My people, my people! I missed you last month, but Shannon did a fantastic job stepping in — thank you, Shannon, you are all that is great about the Switchyards community! — and last Thursday I was back for the tenth occasion of a packed-out house for #theConsumerShow. (It's #THEConsumerShow, not #ConsumerShow. That's a different, somewhat more niche sort of thing, in case you were wondering.)
There was, as always, some housekeeping first: Switchyards now has Wednesday-morning yoga ... plugging in the USB is required to make the wireless clicker work ... Tavani thinks it takes me a week to get this post up so I gotta step up my game ... some Switchyards members got all motivated and created a slick Slack-integrated directory app for SDC ... and a little announcement about a new accelerator program called Switchyards Studios. If you're non-technical founder in Atlanta with an idea for a consumer startup, you should probably pay attention to this.
Okay then, enough with the details, onwards to the pitches! (Also, these are in alphabetical order, not presentation order, because that's the way they're listed on the Eventbrite page and I'm lazy.)
THE PITCH RECAPS:
Bloveit: The Date Night App | When I first met Bloveit co-founder Ugo Ezeamuzie several years ago (at what I think was a Startup Drinks event), he started enthusiastically telling me about this idea for a date-night app. About a year later, we ran into each other again, and he said he'd created a proposal. Another year later, he had found an engineer and had a prototype and a booth at Startup Crawl. And about a year after that, he's pitching his app in Beta release at the Consumer Show. Y'all, I love watching startup ideas turn into reality!
So okay, what does it do? Bloveit says it's "the fastest, easiest, and most delightful way to find the best date ideas in your city. Imagine if all your dates started with 'Wow! How did you find this place?' " Essentially, the app helps singles and couples narrow down the right date-night plan. I want you to first think how you plan things right now, using Yelp, Google, Creative Loafing, Thrillist, Eventbrite, online menus, OpenTable and so on. It's a pain, right? Instead, Bloveit does the curating for you, going beyond things like just the food and drinks and looking at noise level, dress code, type of crowd, decor, musical selection and more, to evaluate the entire experience to determine if it's a match for you and your date.
What did they do really well? They talk to their users. Ugo says it's cliche but they're "borderline obsessed" with feedback, and the SDC community alone had nearly half the audience raising their hands that they've already tried it and helped out. Additionally, Bloveit has been slow to build features based on only one or two requests, and instead has waited to get a consensus that the feature is needed, and that it matches their target audiences.
What can the community help with? Use the app, find a great date, and give the Bloveit team your feedback! Note: They have been known to bribe users for feedback with popcorn, chips, Hershey's Kisses and wine!
— Bloveit —
Ugo got the idea when he was single and living in NYC, and he and his buddies started keeping favorite date spots on a list they emailed around. The group using the list got bigger and bigger until, one day, Ugo received an email from a random dude he and his buddies had never even met asking for the most updated version. That's when he knew they had a valuable idea.
The app allows users to do three main things: Discover new places or activities by scrolling through the feed; plan a specific date; and recommend great follow-up ideas (if, say, that dinner date is going really well and you want to find a great dessert place nearby to keep the night going). Users can even save favorite date spots on the Blovelist to refer back to later.
They're not in the app store yet and are currently in a private Beta, but you can sign up on their Web site in about 30 seconds and they'll send you an invite. There's not a set date to get out of Beta yet, as they're testing until they can ensure customer retention. Ugo says he strongly believes the app store is only a distribution channel, albeit a good one, but so is word of mouth, so they first want to make sure the product is sticky and people love it before getting out of Beta.
They're focused on building standalone value right now and then may look at integrating into Bumble or Tinder as a way to scale in the future; similarly, they're sticking to the date-night focus for the moment but could eventually open up the platform for groups of friends going out together. They also view integrating into a digital system like Alexa or Google Home as a future step.
