Rob Ortiz sitting on steps in Puerto Rico.

Redefining events for our remote world

I swapped my Jordans for dress shoes and my hoodie for a button-down. This interview would change my life.

Growing up in North Philadelphia was a constant battle. I lost my dad at the age of nine, and saw my mom struggle to raise me and my four siblings. From free lunches in elementary school, to the metal detectors in high school, I lived a reality some people only read about. A world filled with despair and dead ends.

Looking back, this interview was a turning point in my life. I had a picture of how to tie a neck-tie in my pocket, just in case it came loose. As I nervously waited in Lockheed Martin’s cavernous lobby, I repeated to myself “Chill. You got this. Firm handshake. Eye contact. Smile.”

At sixteen years old, I landed my first “grown-up” job as a product designer. Like Philly legend Kobe Bryant, I went from high school straight to the pros.

Kobe had his ball. Kevin Hart had his mic. The tool of my trade was my pencil. As time passed, my pencil became a mouse. Then my mouse became a meal ticket. Then my meal ticket became an opportunity.

At Lockheed, I developed an obsession with design and technology. I loved crafting jaw-dropping experiences for people. It felt like magic. I wanted people to FEEL the quality of my work. This empathy and desire to craft new realities was a core catalyst in my journey as an entrepreneur.

Fast forward ten years, and I’m in Silicon Valley. Being at the nexus of innovation allowed me to work for iconic companies like Google and Yahoo. Later, I founded several startups with Jerry and Tiger, my current co-founders. One succeeded. Most failed. Last fall, we applied to YC with an app to connect restaurants and food wholesalers. After months of grinding, our dream became a nightmare because of the pandemic. A week before demo day, all of our customers were forced to close. Suffice it to say, we had seen better days.

After we picked ourselves up, we knew we had to pivot or die. So we went back to the drawing board.

Like everyone else, we attended virtual events as we quarantined. The more we attended, the more we were convinced that something was missing. Jerry and I used to run large conferences when we were at Yahoo. It wasn’t just part of our job, it was a passion project. Lights, cameras, A-List speakers, the whole nine. Looking at the virtual event landscape, we felt embarrassed putting our brand on any of the existing platforms. So we decided to build our own -- A high end, white-labeled virtual event platform that emphasized quality and design first. A platform that would make it insanely easy for anyone to put on an experience that felt like an Apple product launch.

So we got to work. After three months, we soft-launched and saw an incredible groundswell of demand. Today we're enabling our customers to create jaw-dropping experiences that just aren’t possible anywhere else. Customers like Brooks Winery are bringing people together through high-end wine experiences and transforming their business. Organizations like Freely in Hope are hosting fully immersive galas that feel like an Oscars afterparty. Historically in-person events like All Raise are using Welcome to reach the next generation of leaders no matter where they live. No plane ticket. No expensive hotel room. Just an internet connection and an open door.

Our customers are gathering people for high-end experiences in a way that was never possible before. They’re providing access, exceeding their goals, and transforming lives without compromise.

So where do we go from here? As we continue to innovate and push the limits of what’s possible, we’re keeping a pulse on the evolving market and we’re listening to our customers. We’re helping them thrive in our remote world, and prepare for the hybrid future.

Best of all, we’re not doing it alone. We are thrilled to share that we’ve partnered with Kleiner Perkins, Kapor Capital, WIN (Webb Investment Network) and Y Combinator on our $12M Series A, along with an amazing group of strategic partners. We are beyond grateful to have amazing people around our table that believe in us and in the future of Welcome.

Friends, although we’re moving fast and our vision is grand, this is just the beginning. In order to continually push innovation on all fronts, we need a lot more Welcomers! We are hiring across the board. If you’re passionate about building experiences that bring people together like never before, we’d love to hear from you!