An open and honest look at the humble beginnings of Gather.
Meet the fam.
I’m Brian, a proud design nerd (more on nerdiness here). As a software designer I’ve worked with big companies like Amazon, and Microsoft as well as design agencies and startups.
I met my beautiful bride…
...when we were just 19.
Scottie has been in the Interior Design industry since she was in college. Starting in workrooms and, later moving to showrooms, design shops and architecture agencies, she’s held positions such as Coordinator, Designer, Project Manager, Showroom Manager and more.
We have two children: Elijah (age 7) and Gather (just 2). Both have been around the world and back...
In 2014, after 15 years working as a professional software designer, I was burnt out.
I’d spent the last few years working hard at Amazon, helping to design the new Amazon Phone and Tablet initiatives. It was challenging and often fun, but corporate life just didn’t suit me.
When you work on big secret software projects, you don’t have much opportunity to speak with your actual users while you're designing. Creating software in a vacuum means you never really know how useful it is to those who will end up using it.
Around this time I began noticing a common gripe coming from my wife. She was working for an Interior Design procurement company and often spoke of the complex and messy ways that Interior Designers handled specifying and purchasing items for a project.
So, to investigate further, I began speaking to Interior Designers. A lot of them.
"You have to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology"
- Steve Jobs, Founder of Apple
I reached out to designers of many stripes trying to figure out what frustrated them about the specification and procurement process.
These conversations lead to the initial seed idea of Gather: an app that offered a simple and visual way for Interior Designers to specify products.
There were already several solutions for dealing with the accounting and project management of Interior Design projects, but each and every one of them looked and felt like business software from the 90’s.
Designer after designer told me about how difficult these solutions were to use and how they didn’t necessarily need all of the complex functionality provided.
Software shouldn’t be such a burden to use (or look at).
Today, Gather is an elegant tool loved by many , but it had humble beginnings…
The first version of the app was designed and built slowly, on nights and weekends, while I continued to work long hours at Amazon.
What emerged was a very basic and often buggy app (sorry beta users). It certainly wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough to demonstrate the idea and get some forward-thinking designers on board.
However, nights and weekends just wasn’t going to push the project forward like it deserved. So, in early 2015, after months of planning and saving, Scottie and I decided to give Gather a real go.
But in order to do that, we needed to travel the world.
You may be asking: “What does traveling the world have to do with building software”. Well, strictly speaking it doesn’t. But it helps...
Scottie and I had caught the travel bug years ago when we visited Japan. We even plotted a scheme to live there by teaching English but, like many dreams, it began to fade and we never took the action necessary to make it actually happen.
Not this time. Now we had the opportunity and we went for it.
Thing is, it turns out that travelling can be a great decision for building a small business.
You may think it’s too expensive to travel the world, but truth be told, you can travel for much less than you think. Certainly much less than the cost of living in Seattle, the city in which we had been based for 15 years.
It might sound crazy...
...but, by traveling to countries with a lower cost-of-living and by keeping our lifestyle simple, we could fund Gather ourselves and build it slowly with the help and counsel of our early customers.
Bootstrapping has many advantages over startups that take investment money.
Funded startups have investor “opinions” to consider (that aren’t always interested in the best interest customers), and a “burn fast, burn bright” philosophy. That’s why 9 out of 10 funded startups fail.
Running an online business from far-away places is possible as long as you have reliable access to the internet. Hiring and managing remote workers is also easier than you may think.
After a year of travelling throughout Asia and Europe, we wound our way back to the Americas.
As I’m writing this today, we are stationed in beautiful San Miguel de Allende Mexico, a wonderful place to live and work (for now).
We'll pick up and leave again though, there's no doubt about it. But wherever we go, we'll take Gather along with us.
Maybe this has been a bit self-indulgent but we sincerely want our current and future customers to know where we are coming from, both literally and figuratively. We want to document and clarify what we stand for.
Two years in and we are even more optimistic and excited than ever before.
Our intent is simple: to bring as much value to the Interior Design community as we can muster.
The Gather App is getting better every day and we are so proud of our (not so little anymore) baby.
The Gather Magazine - DesignEXT - is providing some interesting and unique content for the industry and we can’t wait to watch it grow and mature.
Best of all, we’re just getting started! There’s a long road ahead and many more adventures to be had both is business and in life.
So...if you’re not yet a member of our little family, join us and we promise to work hard for you, your business, and the Interior Design industry.
If you are already a customer, thank you, thank you, thank you from the bottom of our hearts...
You made all of this possible and we’re so thrilled to continue to serve you. :)
Cheers | Kanpai | Salud | Chok dee | Будем здоровы | à votre santé !