Leor Massachi co-founded his first tech startup during his senior year at the University of Southern California. His success story is quite the remarkable one as he paves his own way through the startup world and reaches milestones along the way that almost deem unfathomable for a 20-year-old.
Massachi tells us that, as far as he could remember, his mind had always been the imaginative type; one that was constantly filled with thoughts and ideas for potential businesses when he got older. In high school, he was obsessed with entrepreneurship and the idea of building a company from the ground up.
Later, when he decided to attend USC, he knew it would be the perfect opportunity to learn everything he needed in order to make his dreams a reality. And a few years later, he did exactly that when he began working on Dandy with his best friend and roommate, Daniel Newman.
Dandy was designed to be a dating application that was the complete opposite of everything on the market. Rather than follow the same design of messaging with potential matches, Dandy would function as if two people were meeting in a social environment for the first time. Users would log on simultaneously once the app went “live” at 8 pm in order to try and land a match.
If two users liked one another, they would be put in a timed three-minute video call where they would get the chance to introduce themselves and chat briefly. When the time was up, the users would decide whether or not they wanted to pursue the relationship further and unlock each other’s phone numbers. The whole process would take no more than 10 minutes.
But within the excellent concept, there were vast challenges. The main challenge lied in the hands of the engineers who were responsible for making sure that the servers would be able to handle all the users logging onto the platform at the same time. Usually, this would take anywhere from six to nine months of production, but Massachi and his partner, along with the rest of the Dandy team, had the app running its beta testing in less than three months.
Finances also became an important concern due to the two college seniors paying for the project completely out-of-pocket. Limited funds meant everything needed to be direly budgeted, but fortunately, Massachi always believed in using the most effective minimalistic approach to establish brand recognition. For their first marketing tactic, the business owners purchased hundreds of plastic yard flamingos and placed them all over the USC campus overnight along with small flyers reading, “you’ve been flocked!”
The following day, the entire student body was talking about their effective marketing strategy. And on Dandy’s launch day, hundreds of users were in front of their phones at 8pm waiting for the app to go live.
“We wanted the app to feel like that moment when two lovers are apart but they’re looking at the moon at the same time”, Massachi explained. “Capturing that aspect of magic was our main priority for Dandy,” he added.
As the app continued to exceed expectations, Massachi and Newman got to pitching Dandy. After over 100 rejected pitches, their 118th pitch landed them with a check from an investor. The first investment opened the gate for many others, and in a matter of two months, Dandy had raised over $3.3 million in funds from executives involved in massive tech companies such as Uber, Snapchat, and Airbnb.
Once the app was running relatively smoothly, Newman took over the logistics portion of the company as CEO, and Massachi took over the conceptual component of product iterations as well as the marketing strategies of the company as CPO (Chief Product Officer) and CMO (Chief Marketing Officer).
But Dandy took a wild turn just two years following its launch date when word began to get out about a possible global pandemic. After calling an emergency meeting, Massachi and Newman decided to rebrand Dandy into a new entity that would use similar elements from its first product.
It would remain a synchronized application, but instead of being a dating app, it would be aimed towards transforming the way modern generations connect with people online and establish new relationships. Zoom University would host “virtual parties” of two-on-two video calls, more or less resembling the idea of double dating in a real-life scenario.
Within a few days of its trial launch (that was only meant to last a week), thousands of users had already signed up for Zoom University. During a time when person-to-person contact was virtually nonexistent, this product assisted in maintaining the connectivity of new relationships for the students who weren’t getting the opportunity to connect on campus. In just under two months, marketing content led by Massachi exceeded 50 million impressions. Soon thereafter, the application landed on the Top 10 Social Networking Apps of the Apple store.
Massachi’s secret behind his marketing success was simple; “test different things until you find a concept that works,” he said. “You always learn the most by doing. And when you’re creating a prototype for any product, you test it out several times until it works properly. Well, the same goes for marketing,” he added. “The important part is always starting with a blank slate and never getting too comfortable with what you already know. There is always a way to make it better.”
He also claims his success is a result of a (mostly) healthy balance between work and leisure. For this entrepreneur, taking a break when things get overwhelming helps brainstorm better ideas for the company in the long run. But Massachi adds that, more often than not, he wakes up every morning looking forward to generating new ideas for products that will improve people’s everyday lives.
Today, Massachi and his co-founder are currently in the process of building another product alongside some well-known executives in the industry. Although they can’t share much about it at the moment, they’ve promised to take all their knowledge and feedback from Dandy and Zoom University into this upcoming endeavor.