Silo is a revolutionary professional networking platform, which is founded upon the idea of connecting people in communities where they can collaborate, ask, and help one another.
Tell me about Silo. What is your mission and vision?
Silo is all about professional networks and communities. It’s about enabling people to connect with each other, to learn from each other, and to meet one another in a way that’s never been possible before. We all know about meetups that occur in cities where like-minded people (such as developers or designers), can interact. But how does this work across geography? How can a designer in Minnesota easily connect with a designer in New York? This is exactly what Silo wants to make possible. We want to make it easier for people to connect, and I believe that doing so virtually is advantageous because you are free to connect whenever you want, wherever you want.
What was the inspiration behind creating Silo? Tell me your story.
When we initially started building Silo, our direction was completely different. We started by connecting founders of Startups to their investors. Our mission at that point was to enable Startup founders to have a better way of reporting to investors, and letting investors know what’s happening with the Startups and how they could help.
The investors loved the platform because they could see what was going on with their portfolio companies; however, the founders didn’t like it so much. The founders said that they didn’t really want to update their investors, and it wasn’t their top priority. We then decided to ask the founders what they needed. Their reply was simple–they needed help.
Starting a new business is difficult–you need to find customers, crack complex problems, hire people, etc. What the founders needed was help. But we had already connected founders to investors–who said they were willing to help. So, what was the problem? We thought. The founders responded saying that it wasn’t the investors that they wanted helping them; rather, they wanted help from other founders. They wanted to be able to ask other founders for advice, and vice versa. So, instead of connecting founders with investors, we began to connect founders with founders, and that is when the true Silo was born. The founders loved the new platform, and made some thoughtful inquiries. For example, why is Silo just for founders? Why not open it up for designers to connect with other designers, or allow engineers to connect with engineers? We listened to what the founders had to say, and then began building various communities of founders, engineers, designers, and so on. Perhaps in the future, we’ll be connecting architects and doctors.
Basically, we started off in a completely opposite direction then where we are right now. However, this shows that if you actually listen to what your members and customers want, you can gain insights that can help you create an even more valuable product or service than what you started with.
What are the biggest challenges that you encountered on the way?
Our biggest challenge was, of course, when we figured out that our initial direction wasn’t going to work. If we continued down our initial path, we’d have to shut down. But ever since we started building what Silo is today, the challenge has been all about how to make Silo better for users, how to make it more accessible, engaging, powerful, interesting, and so on. Every day is a challenge, and we are never completely there. In fact, I don’t know if any company is ever completely there. How to make the value of your product or service more apparent is definitely a continual challenge.
What is the vision for Silo in the future?
We hope to connect the professionals of the world (just like LinkedIn does), but it’s not you versus your network. It’s about bringing people together in active communities, so that you can actually be a part of a community. For instance, it could be a large community of bloggers and journalists, or it could be a small community in your hometown, or a bunch of friends that got together and just want to help each other achieve a common goal.
Instead of it just being you and the people you’ve met on a network, you are actually a part of that network community. You interact, you don’t stand idly. We believe communities (or networks as they are called in the professional world) play a very significant role in the professional world. Communities are all about support and help, and that is what we bring.
What inspired the name Silo?
We picked the name Silo when we built our original concept of connecting founders and investors. So, silo was the place where you could actually build your company, and then launch it privately. It’s like a bunker–nobody knows your information, it’s all contained, it’s secret, and then you can launch the company whenever you’re ready. That was the original concept behind Silo. Since our evolution, we found that the name still applies to where we are today. Your networks in Silo parallel a grain silo–you store all of your connections for the day that you’re going to need them.
What advice can you give to other entrepreneurs who want to create their own startups?
Being an entrepreneur and creating a Startup is always a struggle and a challenge. You see many successes around you that are published in the papers, such as Facebook or Amazon. And you say, “Oh that’s so awesome, I want that too!” but it hardly happens. If you’re an entrepreneur who is thinking along the lines of “I’m going to make a company and be successful,” chances are that, no, you’re going to struggle, you won’t make a whole lot of money, and it will be difficult. However, it’s also an amazing journey, and it’s no coincidence that there are so many serial entrepreneurs out there because it’s so addictive. If you’re serious about launching your own business, and you can afford to struggle for a year or two to make it happen, it’s probably the most rewarding experience of your life. It’s not for everybody, not everybody can take it, but if you can take it, you’re going to enjoy it even if you aren’t successful. Essentially, if you’re only in it for the reward, for the money, then stop. But if you’re in it for the journey, then that’s a different story, and by all means you should go and do it.
Another important piece of advice is that if you are going to start a business, try to solve a problem. The most successful companies focus on a problem that is very prevalent in peoples’ lives. Even companies like Facebook started out with a problem that was very, very real. For instance, Facebook wasn’t about sharing content, it was about finding your friends and connecting with them. So, try to find a problem that is very real, because the more real the problem is, the greater your chances of success are.