Geoff Wood: Welcome to the Welch Avenue Show Episode #57. This is the second part of our State of the Now monster episode recorded during the Gravitate Grand Opening. If you missed part 1, you probably want to go back and check it out. That’s episode number Episode 56. Big thanks to guest co-host Ben McDougal for his hard work in recording this, Ben take it away:
Ben McDougal: Cheers. All right, I saw Shawn really close by, so I had to grab him, bring him over here to learn a little bit more about where you're building, the state of now for you. Shawn, I overheard a year anniversary, so I'll let you take it from here, bud.
Shawn Harrington: Yeah, one year anniversary. Everyone's here to celebrate Gravitate, today, and it's awesome to have them here, in the space. Yeah, we'll be hopefully, some of the next big startup events. I know you're rolling with Des Moines Startup Drinks.
Ben McDougal: Yeah, that's happening nowish.
Shawn Harrington: Yeah.
Ben McDougal: We really infused it, and I know you had some involvement with that event, so I want to publicly thank you for continuing to push that even forward before I was able to get my hands on it. Tell us more a little bit about yourself and, we talked about a year anniversary, but you didn't mention what. Maybe a little bit more about what you're building.
Shawn Harrington: With that, with Bloomsnap, Lyndsay Horgan, formerly Lyndsay Clark, her and I went out on a mission started at a Startup Weekend Ames in 2013. It was the idea of the better way to buy flowers online, we were focused very much on the product at that time, and people knew the Stinky Flowers concept of ... people just didn't enjoy their experience. They felt they were overpaying online, and after startup weekend, we really dug into it, and said, it needs to be a new way to do this. When we stated working with the florists, they said the problem with excessive inventory, it's based on people not buying fresh stock, and we have the fresh flowers here ready to go, but what's a better way to get it to the people?
That's what Lyndsay and I worked on. We launched it as Bloomsnap February 1st of last year. We're about ready to roll up on the one year of that.
Ben McDougal: What an exciting time for you with February coming close. I know that Valentine's Day is kind of a big deal in that industry. What's one of your strategies as you approach a hot time of year?
Shawn Harrington: As we look at it, it simply comes down to get loud. We've been a part of this community, and reaching out, getting new customers throughout the year, and a lot of people mentioned throughout that time, hey, Valentine's day, Mother's day, those hot holidays, whenever they were buying from us before, it's like, hey, I'm going to be back. I found that even with Secretary's day, and Mother's day last year, it's just simply reminding people. Not spamming them during that, just saying, hey, don't forget this is coming up. People appreciate that, if it's done correctly.
That's why I think Lindsey and I really focused on building good relationships with the people throughout the year. The customers we have, a lot of repeat customers already using Bloomsnap. It's how do we grow that, and it's just that we think it is the marketing is a reminder. Hey, we're here, we know you have to buy flowers. A lot of people, we won't say "Have to." They want to, some guys say "I have to buy flowers every year." It's just making sure we're a resource for them in the right place.
Ben McDougal: I don't know if it came up in the 1 Million Cups presentation, or where it was, but for some reason, do you have some work, something that someone can opt into in order to get those friendly reminders, as to, Hey, it's your mother's birthday coming up in a couple of weeks. Would you like to engage that, or grab some flowers?
Shawn Harrington: Yeah, and we have been asked that a lot throughout the year. Obviously, like most startups here, and young companies, there's future development plans, and what you plan to do. Not giving anything away, really by saying that people want that from our service. It's a great thing to hear from them. We do plan to build it in.
Ben McDougal: That's awesome. Know that I actually, this is a testimonial for you. I used you guys during Valentine's Day last year.
Shawn Harrington: That's right!
Ben McDougal: I remember my wife kind of hinting at flowers again this year. She's like, Why don't you just use that whatever company it was that you did last time? I was like, "Oh, Bloomsnap! Of course. Yeah, I can definitely talk to Shawn and Lyndsay." Know I'll try not to make it as urgent this time. But flower orders are coming your way soon, my friend.
Shawn Harrington: Yes. Appreciate that, and thank you for using Bloomsnap. Especially in our pilot stage. We're just a few weeks into it.
Ben McDougal: And I got some nice flowers, so hopefully it continues, my friend. Thanks again for sitting down, enjoy the rest of your evening, and keep going.
Shawn Harrington: All right. Thanks, man.
Ben McDougal: Zach Kreger has joined us now, and one of the more interesting characters that I've gotten to know over the last few years. Zach, welcome to the show, I supposed we're calling it, at this point. We got quite a few good conversations, but as we've been doing with all the other folks that have joined us here, tonight, share a little bit about yourself, and what you're building here in the Des Moines area.
