Interview with Tara Hunt (Buyosphere)
Buyosphere is a question and answer shopping platform that allows you to discover and talk about great products.
I interviewed Tara Hunt, Buyosphere co-founder and CEO to find out more. This interview is the forty first in a series of DW interviews. Big thank you to Tara for the interview!
How would you describe Buyosphere in under 50 words?
Buyosphere is a Q&A shopping platform where people help people shop. Looking for something in particular and don’t know where to begin? Just ask and we’ll route your question to people who have already done the research for you. Know stuff about stuff? Answer and build your reputation.
What made you decide to co-found Buyosphere?
For me, it was to solve a personal pain point. Shopping online is great for deals and discoveries, but when you need to find something in particular, it is a time-sucking nightmare. The desire to start Buyosphere started with a 3.5 hour search for a simple black skirt in 2007 and finally brought me to Montreal and coming together with my co-founders, Jerome Paradis and Cassandra Girard in 2010 to start working on it.
I understand that ‘Buyosphere’ wasn’t the first choice of name for the site! Can you tell us the story behind the name?
I don’t like to talk about the previous name…it was THAT BAD! We actually had the ‘name-we-shall-not-speak-of’ previously because of convenience. Jerome, my co-founder owned it. We always knew we’d come up with a better name, but didn’t have a budget to buy something really good, so we just kept using the bad one. In January of 2011, we were awarded with the distinction of having the Worst Brand Name of the Year by EatMyWords (a professional branding/naming company in San Francisco). We realized then that we could no longer ignore the need to change the name. We held a contest to help us rename the company. We had over 1200 entries in about 5 hours, but then Alexandra Watkins of EatMyWords emailed me to tell me how impressed she was that we were acting so quickly and offered to help me. She gave me a list of alternatives that included Buyosphere. I fell in love instantly and looked it up. Someone owned it already, but I thought I’d give it a shot and offer the owner $500. He accepted and we rebranded everything in a couple of months.
How did you spread the word about the change in name?
We made the renaming an entire rebranding exercise. We made all sorts of UI improvements to the site and changed everything, not just the name. This gave us the opportunity to go to bigger Tech publishers like TechCrunch and pitch it as a big announcement. The great thing was that most people hated the previous name so much that they really celebrated the new one. I couldn’t have thought of a better marketing strategy!
How long did it take to put together Buyosphere?
We’ve been through a few pivots in the idea and, of course, a couple of rebrands and a renaming. From the time the first line of code was written until now, it’s been a year and a half. But the site has been rewritten from scratch several times. We started coding and designing the Buyosphere you see today in July 2011. We launched in late November 2011. But it’s improving and morphing into our vision more and more every day. Is any website ever complete? I don’t know! I’ve never worked on a startup that is finished.
You are CEO & co-founder of Buyosphere, a public speaker, author of ‘The Whuffie Factor’, blogger, co-founder of the worldwide Coworking Movement, a marathon runner, a mother, a karaoke addict, a Flickr Fan, and a Twitter-holic! What is a typical day in the life of Tara Hunt?
There is no such thing as typical in my life. :) Every day is different. Every day is about moving the needle a little more.
How much time a day do you spend on social networks?
Not as much as I used to. I always have Facebook and Twitter open. I always have Buyosphere open. But I spend more time in GMail, Illustrator, Photoshop, Google Docs, GCal and Codebase than anything else. I used to tweet about 15x per day on average. Now I’m lucky if I squeeze out 3 or 4 and all of those are tweets are pushing out news about Buyosphere.
Fast Company Magazine named you as one of the 25 Women-led Startups to Watch for 2011, and as one of the most Influential Women in Technology in 2009. If you could give one piece of advice to women starting a startup, what would it be?
I have several pieces of advice, actually. I hope that’s okay!
1. Don’t wait for the perfect moment to do it…it doesn’t exist. You make it happen when you make it happen.
2. Get a champion. Someone who will introduce you to the right people and toot your horn for you.
3. Remember that nobody is qualified for this job. There is nothing in the universe that can prepare you for it. It’s on the job training. Everyone is in the same boat.
What do you wish you’d have known 5 years ago that you know now?
Everything I just gave as advice! Actually, I’m glad I waited. My co-founders are amazing. I needed to meet them. I don’t know, really. Of course I wish I knew pretty much everything I know now. But in 5 years I’ll say the same. And then 5 years later. I like that I still have lots to learn. Life would be boring without the challenge.
Has Buyosphere got the feedback and growth you expected since launch?
Yes and no. Regarding the growth, I’m really happy with how we’re growing and progressing. No crazy hockey stick stats yet, but we aren’t ready for it anyway. Our roadmap allows for scaling as we learn. Regarding the feedback, we thought we’d face the challenges we are facing, but didn’t realize we’d be as popular with a male audience as we are with a female audience. It makes intuitive sense, of course. Men don’t like to shop, so it makes sense they would like the concept of asking and having someone else find stuff for them. But we just didn’t imagine that they would lead many of the questions.
Where do you see Buyosphere in 5 years time?
As the main place that people go when they want to search for any product. You will Google information, but Buyo your product searches. Peer to peer recommendations mixed with algorithms solve lots of search issues when it comes to products. Taste is so nuanced.
What is the biggest hurdle you have faced or are still facing?
Getting in front of people at the point of stimulus. When they are thinking to themselves, “I need to get a new suit, where do I start?” or “I’d like to buy a new bed, but don’t know what is out there in my price range,” or “What is the lipgloss that Blair wore on Gossip Girls last night?” Search marketing is the best bet, but it gets pricey and you have to guess what people are thinking. Right now we are just trying to get out there as far as possible with branding so that people get familiarized with us. Then when they think, “I need to find that thing…” their minds turn to Buyosphere to get the answer. Then we get to show them how awesome it works. :)
What are you most excited about at the moment?
Watching how things unfold mostly. I’m excited about how we’ll be rolling out participation rewards and a mobile/local version and how we can really personalize people’s experience on Buyosphere and all of the ways the product is improving day after day. But I’m also excited to see where the users take us. It’s great to have people really excited about Buyosphere and sending us all sorts of great suggestions and stories. We try not to get thrown off our path too far, but quite frequently, we’ll switch gears when we hear a killer idea.
Can you convince the reader to start using Buyosphere in under 50 words?
Searching for that perfect something is about the technology understanding who you are and what your taste is. Computers and algorithms can’t do that, but people can. Buyosphere leverages human talents to help you find that perfect something. That’s the promise of the social web.
Finished reading? Check out Buyosphere!