Ugo, who is the founder of date night app Bloveit, may be a little bit taller and a little less Italian than Michael Tavani, but he did an excellent job representing the Switchyards brand nonetheless. Nice job, Ugo!
We again had a short roster of only four companies, due to the Prattle team being stuck in Florida after Armageddon-like weather grounded flights in the southeast. We hope to see them again at another event!
So okay, let's just dive right in, shall we?
THE PITCH RECAPS:
Rheos Gear: Floating sunglasses water junkies wear to play. | Founder Jake Berton says he built the business off a single problem he believes everyone has experienced or seen a friend go through: Sunglasses lost in water.
Having once helped a friend dive for an hour for dropped designer sunglasses (in case you were wondering, Louis Vuittons retail for around, oh, $400 a pair), I can see this need. I myself buy only cheap-as-dirt sunglasses from the gas station to avoid this hassle, but I am aware I'm in the minority (and also not fashionable at all, which is fine).
"Rheos" is the Greek word for "river current," and Jake says the name is based on this quote by philosopher Heraclitus: "No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man." Rheos Gear is built around rivers, lakes and, in general, the water junkie lifestyle.
What did they do really well? They've focused on the fundamentals, creating a product that fit a specific audience. They are continuing to develop based on the community feedback, as well as looking at the P&L and where the revenue is coming from versus doing fun things not backed by the numbers.
What can the community help with? Help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Georgia Conservancy. It's an incredible organization that protects land and water; people protect what they love, so Rheos wants to help people fall in love with it. They're doing a limited edition line, with up to $50 of each sale donated, as well as a state-wide water junkie photo contest. The top 50 photos will be printed as a coffee-table book as a fundraiser.
— Rheos Gear —
Rheos sunglasses are made of highly durable and lightweight TPX material, which makes the frames float in water. The lenses are polarized, anti-scratch, anti-reflective, impact-resistant and feature a hydrophobic rain-repellant effect. The company has worked to develop a supply chain from beginning to end so they can control all the costs and the price — they are selling, essentially, a $300 pair of sunglasses at a $50 price point.
Rheos Gear launched in March 2015 with two styles, which they sold out of within 30 days, teaching them a little more about supply chain logistics. They now have a total of 34 SKUs, have garnered some impressive accolades and reviews, and spent 2016 focused on their online sales side. Now, going into 2017, they're shifting to wholesale and retail: They're in 70 stores in the U.S. and 10 internationally, and are growing fast. They're just launching in Nordstrom's as their first big-box retailer, and have joined with Ace Hardware as a national partner. They're also staying hyper-local, teaming up with the Georgia Conservancy to celebrate 50 years of protecting Georgia’s land and water.
In addition, Rheos has found significant, unexpected traction with the fishing community, and they're in product development over bifocals for fishermen (who are constantly tying fly knots). This has also prompted them to investigate prescription sunglasses as a whole.
Most audience questions centered around the functionality of the sunglasses (they are continuing to test the hydrophobic coating and are addressing challenges with salt water); how they're finding new customers in a crowded industry (they first marketed to people they knew personally as water junkies, but are now moving into social advertising as well as the aforementioned fishing crowd); if they've considered integrating with augmented reality technology (yes, though first they want to focus on the fundamentals, on this specific market with this specific problem); and their biggest problem from the past year (inventory planning — they thought they were ahead for spring launch but it turned out they were in the nick of time, and will be working on inventory management).
For your next pair of lifestyle or adventure shades, I'd recommend Rheos Gear. Because nobody really wants to dig through the squishy bottom of a silty lake (ew) over a $400 investment.
Partnr: The new wave for the creative world. | CEO Amanda Sabreah and her co-founders have spent years in the creative space. They've led strategy, production, direction and more for enterprise companies, traveling and putting together film crews, design teams and special forces teams from graffiti artists to rappers. And they began to notice that, while on set, each creator also had their own set going on for their own brand.
The Partnr team says we now live in a story-driven economy, and the best brands are the ones producing the most and best stories. Customers are attaching to brands with stories aligned to who they are. It's no longer just Nike competing with Adidas; now it's Nike competing with you, with Switchyards, with everyone. It's all about who's telling the story the best.
Amanda says that, as she was creating stories, she realized a tremendous problem in the industry is the time it takes to put a team together, and the time spent finding not just the right person to do the job, but the person who is the best fit for the job. And that was a task in itself.
