Zola co-founder Shan-Lyn Ma on bringing the wedding industry into the 21st century | Found Podcast

Hello and welcome to found te crunches Podcast that brings you the stories Behind the startups from the folks that Are building them it's me your host Becca scac and I'm joined as always by The mysterious the lovely Dominic madori Davis hey Dom how's it going I'm hanging In there what about you I feel like I'm Also hanging in There but something that'll maybe pull Us through is today's amazing episode That we have for you dear readers so if You also to feel like you are just Hanging in there maybe this will Brighten your day maybe it won't who Knows today we have on Shan linma the Co-founder and CEO of wedding registry And planning site Zola yes we had an Amazing conversation with her and as Always before we get to the episode We're going to do two troops and a lie So listen carefully to see what am I Lying about okay so Shan was able to Raise a SE round after one conversation Is that true or not the idea for Zola Came from the need for a usable gift Registry or is it true or not that Becca Used Zola last week stay tuned you got To listen to the episode and then Afterward as always we're going to Reveal what was the LIE mhm this one is Particularly fun so definitely listen in And we'll catch you back at the Outro hi Shan how's it going good Becca

How are you I am doing well happy to Have you on the show oh thank you so Much for having me fan of the Pod very Timely too because we'll dive into this In a second but I am actually going to a Wedding not this Saturday but next Saturday and my friend set everything up On Zola so I think probably the perfect Place to dive in why don't you start by Telling us a little bit about the Company sure well we aim to serve newly Engaged Couples from that first day they Get engaged through their entire wedding Planning Journey everything you have to Do in the lead up and day of the wedding And then after that into their first Years of newly wed life so we aim to be That One-Stop shop where you can do Everything you need to do for that big Day and I'm curious because I know Weddings is obviously something that There's a lot of culture of needing to Them it's not necessarily a universal Experience but everyone kind of they Either go to weddings or they get Married themselves it does have that Universal feel in a lot of ways that Some things don't how did you get Interested though in starting a business Around it well very similar to you Becca I had that time in my life where it felt Like all my friends were getting married At exactly the same time it seems like You have that year where you spend every

Weekend going to a different wedding It's a wonderful year but it's also very Expensive stressful and as part of that You know going to a lot of friends Weddings you end up buying a lot of Gifts from their wedding Registries so I Was having that year 2013 was that year For me the year we SED Zola I found Myself on my friend's wedding Registries And my background was I had worked in E-commerce building e-commerce products And I was on these wedding registry Websites and I thought these are just Some of the worst shopping experiences I Have ever seen online at that time the Wedding Registries were really dominated By the big traditional department stores And websites or you know mobile apps Were really not their strength or their Focus and so I was talking to my Co-founder noou who also has been Working in shopping products and I said This is terrible we can do a much better Job and our friends who are the ones Getting married really deserve a lot Better than this this is kind of Insulting now noou he's married he's Gotten married he was complaining about It from the couple side he was saying Yeah it was you know nearly caused a Breakup of his fiance before they even Got married it was so terrible that they Had so many fights over it and so we Thought we the perfect people to work on

This and we can do better and that was The beginning of Zola what was it like Going from that idea stage realizing the Problem figuring out the paino thinking Of kind of how you guys could attack it What was it like actually building out The company because I know Zola of Course does so much more now than just Sort of like the registry side so what Has the journey been like of taking that Idea and turning it into what we all What I am going to go on and use this Week to buy a wedding gift cuz I will Not forget this time for what Z as we Come you it really started off with we Thought okay well this is an interesting Idea but let's make sure that it's Actually a good idea and when that's Valuable and when that's needed and so We just tried to find as many people as We could who had either recently gotten Married or were engaged and planning Their weddings and we ended up going to A lot of coffee shops having a lot of One-on-one coffees lunches breakfast Asking people tell us how you're Thinking about your wedding what are you Excited about what are you stressed About what are you using what's good and Bad about that and through these coffee Conversations we found a lot of stress And anxiety about you know everyone said The same thing which is I've never done This before this is the first time I'm

Getting married I have no idea what to Do but I have a deadline and just please Help me and tell me what I should be Doing and so you what originally was the Thought of oh we could reimagine the Wedding registry kind of expanded into This bigger idea of we could help Couples with their entire wedding Planning Journey we could start with Registry but the the industry itself is So Antiquated that it really needs to be Disrupted in the same way that every Other industry has been with technology And so through those user conversations We kind of validated this is a knee this Is a paino and slowly we started kind of Designing a prototype for what would be A better product we started kind of Having these design brainstorming Sessions together in my living room on My coffee table on the floor and we Would sketch out a pieces of paper these Designs for what we thought would be a Better user experience and then put Those into an online prototype go back To the same couples and friends and say Okay based on our conversation what do You think is this what you had in mind Would you want to use this and over that Period of a few months can designed what Is the basis for Zola today talking About industry disruption what was the Reception like from I guess the big box Retailers who you you kind of just came

