Two years ago, Nick Weaver was working in his living room with his co-founders, their first employee and a summer intern. Weaver had just left his job at the venture capital firm Menlo Ventures with the goal of building a home wireless internet network that works.
Today, Weaver is the co-founder and CEO of eero, a growth-stage start-up that sells a consumer-friendly home networking system. Eero has raised $90 million in capital in three rounds of fundraising, has 115 employees in its San Francisco headquarters and is selling in more than 600 Best Buys across the U.S. It's been a busy couple of years.
"I would be lying to say we knew definitively" that the founding team would be able to build a successful hardware company, Weaver says.
"That's why start-ups are so challenging. Lots of times you are building things from scratch that haven't been done before. New things that you haven't done personally or things that just don't exist in the market. You are definitely taking a leap of faith."
Weaver and his co-founders Amos Schallich and Nate Hardison raised their first seed round of capital in June 2014, which they used to hire their first employee. "Global headquarters was my living room in North Beach," says Weaver. They moved to a proper office in August 2014, and by January 2015, eero had grown to 11 people.
They announced their first product in February 2015, launched for pre-orders and sold $2.5 million worth of product in the first two weeks.
Growth hasn't slowed down since. Today, eero systems are sold at eero.com, Amazon.com, and Best Buy.
Here are five takeaways from eero's rapid success.
The idea for eero was born after Weaver encountered the same problem over and over again: The frustrating "buffering" WiFi signal.
"I have been the guy who has to fix the internet for my friends and family for as long as I can remember, and when I moved from Chicago out to the West Coast I would still get calls from my parents saying, 'Hey, the internet is broken.' And it's a pain to troubleshoot it remotely," says Weaver.
Also, in his time at Menlo Ventures, Weaver worked with companies that depended on consumers having access to WiFi. Oftentimes, consumers who would call in reporting problems with the product were having a hard time because of an unstable home WiFi system, not the product itself. Weaver noticed a trend and decided to try to fix it.
Eero is building and selling a reasonably complicated piece of hardware. One reason that it has been able to grow so quickly is that it explains why the technology matters simply and cleanly, in language that anybody can understand. Weaver learned the importance of simple storytelling when he listened to complicated entrepreneur pitches in his time at Menlo Ventures.
"If you look at the best companies, the best entrepreneurs, they are really good at storytelling and really good at helping people understand, 'Well, we are going to build this breakthrough technology and here is how it is going to change the landscape for their customers,'" Weaver says.
While Weaver and his team screen job candidates for particular technical abilities, he also looks for people who are motivated, ambitious and tenacious.
"I am there to make sure they fit in with our culture, which is all about being ambitious and not just having ideas but actually getting them done," says Weaver. "It takes awhile, but you can really pick up on the passion in people's voices as they are talking about where they want to head in their career. And being excited about the opportunities ahead of them, that's something you get in their delivery."
Running a hardware company requires a dual focus both on what consumers need at the moment and what improvements to the product you need to be developing for future iterations. While a software-first company can make changes to a product almost immediately by changing the code in a program, a hardware company requires more advanced planning.
"You have to be able to react quickly to customers, and at the same time, you have to think far enough ahead to think about what the hardware needs to do in the future," says Weaver. "To me, that's been one of the most challenging aspects of running this company."
The day that eero shipped its first product, it suddenly went from a small tech team to a company with thousands of customers to respond to and take care of. In the weeks after that first shipment, the eero team was working in around-the-clock shifts responding to customers both via email and on the phone. Weaver was no exception.
"I am still pretty high up on the leader board of total number of customer tickets answered," says Weaver, proudly. And he hasn't stopped. "I talk to customers almost every day."