So next time you head to the same old place for a date, first take a minute to check out Bloveit; you might find a whole new side of the city is out there waiting for you to discover it!
gottaGolf: Create, share and explore amazing golf videos | GottaGolf is a pretty awesome example of going to market with one idea, realizing people actually wanted only one part of it, and pivoting to focus on that piece. (Wanna-be entrepreneurs out there, take note: Sometimes you gotta let go of your "great idea" and be open to feedback to be successful.)
What did they do really well? They leveraged Instagram to build a large and engaged following, which has helped in many ways during the iterations of the app. This allowed quicker feedback, ways to reach new users, and options for existing users to re-engage in the app. They found a great formula to building a following, and are happy to share some secrets if you reach out!
What can the community help with? Raising a round of funding to fuel growth; with an initial friends-and-family round only, this will be the first larger round Clint has closed as a founder, and he'd love some feedback, criticism or advice for fundraising.
— gottaGolf —
When they launched a year and a half ago, their original pitch was to help people plan golf outings with a social platform experience. However, they began to notice that users gravitated naturally to the content-sharing portion much more than organizing rounds of golf, so the gottaGolf team began to build more features around that aspect. Those features became even more popular, and the app changed focus. Now, they provide a unique experience golfers don't get anywhere else — gottaGolf is on a mission to reignite the golf world through the power of user-generated content and social media.
Founder Clint Jarvis says the world we live in is fueled by user-generated content, and millions share on social media every month, but everyone wants to share something unique, something engaging; nobody wants to be boring. Instagram and SnapChat became popular with the ability to add filters and overlays, which made their platforms more engaging. GottaGolf is following that trend and amplifying engagement in golf by empowering golfers to create and share better videos, with easy ways to capture, enhance and share. Users can add a balltracer overlay (a crowd favorite), a strobe effect on the backswing, and custom golf emojis to overlay on any video.
The gottaGolf community also serves as a place to connect with fellow golfers, and allow users to explore the best around the world, sharing trick shots, your best hole-in-one, and more. As the number-one-ranked golf app in the app store, they are becoming the go-to for golf enthusiasts, influencers and coaches.
GottaGolf is growing at more than 4,000 new users per week with minimal marketing spend, currently has around 65,000 users (up from 20,000 just six weeks ago) and gets about five million impressions per month! In the future, they will offer even more variety of special effects and overlays, as well as a more immersive content-sharing experience with geolocation and automated machine learning. They're also looking for a major funding round, with which they will continue to invest in the product (more ease of use on the balltracer technology, for example), as well as scale up from a marketing standpoint and get in front of more people via important influencers.
As for monetization, the plan is to be the go-to platform for brands, empowering them to get valuable impressions with target consumers, in addition to more traditional in-app advertising. Some audience members asked about corporate golf tournaments, and Clint said they plan to offer custom overlays via geolocation for sponsored tournaments, as well as options for golf courses themselves to customize the experience.
As of this month, gottaGolf is profitable, having just brought on their first round of advertisers.
It just goes to show that, sometimes, you have to be open to change to find success.
LocateYourCare: Your on-demand healthcare app | LocateYourCare is a mobile platform that directly connects patients and providers, when and where they need it, with upfront pricing. If you're not sure what you'd do with this, co-founder Faton Gjuka has a story for you:
Faton was playing with his 18-month-old son, who's an active little boy. He was doing some yoga-like poses with him, and got into a downward dog that threw his back out. Faton needed help ASAP, and while he'd heard of chiropractors he had never used one. So he did what most of us would do: He went to Google, posted on Facebook, and got 10 suggestions back. He had to go to multiple different Web sites to contact each chiropractor, and ended up on hold for more than 10 minutes with one; left a voicemail with another; never got an answer with a third; and finally ended up booking the first doctor who answered the phone just because he'd actually connected! And then, of course, the first available appointment was three days later, and coincided with a super important 10 a.m. meeting — not the best experience, overall.