Zach Kreger: Thanks, man. I have a startup called Offspring. It's a mobile app for your iPhone and really, if you have kids, young age, it's really perfect for you, because you can capture the moments as they occur, whether it's a photo, really cool, a moment that the first time they walk, the first time they crawl, anything like that. You can capture that, you can share with family and friends, and you can really keep it for forever and don't let those moments go by. We designed it because a lot of people have a baby book, and they just never had it around, it wasn't there to capture the moments when they occurred, and so they just never got captured.
Ben McDougal: Sure.
Zach Kreger: Given the fact that we have our mobile devices with us all the time now, it just made sense to have this.
Ben McDougal: It's interesting to look at, even our parents, one generation behind, how they have limited photography, and the photos that they do have is these really crappy things that came out of those cameras, that spun out one Polaroid.
Zach Kreger: I don't know about you, but if you go through my old photo albums, the one thing that you notice, is every birthday. There's photos at every birthday.
Ben McDougal: Bring the camera out.
Zach Kreger: Right. Every Christmas, right? What about the things that occur in between those times?
Ben McDougal: Like the coffee you had yesterday. Maybe not. When you think about the amount of digital data that humans are creating these days, even compared to a year ago, compared to ten years, there's a crazy stat out there, that the amount of data that humans are developing, even over the last couple of years, is more than the entire civilization of humans combined. It's accelerating so fast. To provide, not only a neat, I mean, here user interfaces still one of the cleanest experiences I've always enjoyed ...
Zach Kreger: Thanks.
Ben McDougal: But to provide that micronetwork, to not be afraid of sharing that photo because it's all your Facebook friends, but instead being able to select certain people, keeping it within the family, if you will, I've always enjoyed that option that you give users.
Zach Kreger: Yeah. We really designed it for parents, right? Parents, of course they're worried about privacy. I mean, it's their kids. We give them ultimate control. They can make things just parents only, when they share a moment, just private. They can share with their family and friends on Offspring, and then you can also share with Facebook and Twitter, they're larger networks. We really put the power in their hands and say, "Hey, use this as the tool to do all of your sharing, and then you decide on each moment how you want to share it. And it's just perfect."
Ben McDougal: I know one of your neat features is the photo album. As you create these collections of moments, you can literally collaborate with Wallgreens and end up with this nice piece for your family. How is that been going?
Zach Kreger: It's been going good. I mean, what we know from parents and moms, is that they love scrap booking. They love having something physical, but what they don't love is spending hours and days creating these things.
Ben McDougal: Right.
Zach Kreger: If we could simplify that for them, and you store all the moments in here, share them, and when you're ready, you just select the moments you want printed, it can be a gift, it can be a memento, whatever you want to use it for.
Ben McDougal: Right.
Zach Kreger: It's super easy to use, and it's a great quality product.
Ben McDougal: I would have not just put you on the hot seat too bad and ask what's coming next for you, but I do have an open-ended question. What's one resource that would help you dramatically accelerate your project?
Zach Kreger: Basically, we're in fundraising phase right now. We need additional funds to do the things that are in our minds, and on our plans to do. Those plans include doing an android version, doing a mobile web version, offering different sets of printed products with our redesigning some of the interface, so it is more efficient for some of the things that our parents want to do. All that, it takes resources, it takes time. We want to share this with the world. To do that, we do need to have the funds to do it, and we created the product with our initial funds, we had a nice runway, we're getting to the end of that, we need to say, "Hey, bring somebody on."
I think we got it, wait, and they have something really good, we just need to hit the accelerator. Without additional funds, we can't do that. That's our number one priority.
Ben McDougal: Awesome. I figure if I ask that question with a lot of people, money is always something that's nice to have. But in some cases, it's more meaningful at the moment in time where you're at than others, that's good to know. Definitely appreciate you sitting down, and sharing a state of now with Offspring and everything going on with Zach.
Zach Kreger: Always love talking with you.
Ben McDougal: Cheers.
Zach Kreger: Cheers.
Ben McDougal: It's kind of fun to sit here as Spencer walked by, I had to grab him. Builder of Bawte, that's kind of a cool title. Spencer is building Bawte and was a new friend that I was able to get to know as I was able to join you guys during your Techstars demo day in Boulder. It's been almost a couple of months since that. Spencer, welcome to this experimental show that's becoming kind of cool.
Spencer Herzberg: Yeah, thanks. Good to be here.
Ben McDougal: I'll quickly turn it over to you, share a little bit about yourself, and the state of now over at Bawte.
Spencer Herzberg: Things are still pretty crazy. When we last talked in Boulder we weren't sleeping much, we were working all day, all weekend.
Ben McDougal: That was such a cool environment. I envied and did not envy you at the same time. It was cool.
Spencer Herzberg: Yeah, it was a crazy experience. Something that I'll never forget, ever. It was a really tough decision to come and do that full time, leaving my old job. But it was something that, literally, it's a once in a lifetime thing. Not many people go through a tech accelerator more than once.
