Table of contents
- Founders - Gary Zunamer and David Stirk
- Founded in Darlinghurst, Sydney, Australia
- Started in 2021
- 2 founders, 23 employees
Hi Gary. What's your backstory?
I consider myself very lucky to have been born in Sydney. It is an incredible place to live. Growing up, I jumped into every sport possible: AFL, rugby, cricket, tennis, soccer, and basketball. Looking back, the team dynamic I learned then has served me well as a founder. There’s undoubtedly a lot of parallels between being in sporting and startup teams.
From a young age, my mum always encouraged me to be independent, so I started working hospitality jobs as soon as possible. I credit her massively with instilling a work ethic and drive to push hard at anything we set our mind to. It wasn’t great at the time as a teenager, but I’m grateful for it now.
At 18, before I started uni, my best mate and I figured starting an app development company was a guaranteed path to retirement by 20. It was circa 2008 when apps were getting big. We set up a desk in my room and started cold calling.
We managed to land some great meetings, but the only snag was that we had zero engineering skills. Despite trying to outsource it, ultimately, we just couldn’t get things going. But it was a phenomenal experience, and I learnt a valuable lesson about complementary skillsets in founder partnerships. This is something that stuck with me and was top of mind when I met David, our co-founder and CTO.
At uni, I got an internship at the NRL, a dream come true. Four weeks in, the Head of Digital asked if I wanted to run social media and a weekly newsletter sent to the entire fanbase. I had no idea what was in store but didn’t think twice before saying yes,. That was the start of my first full-time gig. I loved it and couldn’t believe they would let me run their social media channels on my own.
Following the NRL, I joined THE ICONIC. At the time, there were about 25 people working in Surry Hills, and it was as cliche a startup as you get. Fold-out tables, no proper internet or electricity, zero reporting lines, but so much fun. I headed up their sports marketing and content, which was incredible exposure to a hyper-growth business.
Then I headed to London and New York for the next seven years working with an Aussie startup called Stackla, which was life-changing for a few reasons. I met my wife, and after living in NYC together, a role at Canva brought us back home. It was during this time that the idea for Vouch started to form.
What does Vouch do?
Teams of all shapes and sizes need video, but today's async options are either recording a Zoom and clipping it up or hiring an incredibly expensive agency to outsource production too. Both are not ideal.
Vouch allows teams to use our web-based video recorder to brief and capture video from anyone. We then automatically transcribe it, allowing you to edit and share/integrate the videos, depending on your need. You can put it on your website, share it via a hosted URL, export it for social, or push it into the existing tools you use daily.
We realised that to get a decent video from your customer (or anyone), you need to give them guidance with questions and then provide an incredibly easy recording experience. If you nail this, you’ll get great content. Then the sky is the limit. Vouch allows you to edit and share responses to your website, blog and social media or push the videos straight to your workflow via tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams, Highspot and HubSpot.
How did you come up with the idea?
Vouch is used for everything from streamlining team comms to screening job candidates, but it began its life as a tool to share customer voice and video testimonials.
Looking back now, all of my previous roles were paths that led me to Vouch. As a marketer, I had always tapped into the power of video but also felt the pain of creating content. Video was traditionally only feasible with huge budgets or sacrificing a lot on quality.
Then at Stackla, I saw first-hand the power of UGC (user-generated content) and how much people love recommendations from real people. Authenticity was clearly powerful as a marketing play.
When I started at Canva, we were trying to tell real stories about larger teams collaborating and working across regions. The team tried, but we just really battled to get enough video content from our customer base - it was all text-based testimonial quotes or snippets from social media, which didn’t scale.
This was the lightbulb moment for Vouch. We started thinking through a solution that could deliver great video outputs for B2B teams while all being done async and through the browser. The timing was perfect too, as everyone was spending a lot of time on video calls and there were huge tailwinds behind the quality of cameras and browser-based video capabilities.
To validate the idea, I spoke to around 50 other companies, marketers, salespeople, and customer success teams. Anyone I could get hold of! Everyone agreed that video creation was a problem, across their organisation, in many use cases. But gathering customer testimonials and capturing the voice of the customer was something everyone wanted to solve urgently.
The name Vouch was punchy and synonymous with trust. We still don’t own vouch.com, but fair play to the current owner asking for “close to seven figures” for it.
How did you go about building and launching the business?
I was spinning my wheels a bit until I met David Stirk, our Co-Founder and CTO. I had plenty of energy and conviction but no way of getting our MVP (minimal viable product) live. When I met Dave, things started to fall into place. It took some convincing, but he agreed that an async video product had huge potential.
We started by getting our MVP built by a great agency in Sydney. Dave and I felt like an outsourced build would be the fastest to help us test and validate the concept. We launched this in beta to 100+ businesses scraped together from our network. Following the beta, we bought in two founding engineers through Dave’s network and were off.