What did they do really well? They built the platform beyond MVP, contrary to other startups, but built it with low market value because of existing provider relationships and testing in one vertical at a time. They also have a small full-time team and 13 independent contractors, with the majority working because of belief in the business or a small equity share, so they're mainly self-financed up to this point.
What can the community help with? Download the app, share and like it on Facebook, and introduce them to cool people! If you're testing the app (currently iPhone only), you can use promo code "consumershow" to get $40 off a massage and try it out! Also, they're hiring for a developer or a generalist. Send them some referrals!
— LocateYourCare —
Now, imagine that instead of this whole rigamarole, Faton could have just logged into an app, entered what he needed and when, and had providers with reviews bid back on his appointment, with upfront pricing. Now he can with LYC: Healthcare that's as easy as Uber. (Because isn't everything "the Uber of something" these days?)
LYC is redefining the patient experience end-to-end, with on-demand care. They take the patient's request and distribute it to the provider network; the providers get an alert and can fill in open slots in their schedule, instead of wasting empty appointment times, and the entire payment process is cashless and through the app. They launched six weeks ago with chiropractors for testing, and have had positive responses; dentistry and massage providers launched Nov. 18 as well. Test users so far have loved it for the convenience factor, and providers like it for the convenience as well as guaranteed payments and building their client base.
The turnaround time from a consumer request to a doctor accepting has been as little as two minutes, as providers get alerts on their smartphones and can book right away. LYC would like to expand this time a little, however, to help grow that network. The company screens the providers, checking accreditation, NPI scores, ratings across multiple sites, and in Atlanta have been doing onsite checks (which they admit don't scale). Moving forward, it will be on the consumer base to review providers, and those with low ratings will first get warnings and then be removed from the network.
LYC does not currently support insurance payments. While the services are mostly preventative and elective care, which are often not covered by insurance, LYC feels their service empowers people to make better choices with their money and care.
You all know how I feel about the convenience of apps, so I love the concept. But since they are iPhone-only at the moment and I'm an Android girl (don't hassle me, I work with engineers) I couldn't test it out yet; as soon as it's available I will be sure to book a massage and let you know how it goes. (Discount code in the sidebar above if you want to give it a go!)
rented. You’ve found your dream vacation home. Find your dream property manager. | Rented. (yes, that extra period is in there on purpose ... I know, it makes my grammar-loving little heart struggle, but bear with me on this) promises that "finding the perfect person to care for your second home has never been easier." For those of you with second homes (ahem ... not me), listen up: No longer are you dependent on "professionals" who charge the earth to rent your home and yet make you take all the risk; no longer must you waste 8.4 hours per week of your life (apparently "only" the time that HomeAway tells homeowners they'd spend on phone calls, changing sheets, handing out keys — that's 400 hours per year, by the way).
What did they do really well? So Andrew says this is only "maybe just kinda well," but they didn't over-build early on. When people talk about "MVP," they overthink what's truly minimum. The Rented. cofounders with zero tech experience found that they could get deals with just cell phones, emails, and Google spreadsheets. They'd collect it all and run auctions, and had basically no Web site either (just a free landing page to capture emails). Be very lean and humble and find product-market fit before you overbuild what you think is the answer.
What can the community help with? They want more homeowners; they are the only wholesale marketplace for this, 750 cities, six continents (haven't quite broken Antartica yet...), so if you know someone with a second home, they would like to pay you $250 for a referral. Register here: bit.ly/referrented
— rented. —
Co-founder Andrew McConnell says short-term rentals like Airbnb are incredibly painful for homeowners, with stories of apartments trashed, parties thrown, drug-fueled orgies when they thought they had a nice Mormon couple staying for the weekend (no, I absolutely did not make up that line, the phrase "drug-fueled orgies" has now been uttered at the Consumer Show). Not to mention that people who can afford a second home tend to be wealthy (duh) and don't want to spend their valuable time on dealing with renters. And yes, there are pros who do this for a living but apparently the status quo is to charge an enormous amount and retain the risk on the homeowner. That seems ... less than desirable from a homeowner point of view.
