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How a young startup is contending with giant competitors

(Tech News) When an idea comes about, many people are discouraged because their competitors are gigantic, but that didn’t stop one startup from skyrocketing to 25 million users.


weheartit startup

How do you launch a brand when your competitors are so huge?

You have an idea. It’s a good one. You have identified a need in the market, and your research indicates that you’re sitting on a mint. You have your business plan put together, but you hesitate because you have competitors that have been around for a long time and are multi-billion dollar companies. Eventually, that hesitation eases, because you realize that you have a better way of doing it, and consumers are clamoring for it.

We Heart It is an image-based social network startup, and launched in the middle of some pretty huge competitors. But, they’ve already surpassed 25 million users and say they are seeing one million new signups every month. They decided to nix comments to so away with bullies, making it popular with younger users. So how do they compete with Instagram, Facebook, and even Twitter?

Ranah Edelin, CEO of We Heart It says that competing with mega-funded, mega-sized social networks keeps them on their toes. “Seriously, it is very humbling to be compared to a lot of great companies in the social space who have hundreds of employees and hundreds of millions of dollars in investment.”

Edelin added that “It is also extremely motivating when you look at how large and active our community of 25 million is and how favorably we compare to these same services that have many more resources than we do. It keeps our team focused and ensures that every member of our 18-person team contributes a lot to our service and its growth.”

Was the goal to disrupt?

“Our service was originally started as a personal project by a design student named Fabio who wanted to collect and organize images that he could refer to later for design inspiration,” noted Edelin. “It was his first coding project and he originally called it “I heart it” because it was just for his personal use. He shared it with some of his design friends who immediately asked him for an account of their own. He added the ability for others to create accounts and changed the name to We Heart It and it just took off from there.”

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The company has focused on natural and organic growth and iteration, seeking to stay true to their roots rather than disrupt. Edelin said, “We believe that we complement the existing social ecosystem quite well and that the positive, supportive, and expressive tone of our community is quite unique.”

They have also benefited from the shift in technology to mobile, with over 80 percent of their traffic coming from mobile devices, and they’ve enjoyed the “coveted” teen and young adult demo, with over 80 percent of their users under the age of 24.

What have you done differently to attract so many young users?

Edelin said, “We have always focused on the two most important things any company in our space should focus on: our users and our service. For example, we never talked to the press about We Heart It prior to June of 2013, even though we had over 20 million users and were already extremely popular in our core demographic. I think the fact that our service has been “under the radar” with mainstream press has helped our community really embrace We Heart It as their own…..they love We Heart It and have really helped spread the word for us.”

He added, “I should also say that the best way to stay true to our users and the service is to have a really amazing team working at We Heart It. We spend a lot of time vetting each person who joins our team and making sure that everyone has the ability and opportunity to contribute in significant ways. It’s really rewarding and necessary for each member of our team to have a large impact on the success of our service!”

Why did you determine that comments should not be a feature on the site?

“From the start, We Heart It has really embraced the notion of constrained design, a concept made popular by the likes of great services like Twitter and Vine,” said Edelin. “The heart (pun intended) and soul of We Heart It is our users and the images they share. The lack of comments forces people to really focus on those two things (users and images) and to find more creative ways to express themselves to their followers and the broader community. That’s why you see a decent amount of images with text overlaid on them…the image becomes a self-contained unit that fully captures how someone is feeling or what they believe is important.”

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“The lack of comments also allows our community to really stay positive, supportive, and “bully-proof.” The only action another person can take towards another person on We Heart It is a positive one (heart the image or follow the person),” Edelin added. “That has made We Heart It a much more authentic community where people can share how they’re feeling without fear of backlash from others. This is especially important given the cyber-bullying that happens on some of the other social networks that makes people, especially young people, feel a lot of pressure and even fear on those social networks.”

Businesses and We Heart It

Edelin said that any company seeking a young audience should set up an account and share “beautiful, inspiring, expressive, and authentic” content. “We also get a lot of fan tributes to We Heart It which is always fun to see… they basically unleash their creativity around the We Heart It brand and the results are pretty amazing. For example, here is an image on our service made by a user that has been hearted over 180,000 times that really captures what makes We Heart It special and unique”

We Heart It says they have just announced their new Partnership Program with initial participation from Conde Nast brands Teen Vogue and Lucky, as well as some other great consumer apps with strong traction in their core demo. “Our team can help onboard new brands and help them maximize their presence on We Heart It by helping them do things like create a verified We Heart It account, learn about best practices and how to get more followers on our platform, and how to implement our “Heart It” button on their mobile app or website to make it easier for their content to appear on We Heart It,” Edelin concluded.

Written By

Marti Trewe reports on business and technology news, chasing his passion for helping entrepreneurs and small businesses to stay well informed in the fast paced 140-character world. Marti rarely sleeps and thrives on reader news tips, especially about startups and big moves in leadership.

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