Ben McDougal: Let alone Techstars.
Spencer Herzberg: Let alone Techstars. Yeah, it's a crazy experience. It was awesome. Getting back here, we're still pushing pretty hard, working long hours, but it's totally worth it because I think we're on the verge of something pretty big. Getting some extra funding, hiring some more people, things are going really well.
Ben McDougal: That's awesome. I wonder, and John is not here. He's out there pitching and doing his job.
Spencer Herzberg: He's out pitching in Wisconsin. Right.
Ben McDougal: John Jackovin, is not able to join us. I'm curious, has there been like a hangover of all the excitement, the energy, the amazingness that was that Techstars experience? You come back into a "normal life," you start getting back into a grove. How were you able to maintain that energy two, three, six months a year after that experience?
Spencer Herzberg: We had a little bit of a hangover, maybe the first couple of days.
Ben McDougal: And I'm not suggesting that there is, I'm just asking.
Spencer Herzberg: We did. We took a couple of days, because we needed to settle down, and be with our families, and what not. Visit people. After that, we're all so jacked about the experience and all of the connections that we have, and all of the momentum that we had, we really didn't stop that long. We're three months-ish after that, after Techstars, and we're still hitting it pretty hard. Everybody is still super jacked about it, the whole atmosphere around the Bawte office, and we have the remote in play, too. We talk to him all the time. The atmosphere is, let's keep going hard, because we all know we have something good going on.
Ben McDougal: One of the things that I'm curious about, is how closely connected do you stay with that Techstars? Maybe not necessarily the day to day stuff, but obviously the network is so critical when you think about what they've plugged you into, how has that churned, now that you've graduated the program and you are starting to maybe close some deals, and seeing how that network comes to life.
Spencer Herzberg: It's been kind of cool. We always have an e-mail thread that we can get with our graduating class of Boulder this last year. You have that thread, you have a couple other messaging platforms, and we've asked for some thing from the whole group to email out stuff, twit out stuff with new features. They have asked us. There's probably been twenty or thirty different message topics about, hey, we just released this feature. Can you twit this out for us? The whole experience was amazing. The closeness of all the people, everyone feels like we can just email that group, and then someone will help us out if we have questions on certain tech topics, or business development, or marketing, or whatever. There are groups of people who have an experience and an expertise in certain areas, and we can definitely go back to that group at any time. That's happened already.
Ben McDougal: Right. That network is almost unmatched, and it's something that I always really respected. Being a part of that Techstar demoday, I joke because I came in and enjoyed the fun part, where you guys have been building for so long. I will be honest, that was one of the most inspiring weekends of my entire last year and so, congratulations again for you guys, and what you're building. It's definitely neat to see you continue building right here in Des Moines. Any last words as we close this off?
Spencer Herzberg: Not a lot, except for thanks for having me on, and good luck with this.
Ben McDougal: We'll need it, Spencer. Thanks again, bud.
Spencer Herzberg: Thanks.
Ben McDougal: I saw him across the room, and obviously it was an interesting opportunity to have Ben Milne sit down with Dwolla and talk a little bit more about kind of the state of now with what a neat company. Without further ado, I definitely want to put the mike in front of you, and hear a little bit more about what you're building. A lot of people know, but I want to hear more from you.
Ben Milne: Right now, I think we're just working on building up the team in Des Moines. Our product doesn't change for a while. We're concentrating on building what we believe is sort of the pen and network of the future, which is internet, merely digital payment network. We've got a great team in Des Moines and I think we're at a little over sixty total, and I think forty of those people are in Des Moines. Actually, the first time I met Geoff I was trying to sell him Dwolla, get him to write a story about it for Silicon Prairie News. To see, I guess this space, and just the event, it's sort of surreal to see how all this has come from dudes going to coffee shops and somehow the community happened, and it's really special.
Ben McDougal: The startup community here, in Des Moines, has had some interesting involvement over the years, and something that I know you stuck up for in the heart of New York, or in the heat of LA, or even internationally. I'm curious, as you travel and share the story of Dwolla, what is some of the favorite moments that come to mind that you've been able to experience over the last year or two? That's a loaded question.
Ben Milne: It's too many to count. The community, and the way it operates has given me a lot of room to do things personally, and in the last year, got married, built a family, we have a baby on the way, those are things that I think are very special out side of work.
Ben McDougal: How has that affected your life? Work/balance type stuff.
Ben Milne: We sort it out. We make the time for the things that are important, and ultimately, I'm also very fortunate that we've been able to build what I feel like it's a strong executive team that's allowed me to have more of a life as a person and as a human. That's been pretty fantastic. Being able to think about the future of the company, and just how that plays out has been great.