What did they do really well? They launched a prototype in June and got over 250 users in 10 days and had to shut it down because there were only three people on the team to maintain it. So they turned that experience into really listening and talking to customers and users, over and over again, and listening to needs, wants, what fit meant to them, and building it back into the product.
What can the community help with? They are getting ready to roll out to a wide audience, so they're looking for more users to help test it out and break it. They do want companies, but are also interested in entering into the community of people who are creators for a living, like musicians, illustrators, graffiti artists, etc., so please contact them if you are in that space.
— Partnr —
Partnr is an app that will quickly connect your ideas and projects to the right people, and the right teams, that best fit your brand. It is, quite simply, about sharing. You share what you and your team do (we're social beings, we want to know what others are up to), what you're working on, and ask for feedback. The app lets you connect and collaborate quickly with others, put up a project and match with people over that project. This can include people you know — Amanda told a story about spending forever asking around for a specific skill, only to find that someone she'd known for years and worked with actually did it in their spare time — and it is about building out your network.
Partnr handles not just finding the talent, but also onboarding them into your project, payments, messaging and paperwork, and even file sharing, all in one spot.
The sharing capability is built into the platform so you can share what you're working on with the entire community, including videos, sound files, photos and more. Their target customers are creators who are looking to make their craft a living, and companies looking to invest in storytelling (not just around film and video, but also design and quality creative), including agencies, production companies, startups or non-profits.
Currently, all transactions are free, but a premium system will launch in the summer that will include a transaction fee for companies and creatives. There are ratings and reviews in the platform, allowing creative and clients to rate each other, though up until now all recruiting has been word of mouth.
If you're a creative looking to sell your craft, or a company who values storytelling, check out Partnr and see how much better your next project could be.
Plenty | If you're in the cooking + food space in Atlanta, you've probably already seen founder Mary Moore around. Her first business venture was Cook's Warehouse, the extremely successful local gourmet store and cooking school chain. (Following an unfortunate purchasing incident with a beautiful pot that turned out to be too big for my oven, I am not allowed in there unsupervised anymore.)
Mary has been in the food world for almost 30 years, starting as a professional chef, and has seen the food scene evolve into what people eat becoming more and more important due to dietary restrictions and general health consciousness. She began to truly notice this with her father, who had diabetes, gout and cardiac disease, and was put on a restricted diet. Her father would go out to eat (in what Mary calls the "Apostrophe S Land" of O'Charley's, Ruby Tuesday's, TGIFriday's ... you get the idea), and in keeping with his diet was reduced to bland fish with no seasoning and steamed veggies.
"There's no joy in that," Mary says. But her dad loves tech, and so she had an epiphany: What if he could just look at an app that already knew his dietary restrictions, and it would suggest locations and dishes that matched? No more deprivation, just food he could feel good about.
Mary's dad is not alone. Let's look at the numbers: There are 17 million Americans suffering from food allergies, 100 million dieting in some way, 29 million who are diabetic, 67 percent are lactose intolerant, 40 percent suffer from heart disease ... we are all Mary's dad in some way. And sure, restaurants can put options on the menu, but it's hard to get the word out — did you know even Arby's will make you a sandwich with modifications? I didn't!
To find these options, you'd have to go to 10 different Web sites, open 10 different menus and read through the fine print under each item. But no more: Plenty solves this issue. You can just go on the website (or the iOS app), set your preferences the very first time (allergies, cuisine preferences, etc.), and then it'll return restaurants and meal options that work for you based on your profile.
What did they do really well? They brought together a group of amazing people who are passionate about the product; their development company and design firm were incredible getting to this MVP stage; and they raised the money to bring it all together and launched in Atlanta.
What can the community help with? Take out your iPhone, download the app, search for "Plenty Foods" (because just "plenty" is, apparently, some ladies of negotiable virtue and optional clothing coverage), download the app, fill out a profile, and tell them what you love and what you hate.
— Plenty —
The app also recommends restaurants to you based on that profile, favorites from "Tastemakers" who you can follow through the app, tracks your preferred locations and activity view, and shows you new restaurants in your community.
Mary says the next iteration will be using the app to zap items in a store to verify if they match your preferences, versus spending tons of extra time reading each label. (The audience loved this, and so did I!)
