When Vishal Joshi moved from India to the U.S. to work as a software engineer he didn’t expect that path would eventually march him down the aisle to the wedding industry. He was leading teams at Microsoft when his colleague and future cofounder Michael Bach inspired the proposal. Bach’s sister Amy was planning her wedding and increasingly frustrated with the lack of connection between wedding planning apps and websites. “Why do I have better apps to take pictures of my breakfast than plan my wedding?” she complained to her brother. Bach, Joshi and Kaiwalya Kher pursued the problem realized she was not only right but that they might be able to build something better.
They created what they thought was a simple integrated workflow software and it took off — fast. Soon after Amy’s wedding, the trio was coming into work to find their desks littered with sticky notes from other colleagues asking if they could also get a custom wedding website. When their servers started to crash, they knew they had something big. They left their jobs in 2016 to focus full time on the budding business, Joy. “First [Microsoft] tried to convince us not to leave,” Joshi tells Forbes. “Then they said ‘Well if you are going to leave we want to invest.’ We got our first investment before we got the company.” Since then the company has had a hand in hundreds of thousands weddings across more than 100 countries without spending a penny on marketing.
Joy stands out in the increasingly crowded wedding sector because the platform is hyper-focused on the details, Joshi says. He has personally spoken with hundreds of couples for direct feedback on what they would like to see and many of the suggestions have become features, like an integration with Uber and Lyft or the ability to make customized schedules for each guest based on wedding events they are and aren’t invited to. “We sweat every detail to make the couples look good and for us our product has always come before our profits,” Joshi says. To keep building out its technology, the San Francisco-based startup raised a $20 million Series A led by Valor Siren Ventures with participation from investors including Zola Global, Avalon Ventures, Sierra Ventures and Ashton Kutcher’s Sound Ventures — whose investor Maaria Bajwa was a former satisfied customer.
Joy is completely free to use for couples and has been able to expand thus far exclusively through word-of-mouth advertising. This has allowed the team to focus entirely on making the tech beautiful, Joshi says, which has helped attract investors like Jon Shulkin, a partner at Valor Siren Ventures. “The idea that they’ve attracted a user base with no marketing, that to us at Valor shows they are building something special,” Shulkin tells Forbes. “They have designed something that is not only beautiful but a product out there that consumers love.” Not charging couples who use the website also helped the startup navigate the pandemic as they didn’t take a hit from moving or cancelled weddings, rather using it as an opportunity to add new features like “change the date” invitations and integrations with companies like Zoom. “I think 2022 will be the biggest year for weddings in decades,” Joshi says.
The company does make money though. In the spring, the startup launched a new service that helps couples create a single registry across different retailers ranging from big-box stores like Crate & Barrel and Target down to their favorite local businesses. As people buy gifts off the registry, the company receives kickback from the retailers. “The reason why we are truly excited about the registry as a product is that it is built like the way I would want my registry to be and yet it makes us money the responsible way,” Joshi says. The company declined to share specifics but say that the registry has seen more than 100% growth month-over-month since it was launched.
Joy is currently focused on U.S.-style weddings but will customize, like when a bride asked for designs that would fit her Kenyan wedding, which they did. Joshi says they want to formally expand into other countries and wedding traditions and sees the future of Joy expanding to everything from baby showers to bat mitzvahs. “We didn’t start Joy to make money, we started Joy for our family to solve the problems that they had,” Joshi says. “To this date we are doing the same thing. We are trying to use technology to solve wedding plan needs.”