Wedtech business Joy has raised over $46 million in VC funding since its 2016 launch — and its website attracts 1.8m visitors every month.
Image courtesy of Joy. Graphic design by Selina Lee.
When co-workers started dropping Post-it notes on his desk about his wedding website builder in 2013, Vishal Joshi knew he had something special on his hands.
The former Microsoft engineer created Joy, a virtual wedding planner, when his co-founder’s sister was having trouble navigating dozens of disparate services to pull together her wedding. Experienced at coding cloud products, Joshi decided to create a website that integrated every step — RSVPs, registries, hotel bookings, dinners, and events — in one place, allowing couples and guests to communicate on the same page throughout the process.
Soon, many people in their circle were asking for their own website –– so Joshi, Michael Bach, and Kaiwalya Kher quit their jobs and launched their side project as a full-fledged wedding site builder in 2016.
The trio named it Joy — to reflect their mission to bring joy to people’s lives — and though the firm has spent little on marketing, its website now attracts 1.8m visitors a month. Hundreds of thousands of couples use Joy’s services each year, and its US users grew by 187% in last year alone.
In a crowded space, Joy stands out by having intuitive designs and tech-focused features. Its website builder is free to use, it doesn’t push products or retailers on its registries, and it doesn’t add fees to any services.
With a wedding boom in 2022 — 20% of 2021 weddings were rescheduled a year out, per the Wedding Report — the average cost of a wedding is set to rise to $24.3k from $22.5k. Joshi says that wedding planning is already stressful enough for couples: “I’m spending the most amount of money I ever spent, and [I] want it to be perfect.” Joshi’s response: “We want to make a perfect product on the other side.”
Since Joy was built as a tool for Joshi’s friends and family, the co-founders are committed to maintaining its original ethos and only make money in unobtrusive ways. For example, when an item is fulfilled on a couple’s registry, the manufacturer shares a small cut of sales with Joy — without charging users anything more.
Joy banks on happy couples to spread the word of its service — and more happy guests to follow in their footsteps. “People spend millions and millions of dollars [in marketing] to get a few weddings, and we get them for free,” Joshi says.
The customer-centric mantra has paid off: The number of couples using Joy registry has grown 500% since it launched last April, and the growth in early 2022 has outpaced that of last year.
Last July, the Y Combinator alum raised $20 million in a new round at a $100 million valuation, and counts Ashton Kutcher and Joe Montana among its backers. It’s also looking at other monetization opportunities like partnering with hotels to take a cut from guest bookings. Below, Joshi shares his tips on building a successful wedding startup.
Some of Joy's features include save the dates, customized schedules, and a mobile app. Image courtesy of Joy.
People before product, product before profit
Creating a product that puts customers’ experience first is key to growing by word of mouth. Joy eschews practices like charging processing fees on cash gifts, and strives to only make money in ways that do not add costs to the couples and their guests. “Weddings are very inherently viral events,” says Joshi. “If we have enough people who know about Joy, our ratio of one wedding producing several weddings, just allows us to continue to have this growth.”
Entrepreneurs can become married to their ideas, but what they really need to focus on is filling a genuine demand. “Your idea is not as worth protecting as you think,” Joshi explains. “It’s not mak[ing] something which people need, but cross[ing] that level above and mak[ing] something [that] they really want, because if they really want your product, then everything else falls into place.”
Adapt with the times
When covid hit, weddings were thrown into disarray. Joy quickly came up with virtual “change the date” cards for couples rescheduling their big day, then moved to integrating Zoom into its website so guests could easily find and participate in virtual weddings. Even as people began heading back to physical weddings, more couples are embracing technology to save on the planning process.
“Slowly people will get used to the fact that it is fine to have just digital ‘save the date[s]’ and not have physical ‘save the date[s].’ A wedding is all [about] traditions… And some of them are worth keeping, and some of them are worth changing with time,” predicts Joshi, who is seeing more couples going for hybrid weddings so they can have in-person gatherings and guests watching from afar.
Be proactive in solving problems
“We try to anticipate your needs before you ever face them,” says Joshi. For instance, Joy integrated Uber and Lyft into its mobile app so guests can book transportation as they’re looking up the wedding details — and newlyweds don’t have to worry about guests drinking and driving after. The company also customizes guests’ calendars so that each guest only sees their own events, preventing awkward situations where a guest asks for access to an event they’re not invited to.
Talk to your customers
The team at Joy, which used to speak with 200 couples everyday, now speaks with 500 couples a day — and almost all employees take part. “Get that feedback, and you process it and you make the product better and then more people will use it,” Joshi says. “And then when you fix a problem, you feel so good because it becomes personal. It’s like, oh, we solved it for Susan.”