for our platform.
Building an event playbook for customers
Leaning on past events I've worked on (Synapse Release Parties, TiE Boston Meetups, and TiECON East), we started growing the Product Hunt Boston community, Epic Ping Pong, and SlidesUp Meetups. 6
Using these events, we tried to create diverse experiences with a diverse group of people. This helped us give our customers an event playbook to run with.
Expanding to more event use cases
Conferences were the first type of event we started with, but needed to diversify to grow. We started focusing on helping companies plan internal events and smaller events. 7
The SlidesUp story is still being written, and I'd like to thank all the people who were a part of our journey so far.
Thank you to Mahesh Narayanan, Zara Nensey, Adam Riley, Matt Piscitelli, and Shaun Bagai for being super patient with me during the early research and prototyping stages.↩
This might seem excessive, but it really does take many conversations to get to a root problem worth solving. Thank you to Liz Griffith (Mad*Pow); Lisa Park and Kristen Welch (EnerNOC); Randall Lane and Taylor Culliver (Forbes 30 Under 30); Jonathan Kim (Appcues); Anuradha Yadav (TiECON); Christopher Lee (Bioinnovation Conference); Jeff Judge (Bright); Ju-Djuin Csontos (Kleiner Perkins); Lenart Pušelja, Pedro Piñera Buendia, and Matej Arhiv (App Design & Development Conference); and Diana Vertus (Inclusive Innovation Conference). They helped shape our first product and GTM strategy.↩
Domonique Fines gave us invaluable feedback at this stage, and our mentor Mike Robbins was particularly helpful with his advice. Startup School has changed quite a bit since we went through it, but I'd still highly recommend going through the program if you're building a startup. More details at startupschool.org.
Dylan Ladds (Dooster Film) helped us create our Presentation Day video. Jesse Parenteau (Ettrics) and Rocky Roark (Blue Cyclops) were awesome to collaborate with for developing the SlidesUp brand.↩
This feature was inspired through research with Chris Massey (Mind the Product) and Giorgio Natili (Droidcon Boston).↩
Product Hunt Boston wouldn't have been possible without my co-hosts Niti Shah, Michael Sheeley, and Shena Lohardjo, plus all the volunteers who helped over the years. (Photo credit: Alicia Collins) I joined Jason Stevens, who started Epic Ping Pong, to co-host our tournaments and relive my competitive high school days. (Photo credit: Mackenzie Danho)↩
This phase of SlidesUp was heavily impacted by the folks at Reforge – in particular Brian Balfour, Elena Verna, Kevin Kwok – and my cohort. This was my first deep dive into growth, and I highly recommend checking out their writing and membership. More at reforge.com.