In there and did their whole thing what Was reception like in the industry you I Think we were lucky in that we were kind Of flying a little bit under the radar Because the big box retailers had a lot Going on and that they were being Disrupted and you know people kind of Migrating away from traditional Department stores migrating online so They had a lot going on the registry was Like the last thing on their mind and so They were really focused elsewhere and We were able to build this business kind Of under their noses so to speak you Know I think a few years in as we Started to really find product Market Fin and brand recognition some of these Department stores came to us to want to Work together and we also were Interested and thinking how do we offer Products from stores that our couples do Want but they don't necessarily want us Create three different Registries at Three different stores just for one Wedding they would rather have that all In one registry and so can we be that Place but still partner with those Stores to offer their products and you Know today we do have Partnerships with Some great stores where their products Are only sold at their store as well as Zola and this seems like such I mean Obviously an amazing idea that Taps into Like a really pressing need did you

Initially start bootstrapping this or Did you immediately go to investors and Pitch this well if you know every Founder that I've spoken to has always Had a very unique fundraising story and Our story of how we initially got our Seed funding is is no different and that It's very different so what happened was Kevin Ryan who is a well-known New York Entrepreneur and investor and he had Built many successful businesses over The years including guilt group he was Someone that noou and I had worked with For many years at guilt where we we Joined in the early days and kind of Built that on the product side and as a Result worked very closely with Kevin Who was founder and chairman and a one Point CEO of guil so we were all talking Together about this idea for a new kind Of weddings company no and I were were Talking to Kevin about what we'd heard What we were interested in doing and he Said to us I love this I've always Wanted to do something in weddings I Would love to work with you guys again I Will give you the seed funding and let's Just get started you know when I tell People that they're like wow that was so Easy you you know you raised your seed Ground in a second I wish I could do That too and what I always say is no we Worked no and I worked on but us for Four years day night Rend 24/7 to prove

That we were good enough to be able to Have someone to say okay I'll invest in You in a second and so both luck and Hard work but that was that was how we Had seed funding to really be able to Invest in building the the first product Building the MVP and getting it out There into the world and sort of Thinking about when you guys got started A lot has changed since then cuz I know Even just talking about what you Mentioned was sparked the idea of these Big box retailers not even being really Designed yet for smooth e-commerce Transactions let alone wedding Registries that kind of stuff has all Come up to date by this point plus this Category has gotten more crowded in General I know there are a couple other Venture back startups that are also Trying to do wedding Reg indries and Wedding websites all a little bit Different but all kind of trying to Solve the same problems that you guys Set out to as well and what has it been Like riding that wave and sort of Keeping Zola with the market share it Has keeping it as a major player in this Category like how has it been able to Kind of ride the changes that have Happened in this space since you guys Launched yeah so my background and my Co-founder background is really around Product to product design and so

Naturally we believe that the best Product Always wins in the market and what we Are very proud of is that even though Our wedding registry product has been Out there in the world now for 10 years There is no other player that has and Offers the same things that we do in in Our very first product that you know Everyone could see and potentially could Do the same thing but for some reason They just can't and so just some of Those things are like we let you add Products from anywhere including the Zola store which then you can decide When you want to ship we integrate our Registry fully into our wedding website Into our guest list invitations and Paper and so all the things that we've Built are built in a way that it's a Seamless kind of ecosystem of products And I think if you were to look at each Product available in the wedding space You would find that really isn't the Case anywhere except for Zola and so I Think the way that we've stayed ahead is Through product development through day In day out we think about what make the Users couple's lives easier and better And we just keep adding onto that day by Day Brick by Brick until you know we see Kind of 10 years later this ecosystem of Products that are both wide in terms of Breadth but each product in and of

Itself is best in class and each product Competes with kind of a different set of Competitors but it is the winner in that Category and then no one connects these Products together like we do and Sticking on the product side for a Second I am always curious with how you Guys decided to sort of add on to that Original idea with the wedding registry Is what products made sense to add on Which things where you were like H that Could be a nice to have but maybe our Clients don't need to have that cuz I Know something I've seen in this space Is some companies now do like baby Showers so you can do like a registry For like a baby shower or others or you Can book your lift for after the wedding Through the platform so that's like People are like going off in different Branches so I'm definitely curious like How you guys decided when and where to Expand as you were building out these Different products you know what this is An interesting question because in the Early years we tried to stay very Focused on just let's like make sure Where we can really win and get it right In our first product and so we stayed on That wedding registry product and doing Only that 247 for four years but we kept Hearing like pretty much from day one Week one we kept hearing people say well I love Zola for my registry if I could

