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From side project to raising $450k – Building the remote work future

Luke Thomas
January 14, 2023

Learn from our community entrepreneurs! In this interview, Luke Thomas shares the story of building and growing Friday, located in Nashville, Tennessee, USA

  • What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

    I started thinking about the idea behind Friday in 2013. At the time, I had just left a company because I didn’t have a great relationship with my manager. I was struggling at work, but didn’t feel comfortable bringing this up because he didn’t ask, “how are things going?” The best managers I had in the past had regular 1-1s and would ask questions on a regular basis.

    After this experience, I thought there was a way one could build software to help managers improve the communication and feedback loop between employees/leaders. Unlike a busy manager, a computer would never forget to ask questions as long as it was programmed correctly.

    I sat on the idea for a couple of years, pitching the idea to friends and executives. People seemed to like the idea, but I didn’t have a working product at the time so I wasn’t able to determine if this was a good/bad idea. Finally, in late 2015 I decided that it was time to stop thinking about the idea and time to start building something. I guess they call this making the transition from a wantrepreneur to an entrepreneur :)

    Over time, the idea has adapted. I tried selling the product as a “manager sidekiq” and experienced some success with it (growing to $10k/mo as a side project), but I constantly felt like I was missing out on something much better.

    Around this time last year, I was reflecting on a variety of data points from customers, advisors, and my own personal experience and came to the conclusion that we could create a customizable tool to run any regular communication event/update at work. Instead of being a tool to improve the employee <-> manager relationship, this could be a tool to help you create communication habits at work. Things clicked for me and I became excited about the idea. At the time, this was still a night/weekend project for me, but I knew that I needed to make the jump and go full-time on this.

    The way I look at the market is that there’s plenty of tools that improve the efficiency of workplace communication. Slack makes it easy to chat with coworkers. Zoom makes it easier to have video calls. But there’s a need to help you create a better communication process. It’s not enough to have the tools. You need to think about your process as well. It’s like having plumbing in your house, but not having pumps to regulate the flow of water.

  • What’s your one biggest challenge you face and how do you overcome it?

    I don’t want to dramatize my experience as I know there are many others who probably have gone through a lot to grow their business.

    My biggest challenge was around this time last year. My newborn son was colic (i.e. - he would always cry for no obvious reason) and I was trying to balance my full-time day job alongside building Friday and keeping customers happy. Additionally, we were trying to sell our house and move to a new location. To make matters worse, I was renovating the new house on my own (flooring, trim, etc).

    It was one of the most stressful times of my life, but it taught me to be patient. With that being said, I’m so thankful that the season is done. It was brutal.

  • To anyone looking to start or grow a business today, what three tips would you give them?

    I’ve tried all kinds of things, including:

    Leaving comments on Harvard Business Review Articles on related topics
    Writing content/guides on popular topics like 1-1 meetings.
    Liking and following people on Twitter based on what they were talking about
    Distribution is one of the most difficult things you need to think about when growing your company. What insight or advantage do you have that your competitors don’t? Many marketing channels can be competed away (like paid advertising), so ideally, you should find something that gets easier as you grow.

    I consistently find that the best use of my time is to talk to existing customers and improve the product so it’s more of a must-have. If I do that, people will tell their friends about it.

    My best piece of advice for marketing is to ask your customers/prospects a very basic question - “what resources do you visit if you’d like to learn more about [insert topic here]?

    I think of customer acquisition like fishing. You need to go where the fish are. How do you know where the fish are? You ask them where they like to hang out :)

    We tried many experiments that failed as well. For example, at one point I paid for advertising and it was a complete waste of money. If you have even a trickle of people signing up on a regular basis, your time is best spent learning how to improve the product for those users. If you wow them, they will tell their friends.

  • Where can we go to learn more about your business?

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