Although entrepreneurship is widely considered a solo venture, having a friendship that led to a start-up is fairly common. Just take a look at Airbnb, or Ben & Jerry’s [which represent the name of each owner]. This same can be said for FriendZone, a start-up created by 2 friends, Roberto Boasso [a Sardinian native and ESADE graduate with a master’s in Business Administration and Management, Barcelona] and Alejandro Portela [a Vigo native with a degree in electrical engineering at the University of Vigo].
They both moved to Barcelona to further their careers and to pursue something new and different. “We were in one of our first jobs, my first one in Barcelona and the very first one for Alex, and we met there. I met him on my first day. It’s a funny story because it was a start-up that failed.”, says Roberto.
Roberto met Alejandro the very first day he started, “it was like destiny” Roberto exclaimed. Although the previous start-up had roughly 150 employees, Roberto and Alejandro instantly clicked. “I think we just collided and at some point, in life, you meet someone that also shares your passion and motivation. Since then, we’ve been linked together whether at the start-up or outside of the start-up.”, says Alejandro.
The rest is history.
Although the failed start-up left a bitter taste in their mouths, that did not stop them from creating FriendZone. “[The idea] was born from playing music. We were looking for a bass guitar player here in Barcelona” states Roberto. However, being expats, their social circle was small, which led them to design an app to help solve their problem!
“ It is very easy to find apps and services for romantic relationships but we were not able to find a similar solution for just informal friendships, let’s say somebody you can play music with” – Roberto Boasso
As the unique idea slowly turned into a company, Roberto’s and Alejandro’s positions at the company were cemented as well. Roberto, the CEO of the company, works on the product in terms of “utilizing what features could come next, what lines of work we should pursue and also, in general, the management and strategy of the business-related part”. Meanwhile, Alejandro, the CTO, focuses “on the technology side as much as I can”.
The app is slowly but surely gaining popularity with over 190,000 users and revenue rising during the last 12 months. Both co-founders attribute the start-up’s success to 4 key parts which they have learned by working at previous start-ups:
Although the company is steadily growing now, this was not always the case. In the beginning, the start-up had to endure hard times, specifically when the app was first launched. “We decided to build the first iteration on the app with a fail fast attitude, having in mind as beginners the chances of user adoption were uncertain. At the end we received 100x users than our best forecasts, and refactor plenty of the initial software design, that took some precious time and energy””, exclaims Alejandro. However, these tough times have shaped not only the company but also the co-founders, making them more “resilient, efficient and critical”, making sure they find errors before they grow.
What does the future hold for FriendZone? At the top of the list is the short-term goal of receiving investment to speed up processes of app development. FriendZone is currently a self-funded company, making it harder to scale growth exponentially.
“The first goal is to receive some funding for the advancement of the product development, to make a version that is compatible with IOS and not just Android. That is the main goal in the short-term” – Roberto Boasso
Both Roberto, as well as Alejandro, remain optimistic about the project. In the long-term they see themselves working for FriendZone full-time and will hopefully be one of the largest social networks in Europe. Yet, to achieve this, both acknowledge that they must overcome the challenges of receiving funding as well as dedicating more time to the project.
No matter what the future holds for FriendZone, it is simply admiring how a friendship led to the creation of a start-up.
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