When we founded Hectic in late 2019, we had an incredibly clear vision of what we wanted to be when we grew up. Of course we set out to build the best technology.
For any SaaS company these days, that is table stakes.
What really lit a fire under our collective asses was building a company and brand that truly helped freelancers be more successful.
Our founding team was made up of life-long entrepreneurs and freelancers. We all understood how hard it is to run a freelance business or agency. We were going to make freelancing easier. More fun, too.
We’d say to the other unemployables
“We’ve got a seat for you. Come sit with us.”
I was 19 when I first had an inkling I might be unemployable.
Back in 1999, in the early days of the internet, I was teaching myself how to write code. I enjoyed it so much I decided to try and make a career out of it, and my good friend and Hectic co-founder, Scott Fultz offered me a job as a Junior Web Developer at his budding startup, Mountain Media.
Scott mentored me for about a year before I left to explore corporate software development. Very quickly, that world convinced me I had zero interest in working for other people.
I knew I needed to build something of my own—sooner, not later. By the time I was 24, another (now) lifelong friend of mine, Richard Manulkin, and I had launched Connect First together.
We ran it for 15 years. In many ways, the startup and I grew up together.
You can imagine how many lessons I learned while bootstrapping a tech company, growing it to almost 100 employees, and ultimately handing everything off to a new ownership team in a successful exit in early 2019.
The most important thing I learned about myself was how much I enjoyed doing “good” business. Good business is finding mutual success with customers and building strong relationships with the people who trust you with their business.
Even in a business context, you can have real connections (and fun) with the people you serve. Heck, you can even make some money along the way.
While I was working for the company that acquired Connect First, I missed that good-ness acutely. Toward the end of that 1 year of misery™, I said as much to Darryl Kelly, Connect First’s CRO. We couldn’t help but compare our experiences running and eventually selling Connect First with what we were witnessing in the wider mid-market B2B space.
Running a small-ish business shouldn’t be that hard. Yet, thousands of founders and operators waste hundreds of millions in energy and money trying to get various pieces of technology to play well together: CRMs, Marketing Automation, Ticketing Systems, Invoicing Systems, Tax Management, Accounting Systems, you name it. Behave, dammit!
Our Connect First team needed all the tools and functionality, but mid-market B2B software was just so inefficient and… maddening.
Mediocre technology, horrendous support, every vendor trying to extract as much money as they possibly can from you—what’s not to hate?
At the time, Darryl was doing photography projects on the side, and the problems he faced running his freelance business were nearly identical to the problems we faced at Connect First.
I had already decided the next company I built would make it easier to be an entrepreneur in two specific ways: terrific software and terrific support. Darryl convinced me that the right group of entrepreneurs to help were freelancers.
The idea for Hectic came from those conversations with Darryl. You might also say H̶e̶c̶t̶i̶c̶ came from suffering through 15+ years of flaccid technology.
People asked us early on why we were calling it “Hectic”.
The word has negative business connotations to pretty much everyone other than Australians where the word apparently means “rad” or “dope.”
The original reverse-branding strategy was solid. We were going to be the antithesis of hectic.
We were going to build a brand that turned the hectic life of a freelancer into the more controlled, less chaotic growth that we all strive for as entrepreneurs.
Building an antithetical brand is certainly possible, but it didn’t work out the way we planned.
Over the last 4 years, our brand has engaged with ~11,000 freelancers from all walks of life and every corner of the globe, and the name caused too much friction for them.
How do I know?
Part of doing “good business” for me is staying in constant communication with customers.
I answer at least 4 or 5 support chats per day and do two or more product walkthroughs per week. I have personally chatted, emailed, and video-called with thousands of our users since 2019, and eventually, after so many interactions, I had to admit our reverse branding strategy had backfired.
The majority of people simply didn’t get it. The name and brand sparked confusion, not excitement. I was able to break my conversations down into 3 groups:
Group 1 – Enjoyed the H̶e̶c̶t̶i̶c̶ brand name and thought the anti-hectic nature of what we do makes sense. (What’s up, Aussie users?!)
Group 2 – Didn’t jive with the name but pushed through skepticism and tried the product.
Group 3 - Couldn’t see themselves using a product that required them to constantly say “Hectic”; didn’t want the word “Hectic” in their business vernacular
Building a business is hard enough. We really didn’t need to stack the cards against ourselves, right?
Besides, our vision was to build a company and brand to help the freelance community be more successful. If we’d been unable to convince a large number of our target market to even try our product or content, based purely on the brand name, could we truly say we were fulfilling it?
In early 2023 I made up my mind. We needed a new name.
As I mentioned, I’ve chatted with thousands of freelancers and entrepreneurs, and one personality trait that the most successful ones share is determination.
But more than determination, a certain force of character. Nerve.
“Moxie” popped into my head.
I don’t believe there is a single word that better describes what it takes to thrive as a freelancer.
Just like a tiny hummingbird caterpillar emerging from its cocoon, our antithetical brand turned into a much more apt name for a company on a mission to help freelancers turn passion into income.
We believe freelancing is the future of work, and Hectic Moxie is the missing ingredient.
Combine our fancy new logo, domain, and brand name with our stupid-good tools, amazing customer support, and educational materials - and we are well on our way to helping more of you build the business that bankrolls the lifestyle you really want.
Why don’t you give Moxie a try?
See you in the customer support chat,
CEO / Moxie
P.S. I want to personally thank the thousands of freelancers, creatives, entrepreneurs, and competitor spies that have chatted with us over the last few years.
Your insights, questions, feedback, and unbelievably positive energy give everyone here at Moxie the fire to keep building tools, relationships, and educational materials.
I’m still unemployable. I absolutely love my work. I have all of you to thank for that.