Just add a few details about my wedding I could also make it as my wedding Website it's both together and then I'd Be done can you please do that and we Purposely kind of said you know we Aren't doing that right now after four Years of hearing that we said okay it's Time we can do that so we launched the Wedding website and it was a hit Straight away took off out of the gate And so we kind of thought okay maybe we Shouldn't wait four years to listen to Couples and what they're telling us they Want I think once we launched that Wedding website we very quickly heard Okay I love the design I picked for that Website could I also just print my save The dates and my invitations in the same Design because you were already have the Guest list through the guest list Manager so if I could just print it all Out send it that would be great so we Did that actually we did that very Quickly after the wedding website and Similarly by listening to the couples That turned out to be a runaway success In terms of people wanting to use that And it led to then our next product of Couples were saying okay you have all These Zola couples you probably know Where they've booked their weddings Which venues you know should I be Considering which photographers do People like me like which photographers

Did my friends use and so that led to Probably one of our biggest launchers Yet which is our venue and vendor Marketplace where couples can find Venues where they go to get married or Vendors for the day of their wedding From their photographer caterer DJ so on And that that Marketplace there has Really been informed by couples in that We see where are couples is all the Couples who've gotten married where do They get married and then how can we go And get those onola so that other Couples can see and just you know find Where they want to get married faster That's so interesting because like You're obviously talking about like Adapting with the times and like moving Product really fast but I remember a few Years ago there was something with color Of change in terms of like where someone Wanted to throw their weddings and how There's a lot of know sociopolitical Weirdness that might come up with Weddings these days and so I wanted to Talk about how do you also navigate that As a company when someone wants to get Married at like a very weird location That they should not be getting married At um how do you navigate that as a Company and say like oh we're not going To have our users do this or we're gonna Have them do that or like how do you Navigate that so you know obviously we

Can't tell our users or our couples what They can and can't do on their wedding Day because you know we can't control Everyone but what we can do is we can Decide who we want to accept into the Zola vendor Marketplace based on our Vendor vs and so every vendor that shows Up on Zola has to sign up for these Vendor vs and what's included in those Is that vendors must not will not Discriminate against couples based on Their race religion sexual orientation You know all these dimensions that you Know just are frankly offensive and and Hurtful and just wrong and so if someone Was to discriminate against a couple on Those Dimensions we would not have them On Sola and so that has been very Important to us important to our team Important to our couples and we are Proud that we were able to say that and I'm care maybe if you want to talk about That a little bit more I'm curious Because that sounds like a great policy Having sort of people put this Commitment forward to be able to sort of Use the site and advertise in that way And get connected with potential couples Was that sort of a reaction to something That happened or was that something that You guys baked in from the beginning or Sort of how did that come to be because I know I definitely agree with dom that Is something that I feel like maybe we

Weren't talking about as much 10 years Ago but now obviously it's a much bigger Part of the conversation when we talk About weddings and sort of just Decisions about events in general just Based on sort of where the country's Going what we're talking about in the Zeitgeist and such so what how did that Decision come to be you I think it's Very reflective of the Zola culture and Values from day one which was very Consciously noou and I said even before We had launched a single design of Zolo Is we want to be inclusive of all Couples and one thing that really Offended us was that many of the other Wedding sites that we would look at Would just automatically assume that it Was a bride and groom getting married Like when you fill out the form to sign Up the default is what's the bride's Name what's the groom's name and of Course that makes no sense and so for us It sounds so obvious now when I say it But 10 years ago what no one else was Doing that we built in from day one was Let's not assume who's getting married Let's just ask for names and they can Tell us who they are and then the images That we show on the website like you Know we used to show a silhouette and if If it was a groom in a groom getting Married it would show a silhouette of a Groom in a groom and I can't tell you