I had often heard that combining a technical founder and a more GTM (got to market) -focused founder was crucial. But it wasn’t until Dave, and I connected that I saw how true that was. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
How have you grown the business?
We’ve been growing quickly since we officially launched in Jan 2022. Over 8,700+ companies use Vouch today across 209 countries, and they’ve captured ~ 60,000 videos. This content has been viewed 400,000 times which is pretty mind-blowing. Some of our bigger customers include Canva, Culture Amp, Shopify and Atlassian.
Our growth to this point has been a combination of hustle, virality, word of mouth, content, SEO and some experimentation with paid social/search. Virality is crucial. We build a lot of hooks into our recorder, website video players, hosted video links and even our downloads to propel that virality loop. During our recent launch, Product Hunt called us “The Calendly for video”. I can see the parallels with our viral loops and URL-based recorder that powers the product experience.
What's your biggest selling product?
Vouch (our main platform) is the predominant product that people use. We do have some enterprise customers that white-label our APIs, which is another really interesting revenue path for us that we are looking at.
What have been some of your biggest failures along the way?
When we first launched our MVP, we had made some assumptions and had a strong vision for how people would use the product. These assumptions were necessary, but we quickly realised that the product needed more breadth of features and a pretty exceptional video recorder to be scalable.
Rather than pumping it to the market, we took a step back and made the call to rebuild many components before the official launch. This took a while, and we felt a lot of pressure from investors and even early customers who wanted access, but we knew that you needed to build trust in the product from day one.
The biggest lesson we’ve learnt is that you can’t bury your head in the sand and build what you think the market wants. You need to talk to customers constantly. Even now, David and I are always on calls with customers, picking up support tickets, getting feedback from the team and prioritising the voice of the customer. It’s been a guiding light for us and something we will always bring into the business.
What's next for you and your business?
The product and engineering team is overhauling all of the core pillars of the platform right now - our recorder, video player, editing solutions, integrations and how teams collaborate in Vouch. We are also adding support for 15+ languages so that we can localise the Vouch recorder for our global customer base.
On the GTM (go-to-market) side, we are shifting our messaging to better reflect how our customers use Vouch. Testimonials/customer voice is still a core pillar for us, but we want our website and all marketing assets to truly reflect the horizontal nature of Vouch. We can’t wait to share this with everyone.
What digital tools do you use regularly?
I have a theory that startups raise capital, and we just pass it back and forth to each other for tools. The cycle of startup spending!
I have come full circle on the productivity/note-taking journey and reverted to a simple stack of a to-do list app (Any. do) combined with Apple Notes and pen and paper.
What books have been a great inspiration to you as a founder?
I’ve been trying to read more fiction to balance the SaaS-focused newsletters I read each week.
I’ve found that a good story is often better for my headspace and creativity. A novel tends to leave me more room for creative thinking and problem-solving. The last one I read was Recursion by Blake Crouch, a sci-fi novel that was great.
It’s the best way to get into the heads of high performers and see how they think about running teams, building mental stamina and making strategic calls.
95% of the podcasts I listen to are focused on my football team, Aston Villa. So probably not that helpful for this audience!
A podcast that I am enjoying currently, though, is “Huberman Lab”, which focuses on research-backed studies around physical and mental performance. It strikes a great balance between giving advice and backing it up with data.
A newsletter that I always recommend is James Clear’s weekly “3-2-1”. Short but packed with interesting quotes and thoughts.
Any quotes you live by?
Theodore Roosevelt’s passage on “The man in the arena” has always resonated.
“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.”
It goes on, but the premise is that you’ve got to put yourself in the game and start playing for things to happen.
The easy path is to be on the sidelines criticising, but the right path is to get yourself in the arena and have a go. I think this applies to everything - not just startups.
What do you love and hate about being a founder?
Love = the team dynamic and seeing a group work towards common goals as one.
Hate = I genuinely don’t hate anything about being a founder. It’s been an incredible (albeit challenging) journey.
I struggle with guilt around juggling work, family, friends, health and everything else. I often have a nagging feeling that I’m not doing enough across all fronts, but I’m working on it.
What do you do to look after your mental health as a founder?
I make sure to exercise daily, be present with my partner and newborn son and prioritise sleep. Weekends are also a time when I try my best to clear my head and let more creative thoughts or problem-solving happen.
In a few words, sum up what it means to be the founder of a business
"It’s the steepest learning curve you’ll ever have, and a lot of stress and fun simultaneously."
What are the biggest pieces of advice you’d give to other founders?
Stop overcomplicating things. When we started, we built a product and gave it to potential customers. We didn’t really track anything or have a process. When we got bigger, I felt like we needed to track 100 different metrics and have detailed product development processes for us to “grow up”, but that’s wrong.
We have learnt that keeping things simple and limiting process layers allows you to prioritise what matters. Like creating a great product, staying close to our customers and driving usage and revenue.