Inside of sort of the community as a whole, I think one of the most important things that's happened over the past couple of years is Gravitate. Startup city was super important to all of us, and as that wound down, everybody wondered what was next. What's next is sitting in front of everybody, and I don't recognize most of the people here.
Ben McDougal: Which is beautiful to me, yeah.
Ben Milne: Right. Two years ago, you would have known every person in the room. Now, all of a sudden, who the fuck are all of these people?
Ben McDougal: Just so you know, that's the first swear word after this long. Now I have to beep.
Ben Milne: You could not beep me out.
Ben McDougal: I've been so good. Now it's open. Let's do this.
Ben Milne: It's exciting, though. I don't recognize everybody here, and I don't know what everybody's building. Two years ago, I could have gone around the room and I could have said, well this is their project, this is who's building it, this is what's going on. All of a sudden there's an undercurrent of new things being built, the distinct difference is, this place knows how to feed itself. People pay rent to be here. That feels like an obnoxious thing to say for anybody outside of the startup community. Our community's gone from we're trying to just get people interested, to they're making enough money independently to actually make the community survive, and people externally are putting money into help those things go faster.
The companies that are in this space are generating their own revenue. Companies in this building have a substantial amount of outside investment, and this is where we started, too. This is surreal. It's awesome.
Ben McDougal: Right. That's really cool. We're really hyping Des Moines. I know you do that no matter where you're at. What's your favorite hotspot here in the Des Moines community?
Ben Milne: I'm really selfish in the sense that I love work and I love home. Those are my two places, and I want to be producing and making great things that work, and I want to be producing and contributing at home. I think I've given up spending time in places outside of that, just because I think I get such a rush out of those two things specifically, but, you know, it's hard to ignore getting tops at El Bait Shop. It's hard to ignore grabbing a slice from Fongs. It's hard to say no to a dinner when you get to go to Flying Mango. We got to go to Alba last night. It's hard to say no to these quintessential Des Moines things, and it's hard not to be excited about Mars opening up a place in the East village.
All of these quintessential Des Moines things have just gotten bigger and stronger, and I guess I keep using the word surreal, but it's incredible what's been happening over the last couple of years, and I'm so thankful it's continued to happen, and I'm so thankful that I've been able to focus on a few specific things. But God. It's so fucking cool to watch.
Ben McDougal: I love it, though. I love it, though. Last but not least, a little bit of insight for anyone who might be listening. I'm curious as you lead all these people Internationally, around the world, what is something that you do to break the ice for someone meaningful that you're looking to create a good conversation with. What's the approach that you take.
Ben Milne: Don't start meaningless conversations. Ask people good questions. And ask them questions that they would only know the answer to. I think Live is full of opportunities to ask questions that you can't Google, and those are the answers that will provide you with the most meaningful insight that other people may or may not ever have. That, to me, is a pretty glorious way to start a conversation. Having a conversation to fill time just sucks. Right?
Ben McDougal: What a neat way to put it. Something you can't Google.
Ben Milne: Information is more scarce than people think in a world where we think information is everywhere. Knowledge and what hasn't been put on the internet has become this new level of scarcity. I think that's my own philosophical ramble, that at the end of the day there's a lot of people here doing things I don't know anything about that I want to learn more about, and it's not because I'm trying to fill time. I want to be here. I think a lot of other people do, too.
Ben McDougal: Yeah. That's a beautiful exit. I appreciate you sitting down and sharing some of your thoughts. I wish you the best to learn more about all the crazy things people are building. Thanks again, Ben.
Ben Milne: Thank you. Sorry for the long rambles.
Ben McDougal: I'm drinking a beer right now, and I'm drinking it out of a shift black plastic glass, and it's, I don't know what number it is, but it's a few now, with that in mind, I wanted to at least start by saying thank you for your support of this event. I'm here with Chris Burns with Shift Interactive. I haven't been talking much, instead turning it over to you, to learn a little bit more about yourself, your work, and what you're doing.
Chris Burns: Well, Ben, let's turn it back to you first. Thank you for all your hard work in Des Moines. Buying a little beer and some cups for some folks is a small payment for all the hard work that you do. Getting people together, getting people to talk, getting the common message together and how we can just find some middle ground to chat. I appreciate your energy and all of the things you do. I know you have your day jobs, too, but you're always involved, and I really appreciate.
Ben McDougal: Thanks, Chris. I appreciate those kind words a lot.
Chris Burns: Absolutely. And a heck of a quadracopter pilot, if that's the right term. I don't know.
Ben McDougal: We call them Aerial Photography, or Aerial Videography.
Chris Burns: Aerial Videotography. I've learned something, thank you. If I pronounced that right. I've had a few Shift beers myself, too.
Ben McDougal: There you go. Let's hear a little bit more about your work and yourself.
Chris Burns: Sure. Move to Des Moines, will be ten years July 29th. The only reason I know the date was on our anniversary. Absolutely love ...
