Michigan is not warm in February. It’s the type of flat, unwavering cold that shakes your bones and makes your teeth hurt. I spent four years there as a college student and had a strict no talking while walking policy in the winter, mostly because I didn’t love de-thawing my tongue before class.
Fares Ksebati, meanwhile, answers his phone while walking around Ann Arbor, MI, briefly apologizes for any weather-related noises, and proceeds to talk about his company, a training app for swimmers called MySwimPro, like he’s hanging out in Bermuda. Ten minutes turn to thirty, and still, Ksebati flows on unperturbed.
On a normal day, maybe, Ksebati would be shivering and miserable, but when I talk to him, he’s 24 hours away from getting on a plane to Tokyo for a publicity event with Casio, where he says the company will announce a deal to preload the MySwimPro app on all Casio smartwatches. There are bigger things on his mind than minor annoyances like wind chill and frostbite.
It’s been a good run for MySwimPro since ending their Wefunder campaign in September 2017, and not only because of their new deal with one of the largest smartwatch manufacturers in the world. After raising $135,530 from 150 investors, MySwimPro has doubled its subscriber base. Revenue has tripled. The team now has one part-time and four full-time employees.
Perhaps most importantly, paid subscriptions have doubled and 80% of new customers sign up for yearly plans, not monthly. To Ksebati, that means the product and brand are getting stronger by the day, something he credits to the people who invested in his company well before things like Casio deals in Tokyo.
"The biggest thing that raising on Wefunder has done for us is that we now have 150 evangelists for our brand that are our advocates,” Ksebati said. “They're our voice. They're the people that are helping us market and build our community, and I think the level in which people are willing to do that has exceeded my expectations."
The Wefunder campaign also ran at the right time, Ksebati says, which has helped brand growth. Launch the crowdfund at the wrong time and those 150 evangelists aren’t able to do as much.
“We had good product traction and product development, so it's not like we needed to raise a lot of funding to build the product,” Ksebati said. “I think if we were to do our raise a little bit earlier, maybe the product wouldn't have been ready to handle that kind of attraction and that kind of attention. And if we were to do it later, the impact would've been less from what we would've raised.”
It’s not like the obligation to those 150 investors ended when the Wefunder campaign did, though. In some ways, it was just the beginning. Ksebati’s responsibilities are more sizeable now, his circle wider. The victories feel bigger. So big, in fact, that an important trip to Tokyo can at least momentarily block out a frigid Michigan evening.
“When you have complete strangers willing to support you like that, it's really empowering, but it also gives you an added sense of responsibility,” Ksebati said. “Now you're not just building for yourself and your community. You’re also building for those strangers.”
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