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🌊 Working Hard Doesn't Always Solve The Problem

🌊 Working Hard Doesn't Always Solve The Problem
By Open Water Weekly • Issue #33 • View online
“If you’re someone who likes to work hard and prides yourself on that, you need to remember that working hard doesn’t always solve the problem. You want to be figuring out… when to step back, assess what you’re doing, and figure out how it fits into the long-term vision.” - Victor Pontis, Cofounder of Luma
Welcome back to Open Water Weekly!
Victor Pontis is on a mission to build a community management platform with “inclusivity and welcoming [built in] by default.”
Victor’s company, Luma, is empowering community leaders to “activate” their small- and medium-sized communities through seamless event management, newsletters, and community analytics.
So how did 1 tweet, 1 conversation, and 1 TechCrunch article lead to the creation of Luma? Find out below 👇

🎙 Victor Pontis, Cofounder of Luma
Luma isn’t Victor’s first project. And thanks to his past side hustles, he’s learned a valuable startup lesson:
If you’re someone who likes to work hard and prides yourself on that, you need to remember that working hard doesn’t always solve the problem. You want to be figuring out when to apply that extra hour of work… versus when to step back, assess what you’re doing, and figure out how it fits into the long-term vision.
When Victor’s friend–a yoga instructor–approached him and his now-cofounder asking for help on how to host virtual classes in the midst of COVID, he knew they may be onto something.
But, learning from his past projects, he prioritized stepping back and validating the idea first before building:
[While] my friend was a really good example of [the problem], she then connected me with some other yoga instructors who had a similar pain point. And then I actually posted on Twitter saying, “Hey, we’re planning on building this thing, would people use it?”
A bunch of people responded, and actually a reporter from TechCrunch said, “Hey, if you’re going to build this, I’d love to chat with you and maybe write about it.” So it was clear from just putting it out there that it resonated with people. And if we built something that worked, that people would use it.
A flood of Twitter responses and a TechCrunch article later, “ZmURL” (now Luma) went from an idea to full-swing building in one week. Well, kind of.
Even with this level of excitement from others around his idea, Victor still started small to validate the idea and build from there:
The first version was super, super simple, and it was just like, you paste in the Zoom information [and] you get a URL that you can share.
…and [since] starting with events, we’ve been making it really, really easy for people to create an event page for an online event and bring people in, send email reminders, collect feedback, everything around the event.
Victor and his team have prioritized interviewing their most active users to understand what to build next. This approach has allowed Luma to evolve from just event management to overall community management:
We have our eyes on that goal of helping people connect and achieve their goals… we started with events [and] we’re taking that next step now of going to the community portion where events are just part of it… We’re building this in a very purposeful way.
Combining the trends of both Luma’s current user base and the return to in-person events, Victor sees Luma and “hybrid communities” becoming even more valuable post-pandemic:
I’m pretty bullish on online events and online communities in general, because you have access to so many more people… I think a lot of communities will be hybrid, but will start online: the best place to really meet people.
[But] it doesn’t have to stay online. And, we already have that built into Luma, where you can see a map, see where everyone is, and quickly create an [in-person] event in that location where you have some density.
🤔 What we learned…
Victor and Luma’s story is a great example of balancing ambition with patience.
After Victor’s viral tweet seemingly proved how perfect his idea for Luma could be, he still struck a balance of being quick to capitalize, yet be intentional to continually validate his idea. Victor:
  • Identified a niche to start (yoga instructors)
  • Built an MVP (copy-paste the standard Zoom invite)
  • Learned from feedback and slowly grew the feature set (Luma now has more than event management: newsletter creation, community analytics, and more)
🎧 Check out Victor’s full interview transcript here to hear how everyone from Product Managers to Rabbis are using Luma to power their communities (18 min).
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