The app currently isn't profitable since it's still in MVP, but there will be a for-a-fee group component for companies that's being tested now with several schools. It aggregates the data and delivers it to the culinary directors, which saves them time and reduces waste. The app is currently free to all, but eventually it will only be free to users and restaurants on a basic level (and also for data-gathering purposes), with a premium subscription up next.
It's been easy for Mary to get restaurants and foodies up until now based on her connections, but that doesn't scale, so they're gearing up for a major push on marketing in the spring and summer. They are also hiring for marketing and social media (so send them recommendations!) and building the brand. The "Tastemakers" started as high-profile people in the culinary world, but they are also looking at influencers in the space now as well.
So instead of keeping a Word doc of where to eat and what you're looking for, download Plenty and start building your foodie profile today!
Landing Lion: Landing Pages for the Modern Marketer | The Landing Lion team believes that creating Web pages should be fun and simple, but that's usually not the case.
Alan Pledger, CEO and cofounder, says he started designing Web sites as a freshman in high school (he says it was because he was too small to play sports but I have trouble imagining that now), so technology was his outlet. He remembers when WordPress came out when he was 13 and how psyched he was over the ease of getting a Web site out. And once he figured out he could customize them and sell them for money, it was "game on!"
This affinity stuck with him, so when Alan graduated from Georgia Tech, he and some friends built a Web site consultancy. And then the marketing projects started piling up.
They thought there had to be a better way. They tried UnBounce, Leadpages, InstaPage, Wix, SquareSpace and more, and found them all overly complex, restrictive, or just difficult to use. So then they ... went back to WordPress. And found that, 13 years later, they were back in the exact same situation, scrolling through templates looking for the "least bad" to jam content into.
What did they do really well? They've invested in people; every single person on their team is a winner and a leader, they're team-first and "get shit done."
What can the community help with? They love SDC, they love ATL, so the best thing is to help them grow and spread the word. They launched their first official version early this month, and need help getting the word out.
— LandingLion —
"Unless we were custom coding from scratch, the template was always in control," Alan says. "We never felt like we were in control."
So they moved into a house in Little Five Points, and spent several years creating a better experience with LandingLion. The team found that simplicity and control have an inverse relationship — the more control is given to a user, the more things they have to teach, so the more users have to learn. LandingLion focused on the delicate balance of giving Web content marketing teams simplicity and control: It's easy enough for interns to use, and deep enough that an expert designer could come in and make something truly unique to their brand.
The app has all the bells and whistles: A drag-and-drop interface, easy duplication with formatting and style, A/B testing, automatic optimizing for mobile, click-tracking, full configuration with proprietary tracking analytics to follow visitors from page to page and see where they engage — you can even log into their CRM and hop into the lead and watch what that person was reading when they made the decision to convert (at this point, someone in the audience yelled out "Yes!!!").
And the entire time Alan was giving this five-minute presentation, the creative director Andrew Reifman was building a polished page from scratch, live, and he hit "publish" as Alan wrapped up. He then demonstrated the analytics and click-tracking in real time.
They don't have sales or checkout capabilities yet (though you can easily embed a "Shopify" button), but they plan to have components to integrate with lots of sales platforms; they think of LandingLion as "the Slack for Web builders." Current integrations include MailChimp, Salesforce, EventBrite and an in-progress on Zapier; they also have a plugin to convert from WordPress in three minutes.
In terms of pricing, it's entirely free with all features up to the first 1,000 views, and then it's $49/month and an additional $1 per thousand hits. The market is a crowded space but they have pride in the product and think customers will spread the word (they also have an affiliate model for those referrals). So far, freelance marketers are loving the product without any advertising, though the team does plan to allocate 30 percent of their revenue towards marketing moving forward.
Y'all. I don't even build Web pages for a living, but I want this tool. In fact, full disclosure: I liked it so much when I got a sneak peek a few months ago, I immediately asked LandingLion to pitch at ATL Startup Village last month. They rebuilt the ATV site during that presentation, so they're definitely versatile. If they accepted payment for stocks in the form of regular deliveries of baked goods, I'd be golden! (Seriously, I think they're going to outpace WordPress. I don't have any money so I can't give any to them, but if you're an investor, you should.)
With LandingLion, digital marketing is no longer a black box; now, you can test, optimize and analyze just like a professional!
That's a wrap for the fourteenth Consumer Show at Switchyards; see you there next time?