Every other Friday, we sit down with a founder in our space to hear their story. This week we caught up with Jonnie Williams, Founder & CEO of Groupiiie.
Have you ever gone to a new city and didn’t know anyone? Or how many things have you missed out on, or did not try, because you did not want to do it alone? Meet Jonnie Williams, Founder & CEO of Groupiiie and CODE2040’s Entrepreneur in Residence, who is creating a platform for an instantaneous group activity in real time.
What did you do before you started Groupiiie?
I was a Community Outreach Director for City of Atlanta for the Mayor’s office of human services. Here, I got to connect with a lot of people. And that’s when I realized how to reach people on a larger platform. And that platform was technology, especially through mobile apps.
What’s your pitch?
Groupiiie is a mobile app that provides a platform for instantaneous group activity, without the dependency of waiting on friends/others, and eliminating the pain point of “RSVP remorse,” you know signing up for something, but when the time comes, you don’t want to do it anymore. Have you ever woke up one day and said,“Hey I want to do this thing, I know I could be freaking great at!” But then you don’t have anyone to do it with. Unlike other social meetup sites, we provide a platform for instant activity, created by you and people to do that with, by giving you people in your immediate area that you can see, and are available in real time.
What made you take the leap to set it up as your own business?
Just a greater need and my passion for connecting with people. I wasn’t going to stay as community outreach director forever as I had reached a plateau. It was time for my transition.
With zero background in tech, how did you build a mobile app?
I had an idea. I wanted to get it out. So I started talking to as many people as possible and educating myself on these subjects. I also read a lot of books. A quote from the book, Lean Startup struck me, “You might not have everything in the beginning to start, but you just start, and you will figure it out along the way.” So I focused on my strengths of creating and working towards the big picture. I hired an app development team to help me build the app.
How did CODE2040 happen then?
One of my contractors told me about the about this program. They thought I would be a great fit as it was meant to be for black and brown founders. I applied. Out of 200 applicants, I was the one chosen for the CODE2040 program in conjunction with Google For Entrepreneurs. Being part of this has given me access to their mentors, networks who have guided me from go to market strategy to user acquisition.
What has been your challenge while growing Groupiiie?
Time. So many unexpected things pop up while building a startup. To carry on the same momentum and energy when it’s not going right is very difficult.
Where do you see Groupiiie two years from now?
I want Groupiiie to make an economy out of connectivity. That’s the biggest focus right now. Being able to frame what that economy out of connectivity looks like. You can create whatever you want to be. You don’t have anyone telling you something you like is dumb. Somebody out there likes what you do, and Groupiiie will put you with those people.
What advice would you give to a founder who is just starting out?
Never stop. You are going to get those days when you feel like opening a bottle of wine and going to sleep. By all means, do that. Next day, get back up and keep going. When you feel defeated, don’t stop. Take a break. When you stop, it’s over. It will take awhile to get out of that mindset.