The number of emails and Outreach that We got from couples saying thank you so Much for not assuming that this is a Bride and groom getting married and so You know we Tred to weave that inclusive Value throughout the entire user Experience from the very beginning and Continue to do so in every product that We launch and so whatever we launch in You know say the vandom marketplace it's Just it's a natural conversation that Comes up where we say okay let's make Sure that we are not discriminating Against anyone in the design of this new Product and sort of expanding on that Too cuz not even say getting into that Side of it where we're talking about Discrimination and things like that but Like weddings are so broad I mean I've Been to a number of weddings I've been To a wedding in the yard of a bar in New Orleans I've been to a wedding at a very Fancy Club in in Tucket Massachusetts Like there's so many different cultural Traditions traditional commercial Traditions there's just so much that how Can you kind of design a product that Does fit every kind of potential couple That does come through the door just Based on sort of everything else that's Going on because I know every wedding I've been to has both felt the same in Some ways but also felt very very Different yeah so this was another thing

That we actually tried to do early on in One of our products which is a checklist Where everyone's like I have no idea Where to start what to do please help me And so you know we have a a wedding Checklist where we say okay here are the Things you need to think about think About the venue where do you want to get Married who do you want to invite and to Your point Becca like it could have been Easy to fall into a default one fits all But no there's very different cultures With very different Traditions that Depending on the type of wedding you Want to have your checklist would change And so we incorporate that into the Product so if you're from a certain type Of culture activities in the checklist We kind of modify based on that you know So for example you know an Indian Wedding has different ceremonies and so We kind of incorporate that into the Planning and the timeline of the Checklist so what I will say is that you Are right everyone's wedding and Experience is different and it's really Up to them we kind of say you do you and So what we try to do is offer a very Flexible platform where people can pick Any of the designs that we have say for Their wedding website or their Invitations or they can upload their own You can always personalize wedding to Really reflect who you are which is

Something you know again we've really Seen as a big change over the last 10 Years hopefully we've been a part of That is the degree to which people want To personalize their wedding day more From this conversation right after a Quick Break and I'm so curious I like have to Ask this what was the pandemic like when The wedding industry was just I don't Even know like just exploded in terms of People having to cancel and everything It a time it was one of the hottest Periods of time you know potentially the Hardest of my professional career and as You might have guessed everyone's pushed Their wedding back in terms of date or Timing you we very early saw during that First week of lockdowns in the country Everyone was pushing their wedding dates Back to later in the year so because we Could see that happening we knew okay This is going to be a very hard time for Both the company and the industry and we We started thinking two things one is What do we need to do to support the Couples who are obviously very stressed And upset that they've had to postpone Something that they've probably already Invested a lot in both emotionally and Cashwise but then also what do we need To do to secure the business and what do We need to do to just plan for any Scenario that could happen and I think

Frankly one of the hardest things during That period of time apart from you know Let's just put aside that everyone was Just panicked about what does this Pandemic mean for me and my family from A a Zola perspective we were thinking About who knows when weddings will come Back because who knows how long this Pandemic is going to last and while of Course we could put scenarios down on Paper of what if it lasts three months What if it last six months heaven forbid What if it lasts nine months the the Thing is no one knew now sitting out you Know few years later now 2024 what did happen was that we saw Even though the pandemic might not have Been over by the end of 2020 people did Start to get married again so what we Thought was going to be kind of a no Weddings year ended up being actually Pretty strong in the the latter part of The Year where people decided you know What I'm going to get married and so the Bounce back in terms of the weddings Industry happened faster than I guess Anyone would have projected um you know With really towards the end of the Weddings picked up again and then 2021 2022 huge years for the weddings Industry I think a lot of people you Know postponed and then also maybe Pulled forward their weddings so 2022 Was the biggest year in decades in terms

Of the number of weddings in the US but Uh yeah I would not want to relive 2020 Again and I'm curious of coming out of That experience which of course I mean Every business runs into those hurdles Runs into those Peaks those pits like You can't always plan for everything but What is something you've like taken away From going through the pandemic that you Guys can continue to implement anola not Necessarily to protect you from having Something like that happen again but how At the end of the day is it helping push The business forward that you have been Through that experience and sort of have Been able to navigate a challenge like That you know I think one thing it Taught us is that speed is of the Essence and that you as soon as we saw People starting to move their wedding Dates out and we knew what the Implications would be for both the Couples and the business we were able to Act very quickly in terms of okay Thinking about what kinds of features And products do couples need in terms of How we can support them so we launched This feature on people's wedding Websites where they could put a message To their guests in terms of how they Were postponing their weddings or what They were doing what the planed was we Launched a virtual weddings feature we Let anyone who had ordered a save the