Ben McDougal: Where'd you move from?
Chris Burns: Moved from Omaha. Born and raised.
Ben McDougal: Not that far away. Two hours.
Chris Burns: Two hours.
Ben McDougal: The community is obviously changed over ten years. If you were to compare the two, how would you do that?
Chris Burns: I don't use them as a yardstick. I used it as, we used to come here for ten years before we moved here, to visit my wife's sister. They lived here, in West Des Moines.
Ben McDougal: You were plugged in already.
Chris Burns: Totally. We were absolutely in love with the town, with the school district, with going to Iowa football games. The general lifestyle it offered, Omaha was getting pretty crowded. It's a much bigger town, and Des Moines reminded me of the kind of town I grew up in. With really awesome people. I told my wife, literally ten years before we moved here, man I would have loved the opportunity to move here. It happened, we made it. I was at Conagra Foods for ten years, working in your interactive projects for some major brands, doing the four to five, one hundred thing, and looked for a switch in quality of life, and had the good opportunity to come to a really progressive, smaller company here that was leading edge, and we jumped on it.
We came here, and we haven't turned back.
Ben McDougal: Before we got on the mike, you were sharing a couple of the things that you've been involved with over the years. Rattle those off, but then segue into what you're doing now.
Chris Burns: I was at Geolearning for two years in the professional services division. After that, consulting for some, really before startups was a startup name. Did some consulting before companies needed help for people who are eager to work on 30 day, 90 day contracts to get information to them. The allow them to go where they need to go. Before mentors were so available. Basically, just needed a consultant. Learned a lot about that process, and after renting those contracts, really got introduced to some good clients here in town. Worked for three years for a full ad agency, called Performance Marketing, handling all their interactive division duties with some major clients like Toro, Better Homes and Gardens, Baer Paint, Napa.
Then, basically, back then it was the print day, and we're like, "You really need to have a digital presence with your clients. They deserve that. The reason the number one ad agencies get kicked out, or get fired, is because they don't bring new ideas, and new ideas was digital. Was user-experience, interaction. How am I going to follow the data, where do I go. We have this little idea of, let's try doing that, and it went well. Our clients responded, and then we ended up with how do scale quickly? You either buy or acquire. Talent or buy. We bought a company, we brought developers on board, but they had their own grade book of business, and we're like, "Oh, they're going to love having this full ad agency experience."
Quite the opposite. They wanted boutique builders who understood their business, and worked directly with them. We pivoted a little bit, before the word pivot was really there, and created a fake front door called Shift. We did that for 12 months, we were almost profitable, and we said, "We can do this." We broke off from that agency, really build a different business plan, and now we're completely broke away. Performance is one of our largest clients, and we do work for other ad agencies now. Around the country. We understand the culture, the heartbeat of ad, integrated campaigns, We all come from that, that's our [inaudible 01:24:47]. We know how to operationalize it, but we all come with strategy backgrounds, so.
That's where we've been for the last three years.
Ben McDougal: I know just last week, as we kind of conclude here, last week there were some news of a little bit of a merger, that was exciting, I'm sure. Share a little bit more about where things are there.
Chris Burns: Six months ago we started a conversation with a company we saw in the hallways and all our bids.
Ben McDougal: Do you remember when I saw you at the coffee shop, and I was like, Something's happening here. And then left.
Chris Burns: Yes, I do remember that.
Ben McDougal: I remember that, and when I saw the news I was like, that's what they were talking.
Chris Burns: Right. Last March we started talking right around March madness. We're talking to the partners over at slash web, and we're like, Man, you know, build bridges.
Ben McDougal: Right.
Chris Burns: Find out who you're up against and whatnot. We just found out we were so more compatible than we knew, and it was always us and them again, the final stages of all these pitches, then one day, we got together, and said, what would happen if we just brought our companies together?
Ben McDougal: Sure.
Chris Burns: It was kind of a whimsical thought, but there was enough energy there to plant the seed. After about three months, more momentum, and after six months, it was finalized in J1. It was finalized January fifth, brought their team over, brought five incredible employees and two partners, now we went from six people this time last year, now we're at eighteen.
Ben McDougal: Wow.
Chris Burns: Shift continued to hire in those months, because when you find talent in Iowa, you gotta hire it.
Ben McDougal: Wow.
Chris Burns: We always competed with Slash against all that talent, also.
Ben McDougal: That's a neat opportunity. How has the transition happened. As people start working together, I know that in IT and in tech, in development, there can be some different philosophies. Have you had a chance, at least, to feel how that's working?
Chris Burns: Absolutely. We've vetted out really well the skill sets. We all have a buzz, that see some of the buzz, find the right people, to get in the right seat.
Ben McDougal: Don't put your wide receiver a linebacker.
