HootSuite: From a Digital Agency to Building Top-Tier Tools for Social Media Management
In 2006, three friends decided to start doing business together. Dario Meli, David Tedman, and Ryan Holmes teamed up and started a digital agency called Invoke Media. Dario and David knew each other a long time before starting Invoke, but Dario and Ryan had only heard about each other. One day, they met in a coffee shop in Vancouver, and after a 30-minute chat they knew it - they were going to be business partners.
When they started working on building Invoke, the three partners had completely different skill sets, but their goals and minds were aligned. The gut feelings they had about each other were simple, right, and were about to take them to the stars.
This is the story of Hootsuite.
Don't Buy - Create
Invoke's approach was special - purchasing tools and software simply wasn't their thing - they were much more into creating their own! This is quite convenient for solving internal problems, as they always had free tools they knew how to use and were perfectly capable of changing them as needed.
In late 2008, the Hootsuite team needed a third-party client that would access social media networks like Twitter or Facebook. They began building an application that would allow them to manage multiple Twitter accounts from a single user interface, and that's how BrightKit was created - the first iteration of Hootsuite.
It wasn't long before they realized that the tool they created could be very useful to other businesses too. It was quite simple - a lot of individuals and companies could profit from the ability to manage multiple social media accounts. To be sure they were doing the right thing, they asked their Twitter audience to share their opinions about BrightKit.
The reactions? Overwhelming!
Invoke Stays, BrightKit Becomes HootSuite
In 2009, Ryan created a contest.
He offered a $500 prize for the best alternative name for this tool. The winner was Matt Nathan, their user and Twitter follower, who suggested the name HootSuite, with a capital 'S'. The name is a wordplay with the French expression 'tout de suite', meaning 'right now'.
With the proper name, motivation, and a great idea, they were ready to keep on pushing. By the end of 2009, they expanded HootSuite's dashboard and offered integrations for Facebook and LinkedIn, as well as for Twitter lists.
This made HootSuite a fully-fledged tool for social media management, and they decided to apply for funds in order to develop it further. The service was doing so well over the first few months, they even thought about closing down the agency in order to work solely on its products.
However, after multiple negotiation rounds, they changed their minds, realizing that if it hadn't been for the agency's work with clients, they wouldn't have discovered new product building opportunities.
Invoke stayed, but in 2010, Hootsuite became an independent company.
2010 - the Skyrocket Year
2010 was the golden year for Hootsuite.
Not only did it become an independent company, but it also received its first funding round: Heart Interactive Media, Bloomberg Capital, and angel investors Leo Group LLC and Geoff Entress delivered $1.9 million to the Hootsuite project.
By summer, Hootsuite began to monetize. By this time, they went with a few freemium user bundles to attract customers, which learned about them from BrightKit's now-renamed Twitter account. To monetize, they simply added optional paid accounts packed with extra features.
It was a plan designed to entice people to eventually pay for their product - and it worked flawlessly! The free option enticed people to sign up, and on the backend, the team picked up people's emails and directly advertised their products to them through newsletters and campaigns.
Eventually, HootSuite turned a portion of this audience into paying customers. Moreover, there were a ton of people who registered for Hootsuite in need of the additional features, so they applied for paid bundles from the start. These people were the company's first customers, but their numbers grew quickly. As 2010 was coming to an end, Hootsuite was only starting to conquer the market, reaching a million registered users before the New Year of 2011.
Throughout the next year, Hootsuite saw nothing but exponential revenue and user growth. Their user numbers doubled, reaching 2 million, and they also raised $3 million in capital. Soon after acquiring two of their main competitors, TwapperKeeper and Geotoko, HootSuite expanded their executive team too - and shot for the stars!
From Millions - to Billions!
At the start of 2012, Ryan made a statement: he wanted to turn Hootsuite into a billion-dollar company.
And he did - just not right away. To be precise - it took him three years!
During the year, HootSuite received amazing support: 3 million users and another $20 million investment. In the autumn, they acquired another competitor - Seesmic, after which they reached 5 million users.
See that growth? Hootsuite was unstoppable!
Their first challenges remained far behind them, and from then on, they experienced constant growth. The sheer will of HootSuite's founders, and the idea of making social media marketing a piece of cake kept them on an upward track.
In 2013, they had 7 million users from 165 countries, and a Series B round of investment brought them a gigantic cash infusion: $165 million. They weren't even prepared for this but managed to act immediately - as people do, when that amount of money suddenly drops in their laps!
HootSuite was now able to employ more than 300 people and had plans to go further. Ryan was declared one of the most powerful people in Vancouver, and in the next two years, they received the employer of the year award. They also passed 10 million users, acquired the Zeetl telecommunication company, and raised another $60 million in capital.
HootSuite became an absolute startup market dominator, having almost 1000 employees in 2015, and worth $1 billion. For Hootsuite, becoming a billionaire company was just a matter of 'when'.
'If' wasn't even part of the equation!
Today, Hootsuite is the absolute leader in social media management. Their product is so rich with features and possibilities, we don't even know where to start explaining them. They even opened up their own HootSuite academy, where they share all the knowledge gained on this lucrative road.
Starting off as three guys and a tool they built for themselves, HootSuite have managed to acquire more than 18 million users during these 14 years, as well as employ more than 1000 people from 175 countries.
There are many successful stories about businesses that profited from using Hootsuite. These include giant names such as Melia Hotels, Nokia, The British Museum, Georgia State University, Helix, and Hong Kong Airlines.
Just goes to show - a high-quality B2B product can push you as far as you want!