Date or an invitation from us we gave Them free change the date cards and so That quick response was really just Overwhelmingly well received by a couple And I think just kind of paid back in Terms of the Loyalty that Z couples have To Zola particularly from that time Frame is is out of this world from the Business perspective I think we saw very Quickly okay we have to start planning Now and plan for what we do if this Pandemic lasts all these different time Periods and how are we going to get Through this so those quick actions that We took to support the couples in the Business it kind of makes you think okay If we live through that we could live Through anything Because we know how can we react is Really dependent on us and you know I'm Proud of the way that the team handled That because during what was clearly a Time that people could potentially just Freeze no one froze no one panicked Everyone was like okay we need to do What what the right thing is and and Let's just do it and Switching gears Just a little bit I want to know more About your entrepreneurial journey and Kind of growing up did you always want To be a Founder did you know that one Day you would have a wedding business Like what has been this process well I Was a nerd and still am a nerd but but

Growing up you know I had always dreamt Of being part of something an industry That was changing the world something Where people who started from nothing Kind of like myself who came from the Middle of nowhere and you know I I grew Up in Australia so you know it's a Lovely country but it's very remote and You really feel like you're very far Away from the action so growing up I had Posters of entrepreneurs I admired like Jerry Yang the founder of Yahoo was kind Of on my bedroom wall and so yes I had Always wanted to do you know what I'm Doing now so I'm very lucky in that way But I don't think I ever would have Thought that it would be in weddings Because you know I never particularly Dreamt about my own wedding I'm not Married so it's just something where the Stars aligned and it was a combination Of a mark that I thought was really Interesting and fun and joyful and you Know my skills an experience seemed to Match it and it was this huge exciting Opportunity to go after and really serve My friends and so here we are and what Has it been like personal for you cuz I Know you worked at Yahoo for a while as Well and of course Dom and I we love Yahoo as Yahoo employees technically um You started at Yahoo and then you were At guilt which is definitely more of Kind of in that startup STI phase like

In that scaling phase and then launching Your own company what has this journey Been like for you personally I know of Course being a Founder being an Entrepreneur isn't exactly the easiest Job on the planet and how have you kind Of been able to adapt to that job in a Business that has had so many challenges And ups and downs since you guys got Started you know I think the years that I spent at Yahoo and Guild were the best Possible experience and training ground For starting my own company and I get Many potential Founders who who come up To me and say you know I'm thinking of Starting a business but I don't have That kind of experience do I need to get That kind of experience can I just start It now and of course it always depends On on the individual but for me I never Felt ready I personally felt like I Wanted to get the experience and learn From people who could teach me how to do Something that is best in class so Yahoo What I leared was how to build products That are best-in class from Best-in-class products people once I Started to see those great product Leaders leaving for other companies That's when I started to think maybe It's time for me to leave too at guilt I Learned what does Best in Class look Like in all these different startup Functions that then help me identify

What kind of qualities would why want in Leaders in what ultimately became Sol so For example you get exposure even if You're working in in one particular Function you get exposure to so many Things in a startup so I learned oh what Do merchandising people do what your Finance accounting legal talent and HR People do And got to do a little bit of everything And then go also had the opportunity to Launch and start my own business unit Within that safety net of a bigger Business which was in Retros the best Practice for them launching a startup Myself so the advice I always give to People is follow people that you think You can learn from and no matter what it Is the company the industry if you are Really inspired and think you can learn For and want to work for these people You will gain so much in terms of how You then apply that to your future Startup otherwise you could learn it the Hard way you could learn it yourself in Your own startup people do that too Sometimes it works out great sometimes It doesn't work out and for me I really I wasn't in a financial position where I Could just start a startup and afford to Have it fail and so many reasons why I I Did that Journey but I don't regret it For a second I'm so glad I did and I Hope and another thing noou and I my

Co-founder and I spoke about when Starting Zola is we hope to give that Experience to people who work at Zola we Hope that one day after many many years Of working with us they will then go on And start their own setup and it will be Better because they worked with us and We were able to hopefully pass something Onto them and thinking especially with Talking about what you've learned and How that kind of affected how you Started the business if there was one Thing and you can't say nothing what's One thing if you could go back and Change about starting the business Getting started being new to being a Founder what would you change you I Really wish I I would have prioritized Finance and Accounting function and uh Skill set much earlier than I did you Know I think in many early stage Startups you're kind of running to get The product launched then get the Product into the hands of users or Couples for us then get some kind of Revenue so that you can afford to keep Going and you have all these 101 Priorities and for me it never quite Made it to the top of the list to make Sure that books were Best in Class and So yeah we had a bookkeeper a part-time Bookkeeper like many startups do but it Was not until we started to raise more Serious rounds of funding that I

