It’s not often you find a startup used by 25 million people every month.
It’s also rare to find a startup that serves 50 billion images per month.
It’s even more rare for that fast-growing startup to be incredibly lean.
WeHeartIt is a Pinterest-like startup that only has 20 employees. More spectacularly, it has only raised $US8 million to Pinterest’s $US338 million. That means any new WeHeartIt hire has the opportunity to get on board, experience serious traction, and snag valuable stock options.
Until last June, WeHeartIt was primarily bootstrapped by its Brazilian founder, Fabio Giolito. He created the Pinterest-like service in 2007 for himself. A designer, he wanted a way to collect inspiring images from across the web. His friends wanted to be able to use the tool too, so he set up user accounts.
Now WeHeartIt has grown into a cross between Pinterest, Twitter and popular secrets app, Whisper. People can share and collect photos online, like Pinterest. One-third of WeHeartIt’s user activity is image searches.
But people often share images that reflect how they’re feeling in that moment, like Whisper. Also like Whisper, people can write text overtop of images.
“If there’s a song about an emotion, you can express that feeling through images too,” says WeHeartIt CEO Ranah Edelin.
WeHeartIt’s page is often flooded with reactions to emotional newsworthy events. In that way, it resembles Twitter or Tumblr.
“Nelson Mandela’s passing took over our feed,” says WeHeartIt CEO Ranah Edelin. “When Cory from Glee died, it took over our service. I don’t know if he took over Twitter, but he certainly took over WeHeartIt.”
WeHeartIt, like Whisper, attracts younger users than Facebook or Pinterest. Edelin says 80% of the company’s users are 24 or younger and that 80% of activity occurs on mobile devices.
Pinterest is a lot bigger than WeHeartIt; it had 53 million uniques in May according to modest Comscore stats. But Edelin says WeHeartIt is growing by 1 million active users per month.
When Pinterest was about the size of WeHeartIt, Google reportedly was interested in acquiring it for “hundreds of millions.” Business Insider’s Henry Blodget felt then that Google should buy it for $US2 billion. WeHeartIt could grow to become a similar size opportunity.
Because it hasn’t raised too much money, WeHeartIt’s list of potential buyers is likely much larger than Pinterest’s. Even Whisper, which has fewer active users than WeHeartIt, has raised $US20 million more than Edelin’s company.
Part of the reason WeHeartIt is relatively unknown is because it didn’t have a management team until June. That’s when Edelin came on board. Before he joined, all press and investor inquiries went into an email abyss.
“WeHeartIt has been on a great path since [Edelin and President Dave Williams joined],” says an investor. “It’s a great example of how a really strong executive team can make a huge difference.
Another lean rocket-ship startup is messaging app WhatsApp, which has only raised $US8 million from Sequoia Capital. Instagram’s team was famously lean, with just 13 employees when it sold to Facebook for $US1 billion. Even then, it had raised $US57.5 million.
Edelin says he’s only hunting for a few engineers and possibly a business development person right now. But if you’re looking to join a rocket ship, you might consider bombarding his inbox.