Caren Maio, CEO of Nestio, is all too familiar with the ups and downs of starting up a business. Right before launch of her original product, she scratched the idea. "It wasn't right," was the feedback she was getting from mentors, and as hard as it was to hear, she listened. Instead, she went to market with a tweaked version of that idea, which turned out to be a success.
Maio and her team were part of the spring 2011 TechStars New York competition, which provides start ups with mentors and helps them obtain seed funding. Nestio, which has been featured as Open Forum's start-up of the week, had a rocky start with their original project–a community review listing of apartments, similar to what Yelp is for restaurants. With feedback from their TechStars mentors, they realized it wasn't a viable idea and it relied entirely too much on user-provided content.
"In any start-up, there are tons of ups and downs," says Maio. According to her, their most difficult moment is also their proudest because they pulled through and succeeded as a team. Instead of a community review board of apartments, Nestio now will streamline all your apartment listings in one place along with personalized notes, photos and maps of the surrounding areas. Nestio buttons have been added to eBay as well as Curbed and Prime NYC.
As part of TechStars New York, Nestio came to appreciate the collaborative process and the feedback they received from the mentors. "Having mentors is critical," says Maio. "For us, the support we had was invaluable."
We Want to Hear From You
When launching their iPhone app, Nestio decided to recreate this collaborative process. Except, this time around, the feedback would come from the consumers themselves. Maio says that in creation of the app, the company relied heavily on its users, who beta-tested the app and made suggestions about features they would like to see.
"We wanted to be the type of company that users felt they could e-mail any time, that they could talk to us about anything related to their apartment hunt or what they experienced with the product,“ explained Maio.
Nestio even invited consumers into its offices to share their experiences with the product and provide the team with their feedback. One user, who had previously visited the office to talk about the issues she faced in her apartment hunt, was so grateful to Nestio for listening to her feedback that she sent them cupcakes and a hand-written thank you card as well as multiple congratulatory e-mails on the day that the app launched.
Maio, who has moved a lot during her time in New York, also utilized her own experience with apartment hunting. According to her, personal experience "keeps you grounded, it keeps you at eye-level with the landscape and helps you address the points that consumers focus on."
Have you had a mentor help you in your business? Have you been a mentor to a business?
Photo credit: Digital Vision/Thinkstock