This past year, Braavo launched the Founder in Residence program, partnering with leading founders and bringing them in-house to work with our portfolio companies and broader subscription app community across a variety of initiatives.
For this inaugural season, we’ve been thrilled to have Alanna Harvey, the founder and CMO of the popular productivity app Flipd, join our cause in inspiring the next generation of subscription service founders. Given Harvey’s extensive experience building her app business, she has a ton to share with young entrepreneurs. Read on for more about how Harvey got her start and what her outlook is on the future of tech.
The Flipd story
Harvey founded the productivity app Flipd with her partner Cristian Villamarin when they noticed the over-dependency and overstimulation social media and technology had on Villamarin’s younger brother…and young people in general. From there, the two combined their passions for entrepreneurship and tech to develop an app that improves productivity and mental clarity.
What prior life experiences fed into your need to create a platform like Flipd? How can young entrepreneurs identify or hone these skills themselves?
I always wanted to carve my own path that gave me a lifestyle I could enjoy. For example, I worked as a server throughout my college years, and I was driven by a goal to make enough money that would allow me to have time to myself, save up, travel, and get through school.
I think this experience in my early 20s gave me an itch to “be my own boss” through whatever means necessary. Starting a mobile business like Flipd gave me the freedom and flexibility to be my own boss, work from anywhere, and grow a small business that helped fund an enjoyable lifestyle. It absolutely comes with hustle and grind, but I think any young entrepreneur should be fueled by a passion to be the creator of their own success and future.
When did you get the idea for Flipd and what made you confident at that time that the company would succeed?
The idea for Flipd came to my co-founder and I back when topics like smartphone addiction and the impacts of social media on mental health were top of mind. This was back in 2014, and these were hot-topic issues that were getting a ton of media attention from major publications.
So, when we launched Flipd a few years later, we rode that PR wave to get our first half-a-million users. From there, the product and value prop has changed quite a bit, with our main use-case being social productivity tools for high-achieving students. Like any product launch, what you originally had in mind will evolve based on the market and your audience’s evolving needs, which is why your ability to adapt quickly (and effectively) matters so much.
As both the CMO and co-founder of Flipd, how do you balance and differentiate those roles on a day-to-day basis?
Chief marketing officer is a title that lends more to my area of expertise within the business and what I focus on in day-to-day projects: brand and communication strategy, user acquisition, and product marketing. As a co-founder, my role is strategic planning and management, where I focus on what’s best for the company, our team, and our stakeholders. Differentiating between these roles isn’t necessarily a balancing act; I always wear my “co-founder hat,” and my “CMO hat” is complementary to that.
The launching process and working with Braavo
Getting your company off the ground during the early days is always a challenge. Between hiring, developing products, and funding, new start-ups are awash with must-dos in order to hit that launch date. Luckily, Flipd had Braavo as an early partner, which helped them see their vision through.
What was the biggest challenge of launching Flipd?
In the early days, we were a very technical team, so we lacked the design skills needed for a really compelling UX/UI. It wasn’t until we had a full brand refresh and relaunched the app UI in our third year that design became an important part of our product roadmap and user experience. But it was a lot of heavy lifting to fix some of the design missteps we made in those early days, and to build out a design system that we now rely on across the product.
What’s something you wish you had known before starting Flipd?
Raising money from investors is not the only way to get capital to grow, especially for a consumer subscription mobile business. Planning strategically to grow your business with a revenue-based financing option like Braavo is an extremely valuable way to grow without giving away equity.
Especially for mobile businesses, another likely exit might be an acquisition, so retaining as much ownership and equity in your business as you can will have a significant impact on your outcome, which you should think about early on. If you do go the investor route, consider the differences between simple agreements for future equity (SAFEs), convertible notes, and equity when it comes to your fundraising, and make sure you’re well-educated on the potential impacts of each.
What has been the most rewarding part of becoming Braavo’s founder in residence?
As a longtime Braavo client, it’s been very rewarding to be on the other side and see how truly invested the company is in providing financial support, guidance, and resources to help mobile founders and teams succeed.
Looking to the future
In the midst of uncertain economic times and fluctuating borrowing rates, planning for the future of your new business (particularly in a funding sense) may seem daunting. But Harvey is excited to see how young entrepreneurs will use today’s technological advantages to develop the next killer app.
Are you optimistic about the future of startups and the next generation of founders?
I’m super optimistic about the next generation of founders because I believe it’s never been easier to start your own business. What’s so exciting (and tempting) about entrepreneurship today is how much simpler it is now to start, fund, and grow a new business.
There’s now so much technology that exists to make that leap into entrepreneurship, even as a solo-preneur, and to do it in a much cheaper way than it has been in the past. For that same reason, though, I think one of the biggest challenges will be overcoming competition.
What would you say to a founder who’s doubting the viability of their business?
One important way for an early-stage startup to understand the viability of its business is to test it with real customers. You need to be working toward having a feedback loop from your customers and iterating on your product until you see positive signals that there’s real interest in paying for and/or using your product/service.
Having a pulse on what your customers’ needs really are, and iterating to meet those needs, is super important. If your business isn’t viable today, so what? Your customer research might help you discover a new business opportunity that is more viable, and your willingness to adapt and move in that direction could make a huge difference in how quickly you see success.