By David Duran
Originally published on Advocate.com January 30 2013 6:00 AM ET
Perhaps the process of finding the right people to launch Reachably, a social media service, could have been a lot simpler if it had already been invented.
“Despite all the effort I put into having a structured approach to recruitment, it's funny to look back and realize how haphazardly and luckily we came together,” saya out founder and CEO Rick Vidal.“I found my lead designer on a casual Reddit post and met my chief developer at a random bar.”
Reachably isn’t necessarily for finding a job but is intended to make finding other people via social media a lot easier.
Anyone who needs to break free of their friend and follower silos and reach a relevant group of people has a new option with Reachably. It is “smarter real-time sharing.” People and companies usually are bound by only using hashtags to categorize things or mentions to reach specific individuals, but Reachably helps find like-minded people who care about what you’re posting without those steps.
“There are billions of us online and sharing daily, yet we don’t have an easy way to reach each other smartly — so we created one,” says Vidal. “We’ve evolved social sharing from following people to engaging smartly around our tastes, interests, backgrounds, and expertise — anything that’s meaningful to you.”
By creating a profile and adding “@tags” to your account that capture who you are and your interests, anytime you share, folks who have also added those “@tags” to their profiles will receive the post and join the conversation. Vidal adds, “You can have a meaningful exchange with a relevant group of people without all the fuss of having to gather followers or fans, or being limited to hearing from just them.”
Reachably now has three full-time employees and four marketing interns. The company isn’t in e-commerce yet, so Vidal says it’s too early to value the business. But Reachably will soon kick off several partnerships with major retailers and bloggers. And an Android app is expected in early spring.
Vidal, 33, has been married to his pro bono legal counsel, Matt Vidal, for two and a half years. He came out at age 26 in the middle of his MD/MBA program at the University of Pennsylvania. Vidal suggests that other newcomer LGBT entrepreneurs surround themselves with people that love and challenge them. He also recommends taking the time to reflect often and celebrate every moment of the experience.
“Being a founder can be an incredibly lonely experience if you don't have the right support network, and some founders get trapped and feel like they have no outlet for their stress,” says Vidal. “They can't reach out to investors and risk decreasing their confidence. They don't want to share it with their team and impact their morale, and they don't want to burden family and friends.”
Vidal says it's important to have the right support from other entrepreneurs who have shared in the experience and can provide critical advice. “I started building this community the moment I started working on Reachable and now enjoy mentoring others that have just embarked down the same path,” he says.
Vidal has attended numerous events sponsored by StartOut, an organization aimed at fostering LGBT entrepreneurship, and he recently pitched at StartOut’s first demo night in New York City.
“It was fun. I had three minutes to pitch Reachably to a crowd of fellow StartOut members and a panel of NYC investors,” says Vidal. After the event, several of the members and investors attended Reachably's official launch party. “Having a group of motivated, well-connected and supportive gay entrepreneurs in NYC has been incredible,” he says. Vidal also connected with Darren Spedale, one of StartOut’s founders, since attending the events. “He’s particularly been a helpful thought partner and facilitated introductions to mentors and potential investors that would have otherwise taken me months to reach.”
For more information on StartOut, sign up for the monthly newsletter. This is a monthly series highlighting a successful business within the LGBT community that is involved with StartOut. The organization strives to educate, inspire, and support entrepreneurs. It fosters LGBT leadership in the business community by including social programming opportunities, providing role models, connecting mentors, and promoting equality.