Chris Burns: Exactly. We did a pretty good job of that. We knew exactly that that made sense. I think the challenge is that everybody in both companies are pretty mid western, pretty humble, and very inviting. That's really refreshing. It just reaffirms being an Iowan is awesome. I think one of our probably bigger challenges is just integrating our processes and our best practices, whereas they have things that they did well, and we have things that we know because we thought about those, we gravitated towards those negotiations. Now we're trying to find that best recipe. That's just hard work.
Transitioning, Slash his brand into shift and Slash has done a wonderful job. They had about a three year head start on us, with their brand recognition, and they've really brought a lot to the table, help us kind of work on our brand, too. Just working on transition the client sent. Everyone's been very receptive and we have long days, we have, and we'll figure it out. We'll keep going.
Ben McDougal: I definitely appreciate you sharing a quick update. It's exciting news, and I'm sure you got a) plenty of work to do, but plenty of excitement to make it happen. Chris, thanks again for sitting down, and I appreciate the beers. Cheers.
Chris Burns: Likewise. Cheers. Thank you.
Ben McDougal: I saw Austin Mac Nab walking by, and we've had an opportunity to get to know each other. First though Des Moines Startup Drinks, but as we learned more about each other's work, there was some real synergy between my work and Drake Homes, and what you're building. I want to turn it over to you, and as we've done all evening long, tell us a little bit about yourself, share the story of what you're building right now.
Austin Mac Nab: Awesome. I appreciate it, as always. Basically, I’m the cofounder of Digmaaa and we have built a social communication platform for our home builders, and everyone involved in the homebuilding process to communicate with their clients better throughout each phase of the building process. On top of that we have social platform on the back end to help maximize or increase the exposure of the builder and everyone that's involved. If you're buying a home, you're looking to build a custom home, you can use Digmaaa as a hub to go to, search projects by style, price, from your local area.
Kind of your criteria, right? Builders will pop up based on ongoing projects or current projects, so the outsider looking in, I can actually see the process happening, so I'm educating myself watching, let's say Drake Homes for example. I'm educating myself on how they actually build homes from start to finish, what the communication's like with their clients. The builder, on the other hand, can cap the things in the knees when it comes down to, on announce business by the buyer. The buyer's going to come, no matter what, to that home site, and see what's happening.
But they can make it a little bit less safety concerns, you can look at the undivided business when the builder's there, and catching him off guard, wherever may be, or constant ... what's next? What's happening? What's going on? The builder can use our app, android or iOS to take quick pictures, 30 seconds or less, upload them real quick in our app, the client gets emailed, hey, you got seven photos in the framing stage. Sits down, shows the wife, shows the kids, hey look, your room is being built.
You know, the biggest thing about what we do is when I build my home, I think builders can close their eyes and build homes all day.
Ben McDougal: Sure.
Austin Mac Nab: If they know what they're doing. One thing I think is overlooked on occasion, not intentionally, by any means by the builder, is there's actual an experience that goes into it for a person like myself that's building a home with my family, my wife, my kids, and probably one of the biggest investments I'm making in my life at that point, at that juncture. I don't have any experience, and the last thing I want to do as a buyer, is to go out there, take my own photos, go out there, and visit, see what's going on, and get my fix.
Ben McDougal: And hear nothing and feel obligated to drive out to the site every single week or every day, you know.
Austin Mac Nab: Absolutely. At the end of the build, I archive my project, I save all the photos and videos that's been uploaded by myself, maybe as a buyer, and then might fold what the builder creates for me, the builder's photos, self-contractor's photos, and it all goes into an archived file. If I want to remodel down the road, or I want to share family photos with my kids, maybe they're too young to see how their room was built. That in itself is a long-term experience.
Ben McDougal: It's interesting because, I remember when my wife and I were building our home, I took a video of a little walkthrough when the house was just in the framing stage, and we go back to that unlisted video and have fun watching it, because we've now lived here for a few years, we see it at its completion. Those kind of in the middle of a project type of media has to be interesting for not only the builder, but as you're talking about, the home building, the buyers, as well.
Austin Mac Nab: Absolutely. When we built it, our focus was the buyer. They're the individuals spending a lot of money, the worked hard for the money, and they're building a home. We wanted their experience to be better. We're not looking to help manage the build, we don't want to manage the build. That's what other companies are for, and builders pay for it, too. Three, four times more than what we would ever charge. We found a problem, we fix the problem, and based on our data, and based on our buyer feedback, not even builder feedback, buyer feedback so far, they state, "I'm at the lighting place, picking lights.
I pull up my app and see where certain things are on the house. I show my lighting guy, they say cool. I don't have to call my builder or nothing, I already have the photos. This has been uploaded." It makes it easier for them to do small things like that, working out of town, or maybe they're sick that weekend they're sick that weekend and they can't go visit.