Realized oh no we actually need an In-house team of great Finance and Accounting people and I wish we had Built that team much earlier because it Resulted in a lot of long sleepless Nights and weekends trying to put it all Together in a very condensed timeline Which you know in retrospect was just Unnecessary and stressed out both myself And team much more than I should have I'm definitely curious you guys are now Just a little over 10 years into the Business what do the next 10 years look Like I know you've added products you've Added these different aspects to the Business but kind of where does it go From here you know when one thing we've Realized is that we really are a Modern Life Stage Company So speaking about Where do couples kind of ask us or beg Us to kind of expand into next another Thing that I've heard pretty much from The first year of all is can you please Now help me with my baby registry so I Think we spoke a bit about baby earlier But for 10 years we said again no we Can't do that yet it's not the right Time for us and then last year with the Closure of bye-bye baby we thought well If there's ever time to do it this is The time so we did launch Zola baby we Now kind of see a great number of people Who use Ola for their weddings over the Past few years use us for baby and I

Think it's it's one another kind of Life Stage or category where there is no Clear Tech driven market leader and so It's an exciting phase because we Continue to expand both in weddings in The number of things that we do right From that first day of getting age and Then we are also expanding outwards now First day that you learned that you you Might be having a baby uh other than That I I continue to be excited about AI As is the entire world we're kind of Playing around with the tech to see how Can we use to support couples in a way That they find genuinely useful we just Recently launched an AI tool that helps Couples write their thank you notes Which is one of the top things couples Complain about in terms of how painful It is to write like 75 to 200 thank you Notes and perfect use case for AI so we We launched that in our mobile app and We'll continue I think to launch more Things like that to help take the Workload off that's unnecessary Unfortunately I wish I could could say This is not the case but unfortunately Women still do an unfair share of Wedding planning work and so you know We're passionate about helping make that Both more Equitable but also maybe Lighten that load I know I think that's A good place to rap because we're pretty Much right at time but I love the

Thought of an AI think you note you said That and I started thinking about it and I'm like they really are like hey thanks For coming to the wedding thank you for The gift like love the couple and it's Like it's true it's like I don't expect Something heartfelt cuz I know how many They have to do so that actually does Feel like a great game for AI one that Sam almond should look into that that's All I'm going to say well we have your Guest list that you know we helped you Put together and we have the designs That you picked out for your invitation So imagine you could use the AI tool to Have the note done right there edit it Slightly and then we can print it Directly into your thank you card for You and you're done oh we love a Practical use case for AI but thank you So much for coming on the show this has Been really fun so thanks for for taking The time thank you it was great I Appreciate It and that was our conversation with Shan starting with the two truths in a Lie I'm going to take it this time Because unfortunately the lie was Something that I said by accident so a Little bit of a different format than Our usual two truths and a lie when I Mentioned that my friend was getting Married next weekend she had a sight on Zola I was confusing her wedding with

One of the very many I went to last last Year her site is on the knot I went to a Couple weddings on Zolo last year I Regret the error I had just been getting Off a Redeye flight that morning no Excuse but the reason dear listeners we Decided to keep it in as opposed to say Cutting it out is that we think it Sparks an interesting conversation about Competition sure well my brain was kind Of fried when I said that we asked Shan A little bit about the competition Between some of the different platforms Like Joy Zola and the KN and I think They're a little more similar than Let on to especially as a guest I know Personally I have never noticed really Any difference between the platforms I Don't know what you thought about that Dom I oh my goodness I've only been to One wedding and it was very recently and So I've never used any of these wedding Platforms before but I mean based off of Just a simple look I mean I don't see How different they could be really I Mean when the service functions are like The same basically right cuz it's like In theory people want the same things And we're all talking about the same Things surrounding the same event I was Curious and I definitely put myself out There by bugging my friend about this Who is literally preparing for her Wedding in one week but I asked her I

Was like why did you use the knot over Zola or some of the other options and She said largely Word of Mouth like they Just knew other people who used it and There was like a little bit of the Pricing stuff but it didn't sound like That was kind of what drove the decision At the end of the day but I mean it's a Big enough industry that it would seem Weird if there was one player so I don't Necessarily think think there being a Fair amount of competition in the space Really matters as much as some other Industries no I don't I don't think it Matters at all I think there should be More I mean how many wedding companies Are there like this cuz I I don't hear About it often but I'm also none of my Friends are getting married man it's Hard out here so I'm like not I'm like Totally disconnected from this wedding World how many of there are there cuz I Feel like I'd heard of Zola but now that I'm thinking back I think I've also Heard of the not yeah the only other one I know of his Joy which is another Venture back startup and I know of them Cuz I covered one of their funding Rounds a couple years ago but again like Even with them too chatting with them Some of their answers are on like how They were different kind of were similar To what Shan said about being able to Just if a customer tries to use them

