It seems like ages ago when Justin Miller’s dejaMi was getting booted from his basement, thanks to an overzealous neighbor and a City of Raleigh ordinance that went to the letter of the law. The local startup community came together to help him land at HUB Raleigh overnight, and from there, he’s been on a tear.
But know this. Every time he calls me, I answer: “What did you get kicked out of now?”
That joke will never, ever get old.
It was even longer ago, July of 2011 to be exact, when Miller threw the impressive dejaFest to launch the original dejaMi app. Not a task taken lightly, it turned into a full-on 2-day music festival, taking up several venues in downtown Raleigh.
Not long after he relocated to the HUB, he and I were both at Startup Summit, where I was moderating a panel and he was pitching WedPics, the company he spun out of dejaMi and into the early but suddenly very frothy social-wedding-sharing space.
Watching his presentation, I knew at that point that WedPics was going to be successful, because Miller was going to beat everyone at the game. WedPics was going to be designed better, work better, and if he had to throw a WedFest to get it onto the public’s radar, that was going to happen.
Turns out he didn’t need a WedFest. Which honestly would have been the punk/metal version of a bridal show. Which honestly I would have paid good money to attend.
Some several ExitEvent Socials and Innovate Raleighs later, over which we would catch up briefly, we got a chance to talk about his fundraising efforts to date at March’s Southeast Venture Conference, where he was pitching again and I was stapling the first Charlotte Startup Social to the conference. The end of that conversation went something like this:
“How much are you looking for?”
“Yeah, you’ll get that.”
And at that point I put my money where my big mouth was, listing him as one of the Series A Elite Eight in the Triangle, the “brightest hope for the Triangle Series A players.”
A bit of that article:
“dejaMi showed off the adoption numbers on WedPics, their app that integrates planning and media for and from a wedding. CEO Justin Miller has also been able to maximize revenue in a competitive space.”
And while they didn’t land an investor at SEVC, they landed an introduction from a connection there that led to an investor. In the end, they turned investors away once they reached $1.1 million. The round was led by the Brenden Family Growth Fund LLC out of Oregon, and includes Bob Young, Jed Carlson, Chandler Rose, Alex Osadzinski, and Triangle Angel Partners.
One thing I like about Miller’s strategy is that he’s not just doing MVP with WedPics, he’s doing kind of a minimum viable viability model (MVV, I just coined it) like I’m doing with ExitEvent. He’s A/B testing everything from features to price to the business model itself, proving something works, then moving on to something else.
For example, with ExitEvent, I wanted to know how much ad revenue could be achieved. So I took a month to throw everything I could at generating ad revenue. It worked magnificently and we made a bunch of money that month. I took notes, jotted down the numbers, then went to focus on something else the next month, and ad revenue came back down to normal.
I did it this way because I could either continue to run my ad strategy on half-cylinders and watch it hobble along, or I could fire the giant laser once and blow a hole through the wall.
Miller is a laser guy. Prove it. Record the results. Move on.
What this means is that now that he’s got $1.1 million in the bank, he can execute on SEVERAL plans he’s already experimented with and knows will work and work big. Too many startups use capital to just conduct bigger experiments.
Wedding season is, well, pretty much here, so the infusion couldn’t have come at a better time. I also know that Miller executes fast. I see him building traction no later than the end of May, hopefully blowing up in June, sustaining through October, and then figuring out cash-flow-break-even not long after.
Finally, as WedPics finds success, dejaMi will be sunsetted shortly. That too is OK by me. For one thing, even though it’s hard to kill off a product, it removes a distraction, which is necessary at this point.
For another, my sweet black dejaMi T-shirt is now vintage.