Ben McDougal: It's a proactive mentality. I have always enjoyed what you guys are building, and getting to know what you're doing and also what Digmaa has built. My last question for you, as we finish up, would be, home building is a very localized kind of small community type of mentality. How have you been able to successfully connect with builders across the country, and yet still giving them this feel of community connectivity.
Austin Mac Nab: What we have done very well at, which I learned from past failures, is we build a social media presence well before a company was even launched which we just sent a press release a couple days back, we officially launched. We have thirteen thousand instrument followers, five thousand Facebook likes, twelve hundred Twitter, Linkedin. You name it, we were all over it, well before we launched. People knew we were coming. Some of the builders actually have found us through instagram. Wildly enough. Out of nowhere. When we talked to them, there's benefits to our site above and beyond uploading photos and maximizing exposure.
We have small scheduling tools, wall calendar tools, a builder has a wide array of things they can choose from the use. Most of them love the fact that they update their clients, so they buy into that right away. When they have a sign that we send, we actually send a sign #followthebuild. They can put on the yard, so if someone is driving by their lot and see that sign, they pop up their phone, or they go home and look, they search our street address, and bada-bing, bada-boom, they get to actually find that house, and they get to watch it from start to finish and potentially.
We may not be local in Utah right now. It's all about Des Moines, right? We're not local in Utah, but they're building their own local connections when people are driving past their homes and seeing these signs. Now they can actually get free leads. A buyer that's never built before, they don't know how or where to start, so now they start here and they watch it happen, so maybe I'll give them a call.
Ben McDougal: The balance, it seems, that you've struck is really a builder marketing and general awareness element, paired with a buyer or a consumer like interactive way of following how their home has been built.
Austin Mac Nab: Client relationship on the back end, and everything, no addresses, no names, or nothing. It's always privatized, to protect the privacy of the buyer, but that's what we're concerned about.
Ben McDougal: That's excellent, Austin. I sure appreciate you stopping by, sharing what's going on with Digmaa, and keep building, man.
Austin Mac Nab: I appreciate it, as always. Thank you.
Ben McDougal: Cheers. After talking with Austin from Digmaa, we felt like a natural segue to talk with Jay Olsen. I noticed him in the crowd and a friend in the community, but also someone building something in the construction industry. Jay, tell us a little bit more about yourself and what you're building.
Jay Olsen: I'm Jay Olsen, I'm a founder at Jobsite Unite, and we're a mobile app that streamlines the way the construction workers communicate on job sites. We took traditional social media features and used those to help construction workers streamline the way that they're currently communicating on job sites. We just make it easier for them using social media features, like a news feed. We auto populate a contact list of that job site for them. Then, we give them the ability to direct message or call anybody else working on that job site.
Ben McDougal: You said that before. That came out really clean, and I understand exactly what you're building. Very nice, very nice. As you launched about a year, to years ago, how long has it been?
Jay Olsen: We put out a beta product about a year and a half ago, but we actually just launched our product December 1st of last year, 2014.
Ben McDougal: Okay. The newest version is now really flying high.
Jay Olsen: We just rolled that out to a contractor, Dean Snyder Construction, and we rolled out on two job sites out on West Des Moines. The Hampton Inn and the Homewood Inn Suites hotel. Two big hotel projects going on in West Des Moines, and we actually just signed up another contractor down in construction, who are in the process of implementing on another project.
Ben McDougal: Congratulations, man. I know that one of the things we talked about when we were considering ways of collaborating was the difference between residential construction, and commercial construction. Do you really feel like this has catered to one, or have you really tried to tackle both?
Jay Olsen: Right now we're focusing on commercial construction. We think that the application works well for both residential and commercial. We think that it works better for a higher volume, where you have residential contractors who have a builder who is managing four to five houses at once and has a hard time visiting all those sites at one time. This way, they can have a good idea of which subs are showing up on site, and what's taking place on that job site without actually having to be there.
Ben McDougal: Sure. One of the things I'd asked Austin about the construction industry is that, being at Drake Homes, I get a sense of that community is very small. We're building houses in the Des Moines area, right? We're not building in Florida, or New York, or LA. How do you plan to expand your brand and yet still have a sense of community connectivity?
Jay Olsen: Initially we're launching this product, and it's a very, very high touch implementation model. As we move forward, we're going to learn about how we're implementing, and how these guys are learning how to use this product, and figure out how to get more hands off and more of an inbound sale support model. As we expand nationally, it's one of those things where the smaller markets, guys work in a small market, they're more of a regional thing. But you do have contractors on a national level who travel all over the place. Initially, we're going to be focusing on those contractors who are travelling to our area, and implementing to them, in hopes that they'll take our products, from using it here, back to whatever they're using it at, or all across the US, and implementing it to other subcontractors all across the US.
