I’ve been asked how we had the original idea for SimpleCrew a couple times in the last week, so I thought it’d be a fun story to share with you folks here…
When I was in high school, I started doing street team work for 930 club and Steez Promo around Baltimore/DC.
Later in college I started managing street teams for regional music festivals, FanManager.net (Disco Biscuits, Crystal Method, and Shpongle, to name a few), and eventually Red Bull as a Brand Manager.
At the time, I was managing spreadsheets of 1000+ team members around the country, and I was having them all email me photos.
Can you imagine? It was brutal.
The iPhone came out in 2007, and for the next 5 years I waited for the app that would connect all the cameras in a “private photo sharing app” so to speak.
By 2012 I figured if nobody was doing it yet, I might as well give it a shot.
My friend Mark introduced me to Mike, and together, we started working on it.
We launched in September 2012, and have been building since 🙂
What can you learn from this?
The takeaway here is this: If you’d like to start a business or a startup but you’re not sure where to begin or what idea to pursue, just stop and take a minute to look at what’s around you.
Observe where the pain points are in your every day life. Think about industries that are underserved. Think about problems might be common throughout the industry and what services or products you might be able to build to serve those markets.
And once you get started on your first idea, new ones will keep rolling in. In fact – the tricky part once you get started will be learning which ideas to say “No” to.
Finally, don’t fret about competition. If your brilliant idea has any respectable market for it, the market can support multiple players. A competitor in a big market killing you would be like a whale trying to kill a dolphin by drinking all the water in the ocean.
If your market’s real, go for it. Otherwise, don’t bother. Don’t worry about competition when you’re just getting started.
Check it out – here’s a snapshot of the business metrics dashboard the we’re going to be using to measure ourselves internally this year (and beyond):
Looking back on 2013 – we really didn’t pay too much attention to tracking and logging product data or business metrics. We’ve had Google Analytics on the marketing page, Mixpanel in the app, and have been using basic accounting software linked up with our bank account from the beginning.
We’d check in on certain numbers over time, but really, before a certain point, most of what a startup does is qualitative. 2013 was a year of building, shipping, and selling something people would find useful. And it doesn’t take many numbers to measure that. It takes more phone calls, emails, and basic observation.
But looking forward to 2014 – it feels right. It feels like it’s about that time that these numbers are going to grow into themselves and actually become meaningful, useful metrics which we can use to make our product and our business stronger.
It’s a work in progress, so please -share your feedback if you have any!
Yesterday, we pitched in Start-Up Chile‘s Demo Day Quarterfinals. About 60 companies presented over the course of Thursday and Friday for a jury of 3 judges and an audience of fellow SUPpers.
Of the 60 entrants, 30 were selected to move on to the semifinals. For the semifinals, the 30 teams will pitch for 3 minutes to a private group of investors, with time for a Q&A after. From there, the top 15-20 will be selected to pitch as part of Start-Up Chile’s official Demo Days in Santiago and Silicon Valley in August.
Congratulations to all our friends who’ve advanced to the top 30 🙂 Here’s the list!
8 years ago, during the summer before my junior year of high school, a group of friends and I from my hometown headed to Masontown, WV for the 9th annual All Good Festival, and were treated to a music festival experience of a lifetime.
In some ways, that festival shaped my life.
That year, All Good exposed me to a lifestyle and community that I grew to love. Over the next 6-7 years, my life revolved around that community. With friends from home and school I followed my favorite bands around the country and bounced from festival to festival during the summers. All Good was a staple every year – I only missed one in the 8 years since.
All Good’s host company All Good Presents (formerly Walther Productions) gave me my first job in the music industry – a winter internship during my Sophomore year at University of Maryland. In their home office outside Frederick, MD, I met Tim, Junipa, Mook, Brett, and Blake – the team behind All Good and the numerous local shows between VA, MD, and DC.
With them, I had the chance to peak behind the curtain and learn about the industry I loved. From booking to marketing to production, I learned what went in to making the magic happen on stage. It was awesome.
After the internship, I continued working with All Good Presents as a street teamer for local shows around DC and Baltimore. It was a beautiful arrangement, the only way I could’ve afforded to go to all the amazing concerts All Good Presents was putting on every month.
It was from those experiences that I grew to love street teaming, and it was from that love that SimpleCrew was born.
