How Loomly Was (Really) Born
Loomly has a pretty fun — and quite unconventional — background story. You may know our platform as the fast-growing, LA-based SaaS startup that helps marketing teams manage their social media content publishing process. What you may not know is that it actually started as a romantic gesture. My name is Thibaud (pronounce “Tebow”), I am CEO of Loomly and here is how we became who we are today.
How It All Started
The single most important thing you need to know about my career as an entrepreneur is that I have been working with my spouse Noémie ever since I graduated, back in 2011. We have launched four businesses together. We have published a book about entrepreneurship together. We have even traveled around the world for a year together. In a nutshell, we are partners in crime, and I would never even consider a project without her.
Back in 2015, we were managing and growing our digital marketing agency, Madalana, both in France and in the US. We were serving a wide array of clients, ranging from funded tech & beauty startups, all the way up to cosmetic giant L’Oréal. As surprising as it may sound, one process was common to all those clients (even before we took them in): planning & managing social media content was happening… in an Excel spreadsheet.
That spreadsheet is what we call a social media calendar: simply put, it is a list of social media posts and their respective attributes, such as date, time, topic, image & copy. Needless to say that Excel was never meant for that use case, and the resulting process was, at best, “underoptimized”.
To be more specific, here is what that process looks like:
- Create a branded calendar template inside Excel.
- Come up with, order and fine-tune ideas in that template.
- Include photos & videos in specific cells.
- Send the spreadsheet to collaborators over email, back and forth, for preview & approval.
- Manage 10 different versions of the same file, with slight variations & comments.
- Copy/paste & upload everything from Excel to social networks.
- Report on analytics data to track performance and draw insights.
Sounds painful, right? Now, imagine that you need to repeat that process, every single month, for 15 clients simultaneously.
After seeing Noémie go through that nightmare for a while, I thought there had to be a better way to handle things. Since the only, slightly better solution we could find on the world wide web back then was Google Docs (lightening the evil spreadsheet-based process thanks to a collaboration layer), I proposed to my significant other that we built our own social media calendar tool to streamline that workflow.
The Early Version
I am no software engineer — I went to business school — but I know a thing or two about programming, enough actually to build my own projects. Using Ruby on Rails, I wrote the very first line of code of what would become Loomly, on August 25, 2015:
By the end of that year, I had a very basic prototype up and running: a simple CRUD application allowing us to upload posts, generate mockups and get collaborators’ approval, with no scheduling or analytics features whatsoever. It does not get more “low tech” than that, but it was functional and we started using it with our clients, careful not to tell them that was our own product, as we wanted to get their honest feedback.
To our astonishment, everyone enjoyed that early version quite a lot. After trying this new tool, one client even told us that he would fire us as an agency if he had to go back to using Excel, which we wholeheartedly interpreted as a solid proof of concept.
Encouraged by this early feedback, we thought that maybe some other social media teams could benefit from the platform and we decided to open it up to the public in Beta in February 2016, to validate potential demand. Prospective users could sign up through a simple landing page, enjoy the application for free for two months, with almost all features unlimited, and then subscribe for a super low price of $12 per month.
Note: we initially launched the platform as Calendy—not to be confused with Calendly— before renaming it into Loomly in 2017.
Flash-forward to today: it does seem like other social media teams could benefit from the platform! We are now serving more than 70,000 users and 2,000 customers across the world. Loomly grew from a one-man side-project into a team of 8 amazing, full-time collaborators (want to join us?), substantially backed by investors we admire and now fast approaching $1M in annual revenue.
Looking back, I confess I am still having a hard time processing that what once was a simple utility aiming to fix a flawed, internal process, turned into a beast of its own, outgrowing us in all imaginable areas. And, to this day, the thing I am the most fascinated with is how user feedback shaped our product, vision and ambition.
From Noémie’s original pain points, to the daily feature requests we now receive, the extraordinary enthusiasm and suggestions from our beloved users has been the driving force allowing us to grow Loomly into a full-fledged content management system for social media teams. That is… until we move on to the next phase of our crowd-inspired master plan, which I honestly can’t wait to share with you all.
Wrapping It Up
Paul Graham famously recommends to founders to “make something people want.” I like to think that at Loomly, we have been incredibly lucky to thrive by making something people we love want.