Yep, we just announced it to the world:
It's my first exit! Everyone was hyped to hear this news, even Joshua Baer from Capital Factory. I have so much to say about this experience, I have no idea where to start. It was a very tough year, but now I am too excited. I just turned 21 less than a month ago!
I have so much to say, so many people to thank. let me start off from the beginning...
My freshmen year in San Francisco was a disaster. I managed to join Boonoob, a private party startup in San Francisco. I complained every single Sunday after attending service at Golden Gate Church of Christ to Gilbert, who later became my co-founder. At the time, the startup that he was working at got acquired three times, and he was working at Angelist. One Sunday, I was complaining to him as usual during our lunch. He pulled out this app that he made, and said:" Maybe we can start something together." So we did.
We started with pubb.at, a community-building tool, because community building was hot. I didn't really know anything about the product. I was so lucky because at the time John Saddington was doing beta for his $4 million venture-backed startup YEN. I joined the beta and learned how to build community and business. It's funny to talk about now, but back then I had no idea who John was. It took me a whole year to figure out that he is one of the best entrepreneurs in San Francisco. But the good thing is that I now can call John a friend and an impactful mentor, he taught me so much.
Long story short, pubb.at made some money through building a community for community builders. But we had a 100% churn rate on the product. Everyone left after 1 or 2 months. I don't blame them, who will wanna pay for a product that's basically Slack but on the web?
So we declared the project failed, move on. Covid hit, Gilbert went back to Texas, I went back to LA. We kept on trying new projects.
At the time I was single, and all the dating apps just weren't working for me. So I proposed a dating app to Gilbert. We figured that it had to be niche, so we thought maybe tried to interview different types of people who are currently using dating apps to figure out if they are happy with the apps they have now. It turned out that most of them weren't happy with the current solution, but there weren't any alternatives. So we tested in different niches, but it was never a clear answer.
I found California boring during covid. I decided to take a road trip to Texas because I have never been to Texas. I went to San Antonio to visit Gilbert.
That was the time when we pivoted to video clip dating. It's kind of like Snapchat videos. We thought the dating apps were too fake and meaningless. So we did that for a while. No one wanted it. I was really frustrated at that point because I slept in my car in San Antonio for 2 months to work on this app. (I was so broke, so I figured that I could save some rent money to work on Gumdrop) I worked on it 14 hours a day, 7 days a week. No one wanted to use it. Our user acquisition cost was $10 per sign-up. Yes, you heard it right. $10 per sign-up for a social app is worse than bad.
Gilbert went to UT, so one day I asked him to show me around UT. I remember the day we got there, I kept telling myself: if we don't get users, I will go back to California with nothing. So the first day at UT, I managed to get 12 contracts despite the fact that I was scared as hell. The next day, one of those 12 pulled me into a group of 44. I networked for 2 weeks without telling people about Gumdrop. I wanted to get into UT's communities.
The crazy part is that a lot of people downloaded Gumdrop! But they never used it. So I went do more interviews. I realized that people want friends more than a relationship. 1: dating apps have a bad reputation 2: a lot of them were in a relationship 3: but they really wanted to have more friend groups.
So we decided to pivot again. Big group chat and 1-1 matching were already there, so I have to do something different. That's when we decided to pair 4-6 people in a group. Our MVP was a group chat that we coded. People started to use them.
UT was the magical point where people started to use the app. For us, it was the first time that we can improve our app based on user feedback. From here, it was a combination of hardcore networking and regular product building. I met as many people as I could. I hosted and joined many parties at UT. I took all the feedback and improve the product. I interviewed a lot of people.
Soon I found myself inside the UT's communities. I then recruited. At the peak, we had 8 student interns. And it was a lot to manage. It was a bad idea. I spent a lot of time on team processes, infrastructure, and culture. It was the worst thing in the world. Our marketing at UT was really good, for a good two weeks when we first kicked off, we had 10-20 sign-ups a day.
Gumdrop's first UT crew at Lukcy Lab around UT Austin:
The survival mode was real. It lasted way longer than I thought I could. It was honestly pretty bad. We managed to establish our brand at UT eventually. Mostly through community building, inviting micro-influencers, and word of mouth.
The problem with social apps is that you won't see money for a long time. So after almost a year not having much income, we ran out of runway despite our burn was so low. During the summer, Gilbert got a great opportunity to work on another startup. At the time of writing this, Optilistic just raise $3.2 Million on about $25 Million evaluation. I was happy for him (I swear I really did), but I was really scared. Because I don't know how to code. I recruited student devs, but it wasn't really working. I thought it was game over again, but I really thought we were close to having a killer product. I couldn't just let it die.
I didn't know what to do but keep running the sprints and survive...
I joined Capital Factory after the summer. It was a game-changer. I was able to meet so many founders. I decided if I can't take Gumdrop to the top, maybe someone else can. So I was trying to find anyone who could keep building Gumdrop or use Gumdrop's current infrastructure. Gumdrop at this time has a team of 7 (devs, marketing, & product), a highly functional app with a growing userbase, a strong brand at UT, 1 year-long experience serving the student population, etc.
I met Vlogmi on the day of Fed Supernova at Capital Factory. When I met Luke, the CEO of Vlogmi, I felt like I met another me. We got along so well. Bob, the chairman of Vlogmi, had 4 IPOs. He was also an Entrepreneur of The Year in Hong Kong back in the 90s. I thought Bob would have a lot of experience in acquisition, so I went to ask for advice.
The next day, we had a meeting together. Vlogmi saw value in Gumdrop that can create huge synergy. So they decided to acquire Gumdrop. The meeting lasts for the whole day (the picture attached below). It went from the morning to the evening. We ended with a win-win deal. I didn't bargain at all during the meeting. Bob was really good at creating win-win situations. That was one huge lesson I learned from him.
Things moved fast, Vlogmi sent over the contract the next day. And we signed it. It was done. The real acquisition happened really fast, it only took about a week! Then it was followed by a ton of congratulations in person and on Twitter.
It was so wild. Just like this. I sold my first company less than a month after I turned 21.
I am grateful for all the advice and the love from all the amazing people. I want to shout out all of them here: