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As part of our founder lessons series, we are fortunate to have John Ellis, CEO Tapiture, for an exclusive interview on how Tapiture started and lessons learned in the process. John held senior executive positions at NextMedium, ValueClick, Yahoo, EarthLink, and Kinko’s over the last two decades. John Ellis has 18 years of executive leadership that spans marketing, strategy, business development, product management and operations.
Tapiture is a place for guys to discover and share the best stuff online. Tapiture started as a photo-tagging system on theCHIVE, before growing into a site for men to share stuff. Similar to Pinterest’s “Pin it” button or Facebook’s “Like,” Members “Tap” images they want to share on Tapiture.
How did Tapiture start?
The founders Leo and John Resig had tremendous success with theChive, probably the web’s most successful photo/humor sites for guys, and theChivery, an ecommerce site for selling Chive-branded gear. Tapiture initially started as an expansion of theChive called MyChive. After seeing the potential of sites like Pinterest and realizing the product could have a life of its own, they rebranded as Tapiture and spun the business out of their parent company, Resignation Media.
I loved the idea and was impressed by the early traction they were getting from their extremely loyal fan base. We talked a lot about the future of ecommerce and how social discovery plays a huge role, and we shared a passion for creating a place for guys to discover and buy cool stuff. Our backgrounds really complemented each other so I joined as CEO of Tapiture in September.
Lessons Learned After The Launch of Tapiture
Listen to your customers and adapt quickly. It’s important to always stay close to your customers, but even more so in the initial stages of your business. Of course the art is in filtering the signals from the noise, but it has helped us get a lot of useful feedback on our initial site design, content and general needs. We have already made some subtle changes and have some larger ones in the works, including a site redesign, more social and recommendation features, of course a mobile app and full ecommerce coming early next year.
What are the biggest challenges of Tapiture and how have you solved them?
Scaling quickly, going mobile, and building a team of rockstars. We’re unlike most startups in that we’ve been fortunate to have a lot of early success in terms of adoption; however, this has also been the biggest challenge. We already have about 3M visits to our site each month and 20% of our site traffic comes from mobile, despite not having a mobile app. Customers are generally understanding but those who don’t know that we’ve only been live for 5 months don’t understand why certain features aren’t there. I’m addressing this the same way any other entrepreneur would – raising some seed capital and surrounding myself with an amazing team. I’m utilizing my network to get the resources we need and working closely with our customers and the team to prioritize what needs to get done.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs chasing the startup dream?
Work at the intersection of what you love, what you’re good at, and where you can make a difference. Every company that provides value, especially those on the internet, can be put in one of two buckets: problem solvers (efficiency) and time wasters (entertainment). Explore your passions, know your skills and get help from others who complement your skills, and ask how your company makes a difference in at least one of those categories. If you can efficiently solve a problem and make it entertaining, even better. There will be a lot of pitfalls along the way but if you stay true to these values, it will be easier to get through them and definitely rewarding in the end.