Stop hiding who you are

One critical lesson that we’ve learned the hard way, is that we shouldn’t hide who we are. Today we try to be open and honest about the size of the company and our goals, but things haven’t always been this way.

A strong start
When Brendan and I first started Wistia, it was pretty darn clear how big the company was. This was easy because there were two of us, we had no website, and we were 22 and 23 (Brendan was the old man). We didn’t think to hide who we were or what we were doing. When we went to startup events, it was two dudes working on a problem. When we first met Ben and Adam, it was just Brendan and I working out of Brendan’s bedroom.

Did our first investors know that it was just the two of us? Yup. Did they come to meetings in our house and sit on a couch at the foot of Brendan’s bed? Yup. Did our first customers know that Brendan slept six feet from we built Wistia? Yup. Okay, cool.

Being over-excited about becoming a “real business”
Shortly thereafter, a very unfortunate thing happened to us: We closed our first round of funding, got an office, and set out to build a “real business.”

Can you guess what happened next? It was time to start having real business meetings. We got fancy titles. We even bought a conference phone for our CONFERENCE ROOM.

Just look at that shitty conference phone. Does it look like we’re running a “real business” yet?

Brendan and I started commuting 25 minutes to our brand new office in Lexington, MA. It was a stupid commute. But we did have our own parking lot! It was boss. There were many times that we would actually have to dig ourselves out after a night’s snowfall so that we could race to beat Adam and Ben to the office, just to show them how serious we were about building a “real business.” 

It should come as no surprise that we stopped referring to the company as a small business being run out of Brendan’s bedroom. Here is our team page from that time:

What do you think when you look at this team page? Do you think that Wistia looks like a huge, successful “real business?” There are probably a slew of other employees not important enough to make it onto this page, right? Wrong.

Get it right
It took us too long to figure out that people could see right through this. What does our old management team page look like? It looks like a very small team pretending to be a big company. It’s easy to trick yourself into thinking that if people think you’re a big company, they’ll treat you with more respect.

The reality: everyone wants to do business with people they trust. Customers want to know what they are buying. Partners want to know who they are dealing with. Investors want to believe in the team and opportunity. But if we are being deceptive with our team page, what else could we be being deceptive with?

Raising money made us think that in order to be successful, we needed to be a “real business” when in reality we needed to be true to ourselves. It’s funny to realize that everyone sees through your ruse. It’s even funnier to realize that when you present the honest truth, that we were four dudes working together on a problem we cared about, that people would actually respect our small beginnings.

The first time we were transparent about our size, I was nervous. This is what our team page looked like at that time.

The current rendition of our team page looks like this:

Type d-a-n-c-e on the team page you’ll learn even more about us. Like that we can’t dance.

The more you put forward who you really are, the better people will understand you and the more they will want to get to know you.  They will be more likely to invest in your growth, and even cut you some slack when you fall short.

So when you’re talking to the press, launching your website, editing your Twitter profile, or chatting someone up at a party, cut the shit and be your real self. You will be surprised how much better your crazy idea will be received.