Best friends Tal Meser and Benjamin Fleming started HydroWeb to provide a robust platform for web developers to ease the task of building websites through their framework and platform. Like all startups, they have big dreams and big plans. They took time off last year to join Creative HQ’s six-week incubation programme, learning vital discipline and learning how to dream with an eye on success. HydroWeb has just joined Creative HQ’s Global Growth Programme (GPP) to test its global ambitions.
Idealog caught up with Tal Meser to find out what his aspirations are for HydroWeb and what some of the company’s aspirations are going forward.
HydroWeb's Tal Meser (right) and Creative HQ's Stefan Korn
Q: How did you get induced into the Global Growth Programme (GPP)?
A: HydroWeb completed the Creative HQ Startup Sessions program in November/December 2014. That programme was an amazing experience. It introduced us to the Lean Startup Methodology and it helped us to test all of the assumptions we had made until then. Startup Sessions helps founder teams to address their initial idea and rapidly verify that there is a market.
In our case the process made us realise we were dreaming too big, that our product scope was beyond our capabilities and it didn't have great product/market fit. Startup Sessions drove us to make decisions that are far more focused and then confirm the revised product/market fit. It also guided us to document our business model (using the LEAN startup methodology).
This all happened over the course of just 6 weeks and we achieved so much in that time. At the Startup Sessions pitch day, Creative HQ said they felt we had true potential as a high growth New Zealand tech company and they asked us to consider applying for the GPP. We felt really confident that Creative HQ has the people to help us realise our dream so we applied and were advised in late December that we had been accepted into the program.
Q: What are Hydroweb’s expectations from the GPP? At the end of the journey, what would the ‘deliverables’ be – in your view – from the programme?
A: Our expectations are initially modest, and I think realistic. We feel we can create a company with truly global potential. In 2015 our goal is to graduate from the GPP with seed funding to enable the business to establish a US presence.
In only the first week of the GGP we have increased our market traction and envisage we can convert that traction to paying customers this quarter. Our initial traction has occurred because Creative HQ has such a powerful network.
I am quite astounded at how quickly we have made strong progress. It's a very exciting time for HydroWeb and it's really all because we have a product for a big market and Creative HQ has such a great team and network.
Q: Can you tell us what are some of your current business challenges as a company undergoing fast-paced growth?
A: To be honest we have all of the normal challenges a young company typically experience, but I feel very confident that we are getting expert guidance from Creative HQ. We know we have a world-class product and we know it can deliver brilliant websites and applications. Being in the GGP at Creative HQ means we have experts in management, finance and sales who ensure we grow the business in a sustainable way. Put it this way, I'm sleeping well at night and I wake every day excited about what's happening.
Q: What are the aspirations of HydroWeb? How big do you envision the company to be in the next two to five years?
A: I'd love to emulate one of my New Zealand business heroes, Sam Minnee at Silverstripe. In fact one of the first meetings Creative HQ arranged was for me to meet Sam over lunch here in Wellington. That was a hugely valuable meeting. For now my aspiration is for a strong and profitable business based in New Zealand that has the financial strength to expand into bigger markets based on careful management.
So, in 5 years I envisage HydroWeb will have offices in the USA and Europe and be employing around 70-100 people, many of them here in Wellington.
A: Do you have any competitors in NZ?
Q: Some elements of our products have competition but we have taken a unique approach to the solution which puts us ahead of the current global market. Bootstrap by Twitter and Foundation by Zend are two products widely used in the New Zealand web development market and our product promises better overall solutions, enhanced developer experience and overall better performance.
Q: HydroWeb provides a platform and framework for web designers to build and customise website development. What are you doing differently to what is currently in the market, what problems are you trying to solve?
A: HydroWeb solves a widespread problem of creating highly responsive and beautiful websites faster than the products I mentioned previously. Our platform is a way of delivering a website as efficiently as possible, whereas our framework is the foundation on which a website is built.
For many (front-end) web developers there is a huge amount of work involved in creating the envisaged user experience (UX) put together by the UX team. HydroWeb sites can be developed much faster than those built with other products while ensuring a lean product doesn't interfere with developer workflow. It's important to mention that Google recently changed its SEO algorithm to take the speed of a website into account. This is just one area where HydroWeb excels and is an important benefit of using both the HydroWeb platform and framework.
Q: When you talk about the speed aspect - what’s the difference between someone using your platform for development, as opposed to another platform?
A: Our framework is around 70% smaller than market leaders, ultimately meaning 70% faster. The platform automates and implements optimisation tasks constantly repeated by developers, therefore relieving (wasted) time to be used on bettering the features and experience for the website end users.
Q: How do you feel about what you have achieved so far?
A: It's been an amazing 2014. When I think back to our position in mid-2014, I almost can't believe the progress we've made. The HydroWeb founders have worked so hard to get to this point and I'm super confident we have chosen a great incubator program. When you put all that hard work together with an awesome incubator team we have the best chance we could possibly dream of to achieve our plan.