How Pattr is helping take out the social media trash

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“We’re attracted to big problems—seeing a big problem, then being able to apply our skill set and solve it,” Sebastian says.

One key to building a great startup is the ability to listen to feedback and act accordingly.

Whether that feedback comes in as user data, customer comments, or friendly advice, the insights that founders can gather from the world around them go a long way to help refine their initial ideas or discover new ones.

For example, when Sebastian Pedavoli and Dan Nolan launched their startup Pattr in 2014, their goal was to help organizations create engaging and effective experiences for customers at scale using conversational artificial intelligence (AI).

But an even better idea lay ahead of them.

The bootstrapping blues

Sebastian and Dan had originally met when working on an earlier startup and were keen to try out a new idea, so in 2014, they assembled a small team and started building.

Sebastian says money was tight in those early years, with him and Dan not taking a salary for six months.

Dan recalls a time when the team was shut in a hotel room for 10 days as they raced to build software for a client. On another occasion, they found themselves stranded in Los Angeles (LAX) airport for 10 hours, having not eaten for the previous day.

A pivot for good

It wasn’t long, however, before they discovered their idea had another very beneficial use—protecting people on social media.

“We saw the underlying abuse, scams, and bots that were affecting brands and people across social media,” Sebastian says. “It doesn’t matter what vertical you’re in, there’s this underlying toxicity on social media that can harm people’s mental health.”

Sebastian describes Pattr’s mission as helping to safeguard people in online communities.

“We’re attracted to big problems—seeing a big problem, then being able to apply our skill set and solve it,” Sebastian says. “That’s why we’re giving brands more control over what people can and can’t see.”

Their big break came in 2019, when a meeting with Twitter’s management in Singapore led to the global social media platform becoming the first client for Pattr’s new direction, and consequently launching the company simultaneously around the world.

Now Pattr is working to safeguard the customers of organizations, including the United States Democratic Party, the New York Knicks and Golden State Warriors basketball teams, and Epic Games, who make the popular online game Fortnite.

A winding path to success

While Pattr’s current success flows from a significant change in direction, it has also demanded ongoing tweaking of almost every aspect of the company.

“The biggest mistake was wasting time and money on development without doing proper market research to validate the opportunity,” Sebastian says. “We are really good at building product, but the challenge is in sales and marketing. Anyone can build anything, but solving the sales and marketing piece, which is essential to running a software company, takes a lot of time and effort.”

“There’s an element of luck, tenacity, and of making your own fate, but when you step back and look at some of the brands we work with, and the opportunities we’ve had, it makes the hard times worth it.”

Even with their current success, Sebastian and Dan have kept their team small. Pattr employs less than 20 people, many of whom have been with them since the beginning.

“Having a small team means people need to be self-motivated, and then they will thrive and flourish,” Sebastian says. “We are super-focused on empowering people - we don’t like micromanaging, and we are building a company that we would want to work at.”

Partnering for success

One of the key reasons Pattr has been able to stay small and agile has been the partners it has chosen, including its cloud service provider, Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Dan says AWS’s combination of technical leadership and scalability have been critical in supporting Pattr’s rapid changes in direction and subsequent growth, while also delivering peace of mind that its software would always perform as it was meant to.

“One of the things that drives us is ensuring the product is ‘3:00am proof’,” Dan says. “That means everything needs to be as simple as possible. You need that, because sometimes you ask, ‘why am I persevering with this?’”

“Building a startup is like a rollercoaster—constantly up and down—but there’s always enough ‘ups’ to keep us going.”

AWS Services Used

Amazon EC2

Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) is a web service that provides resizable compute capacity in the cloud. It is designed to make web-scale cloud computing easier for developers.

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Amazon EBS

Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS) is an easy-to-use, scalable, high-performance block-storage service designed for Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2).

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Amazon RDS

Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) is a collection of managed services that makes it simple to set up, operate, and scale databases in the cloud.

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Amazon Elasticache

Amazon ElastiCache is a fully managed, in-memory caching service supporting flexible, real-time use cases.

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