May312011

“We have always used HootSuite to market HootSuite – by creating a tool we use ourselves, we’re able to build a product that is truly beneficial and continually improving for our users.”

Hootsuite CEO - Ryan Holmes
Ryan Holmes
HootSuite
CEO

We are very excited for today’s interview featuring an individual who truly exemplifies the entrepreneurial spirit of Vancouver. He has managed several successful businesses and has created a product that has gained flocks of international users worldwide. Today’s interview features Ryan Holmes, a successful local Vancouver entrepreneur and CEO of HootSuite.

HootSuite was launched in December 2008 by Invoke Media, and HootSuite’s rapidly growing user base now includes governments, artists or organizations like The White House, Martha Steward Media, SXSW and Zappos.

HootSuite helps organizations use the social web to launch marketing campaigns, identify and grow audience, and distribute targeted messages across multiple channels.

Using HootSuite’s unique social media dashboard, teams can collaboratively schedule updates to Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, WordPress and other social networks via web, desktop or mobile platforms plus track campaign results and industry trends to rapidly adjust tactics.

Prior to HootSuite, some of Ryan’s previous entrepreneurial endeavors include successes in industries including founding a pizza restaurant chain and building the top online paintball equipment supplier in Canada before founding Invoke Media – the creators of HootSuite.

Today, Ryan presents conferences internationally, speaking about the evolution of the social web. He is an enthusiast of yoga, rock climbing, paragliding, surfing and playing with his dog Mika. He is here to tell us a little more about his experience as an entrepreneur, his inspiration and what made HootSuite such a great success Internationally.

HootSuite

MO:
You have been involved in other entrepreneurial endeavours ranging from a pizza chain to paintball equipment and adventure tourism.  What made you decide to enter the web, mobile and social app industry?

Ryan Holmes:
I’ve been keen on development ever since I discovered the Apple computer in my elementary school library and won an Apple II in a programming contest that same year. After a few other projects you mentioned, I paired my love of development and business when I founded Invoke Media in 2000, the digital agency which would later create HootSuite.

MO:
Where did the idea of HootSuite first come from?

Ryan Holmes:
The team at Invoke was faced with the challenge of managing multiple social media accounts and profiles for clients, with no streamline solution. Recognizing that we were not the only ones who were experiencing this problem, we decided to create a tool ourselves that could help teams collaboratively monitor and publish across multiple networks.

It wasn’t long before support for the tool gained momentum and HootSuite was able to spin off on it’s own.

MO:
Where did the inspiration to use an owl for your branding come from?

Ryan Holmes:
We chose to play on the bird-theme prevalent in the Twitter eco-system, and Owls are the smartest and wisest, right? (they can also see at night). The name HootSuite came from a crowd-sourced naming contest we initiated when we were ready to launch the dashboard as it’s own company.

Once we had the name, the Owl mascot continued to be a natural choice to represent our dashboard. Plus it meant that we got to buy a cool owl costume. The mascot is beloved around the world and we share artifacts on a fan photo blog (lifeofowl.tumblr.com).

MO:
How was Invoke Media able to take the idea of HootSuite and turn it into a successful business model?

Ryan Holmes:
We have always used HootSuite to market HootSuite – by creating a tool we use ourselves, we’re able to build a product that is truly beneficial and continually improving for our users.

Additionally, by developing HootSuite within Invoke, we were able to take the time to develop it properly using resources and a team that was supported by other revenue sources, relieving us of time pressure and initial set up cost. And once we knew the dashboard was ready, we spun it out as its own company.

MO:
What do you think the key success factor for HootSuite was?

Ryan Holmes:
There was nothing else like it. We identified a key challenge that many were facing and created a unique solution. This continues to be our model – we are always listening to market needs and user feedback to identify new ways we can develop the tool. Our recent release of security focused tools like Secure Profiles and HTTPS is a great example of this – these were released hot off the heels of some high-profile mis-tweets by large brands, and a celebrity Twitter account hi-jacking.

MO:
At what point did you realize that HootSuite was going to take off?

Ryan Holmes:
200,000 followers in one year was a pretty good indication that the dashboard was not only popular, but successful as a social media tool. Now, 2-1/2 years in, we are at 1.75 million and growing all around the world — most recently Brazil and Indonesia have shown a surge — which shows how our brand resonates internationally.

MO:
Can you give us a little sneak peak at some new features that might be included in HootSuite in the future?

Ryan Holmes:
We’ve already started to introduce our App directory and new API, which means very soon we’ll see a lot more tools and networks available in the dash. You can also expect more with Social Analytics and Reports which have been highly successful so far.

Next up? We’re making refinements to some core features like scheduling which will help organizations optimize and manage their publishing/editorial calendars across social media teams.

MO:
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs out there that have a great idea but don’t know how to turn that idea into a successful business model?

Ryan Holmes:
Partner. The tendency for many entrepreneurs is to try to do everything themselves, but by partnering with someone whose skill set compliments your own, you can stick to what you do well and tackle challenges together.

MO:
What, in your opinion is the most important trait for a successful entrepreneur to have?

Ryan Holmes:
A passion for the product you’re creating – you gotta believe in what you are doing but be ready to adapt quickly – plus a thick skin.

MO:
What is best part of your job today?

Ryan Holmes:
Working with an awesome, hand-picked team. HootSuite has some of the most talented, creative and unique social media masterminds who are motivated to continue creating incredible product. They also make for a very competitive foosball ladder. Oh, bringing my dog to work every day is a plus too.

MO:
Thank you Ryan for taking the time to speak with us. We can’t wait to see what will come from HootSuite next as it continues to soar.

HootSuite Owls

Comments Closed

1 Comment to “We have always used HootSuite to market HootSuite – by creating a tool we use ourselves, we’re able to build a product that is truly beneficial and continually improving for our users.”

  1. June 2, 2011 at 18:02 | Permalink

    Thanks for sharing the HootSuite story. Ryan is a unique CEO with both vision *and* the skills to execute ideas.

    We have lots of more awesome-ness planned in the coming months and enjoy seeing how our beloved social media dashboard is put to use all around the world.

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