So, in how I partied with my friends, then got my first job, and now in this very startup, All Good played a role in shaping my life.
Back in November when SimpleCrew launched, I started speaking with Jeff, All Good’s Marketing Director, about the app. After 3-4 months of back and forth, Jeff and the All Good team signed up, bringing again the recurring theme of All Good in my life. It’s a full circle of sorts.
It’s been a thrill watching them dominate the midwest with their street team using the app. To date they have over 500 photos posted from 50 team members across 9 different states, and they’re growing every day.
A picture is worth 1000 words though, so I’ll let this one do the talking. It’s amazing to see, and I couldn’t be more proud. Thanks, All Good! 🙂
I’m Romain, the newest member of the SimpleCrew team. I’m French, and I’m very excited to work with Alan and Mike! I’ll be in charge of the new business opportunities here in Chile, so wish me luck 🙂
Today was the first day of Start Up Chile Progress Day, where we all had to pitch our current business activities – what we’ve done so far and what is left to do during our 6 months here. SimpleCrew went 42nd out of 50, so we had to wake the crowd up after the passionate but long series of presentations of our fellow suppers! So Alan started by a demo of a example campaign with a photo of the room, and it went well 🙂
Here are the slides from SimpleCrew’s presentation. Check it out!
The idea for SimpleCrew came when Alan and his mother realized they shared a similar pain in their respective jobs – Alan as a brand manager of Red Bull and his mother, Tara, as a agricultural scientist for the USDA.
Tara and her team used photos to track the progress of research experiments in the field, and Red Bull’s team used photos to track the progress of marketing work in the field.
They were both using point-and-shoot cameras, and then transferring files or sending emails with their teams to sync-up photos. It was a mess, and with mobile, they realized there was a better way.
The SimpleCrew solution is simple – a mobile photo app for teams. For a live demo, we took the photo of the group and showed the photo on the SimpleCrew campaign, check it out SimpleCrew Start-Up Chile Live Demo
We then walked through three examples of photo campaigns from some SimpleCrew customers.
As for the business model, here are the 4 different subscriptions that we offer ranging from $20/month to $180/month, depending on how big the teams are.
So far, we’ve been able to have 9 paying customers, up from 7 since the start of Start-Up Chile. Our goal is to reach 60 by October with big expectations for the Chilean market!
Then we showed this market size slide that included a great stat – 49,000+ businesses in the Live Music, Sports, and Event Promotion industry in the United States.
If we maintain an average revenue per customer of $50/month, we’ll be a $1MM/year business when we reach 1,667 customers.
And event promotions are just the tip of the iceberg, there’s plenty more use cases for SimpleCrew!
We can see from this graph huge rises in the number of photos uploaded per week with more than 1000 photos uploaded last week! We look forward to seeing the future results!
Due to critical bug issues after the iOS 6 release, we also initiated a fully native mobile app development for iOS and Androïd with new features and higher “fluidity” in the apps.
This is it for Start Up Chile Progress Day, thanks for reading!
I was checking out our developer stats for our Android app today and saw that we broke the 100 installs benchmark earlier this week! It actually happened on my birthday, January 28 🙂
As of today, Sunday Feb 3, we’re at 105 Total User Installs on Android, and 83 “Active Device Installs”. I’m honestly not sure what usage benchmarks Google is using to define an active vs inactive user, but 83 out of 105 sounds good to me 🙂
I’d share our iOS stats, but, oddly, Apple’s “Sales and Trends” dashboard for app developers doesn’t give you an easy way to visualize how many total app downloads you have. Weird.
In industries including field marketing, property management, construction project management, insurance inspections, and more, photos play a critical role in business operations.
Photos are used to document work, report progress, maintain accountability, communicate with clients, and more.
Taking and organizing photos is a mess of point & shoot cameras, photo uploads/downloads, email attachments, and desktop folders.
There are time delays, while managers wait for cameras to get back to the office.
There are syncing issues, with no easy way to make sure everyone has access to the same folders.
What is your product or service?
Today, using SimpleCrew, teams can now upload photos via our iPhone and Android apps directly to the team’s database hosted securely in the cloud.
It happens instantly, so team members don’t have to worry about sending emails or uploading photos later.
And every photo includes time and location info, so teams can see organized campaign summaries with timelines and maps showing exactly when and where each photo was submitted from.
