Founder’s Round

I had the opportunity to attend Founders Meetup on Tuesday night (March 1) and listen to a few CEO’s speak about their technology, business models, milestones/goals, questions, and concerns.  They included SeatGeek, HyperPublic, and RocketHub.

SeatGeek, an NYC Seed portfolio company, is a sports and concert ticket search engine that uses predictive algorithms to show you the best price for tickets sold on secondary markets (meaning not directly from TicketMaster or another large service).  They also have spent an extensive amount of time mapping the configurations of stadium seating across America that way you can see exactly where you will be sitting during the show or game and make sure you are paying the best price on the market!

HyperPublic may be a little bit more difficult for me to explain correctly.  On the surface, at the moment at least, its gives you a simple way to tag and search people, places, or things that they you everyday and then find and connect to those things by location.  On the backend, they are creating really rich data layer from which other applications can be built.  Cofounder, Jordan Cooper, described it as the intermediary between infrastructure sites like SimpleGeo and heavy user generated content sites like Yelp.com.  Either way the opportunities that the dataset will provide to developers to build applications for local entities on the platform will be amazing.

Last one, since I really didn’t mean to go into a lot of detail about these companies.. RocketHub is similar to KickStarter, as it uses crowdsourcing to help people raise money for various projects.  Whats most interesting is their partnerships with larger brands who also join in on sponsoring some of the projects.

One of the more interesting topics that was raised was customer acquisition, which includes the debate about time spent on marketing and PR for startups.  By now everyone should have read Fred Wilson’s views on what it means for startups to spend time on different marketing initiatives.  Anyways, I wanted to point out a really interesting comment made in the audience about an example of a company that came up with a very clever, and relatively successful way to acquire customers.  The company is called Blingo (it still exists, not that anyone would use it) and they are a search engine owned by Publishers Clearing House.  However they offered one distinguishable twist from all of the other search engines in the market.  Every time a user searched for something they had the opportunity to win a prize at random.  GENIUS. Blingo successfully acquired millions of email addresses at the cost of giving away a few inexpensive prizes each day.  They also incorporated a social networking tool into it; users that recruited their friends to join would receive the same prize that any of their friends won.  Blingo encouraged their users that it was best to use the service like they would use any other search engine on a normal basis.  For the casual searcher, there was much more incentive to go to Blingo (which was using Google’s search anyways) because they had a chance to win.

While it seems obvious, I think campaigns like this could be applied to a number of platforms today whose largest priority is singing up millions of new users.  Foursquare is a great example.  Merchants that are willing to give out special offer are the most valuable for the platform because they keep users engaged.  Here’s the question: Is it possible to make it required for merchants to offer a special to a minimum number of customers on foursquare every week at random?  That would be such a huge incentive for current users who never receive anything to keep checking in and for people not currently using the service to sign up for an account.

*Note I got some information from wikipedia.  It’s credible enough in my mind. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blingo

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