When Deven Hariyani was a kid in sunny California, he dove into all things extracurricular: soccer games, karate lessons, drawing classes, baseball practices, Cub Scouts meetings. He never imagined that one day he’d be running the successful startup Kwaddle, which makes it easy for parents to browse and register kids for camps and other activities outside of school. Now based in Austin at WeWork Domain, he has been hiring and growing more than ever this year.
How did he turn his passions into a business? We caught up with Hariyani to find out.
When did you come up with the idea for Kwaddle?
The idea for Kwaddle didn’t come about until the fall of 2015. A couple of things happened.
My son was born in 2013. He was two in 2015 and we thought he might be on the spectrum for autism. That was a life-changing moment for my wife and me. All of a sudden, we were scrambling to figure out what we should be doing to help him have the best chance for success.
On top of that, my nephews and nieces were aged 6-9. I saw what their mums and dads were going through when they were trying to find summer camps and after-school programs.
I started to see what a big pain point it was for parents and what an opportunity it was for a business.
How long did it take to get off the ground?
That was a much longer hill to climb than I originally imagined. Having worked at some tech companies where we had explosive growth and having gone to business school, I thought that we would get traction really fast.
As I learned more and more about businesses, I realized that they were just so stuck on doing traditional marketing like printing flyers and doing events at community centers. The parents we were reaching had no interest in a digital platform. Parents were more focused on word of mouth. There was very low technology penetration in this market, but that’s also the opportunity.
I said, “It doesn’t matter, I am going to try to add as much value for free for as many people as I can.” That momentum is what really helped us.
In January 2017, I started to take a different approach instead of just trying to improve the business model. I said, “It doesn’t matter, I am going to try to add as much value for free for as many people as I can.” That momentum is what really helped us get that traction and that’s what helped us get the WeWork Creator Award.
What’s been the impact of the award on your company?
The Creator Awards really changed the trajectory of our company. After that, I was able to find a co-founder. I was able to have some money to actually hire a team and to make our product better and more engaging. We were able to spend more on marketing.
What’s been the biggest challenge since you started Kwaddle?
Because I have a toddler, I’d say I will always have conflicting priorities: family vs. work. I have basically cut out everything else from my life like watching football or hanging out with friends. The only thing that comes above the company is family, and trying to balance those two things is an around-the-clock juggling act.
What do you think makes a good boss?
What makes a good boss is also what makes a good parent. You want to set up the guardrails to say what’s in bounds and what’s out of bounds. But you want to keep it pretty wide. You don’t want to keep it narrow or micromanage. You want to give somebody very meaty chunky projects they can work on, and then you just turn them loose.
Photo by Moyo melements.me