Simon and Tom are bootstrapping - Envelope
Envelope was born of necessity, a very modern (and good looking) solution to an old problem; wedding gift registries. In less than twelve months, these long time friends have bootstrapped an idea created for Simon's own wedding, learnt importance of customer communication in real time at one of Melbourne's biggest wedding fairs, and launched Envelope, answering the cries of many to-be-weds for a well designed and easy to use platform that bridges that awkward conversation with your family and friends - asking for money.
From Simon: Like so many couples these days, a traditional store-based or retail registry didn’t really suit our needs. We wanted flexibility and a way to include both objects, as well as experiences on our registry. While there are a few online registries like this out there, we just didn’t like the way they worked. We’d spent so much time getting the wedding to look and feel a certain way, we wanted our registry to be just as personal. Just as beautiful and just as thoughtful.
So I asked Tom, one of my groomsmen (and now co-founder), to help build us a site we could use to ask for contributions towards our honeymoon in Europe.
After the wedding, five or six of our guests asked if they could use the platform for their own weddings. At that moment, myself and Tom thought we were onto something and Envelope was born.
Owner: Simon Baldwin and Tom Holt
To celebrate their launch, Envelope are going to match one lucky couple's registry value dollar for dollar. Just create a registry and you're in the running!
What challenges did you face in setting up Envelope?
I think the biggest challenge in setting up Envelope was just to back ourselves. We were lucky to find an angel investor who helped us kickstart the project financially, I think his (Simon Chamberlain) experience, and confidence in the idea and us as a team helped us overcome our initial fear.
What’s the toughest decision you’ve had to make so far?
Haha! We have to make tough decisions about the product every day, but I think the toughest is probably going without a salary while we bootstrap our company.
What’s your number one tip to someone looking at founding a web based startup?
We’ve found the lean startup model very valuable. Generally, we think if you’re releasing a feature and you’re not slightly embarrassed, then you’ve likely spent too much time on it. We want every part of Envelope to be useful - and it’s our customers who decide that, not us. So we try and ship features to market quickly and then work with our customers to understand what they like and what they don’t, why it’s useful or why it’s not.
For example, writing thank you cards is a very common pain point for many of our customers. Rather than spending heaps of time trying to design the “perfect” solution, we decided to prototype a couple of quick options and see which one people were interested in - one of which was to simply offer to handwritten thank you cards ourselves. Now we’ve proven this, we’re working on a much more elegant and exciting solution that our customers will love.
Having been through the bootstrapping process, what have you learnt that you’d like to share?
Create as many opportunities for communication with your customers as possible. Email them, phone them, make sure they can get in touch with you personally. Their opinion should be directly informing your design process.
We just spent the weekend at the One Fine Day wedding fair where we spent a day and half using Envelope with hundreds of customers. It was truly amazing to talk to them about the product, watch them use it and discuss what should change and which parts they loved, etc.
What has been your greatest success or moment of pride?
We think that we’ve built a beautiful product that is a pleasure to use, but our biggest moment of pride is when we hear back from our customers who share the experiences that they’ve had together through the gifts they that have been given on Envelope.
We wanted to create a platform that shifted the culture of gifting towards focusing on the memories that gifts create and while we’ve got a way to go (and a lot more ideas to try), we think we are on the way!
Savvy, Sass or Study?: Having a little of each and knowing when to flaunt it. It’s one of the benefits of having a co-founder – we balance each other and provide support as it’s needed.
Want - learning or opportunity? Exposure! We are really proud of what we have built and a eager to let people know that there’s an alternative to the usual department store registry - and your registry can be beautiful!
Need - apprentice or expert?: We love to collaborate with great people. It’s a constant source of inspiration working with people who love their craft - whether it’s illustration, coding, writing, photography, it’s always a blast.
Superpower: A true sense of the absurd.
Tea or coffee: Coffee without doubt - and for the record it’s not a vice!
Favourite place in the world:
City - Jakarta in Asia and NYC.
Beach - a handful of secret spots in Indonesia.
Local - Bruny Island and Bay of Fires in Tasmania, APY Lands in central South Australia.
Favourite way to unwind: Either surfing or yoga… actually surfing then yoga.
Listening to: Nicolas Jaar, The War On Drugs, Fela Kuti, Rhye, Sharon Van Etten.
Business icon: George Soros for the amazingly creative way he spends his money through the Open Society Foundation. Elon Musk for being the polymath of innovation. Yvon Chouinard (Patagonia), Ray Anderson (Interface).
Friends of Envelope:
Adam Gibson, Photographer
Annisa Dharma , Copywriter
Minna So, Illustrator
XO Studios, Studio space (Brunswick East)
Distriqt web developers
Everyday Coffee (Collingwood)
Where to find Envelope: