William Yeack of Member.buzz: “Don’t take outside funding unless you absolutely have to”

“Don’t take outside funding unless you absolutely have to.” I chose to self-fund Member.buzz because I had a vision and I knew that if I let other people in, I would have to accept their visions too. I did not want to sacrifice all of my hard work and ideas to the hands of other […]

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“Don’t take outside funding unless you absolutely have to.” I chose to self-fund Member.buzz because I had a vision and I knew that if I let other people in, I would have to accept their visions too. I did not want to sacrifice all of my hard work and ideas to the hands of other people who did not truly understand what I was trying to build.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing William Yeack, CEO and founder of Member.buzz, a progressive new social media and productivity platform that includes a website builder and customizable payments portal for membership groups, nonprofits, and enterprise organizations. Prior to Member.buzz, William was the founder of a hedge fund specializing in algorithmic trading strategies. He created Member.buzz in response to the lack of a consolidated technology platform to run his Alumni Club. After building a customized platform for his own club, William realized how beneficial it could be to other organizations. William and Member.buzz are now empowering organizations to focus on their missions instead of worrying about technology.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Member.buzz can find its beginnings back in 2010 when I started a chapter of my university’s alumni club. To get the word out about our club, I created accounts on a variety of platforms including Facebook, Eventbrite, MailChimp, PayPal, Square, and more. It was a revolving door of tools. As the club grew, the already unwieldy web of platforms became too difficult and time-consuming to keep aligned and functioning as required. Unsatisfied, and after a fruitless search for a true solution, I began to create a custom solution for the alumni club.

After creating the initial platform (just for the use of the alumni club), I realized that it would be a useful tool for lots of different types of organizations. Clubs, nonprofits, and other membership-based groups should be able to focus on their missions without the hassle of technology standing in their way.

I am dedicated to this because of how rewarding it is to see people being brought together by Member.buzz. Seeing people I have never met organize with our platform is a really tangible outcome and it is amazing to see.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

I have created a unified, collaborative platform that gives users access to every tool they need to manage an online presence in a single workspace, a solution that was previously missing from the market. Transitioning a group or organization to a virtual setting is usually a task that requires a great knowledge of technology, IT teams, and various payments and passwords. As president of my alumni club, I saw firsthand how frustrating single-purpose tools could be for the functionality and organizational structure of a membership-based group. Member.buzz is disrupting the industry norm of individuals using individual platforms by providing a consolidated platform that any organization can use as a group. Instead of a static site focused on creating content, I’ve reimagined how users interact with and want to use technology. Member.buzz Spaces grow and develop with their organizations, allowing them to focus on their missions, productivity, and identity instead of the technical hassles. The Member.buzz community has brought people together in ways that no virtual platform has achieved before.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

In Member.buzz’s early days, my alumni club used it to plan the University of St Andrews Alumni Weekend Gala. As President of the New York chapter, I had helped plan the gala in the past, but with difficulty. With Member.buzz’s capabilities, I hoped planning this huge event would be much more efficient and organized. At the time, this was the biggest event we had planned using our new platform, so there were some glitches in the payment processing system due to the volume of people wishing to purchase tickets. That’s when we realized we had to scale the platform to accommodate large numbers of members, and today Member.buzz can be used on groups and events of all sizes. Funnily enough, the glitch didn’t stop Prince William and Duchess Kate from showing up to the gala! It was a surreal moment for me to see that my platform in some way got William and Kate to the event.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?\

My dad taught me the importance of working hard. One of the only reasons I’m able to do this is because I’m a workaholic. If I didn’t enjoy working 20 hours a day, I probably couldn’t have started my own company and developed it to this point.

A lot of other early mentors were introduced by my dad, as well — especially Cary Conrad over at Gingerbread Capital who has been a professional and personal advisor through the launch of this company.

I admire Bill Gates’ way of building a company. Microsoft has built a platform that creates technology that dominates the way business is done. Microsoft is an engine for innovation, and I hope Member.buzz can follow in their footsteps.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

In technology, people try to reinvent how things are done over and over again. Often you see this with programming languages. What happens is: the language comes out, people get really excited about it, they learn and adopt it, but then people add additional functionality on top. By then it gets too complicated and someone comes in and makes a new programming language because the old one is too difficult to learn. All of this is happening while browser standards are insufficient. This produces a cycle of widely-adopted immature technology by inexperienced programmers.

For example, jQuery was talked about universally 3–4 years ago, but it has now fallen out of favor. Now if you see jQuery, people scoff at it, but it has a really solid purpose and reason for being, and a lot of the stuff that has come out to replace it is not mature technology yet.

When building Member.buzz, William used a stack of technology that was very cutting edge at the time, but in the 5 years since he first wrote the first line of code many other things have come out. While it may not be “disruptive,” it is now fully implemented and an advanced piece of technology that allows us to create unique and advanced technology.

While we are constantly updating our libraries and adding new technology to our platform, we tend to resist implementing the newest technology fade as soon as it comes out — it often does not add any actual value until it is more fully built-out.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

“Sleep is for the weak.” This is a lesson you might hear a lot, but don’t realize is true until you start your own company, especially one with the massive amount of technology that Member.buzz has. I have to balance the business, administrative, and technology sides of the company, but there are only 24 hours in the day. For Member.buzz to be its best, I sometimes do have to sacrifice sleep. All of the hard work I put into it makes the success even more rewarding for me.

“Don’t take outside funding unless you absolutely have to.” I chose to self-fund Member.buzz because I had a vision and I knew that if I let other people in, I would have to accept their visions too. I did not want to sacrifice all of my hard work and ideas to the hands of other people who did not truly understand what I was trying to build.

“Listen to your customers, their feedback will drive your success.” We have built our platform around the customer journey and the way users want to use our technology. Our platform continues to develop every day driven by the requests of our users. Our job is to give a virtual home to these communities to help them flourish, and they know best how to improve the Space we have given them. When a user requests a feature, we make it a reality, because we want to create the most productive, unified platform that we can. When our customers are successful using Member.buzz, we are successful.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

In 2021, you can look out for new functionality. We’re going to be rethinking forms and other features to align with how our users want to interact with them and in new ways. We will also be implementing more social-media type functionality — allowing our groups to more effectively inspire their Members.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

“How I Built This” is a podcast that resonates with me because I have gone on this journey of becoming a founder like many of the guests on the podcast. I can relate to their struggles and also learn from their mistakes.

There is a lot of mystique around being an entrepreneur that makes it seem more glamourous and simple than it actually is. It is reassuring to hear directly from other founders who express all of the struggles that they had to endure to get their product in front of their markets.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Happiness comes from within.” This is an important thing to remember, especially for a workaholic like me. Although I have always been motivated by my career, I have learned that it cannot be my sole source of happiness. No matter how successful I may become, I have grown to find happiness within myself rather than outside sources. I think that is the most sustainable way of life, especially for me having such a busy, goal-oriented life.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I think that the greatest commodity that I can offer to the world through our platform is improved access to information and collaboration. As more of the world gets access to the internet, I hope that Member.buzz can be an instrument for change allowing pockets of dedicated people around the world to come together to create a better future.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can follow Member.buzz on Linked, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. In 2021, our YouTube channel is gearing up for some exciting content, so keep an eye out there.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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