Which sham mentioned a few times and They are like we want this feature which You don't already have and Sham is like Oh we learn to be quick to build it like Build these products that our customers Are asking for as like a Competitive Edge and it sounds like they all do that But I guess if you are hearing different Things from your different customers They're going to end up with like Slightly different differences on the Back end too yeah I think I don't know How many different ways there are to Plan a wedding I think the basics are The same right but I I wouldn't know Once again I wouldn't know but what what Were your thoughts on the the AI thank You notes I think that's I mean does it Matter if the thank you note or the gift Note is personal or not is that a big Deal personally one I am a thank you Note Stan I still write them for my Birthday and things like that to my Older family members because I know that They like getting them even though I Know people always joke like jenzy Doesn't even know what a thank you card Is I love a thank you note but I also Think for weddings in AI think you note I actually don't hate that because I get That they have to do so many and I also Just feel like my attendance like no one Plans their wedding so that I come you Know like I get how big of a like a

Hurdle it is to do those kind of Thinking notes I remember I raised money For like a race a couple years ago and I Was was like I'm going to send thank you Notes to everyone who donated over like $50 or something like that and I sat Down to write them and they weren't Crazy personal but after 25 I was like Oh my God this like I was like this Is taking hours just to like do like a Significantly smaller amount than like Most weddings have so I may be Pro AI Think you note but that might be a Controversial take no I mean my hand Hurts thinking about it I would Definitely be like a thanks exclamation Point moving on because what but were People handwriting these anyway or were They using some type of Microsoft Word Or like I'm basing it off the thank you Note that I got from the wedding that Didn't look handwritten to me it looked Like it was like that was font that was Clear font from like a font machine or Something yeah maybe that's like the Personalized thank you note industry I Have no idea big thank you note the big Thank you note industry Sam Alman is Coming Okay but I guess that is the way AI Would disrupt the wedding industry yeah AI is everywhere it really is but I Think one of the the other things that Stood out to me about this conversation

Is some of the talk we had about Inclusivity which I know it sounds like Zola really Prides themselves on how Inclusive they've been as far as making Sure their site is set up for same sex Couples as well as just like different Wedding arrangements than the Traditional say bright and groom but There definitely some other stuff in Their history that's worth touching on In that area yeah when I was talking About when I mentions like some people Are getting married in places they Shouldn't be that was a direct hit at People who get married at slave plan Ations and that Wall Street Journal Article that shows people are now Getting married in prisons that's weird Behavior everyone I just have to first Call that out so there was a controversy A few years ago or not a controversy it Was just this advocacy organization Called color of change sent a note out To kind of all the big wedding players Including the KN I believe just saying Like hey people are getting married at Slave plantations that's weird can you Tell them to stop and you know the big Players said yeah you're right that is Weird so they stopped and I think the Thing that happened with Zolo was at First they were like oh this doesn't Violate our policy and then they came Back and they were like actually we're

Going to start working with color of Change to be better with being more Inclusive and everything and so that was Something that happened a few years ago And I brought it up because I don't know It's just really interesting like how do You as a platform weddings are very Magical days for people and how do you Kind of create boundaries with people Like that saying like hey you can't get Married at Alcatraz like that's insane You know but at the same time you want To please your customers but she did not Address that at all no no it definitely Feels like one of those situations where It's like the substock argument where People they're like well we're a free Speech platform and like anyone can Write whatever they want here we can't Like police them and then users are like Well then you're going to have bad stuff On there like you have to like and I'm Sure cuz she mentioned their whole Agreements with vendors on the platform Sounds like that existed prior to that But it was just that they wouldn't Discriminate against any couples who Wanted to potentially get married there Which I know that doesn't sound like That was the issue obviously that's not The issue of getting out of Plantation So it's like sure it doesn't violate That but like we could look a little More big picture that was so funny when

She said that I was like no that was not The issue the issue was not who was Getting married it was where no but I Mean I do on the one hand you do get her Argument where it's like even if they Take them off the marketplace it's like Someone there's probably wedding sites On there right now who are getting Married at sa of pentation they just Didn't find the vendor through the Marketplace so it's like she did make a Good point where it's like they only can Do so much but they definitely can at Least acknowledge like what they can do Yeah because definitely it's just an Interesting conversation I guess in Terms of the role that companies and Founders play in shaping Society I do Not think people should get married in Prisons no that's not something that I Would help someone do if you're a Wedding planner and someone is trying to Get married at Riker stop like just say No just say no so I guess it's I guess This is where capitalism intersects with Society and values and everything and Kind of where is the line for a company And a Founder to walk that line Especially with it being like a Marketplace too because I'm sure it'd be Interesting to talk to other Marketplace And obviously the Zola is not fully a Marketplace but what we're talking about Relates to the marketplace that they do

