An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Thierry Schellenbach (co-founder and CEO) of Stream, which was honored in our:
Tell us the origin story of Stream – what problem were you trying to solve and why?
Early in my career, I co-founded Fashiolista, a social network similar to Pinterest. One of the biggest challenges we faced was scaling the activity feed as the social network grew to millions of users. We were trying to build a social network, and instead of focusing on the community and growing the user base, we were struggling to keep the activity feed up and running as more members joined.
We realized that many developers and product owners struggled with similar scaling issues – even companies such as Twitter and Facebook. Ultimately, that’s what inspired me and my co-founder, Tommaso Barbugli, to start Stream. It was really just about solving a personal pain point that we knew other companies were struggling with too.
Since then, the company has grown and evolved significantly, and our most popular product is now Stream Chat. Stream started with an API to build scalable activity feeds, but in 2019, we launched our chat product. Stream’s chat innovations tackle difficult technical challenges at scale and create reusable components, allowing organizations to integrate chat capabilities into their apps faster, more securely, and with a better overall user experience.
What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?
Proactively moving Stream’s headquarters from Europe to the U.S. allowed us to avoid likely fundraising hurdles. While it’s been improving in recent years, fundraising in Europe has always been slower and more challenging than in the U.S. It can be difficult to build a European startup that competes with American companies because you’re at a disadvantage in terms of fundraising.
We calculated the decision to move nearly 5,000 miles from Amsterdam to Boulder, Colo. in the early stages of the company, primarily to access funding. If we hadn’t participated in Techstars NYC to build a U.S. network and opened a Boulder office, we definitely would have faced challenges in terms of capital and growth.
What does the future hold for Stream?
Our vision is to continue to elevate the quality of apps for billions of users globally by creating easy to use, reliable, and flexible cloud components. We’re on our way with chat and activity feeds, but that’s just the beginning. In the future, we plan to expand to other communication-focused cloud components.
What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in Boulder?
Boulder is a desirable place to live because it promotes a balanced lifestyle. You get the best of both worlds – thriving cities and communities, as well as access to the great outdoors. Because of that, it attracts top tech talent from all over the country and world, and the startup ecosystem thrives as a result.
Additionally, Boulder and nearby Denver are home to a lot of great resources for founders and people interested in startups, such as Techstars and Galvanize. There is also significant venture capital activity here.
Venture capital used to be more difficult in the past, but currently, most California-based VC firms are searching for investments outside of the Bay Area.
What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
I think it was Paul Graham who wrote about the importance of design, marketing, and engineering, and he recommended mastering two out of three. I read that advice very early in my career and focused on mastering both marketing and engineering. It’s important to have a broad skill set so you can set an effective strategy for the company.