Right now, it is a very, very localized kind of a grass roots approach, high touch implementation, and we do plan on converting that to more of a high touch model, and expanding nationally. Probably six to eight months after we've got enough customer feedback, and we find the product enough to scale it.
Ben McDougal: As kind of a final thought, I'm just curious, you come from the construction world, your product is built within that space. What is another industry that you personally see as ripe for disruption?
Jay Olsen: Right now we're focusing our product on building construction, but infrastructure construction right now, roadways, and bridges, I think that we're highly applicable to that and I think that that's probably the next market that we'll try and expand into. We're two to three years out from that. Right now we're focused on the market that we're in right now, but I would say that that's another area right now that no one's really focusing technology on increasing deficiencies.
Ben McDougal: Very cool. Very cool. Jay, I appreciate you sitting down, man. Sharing the state of now with jobsite unite and definitely wish you the best as you continue to build.
Jay Olsen: Appreciate it, Ben. Thank you.
Ben McDougal: I saw Brian Sauer across the room, and with his resent assistance on the new Des Moines Startup Drinks logo, and due a chance that we had to directly collaborate, I had to bring you over, and talk a little bit more about you. We're starting to get towards the middle, maybe the last three fourths of this even, and my guess is that the conversations will churn a little bit. Definitely want to hand it over to you, and share a little bit more about yourself, and your work over at Saturday Manufacturing.
Brian Sauer: Here's where I freeze up, because I got a recording device. I am one of the founders at Saturday Manufacturing, we've been around almost six years. We are a creative advertising marketing graphic agency in Des Moines. We found it ourselves on this principle that creator comes first. That we are all about the big idea and trying to find that undeniable truth about things. We take on big, small, anything in between kind of corporate clients. We work on everything from identity to figuring out core competencies to the classic advertising to playing around with anything new or different than always tried before.
Ben McDougal: What you did before six years ago?
Brian Sauer: I was a socio-creative creator at another ad agency here in Des Moines. I've been in the ad world for twelve years now, I think. Twelve years prior to starting Saturday Manufacturing, I went to school for graphic design after I dropped out of business school, and before that I tried my hand at drawing comic books.
Ben McDougal: I've seen some of your drawings, and I've seen the GI Joes in your office, as well. Now it all makes sense.
Brian Sauer: That's right. When you can't draw comic books for a living for a meager fee, you apparently go into advertising and graphic design, so.
Ben McDougal: I would assume that you talk with a lot of startups, a lot of business owners early on in their process. Whether it's creating a logo, a marketing package, whatever it might be. What's one piece of insight that you might share, as far best practices or just good ideas as you're firing up a new concept?
Brian Sauer: When you're starting out with a new business or a new idea, or a new endeavor, you want to hold certain things close to your chest and protect those while letting go of other things. Figure out what is at your core competency, and what is the real, one, singular idea that makes it unique. But don't hoard it. Let other people involved to kind of help tailor how that is going to be received through public perception. A lot of people, being involved with startup weekends, and helping people being a mentor, helping people evolve their ideas, what happens is that somebody has a really great idea, but then they get too possessive about it, and they don't know when to let go of certain elements and hold on to other things.
The core ideas, which you really want to protect, when it comes to name and aesthetic, honestly, that kind of thing, the brand, the brand is all about how the public perceives it, and you can help guide that message, but you're not in total control of that. I think a lot of startups, if you got a good idea, you got a core competencies, you got something to stand on, great. But work with all those other people to just really expand on that, and let them do what they do. Find those experts who are good at those things that you're not good at, and you just oversee the entire play, for a lack of a better analogy.
Ben McDougal: Interesting. I would ask you what your thoughts are on patents, but I feel like that's too long of a conversation.
Brian Sauer: Yeah, that would be very deep.
Ben McDougal: I saw Brett Trout in here, and he'd be a fun person to talk with next. As we bring this to a close, any final thoughts? Quick things that we should make sure to talk about?
Brian Sauer: I think it's great that we're in this almost second wave of Des Moines startups. We've gone through the whole beauty period, and we've had some successes. We've had a lot of failures, which I think the failures have a lot more to learn from than the successes.
Ben McDougal: I've heard that a lot tonight.
Brian Sauer: I think we're second wave. We're coming back, and we're understanding, and kudos to everybody else who've cut the ground before us, who went out and did this. I hope everybody else who's starting up right now learns from it, can excel, and know that they've got a whole another generation behind them that they got to foster and mentor as well. This is going to be perpetual. This should continue to go on for many years.
Ben McDougal: If that wasn't a good, concluding thought, I don't know what is. I should probably shut up and let you keep moving with your evening. Thanks again, Brian, for sitting down, and all that you do in our community.
Brian Sauer: Any time.
Geoff Wood: Hey there, its Geoff again. Ben recorded so much good conversation for this show that we decided to break it into 3 parts. This was part 2, part 3—the final episode—continues tomorrow.