Have but like I'm sure You' get the Argument a lot that it's like well People can choose who they want to work With like they are just the platform to Connect people people so it's like I Don't know I could see people making the Argument it's not an endorsement of Having stuff like that on the site I Personally don't agree with that but um I definitely can see why there would be A perceived gray area even though I Don't think there's a gray area Personally yeah but you know that that's Just us those are just our thoughts and Opinions no I mean those kind of wedding Venues are probably booked every weekend All wedding season just a different World those antab Bellum weddings are Ripping through the cell please stop Why pleas just be more creative just be More creative like seriously it's such a Huge thing too it is nice that these Platforms have kind of been able to stay And I know she talked about like covid And it's interesting how they were able To adapt even though I'm glad to have Not been planning a wedding at that time Because a virtual wedding may have Killed me like I could not I could not Do a virtual wedding I wanted to ask her About if she's seen any of the animal Crossing weddings cuz that was like a Thing like people were having Graduations they were we trust I

Remember the Animal Crossing meetups People were having I was using Animal Crossing cuz that's I don't know why was I doing that I don't know I also wanted To ask her if she saw an increase in People having multiple weddings cuz it Seems like a lot of people just had two Weddings at the time yeah I would be Curious about that too because it is Kind of a product where you hope use it Once like that's why it is interesting Weddings are such a huge industry which Is interesting because it's a one time Industry which usually those kind of Things aren't good businesses to invest In and like aren't huge Industries Trying to think of another example like I always think about cars like when they Get like car demand wrong and it's like Well sure I'm interested in getting an Electric vehicle but I'm planning to buy A car every 12 to 14 years so it's like It's not something you do all the time When the new thing comes out you don't Like go and get a new car so it's like The weddings is so interesting in that Way that it like has been able to be This like ginormous thing that it is Even though it's like people you hope to Use it once I know which makes me think How How sustainable and profitable well Actually what are the metrics of the Wedding industry aside from them

Upcharging people at venu for food and Stuff what are the metrics but I guess Also do people even get married once now Or or a second or third like I don't Know I always tell people I would be a Great second wife so already that's like Two weddings for Zola how many times are People getting married now anyway I I Don't know what the financials are of This industry oh I just know it's big And if it continues to be big I mean It's a good industry to grow in for sure Big wedding industry this is going to be The next but will investors still get it Will investors get it because they Always miss out on the big Industries Yeah I don't know it sounds like this One has like worked out decently well For the companies in it yeah what's the Next disruption in the wedding industry And is it seen as a women's industry did We talk about that a little bit like how Is the wedding industry seen to Investors who are looking at are they Saying like oh this is just like a Target it toward wom or do they see it As like an everything in everyone type Of business that's what was interesting Because she had mentioned obviously like Raising the seat around was relatively Easy for her and her co-founder and of Course not all Weddings But a lot of Weddings include men as well but I Definitely feel like planning is seen as

Like a women's thing like setting up the Website and stuff like that but then It's also that weird thing because when You have same sex couples if you have Two men there is no woman to be setting Up the site so it's like maybe that's What kind of has shielded it from Getting put into that box cuz I know one Of the other companies in the space I've Talked to is I think the founding team's All men who like running into the same Issues like going to their friends Weddings and stuff like that so it was Like maybe it is that Universal even Though it definitely gets that more like Perception of being a more feminine Aspect wedding well wedding planning in General seems like a more feminine Aspect of it but yeah maybe it is more Universal which would be a good thing Cuz it should be but it doesn't usually Work out that way I hope more investors Back more wedding planning businesses Because it's clearly everyone is Suffering as a guest and that is what I'm seeing and hearing so that's it Invest more in wedding help us help us Yes help us plan our future weddings Dom's second Wedding found is hosted by myself TechCrunch senior reporter Becca scac Alongside senior reporter Dominic madori Davis found is produced by Maggie Stamitz with editing by Kell our

Illustrator is Bryce Durban founds Audience development and social media is Managed by Morgan little Alyssa Stringer And Natalie chman Tech crunch's audio Products are managed by Henry pikovit Thanks for listening and we'll be back Next Week


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