Interview With Josh Schwede & Scott Fowle
Describe your product or service:
“We live in an always-on world that forces many of us to live life on autopilot, missing the moments that matter most, increasing our stress and burnout, and leaving us unfulfilled.
People need solutions that put them back in control of their most valuable assets — their time and their focus — so they can find purpose, joy, and fulfillment in work and beyond.
That's why we built SPOTLYFE. Our solution helps people pause, reflect and live more intentionally, which increases their quality of life while motivating them to leverage micro-changes on a weekly basis to create big changes over time without feeling overwhelmed.
As a people-first solution provided by the workplace, SPOTLYFE helps workplaces shift from a transactional culture where people burn out & tap out to human culture where people thrive.”
Describe your company values and mission:
“SPOTLYFE was founded with the mission to elevate the individual in this new, modern world. That means seeing beyond just the worker and seeing your people as whole human beings who need support beyond work. This isn't just our product — this is how we live. We are a people-first organization who believes that when you put people first and support them from a whole-life capacity, you get the best of them in return, and everyone wins.
We believe in putting family first, always. We believe in advocating for others, demonstrating empathy, and building trust. We strive to be thoughtful, insightful, and passionately challenge the status quo while leading with energy and urgency. We aim to be visionary but pragmatic.”
How big is your team? Tell us a little about them (I.e. co-founders, freelancers, etc.)
“We currently have a team of less than 10 full-time employees with a heavy focus on our product and engineering needs. We also have key experts leading our Sales, Marketing & Client Experience motions and are honored to have a number of strategic advisors supporting us in all areas.”
How did you come up with and validate your startup idea? Tell us the story!
“We've been in the HR tech space a long time, and we've seen countless solutions built for the top leaders in an organization, but not much built for the people that actually have to use these systems. And if the pandemic taught us anything, it's that our time is our most valuable asset, and it's finite, yet it's so easy to fall into autopilot in today's ‘always-on’ world. This inspired us to build technology for the individual first, with an aim to help people change their relationship with time and take back more control over their lives. With this in mind, we went out and interviewed hundreds of potential users and buyers to help us hone our product direction. The universal message we received? This is a problem that needs to be solved!”
How did you come up with your startup's name? Did you have other names you considered?
“We considered a number of potential names, but ultimately, we landed on SPOTLYFE because we believe it's time to put a spotlight on the entire person and their life, illuminating what's possible for them and empowering them to take center stage in their own life.”
Did you always want to start your own business? What made you want to become an entrepreneur?
“We've spent a lot of time near early-stage companies, so it's only natural we developed a bit of an itch for launching something of our own. In looking at the landscape in HR Tech, we knew we wanted to continue to make an impact here, but we wanted to serve a mission of helping people live higher-quality lives. This really inspired us to build SPOTLYFE.”
Did you encounter any roadblocks when launching your startup? If so, what were they and what did you do to solve them?
“Not so much roadblocks, but we have definitely encountered our fair share of challenges, which are only natural for startups. Finding our product-market-fit has taken more effort than we expected, and honing our message to help people better understand who we are and what we do has taken multiple evolutions already. But we have an amazing team of agile, creative thinkers that have been flexible and stepped up to the challenge at every turn. Our biggest focus is making sure we live our value of being people first by putting our people first. That's a learning curve in itself, but the effort invested there is worth it, and when you have a positive culture based on trust, you have a tide that can raise all ships and help you overcome nearly any challenge you face.”
Who is your target market? How did you establish the right market for your startup?
“Our initial target market is comprised of employers in the knowledge sector, especially those in the tech and professional services industries where there are a lot of desk workers. We are focused on the US market for now and find our platform lands best with companies that have between 200 and 3,000 employees and are actively looking to put their people first. We established this through numerous interviews where we gathered feedback and married those findings with our values and overarching mission.”
What's your marketing strategy?
“We have a highly digital strategy this year in which we are targeting leaders such as CHROs, CPOs, and Line of Business owners to invest in their people by buying SPOTLYFE. At the same time, we're working to develop loyal followship at the user level to support our future plans to leverage product-led-growth and potentially an app that individuals might get on their own.”
How did you acquire your first 100 customers?
“We're still working to get to our first 100 customers, but our initial strategies have focused on leveraging our networks to drive interest and referrals, as well as proactive outbound outreach through email marketing and content to drive inbound interest such as our blog and social marketing. Beyond gaining interest, buyers are signing up for SPOTLYFE because they want to prove to their people that they're people-first while empowering their people to take back control of their life so they can show up stronger at work and across their entire life.”
What are the key customer metrics / unit economics / KPIs you pay attention to to monitor the health of your business?
“Right now, we're very focused on our cost of customer acquisition, as well as conversion metrics throughout our funnel so we can build a business that allows us to experiment while also building scalability. “
What's your favorite startup book and podcast?
“We're big fans of Laurie Ruettimann, so her book ‘Betting on You’ is a great read, and we love her ‘Punk Rock HR’ podcast too. From a startup perspective, we also read the Seth Godin blog and follow Simon Sinek online. All great avenues for fresh perspectives.”
Is there a tool, app, or resource that you swear by to help run your startup?
“Outside of Zoom, which is necessary for most remote-first teams, we found quickly that we love and couldn't live without Calendly. It saves so much time on the back-and-forth of scheduling so you can stay focused on the things that matter most.”
What is something that surprised you about entrepreneurship?
“How hard it is to get things like payroll and benefits selected and chosen — that was a bigger challenge than expected for us, especially because we want to make sure we're getting our people the right benefits.”
How do you achieve work/life balance as a founder?
“It's about making time for the things that are important to you — whether that's taking on picking up the kids so you can spend more time with them or it's turning down even one meeting and blocking some time for yourself. It's really critical for us that we lead by example on the work-life side, so this also means not messaging our people on holidays, not answering emails when we're out with our families or on vacation, and things like that.
It helps if you start your week by thinking intentionally about what's important for you to get out of the week so you can strategize how you'll make the life you want to have happen for you.”
What is a strategy you use to stay productive and focused?
“Starting the week with intention and doing a daily self-check-in through a quick journal entry helps keep us focused on the things that matter and being thoughtful about what we tackle next so our time is spent as wisely as possible, and we can show up stronger in the moments that matter.”
Did you have to develop any habits that helped lead you to success? If so, what are they?
“Being more disciplined with our time has been crucial. You have to take the time to think about what matters most and find ways to drop the things that are just noise. You have to be in control of your own world to the biggest extent possible.”
What was your first job and what did it teach you?
“Scott's first job was setting up school dances in his hometown of Grand Island, Nebraska, so he found his entrepreneurial spirit quickly. Having seen his own father change his life by starting his own chain of Dairy Queens, Scott was inspired to take control of his own destiny, and he learned how fulfilling self-sufficiency can be.”
More on SPOTLYFE
Josh Schwede and Scott Fowle, founders of startup SPOTLYFE, shared valuable insights during our interview that will inspire and motivate aspiring entrepreneurs.