Hesam Hosseini is a 27-year-old entrepreneur who quit his cushy day job as an exec at Match.com to start UrbanOrca, a social network for meeting like-minded people for mutually-beneficial and entertaining experiences in your city. Find out more about this dedicated entrepreneur in today’s YEDaily.
Elevator Pitch: Describe your business in a nutshell.
UrbanOrca is a social network that helps you connect with like-minded people. Our vision is to create the easiest and most comfortable way to meet new people. We do this by providing a feed of local experiences that you can join and help you discover what you have in common with the people attending.
Each UrbanOrca experience is tagged with interests (for example: start-ups, foodies) to bring together like-minded individuals. Some current experiences include rock climbing, museum tours, photography classes, and checking out new restaurants.
We first launched our beta in New York City on June 15th, but are excited to have recently launched in our hometown of Toronto. We have some really cool stuff coming up, including some themed social meals (like start-up dinners).
Why did you start your business, what was the inspiration?
We started thinking about the idea in late 2010. My co-founder’s brother, Mike, had recently moved to a new city. He was complaining about how difficult it was to meet new people in a comfortable way. He was looking for an efficient way to find people with similar interests and comfortably connect with them.
After some research, we realized there was no digital tool that makes it easy to meet new people platonically. The internet has cracked this for romantic relationship, but there is no Facebook equivalent for making new friends. So we quit our jobs and promised Mike we’d solve this problem.
What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
I love creating a product that improves our lives. And doing that in an industry that is fast-paced, where results can be seen daily, is my dream gig. In my role, I start each day with our users – what they tell us and how they behave on the site (I’m a big numbers guy). We test improvements daily, and being a consumer internet company we see the user reaction immediately. I really get a kick from that quick impact.
We’ve generated hundreds of interactions so far, and we were lucky enough to talk to some of our users about them. I remember one conversation with a member named George who wanted to meet people to help him learn Japanese. He met a few folks of interest and the language exchange turned out to be quite successful, and they continue to meet weekly. One of the guys he met ended up having a lot in common with him, so they actually became pretty good friends (‘bromances’ like this are common on our site). Of course his Japanese improved, and the last time we caught up with George he mentioned that his Japanese buddy had just helped him get a job at a sushi restaurant.
It doesn’t get better than that.
Having spent the last three years as an executive at Match.com, I really saw that product change people’s lives for the better, and the folks who work there really live that vision day in, day out. Using technology to solve ‘human’ problems (like romance, or meeting new people) is not trivial. But once it’s cracked the value to users can be tremendous, and that value can’t always be measured in dollars and cents.
As any start-up founder will tell you, the challenges are endless. Odds are stacked against you and it’s a daily grind. You just deal with one hurdle at a time, and celebrate the small successes along the way.
Where do you see your business going in 5 years?
It’s pretty hard to predict that in the internet start-up world. Based on user feedback, our product will evolve over the coming months, but ultimately our vision will be the same: to use technology to help provide the most comfortable way to meet new people. We hope that in five years we’re making this happen across Canada and the US, and in most major cities around the world.
What does success look like to you?
Success is creating a product that users love so much they recommend it to all their friends. Our team is working tirelessly to create a product that provides the best way to meet new people…and our work isn’t done until you are excited to share it with your friends.
What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
Quitting my job and hitting the start-up track full-time. It wasn’t easy, but I’ve had the time of my life.
Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
To all the tech entrepreneurs fighting the good fight: fall in love with the customer problem you are solving, not the specific idea itself. I had heard this before but after living it, it really hit home. As entrepreneurs we can get caught up in our solution. But it’s important to remember that our job is to solve problems for our customers. That is the only reason customers will pay you. So be prepared to change your approach (as many times as necessary) until you find a product that your customers love as much as you do.
Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
I support CultureLink, a non-profit that helps new immigrants settle in Canada. Their mentorship program matches up established and new Canadians. Having immigrated to Canada when I was 12, I was lucky enough to get accustomed to Canadian culture pretty easily and am grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given. I want to help others get over the initial barriers of immigrating and build the life they want. As a Canadian, I believe that benefits the entire country.
What is Notable to you?
Loving what you do while benefiting others.
Blackberry, iPhone, Android, or Other?
I’ve been an iPhone user for several years (although, as a Canadian, I am secretly rooting for RIM).