Founders’ Friday: Christopher Bell, Wagglez
Hi, Brandon here again. Today’s featured Friday founder is Christopher Bell from Wagglez. I had the opportunity to sit down and talk to him about his company and what inspired him to get started. Enjoy.
Founder: Christopher Bell
BC: Tell me a little bit about your company:
CB: Wagglez is mobile digital coupon app for your smart phone; it focuses on local discover and bringing users discounts in local stores and bars in the Athens area.
BC: Where did the idea come from?
CB: It came from a trip that I had with a buddy to Seattle to watch a football game. The boosters for the Cornhuskers had flown out a band and that band tends to play the night before all games. Through dumb luck, we found out where the band was playing and met a bunch of people from Seattle who told us all the nice places to eat and have a beer. It was the best trip I had ever had to another city. I realized it was because I had the local environment curated for me by people who knew the cool things to do around town.
BC: Why should your target audience use your product and not your competitor’s?
CB: We are the only truly digitized coupon app in Athens so there is no true competition per se. The difference between us and Groupon or other deal sites is that you don’t have to pre-pay or pre-purchase your coupon. For example, with Groupon you may want to get a back rub for $40 and its 50 percent off of the original $80; but you’re committing to using that within the next 2-4 weeks. However with Wagglez, there is no pre-buying. Also our merchant partners, daily deal sites, have total freedom to create whatever deals they want at any time in a real-time environment. Wagglez is much more real-time and local-focused deal app than any of its competitors.
BC: What have been some of your biggest challenges so far?
CB: Creating an in-house development team was a real success for us. We original were working with an offshore team in India and there was just a lot difficulties executing and communicating the vision because of cultural and time factors. There was always a communication lag due to the time difference. Working with an in-house team is more efficient because we can have weekly meetings; if something is not working, we can run across the hall and get it fixed right away.
BC: What is the most significant thing you have learned in the process of building your company?
CB: Whatever it is that I think is neat inside my head, doesn’t mean that the market is also going to think it’s neat. It is important to listen to what reality is telling you about the company you are creating and making sure you are pivoting in response to that reality.
BC: Where do you see your company in the next year?
CB: In the next year, our plan is to be released in all of the towns which host SEC/ACC Big 10 and Big 12 football teams. The idea behind that is a person who uses it year-round in Athens and decides to go to a football game somewhere else can just turn on the app and instantly know what venues to frequent.
BC: Are you from Athens; if not how did you end up here? Do you plan on staying?
CB: I am not from Athens; I am a native Texan but I do plan on staying. I came here when I studied psychology. After getting my PhD, I became a professor at Augusta State for about four years; then I had the experience in Seattle which led to the creation of Wagglez. I knew there was good tech in Athens, a healthy environment for local small businesses, a thriving downtown, great football, a healthy music scene with a deep history, and I figured it would be the best place to launch. Plus it’s just cool as hell.
BC: What has been the highpoint in building your company?
CB: The highpoint for me happened about a month and a half ago. When the tech team completes a coding development sprint, they have what is called a show and tell where they show what they are doing. The highpoint for me was when I was sitting with the tech team and Angel, one of the tech developers, created a merchant account and made a fake coupon and hit submit; the guy next to me John Maxwell pulled out his iPhone and it popped up on his coupon feed. That is when I realized this is real and its happening; and we are going to be live in a few weeks.
BC: What is the best thing about being the founder of your own company?
CB: I feel like I am doing something that will have high impact. I always enjoyed teaching because I felt like I was sharing knowledge with people and you could measure it on tests. However, there isn’t a clean metric on how much people are using this knowledge in their day to day life. I am really hip to local commerce, so Wagglez will be very black and white metric driven and I will be able to see how I am helping consumers connect with businesses and vise-versa in a meaningful way. I enjoy knowing people who live in my community will be benefiting from something that I created.
BC: What particular quality do you bring to the table that makes you a good founder?
CB: The particular quality that I bring to the table is that I have studied and taught subjects such as cognitive and social psychology. I have an understanding of how the human mind works and that has obvious connections to the user experience and what consumers and businesses want from an app.
BC: What is your favorite thing to do when you are not working?
CB: I love to spend time with my daughter and wife MaryAnne.
BC: Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about your startup?
CB: We are eager to see how people respond to our product. We are going to be live in a few weeks and we hope that people try it out and recognize that it is our first beta launch of this magnitude and there are going to be a lot of additional features coming soon. For example, the ability to search will be an added feature. If you want to go out with friends and have pizza, on Wagglez you can put in the key term “pizza” and it will show all the discounts that are currently valid for pizza. Secondly, after launch, our next version will include the ability to ‘favorite’ places. If you have a favorite bar, restaurant or shop around town that you like, you can actually favorite them and anytime that those merchants upload a new coupon it gets pushed to your phone immediately. Right now we are focused on just getting the product out there; but I want people to know that in a few months consumers will have much more control of the coupons they are receiving and how they can interact with local businesses. Rather than just being a digital place coupon book that you flip through to find a deal, this will be a much more intelligent and efficient system to filter those deals in a way that makes the most sense to consumers.
If you would like to know more about Wagglez, you can visit their website.