Sydney startup Recomazing first launched in mid-2015 as a platform to enable friends to find, make, and share business recommendations with their networks.
Founder Marc Cowper remembered the excitement he felt seeing businesses register their interest on the platform’s initial landing page ahead of launch; the team was “filled with confidence” as thousands of SMEs created profiles. In other words, everything was looking great.
“Then, shortly after our consumer launch, the reality that everything was going to be infinitely harder than we had anticipated started to sink in. We learned, like a lot of marketplace startups, that no amount of business engagement could make up for a lack of engagement on the consumer side,” he admitted.
“We weren’t hitting our forecasted acquisition rate or the required volume of recommendations. As a result, we weren’t delivering enough value to our user base or our investors.”
After six months of looking at the data, Cowper said it became obvious that Recomazing’s most engaged users were the businesses themselves: they wanted to increase word of mouth recommendations for their own business, but were even more active in searching for services to help themselves grow.
The team’s pondering of a pivot to a B2B focus was pushed by what they were seeing working out of Fishburners, where every day people would post on member channels asking for recommendations on various business tools and services.
“The problem with these channels was that the same questions got repeatedly asked, people with valuable recommendations stopped answering, and there was no shared knowledge bank between members,” Cowper said.
This, in turn, created a number of issues. As Cowper explained, startups were making the mistakes as those before them and choosing the wrong suppliers, while Fishburners’ community manager, tasked with driving knowledge sharing between members, was spending a significant portion of their day trying to manually facilitate these conversations.
This led Recomazing to create its community-based model, which allows startup communities to create a ‘RecoHub’, where members can save, search, and share recommendations for business growth.
“The startup community seemed like a natural fit for Recomazing. The learning curve for startups is incredibly steep, the constant introduction of new digital tools keeps the need for recommendations high, and the Australian startup ecosystem is in desperate need of better collaboration,” Cowper said.
While seeing the new model could solve clear issues, the decision to pivot and the process of making it happen wasn’t easy.
“The most difficult part of pivoting was feeling like we were letting our existing users, partners, investors and clients down. We were so thankful and appreciative of our early adopters and we desperately wanted to repay their faith in us. On a personal level, it is something that I really took to heart and I still think about. I still have hope that as we grow, I will find a way to return the favour to those early personal relationships that were so pivotal to our success,” Cowper explained.
“As a founder, I also felt like I had let my team down. I look at my team as my first investors and ultimately the decision on initial go-to-market strategy rested on my shoulders. Knowing I had failed them really motivated me to make it only a temporary speed bump instead of a permanent crash.”