Rented. is a wholesale market that connects homeowners with professional managers. The owners create a listing, just like Airbnb, but instead of having to deal with all of the inquiries, more than 700 managers across more than 70 countries bid against each other to buy "blocks" of 48 or 52 weeks at a time. Then those property managers handle all the rental side. They get new properties, and the homeowners get a guaranteed income and don't have to do any of the work.
There are checks and balances in place to guarantee condition of the homes: There is a fee and an approval process (with interviews, and licenses in states where that's required) to sign up as a property manager, and there is a homeowner-friendly contract where the maintenance and repairs are delegated to the manager, who's legally obligated to return the home in the same condition.
So really, you can relax. It's rented.
Tallyy: The easiest way to receive Yes/No feedback on anything! | So ... yeah, basically, if you are an indecisive person who wants feedback on your choices, this is the app for you. Tallyy is exactly what it says: a social app that allows users to ask their friends (and the world) yes/no questions about anything, and receive tallied feedback. You ask, and people vote. That's about it. Well, okay, you can add a photo ("Is this outfit cocktail attire?" ... "Should I buy this drone?"), and you can now comment as well ("Yes, BUT ...") but in general, that's all there is to it.
Co-founder Robert Gilbert wants to know, what if you could ask the entire world a yes/no question about anything? What would you ask? (I can't answer that ... honestly, I'm maybe not the target audience here because, well, I either do some research or I just make a decision, but maybe I'm being way too serious about this. Maybe it's fun to outsource your choices?)
What did they do really well? Rapid iterations on user feedback, which they leveraged and used to build on the product and make it better. People used social media to talk about what they did and did not like, and they had curated feedback.
— Tallyy —
Robert says people make thousands of decisions every day, every minute and every hour, but there is no social network to share that moment, because if you put it on Twitter or Facebook you just get a conglomeration of likes, tweets, etc., that you then have to categorize. Tallyy lets you enter moments of indecision and get feedback instantly. They coexist with the other social apps because they target the small moments, and possibly only compete in a social polling niche. Wishbone, their closest competitor, requires two pictures, for example, and users don't want to look for two pics, they just want to post a question. (Tallyy also allows video capture, which others do not.)
Based on user feedback, they did add the ability to comment for those not-so-binary decisions, and currently you don't control what you have access to vote on, as any user can vote on any person's question. At first when you log in, you see popular topics, and as you grow a user base and followers you'd eventually see a friends list. Users can, however, report inappropriate content and filter that out. In the future, Tallyy will curate a "popular posts" section, for example the top five trending decisions.
They also integrate with social media channels so you can share on Facebook or Twitter and pull in respondents that way (Robert says he used the integrations to ask people if he should keep his beard or not; sadly, he says, the beard lost, 20-10 votes).
Tallyy's ad model is that the call-to-action is baked into the content, because everything is a CTA. Promoters, brands and entrepreneurs can promote a product or offering for simple feedback. For example, Nike could ask, "Do you want LeBron James' new shoe?" and leverage that for a new product release.
I can see the potential with advertisers and promoters, or even brand and social media influencers, but I have a hard time thinking I'd personally use an app for that many decisions in my daily life. It just doesn't feel that "sticky" to me. I'm not even sure that I'd listen to a crowd-sourced opinion when I couldn't validate their expertise in that particular area (if you're a designer, for example, your opinion on fashion counts more than, say, my cousin Jenny's). However, I'm also aware that I am an opinionated lady who likes to research, and that's not for everybody, so I'm not discounting the app. (And maybe I'm just a cranky old lady yelling at kids to get off my lawn. Totally possible.)
I'd love to hear more demographics on Tallyy's users as it's probable that the target audience is, say, pre-teens and teens, where conformity is the key to survival (we've all been there). At any rate, I wish Tallyy the best and look forward to seeing where it goes!
That's a wrap for the tenth Consumer Show at Switchyards; see you there next time?