Startup Spotlight: Heylo
All Things Venture #064
Hey Everyone! Dez here from All Things Venture. Before we dive in to today’s article I’m going to plug Medley one last time! Medley is a membership based community designed to help all of us reach our personal and professional goals, run by Jordan Taylor. They are accepting applications for their latest cohort, and I’m 99% sure the deadline is next week!!! Go check it out and if you need a sweet, sweet discount code - holla at ya boy because Jordan as offered to share them with our All Things Venture community. (But seriously - email me email@example.com and we can get you hooked up)
OKAY. So today’s article. A little backstory. I was in SF a few weeks ago to explore the city plus meet a few internet friends IRL. Eric, the founder of Heylo, is one of those people. Eric and I had never met before but our 30 minute coffee chat turned into like an hour/hour and a half of us riffing about life, work, sports, and community. I had gotten introduced to Eric through another founder friend of mine, Jason Abromaitis, who runs Launchpad. One of my favorite things about the tech/startup community is how open, kind, and collaborative people are. In my experience people genuinely want to see others do well, and pay things forward. This article is entirely the result of Jason sharing a bit of his network with me, so thank you Jason. Beyond that Jason and I had met completely by chance in a breakout room on Upstream. It was a totally random connection that we made nearly ~2 years ago, but we’ve gone close and more or less talked every 2 weeks since. I’ve been thinking a lot lately how probably way more than we’d expect - we’re all one email, DM, or tweet away from meeting someone, or having a conversation that completely changes the trajectory of our lives. That sits with me a TON. And it’s why I’m thankful for people like Jason and Eric who are A) open to having those conversations and B) willing to help others/meet new people. Turns out - being open minded and a little serendipitous can be a winning strategy!! So I share all of this to say - be open to firing off that cold email, be open to responding to that cold email. Maybe you’ll end up featured on All Things Venture (which would be siiiiick), or maybe you’ll end up at your dream job. In any event, you never know what will happen, unless you try - so what do you have to lose?
Okay. Getting off the soap box, let’s dive in to today’s article.
Eric! Tell me a little bit about yourself, what is Heylo, and what is the problem you’re trying to solve?
Dez, thanks for having me. Appreciate you! I’m one of the co-founders of Heylo, and Heylo is a platform for groups. I got fascinated with groups when I couldn’t find one.
Before starting Heylo, I worked at a great job but had no passions beyond work. I spent 10 years after undergrad working as much as I could. And I felt lost. To find a passion, I tried new activities. I ran a marathon and taught myself to do a backflip. But I was always alone. After years of exploring, I still felt demotivated. I realized it doesn’t matter what you do if you are always doing it by yourself. My solo adventures kicked off my fascination with groups. I showed up to hundreds of group events. I joined clubs and even tried to lead one myself. When I finally found a great group, it was life-changing. I met new people. I improved my skills. I made new friends. I felt like I belonged. But being the new guy was a terrible experience. I lean extroverted, so why did I have a hard time finding a group? Groups are so impactful - why are there no great products built for groups? I learned that I’m not the only one who hasn’t experienced a great group. The vast majority of people actually have no idea what a great group feels like. And that’s a huge problem. That’s why more people are lonely, sedentary, and disconnected than ever before.
Our mission at Heylo is to give everyone the opportunity to belong to a great group.
How did your experience working on Wall Street at Credit Suisse, and in Silicon Valley at Google influence your approach to building a consumer app?
I worked on Wall Street and at Google to meet entrepreneurs. It’s one of the few roles where you can work directly with founders early in your career. I learned that the best founders had a common trait – they were deeply passionate about the problem they were trying to solve. That passion fuels founders to recruit teammates, build the early product, find initial customers, and raise money. I now realize it’s also the key to not quitting when things get hard.
You played college basketball at Wesleyan back in the day, how has that experience contributed to your development as a founder?
Team sports are one of the best tools to teach young people. You learn how to win, lose, work with others, and persevere during challenging times. Basketball is also a sport that you can train for. It’s somewhat meritocratic. It helps to be tall, for sure, but you can also practice getting faster, jumping higher and shooting better. Hard work yields results.
My basketball teams were also my first exposure to high-quality groups - giving back to others, getting support through tough times, and making great friends. It motivates a lot of my work on Heylo.
Heylo has a pretty active community focused on health/fitness - how do you think technology can play a role in helping people have more active, healthier lives?
That is the million (billion) dollar question. Our dream is to build technology that helps people get off the couch, put down their phone, and go connect with the people around them. With all the social media products and content apps, we must find a force that is stronger than the addiction of sitting in front of a screen. We believe social shared experiences are that force. And groups are the best way forward.
What are your thoughts on companies like Strava, EightSleep, and Whoop? Are they complementary to the experience of Heylo? Are they competitive?
Complementary, for sure!
The magic of Heylo is connecting group members to each other. We’re not mapping runs or tracking sleep - these companies are great at that. We’d like to help these high-quality products reach more people through their groups. It’s a huge win-win partnership opportunity.
What was your “aha” moment when you realized something was working at Heylo?
After we launched our beta, one day our metrics shot up. I thought something broke.
But it was the exact opposite. A member of a group shared a going-away card to other members on Heylo. He said how grateful he was to find this group. It helped him get in shape, gain confidence to get out of a bad relationship, and find a new job. The new job required him to move, but he wanted to express his gratitude and will always remember the great experiences with this group.
It still gives me the chills.
If you could pick one athlete to be a brand partner for Heylo, who would it be and why?
Desmond Fleming. I’m drafting a proposal right now.
What advice do you have for any aspiring entrepreneurs, especially for those who are just getting started in the earliest days?
I made SO many mistakes when getting started. Just reflecting back makes me shake my head. Actually, I wonder, what are all the mistakes I’m making right now? They are happening, I just don't know which are mistakes yet!
But no one really knows what they are doing. Larry Page made mistakes, you just can’t read about them publicly.
I try to take advice with a grain of salt. Most advice is based on someone else’s past experience, and it may not be yours, and it may not be the future. Learn as much as you can, but at the end of the day, you have to think for yourself and make your own decisions.
And, take that with a grain of salt!
That’s it for today everyone. All love to all of you - let’s have a great rest of the week