How far are you from having an MVP (minimum viable product)? MVP is done
What phase of development is your company in? Functional Product with Users
Are you incorporated? Yes
Who will you be selling your product or services to?
We’re focusing first on real estate investors and grassroots marketing teams. Our main sales channels are direct marketing, event sponsorships (real estate investor conventions), email marketing, and content marketing.
2.2mm real estate investors in the US.
150,000 property/real estate managers in US
195,000 construction managers in US
47,000 event promoters in US
32,000 advertising/marketing agencies in US
We launched a public beta on September 17, and have gotten an enthusiastic response from both industries.
Who are your competitors and how are they different?
Currently there are indirect competitors doing similar things for other industries, or focusing on different aspects of field team management.
Do you have any adivsory board members or mentors? Yes.
Why are you applying to Startup Chile?
We are scrappy, but still need to supplement our small amount of funding with minimal freelance work. The 40k grant will give us the freelance-free 6 month runway to bootstrap to “Ramen profitability”.
Additionally, co-founder Mike McCabe, has strong ties to Chile through the exchange program at UC San Diego with Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. In 2009, he spent 4 incredible weeks traveling Chile with 12 Chilean friends he met at UCSD, including Felipe del Sol Fernandez of AdMetricks, a current SUP company.
He had a true insider experience and has had the desire to return ever since.
How will you contribute to the Chilean entrepreneurial environment? Mike and Alan have an extensive network of over 200 start-up peers, mentors and professionals from Yelp, Techstars Seattle, 2 Techstars for a Day events, and persistent networking. We know the importance of a warm introduction and plan to leverage our network in anyway possible to help out our fellow SUP cohorts.
We’ve already been mentors to a 1st time tech entrepreneur. We are more excited than he to have Blur It app under review in apple’s app store. Being mentors is something we are very much looking forward to.
When possible, we will hire local Chileans before outsourcing.
What communities do you belong to and how do you contribute to them? Alan:
Red Bull North America – former brand manager, now connect with leads.
Yelp.com – former sales. Maintains relationships with managers and directors in NYC.
Mike : Founder’s co-op http://www.founderscoop.com/ and TechStars Seattle: Mike was a 2011 TS Hackstar in the shared workspace between Techstars Seattle and Founder’s co-op. He still remains active in google groups email chain for both TS and FC and attends the yearly Techstars networking reunion. PistonAgency, San Diego: Current freelance work for international companies such as Oakley, Mitsubishi, and Yakult.
What is your Action Plan for the 6 months in Chile? Month 1 Direct Marketing/Sales
Month 2 Paid Marketing, continued direct marketing
Month 3 Continued paid, continued SEO, continued direct marketing.
Month 4 Continued paid , continued SEO, continued direct marketing
Month 5 Continued paid, continued SEO, continued direct marketing
Month 6 Continued paid, continued SEO, continued direct marketing:
Your personal details: About the Founder Name: Alan VanToai
University: University of Maryland
Degree and Area of Study: Business, Marketing
Co-Founder of SimpleCrew.
Formerly Co-Founder of Headstash.com – an online magazine for the jam and electronic music communities.
Former Account Executive at Yelp.com – supported local business with Yelp Advertising packages.
Former Regional Brand Manager at Red Bull North America – manage regional and local marketing campaigns for Red Bull in DC and Baltimore.
Eagle Scout with the Boy Scouts of America.
Team: Letter of Recommendation Highlights
“Alan VanToai and Mike McCabe – the founders of SimpleCrew – impressed me from the beginning. They combined the dedication and energy often seen in young entrepreneurs, with the focus and talent usually reserved for the older, more experienced professionals.” How long have you been working full time on this project?
How many people are working full time on this company?
Why are you and your team members the perfect team to lead this project?
Mike and I are the quintessential hacker/hustler duo. Mike is a talented full-stack developer with a knack for creating software that solves real world problems.
I’m a business hustler who knows the market and can sell to it.
Team Member Information (1) Team Member Name: Michael James McCabe
(1) University: University of California, San Diego & University of Delaware
(1) Degree and Area of Study: M.S. Electrical Engineering, Applied Physics (UCSD) & Honors B.S. Electrical Engineering (UD)
(1) Brief Bio PistonAgency, Jan 2012 – present: Freelance development for international companies such as Mitsubishi, Oakley and Yakult.